Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Space after 40...

Never say never. I said I'd never have kids. I have 5. I said I'd never blog: I have 4! I said I was too old for My Space, too. Oh, well. If you can't get your readers to come to you, you have to go find them, right? While browsing on Technorati earlier, I found out that the complete novel, Starship Titanic is out. Starship Titanic is an invention of the late Douglas Adams and Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) has written a whole novel about it. It was first a computer game, one of very few that I've played. I liked the accompanying audio so much I even loaned the tapes out by themselves. And of course, the blogger is a Douglas Adams fan. What Douglas Adams fan wouldn't be an Awesome Lavratt fan? And she was on MySpace. So there you go. >sigh<

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sometimes Backward Is the Way Forward or What's Up With the Wimpy Protagonist?

I was going to begin with a philosophical question, but I think I need to work up to it. In my novel, Under the Suns of Sarshan, my heroine is always, as my brother would put it, "landing in the soup." More to the point, she's always breaking bones, blacking out and laying in a hospital bed away from the crew and passengers she's meant to protect. I'm in the process of righting these wrongs. I'm having her make every entrance on her feet, fighting for her people.

I just rewrote chapter 14 --again, rather than moving on to the revision of chapter 17, where I left off. Like I said, sometimes, backward is forward. It was a major plot problem that was easier to fix before finishing later chapter revisions. Or is it just that I couldn't stand it when I realized that my second half was falling flat and lacking tension and risk? My epiphany demanded action. My novel demanded action.

So, why did I write my heroine like that? Was I feeling vulnerable at the time? Feeling that life was happening to me rather than the reverse? Hmmmm....

Well, onward and upward. I'm running out of people to kill. I've made for closer quarters to provide for more interpersonal tension. I'm also delaying the news of their ultimate fate, inserting more information about the mysterious saboteur and will reuse the xenoterrorists in conjunction with said saboteur.

The really funny thing? One of the subjects I suggested that I could present for BayCon was "Keeping Your Character's Feet to the Fire". Certainly I didn't mean by knocking them down physically every chance you get.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Under the Suns of Sarshan

As promised, here's an excerpt from my SF novel, Under the Suns of Sarshan. This is the beginning of chapter one.

Neptune loomed, sixty times bigger than Earth beneath the SS Eureka. Its deep blue a sharp contrast to the haze of its small irregular rings. The Eureka had just arrived for its week-long stop in high orbit before making its slow way back to Luna. The passengers were busy guiding their remotes in and around the Portens Crater ruins from the safety and luxury of their cabins, collecting pictures to "analyze" at their leisure. Most of them wouldn't know an artifact from a rock, but they could at least prove they'd been to Neptune.

"So, Captain, what do you make of the latest reports of alien sightings out here?" asked the pilot, a gangly young buck of twenty-something with a hook nose and big ears.

"We’ve only found a few planets that could support life . . . ."

"But the evidence . . . ."

She shot him an impatient look. "Is not conclusive. And as I was about to say, just because it could support life, doesn’t mean it will or has."

"But why not? What a waste," he said, shaking his head.

"All that matters is that the tourists believe. Rumors of aliens are good for business. Who do you think starts them?" she asked.

"You’re kidding, sir."

Karla gave him the are-you-really-that-naïve look.

He turned all kinds of red.

"I’m going for some java," she said. "Want any?"

"No. Thank you, sir."

Why do I always get stuck with the new jockeys, she thought, even though she knew the answer. After spending ten years running shuttles to Luna and another five piloting and playing guide for scientific missions, this pleasure cruise held no challenge. She had run this ten-month sightseeing voyage to Neptune and back four times now. Her experience earned her the highest space captain pay and the "privilege" of breaking in new pilots.

She stood up, pressed her hands against the small of her back and stretched backwards. Karla didn’t really need any coffee. She just needed a break from Weaver's constant chatter. After pouring a cup of coffee from the urn at the buffet near one of the observation windows, she gazed at the heavy concentration of matter in one of the three prominent arcs in Neptune’s Adams ring. As she did with abstract paintings and cumulus clouds on Earth, she imagined shapes in its rag tag group of meteorites.

The ship shuddered, spilling her coffee all over her captain's blues. She tossed the cup and ran back to the nose. "Report," she barked at Weaver as she stepped through the hatch.

"The port thruster kicked in on its own and is not responding. I can’t override it or shut it down," said the pilot, his voice raising an octave, "and engineering reports an aggressive organic substance breaching the hull."

Karla looked over his head at the controls, tapped his shoulder for him to get up and tried herself. The manual override refused to respond. She couldn’t get the thruster to disengage. "The cooling system is overloaded. I’m shutting down the main engine and diverting all cooling systems to that thruster," she said as her fingers flew over the controls. "Damn! Now the engines won’t respond. What the hell is going on?"

The com sounded. Chief Sanders' voice had an edge. "Captain, the hull’s nanoweb just read a biotechnic virus and it's already breached the hull. It’s spreading like a plasma fire and damaging every system it touches. This thing is fast. We’ve sealed the hull, but I’m getting frozen out of all controls. I’ve never seen anything like it." The chief engineer’s tone scared her more than his news. Nothing ever rattles that guy.

"Is Natter down there?" The biologists they sent on these cruises were primarily to make the passengers feel that they might be needed - to hint at the possibility of finding life in the outer system. They usually weren’t the best in their field and few had seen any action.

"Yes. He’s analyzing it. Might be a while, though. Anything that has been infected changes color and looks melted. People should stay sharp. We don’t know what it will do to human tissue but it can’t be good."

"Okay. Keep me posted." Karla then turned to the pilot. "Get that message to the crew. Have them tell the passengers cabin by cabin, room by room. I’m not putting that over ship-wide."

"Yes, sir." Weaver looked relieved to be actively involved.

Karla dove under the pilot console and pulled the cover off. She turned onto her back and tried bypassing the control. A wave of nausea hit her, and she bit her lip until it eased. The gravity was erratically fluctuating between 1G and 0G. She braced her knee on the underside of the console just in case the artificial gravity failed altogether.

"We’ve got the main engines shut down," said the chief over the com, "but the thruster is still firing. We’re going to have to jettison it from outside. Hathaway’s suited up and going EVA."

"Understood," Karla answered from under the console.

Karla wiped her brow and unzipped her vest. The temperature had already increased by ten degrees. Nothing she did made any difference. She got up, leaving the panel on the deck.

"Put that panel back. We don’t want it hitting us in the head if the AG goes," she said to the pilot.

"This virus is fast," said Chief Sanders over the com, "Natter says that it changes the molecular structure of everything it touches. You might want to consider the lifeboats before they’re infected, too."

Karla hoped she’d never have to put those metal coffins to the test. They had no maneuvering capabilities and limited rations. The Eureka was too far out. She doubted the lifeboats would last long enough for them to be rescued. They should have named her the Titanic. "Let’s not be hasty, Sanders. Let me know if Natter turns up anything useful, and keep in close contact with Hathaway."

"Hathaway’s just approaching the thruster panel. The hull temperature may breach his suit’s integrity before he even gets the panel off."

"Hathaway, no heroics," Karla radioed directly to Hathaway’s suit, "Get out of there before your suit breaches."

"Captain, I’ve almost got it." Then he grunted. "I’ve got the panel partially loosened. I can’t get…Damn!"

"What’s happening, Hathaway? Talk to me."

"It’s fused. My suit’s getting hotter by the second. I could torch it or blast it off but the containment necessary to…No! No! No! Ahhhhh…"

"Hathaway! Come in. What’s your status?" said Sanders. "Hathaway. Come in."

His radio only transmitted background noise. Karla’s gut wrenched as she pictured Hathaway’s flesh cooking in his suit as he hurtled off into space.

"Captain. I’m sorry. We’ve lost Hathaway. We need to evacuate to the lifeboats."

"I’ll give the order."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sonoma County Literary Events, Odd & Ends

I just updated the calendar for local events. Scroll down and check it out. There's lots going on in the literary slice of Sonoma County.

I finished that Allen Steele serial, Galaxy Blues, and see that it is indeed available as a novel. Excellent character driven story with expert treatment of first contact issues. I recommend it.

Robert Sawyer has some helpful tips on getting good press.

For any Blues fans out there, might I recommend Tommy Castro to you? He's local, but destined for big things.

I'll post some excerpts of Under the Suns of Sarshan this week. I updated my bio and website. If you haven't visited yet, please do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BayCon 2008 and more

I'm on the guest list for BayCon 2008. BayCon is held in Santa Clara, CA over Memorial Day weekend.

My complete schedule of appearances (thus far) is up on my website. Four dates so far. The rest are in Sonoma County. Looking at possibilities in WA and OR.

Did anyone else notice the goof on Torchwood Saturday night? Toshiko dropped her purse on the pier, and it magically appeared back on her shoulder for her to drop it again.

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Mug Shot

Here's my mug shot for the book, for better or worse. I'm standing in a vineyard, overlooking the rival wine country (Napa) resort. This is my relaxed, vacation face. :)

I'm still playing catch-up with my back issues of Asimov. I went back to the November and December issues to read the first two parts of a serialized piece by Allen M. Steele, set in his Coyote universe.

I'm enjoying it so far. In fact I think I'll finish it tonight while hubby is off doing his thing (singing in Slavonic). It's so hard to just enjoy a book without wanting to pick it apart when so much of my time is spent picking apart prose for myself and others. I can't turn it off. >sigh<

Oh, the story? It's called Galaxy Blues. I'm sure you'll see it in print on its own eventually, if you don't get the magazine.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Idiom Spewing

I've been enjoying "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on Fox. That's no surprise since I'm a "Firefly" fan, and therefore, a Summer Glau fan. She plays a very similar roll in TSCC. There's one character I can live without, however. The next time you're watching TSCC, count how many cliche's (somebody please tell me how to do the accent mark on my keyboard!) agent Greta Simpson spews per sentence. Ugh!

Well, in rereading Under the Suns of Sarshan from the beginning, I am reminded that it isn't crap. It's just tough working on rewrites for so long. I can't see the forest for the trees. Uh-oh. There's an idiom. Maybe that's why that character bothers me so much. I have two Japanese daughters-in-law. There English is quite good, but idioms are hard. It's when I'm talking to them that I'm reminded how many I use myself. If only I could speak in final drafts, rather than rough ones.

When you're working on a novel, there's a lot to keep in the cranium at once without constantly going back to check this or that (which I don't do enough). I'll be glad when it's done. I'll post excerpts probably early next week.

I need to dig out a good photo for the back cover of the Awesome Lavratt and send the galley back. Very exciting! :0) I've made all my changes. Fingers crossed. I hate it when I find tons of typos and things in books I'm reading.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Speaking Engagement and New Project

If you live in the North Bay (CA): I'm the speaker for the next meeting of my local branch of the California Writers' Club, March 2nd at Marvin's Restaurant in Cotati. These meetings have been packed for months. In fact they're looking for a larger venue. The Redwood Writer's Club has been very active in the literary community, hosting readings, contests, workshops and excellent speakers. To find out more, check out their website.

I'll be speaking on speaking. Or rather, public reading, mostly. If you heard about it here and come, say hi and let me know. I'll be updating the RWC calendar this week, as well.

Now for the non-local readers:
I'm very excited about my new project and have found new gusto for the one held up in rewrites. I'm going to print the whole thing out and read it from the beginning again. It's been such a long haul that I tend to lose touch with the story arc and developments and aspects of previous chapters. And I just plain got sick to death of it. I decided that rather than toss it in a draw, it's time to reread the whole novel to remind myself why it's worth finishing.

My new project has telepathy, sentient whales, population control, plague, romance and intrigue. I'll post an excerpt of Under the Suns of Sarshan soon on my website, followed by one of the new project (not yet titled). I have also just sent out a fantasy story that may end up becoming a novel later on. Everyone who has read or heard it wants more. I'll tell you more about that when the story finds a home.