A Human Story: Guest Post with Andrea Flory

After reading Andrea Flory’s book Miira (Innerscape: book 1) , I asked her if she’d be interested in a guest post. I expected a cerebral exposition of the fascinating science of virtual reality. What I got was so much more, a sharing of the true beauty of her work, a human story. My review is below, but before heading there, here’s Andrea:

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Andrea Flory

Some people know they want to write from a very young age. It’s all they dream about.

That was never me. I did spend a lot of my childhood daydreaming, but those were private adventures, and I never saw them as potential ‘books’. Books were magical portals created by geniuses with towering imaginations.

How could I ever aspire to write stories?

It was true that I liked words and was good with them, but I was too pragmatic, and much too logical to ever emulate gods like Dostoyevsky and Dumas, LeGuin and Herbert. No, daydreams were for that magical time between waking and sleeping. They were most definitely not suitable for the real world.

And besides, I was busy. I rode motorbikes and  went up in gliders, travelled overseas, learned more languages, taught high school French, fell in love with computers, got married, had a child. You know…life.

But neglected passions don’t always wither away, and one day while I was doing tech support, I realised that many of my clients were asking the exact same questions, over and over again.

Ah hah, thought I. I liked writing, and I’d been a teacher, why not combine the two and type up the tech support instead of re-inventing the wheel each time? And that was the start of my technical writing career, but it would still be another ten years before I was brave enough to give fiction a try.

I guess that lack of courage is something I share with Miira, the protagonist in my latest science fiction story. She’s not a coward, exactly, but she’s not brave either, and it’s not until she’s bed-ridden and almost completely helpless that she finally decides to take the plunge and enter the digital world of Innerscape.

At first, Miira only sees Innerscape as a pain free way to die. Once inside, however, she discovers that her healthy young body and the virtual world it inhabits really are indistinguishable from the real thing. But if she has been given this second chance at life, what on earth is she to do with it?

I think this is a question we all have to answer at some point in our lives. For me, the moment came after a brush with cancer some years ago. Until then, I’d felt no sense of urgency; I was learning to write the kind of fiction I loved to read. What was the rush? Besides, I still wasn’t sure my writing would ever be good enough…

After the cancer scare I realised that writing wasn’t a competition. I might never be as good as my heroes, but my best was good enough. For me. The only question that still remained was whether I had the courage to share my best with others.

In 2013 I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and jumped. Four years later, so did Miira Tahn.

My Review

What a beautifully written book. Innerscape is a science fiction story about a middle-aged woman Miira whose disease-ravaged body is dying. She decides to enter Innercape where her body will be pared down to her essential components and preserved while she lives out her life in a virtual world as a younger, healthy version of herself.

The first book in the series covers two aspects of her immersion in Innerscape – first, the preparation of her new body and the tests to prepare for her transition, and second, the transition into the VR world and her orientation. As a series, the story continues beyond the initial book, and Flory hooks the reader with the introduction of several challenging characters, corporate compromises, questionable ethics, and love.

The science is detailed and utterly entrancing, as well as completely understandable to the layperson. The premise and technology also seem entirely plausible, if not now, then in the not-so-distant future. Flory’s writing is meticulous and detailed, and the world she’s created held my fascination throughout.

And all that wasn’t even the best part! Set against the scientific backdrop, is an engrossing human story. Miira is reserved, sensitive, inquisitive, and vulnerable, a beautifully rendered human being undergoing a process that requires complete trust and a step into the unknown. The story is told primarily in her point of view and the immersion in her experience is complete. The Innerscape staff that supports her are multidimensional and believably flawed characters.

The pace is steady and yet I flew through the book because I could NOT put it down. Exquisite writing, gorgeous descriptions, high tech science, and human pathos that grab the reader. I’m a fan and gladly recommend this book to readers of science fiction and anyone who enjoys an unusual human story.

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If we’ve enticed you to enter the fascinating world of Innerscape and meet Miira, here’s the global link to her story: Miira, Innerscape: book 1

World-building: Settings for all Genres – Guest Post by, Diana Peach…

I had the great pleasure of guest-posting with Chris, The Story Reading Ape on the writerly topic of world-building – something I can talk about until I’m plumb out of breath. 🙂 Hop over if you’re interested. Happy Weekend!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

As a fantasy/science-fiction writer, I’ve stacked up a bit of experience with world-building that I’ve wanted to share, and The Story-Reading Ape’s blog is the perfect venue.

Now don’t run away if you don’t write speculative fiction. Clearly, world-building is a key part of bringing fantasy and science-fiction stories to life, but it plays a role in all fiction, and in some non-fiction as well.

Setting as Character

Most of us probably agree that the physical places within our stories need to feel authentic. But if we create them as mere backdrops to the action, we’re missing an opportunity to enrich our readers’ experiences. In great fiction, setting plays a role in the story. It’s changeable, a help, a hindrance, a metaphor, a mood, possibly even a character in the drama.

Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson is a proponent of the idea of setting-as-character and builds a “character profile” of the…

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Muse for Hire

Amazing artwork by Peter Pham

The day is half over and I open the door to my writing room. My coffee sloshes over the rim at my sudden halt. The man’s jaw swivels my way, and I swallow. “Um…Who are you?”

“Your muse,” he growls.

“Oh.” I edge into the room and leave the door cracked for a quick escape. “Where’s my other one? You know, the… usual one?”

He stares at me like I’m a bug. “She hired me.”

“You’re a mercenary muse?” I trap a nervous laugh behind my lips. The guy looks cranky. Dried sweat coats his bulging muscles, and bloody grit etches the gold lions adorning his skimpy outfit.

He points a finger at a wooden chair, my humming laptop on the table beside it. “I’m here to make sure you keep your commitments.”

“What commitments?” I sit, my smile as shaky as my hands.

“Summer off, then a new series, full time, starting September first.” He taps his ragged fingernails on the armrest. “Your muse thinks you’re an oil-tongued shirker who’ll attempt to cut yourself a part-time deal. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Oh, that. Well, I’ll have you know, the prep work is coming along nicely.” I lift my chin, every speck of rickety indignation putting on a solid show, and I turn my laptop so he can see. “In fact, I’ve created a map!”

His lips curl in a sneer. “Don’t get cute. She says you love making maps, so that doesn’t count. What about the rest? The bios?”

“Ninety percent done.”  I show him the files – images and profiles for all main characters and most secondaries. “I’m still tweaking, but you know they don’t settle in until the story starts. World building is progressing too. I have sea-cliffs, waterfalls, and cities with layers of arching bridges. And, I’ve got a great magic system.”

I wasn’t expecting applause, but a smidgeon of encouragement wouldn’t have hurt. Instead, his little pellets for eyes are waiting to pelt me. “What about the outline?”

I wince. The story is there, but the goals and obstacles aren’t strong enough. The subplots are solid, but the main plot is nebulous at best. That’s a huge problem. My muse-from-hell leans forward in his throne and does he ever smell ripe. He opens his mouth, revealing a rack of chipped teeth, and spits out two words, “It sucks.”

“Gah! I know!” I wilt in my chair. “I should have started working on it sooner. This is a tough one because –“

“You have one week to finish your outline.”

“But–“

“One week.” He leans back. “Then I want two thousand words a day, six days a week, and I’m being generous.”

I bite my lips and do the math. It’s a stretch, but I can probably manage it. “But what about blogging? I’ve been blogging ten hours a day…”

“You’re going to write in the mornings,” he orders. “It’s your most creative time. Two thousand words, and then you can blog all you want.”

“That’s going to cut my blogging time in half,” I whine. “It’ll already be night in the UK when I just get started.”

“They’ll survive. They’re grown-ups.”

“But I enjoy blogging. I’m going to miss posts.” I know he’s right, but I’m already undergoing blog-withdrawal.

He scowls at me. “She said you’d snivel, but I didn’t think you’d be this pathetic.”

“You don’t need to be so mean about it.” I push out my lower lip. Yeesh, what a hard ass. “Fine. I’ll write in the morning, blog after I reach my quota.”

His grin turns my stomach. “One other thing.”

“Now, what?”

“You need to exercise.”

“You’re kidding me. My muse told you that?”

“She didn’t need to. I can see it myself. One hour a day. Cardio and strengthening.”

“Oh, this is just great. A muse who doubles as a personal trainer.” I hate his smug smirk. “Where do I find the time to do that?”

“Figure it out.” On his feet, the guy hulks over me like a troll, and I lean so far back I’m close to toppling my chair.  He taps my chin with his meaty fist. “I’ll be checking in; don’t disappoint me.”

I roll my eyes and rub my forehead, a muse-induced headache forming behind my eyes. Through the window, I watch him clomp down the steps from my writing room and join my other muse, The Traitor, in the driveway. They share a good laugh. Damn muses. I wish they weren’t right.

Guess I better get to work.

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Needless to say, I’ll be switching around my blogging schedule. Though I’ll miss a few posts here and there, I’ll be visiting as much as I’m able. Enjoy the last of August, and Happy Blogging.

20 Symptoms of Writeritis

image from pinterest.com

image from pinterest

This 2-yr-old post was one of my most popular, and for those who missed it, I once again share the symptoms of this incurable condition.

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As some of you know, a pervasive syndrome has troubled a segment of society for centuries. After years of research, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders finally classified these symptoms under the diagnosis: Writeritis. 

Writeritis is defined as a persistent, maladaptive pattern of writing that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by six (or more) of the following within a single month:

  1. A marked craving for increased amounts of writing, and longer periods of time to write.

  2. An unquenchable thirst for coffee.

  3. Repeated efforts to cut down or control word count are unsuccessful.

  4. Withdrawal occurs when writing is discontinued or suddenly reduced. Symptoms include shakiness, moodiness, and/or irritability.

  5. A tendency to rapidly relapse into extreme patterns of excessive rewriting – even after periods of abstinence or control.

  6. After writing, a compulsive urge to return and edit.

  7. An inability to initiate household chores until a plot hole is resolved.

  8. A clinically significant preoccupation with the motivations of imaginary people.

  9. Obsessive attempts to manipulate and control the lives of main characters.

  10. A tendency to forget the time, fail to make dinner, and/or eat in general.

  11. Overt rumination about murder, fear, revenge, evil, and/or world-conquest leading to extensive research and placement on the TSA watch list.

  12. Unusual or intense need for colorful verbs accompanied by an aversion to the word “was.”

  13. Periods of anxiety regarding commas.

  14. Unrepentant willingness to jeopardize a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity due to a need to finish a chapter.

  15. Thrives on creating conflict and will often escalate disputes to the point of violence.

  16. Uses fictional fantasy words in Scrabble and argues that they should count as real words.

  17. Writing is continued despite a persistent physical or psychological problem that is exacerbated by staring at a laptop.

  18. Frequent disruptions during sleep to jot down a section of dialog.

  19. Tends toward exhibitionism and “showing” it all.

  20. A compulsive need to write about something, including not being able to write.

Do you have Writeritis?