Snippet Sunday

I’m taking a break from Tolari Space and writing a straight-up first contact story. Here’s a taste from the first draft:


“Jeth,” Ull said. “Water.” He loosened the tie on the waterskin and poured a little onto his hand to show her what it was, and then took a drink.

She reached for it when he offered the skin to her, and drank greedily. After she handed the skin back, she lay back in the moss—with her back on the ground—and looked up into the sky. And jolted up onto her elbows, gasping. Ull followed her gaze. The half-moon, no longer on fire, had just risen—with a dark smudge it had never had before, like an eye along its rim. Jeth uttered a little groan, and her eyes glistened.

Snippet Sunday

Has it already been a week?

It has! Here’s a bit from the Kepler story:


“I surrender to you,” he said, carefully, because those little ears did not look any better than the tiny eyes did. Still, they had seen him, so they were not like the plains stalkers, which could not see a person if they did not move. He opened his eyes wide, to show respect. “I surrender to you.”

The ugly, two-legged forerunner showed him her hands with their extra fingers and said, as carefully as he had, “I surrender to you.”

Ull blinked.

 

Snippet Sunday!

Gosh, it’s been a while since I posted a snippet from a work in progress! 

Astute readers of Farryn’s War may have noticed that there seemed to be one more human on Tolar than could be accounted for.  Here is a bit of her story, which takes place in between The Marann and The Fall. The working title is… Stranded.  Tell me what you think:


Alexia groaned at the pounding in her head. I should not have drunk so much champagne at the ball. She wrapped her arms around her head and curled up on her side.

She froze. On her side? Gravity? The lifeboat. She sat up and threw her arms out as the world spun.

“Hold on,” said a woman’s voice, in English. A hand took her arm. “Take it easy.”

The room steadied, and Alexia blinked up at a woman with startling blue eyes and very long, wavy brown hair. She wore a simple blue robe with white embroidery at the collar and cuffs, and she smiled down with an amused expression on her face.

She was pretty enough. Alexia looked closer. Freckles! What sort of woman allowed herself to sprout freckles?

Not one Mamá would allow her to associate with. She jerked her arm away.

“Feeling better?” the woman asked, one eyebrow lifted.

“No.” Alexia frowned. The fierce pounding in her head put a hair trigger on a temper which, her dueña loved to remind her, was already too easy to set off. “Where am I? I was in a lifeboat–” she swallowed “–freezing to death. Who are you?”

“Oh! I’m sorry, introductions are in order. I’m Marianne Woolsey. You’re in the stronghold of the province of Suralia on the fourth planet of Beta Hydri. And you are…?”

Alexia rubbed her forehead. “Beta Hydri? We should not have been near Beta Hydri.”

“And you are…?”

“Alexia Victoria de la Cerda y Aragon.”

“Welcome to Tolar. May I call you Alexia?”

 

Damn the Cooties, Full Speed Ahead!

This weekend, I had to smile when I saw a new review on Amazon for my latest science fiction novel, Farryn’s War:

I normally read a lot of science fiction and not much romance, so I was a bit concerned we’d be all heaving bosoms and whatnot. Pleasantly surprised to find the ‘romance’ was just part of the plot line and character building.

And that, my friends, is why I always pause and really look at the person who asks me, “What do you write?”

Most of my stories are about a race of empaths, the Tolari, who live on a planet circling Beta Hydri, two dozen light years from Earth.  The stories encompass local and interstellar politics, cultural isolation and societal change, a dozen alien races, war, peace, and everything in between.  Also, men, women, and children, relationships and choices, victories and losses. And there’s the rub. What should I call it, anyway?

Once upon a time, “space opera” was a term of disdain, but thanks to Lester del Ray and others, it came to stand for space adventure, characters, plotting, and a big canvas: vast civilizations, long space voyages, epic battles.

Are the Tolari novels space opera? Absolutely. But over time, the trappings in the genre assumed a life of their own, and the genre called “space opera” became very fluid. Take a look at the space opera bestseller list on Amazon, and it could be 75% military SF, or 75% space adventure, or anything in between, with a sometimes heavy sprinkling of science fiction romance in the top 20.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as “science fiction romance,” except perhaps in the much older sense by which Edwin Abbott’s Flatland was called “a romance of many dimensions.” But writers in the 1970’s and 1980’s (mostly women, but not all) did astonishing work in drawing realistic characters in SF settings, looking at the ripple effects of technological and cultural change on people, relationships, and societies. And people fall in love: one of the very oldest sources of complexity in fiction. Are the Tolari novels science fiction romance? Absolutely! But over just the past few years, the acceptance (and popularity) of erotica and a dismayingly limited number of tropes mean that virtually every title on the current Amazon “science fiction romance” bestseller list sports a man with a naked chest on the cover — and romance readers know what that means.

Now, I think my writing can stand up respectably next to military SF and “alien warriors and the women they capture.”  But that’s not the point. The point is labeling. And Cooties.

  • Science fiction readers (many but not all male) who see  the word “romance” – or even an obviously female name on the cover, or artwork with a couple holding hands — often have the same sense of anxiety and risk-taking described in the review above: “Hold on, Grampa. Is this a kissing book?” In other words: relationships and sex. In other words: Girl Cooties.
  • Romance readers (most but not all female) may be OK with “science fiction” on the cover, but if they see spaceships, or an alien NOT locked in an embrace with a human of some sort, they may worry that there will be whole chapters about alien cultures, or the effects of technological change, and lots of cardboard characterization. In other words: Science Cooties.

I grew up on Andre Norton and Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and CJ Cherryh, as well as my mother’s Harlequin romances. I’m a science fiction writer, but I refuse to limit my scope to anything less than everything. If that means I sometimes call what I write “space opera,” and sometimes “futuristic romance,” and sometimes just “SF,” I’m going to be asking my readers to take a chance. If you like romance, read The Marann (winner of the 2013 PRISM award from the Romance Writers of America — the same award won by quintessential space adventure writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller). If you like space opera, read my latest, Farryn’s War. It’s not military, and it’s definitely not erotica, and if you absolutely hate spaceships or romance, you might want to look for another author more to your taste. But if you find one of my books that you like, take a risk and try another.

I’m about stories, and a sense of wonder, and unforgettable characters, and I’m a sucker for happy endings, though in the middle, it may get rough for a while.

Who knows, I may someday be one of the women who destroy science fiction.

But whether they’re the physics kind or the kissing kind, I am done worrying about Cooties. There are just too many good stories I want to tell.

The Fall_cover_200
Farryns War cover 200
Marann_cover_200
Daughters_cover_200

Farryn’s War!

So Farryn’s War is out in both e-book and print; the print edition boasts a beautiful interior layout by Melissa Neely and a Tom Peters cover. It’s a thorough-going space opera, and a bit of suspense noir. I hope you like it.

Every villain is the hero of his (or her) own story, and I definitely got to play with that in Farryn’s Warand explore a lot of things I only hinted at in previous books: the history of the human colonies; the reasons the Tolari turned away from spaceflight before their human cousins had running water; and what happens to Tolari who can’t (or won’t) live up to the rigid standards of a close-knit, empathic society.

After the rush of release work, I’m blogging again; you can look forward to the return of Sunday Snippets from my works in progress. On Monday, you might see a post on the subject of literary space opera, romance, and writing your own thing. We’ll see how brave I am.

In other news:

  • The second issue of my newsletter for readers, News from Tolari Space, will go out this weekend; subscribe now!
  • I will be on programming at Capclave in Gaithersburg, MD on October 9-11.  I hope to see some of you there!
  • I’m hosting an Evening of Space Opera and Futuristic Romance at Pittsburgh’s Rickert and Beagle Bookshop on Tuesday evening, October 20, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.  Discussion, readings, and giveaways of classic SF and space opera; if you’re in driving distance of Pittsburgh, we’ve love to have you there. (It’s co-owned by Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, and worth checking out in any case!)

P. S. My website has a new look and feel; tell me what you think!

Why Exiles of the Drift?

Astute readers may have noticed that the Amazon page for my forthcoming novel Farryn’s War has it listed not as Tales of Tolari Space Book 4, but as Exiles of the Drift. What (you might ask) is up with that?

In my Tolari stories, the Drift is a dangerous region of K-space adjacent to humanity’s Six Planets, and within easy reach of at least four of the other races of the Trade Alliance. Beta Hydri – the star that Tolar circles every 2.03 standard years – sits on one of the few safe routes through the Drift, and much of the action of my first three novels involves Earth’s attempts to convince the Tolari to allow humans to build a trade station in the Drift.

Now, if you’re writing about, say, the jungle, you can tell stories about the people who go into the jungle; the people who live in the jungle, though they might occasionally dare to go Outside; and what happens when people from the jungle go Outside to stay. The Tales of Tolari Space series followed the first humans to be invited to Tolar, and the decision of the Tolari to gradually abandon their isolation and end their pretense of being harmless primitives. There are a lot more stories in the offing, set on Tolar and adjacent regions of deep space. These will all be Tales of Tolari Space.

Meanwhile, this new series, Exiles of the Drift, will explore what happens to those Tolari who leave their world and its relative safety, to wrestle with the Outside. There will be adventure, and love stories, and occasional disasters, and comings and goings between Tolar, the Drift, and the worlds beyond, for a good while yet. And Farryn’s War is the first installment.

Guest Post: Veronica Scott on Her Love for Disaster Movies

This week, award-winning author Veronica Scott shares a snippet from her latest book and talks about how disaster movies inform her writing. Take it away, Veronica!


STAR CRUISE: MAROONED by Veronica Scott
or
Why I Love Disaster Movies

I love disaster movies, the bigger the better. Although small works for me too. I’m always fascinated by the idea of ordinary people suddenly being thrust into some catastrophe that they then must fight their way out of. If there’s romance involved, so much the better. Unlike the movie “Speed,” where the Sandra Bullock character says romances formed under such intense circumstances never last, I choose to believe they DO.

There are definitely tropes to disaster movies. First you meet the characters rather briefly because unless you see them pre-disaster, how are you going to care about this subset of people in the midst of flaming chaos and danger on all sides? There should be some foreshadowing and foreboding that perhaps the characters don’t pick up on but we, the readers (or viewers in the case of a movie) go “Uh oh.”

There’s a hero and a heroine – and in my books they’re both strong individuals who work together to save themselves and the others. Think Ripley and Hicks in “Aliens,” which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Although it did need more romance…but I digress! There should be some people who need saving, and who do their best to do the right things….and at least one, maybe two people with their own agenda, or who do the completely wrong thing at the wrong moment. And a LOT of heavy obstacles stacked against survival.

I’ve written two science fiction romance novels that I feel are pretty classic disaster movie format – Wreck of the Nebula Dream, set on a large luxury liner that meets a Titanic-like fate. This story was in fact loosely based on the Titanic tragedy but set in space, in the far future. I’ve had reviewers tell me I spent a bit too long on the intro phase (which is their experience of course – obviously I liked it) – someone quantified it for me, saying the first 19% of the book was set up and then hold onto your hats because it’s nonstop thereafter inagoodway. For my second such story, Star Cruise: Marooned, just released in June, I decided to tell a story about the crew and passengers of a much smaller luxury charter ship, who venture onto the surface of a nature preserve planet for a scheduled beach party.

At first things go pretty well and by the book, although surprisingly the ranger station is deserted and there aren’t very many other tourists, which is decidedly odd. But the crew members’ main worries at this point are keeping the customers happy so the tip at cruise end will be generous, and not running out of food or ‘feelgoods’. Then the other ship’s party enjoying the beach receives an urgent call back from their captain and leaves so hastily they abandon all their equipment…concerned, my heroine, Cruise Staffer Meg Antille, tries calling her ship to check on things but the conversation is mysteriously interrupted from the other end….then a passenger is bitten by a venomous creature that ought not to be there on the friendly beach….and events spiral from there.

I like upping the stakes a few times before the adventure concludes. Think about “Speed” (spoilers I guess although it’s an old movie) – the psycho who put the bomb on the bus can also watch them from a hidden camera. In “Aliens”, the creatures cause the crash of the dropship, marooning Ripley and her few companions on the planet. In the remake of “Poseidon Adventure”, the big air bubble bursts and the ship starts sinking faster…In the first “Jurassic Park,” it’s the huge storm that throws everyone’s plans and lives into jeopardy…

So in Star Cruise: Marooned, after the shuttle suddenly takes off, abandoning Meg and her party on the planet, there are some definite raising of the stakes moments. I won’t do spoilers, but I’ve had a number of people tell me they ended up reading the book late onto the night, to find out what happens. That’s music to a story teller’s ears!

Here’s a short little excerpt for you:

Guest Veronica MaroonedFinalOn the beach, there was chaos. An eel, easily two feet in diameter and eight feet long, lay convulsing on the sand, Red’s hunting knife buried to the hilt in one eye. The crewman had the medkit open beside him and was struggling to staunch the blood flow from Sharmali’s lower leg, while she lay on a red-stained towel and moaned. Callina was standing beside them, trying to help. The other men and women milled on the beach nearby, drinking and talking in too loud voices. As Meg headed for the injured passenger, the Primary intercepted her.

“Miss Antille, I demand to know how something like this could happen.” Purple in the face, he waved a hand at Sharmali. “I paid top dollar, if not an exorbitant price, for a safe, enjoyable cruise for myself and my guests, and now the poor girl’s had her foot eaten!” He was so upset he was spitting.

“On behalf of the Line, I certainly apologize, sir. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests under all circumstances, but if she swam beyond the sonic barrier—”

“She was standing in three inches of water right next to me,” Finchon said. “That monster could have just as easily gotten my foot.”

“The barrier’s off,” Red informed her, not glancing up from his task. “Can you argue with him later? I need your help.”

Meg ran to his side, the Primary matching her step for step, yelling at her about lawsuits and refunds. She tried to stem the tide of his vitriol so she could concentrate. “Sir, please, let us assist Sharmali, and then I’ll be happy to discuss the legalities.”

Trever, the retired pro athlete, came forward and took his host by the arm, shoving a drink into his hand and drawing him aside. Meg took a deep breath of relief and knelt beside Red. “What do you want me to do?”

“Apply pressure to the wound for a minute while I see what antivenom we’ve got.”

Gulping against her nausea, Meg set her hand on the makeshift bandages and pressed hard. “You said the barrier was off?”

“Must be. There was more than one of these things right in the shallows at the beach. We were lucky no one else got attacked. I got her out of the water as fast as I could so the blood wouldn’t attract other predators.” He sat on his heels, frowning, holding an inject. “This is only a generic. Will it work on eel venom?”

“It’s all we’ve got on the shuttle. It’ll have to hold her until we get to the ship’s sick bay.”

As he gave Sharmali the inject, Meg eyed the wound with deep misgiving. The woman’s leg was definitely swelling and there were ugly purple streaks advancing toward her knee. “This is my fault,” she said.

“How do you figure?” Red applied a light tourniquet.

“I should have known if the ranger station was closed, the barriers might be shut off, but I didn’t check.”

“Well, keep your voice down, the Primary is pissed off enough right now. Don’t add fuel to his fire.”

Want to read more? You can find Star Quest: Marooned at:
Amazon     iBooks     Kobo     Barnes & Noble


Guest Veronica Scott square photoBest Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

Veronica’s Blog   Veronica Scott on Twitter  Veronica Scott on Facebook

 

Confluence!

Confluence is Pittsburgh’s local science fiction convention, so of course I’m going! Here’s my schedule:


Friday, July 24

9pm
Confluence for Introverts
Mars

Convention-going advice – come on, come on, it’s worth a try, right?


11pm
Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading
Armstrong

Readings by members of Broad Universe, a nonprofit international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. For more information: http://broaduniverse.org .


Saturday, July 25

12pm
Gender in Fantasy
Armstrong

Heroines are certainly a lot more active than they used to be. What assumptions are left for fantasy authors to work with? Is there any structure at all?


3pm
Not Just Anglos
Lawrence

With China and India in space, and others to follow, what might a multicultural solar system look like?


7pm
Reading – Ken Chiaccia and Christie Meierz
Board

Readings by Ken Chiacchia and Christie Meierz.


Sunday, July 26

10am
Agents: To Have, or Have Not?
Mars

Is that fifteen percent or so really worth it?


11am
Creating conflict
Mars

No matter how we try to avoid it, struggles are vital to good stories.


12pm
What comes after humanity?
Lawrence

Trans-humanism, post-humanism, extinction? Homo sapiens in the Big Picture.


It’s not too late to plan on going! Be there or be… not there! 😀

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

You may have noticed the new look. This blog has moved to WordPress, where it can be attached to my official website. This will take some getting used to on my part; I spent an embarrassing 5 minutes figuring out how to log in with sufficient privilege to post. Hopefully, I’ll remember next time!

Going to the old blog URL will redirect you here; or you may come directly to christiemeierz.com/blog. Either method works quite nicely.

So! How do you like it?

This comes at another beginning: for the past week, I have been contemplating how to begin the next book. Also, I have been contemplating where to start it, and thus we come to a delicate choice. I know the story, and I know where it’s going, but where, indeed, do I place the reader to best advantage?

Meanwhile, Farryn’s War is in final adjustments, and we’re in discussions with Madame Publicist on how to begin Letting People Know A Book Is Imminent — yet another Beginning.

And summer is… not quite here, at least not today. We’re back in the land of unseasonably cool, wet weather. What about you?

Watch For It!

I have spotlights and guest posts going live in the coming week in the following places (I will try to update the links to be more specific as I get them):

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Monday (3/9):