Ohio is cold in the winter, muggy and hot in midsummer. But our transitional seasons are beautiful.
Spring is just beginning here. Daffodils are blooming, as well as some early trees. But most things are just beginning: a touch of green dusting a field, buds just thinking about opening on the end of knobby tree branches. There’s a moisture and warmth in the air we haven’t felt here for a while.
I’m hoping this can be a season of new beginnings for the world as well.
We’re not out of this pandemic yet, but if I try I can just see some hope. People are being vaccinated. People are starting to look outward again, when for the last year we have been in a protective, inward-looking mode.
We’re still masking, still being cautious, and hopefully still following advice from health experts about how to keep Covid-19 from spreading. But I hope for everyone’s sake that there is hope just around the corner.
It’s not really a surprise, of course, as the United States and the world continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, but I’m still sad to share that the Greater Columbus Arts Council has had to cancel the 2020 Columbus Arts Festival. Here’s a link to their statement.
This is my favorite festival, and one I’ve been attending since it was a smattering of tents on the Ohio Statehouse lawn many years ago. I had the pleasure of reading at the festival last year at the Word Is Art tent. I’ll look forward to applying next year and hopefully being able to repeat that wonderful experience.
I hope you are staying safe and healthy, and staying home as much as possible during these trying times.
For those who have time to read — some of us I’m sure — my publisher is putting several books on sale for 99 cents. Some of these are the first book in a series or set, and my first novel, Black Tide, is included. Black Tide is Book One of the Color Mage set. Here’s a link to Hydra’s post showing all of the sale books.
This is what many of us might be feeling like right now — during this flood of bad news, a sea of worry about the pandemic that’s striking the world.
All I can do is hope that you all stay healthy, and that your friends and family stay well. We will come through this!
Some of us might be overwhelmed right now — with schedules upended, children home, worry about elderly relatives. Some of us might have way too much to do, and no time for entertainment. Others, isolated in apartments alone, might be bored.
For those who find themselves at loose ends, remember your local merchants and indie bookstores, some of whom are delivering right now as their physical shops are closed. Others have curbside pickup. If you need entertainment, remember to check with your local bookstore.
For the others, who are overwhelmed with little time for themselves, here’s wishing you some peace and time for self-care during the crisis.
In honor of the day, I’m posting a list of some female authors of outstanding science fiction or fantasy. Warning: this is a very partial list, because as I write I keep thinking of more and more authors. Women are well-represented in this field.
Anne McCaffrey, of course. The Dragonriders books are classics. And in spite of the dragons, they’re science fiction, not fantasy.
Ursula K. Le Guin. The Earthsea trilogy, and Left Hand of Darkness in particular.
N.K. Jemisin. The Fifth Season, Broken Earth trilogy. Hugo Award winners and outstanding books!
Lois McMaster Bujold. I enjoyed the Vorkosigan Saga in particular. Wonderful space-opera series.
Kate Elliott. The Jaran series was written in the early 1990s. It’s an adventure with great worldbuilding and complex, realistic cultures. One of my favorites.
Melissa Scott has written some good Stargate tie-in books, which I love, but my favorite is her novel Five Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels.
Martha Wells won a Nebula Award for All Systems Red, the first in her Murderbot Diary novellas, and a Hugo for the second.
Robin Hobb has written many fantasy novels. My favorites are her Farseer trilogy and Liveship Traders trilogy.
Doris Egan is a screenwriter and producer, but she also wrote a novel in the mid-1990s called City of Diamond. I love a book with complex characters and motivations, and this is one. Unfortunately the sequels were never written.
Ellen Kushner, author of Swordspoint, an excellent and complex fantasy that has a vibe of Regency England and surprisingly has no magic.
Octavia E. Butler. Parable of the Sower and Kindred, among many other outstanding works.
And … so many more! For International Women’s Day, check out the work of an author you haven’t read before, or re-read an old favorite.
This advice is both empowering and limiting. But I think a lot of people experience it as limiting.
When many of us think about what we know, it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Our daily lives may not strike us as story material, and unless we have personally experienced something amazing, strange, or unfortunately traumatic, our own lives may not seem to inspire.
When it comes to what genre to write, I prefer to think of it as “Write what you love.”
I love science fiction and fantasy, for many reasons I’ll save for another post. When I thought about writing, I always knew I would write speculative fiction. Not because I personally have battled an enemy mage, or leaped to another star in a hyperdrive ship. But because that’s what I love.
And some things I do know, as every writer does. We know what it’s like to feel things. We know how our hands shake when we’re frightened, how tender our touch is when we love someone, how powerful is desire, or fear, or the need to escape. We know the taste of hot chocolate, the sounds of rush hour, the burn of a scraped knee.
That’s what we need to know – how to be human. That’s what goes into making good characters – understanding of ourselves and of what it might be like to be others, maybe different, but still human.
And that’s what’s empowering. Because we all know this! We just have to learn how to write it. Learning the craft is not always an easy process. It takes time. But it’s possible.
Then we get down to the nitty gritty. There are actually a lot of things we need to know to write. But, except for empathy and curiosity, we can learn those things. Better not try to write a story set on a seagoing vessel if you don’t know what a deck is! Better not write a story about an expedition to a massive planet if you forget the heavy hand of increased gravity.
But you can learn those things. Research, read a lot, write several drafts. Go out and get on a ship. Talk to someone who knows about other planets. Practice, practice, practice. Then, run your story past a good beta reader or critique group for feedback on what you might have missed.
It’s a lot of work to make sure you get the details right. A story can turn on a fact that must be correct.
But you can learn all that. You already know the rest: empathy, curiosity, experience of life. Those are the things you need to give your characters life. And the most important thing is to always write what you love.