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Fathers in Science Fiction

June 22, 2015

i_am_your_fatherI sometimes contribute to a site called Novelocity, where a group of published authors recommend and talk about books.  This is often in response to a question, and today’s question (it being Father’s Day) was about favorite fathers in science fiction and fantasy.  Those of us who contributed actually found it pretty difficult to think of many fathers, and even harder to think of good fathers.  Um . . . Darth Vader?  Tywin Lannister?  The options aren’t very strong.  To read what we came up with, you can check out the article here.

I wasn’t going to mention my own work on Novelocity, but anyone who’s read my novels might have noticed that this is an imbalance I’m trying to set right!  All of my books (and most of my short stories) have fathers as significant characters, and families always play a big role.  In two of my books (Quintessence and Superposition), the main relationship of the book is between a father and a daughter.  Of course, that may be because I have five daughters of my own.  I wasn’t doing it to right an imbalance, particularly, but because fatherhood is a significant part of what I know and love.  But I like to think that in my own small way, I’m contributing something that the genre apparently needs more of.  Fathers who love their children!

The Most Wonderful, Agonizing Secret

June 8, 2015

ClockworkCrown_331x500Beth Cato visits the blog today with a peek behind the scenes into the experience of being an author.  Beth’s first novel, The Clockwork Dagger, earned her a ton of fans when it came out last Fall.  The sequel to that book, The Clockwork Crown, hits bookstores tomorrow!  To celebrate, Beth is here to discuss a subject most authors don’t like to dwell on: the long, terrible wait to announce a book deal.

BETH CATO:

If you’re a writer with dreams of publication, you’ve imagined the various kinds of “Calls.” The call from an agent, saying they love your book and want to represent you, and the biggest call of all: the one from your agent, saying a publisher wants to buy your book. It’s something you’ve worked toward for years, maybe decades. It’s a life changing moment.

And you can’t…. tell… anyone.

Well, very few people, in any case. It’s a moment where you want to scream and yell and hug random strangers on the street, and you’re effectively gagged and bound. Worst of all, your muteness can last for weeks. Maybe months.

In my case, it was four and a half months until I could announce my two-book deal for The Clockwork Dagger. Why?

– Big Publishers Do Not Move Quickly

Different methods of publication have different positives and negatives. Self-publishing has the benefit (and sometimes the detriment) of almost instant publication. Prep your document, upload, done.

The larger New York City publishing houses hold great power. This means their books are distributed worldwide, gain major media attention, etc, but also means there is bureaucracy. Paperwork often takes a while. This is also because of a lot of back and forth work between the author’s representative (an agent or a literary lawyer… and trust me, you need someone to read the fine print with a contract of this magnitude) and the contracts department of the publisher. There will be haggling over every single line. This is a good thing in the long run, even if it drives you bonkers now.

– Don’t Count Your Chickens

Until all the signatures are on the contract, the deal is not done. Things can fall through. The publishing industry is volatile and editors often switch jobs or houses. Bad things can happen.

That means it creates an extremely bad situation if you hop on Twitter straight away and scream, “OMG BOOK DEAL!” This announcement is not just seen by your fellow authors. It’s also seen by other editors and publishing personnel who you might work with in the future. It makes you look hasty and unprofessional, and could sabotage you with future deals. Your book deal is a piece of succulent meat; don’t eat it raw. Season it, cook it, and indulge at the right time.

– Tell a Trusted Few

My agent knows I know social media. She also knows how good news of this scale makes an author want to explode with glee. She cautioned me. “DON’T TELL ANYONE OTHER THAN YOUR HUSBAND.”

“I have to tell my mom!” I said.

“Will she keep it a secret? She won’t go on Facebook or anything?”

“My mom isn’t on Facebook. She can’t even copy and paste!”

I found it a relief to tell a few of my closest friends–fellow writers–who I could then vent to over the months as the wait dragged on. And yes, my mom and husband kept the secret, too. Just make everyone vow to keep it all mum until the time is ripe.

– When Can You Tell the World?

I didn’t make an announcement the day I signed the contracts. That’s because the paper still needed more signatures. I sent the parcel along to my agent and waited a few more weeks. Everything is official-official once the deal is announced in Publishers Weekly. I found out that my Clockwork Dagger deal was done when a friend sent me a Twitter message along the lines of “ZOMG @BETHCATO HAS A BOOK DEAL!”

Then, and only then, I hit my own capslock key to type my announcement everywhere possible online. FINALLY.

That was a good day.

BethCato-steampunk-headshot100x150Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.  She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. The newest book, THE CLOCKWORK CROWN, is out on June 9th, 2015. To find out more about the series and her other works, please visit BethCato.com.

Predicting the Future

May 8, 2015

o-FUTURE-900Here’s a new experience for me: the Huffington Post asked me to predict the future!  To celebrate their 10 year anniversary, they asked 10 science fiction authors to predict some aspect of technological or social change that will happen in the next 10 years.  Here’s the article:

10 Science Fiction Writers Predict How Our World Will Change In The Next 10 Years

It’s just one of many possibilities I could have written about.  After you read it, let me know how you would have answered, if they had asked you!

Hackers and Space Pirates

May 7, 2015

Another book by a friend of mine!  This time it’s Corsair, by James Cambias, a book about hackers and space pirates and shadowy international corporations.  His first novel, A Darkling Sea, was one of my favorite reads of 2014, so I’m definitely looking forward to giving this one a read.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT, where Schwartz is sneaking into classes, and have a brief affair. David is amoral and out for himself, and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating. Nearly ten years later, David is setting himself to become a billionaire by working in the shadows under a multiplicity of names for international thieves, and Elizabeth works in intelligence preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth’s economy, shipments from space are dropped down the gravity well into the oceans. David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters. If David can nudge a shipment 500 miles off its target, his employers can get there first and claim it legally in the open sea. Each one intuits that the other is their real competition but can’t prove it. And when Elizabeth loses a major shipment, she leaves government employ to work for a private space company to find a better way to protect shipments. But international piracy has very high stakes and some very evil players. And both Elizabeth and David end up in a world of trouble.

Seriously Wicked

May 6, 2015

Check out the latest book from my friend Tina Connolly, the talented author of Ironskin (an innovative and thoughtful fantasy which I greatly enjoyed).  Seriously Wicked is a bit of a departure into a clever, light-hearted, young adult style, and it looks to be a fun romp.  I haven’t read it yet (it was just released today!), but I read the first chapter, and it made me smile.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose–and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Suddenly Cam’s got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch…will that mean she’s wicked too?

Medicians in The Clockwork Dagger

April 29, 2015

DeepestPoison500x330Today we hear from my friend Beth Cato, whose story “The Deepest Poison” is out from Harper Voyager Impulse today! This tale takes place in the same world as her novel The Clockwork Dagger, which has been delighting readers since its release last Fall.  “The Deepest Poison” takes place before The Clockwork Dagger, but either can be read first.  Here’s Beth to talk to us about what a “medician” is, and the key role they play in the world of The Clockwork Dagger:

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A lot of fantasy books use healing magic. It’s a necessity to keep characters alive. There’s usually a side character the heroes can turn to for help, or the protagonist relies on a regenerative skill along with a plethora of other abilities.

ClockworkDagger_PB_cover500x332My Clockwork Dagger series blends epic fantasy, steampunk, and mystery. My heroine, Octavia, is a medician—what I call the class of healing wizards. She’s not a fighter, not in the traditional sense. She’s the sort of woman who can change out bed pans or amputate a limb. She’s not afraid to shoot a man in self-defense, but she’ll also turn around and try to save his life.

In the grand tradition of protagonists, Octavia is also special.  She’s more powerful than any other medician, though she would be the first to tell you that the power isn’t her own. It comes from the Lady, a world tree of lore who intercedes on behalf of the injured. Calling on the Lady requires a circle laid of a particular herb, and the act of healing also requires specific herbs to treat particular ailments. To a medician, every living body emits music. Within a circle, they can hear the frantic jig of a palpitating heart, the wail of blood, the wheeze of escaping brain matter.

ClockworkCrown_331x500Octavia’s problem–one of many–is that she can hear this music all the time. Walking down a city street means she’s bombarded with a cacophony of competing songs. Being in a circle makes the sound stronger.

After spending most of her teenage years at the front, Octavia is also adept at doctoring. She can clean and bandage wounds, use common tinctures, and wait out the healing process… not that she wants to, not with her special connection to the Lady. To her, it’s the greatest of blessings, and one she can use to save many. Octavia has a hard time saying no to a person or animal in need. She hates suffering. She hates death. She’d save everyone if she could.

That becomes especially difficult for her in my short story, “The Deepest Poison.” This story focuses on a pivotal event that takes place not long before the start of my novel The Clockwork Dagger: soldiers in Octavia’s army encampment are poisoned en masse, and as matron, she’s leading the effort to save lives. Her mentor, Miss Percival, arrives to lend assistance as well… and Miss Percival is weary of being constantly out-done by her best pupil.

“The Deepest Poison” is 99-cents from all online book retailers. If you like it, go on to read the novel The Clockwork Dagger and be ready for the release of the sequel, The Clockwork Crown, on June 9th!

“The Deepest Poison”
99 cents
Release: April 28th, 2015
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Google Play / iTunes
—–

BethCato-steampunk-headshot100x150Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. The newest book, THE CLOCKWORK CROWN, comes out on June 9th, 2015.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Science Fiction and Hope

April 23, 2015

PZO8526Please welcome my friend Josh Vogt, another author with a new book coming out this year.  I asked Josh to tell us why he writes in the science fiction and fantasy genre.  What’s so special about SFF that makes it such a great genre to read or write in?  This was his reply.

JOSH VOGT:

I look back all the way to my childhood, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit, and then track all the way to today, seeing how much fantasy and science fiction have been an integral part of my life since. The books I read are 99% from those genres (and related subgenres), as are the movies I prefer, the games I play, the conversations I hold…

Enter the Janitor - CoverBut why? What does the whole of the SFF genre offer that has captured me for what I fully expect to be a lifetime? Why have I given over countless hours to writing in that imaginative arena?

The short answer?

Hope.

The long answer?

I believe that our ability to dream, to have a vision of the future, to cast our imagination beyond the boundaries of this reality…all those things are a big part of what it means to be human. We are, in many ways, a hopeful species. We explore. We seek out adventure. We strive to learn and grow and build, even in the face of global disaster and individual trauma.

Hope gives us strength, and fantasy and science fiction—to me, at least—embody that virtue in many ways. These genres represent endless possibility and the belief that there is always something wild and wonderful yet to be discovered. Even if there’s danger or even death along the way, we have the ability to be brave and persevere in the hope of reaching a better existence.

No, not every story within science fiction and fantasy is a hopeful one. Yeah, there are speculative genres like supernatural horror where everyone dies in the end, or grimdark stories where existence is a senseless string of blood and gravestones.

However, when I go to write a story, I find I naturally lean toward hopeful themes and characters to one degree or another. Maybe they aren’t that way at first, but it often emerges later on at least. It’s what I want to believe in and what I want to experience in the stories I continue to read.

Some people might consider it unrealistic or simplistic. That reality is too harsh and unforgiving to have any room for hope.

Well, guess what? Science fiction and fantasy let me create any reality I want. And while the stories I write will still be full of struggle and heartache and loss and pain, those will be the shadows to contrast with the ongoing hope for freedom, love, joy, and healing.

Onward and upward.

Josh-8194-2 - smallestJosh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

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