Tag Archives: Science Fiction

[OTHERVIEW Q&A] Dave Creek #amwriting #storytelling

Dave Creek, a former web producer, is a Kentucky native who lives in Louisville. He’s the author of numerous stories and novels set in the same shared sci-fi universe since 1994. Creek recently took the time to answer some questions:

Wes Platt: How did you get started as a writer?

Dave Creek: After several years of trying, I sold my first story to ANALOG in 1994.  I thought the floodgates were going to open.  I sold my next story six years later.  But since then, I’ve sold over twenty stories there and several others to APEX and various anthologies.

WP: What was your career? And were you able to transition easily to full-time writing or was it something that had to be more of a freelance hobby?

DC: I retired about three and a half years ago from WDRB-TV in Louisville. I was a web producer, writing stories for WDRB.com, and also produced newscasts. Most of my career I was a show producer, but at others times was an assignment editor, tape editor (back when you used tape), and other things.

WP: All your stories take place in a shared “future history”, correct? What made you decide to approach your work that way? And how do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself as a storyteller?

DC: I’ve always enjoyed other writers’ future histories, such as the Isaac Asimov FOUNDATION series, Poul Anderson‘s stories of Dominic Flandry, and many others.  I keep it fresh and exciting by making a rule with myself that I have to learn something new about my characters and/or background with each story.  I can’t just recycle elements.

WP: Who do you count among your influences as a writer? What other authors captured your attention when you were younger and why?

DC: For me, the Big Four were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein. I have to go back and re-read some of those!
Other influences include Poul Anderson, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Silverberg, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, many others.
WP: How do you define success as an author?
DC: Connecting with readers, having them tell me they enjoyed a story. Having a discussion about your characters or ideas is always great.

WP: What’s your process as a writer? Example: Lots of outlines and pre-planning or more freeform, seat-of-the-pants storytelling?

DC: The more I do this, the more detail I put into outlines. I’ve tried “pantsing” a couple of times and I end up going down into a wormhole. But I always keep in mind that the outline is not the story.  If I get a good idea along the way, I incorporate it into the outline or change the direction of the outline.

WP: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

DC: My wife and son and I are big music fans.  In the last few years, with either or both of them, I’ve seen The Who, Roger Waters, U2, Lake Street Dive, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder.  My favorite of all time is Yes, which I’ve seen countless times.
WP: Do you prefer independent or corporate publishing? What do you find are the trade-offs of each?
DC: I haven’t been a part of “corporate” publishing, only small presses.  My current publisher, Hydra Publications here in Kentucky, is great to work with.  I have a lot of input into promotions, cover art, all the aspects of publishing.  I put out more than they can publish in a single year, so I self-publish novellas and short story collections and that kind of thing.  It’s satisfying, but I hate dealing with formatting. There’s a program called Vellum that’s supposed to be great that I hope to buy soon.

WP: What advice do you have for young writers – or older writers who just haven’t been published yet?

DC: Study the markets if you’re submitting short stories to magazines, whether print or online. See what markets might be best for your story and submit it to the market that pays the most. That will generally also be the one that gives you the most exposure. If you’re rejected at that first one, work your way back down. Don’t fall for editors/publishers who tell you how great the exposure will be in their publication, rather than money. If they don’t have a big enough audience to pay you, they won’t be giving you that much exposure.

As far as books, aim high again. See what traditional publisher might be interested in your work, then submit. You may have to wait as long as a year. If you get tired of waiting, or if your work isn’t commercial enough for the trad presses, go to the small presses. But if that’s what you decide to do, beware of outlets that promise a lot but don’t deliver. No one certifies publishers or editors. Some people who claim to be “publishers” are really printers. And you shouldn’t pay for ANYTHING. Not promotions, not printing, not editing, ANYTHING. Money flows toward the writer.
Or you can self-publish. Then you’re legitimately putting out your own money. You need to hire an editor, though if you have some great beta readers, that can work too. You have to learn how to format or hire someone to do it, and you have to pay for cover art. It’s a lot to do, but it can be satisfying.
No matter what you do, I always recommend checking out writerbeware.com. It’s maintained by the Science Fiction Writers of America, but anyone can check it out. Study the pitfalls other people have coped with, find out who some of the bad players are out there, and just make sure you’re informed.

WP: Name some modern authors whose work you enjoy and share why they appeal to you.

DC: I love Jason Sanford‘s use of language, N.K. Jemisin‘s fantasy worldbuilding and strong characters, Nnedi Okorafor‘s Binti stories for a progressive take on alien contacts and worldbuilding, and Rosemary Claire Smith‘s time travel stories featuring dinosaurs. There’ s lot of great stuff out there right now!
Thanks so much to Dave for sharing his thoughts and experiences! I’m always interested in hearing from other writers and their perspectives, so feel free to reach out to me via email at jointhesaga@gmail.com.

[NOTEWORTHY] Happy Birthday, Harry Turtledove! June 14 #amwriting #storytelling

Born in Los Angeles in 1949, Harry Turtledove is an author of speculative fiction – especially alternate history – such as The Guns of the South and the Worldwar series. Turtledove, a former treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America, originally published under the pseudonym of “Eric G. Iverson” because an editor told him he didn’t think readers would believe Turtledove was a real name. Before writing fiction full-time, Turtledove worked as a technical writer at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

[OTHERVIEW Q&A] Jason A. Holt #amwriting #storytelling

Jason A. Holt, board game writer and translator, is fluent in Czech and lives on a remote Montana cattle ranch. He’s worked on the Galaxy Trucker board game and is author of the Edgewhen series of fantasy novels. His first Galaxy Trucker novel, Rocky Road, was just released! Holt recently took the time to answer some questions:

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Wes Platt: How and when did you discover that you wanted to be a writer?

Jason A. Holt: Let me just say that I hate the way writers answer this question, because the answer is always something like, “When I was in second grade, my poem got published in a teachers’ newsletter. I got paid two dollars, and I’ve been a writer ever since.”

It’s so intimidating. I was several years out of grad school before I seriously sat down to write novels. How can I compete with someone who’s been a professional writer since second grade?

But the truth is, I always loved creative writing when I was in school. I wrote for the student newspaper at Montana State University. I just forget all that stuff when I start comparing myself to other writers.

And, yes, I did get paid 2 dollars for that poem I wrote in second grade.

WP: Share some writers whose work you enjoyed growing up.

JAH: Robert A. Heinlein and Alan E. Nourse. Not sure if anyone remembers Nourse, but his hard science fiction solar-system exploration adventures were fascinating.

When I was ten, I think I spent the entire summer in Oz. And when I discovered historical fiction, I read every Patricia Beatty novel I could get my hands on.

Then in high school my cousin introduced me to Douglas Adams.

WP: What was your first tabletop gaming experience?

JAH: My mom got sick of playing Candyland, so she taught me Cribbage and Yahtzee when I was five. I’ve been a gamer ever since.

My first role-playing game experience was when an older kid showed me the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide. A while later, my aunt gave me a bookstore gift certificate for my birthday and I knew I had to buy this:

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Image credit: Sierra Stoneberg Holt

Strictly speaking, though, I don’t remember my first tabletop experience because we usually played on the floor.

WP: Do you prefer to be a player or a GM? Why?

JAH: Back when I was playing regularly, I loved being the GM because I wanted to build worlds, make up stories, delve into characters’ back stories, and generally be in charge. Those are exactly the same intellectual muscles I use in writing novels, so now I’m grateful when someone else is willing to run a game for me.

WP: How did you connect with Czech Games Edition?

JAH: Czech game designer Vlaada Chvátil was my boss when we worked for a Moravian computer game company. We had this RPG that needed a story. Vlaada wrote the story in Czech, and I translated it to English so we could pitch the project to investors. That game never got made, but when Vlaada was looking for someone to translate his board game rulebooks, he asked me. I’ve been working with CGE since before they were CGE.

WP: What do you enjoy about Galaxy Trucker?

JAH: In cardboard, I love building a great ship, rebuffing everything that threatens it, and finishing the flight with lots of money. Against the AI in the app, I have a lot more trouble, but I like the way the app streamlines everything while still retaining that tactile feel of building a space truck piece by piece.

WP:  What’s your favorite rule in the game?

JAH: The last one.

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Image credit: Czech Games Edition

I like that rule because it acknowledges that some players set their own victory conditions.

WP: Congratulations on the release of “Rocky Road”, the new Galaxy Trucker novel! How did that project come about? Can you describe the process of developing a story like that within the parameters of someone else’s intellectual property?

JAH: Well, I don’t think Galaxy Trucker: Rocky Road is like other gaming tie-in fiction. I asked my friend if I could write a novel in his universe. He said that would make him very happy. So I wrote this thing straight from the heart, and only once I had it written did we start dealing with details like Who is going to publish this?

I’m the guy who wrote the English-language version of every rulebook and I also worked on the app, so I knew the setting pretty well. The only worldbuilding element Vlaada asked me to change was the ship-building scene. I had written it more like it is in the game, and he envisioned something more chaotic. So I rewrote it, and I think it works great.

I’m used to working with Vlaada as the presenter of his ideas, but that wasn’t really the dynamic this time. This time, the ideas were mine, and he was the editor of my novel. He’s a great editor. He had a lot of story suggestions which made the book better.

WP: Is writing a full-time occupation or do you have a day job? What’s your day job, if you have one?

JAH: I also write the Edgewhen series of fantasy adventure novels.

I’ve been working on novels for as long as I’ve been working on board games. Neither is a hobby, but I’m not sure which is the day job. Now that the novelist and the board game writer have merged, I guess it doesn’t matter.

WP: How do you describe success as an author?

JAH: I measure success financially, as does the main character in Galaxy Trucker: Rocky Road. This is one of the reasons she’s so messed up.

I have to say, though, when a board game reviewer posts a photo of our latest rulebook and gives it the caption, “CGE rulebook writer Jason Holt strikes again,” I feel pretty good.

WP: Do you prefer the nuts and bolts of rulebooks or do you feel more at home writing fiction?

JAH: Well … CGE rulebooks can be quite a bit nuttier than a normal nuts-and-bolts rulebook. And even a straightforward rulebook like the one we did for Tzolk’in is fun to write. But if all I wanted to do was write rulebooks all the time, I’d be looking for more freelance work instead of writing novels.

If I had to choose either novels or rulebooks, I’d miss the other one. I’m lucky I get to do both.

WP: Share some current writers whose work you currently enjoy.

JAH: After Brandon Sanderson finished Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time, I decided I never needed to read epic fantasy again because I had finished the best possible epic fantasy ever. But Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive has really gripped me.

Steven Brust writes wonderful fantasy adventures.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of P. G. Wodehouse. I guess Wodehouse hasn’t been current for a long time, but he’s still the best humor novelist in the English language. There’s no way I can compete with him. … But I guess my goal was to write a funny novel, and I did. So what if some other jokers are funnier?

Thanks so much to Jason for sharing his thoughts and experiences! I’m always interested in hearing from other writers and their perspectives, so feel free to reach out to me via email at jointhesaga@gmail.com.

[OTHERVIEW Q&A] Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy, the award-winning author behind series such as The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms, recently took the time to answer some questions. She’s written novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She’s been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and won a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. She’s also on Twitter:

Jeffe Kennedy

Wes Platt: At what age did you realize you wanted to write?

Jeffe Kennedy: Twenty-five. I’ve always said I figured it out late, but now that looks young to me in retrospect. Still, I’m not one of those people who claim to have been writing novels with crayons. I wrote stories as a kid, as I think most kids do, but I was always intent on a career in the sciences. It was only when I was thick in the middle of getting a PhD in Neurophysiology (and was at the Society for Neuroscience convention when I had my crisis of faith and direction, so I can pinpoint the exact month and year), that I realized my real life’s desire was to be a writer.

WP: Pick some of your favorite authors as you were growing up and what appealed to you about their work?

JK: I like that you only ask for some! Anne McCaffrey was my gateway drug to all things fantasy and science fiction. I also devoured Mary Stewart, Vonda McIntyre, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Anne Rice, and Tanith Lee, to name just a few more.

WP: Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? Why?

JK: I write novels pretty much exclusively these days, though I like writing both. I started out writing short – essays, mainly, then short stories and novellas. I sometimes still do novellas and shorter novels (~50-60K). But I really love the scope of a full 100-130K novel. It gives me the time to really follow character transformation and the threads of real discovery and political insight.

WP: How did you discover your passion for romantic fantasy?

JK: By accident? From my early adolescence I was also an avid reader of romance. Like most romance readers, I devoured those books. However, in my youth, I read in this blissful omnivorous ignorance. I read a lot of nonfiction and literary fiction, too. There were never divisions for me until I got older and people started asking me what genre I read. I hadn’t even put names on them before that. When I started to write fiction, the stories that came out were fueled strongly by both romance and fantasy. I had no idea that this was a “wrong” or cross-genre thing to do. Maybe it’s better to say that my passion for it grabbed me and took me along for the ride. And I’ve been stubborn enough to refuse to cave to the pressure to change.

WP: Which of your series has clicked most with readers? And which has clicked most with you? Any sense of why?

JK: It’s probably The Twelve Kingdoms & Uncharted Realms series (three and two books, so far, in a connected series) that have gotten me the most notice. They’ve received most of the big awards and have garnered the biggest audience. It could be that they were also available in trade paperback and got marketing push from a traditional publishing house. But, when I wrote the first book of that series, THE MARK OF THE TALA, two of my crit partners predicted it would be my breakout book. That one just really grabbed readers. I’m often told it’s because the heroine is a middle child who feels invisible that makes her a favorite. Of course, it’s also the book that got me my first traditional print deal, so maybe something in that? (I’d done quite a few books with traditional digital presses before that.) As for me, I do love those books quite a lot. But I can’t pick any that click with me the most. I do have an unpublished novel that I keep reworking because I love it so. It’s also a complex world and magic system, so it’s a difficult project. Maybe someday!

WP: How does your writing process work? Do you outline, then write? Just start writing? Do you work a day job and have to fit in writing where you can?

JK: I’ll take those in reverse order. I used to have a day job. I worked for an environmental consulting firm for eighteen years after I bailed on neuroscience and while I built my writing chops and career. I wrote in the mornings before work all that time. About a year and a half ago, I got laid off and my writing earnings, while not what I’d been making, were enough for me to go full-time writing. SO MUCH EASIER TO HAVE ONE CAREER!

I don’t outline, because I can’t. I was one of those kids in school who wrote the paper, then the outline and turned it in. I write linearly, from beginning to end, pretty much without skipping or jumping ahead. George RR Martin compares it to being a gardener rather than an architect, and that analogy works for me. I write for discovery, finding out about the world and the characters through the process of writing. That said, I do track my structure and word count as I go. I’m a pretty disciplined writer – good habits built from the two-career thing all those years – so I work daily with word count goals.

WP: How do you describe success as an author?

JK: Always an interesting question! And amusing – for a really long time I counted it as being able to make a living as a full-time writer, which means I’m technically there. Wow. At this point I’d like it to be a more comfortable living, and I’m working on that. I’m also focused on diversifying income streams. Putting eggs in many baskets, keeping that platform wide.

WP: What does writing do for you?

JK: Keeps me off the streets? Okay, okay… I love this quote by Mark Rutherford: “There is in each of us an upwelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground around it into a swamp.” That’s me when I don’t write, a swampy, stagnant, unhappy mess.

WP: What’s fun for you when you’re not writing?

JK: I’m pretty boring overall. I love to read and consciously make time to do that. In the evenings I watch movies with the hubs, and we go hiking or fishing on the weekends. “Fishing” for me means sitting in the sun with a book. I also have a stand-up paddleboard that I play with. Working in the garden is a pleasure, too.

WP: Share some modern authors you’re reading and what appeals to you about their work.

JK: I read a lot of fantasy romance and close subgenres, both to keep up with the genres and because I enjoy them. Grace Draven is a good friend who also writes fantasy romance I love. In urban fantasy, Ilona Andrews has two series I’m addicted to, along with Jennifer Estep and her Elemental Assassins books. I recently discovered Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses books and gobbled up those. Another autobuy is every book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series. I most love books that have an emotionally satisfying romance thread along with terrific worldbuilding and heroic arcs. . I track my reading and I’m up to 52 books so far for 2017, so there are a lot of them!

Thanks so much to Jeffe for sharing her thoughts and experiences! I’m always interested in hearing from other writers and their perspectives, so feel free to reach out to me via email at jointhesaga@gmail.com