Great Galactic Couples

11954241201556281584tomas_arad_heart.svg.thumbAs I approach the most important scene in revision, the moment my two lovers meet for the first time, I’ve been thinking about my favorite SFR novels. They span decades, their styles are different, their characters unique, but they all have one thing in common. L.O.V.E. At first sight. Pretty much.

In preparation for this scene, I read through my male character sketch and I found the following:

“Who can explain the nature of attraction? The philosophers promise it is a gift of mystery, the devotees preach it is the will of the gods, the cynics sneer it is an accident of timing. Until Naomi appeared in my life, I never thought about these questions. Now I cannot stop asking them.”

So, here are a couple of early SFRs that explore the nature of attraction. If you haven’t read them, you’ll find they stand the test of time.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman51JF1gGjMgL._AA160_

Written in the early 1970s , The Forever War is an evolution of Starship Troopers, without Heinlein’s not-so-thinly veiled sexism. Haldeman’s love story is military science fiction set in a grim universe, but his draftee characters, William Mandella and Marygay Potter manage to triumph over the ruthless barriers of time and space. Haldeman’s irony and humor make this a true classic.


Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

51eiH-Rv2oL._AA160_On a routine survey mission astrocartographer Captain Cordelia Naismith is taken prisoner by Lord Aral Vorkosigan, leader of a merciless expeditionary force. In spite of  their strongly opposing politics  and profound culture clash, Aral  is immediately intrigued with his serene and wise captive. And the feeling is mutual.Cordelia’s compassion and intelligence tempers Aral’s hunger for power and tormented nature seamlessly.  Bujold frames their unlikely romance with her truly remarkable world-building.

So, you tell me. What inspires attraction? Who are your favorite galactic couples?


Check out for the 5 Books I re-read over and over.   Thanks for the inspiration for this blog, Taylor.

Also, J. C. has a wonderful post about what happens when we fall in love – Love Science. Amazing stuff!

Book images: Amazon


Seeing Stars

The Super Moon is visible tonight. I don’t usually repost a past blog, but I think it’s important that we keep looking up before our civilization’s relentless dazzle obscures the heavens.  The photo below is what I wish I’d seen that week before Christmas, 2010.

Rocky Mountains Indian Peaks Milky Way Rising

I was lucky. The Friday night before Christmas, I saw the Milky Way.

Photographer friends of mine would say I did not really SEE it because of light pollution However, from my son-in-law’s windswept driveway, I was able to see enough of our covering blanket of stars to know it is still twinkling above us.

Two thirds of the population of the western world has never seen the Milky Way. Light pollution is so rampant over the Earth, creeping into the night like a brilliant rash, covering the East and West Coast of America, Europe and parts of South America, that I feel privileged to catch a glimpse of our stars.

From Rick’s desolate yard in rural Colorado, I looked to the northwestern sky, let my eyes adjust (in the dark your pupils open like giant telescopes), and I watched as as a veil of stars rose overhead and twisted down to the southeast horizon. Layers of light pulsed toward me, from the palest  background of the farthest star fields to a lace net of sharp pinpoints of night shine. The beauty is so profound, so unchanging, standing under its arch is a connection with creation. Although the Milky Way’s light was generated billions of years ago and is just now reaching us, it looked the same to primitive man as it does to us now.

The stars steady me.  They appear in their season New Year after New Year. Long after I’m gone some yet-to-be-born woman will stand here, and she’ll be comforted by the stars. She’ll wonder how long the stars have been here and how long they will shine. And, if I could, I’d l tell her they will guard her forever.


Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna /Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Volatile Vortex

1194986475730032167air_stefan_bazelkov_01.svg.thumbV- After tonight, only four days to go! A to Z is a much needed exercise in discipline for me. I’m ready to start working on my new novel, thanks to this writing extravaganza.

I am an IT foot soldier on the front lines at a local community college. My coworkers, IT folks and professors, make sure computers remain our servants and not the other way around. We have two weeks left until semester end, and everyone is looking forward to the summer off. There is, however, an undercurrent of unease. For about two years now, software has evolved with pandemic speed and the hurtling vortex  of change finally caught up with us. Can we keep up? Will we wash up on the shore of progress, like some digital flotsam and jetsam? I’m not talking about changes to  the software, I’m talking about more and more new software, changes in the popularity of software and the looming power of the Cloud. These changes have profound effects on higher education.

And, to make it worse, the major software (Adobe CS6) we use in our classes has increased in price from $5,000 to $20,000 a year.12284211311154772712sheikh_tuhin_Label_Icon_svg_thumb Yes, you read that right. All the other softwares cost more now, a lot more. There may be a grassroots revolution brewing in freeware, but that’s a conversation for another blog.

These events make me wonder – how much new information can the human mind absorb before it balks? How many changes, adjustments, and slicker and better software can we afford? And, is this multitude of bells and whistles necessary to teach students the basics?

We’ll keep it current and cool with iMacs and Cintiqs but, really, how much fantastic new software is too much?

Writing Event Horizon

In general relativity an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman’s terms it is “the point of no return” i.e. the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible.1257596738438424553ywuwth-md

I’m approaching the event horizon of this project. My novel is almost done. Now, I’m being pulled by the gravity of completion toward the black hole of writing my query letter – the letter in which you write more brilliantly than you ever have in your life.

In the time it took me to write this novel I have figured out some important things:

1 – Finally, I can describe my novel in thirty words or less.

2 – After countless battles, I made Word 2007 my friend, sort of. I know how to replace words using edit, I have every chapter typed to the best of my ability, and I understand how to compile the entire novel into a continuous flow of numbered pages.

3 – At this moment, I have an outline of my query letter and a draft of the synopsis.

4 – And, most important of all – I am not, nor will I ever be, a proficient typist.

So, the big question is: who in hell is going to type this manuscript for me?  This is not a favor you can ask of your friend the office assistant at work. Not if you want to keep that friend.
So tell me. What are the going prices for manuscript typing? I know this is an expensive proposition, but will I have to mortgage the house?

How will you handle the typing issue when the time comes?


Wonderful World of Recovery

Greetings from the wonderful world of recovery.

I’ve reached a tough chapter, and so I’m taking a break for an update. I’m over halfway through Lessons 18 and 19.

For those of you who unfamiliar with HTRYN, this means query letters will be shooting out by email mid-February.

This is a big deal and I’m excited. At the same time, I’m tired of revision. Anyone who’s done it will tell you, while it has its enjoyable parts, it’s mostly hard work. So, to amuse myself, I’ve started thinking about possibilities for my next project.

The first idea is a murder mystery that takes place in the mountains of Colorado. The hero, a local sheriff, pursues the killer through the northern front range of our beautiful state and into the contemporary wilderness of Wyoming-and back again. The second idea on the cooker is science-fiction, using two of my current characters. These characters are both soldiers of different ages and backgrounds who, when they meet, teach each other a lot about survival, honor, and love. However, neither one of the characters is human. I’m not sure if this is a plus or a minus to readers who don’t know these folks like I do.

So, now it’s your turn. What new projects are lurking in your future?


Lesson 17 DONE. Those of you who are doing How To Revise Your Novel know what this means. Months and months and months of hard work revising your first novel, the novel you wrote backasswards. This is the novel you picked through, struggled with, discussed with your family and fretted over for hours, days, forever. The beast is revised now. All that remains is style check, continuity, and my personal favorite – punctuation and spelling. Yes, there is still a lot to do. But, the story itself is written. I won’t say more tonight, I’m just too tired. I feel good about coming in only five days over my deadline. Deadlines do work. Thanks  to my husband, Rick,  my military advisor and biggest fan, to Lynette for setting my timeframe, and to Texanne for compassionate advice.

Next Page of the Electric Book

OK! I’ve had it. I went to Amazon with the intention of downloading an older novel from a favorite author. OMG. The PRICE. Amazon is quick to say the publishers are boosting these e-book prices. And, yes, authors should make money, but for an e-book this is ridiculous. I can still buy a used copy from an Amazon seller for half the price, if I want to wait for the mail.

And, yes, I’ve looked at the thousands of free or 99 cent fiction ebooks available.  I understand this sounds wimpy but, honestly, I don’t have time to mess with this overload of choices.

So, that brings me to my questions for you all.

What do you think of epublishing? Most of you are fiction writers, and some of you have epublished. Tell me why you chose the cyber path. Was it the difficulty of capturing a traditional agent? Or, did you just want your story out there, without waiting? Are there e-book only publishing houses that actually draw readers? Do you know something I don’t know?

Now, with the recent debate about John Locke and his 5 star review purchases, I have to wonder about the whole thing. Check out Holly Lisle’s website for more on this.

Lots of questions, lots of answers.

Let’s hear them.

Oh, yeah. Ok. I did buy download the book I wanted. The too impatient to wait on the mail bug has bitten me, too. How well those publishers know us!

THE END is near

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s for sure. Then why am I  stressed?

A year ago, I dreamed about being at this point. I have only two chapters to the end of my book. In my mind, I’ve already moved from story revision to lassoing sentence splices, corralling continuity, and forcing myself to spellcheck. I’ve told myself: it’s time. Hell, I even set deadlines that I published on the forum and mentioned to my friends, family, and anyone else who would listen. So, now I have a problem. How do I stop? The rational side of my brain is well aware that nothing made, born, or forged on this world will ever be perfect. But, the two-year side of my brain stamps her foot and demands perfection. Fortunately, a  compassionate friend gave me a wonderful book, Affirmations for Artists by Eric Maisel. He says, “Although nothing is ever complete, artists still must complete things. When a thing is not done, continuing to work is the strength; but when it is done, the strength lies in stopping. ”

I know I have the strength to stop fiddling with words and tinkering with sentences, but I’d like to know how you did it.Were you so relieved to arrive at the end of your creative project that you put it down with a sigh of pure happiness? Or did you, like so many of us, agonize over the unfinished thought, misplaced comma, or tiny plot hole?

Let me know your secret!



I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?








I decided to take a quick break from chapter 24 final revision to sneak up on my word count problem. OMG, what a problem.  As I said in Pitched Battle with Revision, my novel isn’t filled with ramblings or flowery descriptions, I just have active characters who can’t stay out of trouble. Their lives filled the pages so quickly that before I knew it I had 120,000 words.

How did I get into this mess? First, I underestimated myself. Who knew my people and my world would have so much to say? Second, my time frame of six months is tooooo long. In most of the light novels I read the action takes place in a week or two. Short time frames keep the writer and the reader focused.

So, now what? Where do I cut to make this story read as if it happened last week?

Let’s face it, traveling across two galaxies should be covered half a page, not four chapters. I want to show my characters at their best and worst in close quarters, but I just can’t spare the words. (I seem to remember worrying about how to keep it interesting as they traveled. I probably should have listened to my little voice.)  So, all the chapters between Earth and their destination have to go.

That leaves another 5,000 words to chop. I don’t want to cut politics or action or sex or romance-oh dear. But, I really want to complete this project sooner than later. Time for ruthless editing. Time to decide what the reader needs to know, what she doesn’t need to know, and what she can imagine on her own.

How does your word count work? Do you use complex planning ahead of time or just keep an eye on the numbers as you write?

Google 6 techniques for Cutting a Novel’s Length-fiction notes for ideas if you’re struggling with just too many of the little buggers.

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