Category: Speculative Fiction

Minfulness at the Writing Desk

Licensed for use under Creative Commons

Chef’s use the term “mis en place” in reference to having everything ready prior to starting to cook a meal. I will be honest, I have only begun to cook that way recently myself. Last night I made four different dishes for dinner, and I completed the prep work of chopping, slicing, dicing, and putting the sauces together before I started cooking.

I believe I mentioned in a previous post that I see working in the kitchen as a perfect time to practice mindfulness. This has been a place and time that really works well for me. Since it means being present in my current state and task, it has really reinforced my adherence to preparation as an important step in my cooking practice. One potential drawback is that I tend to tune out my children whining or arguing, and my wife nagging.

Okay, a drawback for them really, as it works out quite well for me.☺

I have done the same when I am writing. For example, when cooking, things might get scorched if I wait to chop up the onions in the middle of cooking. When writing, coming up with character names is one of those tough things for me. I tend to scorch my brain when I try to do it while writing. For my writing mis en place, I will often brainstorm a whole list of names, ready for me to use while I am writing. I can cross the names off as I use them, all while barely breaking my stride.

Another thing that I borrow from the kitchen is the idea of there being a finishing point to the preparation. Even if I prepare for multiple meals, there is a finite number of preparatory tasks before I settle down to cook dinner. Preparation is a starting off point, not a destination. Admittedly, this is less well defined at the writer’s desk.

Vampires Don’t Suck Again

Okay, pun intended, let’s get that out of the way real quick. After you are done groaning, check out the trailer though. I have been anti-vampire ever since a certain series of books and some subsequent WB shows debuted. Of course, there was one notable exception. Now there is another! Check out the trailer below! It comes out right around my birthday too, so maybe I can get my wife to splurge for IMAX!

 

Wherein I Muse that ALL Fiction is Fantasy

DeviantArt
Creative Commons

I have thought recently about some of the principles that I believe in when it comes to fiction stories and genre. I am not speaking about genre in the more traditional sense. When I go to Amazon, I realize that if I go to the Fantasy section, then I will get results that reflect books having to do with magic, mythical creatures, swords, and the like. I am speaking in this post more to the general idea of a fantasy. A fantasy is something created in one’s imagination. Something that has not actually happened. See how that fits into fiction? Fiction is a story that never actually happened, created from someone’s imagination.

Of course the next question you have, after accepting that premise, is, “So what?” I hear you. I notice many writers and readers get caught up in the “reality ” of stories. In science fiction, I have seen some argue about whether or not space travel in X manner (notice I dodged the argument by using a variable instead of mentioning a specific method.) Some people only want to write or read those science fiction stories that reflect realistic technology. My take on it is that it is called science FICTION for a reason . If it was real, it would be called a science textbook.

What I see many authors gloss over these days, however, is what I call internal consistency. This applies to everything that is created within the story. It applies in many ways, and it requires the writer to be somewhat cerebral. Before he became delusional and arrogant, M. Night Shyamalan created the Sixth Sense. He created certain rules that he followed throughout the movie. For example, anything the dead interacted with in the physical world was red. After the surprising ending, one could go back and see all of these rules in place throughout the movie. I remember seeing an interview with him, where he described going through scenes and looking for discrepancies in the color scheme, sometimes finding a problem right as they were starting to shoot.

This, to me, is internal consistency, and is very important to me in the stories that I enjoy. I want stories to be consistent with the rules created in that world. If this is a story where the ghosts cannot speak to the living, then I do not want to catch a ghost talking to a living person, unless there is a development in the story that accounts for this. I don’t want to see a character that acts wildly outside of their established personality. Internal consistency, in my estimation, is critical in any fiction story. As far as whether or not certain elements are realistic? It is all fantasy, which is not real by definition.

How do you find you eBooks to read? Please respond.

pixabay public domain

pixabay
public domain

The USA Today does not always publish the most reliable of polls, but this recent article on how eBooks are changing reading habits seems significant. It also just makes logical sense. More people are purchasing and using eReaders to read their books. Along with this comes a transformation in  the way that people shop for books. When one relies on an eReader, then it is less desirable to go to a brick-and-mortar store to browse books. Particularly, when people stated in the poll that their biggest reason for not reading is because they do not have the time. With a time crunch, who wants to strap on galoshes and traipse to the bookstore?

This brings up an interesting problem though. When something transforms in this way, there becomes a new way. I have often struggled with how to find new books to read. I feel much like I am stabbing in the dark, rather than using a reliable method of finding new, quality books.

I love to support independent artists as well. So for me, that introduces another layer. How do I find indie authors that have amazing books that I have not heard of? I do really believe in quality as well though. That means I also want to weed out those poor quality works.

An example here is that I recently read a book that has been recommended on my Amazon page for numerous months. Probably years. I jumped into the first book of the series. There were typos, but not so bad that I could not enjoy the book. However, there were numerous, gaping plot holes, where the book did not follow its own logic (a big problem for greens such as me.) There were also numerous instances where characters acted outside of their given personality, with no explanation. One example: there was a king and a queen, where the king absolutely adores the queen. The queen is a horrid, evil, power-hungry person, while the king is compassionate and just person who is touted to be able to read and know people very well. If he knows people so well, and is so compassionate, why on earth would he adore this horrid person as his wife? The book offered no explanation.  I loved the characters, and I loved the world-building, but the inconsistencies were a huge disappointment for me, such that I will not be reading any further books in the series.

So, how do I find books from indie authors that are high quality, that fall within what I like to read? Right now, I use the Amazon recommendations quite a bit, but I must admit that it is really hit-or-miss, and I end up buying many books that I do not finish reading. Yes, I do read the reviews for the books before purchasing. I also cannot help but to think there are some gems out there that I would love to read, but I have just never heard of the books.

If you would not mind responding please, I would love to hear from you. 

Do you primarily read eBooks, or psychical books? What methods do you use to find new books to read? Do you ever read indie authors, and if so, how do you find indie books to read?

Coming in 2013: A New Earth

Kids Looking into the Sky

A new life sustaining Earth-like planet is set to be discovered this year. It is no secret that I am a big fan of science fiction, but I am also a fan of science, and the possibilities through space exploration are just amazing.

As a society, we have benefited greatly from the science of space exploration. There are some very concrete things that space exploration science has brought us. NASA promises to bring us even more science this year. I think that in addition to feeding cordless drills, space exportation also fuels our imagination. Who hasn’t imagined what it would be like to fly into space in zero gravity, or land on the moon or even mars?

The Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies. The Milky Way itself is 100,000 light years in diameter. A new estimate say there are probably at least 17 billion earth sized planets in the Milk Way. Scientists believe they are set to discover Earth’s twin in 2013.

According to Geoff Marcy at the University of California, Berkeley, “The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013.” Wow, can you imagine? Another planet we might be able to send humans to in the future. Maybe after our planet dies. What forms of life will be there already? For me it just sparks the creativity and curiosity in me.

A little closer to home, Space.com has a list of 13 must-see space events this year, starting with Jupiter event on January 21st that should be highly visible.

PS3 Games for the New Year

With rumors circulating about just when the Playstation 4 will come out, game designers have still been working on some new titles for 2013 for the existing PS3 that I am interested in playing. I am what many might refer to as a casual gamer, so I am not into the shoot-em-up tests of my aged coordination skills. I like games that have a strong story and a strong plot that I can follow along with. I love being able to get immersed in a story. Here are a couple of titles I am looking forward to in 2013.

The Last of Us

http://www.thelastofus.com/ 

Release Date: May 7, 2013

Joel is a 41-year-old man, living in a post apocalyptic world that used the previous scientific discovery of zombie ants as a basis for the start of the story. Very cool! Joel becomes the caretaker of 14-year-old girl named Ellie, and is trying to get her to safety. I remember reading an interview where they said they wanted to make sure that this was not just an entire game in escort mode, because they were aware that this would detract from game-play. The game takes place 20 years after the fall of man, so Ellie has grown up in this world.

This looks like a game where there is certainly going to be combat, but it seems to have more intelligent combat from what I have seen so far. The NPCs might see that you have a gun, and if they do not, they will use different strategies to try and subdue you than coming directly in your line of fire with an inferior weapon. So you will have to use your wits, some strategy, and even some stealth.

In addition to the game, Naughty Dog and Dark Horse Comics will be releasing a prequel  four-part comic series that depicts Ellie’s life prior to the game taking place.  I am really looking forward to that as well. It should be out in Spring 2013. I have not bought a comic book in a long time, but the game is on pre-order for me at Gamestop, and the comic book is definitely on my radar. I can’t wait to get into them both. Dark Horse will also release an art book for The Last Of Us.

Beyond: Two Souls

http://beyondps3.com

Release Date: TBA 2013

I better seriously start saving my allowance, because there are other exciting games on the horizon as well. I have not seen a ton of information on this game yet, but it looks to have a lot to offer. It is billed as a psychological action thriller. There is a lot of acting via motion capture, and this looks to be a strong story-driven game. Nice! Actress Ellen Page plays the part of Jodie Holmes who is out to find the truth about life after death. She has supernatural powers through a psychic connection with an invisible entity.

It looks like, from the game play, that you play as the invisible entity and as Jodie. Jodie is anywhere from age 8 to age 23 in this game, and entity’s powers and ability to affect the world are dependent on Jodie’s age and subsequent development. The entity has powers such as moving or manipulating objects and possessing people. It looks like a very immersive game, I can’t wait to get started!

 

A Little Too Into the Novella

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I  was packing up my gym bag recently, and I came across some hotel bar soap in our travel bag of toiletries. I vaguely remembered that there was something important I needed to remember about bar soap. No, I didn’t need it for my gym bag. I must have needed it to wash something specific! What could it be though?  I know it was something important! What could I need to wash specifically with bar soap? Then it hit me. Ray,  my character in my post-apocalyptic adventure novella that I am writing has an important scene where he gets to take a shower, and I still need to work out where he gets the soap from. Thus is the life of a writer!