Monday, May 29, 2006

Spinning Plates - The New Frontier

I've always been a plate spinner. To have my arms and legs extended, sticks vibrating, wobbley china rotating, makes me feel as if I've accomplished something. I'm speaking of metaphorical plates, of course. The right hand working on a sci-fi/futuristic thriller, my left a high fantasy, while the right foot delves into a chick-litish treasure hunt story, and then there is my vampire story hanging out somewhere around the top of my head. And still, I pile more plates on top of plates. Last night I added a sequel to my my novel Immorati into the mix, just to keep things interesting.

Yes, I've always been a plate spinner. More so now that I'm under contract by two publishers and looking to add to my collection. Right now I have about five novels and two novellas I'm working on and that's roughs only. I haven't even gotten to the edits yet. So when people ask me how can I work on so many different things at once without getting confused, I answer, "Simple, the stories are all completely different."

I think it's possible, even theraputic, to work on more than one manuscript at a time. If I get stuck on one, I move to another and work on it for a while. It's a beautiful thing. Chaotic, but beautiful. However, there is a downside to this practice—those poor characters and plots that languish in Never-Never Land while I move among two or three current favorites. But I do get back to them eventually. And sometimes that problem I had that made me set it aside originally is magically removed and all things fall into place.

Keep a full arsenal of stories and you'll never want for having something to pitch at a conference. I once had an appointment for an editor and had prepared to pitch a fantasy novel. However, when I arrived at the conference, I discovered the editor only wanted paranormal. (Information that was not provided before registering for the appointment) Not a problem, I pitched a paranormal I had waiting in the wings and received a request for a full. Though the editor ultimately passed on the project, I still had the experience of pitching (it was my first time), and felt validated in my practice of plate spinning.

Since landing my first sale back in September, I have discovered that I'm addicted to the thrilling rush of receiving 'the Call.' This has only increased my production of new, unfinished material and made my 'to be written' pile grow exponentially. I think I may have a problem.

Do I spin plates? You betcha. How many of you out there do the same?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Heroes: Torture Me or Torture Me Not?

How could I see X-men: The Last Stand and not think, “Man, what torture!” There are of course a few men among the X-cast who fit this bill (as told via blockbuster film).

Scott Summers (Cyclops) can’t control his optic blasts that incinerate anything in their path without his ruby goggles, so he always has to wear his sunglasses at night. Plus he’s married to Jean Grey, and ended up losing her at the end of X-Men United (but of course it was for a worthy cause).

Professor Xavier has dedicated his life (and everything he possesses) to protect and teach scores of mutants who elsewhere would be ridiculed. Not to mention almost dying because someone tampered with Cerebro, then having his mind melded with a chemically deranged ex-student to attempt the massacre of every human on Earth.

And last but not least we have Logan (Wolverine). Born with the ability to heal, he got drafted for a covert government experiment that ended up gifting him a grafted adamantium skeleton and deadly claws. He’s been taken to the brink of death who knows how many times, lost his memory and of course now finds himself caught in a love triangle with Scott Summers and Jean Grey.

And yet all three men still fight for what’s right, adhere to justice (okay maybe they bend it a teenie weenie bit part of the time), and try to help others. It’s what makes us like them and in some instance identify with their character. However, we respect them for overcoming life’s obstacles and becoming stronger. Afterall, isn’t that how we’d like to handle the situation? But my question is do you delight in seeing your heroes suffer? Would you like them less/more without all the reasons that make you go, “Aw, give the guy a break?”

I think this issue resembles a double-edged sword. The hero must have enough backstory to make him interesting to a diverse market. He can’t simply be a businessman or a politician (in Hank McCoy’s case) anymore because there has to be a conflict that threatens to tear his word asunder. And as everyone knows it’s even better if the heroine’s cause is in direct conflict. Though once again that leads to you guessed it--torture!

On the other hand, the hero can’t be tortured too much because everything they’re put through must have a purpose or else it’s simply gratifying the writer’s/readers delight for masochism. It also disperses the power the event has on the hero and everyone around him (ie. You can’t have him stabbed multiple times, then suddenly after jab number twelve have him undergo an epiphany). So note to self--make the torture you inflict count! And better yet use a few select instances to build from bad to worse, because it creates higher stakes, which means readers will keep turning those pages.

In my opinion, the end justifies the means. Your hero will have to make a journey, but the writer must enable him for the trek. If that means giving him a backstory where he’s been mutated into a genetic freak so you can dish out extra punishment, so be it. But if you’re going to put him through the ringer, then by golly you better give him one huge payoff.

For me today it came in Wolverine’s three simple words—I love you. His accompanying clinch with Jean didn’t hurt one little bit either. It showed that under all the built-up brawn born from a plethora of hardships, his heart could still tap into a purely, sentimental emotion.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Alpha Females and Action Heroines

Someone recently posted this article about the alpha female, which set me to thinking on whether action heroines must necessarily be alpha females. While the article itself can't decide what an alpha female is exactly (unlike the alpha male who is instantly recognizable), a brief summary of some attributes follow:

Alpha female, like alpha male, depends on such a sense of innate superiority that she's probably not aware of her status. While she would be effortlessly talented and capable, she would need a reduced capacity for empathy, because otherwise it would derail her.... Achievement is the focus of alpha female's life; anything else is secondary. She does not obsess about relationships. She is dominant: if she married alpha male, there would be a bloodbath.

The toughest action heroine in science fiction must surely be Ripley from the Alien movies, and sure enough a bloodbath ensues wherever Ripley lands. But it is only when she arrives on the male-only prison planet in Alien 3 that the clash between alpha males and alpha female becomes evident. As to romance, there ain't any. Not for Ripley. Maybe her hair isn't long enough?


Can alpha heroines have romances? The only alpha heroine who came close was Trinity in The Matrix. And even though she finds love with Keanu ... erm, Neo ... he's hardly an alpha male. He flounders about like a lost puppy for much of the first film while being shown the ropes, and it's Trinity who comes across as the more powerful one:

And of course Neo dies in the end (sorry if that's a spoiler for some of you!). It's as if an alpha female or action heroine doesn't deserve to find true love. At least not lasting HEA love.

In futuristic or a action stories, sometimes the romance doesn't get the attention it deserves because there's so much else going on. The heroine's finding lost treasures, stopping the spread of killer viruses, or otherwise saving the universe and making it safe for mankind. Sometimes the romance has to come second to more important causes. But do you expect the romance to come first?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If there are X-Men among us...dibs on Wolverine!

So what if the Yahoo article is depressingly realistic. That's not what I'm here for. Another word for SF fiction is "Speculative." So I speculate. Sure, there's no *evolutionary* reason for me to be blue and shapeshift...but evolution doesn't figure in the, "damn, that's cool" factor. It's the difference between impossible and possible...plausible is another story.

In my SF, Fantasy, and Speculative fiction, I don't expect plausibility to make absolute scientific sense given current standards. Current prevailing theory says that you can't go faster than the speed of light, so interstellar travel is going to be a long and arduous journey of extended time periods. That just doesn't work for me. In science, plausibility is a different thing than it is in fiction. In fiction, give me the possibility - tell me that it could happen, and let me worry about making it plausible.

And if I get to make it hot, too...then well, that's just frosting. ;)

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Da Vinci Diet

The other day while I was in the supermarket I saw on the cover of Woman’s World with the headline:

Hidden inside the best seller, the secret scientific formula that unlocks fat.

I almost hurt my eyes, I rolled them so hard.

Please. A modicum of research produced this article: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050927/LIFE02/509270309/1037/LIFE

It explains that the ‘secret scientific formula’ is the Golden Ratio which Dan Brown incorporated into his book because Da Vinci used it. The Woman’s World headline makes it sound like Mr. Brown was divulging the long sought secret to losing weight in his book. You can bet sales will increase because everybody wants in on the latest diet fad.

I think I’ll have to give this a try. Not the Golden Ratio – not the Da Vinci diet – but maybe I’ll start including weight loss tips in my stories [like I could talk about weight loss?] and see if my sales skyrocket. I can see the headline now: The Secret Sci-Fi Diet! How to drop the pounds and stay slim by reading erotic romance!

I’ll make a mint. A chocolate covered mint, at any rate.

Does anyone put little tidbits like this in their stories? Recipes? Anecdotes? Clues to a larger mystery? I envy writers who can do that, and I think it lends a little bit of special interest to a book, but I honestly don’t think Dan Brown is a secret diet guru. Do you?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Welcome!

Greetings all you science fiction, fantasy and paranormal romance lovers. This tiny spot in the Webverse is reserved for discussion and promotion of this unique and exciting genre.

So get a glass of your favorite brew, sit down, prop your feet up and let's have at it!