World-building: Common Mistakes in Speculative Fiction – Guest Post by, Diana Peach…

Just in case you didn’t get your fill of World-building, I’m over at The Story Reading Ape’s blog with another installment. Swing on by if you want to learn about what can go wrong! Happy November!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

World-building is a balancing act between alien complexity and Earth’s familiarity. If authors make characters and settings too alien, they risk confusing readers and interrupting the reading experience. But the other side of the coin – applying Earth qualities, standards, and cultural norms to non-Earth planets and societies – isn’t any better.

We’re so used to Earth and the way we live and behave, our customs, values, and social rules that they become invisible to us. They become the “givens” of human life, and often, we attribute them to other non-Earth worlds and cultures. Our ways of life are rooted in thousands of years of history. Other planets have different historical trajectories that produce alternate ways of life that feel normal to the characters.

Here are seven things to look out for when world-building:

Your society doesn’t “function”

Did you ever read a book where none of the characters work…

View original post 694 more words

World-building: From Imagination to Reality – Guest Post by, Diana Peach…

For those fans and writers of speculative fiction – here’s another dive into worldbuilding! I had the great pleasure of guest posting on The Story Reading Ape’s blog earlier this month. If you missed the post and are all broken up about it (ha ha) here’s Part II. 😀

(Some of you are so lovely to leave comments at both sites. Please, no need, unless not doing so gives you hives; your time is way too precious. I do check both and reply at both. Hugs.)

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

World-building is an important part of any writer’s preparation, and the speculative genres offer some wildly fun opportunities. There are no boundaries. The imagination is unleashed. The setting of the story can be as “fantastic” as the writer desires.

But fantastic also has to be relatable and plausible.

Relatability is a must when it comes to the main character(s). If a reader can’t relate on some emotional level to the protagonist, a book is going to struggle. Why do I mention this with world-building? Because in speculative fiction some or all of the characters may not be human.

There are no limits to alien design from physical features to intelligence to social and cultural norms, and writers can stretch those limits to create some unusual encounters and conflicts. Aliens that completely baffle us are fine, but rarely are they protagonist(s). The main character(s) needs to possess some “human” emotional content…

View original post 577 more words

Scattered: #writephoto

Thanks to Sue Vincent for a beautiful photo prompt. I went a little off-world on this one. Hope you enjoy.

*

“I’ll take the risk.” Captain Galles scratched the stubble graying his jaw. “If something happens to me, Corso’s in charge, not that you’ll have any decisions left.”

No one argued. What was the point? Forty chrons without food and water, we ran shy of options. We’d searched the black bowels of the alien freighter, a salvage operation by the looks of it, and found nothing but twisted and charred metal, every scrap incinerated clean. Our damaged shuttle lay on its side amidst the sea of relics.

The exception to the vast darkness was a panel of fractured light, a patterning of sublime beauty suspended over a polished dais. Our mechanical captors had wedged the unit against the compartment’s grated wall shortly after we found ourselves prisoners. Primitive cyborgs, the aliens lacked facial articulation and translation capabilities, the robotic language in all forms indecipherable. All our words and gestures proved futile, and our captain’s demands for basic sustenance went unheeded. They’d installed the contraption and left, its function a mystery.

The eight of us stood at the fringe of light as Galles stepped onto the dais. The array of lights above him hummed in a slow spin and increased in speed until they appeared to hurl backward. His mouth gaped in a silent wail, eyes pooled with terror. He struggled to escape the machine, hammered fists against an invisible barrier he couldn’t break. The lights blurred into a white star and he froze like a holograph set on pause.

His body began to disintegrate, clothing and skin breaking apart and floating like mist, then deeper, his whole shape loosening and scattering. He dissolved into swirling vapor, a haze of bright particles. A burst of blue current blinded me, and when I opened my eyes, he was gone.

I gasped and licked my parched lips, stifling an urge to vomit. Someone to my right heaved a dry sob. We sank to the floor where we’d stood, doomed. A day or two, we’d all be dead.

***

Amak studied the monitor. An unexpected reaction. It appears they are unfamiliar with teleportation. The fear response was extreme.

They are primitive. Rohla absorbed a wave of compassion emanating from the companion. They lack translation capabilities and do not understand the most basic of trinary languages. Their arithmetics are rudimentary. We have no means of communicating with them.

They choose death over the unknown. Amak shared the bafflement, their logic incomprehensible. Are we certain of the teleportation coordinates?

Without question. They were retrieved from their ship’s logs prior to processing.

Thoughts?

Rohla’s aura went silent, and Amak ceded to the desire for contemplation. Once completed, Rohla opened a channel and set the dilemma forth. Either we honor their choice as sentient beings and let them die, or we defy them, apply force, and save their lives.

Trump’s Bone Walls

pixabay

pixabay

This post is dedicated to Donald Trump and the many walls he attempts to build between us and within which he resides. An excerpt from my post-apocalyptic book The Bone Wall, it’s an oral history told by a disabled woman named Shy who keeps the stories of the People.

***

“In ancient days,” Shy begins, “old books told of gods and angels, devils and deceivers, of the making and breaking of the world.” Her small hands glide though the air as she talks, as if she would paint for us a picture of the words she perceives. She appears not to blink, the light voice of a child smoothly echoing an ancient tale imprinted in her memory long ago. “Prophesies came to pass, books burned to ash, gods and devils long ago dead.” She pauses to swivel her misshapen head, her eyes goggling at Riverwalkers and descendants alike.
*
In the beginning, the greatest of gods created into the formless and empty void, the heavens and earth. Of his eyes, he made the sun and moon, which he set among the white stars that he might behold his creation by light of day and dark of night.
*
He toiled to set the clay to spin, the sky to blue and storm. Of his blood, he spilled the rain to carve the rivers and sate the sea. Of his body, he sowed the seeds of life and from his flesh burst a fecund world of plant and tree, laying over the land between the seas a verdant green. He gazed upon the work of his hands and saw it was good.
*
With his breath, he breathed life into the waters of the sea and set it teeming. Breathed life into the winged birds of the sky. Molded with his fingers and breathed into the living creatures that roam the land, each according to their own natures. He gazed upon the work of his heart and saw it was good.
*
And of his thought, he created man in his likeness and woman that he might live in companionship. To them he gave the seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees. To them he granted mastery over the fishes in the seas and birds in the sky and every wild creature that crawls and runs upon the land, that they might shepherd this new world. He gazed upon the work of his dreams and saw it was good.
*
Thus in seven days the heavens and the earth were fashioned in all their vast array.
*
In the beginning of the end, what was done would be undone.
*
For man in his covetousness forsook the gifts of the great god and bowed to the deceivers who feared not to speak evil of grace and charity, believing themselves their own deceivings. They with feigned words made man a slave of his desires, promised him liberty, when they themselves were the servants of corruption.
*
In pride and greed, man closed his eyes to the shelter of the sky, thus the sun was set to scorch with fire and the moon to chill with ice. In gluttony and sloth, man poured his foul in the rivers and springs of water that flowed to the sea, and every living thing in the sea died and the land dried. In envy and lust, man scourged the life of the fields and forests, and disease broke out on man and beast; thus the land was plunged into plague.
*
In wrath and fear, the deceivers shouted their righteousness into the air. Forsaken and astray, zealous with false beliefs and dread to hope, man took up sword and shield. Flashes of lightning rent the sky, peals of thunder shook the mountains and the great cities of the nations crumbled. Every island drowned as the seas rose up in mighty tides. From the sky, huge hailstones, fire, and ash fell on the People.
*
Thus in seven days the heavens and the earth were broken in all their vast array.
*
The deceivers, laden with plunder, sought to escape the pollutions of their creation. In secret voices, they whispered among them: “Let us build these Gardens and stand walls around them. The glory is ours, for we are the righteous and chosen of God; rewarded with license on every side. Why else be blessed with such bounty, but by God’s desire.”
*
Then in slow procession, one for every ten thousand men entered within the walls. One for every ten thousand women abided within the walls. One for every ten thousand children sheltered within the walls. So they found peace within their walls and security within their strongholds, no violence in their land, nor ruin or destruction within their borders.
*
Beyond the walls, the tens of tens of tens of thousands trembled, for terror and fear lay upon the whole land. The fields went fallow, and beasts bore no calves or lambs. The rivers ran with fire, and seas belched up their foul and bloated bodies. Plagues and pestilence befell man and his descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering wars. And the people came to the Garden walls and begged for entrance.
*
And so said the deceivers onto the gathering hordes: “Mighty God, bless us. Saved are we by our devotion to your laws and renunciation of the wicked. We offer no succor among the righteous but cast the sinful from our gates. We deny the tainted and corrupt safe harbor within our moral ranks. We are the merciless sword of your justice, keepers of the covenant, the Saved.”
*
The people in the parched and broken world rose up in fear and desperation, and descended onto the Garden gates. A great horde of fury marched on the mighty walls, those in back pressing blindly on those at the fore until bodies leapt in screaming pillars of flame. They could not save themselves from the power of the walls; just as fire consumes the forest and sets the mountains ablaze, so were they devoured.
*
Ten-thousand times a thousand men blazed upon the walls. Ten thousand times a thousand women flared upon the walls. Ten thousand times a thousand children perished upon the walls. And the white bones clattered and rattled and formed mountainous bone walls around the Gardens of the deceivers so they would be reminded of their own ruination.

Passage #Writephoto

passage

Gabby tapped a finger on the holo-tab, scrolling through the checklist. She mumbled to herself to combat the interminable silence, “Done. Done. Done. Done.” Her shift was winding down, but she could squeeze in one more scan without a problem. Her team had been troubleshooting the anomalies for six shifts without a clue. Not one fritzed wire or crossed link, no cute little rodents sizzling in the circuits, or hideous viruses spewing garbled data.

“All systems operable,” the maintenance system announced. “Do you wish to proceed to level thirteen, mod seventy-four?”

“Not if I can help it,” she muttered, heading for the lift-port.

“Repeat,” the disembodied voice instructed.

“Yes. Mod seven four.”

“Proceed to the lift-port.”

“Obviously.” She pinched her fingers together in the air, minimizing the program. Trying to have a normal conversation with Opie, the ship’s original Operations AI, was like cooking with nutri-sims, the epitome of unsatisfying.

She hummed through the silence in the lift and exited on the thirteenth level – gray walls, gray floor, gray ceiling, same as every other level. Tracking the numbers on the doors, she strolled the corridor, the shipboard sounds muted, peaceful, sedate, boring. She’d just turned twenty-five, a fifth of her lifespan ticked off. Done. Done. Done. The thought of another hundred years of checklists punctuated by the same telebooks, revolving holofilms, and regurgitated musi-tunes tempted her to hack the entertainment database for some merciful sabotage.

At the panel to mod seventy-four, she punched the code into the slanted access plate, but the door didn’t budge.

“Greetings, Gabriela.” The pleasant voice of the modernized communications system chimed, breaking the ship’s silence.

“Hi, Darling.” The annoying name made her wince every time she said it.

“I’ve detected an anomaly. Do you still wish to enter?”

Gabby hesitated. She raised her hand and spread her fingers, opening Opie. “Safety analysis.”

“Perfectly safe,” Darling replied.

Opie ran through his data protocols. “Recommend initiating Safety Code SC-Six.”

“He’s a worrywart.” Darling sighed. “Of course, I understand if you’re anxious about missing the shift’s nutri-sim offering. Turkey and stuffing.”

“Open it.” The panel glided into the wall, and Gabby peeked in. At first glance, the mod’s interior appeared normal – a quietly blinking octagonal room, ten feet across, each gray wall dominated by a thin plasteel door that shielded the circuitry.

“Straight ahead,” Darling said.

“Don’t sound so giddy.” Gabby entered the mod and tapped the code from the plasteel door into Opie’s scanner.

The holo-tab blinked. “Anomaly detected.”

“How irritatingly repetitive.” Darling huffed. “Is he always like this?”

“Usually.”

“Well, are you going to open it?”

Gabby aimed her loc-key and hit the switch. The hidden pins clicked and the door released. She tugged it open and inhaled.

Beyond the gray portal the anomaly stretched forward in a rough passage constructed of actual stones and washed in gold and blue from the peculiar lights. At the end of the corridor, a cerulean brightness drew her eyes, a color seen only in images of a lost Terran sky. Yet neither sight could compete with the beauty of the sound. Beyond the elegant arches, voices and music soared, a sacred chant that welled in her chest, rose to her throat and caught in her lashes.

“Safety Code SC-Two Initiated,” Opie announced.

“Well, there you go,” Darling tsked. “He’s called security. You’re going to have to decide.”

“Decide?” Gabby stared down the length of the anomaly, the sapphire light and harmonies beckoning.

“To stay or go,” Darling whispered in her ear. “How much time do you have?”

“Seventy-three seconds,” Opie replied.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Opie,” Darling chided him. “One hundred years, Gabriela. You have a hundred years.”

Gabby stepped into the golden passage and closed the door behind her.

***

Many thanks to Sue Vincent of the Daily Echo for her #writephoto prompts that spark the imagination. She posts them on Thursdays. Join the fun!

Broken Sign

Broken Sign

First off, thank you to everyone who offered suggestions on my dragon book covers. Once again, I’m grateful to the lovely bloggers who people this virtual world. I can’t describe my gratitude for the friendship and support. 🙂 I tried every single idea and used most of them.

Special thanks to Nick (better known as Babbitman) not only for encouraging me to design different dragons for each cover but for actually doing one of them when I felt overwhelmed by the mere thought! He came through gloriously, and after he finished one, I was able to dismember and reassemble the rest.

Nick’s short story “Broken Sign” is a favorite of mine. Original, clever, quirky, and entertaining. I’ve closed comments. So just relax, read on and enjoy!

Broken Sign

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the dangers of artificial intelligence with luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk warning that AI could be “more dangerous than nuclear weapons”. Science-fiction has been banging this particular drum for decades: from HAL 9000 to Skynet in the Terminator movies, there are dozens of examples of artificial intelligence going rogue. Which is why it probably comes as a shock to learn that the first truly self-aware artificial construct was an overhead electronic variable message sign on the northbound A46, a few miles outside Nottingham. (continued….)

Reader Surveys by Genre and Gender

pixabay

pixabay

I’m one of those kids that learns by doing. Who needs research when you can tie your legs together, jump into the lake, and try to swim like a mermaid? With nine books under my belt and four more in progress, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a little research on who my readers are. Hey, the lightbulb eventually turns on; it just might take a while!

I found some interesting data on Statista about readers and made a few charts. The survey was taken in 2015 with 2,273 US readers.

The survey asked readers to identify the type of books they’ve read in the last year by genre. (Note that this is a survey of interest not volume. So, someone who reads 20 romances and 1 fantasy novel will check both boxes “yes.”) As with all surveys, take this one with a pinch of salt).

% Readers who Reported Reading Fiction

% Readers who read fiction books by genre

% Readers who Reported Reading Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction Readers by Genre

My genre, Sci-fi/Fantasy, is only read by about 25-26% of adult readers. Congrats to you Mystery/Thriller/Crime writers at 47%! This data won’t make me change my genre preference, but it intrigues me enough to explore the stylistic elements of that popular genre(s)!

The next chart looked at the same data divided by gender.

Reader Genre Preference by Gender

Genre preferences by Gender

I was curious as to whether most of my readers are male or female and discovered that Fantasy is one genre that’s almost evenly matched. In this sample, Sci-fi is statistically read more by men.

The reason for this tidbit of research is my book Sunwielder – though women do enjoy the book, men seem to give it the best ratings. It’s a time-travel (sci-fi staple) fantasy with a strong historical-ish component. The slight sway toward male readers makes sense when I look at the charts above.

I don’t expect any of this to change the way I write, but I did find the info interesting. The world of books is as varied as the readers who inhabit it, which is one thing I love about writing.

As a reader, do these statistics apply to you?
As a writer, is there anything here that intrigues you?