Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Importance of Writer Friends

The SFA-RWA board

I recently took on a leadership position in my local chapter of Romance Writers of America (that's me in the middle, above).  A year ago, I’d never even been to a meeting—and I'd never shown my work to another living soul.  Now, I couldn’t imagine being on this journey without the support of my writer-friends.

I think I was waiting to figure out how much I wanted this, to see if it was “just a phase.”  When I finished my second book, I finally realized this whole writing thing wasn’t going to go away, and I might as well accept it and get to know some other writers.  In other words, I grew balls. 

I should have done it ages and ages ago.  Right away, I met a bunch of fabulous women, most of them much further along the road to publication than me.  They gave me encouragement.  I found some fabulous critique partners.  And when I got offers of representation, they were there to help me make a decision.  Most of all, though, it was nice to meet people who’d been exactly where I’d been, and made it.  They knew just how draining it was to send out queries and go on submission.  The Enabler is a great listener, but he can only empathize.  It was a new experience for me to be around people who truly knew what it's like to be a writer.

If you’re an aspiring author, don't wait as long as I did to find some writer friends in your city.  There's nothing like sitting down to have coffee with someone who really *gets* it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Loves: My Favorite Science Fiction

We all start out with our reading choices made for us.  Parents, then teachers, pick out appropriate books and steer our tastes until that glorious day when we sneak off to the library on our own and fall in love with whatever we want.  My first literary love was science fiction.  I started out with space operas, but it didn't take me long to discover how diverse the genre is.  Here are my all-time favorites, in no particular order:

China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh
It’s not quite a novel—more a collection of loosely-connected stories.  McHugh's near-future is gritty, plausible and richly imagined, and she reveals it through some of the most complex and sympathetic narrators I’ve ever read.  I’ve heard the book described as placid, and that’s true, but it’s also beautiful.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
I admit: it took me a little while to get into this one, but once I did, I was sold.   So many of the concepts (a world in perpetual winter, a race of people who swap gender) are fascinating, but it’s the relationships that make the book stick with me.

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
Neuromancer may be his most famous, but this one is my favorite.  It’s a charming rags-to-riches story at its core, but it’s still set in Gibson’s terrifying and unstable cyberpunk future.

The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey
She’s famous for her dragons, but if I had to pick one of her books, it would be The Rowan.   Part space opera and part coming of age story, with a telekinetic heroine.  What more could I want?  

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
It’s a first-contact story, but it’s also an exploration of the meaning of human suffering, and none of the answers it finds are pretty.  The book, though, is gorgeous.

I tried to come up with a unifying theme from this list in hopes it would reveal something profound about my psychological make-up, but all I've noticed is that I should add some newer titles to my library.  In my to-be-read stack are Beth Revis’s Across the Universe, and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl.  Got any other suggestions for me?  What was your first literary love?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Are you an Urban Fantasy Heroine?

Are you an Urban Fantasy Heroine?  Recognizing the early signs can mean the difference between an exciting life filled with adventure and hot men, and a painful, early death.  Take this quick test to find out, and prepare accordingly.  (Check all that apply to you.)
  1. At least one of your parents is missing or unknown. 
  2. You own a mysterious familial artifact.  (Bonus points if it’s a weapon!) 
  3. You live in a city large enough to warrant an extensive public transportation system. 
  4. Two or more unreasonably attractive men are trying to get you into bed, and at least one of them has fangs/wings/fur/flippers/control issues. 
  5. You have fangs/wings/fur/flippers/control issues. 
  6. You get inexplicable painful/tingly feelings in your chest/hands/head.  (Not related to #4 above.)  (But bonus points if they intensify around #2.)
If you answered “yes!” to at least three of the above, you might be an Urban Fantasy Heroine!  In approximately five pages, your life is going to change forever.  You might want to stock up on painkillers and bandages.  Also, if you can figure out who your father is now, you'll save yourself from an unpleasant surprise around page 139.  

If you answered “yes” to less than three of the above, you might be an Expendable Side Character.  Do your best to get a transfer to a novel with less violence.  Good luck!