Friday, April 22, 2016

Occupations

Back when I first learned to read, I noticed that men in the stories had a large variety of jobs, while women had a very limited choice - mother, nurse, teacher, airline stewardess, secretary. Even in science fiction it took awhile before I encountered stories with women who were pilots, doctors, professors, captains, owners of companies, soliders, admirals, or leaders of colonies. Once I did find an author who wrote about women working the same jobs as men (not in a spotlighted manner, but just as if it was perfectly normal in that society), I hunted for more of her or his work.

Representation is important.

I've blogged before about gender roles, mainly in fantasy. But this is a topic that bears repeating.

In the real world, the glass ceiling hasn't been completely broken yet, but the cracks are still spreading. Gendered terms for occupations have slowly dropped out of usage - authoress, stewardess, hostess, actress (still in use but slowly fading). I don't automatically assume a doctor is male. I have worked with nursing students at a university long enough to know that not all nurses are female, either.

So where could someone come up with a list of occupations to use in a science fiction world? I start with what jobs exist in the present and spin off from there. The Occupational Outlook Handbook details numerous jobs in the U.S. Seventh Sanctum has a page of generators. The one under Classes/Professions allows you to choose a category (cyberpunk, fantasy, science fiction, or steampunk) and create a list of occupations for that universe.

Role models don't always have to be the main character. What about secondary or background characters? When I need a walkon character - someone to do something to help the main character (or villain) and not be seen again - someone identified by a occupation, I'll choose the occupation first, and then decide, does this character need to be a man or a woman? Does it matter? And if it doesn't matter to the story, why not a woman?

When you read, do you occasionally check to see how many male characters are mentioned versus how many female? Do you notice their occupations?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Writers of the Future!

Morning!

This weekend is the 32nd Annual Writers of the Future Achievement Awards!


Both authors and artists are celebrated each year at the prestigious event.



This year, you can even watch it live from their website at 6:30pm Pacific Standard Time on Sunday the 10th of April.



I love that you can dress formal or Steampunk formal! How cool is that?

But what is the contest about? Here's the first piece of the contest's history from their website: 


Established and sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard in 1983, the “Writers Award Contest” was a budding competition aimed at discovering, and eventually publishing, deserving amateur and aspiring writers. The field of speculative fiction and fantasy, was chosen not only for Mr. Hubbard’s love of and success within the genre—but for the freedom of imagination and expression it provided as what he described as the “herald of possibility.”


Submissions to the contest are free and happen quarterly and even have cash prizes. The winners also get to see their stories/art published in a print and ebook anthology.

So if you're interested in writing and getting out there, this might be a venue to explore. :)

Have a great day!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Adult/Kid Dichotomy in YA and Middle Grade

The separation between adult and kid's worlds in YA and Middle Grade books can be confusing at times. I mean, they do both live in the same world, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it. The extreme example are the so-called sitcoms on the Disney Channel where adults are so clueless you wonder how they manage to hold a job while the kids are clever but mean and sarcastic to everyone, including their parents.

Part of the dichotomy is due to the way the stories have to be set up. Mysteries that have the kids running around finding clues and solving problems would end rather swiftly if adults listened to what the kids said they saw and acted to shut down the problem right away. Instead, the "meddling kids" have to work under adult radar and solve the mystery themselves, sometimes against well-meaning adult interference. Would Harry Potter have been a shorter series if Harry had been able to get Dumbledore to listen to him right away?

Sometimes the separation is due to the kids feeling that they have to hide things from their parents, whether it's bullying, grades, or a strange alien creature that just landed in their back yard. Sometimes the adults are the ones so caught up in their own lives that they don't notice that their kids are behaving strangely.

This is a standard trope in YA and Middle Grade books. Most times it works (which is why it's a standard trope), and other times you just want to yell at the characters to listen to each other.

In my own Talking to Trees Peter has to hide the fact that the person his mother is driving home with them from the mall is a tree being from another world.

Peter frowned at his sister. "We need to go to the woods later today, Mom. Got a project...for Science. I'll be meeting my study partner there. This is Twyl, Jody's study partner."

Jody stared at Peter in shock. Peter never lied--yet here he was telling their mother these big fibs without a qualm! And he was scowling at her as if ordering her not to say anything about what was really happening! As if she knew.

[snip]

When they got home, she followed her brother into his room and, despite her worries about smells, shut the door. "Peter Robert Burns! You lied to her!"

"Well, what am I supposed to say? 'Hey, Mom, we're off to defeat an evil creature in another world and if we're successful we should be back by dinner?' You think Mom would say, 'yes, dear, go ahead,' to that?"

Mark Reads has started on Diane Duane's Young Wizard series and within the first few pages he was remarking on how great the interaction was between the adults and the kids. The fact that Nita has been bullied is evident right away to a librarian and then later her parents and each tried in their own way to help.

What books have you enjoyed that handled the trope well? Is having the kids hide things from the adults something that bothers you or is it something you accept?

***

A final reminder for anyone interested: my stories The Crystal Throne, Agents and Adepts, Talking to Trees, "Oracle of Cilens", and "Search and Rescue" will only be available through March 30, 2016 at Amber Quill Press (e and paper), Amazon (paper) and B&N. The free short story, "Hiding in Plain Sight", is only available at Amber Quill Press until then, when Amber Quill Press closes. The quick link to these (or a link to keep track of where these might end up), is through my book and short story page.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

ATOZ CHALLENGE THEME REVEAL

Hi, I'm cross posting this from my other blog. Edits, edits, edits are keeping me busy. But that's good.

Well, my brain took a holiday this week and forgot that Monday was the A to Z Theme Reveal Day.
I hope you don't mind if I post mine today. I'm late with a lot of things, so one more shouldn't make a lot of difference. Anyway, here is my theme for 2016.



 
THE FABULOUS FIFTIES
 
This theme will be history for lots of you. For me, it was my life, at least part of it. We'll meet interesting men and women of the era, entertainment (we didn't have iPads, iPhones, computers, and other things we take for granted these days), and I'm still working on ideas. I know, time's running out. One day at a time is my motto. Stop by my other blog, starting April 1, join the fun, and travel back to the past.
 
Happy Reading

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Modern Surprises

This is a guest interview with my friend Joan Marie Verba about her new project on Kindle Scout.

Hi Joan! How would you summarize your book, Modern Surprises?

Madeline Chang and the other women at Modern Surprises, LLC, needed someone to answer the phones. Jay Ecklund was hired. From the very first day, he found this was no ordinary company: the scientists there had secretly developed a portal that would allow them to go to anywhere on Earth. Billionaire industrialist Charles Vance found out about the portal, and was willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get it for himself. But Madeline Chang and the rest of the team were not about to let him have it.

How did you come up with the idea?

I started writing Modern Surprises after I finished my children’s chapter book (Wondry Dragon Finds a Home) and one of the members of my writing workshop said she enjoyed my writing and wished I would start another story. What I had in the beginning was the scene where Charles T. Vance threatens the Modern Surprises team in order to get them to give him Arachne, their portal. (I didn’t even come up with the company name until after I’d been writing chapters for a year.. In fact, I only had a vague idea what Arachne was.) Then I worked from that scene to build the background and first chapters, and after that, continued to the conclusion.

It turned out that the writing process paralleled the process of the development of Arachne. As I wrote, I was finding out the capabilities and limits of Arachne along with the Modern Surprises team. I definitely intended to have fun with the novel, and intended for the characters to have fun, as well--because I believe science is fun (I have a physics degree). Through the novel, I explore the fact that technology needs to be tested, that there are unexpected effects, and that technology doesn’t always work in the way the original design indicated it might (and that can be delightful). When the characters find that Arachne responds to music, it adds yet another dimension to the technology.

Then, when you have this exciting breakthrough technology, what do you do with it? Do you keep it secret, or do you make it public? And if it has a potential to be misused by those with selfish intentions, how do you keep it safe? Even more, how does technology affect your daily activities, and your interactions with others? How does it factor in with one’s ethical decisions and obligations?

I’ve summarized Modern Surprises as “scientists having fun saving the world.” It is my hope that readers will have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.

****

You can read the excerpt from Modern Surprises here and decide if you want to nominate it for a publishing contract with Amazon.

Friday, February 12, 2016

ConDFW 2/12-2/14/16 - My Schedule!

Morning, all!

This weekend is ConDFW!


I'd meant to put up my schedule earlier, but life has been pure chaos lately. DOH!

ConDFW


Friday 


PROGRAMMING 2 (MADISON) Friday, 3pm: Google Maps is Your Urban Fantasy Guide Panelists: Gloria Oliver (M), Seanan McGuire, Paul Black, Sue Sinor, Bradley H. Sinor Looking for a good location, and can’t remember clearly where you grew up?  Trying to figure out how long it takes to drive from Houston to Dallas when you’re riding the Great Hunt?  It’s amazing what technology can show you these days, and learning a neighborhood can be a little safer if you browse from the computer (at least at the beginning).  Our writers talk about finding the perfect location for their urban fantasy stories.

Saturday 


READING (ADAMS) Saturday, 12pm: Gloria Oliver, T. M. Hunter


MAIN PROGRAMMING (JEFFERSON) Saturday, 4pm: Magic vs Technology II: Exploring Technology in Urban Fantasy Panelists: Gloria Oliver (M), Seanan McGuire, Carole Nelson Douglas, P.N. Elrod, C. Dean Andersson, Mary Gearhart‐Gray Last year we looked at the effect of technology on magic in Urban Fantasy.  This year we flip the sides and look at how magic effects technology.  A perfect example of this is in the Dresden Files, where magic can actively destroy modern technology by being used nearby.  Does modern technology replace magic?   Can it coexist?  How modern should tech be so it isn’t mistaken as magic itself?  Our authors explore this knotty problem with SCIENCE!


PROGRAMMING 3 (HAMILTON) Saturday, 5pm: Where do Heroes Go to Die? Panelists: Tracy S. Morris (M), Barbara Ann Wright, Patrice Sarath, Gloria Oliver, Michelle Muenzler Last year we heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing Legend of Conan (eventually?  Maybe?  Now it looks like November 2016) as a direct sequel to the first Conan, where it ended with him being King, old and grizzled.  As a concept, the idea is neat, and is something that Howard dealt with in his original stories as well.  Just how do you write old heroes?  Our writers of sword and sorcery discuss these topics and more.

Sunday 


PROGRAMMING 2 (MADISON) Sunday, 1pm: Interstellar Archaeology: Part Two – The Debunking Panelists: Mel White (M), Chris Donahue, Gloria Oliver, Teresa Patterson, David Doub, Stina Leicht The second of two panels where we inflict discover startling artifacts of OBVIOUS alien origin.  Our experts tell us how wrong the previous esteemed panelists were!  Last year, Sunday’s panel thoroughly debunked Friday’s experts.  Help us, they can!  Confuse us, they will not.

Hope you come! I'll also have a table in the Dealers Room. :)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Changes

All good things end eventually. At the beginning of this month, Amber Quill Press announced that it would be closing down March 31, 2016. I have three books and three short stories with this publisher, and after March I will be looking to find a home for them with another publisher.

I've been with Amber Quill since 2003. They've always been a class act - great editors, beautiful cover art, regular quarterly royalty statements and payments, and creative promotional efforts. Their short story line gave me an opportunity with three of my shorts. One of those, "Search and Rescue", is currently a finalist in the EPIC Ebook Awards in the Short Works category. And its cover artist, Trace Edward Zaber, is a finalist for EPIC's Ariana Award in the Fantasy/Paranormal category.

This isn't the first time something publishing-related has ended for me. Over the years I've had a magazine close before an accepted short story of mine was published, and I've also had two other different publishers drop an anthology line, which meant three anthologies that I had short stories in went out of print. But I have short stories in anthologies with other publishers, as well as a picture book, and I'm currently working on a middle grade science fiction book.

In the meantime, though (for anyone interested), The Crystal Throne, Agents and Adepts, Talking to Trees, "Oracle of Cilens", and "Search and Rescue" will still be available through March 30, 2016 at Amber Quill Press, Amazon and B&N. The free short story, "Hiding in Plain Sight", is only available at Amber Quill Press until then. I'll have paper copies of the three books with me at conventions until I run out of stock. But the e-versions will be gone after March. (Amber Quill has the e-versions of the books on sale at their website, btw). If anyone wants a quick link to these (or a link to keep track of where these might end up), my book and short story page will always list them.

Amber Quill Press has been a wonderful publisher and I will greatly miss the creative, encouraging and supportive people who have made it such a great press.