Thursday, August 28, 2014

SFRB Recommends #22: Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress #writing #craft

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress

Book Description

By demonstrating effective solutions for potential problems at each stage of your story, Nancy Kress will help you...

  • hook the editor on the first three paragraphs 
  • make--and keep--your story's "implicit promise"
  • build drama and credibility by controlling your prose. 

Dozens of exercises help you strengthen your short story or novel. Plus, you'll sharpen skills and gain new insight into...

  • the price a writer pays for flashbacks
  • six ways characters should "reveal" themselves
  • techniques for writing--and rewriting 

Let this working resource be your guide to successful stories--from beginning to end.


This is one of the books I think *every* writer should read at least once. Beginning, middle and end. Three things every book needs. Sounds simple, right? Anyone who’s ever tried to write a book knows how deceptive that statement is. This book walks you through every stage, highlights common pitfalls and gives you the tools you’ll need to bring your book to life.

You can purchase this book on:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Recommendation brought to you by Sabine Priestley.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing A SFR Continuity by Shona Husk, Denise Rossetti, and Mel Teshco

The ES Siren series is written by Shona Husk, Denise Rossetti and Mel Teshco and kicks off on August 28th 2014. This is a behind the scenes look at how the series came together.


Last year I had a bit of an idea for a series and it was the kind of world that could easily work as a continuity because while there was an overarching plot (a ship taking free settlers and prisoners to act as labor to a new world to set up a colony) there were so many angles and characters to explore along the way. So I emailed a couple of my author friends and asked if they’d be interested in joining me on this adventure into the unknown with no guarantees of being able to sell the series. Mel Teshco and Denise Rossetti said yes. Yay!

What happened next was hundreds of emails…literally hundreds ranging from what color should the prisoners wear to what did the ship look like, to how long would the trip take, to what was life like on the new planet.

What had started as little spark of a concept was very quickly becoming huge and we hadn’t even started writing yet.

We had to get organized and fast.

Enter Dropbox (which was Denise’s idea). We started documents for characters, locations and a general overview. While we still have to brainstorm an issue via email, it is then saved in Dropbox—and much easier to find than rummaging through tons of emails.

Denise and I pitched the series to Joel from Momentum book 12 months ago at a conference. I am so thrilled that the series is about to hit the virtual shelves.

My story features and army medic who have rather stayed on Earth and a man who wanted nothing more than to get off Earth, even if that meant committing a crime to get on board Siren.

For me the experience has been a lot of fun. Growing a world with other writers is very different to doing on your on your own, and yet it’s been amazing to watch as stories mesh together. I hope we get to write many more.


When Shona and Mel asked me to join them in the ES Siren continuity, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. From my point of view, it was absolutely perfect. First, I love Shona and Mel, both as writers and great people, and I trust them too—no small thing. Second, it was pure Science Fiction, something I couldn’t wait to dig into. I thought the whole concept was terrific, and the sheer scope of it was breathtaking. But the very best thing for me was that writing with friends meant that I would have to meet the deadline or let them down. Generally speaking, deadlines are not my best thing!

Once we had the settings worked out, we got to build a world together via email and skype – incredibly cool. It’s like magic the way one idea sparks off another and another. There are the education classes and the knitting of socks, for example, but you’ll have to read to find out!

Another concept was an aphrodisiac date-rape drug called sexmeth, invented by Mel for our villain to use. I couldn’t bear the thought of the revolting man getting away unscathed, so I (or rather my character, Doctor Lily Kwan) invented an antidote for it.

Because Mel and Shona had created major characters who were prisoners, I decided to go with a romance between a civilian, the scientist Lily Kwan, and a non commissioned officer, the Siren’s hard-as-nails Quartermaster, Master Sergeant Con Madison. Ta da! Wealthy science geek meets former gang rat. Suspicion, misunderstanding and frustration ensue. Heh heh.

What I’ve really enjoyed is the reassurance of having two clever writers to bounce ideas off. We’re greater than the sum of our parts and the result is a rich and fully developed world. It’s fascinating to see how each of us ‘sees’ the Siren and her people, the differences and similarities.

With each book, the Siren and her sister ships voyage further into the unknown, while the inevitable human dramas play out on board. I can’t wait to see how it ends. Actually, to be honest, we know how it ends, what I should say is that we can’t wait to tell you!


I was thrilled when Shona asked if I’d be interested in writing for this continuity. I mean who’d say no to working with two fantastic writers!?

Now that I’ve started this journey, I take my hat off to anyone who’s done something similar. You really have to be on your game to make sure every last detail is correct, and take notice of things that might very well jump out at a reader (thank god for some detailed notes in Dropbox!) For example the same bad guy in each of our first books had to stay in character. Not only did he have to be an arrogant asshole in book 1 to book 3 he also had to have the right mannerisms and same physicality.

I’ve loved how different our stories are, our voices and our characters, and I think that’s one of the things that make this continuity so unique. But although our characters interweave and want desperately to survive the trip to Solitaire, they still have very different goals.

My book features a male prisoner who is an artist forced to take the journey. He’s an ‘all whites’ prisoner – mentally ill and highly dangerous. My heroine is a soldier committed to getting off Earth and starting a new life. She thinks anyone who doesn’t want the opportunity is an ungrateful and undeserving wretch.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how all our characters in our next three books of the continuity are going to act – lots of dramas ahead!

ES Siren Series:

It's the year 2202. Earth is grossly overpopulated and seriously polluted. Rita Songworth has spent half her twenty-two years trying to escape the dying planet. It's taken the last five of those years to realize making it in the hard-ass infantry is her only way out, via space transporter Earth Ship Siren.

But the journey to Unity, the new colony, isn't easy. Rita has to resist an attraction to hard, brutish prisoner, Tristan MacFallan, whose masterful hands create more than the beautiful art he's been assigned to make. His forbidden touch affects her profoundly and he sees things in her no man ever has before. But obeying Kane, her ex-lover and malicious lieutenant, who is appointed to keeping the prisoners under guard, comes at a high price. Is she willing to sacrifice everything to keep her secret and her lover safe?

Corporal Sienna Jade wasn't given a choice about joining the mission to Unity. Seen as a troublemaker after reporting an assault by a senior officer, the army wanted her gone. Sienna resents the army for assigning her to Earth Ship Siren, and suspects the fleet's Unity mission will fail. But others would do anything to escape Earth ...

Alex Tariel knew his only chance to get a place on ES Siren was as a prisoner, so he stole water rations. As a former construction foreman, his skills make him a valuable prisoner on board, but still a prisoner unable to control his own life. Instead of keeping his head down, he gets involved in the fights set up for gambling privilege tokens, the only currency aboard ship among the prisoners.

Getting patched up by Corporal Jade might be the best thing that's happened to Alex on the trip so far, but becoming her ship husband puts him between her and the lieutenant who tried to kill her for kicks on Earth. While Sienna tries to keep control of her feelings for Alex, Alex would do anything to protect her, if only she'd let him.

As ES Siren faces its first crisis, a little trust and love goes a long way.

It's 2202 and on board ES Siren, the brilliant Doctor Lily Kwan has worked in secret to develop an antidote for the aphrodisiac rape drug, sexmeth.

She'd be overjoyed if it wasn't for an embarrassing problem: the antidote has no effect on her extraordinary reaction to Connor Madison, the Siren's tough quartermaster. Scientifically, it should be impossible, but the man's a raging fever in her blood. If a single dark glance sets Lily on fire, a kiss might kill her dead – but what a way to go!

A former gang rat from the slums of a dying world, Con came up the hard way, so when geeky Doctor Kwan tops his hit list of possible drug runners, nothing's going to save her—not her family's money, nor her clever mind.

Not even the smile in her eyes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The SFR Brigade Presents - 8/23-8/28 #scifi #romance

Seeking your next hot #scifi #romance read? Check out this week's snippets in The SFR Brigade Presents!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guest Post by Michelle Browne (SciFiMagpie)--Continuity: The Devils Are in the Details

Hello hello!

A big and very gracious thank-you to the SFRB for letting me guest-post once again today. Today's post has been inspired by a bugbear I've been dealing with lately: continuity.

Those of you who are fans and bloggers might shrug when I mention continuity. Writers, on the other hand, are probably feeling a shiver down their spines that has nothing to do with the ice-bucket challenge. To explain why this induces muttering dreams and sleepless nights, it wouldn't hurt to have a definition.

Source. Pictured: a reader unhappy with continuity errors.

Continuity: what is it, and why does it matter?

"Continuity" refers to self-consistency through descriptions, action, storylines, and development in a creative work. In a nutshell, good continuity means adhering to your own rules. A work should be congruent and not vary too much throughout its existence. "Discontinuity" happens when errors are made or the lore is changed; "retroactive continuity", or "retcons", are made to reconcile early errors with later events, details, or changes. You can also manipulate continuity in order to make the narrator unreliable. Inception, American Psycho, Memento, and other films and books have made use of this. An unreliable narrator is great when it's done on purpose, but inconsistent details can also make a writer look sloppy.

 For instance, your distraught loner character might develop into a compassionate and friendly, even optimistic person through a series, but she probably shouldn't too perky and resilient right away if she's recently lost her entire family, dog, boyfriend, and ship in a single fell swoop. This usually happens when a series has been left alone for too long and the author's forgotten how to write for a character, or when the author is getting bored of a character's traits.

Character continuity is important, and the same goes for plot details. Something that one character says happened two years ago should not suddenly have happened ten years ago when it's mentioned again. We'll go deeper in a second.

Why is this important for sci fi? 

Everyone knows about the fan outcry that happened when George Lucas created the first Star Wars movies, but retroactive continuity issues also played a role in the first trilogy. Entire blogs have been written and based on examining errors in the series, so let's talk about a different example--Doctor Who. With so many writers, the story of the Time War has been bent and twisted and changed in ways that can seem self-contradictory. This also affects the characters and their journey, of course, because the plot never functions in isolation. (If it does, get an editor to look over your book, stat, because something is broken.)

As writers of fiction, it's important to learn from failures and make sure that our worlds are consistent. A tiny detail that was mentioned and thrown away earlier can be mined for plot purposes later, or, conversely, can break the plot. Farscape had a wonderful episode called "The Locket", but the mechanism their ship Moya used to escape a time-freezing zone, a "reverse starburst", unfortunately was never mentioned again. The eagles in The Lord of the Rings or the many, many plot devices used in the Harry Potter series are examples of dropped plot devices and throwaway details that accumulated to create some improbable and silly situations for the characters. The worst case I've seen was probably in The Sword of Truth--there were so many throwaway plot devices in this series that the author had to go nuclear on the ending for the last book in order to reconcile them all.

When plot devices are forgotten or tossed aside from continuity, characters' situations can end seem silly to the audience. Just because the author has forgotten something doesn't mean our readers will, unfortunately!


How do we fix it?

It wouldn't be a SciFiMagpie post without a solution. In this case, it's simple, but a lot of work: KNOW THY WORLD. Chuck Wendig has a particularly wonderful affirmation card (posted above). The way I'm coping with continuity in The Meaning Wars is by re-reading And the Stars Will Sing and The Stolen: Two Short Stories.  Unfortunately, it's also brought a few flaws and typos in the books to my attention, but that's part of the process. You can't be a better writer unless you know your flaws.

"How can I smooth over that exposition? How can I change things so I can avoid that head-jump--can I imply things, perhaps? Maybe do a short scene from the other character's perspective? Did I just change the location of this world by accident? How can a luxurious Southern California/Ireland-like region exist in a warzone? Should I move it?" These are just a few of the questions I've been asking myself, and while painful, it's also really satisfying to know when I've gotten something right. After all, readers love to niggle, but even the ones who miss continuity errors appreciate smooth, consistent stories. This is also the reason why editors are very, very useful people to know.

And the better you do at maintaining continuity, the less sleep you'll lose at night after you accidentally change a character's name, make them three inches taller than they were in the first book, and give them a peanut allergy that would have killed them in the first scene in the second book.

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The SFR Brigade Presents - 8/16-8/21

On the hunt for a new #scifi #romance read? Check out this week's round of snippets in The SFR Brigade Presents! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SFRB Recommends #21: Visionary of Peace by Cindy Borgne #scifi #romance

Visionary of Peace by Cindy Borgne

Book Description

Ian Connors had planned to use his visions to spy on Marscorp in order to maintain peace, but flashbacks and nightmares make it impossible. Since two years of peace have passed due to a stalemate, Ian decides to try and live a normal life, until one day he has a vision so horrifying he has no choice but to become the seer he once was or Vallar will have no future. While he struggles to regain his ability, the Marcs plot to capture him alive in order to complete a deal for their return to Earth.

Why is it recommended?

This is the second book in the Vallar Series. For those who met Ian Connors in the first book, it is primarily an opportunity to see what happens to him after he leaves Marscorp. And trouble, it seems, is never too far away.

Borgne weaves a tightly-structured story with plenty of surprises along the way. One can definitely learn from the example she sets in story-craft. 

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation