We Welcome TJ as a new contributor

TJ has been a guest blogger and has come on board as a regular contributor.  She Blogs over at Writing From the Padded Room.

I have recently decided to take all those worlds and characters out of my brain and attempt to publish. Can always be found with caffeine, a dog when creating and a cat when editing, and often wearing a really pretty purple huggy jacket. I have held many jobs from shoveling water to upper management in a Fortune 500. Former correctional officer, a lot of upper education and way too many student loans, I have lived in 14 states, ventured out of the U.S. on occasion and more often than not, can be found allowing my mind to wander into places that may be best left alone.

Looking forward to more from TJ.

Shinny and New

guest post by T. J. Loveless

Today we have a guest: T. J. Ls oveless.  She has a lot of wit and charm and a fun member over at AQC We are glad to have her here.  She has her own blog over at Writing From the Padded Room.  She agreed to a guest post, so here is TJ

As writers, we all have a love of gadgets to some degree. Whether it’s a shiny new writing program, pretty blog pictures or *gasp* a brand new laptop/PC/tablet *insert girly – manly sqee here*. Anything to make it easier as we spin those lovely yarns into words on paper.

Some of us need music playing in the background, others require quiet. And there are gadgets for that too. Personally, I need a good mug that will keep coffee hot and my music blaring in the background.

Yet, when we actually sit to write the first rough draft, we forget the one shiny, new object which started the whole thing in the first place. Our vaunted imaginations. The very thing that forced us to sit down and create a world in which fictional characters and their lives play out.

Not everybody loves to edit and revise. In an attempt to make it easier for ourselves, we edit as we go and forget the rough draft is named “rough” for a damn good reason. It’s supposed to suck, have badly written scenes, repeated phrases and actions, often followed by flat characters and dialogue that would make Rodney Dangerfield wince.
“Danger! Danger!” *I know you did the robot arms reading this. Don’t lie.*

When the wonderful, new, shiny idea forms, the main idea is to put it on paper, or in our case, whatever writing program currently in use. Let it remain shiny, unexplored and filled with plot holes, passive writing, redundant phrases, info dumps, scenes that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Let the shiny and new have it’s day on paper. It can be tweaked, repaired, upgraded, and winced about later.
And when you write “The End” – celebrate. However you want. Whether it is a glass of wine, some expensive chocolate, or bragging to all of your best one hundred friends on Facebook and three hundred followers on Twitter. Let your shiny and new idea have it’s day on your harddrive of choice.

Just back it up. Repeatedly. The nightmares of losing all that work is enough to make me shudder writing this.
My rather rambling point is this: revisions and edits are the spit and polish. The scrubbing, the new avenues, the tweaking, the rounding of characters, filling of plot holes, laughter at the one scene with a character in a pretzel kicking the butt of some intergalactic robot. But before that, let the Shiny and New be just that – Shiny and New. Your imagination has the right to a day of perfection.

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Action Sequences As Seen By T.J.

Please welcome our guest blogger for this week, speculative fiction writer and Queen of the Huggy Jackets, T.J.

T.J. is a knowledgeable writer who generally writes in the paranormal genre, and can be found blogging at Queen of the Padded Room. Com. Check out her wit, humor and general words of wisdom there every time you get a chance.

So without further adieu… Here’s T.J.

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Action sequences.  As writers in Speculative Fiction this is almost a given to be in the book. Small ones, big ones, over-the-top-melees keeping our readers on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next.

The issues I’ve found in many action scenes is the unbelievability.

Most writers, not all of them, have never worked in a profession requiring this type of real life.  A few have some seriously kick ass ability in a dojo and frankly, I wouldn’t want to meet them in a back alley.  Many did have a few school yard dust ups.

Very, very few have ever had their life on the line.  Yet their imaginations run rampant with wonderful ideas and scenes, the emotions possibly involved and they write those action scenes beautifully as inner TV screens play it for them.

When I read this type of scene, I can automatically tell if the writer has been in situations with their life on the line and those which are following the Hollywood style – choreographed action.

There is nothing wrong with a well-choreographed scene.  This type is the lifeblood of many a book. One of my favorite authors uses this type and does a bloody good job of it.  What is getting tiresome is reading the same type of scene over and over and…well…over.  As a reader I am disappointed because I am able to tell you the outcome with relative ease after the first sentence of the sequence.

I’ve heard through various outlets, and friends after reading, in which many are looking for a more realistic action sequence.  Meaning, instead of the practiced moves, falls and fly overs, something they can identify with.  Tripping, losing the weapon, a true “Oh, shit” moment.

I’ll be an example.  I worked as a CO3 in a Men’s Max Unit for four years.  One hundred seventy nine, uh, physical disagreements.  Most of which my arse was handed to me on a silver platter.  The size of the inmate rarely mattered.  Big, small, average, every size and shape.  Weapons involved in more than a few.  The reason I survived can be attributed to biology, a good amount of luck and just plain how things really happen.

If you put two equally trained combatants in a ring, think UFC, in an all out fight, it rarely lasts more than five minutes.  I’ve watched on occasion, and the winner is usually decided because the opponent missed, tripped, slipped, misjudged distance, underestimated his opponent, didn’t look for the winner’s weak spot.

One rotation early in my CO career I’d been assigned administrative segregation.  These males were dangerous, manipulative and couldn’t pretend to work well with others.  They required high amount of security. An inmate decided to target me.  His hatred of women ran fairly deep and fully resented when a female was in charge.  I didn’t notice he’d blocked the locking mechanism of his full steel door.  I turned after shutting it, didn’t wait for the “clunk” of the lock and walked away.  The door slammed open and a burning pain started in my side, spreading through every nerve.  I turned, grabbed his groin, twisted and pulled.  He screamed, falling to his knees with a strangled sound and I grabbed the radio off my belt and hit him in the side of the head, shattering his cheekbone.  I, on the other hand, landed in the hospital for four days because of the two inch shank in my left side.

I didn’t win because of superior fighting skills, training, or moves thought about ahead of time.  I won because he underestimated me and my need to go home to the kids.  Truly expected me to fight using the Queen’s Rules of Pugilism.

Of course, two months later I lost in a fist fight that landed me in the hospital yet again with a broken nose, broken jaw and a broken arm. Not because the little guy had better fighting skills, but because I’d underestimated him, slipped on  recently mopped concrete flooring and fell flat on my face.

It wasn’t the last time. I’ve misjudged distances, didn’t get my arm up in time to ward off a blow, couldn’t get up after landing on a table or sliding into a concrete wall.

And my Lieutenant, with his black belts and constant training, lost to a little street fighter because of misjudged distances.

When writing action sequences, think first. What is in the area? No floor is perfectly clean. Nobody truly thinks of where they are going to put an arm, a leg, land a weapon.  Instincts, when in a fire fight, rule the day. Nobody is infallible.

Tight clothing hinders reach and breathing. Weather plays a large part. The very air a combatant breathes plays a part. Other characters in the scene always play part – good or bad.  Nobody can twist into a pretzel wearing clubbing outfits or move perfectly on stilettos.

Make the scenes real.  By thinking of the little things, the reader will be hooked, holding their breath because they can’t predict moves and outcomes. Use the unpredictable and imperfections of your world.

The reader will thank you for it.

Introducing Sci Fi Author Scott Seldon (Robin Breyer)

Greetings Speculative Fiction fans. Our guest poster for this week is Science Fiction author Scott Seldon, aka: Robin Breyer. You can find Robin’s well crafted Sci Fi stories on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes.

Robin also blogs at Seldon SF.

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I don’t consider myself to be science fiction writer. I’m a writer and I enjoy more than just one genre. However, science fiction is my first love. From the moment I saw Star Wars, I was hooked. In the days before DVD’s, I devoured books when I wanted more. I eventually got around to fantasy, but I always return back to science fiction.

Science fiction is a varied genre, filled with many sub-genres, but one thing remains consistent is some level of science. It varies from strict proven science in the hard science fiction sub-genre, to applying unproven theories in soft science fiction, to almost ignoring them in space opera. But in each case, it is still, at least somewhat, based on science and that separates it from fantasy and horror. I won’t even begin to get into the whole area of genre cross-overs.

Really, the core of science fiction is soft science fiction and space opera. This is where you find the greats, like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, just to name a few. They all strayed from the pure hard science fiction and adapted theories and guesses and suppositions on what our future might look like.

But there is more to science fiction that just science and technology. It has a sense of looking forward to the future. Even steampunk, sort of a throwback to Jules Verne’s era but with modern foresight, looks to the future. It’s about where science and technology might take us. What we might be able to do, what dangers we might face. It is that sense of future that sets it apart from fantasy, horror, or any other genre. Not all the visions are positive, because every writer explores that idea in different ways. Some dream, some warn, some just want to tell a good story.

One of the traps, and I find that it is mainly the fans and writers of hard science fiction who promote it, is that you can’t have anything unreal in science fiction. In soft science fiction and space opera you can reach out quite a bit to fringe studies that aren’t considered pure science. The collective ESP powers are a prime example. Reading minds, foretelling the future, telekinesis, teleportation, these are all readily found in science fiction going back a very long way. And it isn’t just a case of the pulp writers doing it. Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert were as guilty of this as any other. Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw can adjust minds at a distance. The Dune saga revolves around mysticism. These things have a long history in science fiction. The original Star Trek series delved into this a lot in stories written by some of the most celebrated writers of the day.

There are also trends in the genre. Back a hundred years ago, the stories were set in the solar system with aliens on the other worlds and adventures between the planets. Just a couple of decades later, the stories exploded onto the galactic stage. I was reading not long ago that there is a current trend to pull back from looking far into the future and just look a short way forward and rather than flitting about the galaxy, to stay closer to home. Such trends have a way of creating a different tapestry of science fiction for each generation. I was greatly influence by Star Wars and my subsequent trips to the bookstore.

That does have an impact on writers. I’ve noticed how my own writing is very influenced by the stories I grew up with. I’ve further influenced it in odd ways with my love of movies. It creates a cinematic touch to my writing, but also pulls in 1930’s swashbuckling adventures, 1950’s epics, and 1990’s romantic comedies. I see the influence most from what I was interested in when I was younger. Star Wars colors everything and Doctor Who isn’t far behind, neither are Robots and Foundation.

What that does to the genre is to give it variety. You can find just about anything you want if you are willing to go back far enough. I found C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories that way, most dating from the 1930’s. The beauty of science fiction is that the variety is so vast that there is a niche for every reader and writer out there. In some ways it is hard to imageine such a genre being based on the cold hard facts of science, but science is a living thing that grows and changes with our increased knowledge. I personally am a sucker for a grand space opera adventure.

No matter what you feel qualifies as science fiction, what is true in every corner of the genre is that is varied and rich. So whether you like to dig through the dusty archives to discover an old treasure, or like to check out the free books on Amazon for fresh new voices, you will always find something new and different. That’s kind of what science fiction is all about.

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Robin Breyer writes science fiction under the pen name, Scott Seldon. He currently has two novels, a short story collection, and a novella out. Visit Robin’s blog at sakka48.blogspot.com/ or visit his Scott Seldon website at sites.google.com/site/scottrseldon/ to keep up on his latest thoughts and projects.

And thank you, Robin, for posting here with us.

World Building

A Guest Post by Joyce Alton

Which comes first, the story or the world-building? How much world-building should you include?
There isn’t a correct answer to the first question. It varies among writers. So no pressure there.

I have seen two problems dealing with this issue in unpublished manuscripts, however. The first is where someone comes up with a great plot and after writing it down finds they need to come up with some world-building to make their plot stand out from all the other similar plots out there. The second issue is where someone dreams up a rich, fascinating world but has little to no story to go with it.
The ideal is to create both the world and story together because they will propel and enrich each other. Incidentally, stories like these usually go on to be bestsellers. Huge lesson to be learned right there.
Compelling characters by themselves don’t get the job done. You need all three elements: plot, world, and characters. They feed off of and grate against each other.

Let’s break this down a bit more.

If you’re struggling with world-building, step back from your story a little bit. Think about what you like and what you hate in both settings and cultures. Think of all the books you’ve read in your genre and what is typical and what has stood out. You want to stand out. Avoid the lazy route of picking the exact same things as everyone else. For instance, who says you have to have a tavern in your medieval world? Who says a king must live in a castle? Who says aliens have to drive spaceships to get to Earth? What if doors were built in ceilings instead in walls?

Jot down all the ideas that you like and play with them. Stretch that imagination. Surprise yourself and you will surprise your readers too.

Next, think about culture(s) for your world. Suppose you’ve chosen a tropical setting instead of the usual plains and mountain bit for your medieval fantasy. What different crops and foods will the people there eat? Will the creatures be different because of the climate? What about what everyone wears? How do they pass their time in a place where seasons never change and fatal illness is a mosquito bite away? What rules would your kingdom have to keep people safe or under control? What’s the policy on looking for missing persons who might have been attacked by a crocodile?

Now, how does the setting and the culture affect your protagonist and antagonist? What works for them? What works against them? What world-building details can you use to make plot points happen, or better yet, change them into something new and wild you didn’t think of before?

Say originally, your hero walks into the local tavern and someone picks a fight with him. He’s left battered and robbed in an alley. A precious heirloom he’s had since childhood was taken. It’s the key to claiming the inheritance his grandmother told him about in the scene before.

Okay. Now your setting is tropical and you chucked out the tavern because that’s been overdone. Instead your hero heads to an enclosed market where streets are lined with thick adobe walls and there is a lot of shade and netting to keep out the bugs. The narrow streets are packed, vendors yell above the crowds, it’s easy to have your pocket picked or be knocked down and trampled. While searching for a chemist to mix up his ailing grandmother’s medicine (she was bitten by a lethal mosquito) your protagonist finds he has to jostle for one of the last vials with a handful of frantic other people. There’s a medicine shortage, a breaking epidemic. There’s a fight. Someone steals the heirloom because it’s gold. Money can buy medicine the chemists hoard for the wealthy.

You see how culture and setting changed a simple, typical scenario into something with more twists and turns? Something that gives you ample chance to bring the reader into a world that escapes their own. Details will come readily to you. Details can foreshadow better than dialogue.

The trick to world-building is to use your imagination. I know it’s tempting to whirl off a story and get it to market ASAP. Don’t. You’re shortchanging yourself. Get a notebook, open another file on your computer, pull out the drawing paper and pencils and get to work making your world extraordinary.
Now we get to the second question: how much world-building do you include? Write it all down in that separate file then only use what you need.

Remember that you as the writer have the bigger picture and the omniscient truth about everything in your world. Your characters don’t. They have limited knowledge of other people and places and that will warp how they perceive their world. This gives you an opportunity to prove them wrong or justify their presumptions as the story unfolds. Surprise is a good thing.

Backstory is great but dangerous. Filter it in; don’t unload it all in a prologue or opening chapter. What the protagonist already knows is a great place to start, based on what is happening in her life. If she sits down to breakfast pondering what she learned back in grade school about warring races, you’re stretching things. If she heads to market and a person of another race tries to cheat her, that gives you an opening to share the biases going around about that race.

So you’ve created an entire system of magic and how it works. Fantastic. You don’t have to turn your novel into a textbook to educate the reader. Show us how that magic works. Show us how it’s needed and what problems it causes. Use that piece of world-building to propel your plot and make your characters grow.

So you’ve created an entire new language for your world. Awesome. You don’t have to use that language heavily in the story. The reader isn’t looking to take a language course. Choose a few words, especially those for which your real-life language has no corresponding word, and use them in context. Save the language course for a page on your website.

So you’ve bent the rules of science and must overcome reader disbelief. Plan it out without including lecture tangents in the story. I’m sure there are places on the web for people to spout their science-fiction theories and structures for fun or debate. A novel isn’t the ideal place. Or again, save it for a website page. Know the ins and outs of what you’re bending and find ways to show it at work. Showing alleviates reader disbelief better than a lecture any day. The same goes for doubting characters. People can argue until they are blue in the face but it’s harder for someone to dispute what they actually experience.

So your character must undergo a period of training in order to hurdle the climax. Okay. Consider whether that character experiences a lot of internal change while that is going on. Does a vital new character come into play? Does a big mistake happen? Then show a scene or two where those factors drive the training scene, not the training itself. Play-by-plays of martial art or fencing moves are for YouTube videos. Of course, be sure to include whatever necessary training facts or discoveries the character is going to need to twist fate in his favor later on. Work them in subtly rather than force the reader to trudge through an obvious “this is how it works, and here’s the rule breaking clause so you can predict the ending.”

And so we jump back to problem number two: world sorted out, no plot. If you’ve merely created a series of exotic landscapes, you haven’t fully developed your world. Consider hiring an artist to draw these landscapes or see if you can’t inspire a game engineer to use them. You see, you really want to experience a place not share a story. A fully developed world will include issues and problems. That alone should spark some serious plot-making. You would have already speculated on who lives in your world.

The cure to excessive world-building info dumps: characters. Focus on them. What does your protagonist want? What is she feeling in that opening scene? What happened to her ten minutes before the scene started? What keeps her from getting what she wants? What is her plan to get what she wants?

When those questions are figured out, it’s easier to see which setting details a character will notice in that scene. Think about how the setting works against your protagonist. What in the setting reflects her mood or gives her aide? Is she more likely to notice the cracked vase or the bouquet of roses inside it?

Another thing to remember: how commonplace is this setting to the principle character? Is this his home? If so, he’s not going to walk through the door and study everything. He sees it every day. The only time commonplace settings deserve some extra detail is if something is wrong or has changed. I’m not saying you shouldn’t describe the setting for the benefit of the reader. Fill in details based on what the character is likely to notice and what suits his moods and needs. Let it flow with the action of the scene.

If the setting is new to the character, pretty much the same advice applies. What will the character notice first and why? Those are the details to bring out. Also consider how much time they have to gawk. If there is ample time to describe everything from the tile flooring up to the toothed molding on the edge of the ceiling, you can probably cut the entire scene because nothing is going on.

To close with a couple of published examples, let’s talk about the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. First off, I really enjoy them, so don’t think I’m tearing them down. I want to point out that Baum loved world-building. So much that he had a hard time tearing away from the travelogue through fantasy land scenario in each of the books. It was a fun novelty in The Wizard of Oz. By the time you get to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz the pattern is predictable: something cataclysmic happens, a young girl or boy travels through quaint and strange lands meeting extraordinary fairy people and collecting traveling companions only to end up in Oz where they meet all of the old friends and traveling companions they or others have had, and then have a party. Baum does grasp better plots in some of the books yet never without the travelogue. His imagination is wide and inspiring when it came to world-building. His finesse in making those people and places not only relevant but necessary—well—is somewhat lacking.

On the flip side, look at the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Rowling created a rich and well-planned world, created characters equally detailed and well-understood, then used them to take a simple set of plots to new heights. She interwove all three elements to play off each other. She used details when they mattered and for foreshadowing. Her nodes of conjunction are study-worthy. And it’s not as if she created genuinely unique settings or characters. She kept to some expected archetypes while leaping out of the box in other ways.

You can do the same. Have a solid plot. Go beyond creating settings. Build a world with culture, rules, and conflicts. Stretch your imagination, not your readers’ patience. Use details where they are needed, not just because you created them. Don’t take the lazy path of predictability. Know your characters needs and issues for every scene. Don’t let your story’s past suppress the present. Each story element alone is fuel, not the flame.

Joyce blogs at http://yesternightsvoyage.blogspot.com/ stop by and check out her blog.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

Specfic

 

 

Introducing…

Introducing our group of contributing authors.

In no particular order, here is a brief bio and photo of each contributing author.

Michelle Hauck

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of Mishawaka, Indiana with her hubby, two teenagers, and two dogs to balance out the drama from the teenagers.  Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes fantasy and is currently waiting news on submissions of her second manuscript.  She passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself, finishing this bio being a great reason for a snack.  She blogs over at It’s In the Details

Rick Pieters

Rick Pieters is from Dayton, Ohio and blogs at Room to Wonder.

“Sometimes we write to illuminate those shadows in the dark corners of our rooms, sometimes to tease them and play with them, sometimes to revel in them. Welcome to the funhouse.”

Dawn G. Sparrow

I am a mother, workat Toys R Us, which I adore! I love children and animals and consider myself a conservationist. I am learning how to make every minute count when it comes to writing, since I have precious few of those.

I am working on a novel tentatively called THE GREEN ONES, though I am thinking about calling it GREEN ONE’S PROPHECY, we’ll see. I am also rewriting the prequel, INFECTED.

I love doing critiques, but hate doing edits, even though I am constantly doing them!

Writing is my passion and joy.

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

You can find me on Twitter @DawnGSparrow.  She blogs at Write Away

Peter Burton

Peter Burton is currently a self-published author living in the rural mountains of West Virginia with his wife Tammie, two dogs, and numerous cats.

Formerly a graphic artist who has worked for several companies in the t-shirt and cosmetic industry, he recently returned to his first love, writing stories.

Always a bit of an extrovert, his sidelines included being a professional wrestler on the independent circuit in Tennessee, an amateur magician who entertained for parties, and a tattoo artist.

Currently he is working hard at writing in the Speculative Fiction genre, and hopes to either have a traditional publisher, or to be able to develop and reach many readers via the self-publishing market.

Peter blogs at A Storyteller’s Musing

E.F. Jace

E.F. Jace is an aspiring writer that thinks it’s incredibly awkward to write about oneself in third person. Jace’s concept of a perfect world is where one can curl up in their pajamas with a hot cup of coffee, listen to favorite soundtracks with their two cats and just type away, stepping out into sunlight to visit family and friends when the circles under their eyes get a bit hard to ignore.

Jace’s primary interest is anything fantasy. High/Epic fantasy, dark fantasy, supernatural or modern fantasy. Favorite subgenres being horror and an element, of romance. When Jace can manage to walk away from the keyboard, it is to spend time doing some traditional painting, playing some good ol’ video games or terrorizing the cats. And every so often a trip out to Starbucks to try and look important.

Jace blogs at Verbose Veracity

Dean C. Rich

Dean C. Rich currently lives in southern Mississippi with his wife, Lynda and two of his five children.  Currently he is a General Manager of a quick service food chain.  When he can spare a moment he is works on his Epic Fantasy story.  The story is currently in major rewrite, including the title.   Once the story is put back together he will pursue publication.

Besides writing he enjoys his family, grandson, camping, outdoors, photography, and model building.  He blogs at The Write Time

E.M. LaBonte

Lives in Rhode Island.  I’m a Mom, wife and writer among other things. I love the imagination and enjoy exploring my own as I let it flow to paper. For in all the world there is much to be seen, but much more lies in the imagination.

Em blogs at The Realms of a Fantastical Mind

Welcome To The Jungle

Hi All!

SpecFic here; as if you didn’t already know. Welcome to the Speculative Fiction Group Blog. As the sub-title above says; we are a dedicated group of writer who work in the various genres of Speculative Fiction.

Since this genre is about as diverse in sub-genres as a U.N. summit meeting, we felt that no one author could possibly cover its range, or flavor. Therefore, we hope to bring you a wide variety of view points, articles, reviews, and possibly an online serial or two, from a diverse set of talented authors who eat, breathe, and sleep SF.

So, if your into Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, or any of the Speculative Fiction being written today; we’re hoping this will be the place to get your groove on.

Thanks for stopping by, and let the show begin.

SpecFic