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.

Author site: Nancy Kress - Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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.

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! 

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. 

Author site: Cindy Borgne | Speculative and Paranormal Fiction

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Heroine's Journey by Deborah A. Bailey

When I was working on the second book in my Hathor Legacy series, "Hathor Legacy Burn," I needed an easy to use outline for the action. I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, but having some sort of roadmap for the story was a big help. To start with, I referred to one of my go-to books, "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers" by Christopher Vogler, which is based on Joseph Campbell's work (and described in his book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces").

But even though I've read The Writer's Journey several times, and found it helpful, this time around it felt like something was missing for me. My heroine, Nadira, drives most of the action in the book. I could map the journey to some parts of her character arc, but for other parts, it felt forced. That's when I went searching to find other insights. Ultimately after an internet search, I found what I was looking for.

In her book, "Story Structure Architect," Victoria Lynn Schmidt maps out a journey based on archetypes found in the story of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, an epic that describes her descent into the underworld.

Stages of the Heroine's Journey:

1. Perfect World - the heroine's everyday world

2. Realization/Betrayal - an inciting incident and decision point

3. Awakening: - decision to take the journey

4. Descent - the heroine faces her fears but can't turn back

5. Eye of the Storm - tests and ordeals

6. The Death - an actual or symbolic death

7. Support - help comes, possibly from the larger community

8. Moment of Truth - rebirth and facing the biggest challenge

9. Full Circle - heroine returns to the perfect world with more self-awareness

Even though it's a Heroine's Journey, it can be undertaken by a hero as well (just as a heroine can take the Hero's Journey). I felt that Nadira's arc was a better fit for these stages. She starts out in a perfect world (or so she thinks) as a Guardian on the planet Hathor. Then as she starts investigating a series of fires, she discovers information that's been kept hidden from her.

After a series of setbacks, she's forced to accept that she needs support from others in order to solve the crimes and confront the conspirators. Her journey isn't just about dealing with the threats to the perfect world; she has to come to terms with her own identity as well.

When she gets to the full circle stage, she has a different awareness of herself and what the Guardians are about. In addition, that stage provides a jumping off point for the next story to begin. By having her experience these steps, I had a better understanding of her as a character. I didn't have to decide which path she'd take. Her actions flowed from one stage to the next.

There are variations of the Heroine's Journey, including a version in Kim Hudson's book, The Virgin's Promise. If you're looking for an alternative to the Hero's Journey (or want to read more about the archetypes) there are a number of resources that go into more detail.

For more information about Victoria Schmidt's version, here's the link to the post on the Sharper Stories site:

Bio + links

Deborah A Bailey is the author of the novels, "Hathor Legacy: Outcast," "Hathor Legacy: Burn" and a short story collection, "Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales." Her short stories have won awards from the Philadelphia Writers' Conference and her work has been published in US1 Magazine and the Sun. After several years as a software developer, she left corporate to become a freelance technical writer. 

Hathor Legacy: Burn buy link:

Hathor Legacy: Outcast buy link:

Twitter: @AuthorDeborahB

Book description:

On the planet, Hathor, an old threat re-emerges that may destroy the fragile alliance between the Guardians and Novacorp. When Nadira is called to investigate a rash of fires throughout the city, she discovers the Deshtu, another group with PSI powers who have been purposely kept in the shadows. Working to uncover the source of the fires, Nadira learns the brutal truth about the origin of the Guardians. As time runs out, the Guardians prepare for a clash with Novacorp that could plunge the planet into chaos, and a final betrayal forces Nadira to risk everything to save herself and Hathor. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Anybody Know Where I Can Find a Space Mechanic? Guest post by @Clare_Dargin

Courtesy of Drewsil at Deviantart
No one has ever accused me of being a mechanic (nor will they) but when writing a science fiction story that takes place in a ship in outer space, like Han Solo, I kind have to be familiar with everything. It's not like when the ship breaks down they can take it to the nearest Pep Boys Star Ship Center, or can they?  Hmmm...that's a story for a different time.

Back to my point, for my science fiction novels 'Cold Warriors' and 'Ice and Peace' the carrier in which the majority of the story took place had to be, for the most part, self contained.  Right down to changing the oil in an engine in case it went down. 

Now that I look back on it, creating the self contained world in which the crew lived in was the easy part.  The hard part was making it believable.  Case in point, space travel.

When ever anyone asks about my science fiction books the first thing that inevitably comes up is how the characters travel through space.  And I always answer the same way-- 'No they do not use Warp Speed.'  Why?  Because I just don't have enough money to go through a long drawn out court battle with Paramount Pictures over intellectual copy right for the use of the term.  So I tend to opt out of its use. 

Then what do I use?  Well for long distance travel, the option that works best for me in the SFR genre is worm hole technology or some variation of it.  But what about when they are just driving along trying to get from planet A to planet B?  That's easy, a standard nuclear based engine will do.  This presents another problem.  When traveling in space, unlike on Earth where we have seat belts, inertia can be a cause for concern if and when the ship stops.  (Yes, I think about these things!) 

Of course when I started writing the series, the only thing I knew about Classical Mechanics was that it had nothing to do with fixing my car and about inertia was that it something to do with a few PBS specials I'd seen.  So I started my research and set about learning how to stop a ship in space.

I came upon Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion.  In particular his first law which states, “Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction. It is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics that are used to describe the motion of objects and how they are affected by applied forces.” (Wikipedia 

In other words, inertia refers to objects ability to stay in rest or motion until something else acts upon it. And that means a lot in space where there is no air resistance, gravity or a whole bunch of friction to slow something down. By the way, I also touch upon the Third Law of Motion as well in a tongue and cheek style.

In the case of my space ship, the problem lay not in the ship stopping but the people.  Because of a mechanical failure, the commanding officer on the ship had cause for concern when applying the so called 'breaks' when they got to port. 

Why? You see it's because of inertia. The people were inside the ship, therefore they were traveling at the same velocity as the ship. So when it stopped, they needed to stop 'moving' too.  But the equipment that did this was broken.  Can you hear my evil laugh?  I had so much fun writing this scene!  Here is it is from 'Ice and Peace'..

Keegan did not allow himself to finish the thought.
“Boatswain’s Mate,” he called out as he stared at his coffee cup on the stand next to him. The liquid inside tilted instead of being level.
“Aye, Captain?”
“I’d like the status of—” The ship shuddered before he could finish the words. It did it again then groaned loudly from its bowels. “What the hell was that?”
Dumbfounded, the officer of the deck stared at him, wide-eyed.
“Sir,” she said, “I don’t know.”
“Find out.”
Stunned, she stood still.
Keegan frowned and barked, “Move it!”
“Yes, sir,” she replied, before scurrying out of the room.
He could only imagine what challenges he’d face on his first day back in command...
The air inside of Engine Room One on the Blanchard was musty and filled with the stench of lubricant. The loud clanking of a broken pump sounded through the room as various personnel did their best to shut it down, along with the engine it served, before it was too late.
“Sir,” one of the engineers called out, while approaching Keegan.
Her soot-stained face and jacket gave evidence to the battle she was having with the machine.
“It’s Inertial Dampener Number One. It’s gone. Apparently, the lubricator pump failed, and it locked up on us and blew,” she explained over the din.
Keegan’s swayed ever so slightly to the side as the damaged system began to affect the ship.
“Lieutenant, we’re traveling at 2C through free space.” He paused and braced himself against the side of a hatch. “How could something like this happen?”
The engineer blinked at him. “Sir. I’ll find out.”
“Well, how are we going to stop?” he asked, raising his voice in order to be heard.
“I don’t follow, sir,” she responded in an even tone.
“Let me rephrase. Lieutenant, at the speed we’re going, when we finally put on the brakes, we’ll be experiencing Newton’s Third Law in living color. So what’s going to keep us from being spots on the forward walls?”
In order to work in this area, everyone had to know physics better than Einstein. So if she had any bright ideas, he was ready to hear them.
“Sir, we lost only one dampener. We should be fine with the other three. Therefore, we have enough stability to make it to port where I can get the parts I need to make the repairs.”
“All right,” he said checking his watch. “We’ll be at Eckhardt in ten minutes. Fix what you can, and I’ll get you to port.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Carry on.”
“And, sir?”
“Yes, Lieutenant?”
“Steer us a clear path until we get them all back online. We can’t afford a bumpy ride.”
“I’ll do my job. You just watch those other three. And tell everybody to hold on.”
Keegan watched the engineer head back to her station. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. A dampener blowing was one thing, but getting the new crew to ensure a smooth ride was another.

So there you have it.  All that research for one and a quarter's scene!  I like to think that it added a little gravity to the situation.  If not, it certainly added another layer tension for the commanding officer to deal with.  As for me, my days as a mechanic are over.  But hopefully with these tips, yours are just beginning.

Ice and Peace and it's prequel Cold Warriors are available in ebook format and in print.

To purchase you can buy it at Barnes and Noble or at


Clare Dargin is an author of Science Fiction and Romance and has been writing stories all of her life before being published in 2007. She’s a great fan of the two genres and loves promoting them.

An educator by profession, she possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in English from a major mid-western university. She presently resides in the Midwest and she hopes to expand her writings to include non-fiction, historical romance, and contemporary novels.

You can find her on the web at-

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