Do you want to start a writer’s group?
Do historical research for an article?
Avoid tired science fiction clichés?
Check out my articles below. Want to hear from the horse’s mouth how to structure a creative day, revise a manuscript or market a book? I’ve interviewed a number of best-selling authors including Ursula K. Le Guin, Karen Armstrong and Anita Diamant. For the first time, I’m making all interview material available here. Questions? Feel free to leave me a comment.
“Writing Sword of the Gladiatrix: An Exercise in Frustration and Creative Breakthrough” (© 2015) first appeared at The Writing Desk.
First up: thanks to Tony for inviting me to guest post on The Writing Desk. Writing Sword of the Gladiatrix was a challenge and I appreciate the opportunity to share my journey. Second: you have to know a little about me to understand why this book was so difficult (at first) to write. I’m not a “must write or die” kind of person. I’ve been perfectly happy with a number of day jobs that paid quite well, thank you, and didn’t need to take on the mantel of starving artist. What I do have is a drive to share my passionate love of history through stories. Most people hate history, and rightly so, given how it’s taught in public schools: dull facts, lists of dates, wars and pestilence, and the stories of elites (mostly white men). I want to make history accessible to anyone who enjoys a good story and spotlight some little known people along the way. (Read more.)
“Where are all the Strong Women?” Writing Characters Authentic to Their Times (©2013) blog post
Readers of this blog know I like to highlight fiction and non-fiction that present capable women with strong personalities. I read a post in a forum recently that intrigued me. The person was looking for historical fiction recommendations, but “none of those anachronistic modern women dressed up in historical costumes crap.” I don’t think s/he was disparaging time travel fiction and, yes, I’ve read a few stories where the women seem to have more modern sensibilities than might be warranted. But not all strong females in historical fiction are anachronistic. I’ve read other blog posts by historical fiction writers deploring recent criticism about strong women described by readers as “too modern” in spite of ample historical evidence that women did and thought as the writers wrote them. Where does the dissonance come from? Why would a reader think a woman couldn’t be a doctor in Late Antiquity, captain a whaling ship, or teach men to fly planes during WWII — all documented events? (Read more)
“Friendly Fire” (© 2005) appears in award-winning Circles in the Hair.
You’re a neophyte (or as yet undiscovered) writer and going stir crazy in your quiet corner. The only people to read your stories are the hard-hearted editors who send you form rejects. With no feedback, you’re not even sure they’re people much less that they’ve read your stories. You can’t show your stuff to your mother (too much gore/sex) or your significant other (too much insight into your twisted soul) or—God forbid—your children (“Ah, man, why can’t you be a normal mom?”) What are you going to do? Read another book on writing? Hire that critiquing service from the back of a matchbook? How are you going to improve? (Read more.)
“Buttons & Books: Tips on Historical Research” (© 2006) is an update of an article that appeared in Byline.
You want to write a story—a bodice ripper set in the pirate-ridden Caribbean or a murder mystery in a New Jersey inn during the American Revolution or maybe a vampire tale set in medieval Europe. You know the plot and your characters intimately. You’re typing away on the seduction scene when you realize the handsome hero probably doesn’t unzip his pants before ravishing the breathless heroine. But does he unbutton, unbuckle, untie, unwrap? Of course, you could finesse with a sentence like, “He dropped his garments onto the floor.” But it won’t be long before your readers get impatient with generalities, because the devil is in the historical details. (Read more.)
“Write Stuff: Go Where No Man—Or TV Show—Has Gone Before” (© 2001) appeared in The Writer.
I grew up watching Star Trek (TOS) and graduated with Star Wars. As much as I enjoyed these media blockbusters and their multitudinous spin-offs, they left an unfortunate legacy in my psyche. When I write science fiction my mind is flooded with romantic images of faster-than-light spaceships, light sabers and “beam me up Scotty!” My imagination, imprinted as a child, tends to go for the fantasy elements of space opera rather than the realistic extrapolations of known science. There’s nothing inherently wrong with space opera, but when I want to write space stories with a touch of reality, I have to abandon my roots and look elsewhere for inspiration. (Read more.)
“Making Science Fiction Personal: Charles Sheffield Explores the Borderlands of Science“ (© 2000) appeared at iUniverse.com.
“We’ll soon be capable of creating a simple virus. Within fifteen years of completing the Human Genome Project we’ll create life – cellular life.” The stuff of science fiction? Yes, but also an assessment of the current state of biology by Dr. Charles Sheffield. The award-winning author of over forty novels, non-fiction books, and story collections straddles the worlds of science and science fiction with ease. Looming large in each, Sheffield has served as past-President of both the American Astronautical Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America (organizing the latter he likens to “herding cats.”)
In his newest non-fiction venture Borderlands of Science: How to Think Like a Scientist (and Write Science Fiction) published by Baen, Sheffield combines the roles of scientist and fiction writer. The book surveys the current state of physics, chemistry, and biology and how they can be applied to such favorite science fiction topics as the beginning and ending of the universe, space flight and colonization, alien biology, computer and robot design, cloning, immortality, and future war among others. (Read more.)