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.

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?

SFR Brigade Presents: Daughters of Suralia

THE-SFRB-Presents
http://sfrcontests.blogspot.com/

The SFR Brigade Presents is a weekly snippet blog hop. Click the pic above to check out what the other participating authors posted and find out more about their books!

This snippet is from the second edition of Daughters of Suralia (Book 2 of the Tales of Tolari Space). The award-winning first book in the series, The Maraan, is also available from Sky Warrior Books. 

     The letter came in the morning, enclosed in an
envelope of
rough paper, hand-folded, smelling of something like cinnamon and
tied with a strip
of cloth the same green as the Paran’s robe. A slender, willowy
woman in brown
handed it to Laura at the high table.

     Laura laid it on the table in front of her,
unopened, and
ran a finger along one edge. The envelope bore a subtle empathic
resonance,
like a vibration. It had exchanged hands before it reached her,
not many times,
but a few. The strongest resonance on the outside of the letter
matched the
woman who now walked away toward the tables of food near the
kitchens. The
inside—

     Marianne’s voice burst through her thoughts.
“Aren’t you
going to open it? It’s not every day you get an actual, physical
letter on any planet.”

     Laura looked up. Every eye at the table watched
her. Even
Cena and Storaas, who sat side-by-side next to Thela, had stopped
feeding each
other to stare.

     
“Um,” she said, which would disappoint her
long-ago
deportment tutor, but the woman had never covered Proper Behavior expected of a Widow upon receiving a
Letter from her
Lover during Breakfast
. She scooted her chair back. “I think
I’ll read this
in my quarters.”

More about Daughters of Suralia:

http://astore.amazon.com/skywarriorbooks-20/detail/B00JQUBW7A

Three women, two planets, and a whale.

For Marianne Woolsey, linguist and tutor, being empathically
bonded to the leader of the Tolari turns out to be a bed of roses – complete
with thorns. Especially thorns.
With diplomatic relations severed and humans kicked out of
Tolari space, the Earth Fleet ship Alexander
is gone … for now … but Earth Central Command hasn’t given up trying to get
Marianne back. As she struggles with surprises, nightmares, and a bond-partner
who can’t be tamed, she just wants to figure out where she fits in a society
that isn’t quite human.
Laura Howard, the Admiral’s widow, only desires to be left
in peace to gather the fragments of a shattered heart, but Central Command has
plans for her, too.

Meanwhile, the Sural’s apothecary is a serene and
gifted healer who knows what – and who – she wants. Circumstances have
conspired to deny her the man she’s always loved, but in the pursuit of his
heart, she has an unexpected ally – in the depths of Tolar’s oceans.

Cover by Laura Shinn

New and Improved, With More Space Opera!

Little did I know in May 2012, when I sat down to write about a little girl splashing her peds in a sparkling brook on another planet, that her father and the woman he loved would take over the story. Or that I would end up in April 2014 writing about interprovincial trade and internecine politics on said planet. I’ve never considered myself a political animal.

Really, I’m not.

The Fall is Laura Howard’s story, starting from the moment she leaves Suralia on her way back to Parania. This being fiction, however, a happily-ever-after is not a beginning; it’s an ending. You can’t make a story out of a lifetime of passionate nights followed by idyllic breakfasts and happy days, however interesting they might be. Therefore, I had to torture my characters with antagonists and trouble in paradise. Leaven with Tolari politics, add in the logical consequences of a certain Tolari ruler’s towering arrogance, and voila: Space Opera.

It’s not actually how I originally conceived the story. But the changes in Daughters were so far-reaching, the only way to keep the ending of The Fall was to change the beginning. I should be able to preserve the last chapters pretty much intact, while rewriting the beginning of the book almost from whole cloth. There wasn’t much in the first two chapters of the second draft that I could keep, given the massive changes in the ending of Daughters, so those are rewritten entire, and the third draft also now has a prologue, stolen from… elsewhere.

Today, I am attempting to thread in another political chapter near the beginning, and marveling at where the story has taken me. There is still the plot arc of Laura’s relationship with the Paran, and how that develops. But it’s woven into the overarching storyline of the planet and also what’s going on in human space, places I hadn’t thought to go, before. In the beginning, I never thought to leave Suralia; the idea of a planet was, at first, too big for me. Yet now I take my character across Tolar and into Parania, Monralar, and points north.

I’m still brooding on where to start and where to go with the political wrangling in the chapter currently under my microscope, and I may not begin the actual writing of it today. But — it’s in there. Soon.

The Daughters of Suralia Re-release

Christie-Meierz_TTS-bk2_Daughters-of-Suralia_6x9
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JQUBW7A/

Some readers might be wondering why the new edition of Daughters of Suralia does not update their old one. The answer lies in the way books are assigned their ISBN/ASIN — one factor this number depends on is the publisher. Different publisher, different number. Different number, different book, as far as booksellers are concerned. No free update. There’s literally nothing that I, as the author, can do.

So why buy it again? Well, and this is the most important question.When I signed with Sky Warrior Books, they bought my backlist. They then had the right, and they exercised it, to ask me to revise my backlist books up to their standards. Truthfully, I was happy to do so. The Marann didn’t require a lot of revision, but Daughters of Suralia — that was another story. My editor commented that the book didn’t have a plot arc, which was true. It didn’t. After tossing a number of ideas at me, I realized what it needed to come up with one. Then began the work of stitching it in.

At times, it was like deja vu all over again — during the same period of time last year (January to March), I was working on the same issues with the same book the first time around. The changes were small, at first, but as I went through the story, the entire last quarter of the book changed and expanded. I closed some plot holes and picked up some loose ends. The novel grew from 74,000 words to 95,000. The lingering question of what Central Command will do next — that will be answered in future novels. Just so you know. <grin>

Meanwhile, do buy the 2nd edition of Daughters of Suralia. It’s a much stronger story now, and I am very happy with it. I hope you will be, too.