Category Archives: Writing

Rejection Dejection

In 1996 a science fiction story set in Paris, France, was – finally – published.   It predicted glass-walled skyscrapers, feminism, burglar alarms and email.  These were hardly novel ideas in 1996 or even in 1989 when the manuscript was first circulated.

But the publisher originally approached by the author had rejected the story as being too far-fetched to be believable.

The publisher, a businesslike fellow named Pierre-Jules Hetzel, could be excused for what might appear to us as narrow-mindedness because he’d read the manuscript shortly after it was written: in 1863—at the height of the US Civil War, six years before the golden spike was driven to complete the Transcontinental Railroad and forty years before the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight.  Following this rejection, the manuscript was locked away by its disappointed author. It wasn’t seen again until 1989, when the author’s great-grandson opened the safe.

The author of Paris in the Twentieth Century was Jules Verne.

None of us are immune from rejection letters from hoped-for publishers.  We’re not immune to rejections from friends, lovers, employers, colleges, colleagues, parents, or spouses either. May we be brave enough to write and love and hope again!

 

Eiffel Tower (c) Homemade – Preschool.com

The Shape of Wings to Come

“I have to report that M. Blériot, with his monoplane, crossed the Channel from Calais this morning.  I issued to him a Quarantine Certificate, thereby treating it as a yacht and the aviator as Master and owner.

—The Collector of Customs, Dover
July 25, 1909

1909. Less than 100 years ago, an airplane crossing the English Channel was unprecedented.  What will the future hold?

For my latest of my backlist story collections (until a large and rather complete collection of my backlist of SF stories next year), while making review copies available on BookFunnel, I came up with this tagline:

An imaginary journey from ancient Archaeopteryx to aircraft under distant stars.

SF and Story

 

I tend to write “hard” science fiction, that is, science fiction with some actual science in it. The fantasy elements aren’t allowed to randomly trample what we know about the physical universe.  The boundaries between hard and soft SF are fluid. Truth is, science is just one of the many strands that woven together make us, collectively, who and what we are. It’s an expression of our natural and so very human curiosity. Where it will lead us, we never know in advance.

Consider the Eiffel Tower.

It was built for the International Exposition of 1889. Its winning design was selected in the face of a storm of criticism over its audacious break with tradition. Critics howled at the planned desecration of the Parisian skyline! Twenty years later the exposition concession expired—and the Eiffel Tower was slated for demolition.  But that didn’t happen, and thereon hangs a tale..

In 1864, Cambridge professor James Clerk Maxwell had manipulated the equations that bear his name to predict that electromagnetic energy could travel through space at the speed of light.  This prediction was experimentally verified a quarter-century later by Heinrich Hertz—but only over very short distances. Would it hold true for longer distances? In 1901 Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated that electromagnetic energy could be transmitted and detected at great distances: in a dramatic flourish he sent a signal clear across the Atlantic Ocean!

The received signal was, however, incredibly weak. This meant that equally incredible power had to be poured into a transmitter to reap even a barely detectable signal at the other end. This made communication by radio slow, uncertain, and expensive—but not for long. The triode vacuum tube, invented by Lee De Forest, changed everything overnight: the triode was the first electronic amplifier, able to accept weak signals and multiply them into currents large enough be handled with ease and convenience.This was in 1907, and it was still topical news when the Eiffel Tower’s lease was up.

When built the tower was approximately twice as tall as any other above-ground structure in human history. As such it was virtually made to order as an antenna tower. But would it serve? Would the Eiffel Tower really work as a radio antenna?  It would, and it did—and it was saved. (In fact, eventually 17 meters were added to the top, in the form of a television broadcast antenna. Again, the critics howled.)

Hard science fiction has on occasion worshiped technology at the expense of humanistic or spiritual values. Yet consider how that the Eiffel Tower stands today because of its unforeseen utility in the era of modern electronic communications. And ponder how  you’re reading these words on a screen built into what’s usually known as a “computer.” It may be a dedicated reader platform, or a smartphone, or a laptop device—but whatever it is, you probably use it for communicating, not for computing. You use it to bridge the chasm between yourself and your fellow human beings.

I use electronic impulses to communicate with my readers, to tell stories.  Story is something human beings have done for as long as human beings have existed. The screen at which you’re looking right now, along with the stack of books that are undoubtedly nearby, along with the Eiffel Tower, witness to our mutual need to speak, to listen, to hold, to aspire, and to dream.

And I have a new novel finished – a story with science and humanity, adventure and romance, and many unexpected surprises.  I can hardly wait to transmit it to the world. . . .

 

The Card Catalog

Knowing I’d be on a panel about Libraries of the Future at the Texas Library Association Conference in Dallas this Spring, I read up on libraries of the PAST, and found this book.  Yes, it tells about the evolution of the Card Catalog through history.  The book is richly illustrated with reproductions of cards from the Library of Congress catalog, which  they have NOT done away with.  Hand-written on the old cards are scraps of bibliographic information that never made it into on-line cataloging. Recommended!

“A scholar is just a library’s way of making another library. ” – Daniel Dennett, philosopher, writer, and professor (b. 28 Mar 1942), quoted in A Word A Day.

Compassion

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.
—Albert Einstein

Digital Adventure

 

In the second Pets in Space anthology, we hit the USA Today bestseller list one day shortly after it was released.  As of this writing, it has 131 Amazon reviews and a 4 1/2-star rating. And now this honor comes along. Being on a best book list under the auspices of Library Journal is particularly nice.

What an adventure Pets in Space has been! And to a great degree it’s been a remarkably digital adventure.  For one thing, it’s an e-book original.  There is a paperback edition of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, but at 700 pages and almost $30, it’s a more special edition than what most readers would buy for their home libraries.  On the other hand, at $3.99 the e-book is nicely priced considering how big it is. Containing twelve  novelettes or novellas, with different sexual heat levels and wildly different pets, there’s something for almost everyone in this anthology.

With the other eleven authors, including the two who organized the anthology and the publicist working with us, we talked about the book and the publicity electronically – in a Facebook group.  Which worked great.  The writers (not to mention the publicist, who is Australia-based Narelle Todd of Get My Book Out There) are geographically scattered, But with the FB group we could interact in nearly real time or at anyone’s convenience – even on vacation or when dodging hurricanes.

Before and especially after the book was released October 10, we all revved up our Websites, Twitter, and everything else we had in the way of social media to promote the book.  In the end, that’s why we’ve gotten the accolades we have so far.  Yes, the stories are good and the concept is delightful, but in today’s publishing world, if you don’t manage to make your book known, the vast majority of your likely, appreciative, even adoring readers will never find out about it. I once heard a veteran micro-publisher advise authors, “Don’t forget there are still millions of people who don’t know about your book, so keep promoting it.”

So the digital adventure continues!

 

 

World Fantasy

Early in November  I attended the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. WFC is a professional writers’ event to a significant degree, but even I, with no fantasy books out as of yet, had several attendees ask me for autographs at the Signature Event (with every writer in one big room signing autographs.)

The convention venue was adjacent to San Antonio’s Riverwalk.  It’s one of my favorite places, an oasis in that city—though as cities go, San Antonio, with its ancient Hispanic roots, is its own kind of oasis in Texas.

The Riverwalk meanders for miles through downtown San Antonio, though on the river’s level you’d hardly know it.  There are some shops and restaurants reaching all the way down to the water’s edge.  There are also whimsical bridges and sculptures, birds, and even water taxis:  it’s Venice in Texas!

There’s also the aquatic version of street sweepers.

Below the Southwest School of Art & Craft, people who walk or jog by are watched by miniature folk sketched on a wall of rough timbers.  Here’s one of the watchers.

No visit to San Antonio, by someone who writes speculative fiction with spiritual angles, would be complete without paying respects to  San Fernando Cathedral, or, to use the full name, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe.  Portions of this cathedral date to 1738.  It is a major anchor in the Mexican-American life of San Antonio.

And then there’s this:  the towering mosaic on the facade of Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.  The artist is Jesse Trevino, a native son from the West Side of San Antonio, who when he was young saw a tombstone angel with a broken wing that he never forgot.

The image is fantastic – a kind of sacred fantasy that speaks to the hope of healing in the real world.

On Supporting Hero Dogs for Veterans

Michelle Howard is a fellow author in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2. Here she tells us something about why she’s happy to have a story in this anthology, with ten percent of the first month’s profit through November 11 going to Hero Dogs, which provides service dogs to military veterans.  Welcome, Michelle!

~~~~~~~

My dad joined the Marines during my toddler years so my memories of him at that time are of a shiny uniform and what I once referred to as his “hat.” I was soon corrected. A few years ago, my cousin followed in my dad’s footsteps and is currently serving as a Marine and I’m so proud of him. Writing a story that gives back to our service members is a huge honor and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Hero-dogs.org pairs two things that I admire and respect: dogs and our military.

I’m also excited I got to combine those two things in my story for this anthology. My story’s hero served in the military and was discharged due to wounds he suffered during that time. He ends up reluctantly tasked with helping my version of a K9 known as Bogan. From there danger, love and a new partnership soon follow.

~~~~~~~

Twelve leading SFR authors with twelve original never released stories appear in Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, available at numerous e-book vendors here!

For descriptions of each story, a book trailer, and some cute Pets in Space merchandise (!) you can go to the anthology’s Website:

http://www.petsinspaceantho.com

Meet An Enchanted Morning Glory

Of all the brave, quirky, heroic and mischievous pets in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2, mine may have been the most unusual.  Jesse Greenfinger is a  plantimal – a genetically engineered combination of plant and animal genes both from Earth and an ill-fated colony world called Planet Green.  Jesse’s species is called hugworts.  With genetic good reason, hugworts look like nothing so much as enchanted morning glories. They are mobile, affectionate, as curious as cats,  clean, and space-hardy:  perfect pets for space places.  Indeed, Jesse is the mascot for the deep space station which is the setting of my story, Mascot.  At one point Jesse climbs a station ladder; this hugwort has  places to go and things to do (and a few secrets of its own.) This is the scene that our artist, Nyssa Juneau, illustrated for the anthology.

Here’s an excerpt from Mascot:

Jesse Greenfinger, who could tolerate a wider range of temperatures than any human being, but who had a catlike fondness for the warm proximity of its human, joined Daya in her favorite reading chair.  Jesse’s warm, furry root-mass snuggled in her lap.  It purred.

Two knocks, twice, came from her door. “Enter,” she said, and marked her place in her book, expecting Mattiz or possibly Annis Lee.

To her surprise, it was the auditor who entered.  He took one look at her and that mobile face of his showed incredulity, with good enough reason. Jesse’s leaves and tendrils spilled onto the floor all around her chair.  She probably looked like an enchanted woman out of a fairy tale, who had sat reading for a summer while vines grew up around her.  She explained, “It is no ordinary plant.  It’s a plantimal, genetically engineered from plant genes and cat genes.  It doesn’t need soil and it can move around.”

Jesse, wary around strangers, slipped off her lap, carefully bundling its root mass in vines and leaves, retreated to a corner, and froze. There’s nothing to see here but a harmless house plant.

Right.

Mascot and the other Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2 stories are available from various e-book vendors here.  There’s even a print edition – a nicely designed trade paperback that weighs about four lbs (!) and had to be priced accordingly.  But this anthology is a steal in ebook form for $3.99!