That's the blurb up on the PIVTR site. I apologize for the dreadfully bad "pirate" names, but for an unscripted, "blogging aloud" show that begins at 10 am Eastern (which is seven am for my nightowl, West Coast friends) and runs until 12.00 noon, I prefer to set a low standard and deliver better than expected.
I'm sure we will get into deeper topics, such as cloaking; motherships that look no different from regular traffic until it is too late for their victims to respond; space barratry (scuttling ships to hide theft of cargo); corsairing and privateering; and star ship commanders who pay lip service to Star Fleet Command, but do not necessarily comply with their orders... because who is to know? And perhaps if the politicians and generals back home had real time information, their orders would be different.
All credit to my friend Jacquie Rogers for getting me thinking (again) about sheets, and the logistics of hygiene, sex, and repose in deep space. Are space pirates simply Jack Sparrow with an air lock? I think not.
If Diana Groe's historically accurate Vikings managed to sustain an unfair seductive advantage over their European sexual rivals by wearing reasonably clean underwear, I wonder what the competitive advantage would be of body odor inside the confines of a space ark. Would it tend to demoralize and depress the enemy?
I should imagine there would be a product much like Procter and Gamble's Febreze. I hear that college students are using the odor eating product to simply spray the unwashed crotches of their jeans.
David Lee Summers is the author of five novels, and here is an excerpt from a guest blog he wrote for me to promote our June 2nd show.
The first of my novels is The Pirates of Sufiro, which starts off as the story of a band of space pirates that are marooned on a distant world they name Sufiro. Over the course of the novel, the pirates who were stranded have to battle corporate pirates who try to take over the planet. Thus the book explores the idea of "piracy" from multiple angles. I have recently explored my space pirate characters even more in stories appearing in the anthologies Space Pirates and Space Sirens published by Flying Pen Press. Another of my novels, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, is a supernatural thriller, but it features a cameo by the real life pirate, Grace O'Malley.
The phrase "space pirates" conjures up images of marauding bands cruising the galaxy in space ships. Perhaps the blaster-wielding captain has a robot parrot on his shoulder and some kind of high-tech eye-patch with a heads-up display. Movies and television have invoked this image numerous times and I think such pirates can be a lot of fun, even though they're often extremely campy.
Look a little harder at the idea of space pirates, though, and an interesting picture emerges. To summarize the United Nations definition of piracy, it is a criminal act of violence, detention or depredation committed by the crew or passengers of a ship or aircraft directed against another ship or aircraft – or directed against a ship, aircraft, persons or property outside the jurisdiction of a country. Apply that idea to any vessel that is either in space or operating on a distant world, and you open up tremendous story potential.
My own love of pirates started at an early age. I grew up in Southern California and was lucky enough to visit Disneyland a few times as a kid. One of my favorite rides from the time I was about six years old was The Pirates of the Caribbean. I was also a Star Trek fan from a very young age. Though a bit too young to remember the original series when it first ran, I was exactly the right age to watch Star Trek: The Animated Series when it ran on Saturday mornings. One of those episodes was "The Pirates of Orion" written by Howard Weinstein. I already was a fan of pirates and I just fell in love with the idea of pirates in space.
In the years after that, though, most depictions of space pirates that I came across grew painful. I saw far too many actors with robot parrots on their shoulders hamming it up for the camera. As I mentioned earlier, they could be fun to watch, but they did get old. I probably would never have even tried to write a story about space pirates if I hadn't come across the Bio of a Space Tyrant novels by Piers Anthony. In the first novel, Anthony introduced space pirates that were colorful and fun, but at the same time very dangerous. These were the kinds of space pirates I was looking for.
In 1988, I set out to write my first story of space piracy for a writing workshop in Socorro, New Mexico. I wanted to create pirates that were larger than life, fun, but yet a bit dangerous, much like the good space pirates I had encountered before. That's when Ellison Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy who appear in The Pirates of Sufiro, Space Pirates and Space Sirens were born.
As I worked to create my pirates, I spent time in the library reading historical accounts, trying to get some idea for the motivations of historical pirates and how they operated. As I read, I found the stories of Henry Avery, Bartholomew Roberts, William Kidd, Anne Bonny and Mary Read particularly captivating.
Now, I believe it's important that a writer create a world where it's believable that space pirates exist. That said, if we postulate a universe where humans are colonizing other planets in the galaxy it's reasonable to expect that pirates will exist. In my "day" job I operate telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. It's actually hard to imagine a star empire or galactic alliance with so much money that they could patrol every possible planetary system imaginable. Likewise, it's hard to imagine a future where everyone is so well off that someone won't be motivated to try to take what someone else has. Just recently, we had the incident of Somali pirates taking an American ship not far from American warships. Even with only a small boat and a few guns, they created a very difficult situation for this country. The galaxy is a much bigger place.
In my universe, Earth recognizes that it simply cannot patrol much of its territory at all with warships of any sort. It becomes much more practical for humans to issue Letters of Marque to pirate crews and allow them to harass ships from competing systems and colony worlds.
My pirate captain, Ellison Firebrandt, comes from a poor family. His father was a miner in the asteroid belt and it looked like Ellison's fate would either be to follow in his father's footsteps or go into some other hard labor for the rest of his life. As with the pirates of old, life aboard a pirate ship seemed to offer more freedom and opportunity for young Firebrandt than a life wasting away as a miner or a laborer for one of the giant corporations of Earth. Because Firebrandt is the protagonist of the stories in which he appears, I felt it necessary to give him a moral compass. He is loyal to Earth because the government provided his Letter of Marque. He kills and robs, but he does so with the intention of aiding Earth.
In the story "For a Job Well Done", which appears in the anthology Space Pirates, Firebrandt tries to fence stolen items through a gang that secretly pulls the strings on one of Earth's colony worlds. The gang maintains control through the torture of the planet's populace. In the process of discovering this, Firebrandt meets a woman named Suki Mori and a romance is born. Though Firebrandt is, himself, a criminal, his moral compass can't abide the self-serving interests of the gang he encounters and he feels compelled to stop them. Even though the story is science fiction, it was heavily influenced by contemporary headlines.
In the follow-up story entitled "Hijacking the Legacy" that appears in the anthology Space Sirens, Suki Mori discovers the cold hard reality that her new-found "friends" really are bloodthirsty pirates. She tries to escape but throws herself and the pirate crew right into the hands of a military captain that doesn't recognize Firebrandt's Letter of Marque. This puts Suki into a crisis of conscience. She recognizes that the crew of the Legacy is composed of criminals, but she also realizes that they're the ones who saved her from an even worse criminal gang. Can she simply let the pirates be killed?
Historically, not all pirates were clear-cut villains. They often came to piracy through a series of circumstances and choices. Often times there were no good choices for these people. Sometimes it was live as a slave or live as a pirate. Sometimes being a pirate seemed less horrible than being a crewman for a ship of the "legitimate" military. In creating my space pirates, I worked to create a universe that presented my characters with many of those kinds of difficult choices from history. I worked to create characters with enough of a moral compass that those choices were interesting ones to explore. Hopefully the stories are an exciting, fun ride as well!
If you would care to learn more about my novels and the anthologies where my stories appear, please visit davidleesummers.com and click on the links for "Books and Audio Books" and "Short Stories and Poems."
Rowena: Here's the premise behind the pirates in My Other Car is a Spaceship.
In my "universe", there are a number of alien civilizations in our sector of space, but none of them large enough or wealthy enough to patrol the space outside their respective territories. So pirates run amok in the "in-between" places, attacking remote settlements, mining colonies, and cargo ships traversing deep space. In addition to swag, some of the pirates trade in slaves.
Seeing the growing threat to commerce, a number of commercial outfits formed the Merchants' Unity, a sort of police force funded by the member merchants and tasked with the mission of suppressing the pirates and keeping them from disrupting interstellar commerce.
For many years, this worked. The Unity held the pirates to a nuisance-level only. Then one day, a pirate leader (a human ex-slave, whose grandparents were kidnapped from Earth) got a number of the pirate chieftains together and formed a corporation (BAE, Inc., short for Buck-an-Ear). Now organized (with stockholders and profit sharing), the pirates begin to attack in swarms instead of individually, overwhelming the Unity patrol ships and pushing the Unity to the brink of defeat.
Present-day Earth is unaware of any of this. But when a Unity ship patrolling our solar system (a pre-interstellar, and therefore embargoed system) loses both its pilots, it's forced to scour Earth for someone suitable, someone with the rare hypertasking gene that gives his mind the ability to handle thousands of simultaneous inputs.
It's into this universe that Colonel Hal Nellis, retired USAF fighter jock, is thrown. As pilot of Adventurer, he, along with Captain Kalen Jefffries (a son of human slaves), must find a way to defeat the seemingly overwhelming might of the pirates, or face the destruction of the Unity and the pillaging of a defenseless Earth.
[Bio: Mark is the author of three published science ficiton novels: The Mars Imperative, The Tesserene Imperative, and the just-released Sunrise Destiny. My Other Car is a Spaceship is his fourth, recently-completed, novel.)
As for the sheets question.... That is a matter of individual taste. Jacquie Rogers's pirates in her yet-to-be published novel that predated Fifth Element have special sheets to cope with bedding (verb) in zero gravity. Mark Terence Chapman's spacefarers are to be a surprise (to me). Some don't. In my first alien romance, Forced Mate, my high and mighty hero Tarrant-Arragon steals the love of his life's bedding from Earth to encourage her to feel more at home in his bed.
I've never visited a pirate's bed (in my books), but my Scythian pirates are a bit like downsized Chewbaccas with claws so with all that reddish hair, there's little need for modesty in bed.
First off, jazzed to say Twist was nominated for a Prism in the Time Travel category. Fellow blogger Linnea was too. Thanks for posting this earlier this week.
Now more on the journey of my proposal. Below is chapter one. When I envisioned this story, the world was a dark and dreary place. I cannot imagine one part of this story taking place in the sunshine although I'm sure I would have worked some in. Its just the overall concept is just dark.
While I usually am pretty regualr at writing stories from the H/H pov, (unless in first person like Twist) I decided that I needed to do some pov of the antagoist. You will noticed the tone is omnipotent, which is how Swaim sees himself.
Also adding, I am dyslexic and horrible at grammer. The follow has not been edited.
They were like insects scurrying to their holes. Vile creatures. If only they could be exterminated. But even insects served their purpose and these would serve his. He watched them move from his position fifty feet up in the air, safe on his thoptor as the LED’s tracked back and forth on the uneven ground below.
Swain turned from the view port to the console where a young techno, fresh out of academy, stood over a holi-vid. His nostrils flared as he approached the younger. Only purebloods were allowed to be near him. He smelled the usual array of bodily odors, more so since the younger was nervous. But no admanium. There was not any mechanized enhancements on this techno as there would be none on anyone else aboard this craft.
“Here,” the techno said. His finger trembled as he pointed to the ruins of a building. It cut through the blue line of the three dimensional representation that hovered over the surface. Inside the building a lavender blob could be seen, accompanied by a smaller red blob. They moved quickly through the ruins on the surface as if they knew where they were going.
Luckily so did he. Swain allowed himself a small smile.
“We’ll take them here,” he said and pointed to a place where three paths converged upon the ruins. The techno tapped the screen of his vid and the image was transferred to the terrain transport below along with an image of his finger, pointing out the places where he planned to lay his trap. “Place your men,” he said to the land unit below, as usual being proper in his address even though his skin crawled at the thought of referring to the hybrids awaiting their orders below as men. But even one of the members of the Protectorate must obey the chosen guidelines of society so that no grievances may be filed against him. “Here and here,” he continued.
“Command accepted,” the ground commander said as if he had a choice in the matter.
“These readings are off the chart,” his assistant, Foster, hissed in his ear. “I’ve never seen anything like it except for…”
Swain turned quickly less Foster give something away. “Show me,” he said and Foster turned his scanner so the screen was visible. The lavender blob covered most of the screen, greatly overshadowing the companion red blob. “Any way of knowing which one it is?”
“Not until we’re on the ground and I can separate the scans.”
“Make sure they are not harmed,” Swain said.
“Ground.” Foster tapped his earpiece. “Both are to be taken unharmed.”
“Accepted,” ground came back.
“Get me down there,” Swain barked. “And quickly.” He didn’t trust the hybrids with his find. Especially if there was a new one among them. There had been occasions when their programming was faulty. There had been occasions when the “Kill” order was the only thing they could comprehend. He was not one to trust others to do something when he was capable of doing it himself. It was the only way he could be assured that it was done the correct way. His way.
The thopter moved quickly, arcing up then quickly down to a wide empty space among the ruins of the former metropolis. At one time it had more than likely been a parking lot. Now it was simply a flat place covered with a thick and cloying grass that encroached upon the pavement instead of sprouting from it. Not that it mattered to him what was beneath his feet beyond the fact that his shoes would have to be destroyed upon his return. The Real was dirty, unkempt and wild. Swain preferred the orderliness and cleanliness of the Dome.
“Savages,” he spit out as the thopter settled. Yet they did have their uses. Where else would they find workers for the lesser jobs since those on the inside had long ago learned the consequences of going against the gentle reminders of how life should be inside? Peace must be maintained. Those who did not maintain the flow of peace would be assigned a better way to serve the general populace.
The truth be told, they needed them as a barrier between the Dome and the droves of bandits called Scrabbers that roared down from the mountains every time the full moon came round. They needed them to replenish the army that was the only barrier between civilization and chaos.
The same army that awaited his orders as he stepped out of the thopter. He looked right and left. The squads had better be in place and waiting to ambush the two that would be coming this way or there would be a reckoning. The commander of the ground forces stood well away from the thopter blades with his expressionless face turned towards him. Swain saw the thin red beam cross over his goggles which meant the commander was scanning him for proper identification. The lights from the ground transport shone across the area and cast distorted shadows upon the cushion of sprawling grass.
He would have to make sure that all records of his actions here tonight were erased. There was nothing to worry about. Foster would see to it. He could feel him on his heels even now.
“Squad Four and Five is still in pursuit sir,” the commander of the troop said. The voice sounded familiar to Swain and he spared a look at the square jaw and mobile mouth that showed beneath the visor. He must have come across the hybrid at sometime. Possibly in his youth before the soldier was adapted. The society in the dome was such that it was possible. The hybrid had been in the service long enough to rise to commander.
Why are you even thinking of this metal remnant? He is not important.
“You are positive that all other escapes routes are covered?” Swain snapped.
“As you ordered,” the commander said without a sound of emotion in his voice.
“Foster,” Swain said. “As soon as you are sure.”
“I will let you know,” Foster said. Was there a note of surliness in his voice? Swain refused to turn and look at his assistant. If there was, he would rout it out later. What was about to happen was too important. “The only way to tell is to separate them.”
Swain motioned upwards with a finger, casually turning it in the air and the thopter lifted off to hover above and await his next order.
“This way sir,” the commander said and turned to lead them to a safe place to watch the proceedings. Four men closed ranks around them. The transport backed away and turned off its lights. The only sound to be heard was the soft thump-thump of the thopter’s blades.
The commander was one of twenty-five in a squadron which consisted of five five man squads. Each member was designated as a number depending upon seniority and each squad was numbered. The commander was known as One-one, if he needed to be called by name which Swain was disinclined to do. The Squadrons all had different codes to discern them from the others. There were 100 squadrons in all, each one named after cities from the old world order. This squadron was called Dallas. Something he needed to remember for later, when their work was done for the night.
“Reissue the no-kill order,” Swain said. If Squad Five was in pursuit then it was the least experienced squad and the most likely to make a mistake.
“Accepted,” One-one replied. “No kill,” he said into his mouthpiece. “Repeat. No kill. Acknowledge.”
Swain heard the strange chirps that signified a response as a litany of Accepteds coming in through One-one’s earpiece. Foster’s echoed the same, only without the chirp. It was something in the hybrids programming. Something he found strangely annoying as if they were privy to some sort of secrets. Perhaps he should look into it upon his return.
There was nothing to do now but wait. He stood off to the side with the five mechs surrounding him with their Lasters charged and ready. Foster squirmed in anticipation beside him and kept up a running monologue with his scanner as if it would reveal more about the two that would soon fall into his hands. They had too. There was no place else for them to go.
Swain studied the layout once more. The ruined buildings that surrounded him seemed strangely elegant in the dim glow that shone from the dome in the distance. Almost as if they could come to life at any minute. Ivy twisted around columns that arched over broken steps and the trees that grew against the buildings swayed gently in the breeze created by the thopter that hovered above. Generations ago this had more than likely been a center of learning for the old world order. A college or university of some sort. Now it was nothing more than a haven for the rebels that roamed the real and tried to eke out a life among the ruins.
A strange shiver ran up his spine and he felt as if he were being watched. As if the buildings around him stared him down and whispered threats into his ear.
Nonsense. It was more than likely there were people inside, hiding in fear, watching and waiting, just as he was. He would order the area purged when this was over. When he found what he wanted.
One-one turned to him, his face strangely vacant beneath the visor.
What does he see? Does he see what I see or an image translated onto a screen? What was behind the visor? Would One-one’s eyes look upon him with respect or contempt for what society made him? What he made himself…Swain corrected his train of thought One-one chose his path. He knew the consequences of breaking the laws.
What is wrong with you? For some strange reason he felt morbid tonight. He was seeing motives that could not possibly exist; he was assigning emotions where there could be none. Why did he feel so unsettled when he was on the verge of finding the very thing he’d been searching for?
“The target will be acquired in mark ten, nine, eight…One-one intoned.
Swain kept his eyes locked on the building before him. From his peripheral could see the two squads on either side move up on the building. He saw lights flashing across the black holes that at one time were windows. The squads were herding them out, right into the trap. One-one motioned his squad forward.
Swain stopped when Foster touched his arm. He looked down at the offending hand and his lip curled in contempt.
“Shouldn’t we stay back?” Foster asked. “In case they are armed?”
Swain swallowed his temper. He was too anxious. Too excited. This was too important. “Of course,” he said. He allowed Foster a reassuring nod to let him know he was forgiven for encroaching upon his personal space and moved to the side to wait.
He heard a crash. Swain willed his eyes to pierce the darkness and was suddenly blinded as the transport and the thopter lit up the area at the same time. He squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them.
Two figures ran across the front of the building. A man and a woman. The man held the woman’s hand, keeping her close to his side. She seemed ethereal against the dark color of the building. The light shining upon her enhanced the white of her dress along with the shimmering silver of her hair. Both flew about her body as the thopter hovered overhead.
“Anything?” Swain had to raise his voice to be heard over the thopter.
“Still too close,” Foster said.
The three squads converged upon the duo. The man feinted one way, turned to run the other. He kept hold of the woman’s hand until he realized there was no escape. He pushed her behind his body and backed her to the wall. Swain willed his body to stay at a walk as he and Foster moved toward the two who were now surrounded. At least twenty Laster’s were aimed at the two.
“Metals!” Swain spat out curse in disgust. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t kill both of them.”
“Stand down,” Foster yelled into his earpiece. “They’re not going anywhere.”
The Laster’s were lowered as he walked into the circle of mech’s. As one they stepped back with their weapons pointed safely upward.
The man stood tall and strong. His chest moved with the exertion of his flight but his dark eyes betrayed no fear as they moved back and forth across the mechs, seeking an escape route. There was none, still his hands curled into fists as if he would fight his way through. Swain saw a spark of hatred as he stepped forward. The man knew Swain was the one responsible. He knew the mechs were just following orders. He knew where to direct his frustration.
“What do you want?” the man said. The woman peered over his shoulder, her eyes wide and pale in the light. They shone with something… not fear… was it anger? She had spirit. He felt something he had not felt for a long time. A challenge? How extraordinary. His loins tightened suddenly. The feeling was a pleasant surprise because it was not something that happened for him, at least not this easily and never without a certain type of outside stimulation.
Which one? No matter which, he would keep the woman. If it was her it would certainly simplify things.
Swain kept his eyes on the man but he spoke to Foster. “Anything?”
“We must separate them,” Foster said.
“Do it,” Swain ordered.
“Two-one, Three-one,” One-one said. “Take the male without regret.”
“Accepted.” Swain watched as two of the mechs from either side of the circle handed their weapons off and moved to take the man.
They approached him from both sides. He watched them warily with his eyes darting back and forth between the two. Suddenly he moved. He dropped into a leg sweep and with his shoulder shoved the falling man into the other one while removing the stunner from the mech’s hip. Before Swain could blink the man fired and rolled. He came up beside another mech and caught the Laster before the hybrid hit the ground.
“It’s her,” Foster hissed as the woman moved after him.
“Are you sure?”
The man leveled the Laster on another mech and fired. The proton blast hit the man square in the chest plate and he fell backwards and shook violently. A scream tore from his throat as the admanium in his system exploded from the minute nuclear blast and he was torn apart from the inside out. It happened so fast that there was no time for the mechs to react as they had not received new orders from One-one. They were still on stand down mode. Held in place by the No-kill warning. The man handed the downed mechs Laster to the woman.
“I’m sure,” Foster said. He ducked as a Laster blast went off over their heads, aimed toward the thopter. The thopter pulled up and away as another blast followed it.
“Take out the man,” Swain said.
“Revoke kill on male subject,” One-one said calmly. Instantly weapons were leveled. “Take the female unharmed. Repeat. Kill male subject. Take female subject.”
“No!” the woman screamed.
The man shoved the woman forward and swung the Laster in a wide arc, firing the entire time. Swain and Foster both dropped with their hands over their heads as if that would protect them from the blatant destruction of body that the Laster would cause. One-one and the rest of his squad took up defensive positions around them.
“Dax!” She screamed it. As if she were the one dying.
If they hurt her I will tear each one of them apart bit by bit… Swain looked up. The woman was on the ground, cradling the man against her chest. The man’s face was twisted in agony and Swain realized the man’s right leg was gone, blasted away by a Laster at mid-thigh. Still he was able to reach for his Laster and he held it steadily in his hands as the mechs approached.
“Merritt,” he said. “Go. I’ll hold them off.”
“No,” she cried out.
Swain approached the group.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Foster said from behind. “Her PNA is off the charts.
“Excellent,” Swain said.
“GO!” the man roared.
“If you move we will kill him,” Swain said calmly to the woman.
“I’m dead anyway,” the man spat out. How could he talk? His leg was gone, nothing but a bloody and charred stump remained. The front of the woman’s dress was covered with blood. It showed black against the pristine white of her long white dress. The LED’s from the thopter shone down upon them and she stared up at him with eyes that flashed with silver.
“What do you want with us?” the woman asked.
Swain looked at her and smiled. “Why Merritt,” he said. “Didn’t you know? I want you.”
She looked at him curiously and he saw the realization settle over her face. “If I go with you, will you let him go?” she said.
“Merritt,” the man ground out between clenched teeth. “You can’t trust him.”
“Will you get him help?” she continued. “Make sure he lives?”
“Of course I will,” Swain said. He held out his hand in what he hoped was encouragement.
She looked at the weapons leveled on them. The building was at her back. There was no place for her to go and no hope of help coming from any direction. She bent her head and gently kissed the man. “I love you Dax,” she said. “Never forget it.” She slid from beneath him and lowered his head to the ground.
“Merritt!” he yelled as she stood and straighten her dress. He struggled, bracing himself up with is arms. It was if he could stand up with determination and stubbornness. Neither was a sufficient replacement for a leg.
Swain shook his head in surprise as he looked at the woman. If he didn’t know better he would swear it was a wedding dress she wore. It resembled the ones that he’d seen in the vids from the past. She stepped away and was instantly flanked by two mechs. As they walked her to him a team of mechs yanked the Laster from the man, Dax, she’d called him and trained their weapons upon him.
“Merritt,” Swain said when she stood before him. “I am most happy to meet you.” She punched him. Hard. His head snapped back and he felt a crack in his jaw along with the coppery taste of his own blood. He swiped a hand over his face as he tongued the inside of his cheek. Was that a tooth? He spit it into his hand. Anger swelled over him and he clenched his fist over the tooth as he felt his cock harden. It took every bit of his will not to strike her.
She had no fear in her eyes. Only anger. Her white blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders and her bosom heaved with emotion. Her pale blue eyes bore into him, daring him to strike her.
“Orders?” One-one asked him.
Swain looked beyond Merritt to the man who obviously wanted to kill him. If he could do it with a look then he would most certainly be a dead man. A smile moved over his face as he realized that he could strike out at her, without actually lowering himself to show violence in front of his men.
“He’s yours,” Swain said. “To replace the one you lost.”
“No!” Merritt said. “You bastard!” She lunged for him. She sunk her nails into his cheek and raked them down. Swain staggered back with his hand over his cheek. He realized that he lost his tooth.
“Do something about her,” Swain said as he stumbled toward the thopter that had settled behind him.
“Stun her,” Foster said. Swain heard the charge of the stunner. He heard her fall and he heard the man, Dax struggle and calling her name. A hand reached out to help him into the thopter but he slapped it away and settled into a seat. A medic was there, waiting. He sprayed steriskin on his cheek and the burning immediately went away.
One-one stepped inside with Merritt in his arms. He placed her in the chair beside him and turned away without a word. Foster climbed in after One-one stepped out. Swain arched an eyebrow at him in silent communication. Foster handed him the port key.
Swain pushed the key into the admanium simport that was buried in his temple. The LED on the end glowed green to show it was communicating with the computer on board. As the thopter took off, Swain saw the mechs freeze in place as they received their orders to forget everything they’d seen tonight. When questioned about their activities Dallas squadron would report that they had captured a thief and rehabilitated him. “Make sure there are no witnesses,” Swain said to Foster. Foster immediately tapped his earpiece and ordered another squadron out to sweep the area.
Swain looked at the woman that slumped in the chair next to him. She was young, he realized, younger than the fight she’d shown. She was also exquisitely beautiful and once again he felt his cock harden. He would have to make sure the pleaser he used tonight had the same silvery blonde hair and pale blue eyes. Not that it would matter what she looked like when he was done with her.
The new RWR (magazine of Romance Writers of America) contains an article on cross-genre fiction, or, as the author puts it, mixing subgenres. I was surprised, by the way, to see mystery and romance mentioned as a “mix.” Love story subplots are so common in detective novels that the further step of raising the romance to equal importance with the mystery hardly counts as genre-bending. In fact, back in the 1930s Dorothy Sayers wrote a fully developed romance-mystery crossover, GAUDY NIGHT, with the two plotlines sharing a common theme, integrity in one’s work. Anyway, “Mixed Marriages: Blending Subgenres,” by Christie Craig, is a useful article that makes several good points, such as the need for balance between the two elements of a novel so that readers don’t lose track of one subgenre thread or perceive it as unimportant compared to the other. Craig also mentions the importance of a consistent tone to ensure that the book doesn’t come across as two separate stories forcibly spliced together. She doesn’t say much if anything, however, about the question of whether there exist any pairs of genres that resist being blended because their conventions and expectations are just too different. Do you think there are any such completely incompatible pairs?
We know Regency romance can be effectively combined with vampire-slaying, because Colleen Gleason does it in her series about a Regency-era female vampire hunter. How about Regencies and zombies? If you haven’t read Seth Grahame-Smith’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, check it out. Here’s my mini-review that will appear in my June newsletter. (The page to subscribe is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/margaretlcartersnewsfromthecrypt.)
[Grahame-Smith takes the text of Austen's classic novel and, by altering some passages and inserting a few new ones, converts Elizabeth and her sisters into mistresses of the "deadly arts," trained by a Chinese master to slay the undead victims of the "strange plague" that has overrun the British Isles. The word "zombie" is seldom used; the euphemistically termed "stricken ones" are usually called "unmentionables" or "dreadfuls." The violence besieging civilized Regency society extends to social relationships as well. Ladies seem as likely as gentlemen to challenge each other to deadly duels. One of the most amusing scenes involves Elizabeth's rejection of Darcy's first proposal while using her martial arts skills to throw him around the room. His aunt, Lady Catherine, scorns Elizabeth not only for her low family connections but out of disdain for her Chinese fighting background as opposed to Lady Catherine's allegedly superior Japanese training. On the whole, I enjoyed it. I thought the author (co-author?) did an excellent job of smoothly integrating the zombie interpolations with the original text. My only reservation is that the tone seems to wobble a bit. There are passages of genuine horror and pathos, and then there are moments when the zombie element is clearly being played for sheer silliness. And I do dislike the frequent vomiting and the repeated emphasis on bedridden Wickham's "soiling," both of which seem to me incompatible with Regency style. (And if he's that disabled, how can he function as a working clergyman? That was before handicapped-accessible architecture and technology!) Otherwise, I think the tour de force is pulled off very well. The alternate-universe Regency England infested with zombies comes across as quite believable. To appreciate the story completely, of course, the reader needs familiarity (or at least acquaintance) with the original novel.]
Interestingly, a crossover of Jane Austen and Mary Shelley has also been published—a novella called “Pride and Prometheus” in a past issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, in which Victor Frankenstein visits England and becomes involved with Mary Bennett, Elizabeth’s bookish sister.
Speaking of the undead, I’ve come across the claim that even if all other classic monsters become romantic heroes, zombies will never achieve that status. They’re shambling, mindless, cannibalistic animated corpses. Could a zombie star as the hero of a romance? Piers Anthony’s Xanth series features zombies falling in love. He’s altered the template to serve his narrative purpose, though. His zombies aren’t mindless; they retain their personalities. But, then, the wonderful thing about fantasy fiction is that we can shift the creatures and traditions of myth and legend in new directions limited only by our imaginations. One more question arises from that freedom: How far can a familiar monster be transmuted before it’s no longer recognizable and resembles the original template in name only?
The mantra that has leaped out at me from every corner of my little world is, "The Business Model must change." It comes in variations: The Business Model has failed. The Business Model is obsolete. The Business Model is outdated.
The way to make a profit marketing anything is to have the right business model.
I wish they'd taught me about marketing in grammar school instead of harping on penmanship and drawing maps -- even the hours spent mastering spelling turned out to be a waste since now spellcheck does it for you as you type. And arithmetic? Even my phone has a calculator!
A fiction writer is the sole proprietor of a BUSINESS and thus needs a business model, and that business model must be correct or the writer won't turn a profit.
What does a writer do with profits? Buy bread, milk, cheese, DVDs, books, and pay the utility bills, rent and lowest on the list is usually clothes.
So a writer needs to know not only how to craft a terrific idea into a story, but must craft that story to a business model. If the end product does not fit the correct business model, the end product (the novel) can't be well marketed, and there will be no profit.
The artist side of our creativity listens to the bean counters and screams SELLOUT! But it's not really. It's opportunism.
What good is great art that molders away in the artist's basement? To do its job, art must connect with an art consumer.
The artist or writer in this case (writing is a performing art, as I learned from Alma Hill) has three choices.
1)Write anything you want and let it molder away unread by anyone but yourself.
2) Write what you want and build a mechanism for delivering what you want to the people who want it. That is build a delivery chute for your art.
3) Or be an oppotuntist and write what you want, what fires your creative furies, but first shape it so you can PACKAGE IT to fit down existing delivery chutes.
If you try to build your own delivery chutes and conveyor belts, (which is what startup ebook publishers are doing using new tools) you incur an additional overhead and take time and energy away from writing.
If you use existing delivery chutes, you may squash your art with the shrinkwrap, but most of your art will reach consumers hungry for that product.
What's happening today that has publishing melting down (and reforming), that has the very definitions of genre changing faster than publishers can invent logos, that has profits dwindling and copyright becoming an archaic term nobody understands -- what's happening today is THE BUSINESS MODELS OF THE WORLD ARE MELTING DOWN.
That's right. It's not just publishing that has foundations crumbling, it's every kind of business there is from autos to construction, and even Old Time Religion revivals.
Politically, we're all blaming it on the financial industry and its business model that collapsed in 2008 (the whole idea of distributing risk via derivative securities; mortgages that were securitized and sold abroad -- that's a business model of how to make money off of selling to people who can't afford to buy what you're selling).
But we, as writers, have to look at a much bigger picture here. The reason the financial industry was able to grow the securitization business model so explosively lies way outside the financial industry. Their brilliant idea for a business model was possible because of the computerization of the whole world. They did it all by computer! (and didn't spend the extra money necessary to figure out how to de-construct those securities when parts of the mortgages failed or needed refinancing.)
The people in the finance industry who know they operate on a business model, and are artistically creative enough to create new business models created one -- and it didn't work well at its first big test.
But it was a brilliant piece of creative work, inventing a CHUTE to deliver their PRODUCT to a hungry MARKET. They built a new mechanism to deliver product, and they built it out of the newest high-tech computerized materials.
Take GM and Chrysler as an example of the opposite phenomenon. They didn't change their bussiness model to a computerized high tech model fast enough -- by the time they put any real effort into tech, they were so far behind the times that at the first titanic blow from outside their industry, they collapsed.
Publishing is in the same situation. The biggest publishers still insist on doing business on paper, and even demand printed manuscripts. Hollywood script submissions are also still somewhat skewed toward paper copies!
The EPIC list ( http://www.epicauthors.com/links.html ) is always abuzz with the issues of e-book reading devices and e-publishing, new publishing companies, specific genre requirements, and advice to authors on how to promote your latest book from a small, independent e-publisher.
As a reviewer, I can say that some (maybe a lot) of these e-books are easily as well crafted as anything Manhattan is publishing in Mass Market. But they're usually aimed at a much narrower, smaller market.
But this is changing too, and changing fast. Soon, the e-book will be the mass market "chute" to put your product down, and paper books will be for narrow, specialty markets.
Today, however, the Mass Market paperback sells more copies of any given title than e-books do.
If you want your art to reach a broad market, you have to understand what it means "Mass Market" -- and how that relates to "High Concept" in screenwriting.
Notice the word MARKET in the title of the pocket sized paperback printed on cheap paper that yellows and crumbles in a couple decades or less. (some do have quality paper; you can tell because they cost more and feel heavy in your hand. Those pages will out-last the glue.)
What does it mean, "mass" market? It means HUGE. The Mass Market paperback is designed to be delivered down a CHUTE that has a wide bore and is very long, with many branches.
When you think Market, think of a huge factory making many copies of a thing, trucks and boxcars waiting outside, loading up and chugging off to deliver some of those things to various destinations where they'll be sold.
Think of Henry Ford inventing the assembly line to create cars the mass-market people could afford. He wasn't the first to hit on this concept, but he was the first to apply it to a product people wanted and make it work, the Model T Ford.
The entire innovation of the industrial revolution is based on UNIFORMITY. It's based on ARBITRARY CONVENTIONS. It's based on STANDARDIZATION.
Prior to the industrial revolution, everything was made by hand -- embroidered seat cushions, shoes made by a cobbler to match your own feet, patchwork quilts, rugs on a loom. No two looms or weavers were alike, no two die lots matched even almost, and no two copies of the same item were ever the same!
The business model of the master mason who built buildings, the farrier who shoed horses, the blacksmith who made plough blades and rifles, was based on the individual, specialized, made-to-fit, customized, and truly excellent item. The mastercraftsman sold his items on his reputation for excellence, not uniformity.
There was no such thing as "quality control" and "planned obsolescence" (where the factory puts out a certain percentage of lemons set just below the complaint-tolerance level of the consumer, and designs the object to fail after a certain amount of usage so the customer will buy another one).
The business model was UNIQUENESS + EXCELLENCE.
It became UNIFORMITY + BARELY-GOOD-ENOUGH.
Alvin Toffler wrote a (HC + Mass Market Paperback) non-fiction book in the 1970's called FUTURE SHOCK which also had some sequels that rode on the success of the first one but added little to his message. His message was that the business model was about to shift again, a paradigm shift prompted by the computer age, that would change things nobody at that time was even thinking ever could change.
He was right! He predicted what he called a return to the cottage industry of the customized item -- as opposed to the factory produced uniform item. He predicted that commuting to work in a centralized office would be replaced by telecommuting. He didn't predict the internet, but because of the internet, his predictions have come true.
The E-book publisher is essentially a cottage industry. They employ editors, writers, POD printers, website builders, and billing system such as Paypal, scattered all over the world. And they deliver a customized product, a Niche Product, rather than the Mass Market product.
The film industry has seen the rise of the Indie company producing niche films with craftsmanship worthy of awards. And you all know YouTube! Everyone with a cell phone can make a video to post on YouTube -- though they all don't grab as big an audience.
Toffler's theory was that technology would free us from having to conform ourselves to the median, to accept what the average person wants because the mass market product is cheaper. He predicted that the customized product would be cheaper than the mass market product.
So far, that prediction hasn't happened.
The e-book is not reaching the huge, MASS of the mass market yet.
The BUSSINESS MODEL of "mass" is being chisled away, but it hasn't collapsed yet.
Keep in mind that there are about 310 MILLION people in the USA and the typical TV show only draws 23 million or so. Maybe 30-40 million for a big news event.
30 Million out of 300 million is not a MASS MARKET.
We seem to be a fragmented and fragmenting nation, but maybe not. See the article on Facebook and Twitter I've sited near the end of this blog entry.
Toffler's vision is coming true -- technology (900 TV channels, thousands more online sources of entertainment, thousands more e-books per day published than paper books) has shattered the Mass part of the Mass Market. Mass Market paperbacks don't sell nearly what they once did to a much smaller nation (60 Million -- and a product had to reach a third of those to be successful.)
We have more choices and less knowledge of how to make wise choices.
Another of Toffler's predictions is coming to pass. His book was called FUTURE SHOCK because it predicted that the rate of change in the fundamental rules of living, working productively, and making wise choices among products would change faster than the basic human brain can adjust.
Toffler predicted that humans would go into a state of "shock" (being unable to think) because of the pace of change. He based this on the ability to adapt with age. In Medieval times, the methods and wisdom you learned from your father would last you all your life, and still be true when you died of old age.
A cobbler, for example, who knew the best method of dying shoe leather would end his career using that same method and it would still be state-of-the-art, though his grandson might encounter an improvement, but it would only be a slight improvement and it wouldn't shatter the cobbler business model.
Human beings need that kind of stability over their lifetimes. But technology has lengthened lifetimes and it looks like it will lengthen career-lifetimes. Meanwhile, whole industries have come and gone, and our methods of doing everything have been shifted on their foundations by (as Toffler predicted) the computerization of the world.
(and computerization has hardly BEGUN to penetrate all the way through this world)
Those who lived through the industrial revolution "came in off the farm" -- you can't keep 'em down on the farm was the song and slogan. Young people abandoned life on the land for the cities, and went to work in factories where they could make a fortune doing the same thing all day over and over.
And those factories turned out masses of identical objects.
That business model now co-exists (think Neanderthal and Homo sapiens) with the computer driven E-business model.
The E-business model is dissolving the foundation of the Mass Production business model faster than humans can adapt, so some older people still cling to the older model (and that's what collapsed GM) while some younger people grab for any crazy thing that's possible to do with the new tools (which caused the collapse of the financial system).
OK, now what's this image of the world got to teach writers about marketing?
One of the foundation cornerstones of the Mass Market Paperback business model is that authors are never EVER allowed to do their own marketing. In the 1970's, that began to fall away, and today, it's shifted entirely to the other end -- most authors, especially in e-books -- are required to do their own marketing (finance or make YouTube videos, online banner ads, virtual blog tours, and anything they can think of).
Meanwhile, authors aren't paid more to cover the expense of self-marketing.
The mass market business model is tilting dangerously askew because of this. The Mass Market model only works with a market that's massive in size. And with those markets, the publicists hired by the publisher (usually working in-house) do manage to reach reviewers and get buzz started about a book.
Colby has swerved into a LARGER mass market because it's open to her, Historicals. Mysteries are still big. Westerns are gone. Romance is big, but (Toffler again) Romance is fragmenting. Mysteries are fragmenting too. Customization is slowly replacing Standardization which replaced customization even more slowly!
Since the cost per item is lowered by mass production, more people can afford to buy the item, and thus the item reaches more people in total. 10% hard-core fans made is 10,000 from a book that sells 100,000 copies, and 40,000 from a book that sells 400,000 copies.
How can an artist do this and keep their integrity?
By understanding the concept MARKETING from the inside and then applying that understanding to art.
The writer is essentially a creative person. The solution to every problem in life is to create something new that has never existed before and can't be copied because it is unique.
That is what storytelling is all about -- being unique. Being the only one telling this story. Being the single source for this customized product.
Your story, your characters, your plot, your theme are fresh, new, different, and therefore exciting. You know your story will ignite ravenous hunger for more in your fans, if only they knew you exist and could find your novel.
Writers entering the marketplace today have a unique problem.
"The Marketplace" is standing on a crumbling foundation, tilting worse that the Leaning Tower of Pizza.
New writers today have a career decision to make that no writer has ever had to make before.
You can write for the market that will, I'm sure, replace this one as the high-profit-margin business model, the e-book that is tailored and customized.
You can write for the old, traditional Mass Market that's still reaching a much wider (but diminishing) audience than the e-book and work at a fair but diminishing profit.
In other words, you can try to use the delivery chutes that e-book publishers are beginning to learn to build, or you can try to use the delivery chutes that Mass Market publishers are using.
In either case, before you "have an idea" for a story, you need to study the size and shape of the chute that will deliver it to your market, and you need to study that market, and train your subconscious to "have" ideas that fit the delivery chute you have chosen.
Business people create chutes. Writers fill them.
Some writers have both skill sets, and I've found lately that the currently most successful writers come out of the business community, with a background in commercial art, advertising art, advertising writing, and every aspect of managing a business.
But to be able to do your own, personalized, individualized creative art with its unique aspects intact, your integrity unblemished, and still reach a Mass Market customer base, you must create an idea that is already formulated to fit a commercial market.
Over the last 5 years, I've seen e-book publishers reinventing that uniformity of product. Profit lies in creating large numbers of identical things, so the unit price comes down.
That principle has been eroded but not replaced.
So writers need to learn how to apply wild, unbridled creativity to one part of the product they produce, and uniformity, conformity, and standardization to the other part.
The part of the story that has to "fit down the chute" -- has to be uniform. It has to be exactly like every other story that the chute was designed to deliver to a particular audience.
Imagine, if you swung through the Mall shopping 'till you dropped, and hit up the vending machine for a coke. You feed your bill into the slot and poke the button. Down comes the red can. Pop! Take a swig. IT'S 7-UP!!! Some people would spew it out on passers-by in shock, and scream for their money back. You might be more restrained, but still irked.
Our whole society and all our expectations are configured by standardization, uniformity, conformity.
We buy a coke; we want coke in the can.
It's the same way with novels. Buy a Romance, you want an HEA ending. Buy an Alien Romance, or a Paranormal, you want plenty of complications but satisfaction in the end, anyway.
Buy a Horror Novel, you want to be creeped out big time, right?
Romance, and Horror are two "chutes" that conduct a product from your mind to your reader's mind.
These chutes have been built by businesses with business models, and they depend on the standardization aspect of the product to make it fit down the chute and arrive at the correct audience. The genre formulas are the packaging, the standard aspect of the art. Plots, characterization, story, theme all are standardized so that marketers know what to market your art "as."
If they guess wrong, and package and market 7-Up as Coke, the market will evaporate.
Meanwhile, another part of the fiction market has been thriving on the return to customization. Board games such as Dungeons & Dragons which became all the rage in create-it-yourself fiction rely on a standardization of story and elements, put together in a creative way by a "dungeon master" who marshalls the playing group. The fun is in the group activity, and the push-pull among the players for command of the customization of their stories.
Board games still exist and are enjoyed, but the BUSINESS MODEL now still growing despite the recession is VIDEO-GAMES. The battle of the game-console technology is heating up, and online gaming is huge and growing (World of Warcraft; Second Life etc etc.)
The video and online gaming is an example of the new business model Toffler predicted, which discards standardization. But even in these games, uniform "rules" and standard ways of deploying resources (rolling dice for "powers" for your character) are what make the game go.
If you market a game that doesn't generate its rules via the standard formula, players won't flock to it. They don't want to learn everything from scratch in order to create their own fiction with your game no more than readers want to learn to read all over again just to read your book. Today more young people play video games than read books.
What's going on there?
Maybe it's not what everyone thinks it is. Maybe it's not that young people don't want to READ. Or can't read.
Maybe it's what Toffler predicted. Customization replacing Standardization. Younger people growing up in the electronic age are embracing the new world their elders can't stretch to accomodate. They are willing to work to customize their tools (phones) and entertainment. They don't want to let someone else do it for them and make it like everyone else wants it to be. They want to make it their own way -- just like us creative artists want to write our own stories our own ways, not to fit the delivery chutes the marketers have built to suit their business model.
The basic human being can accept only so many paradigm shifts in one lifetime, and there have been several huge, basic "throw every skill you have out the window and start from scratch" paradigm shifts in the last 30 years. Everyone today who is over 50 is suffering some kind of FUTURE SHOCK.
Several times in a lifetime is just way too fast for humans.
Those who reject customization (some people have trouble programming their ring tones!) say things like "I prefer the feel of real books" despite the fact that a good e-book reader can customize the font to be more readable to old eyes. But of course, the "quality" (i.e. standardization) of the fiction available in the format can be an issue, too. Amazon's Kindle program is trying to break down that barrier by presenting the same Mass Market fiction as Kindle downloads.
The biggest innovation with Kindle that may reshape our landscape is that they deliver newspapers and magazines via Kindle download that is supposed to be hassle free for the computer-averse. That may save the business model of newspapers and magazines.
One day, the kids born in the 1990's will cling to their video consoles, e-book readers or handheld device despite the availability of something new that their children feel is "better."
How do you market fiction into this changing world?
Do you customize or standardize? Where, in the structure of fiction, does the creative writer get to create?
If you decide you'll have to build your own delivery chute between yourself and your consumer, here is a story about a person Jean Lorrah ran into at MediaWest Convention.
---------FROM JEAN LORRAH via email -------------------------
One of the reasons we do conventions: I just did a podcast with Mark Eller, who became a podcaster to publicize his own books. Here is the information for finding the interview online, though he doesn't know exactly when he will post it:
Mark, at age 50, has suddenly fallen into a bunch of connections that have brought about the sale of seven of his books to small presses and his being chosen as a judge for a "reality" TV show on the CW network called The Write Stuff. http://www.thewritestufftv.com/ . The CW is a small network, but it is on most cable systems.
The premise of the show is that writers today have to do a heck of a lot more than writing for their books to succeed, and on the show they will have to demonstrate their abilities to do everything. What they win is a small press single-book contract and a marketing campaign, but who knows? If they get the 30 million viewers that they hope for, and one-thirtieth of them buy the book, it will be a huge best-seller.
It is VERY clear that the winner will not be the best writer, but the cleverest marketer among the contestants. But unfortunately that's what book publishing is today.
---------------END FROM JEAN LORRAH via email -----------------
Now that's an example of a man who is building a new fiction-delivery-chute.
And it's going in the right direction -- MEDIA. Via the podcast which is internet radio, usually voice only but sometimes with video now, niche audiences are being configured for each of thousands of special interests.
The total population of the world is growing fast, and the cost-per-unit of customized product is dropping fast. Where the two trends meet, niche marketing will explode.
Thus we have the call-in talk show done with online radio! And online radio advertising customized for novelists to promote their own work.
---------------FROM A PROMOTIONAL EMAIL ---------------
PIVTR has another new program in its line-up. It's called "Crazy Tuesday" (c) 07.
What's that? What is "Crazy Tuesday?" I'm delighted you asked.
"Crazy Tuesday" (c) 07 takes place on the first Tuesday of each month. Between the hours of 10 to 2 p.m. eastern standard time for $100, an author, playwright, screenwriter, actor/actress, free-lance, independent, publishing company, publicist, agent, the world can promote, market, brand, sell, advertise (whatever is clean and wholesome. PIVTR is a family station!) to get the word out about you and your product.
Contact Lillian for all of the details.
Don't delay. The first Tuesday of July and September are already booked!!
Web radio is another whole new business-model-busting tech application fragmenting the mass market and the underlying concept of standardization. It's a result of a huge paradigm shift, and many people are just shrugging off web radio as unimportant. It is, however, a harbinger of what is yet to come. (we've barely started on computerizing the world)
The production cost is way down because there's no broadcast antenna, huge airwave license fee, and electric bill. Some simple equipment that's easily available, some software specializing in recordings that can be webcast, a short but steep learning curve, and the talented and determined are in business, building a niche audience for a customized product.
The audiences on web radio are large and growing. Like e-books, the audience size doesn't rival Mass Market media like Cable and Broadcast TV, but like e-books this entertainment delivery system is chiselling away at the foundations of the mass market business model.
That foundation is Standardization. Standardization was developed to reduce unit costs to where the vast majority of people could afford the product if they wanted it.
Cost reduction via technology is making standardization obsolete in certain aspects of product design -- the aspects that the consumer can customize themselves.
Microsoft rose to dominance on standardizing the platform (Windows) and letting developers create applications all of which run on the same command sets and design look.
Their success changed the business model of the computing world that Toffler was familiar with. And yet his predictions are coming true, one by one.
The lesson writers can take away from all this is that success in this churning market depends on standardizing the invisible and the user interface -- letting the consumer customize everything else.
While the popularity of the two social media firms has yet to translate into the kind of revenue-generating machine that Google Inc developed with its search advertising business, some say Facebook and Twitter have become so central to the Internet experience that they are inherently valuable. ... Facebook grew to 200 million active users in April, less than a year after hitting 100 million users.
Note that 200 million. Check the sizes of the average TV shows in viewers. Small wonder advertisers are abandoning TV -- which can be seen as each hour carries more and more minutes of ads instead of show. They're desperately trying to get enough advertising bucks to keep the shows on the air.
Read that exerpt. Listen to how they think and how they talk. "monetize" "adding new users" "inherently valuable" -- and "internet experience" !!! --
Amusement and Entertainment (which is what novels are) has become an "experience." Interactive, and most of all customized, experience.
The whole social networking phenomenon is an example of customized entertainment. And it's being made into a mass market product. But the current business model can't figure how to monetize it, and that figuring is indeed being done by people so young they probably never read Alvin Toffler's brilliant bit of futurology, Future Shock.
Toffler was right about so much, chances are the answers are in there.
Daq-Cat, Miss Doozy Kitty and your truly want to extend our deepest appreciation to all heroes, past and present, today as here in the USA, it's Memorial Day: military personnel, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical personnel, emergency veterinary personnel. All those who put their lives on the line for unknown and other unseen others. We salute you, we honor you, we wish you and yours many blessings. We'd not have the life, the freedoms we do today but for your diligence and sacrifices. Thank you.
Shameless BSP: The Prism Award Finalists Are Announced!
Posted with permission:
"Jennette Heikes & Theresa Kovian are pleased to announce and congratulate our finalists in the Prism Contest in alphabetic order:
Dark Paranormal Immortals: The Redeeming by Jennifer Ashley Hotter After Midnight by Cynthia Eden Mona Lisa Craving by Sunny
Erotica A Mermaid's Kiss by Joey W. Hill Carnal Desires by Crystal Jordan Siren Singing by Isabo Kelly
Fantasy The Dragon Master by Jennifer Ashley w/a Allyson James Dragonborn by Jade Lee King of Sword & Sky by C.L. Wilson Futuristic Fallen by Claire Delacroix Moonstruck by Susan Grant Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair
Light Paranormal La Vida Vampire by Nancy Haddock The Trouble with Moonlight by Donna MacMeans Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
Novella "The Spacetime Pool" by Catherine Asaro "Dark Nest" by Leanna Renee Hieber "Kung Fu Shoes!" in These Boots were Made for Stomping by Jade Lee
Time Travel Twist by Colby Hodge Madman's Dance by Jana G. Oliver A Sexy Time of It by Cara Summers
Young Adult Cave of Terror by Amber Dawn Bell CHOSEN: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast Sleepless by Terri Clark
Category winners and rankings, as well as the coveted Prism Statue Award, will be announced on July 16, 2009 in Washington D.C. at RWAR National and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter at The Gathering.
Jennette Heikes, Co-coordinator for Dark Paranormal, Erotica, Novella & Time Travel
Theresa Kovian. Co-coordinator for Fantasy, Futuristic, Light Paranormal & Young Adult"
What I find so cool on a personal note is that I blurbed (ie: read the manuscript before publication for a quote/opinion) both MOONSTRUCK and FALLEN and totally loved both books!
I'm also jazzed to see Colby Hodge, Jade Lee, Donna MacMeans, Isabo Kelly, Catherine Asaro, C.L. Wilson and Leanne Renee Hieber on the list. Except for Donna, they were all part of either my Intergalactic Bar & Grille party or the SF/F panel at RT this year. Woot!
Now, back to work for me... (that's the deadlines part). ~Linnea
SHADES OF DARK, the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost, July 2008 from RITA award-winning author, Linnea Sinclair, and Bantam Books: http://www.linneasinclair.com/
Something cascaded lightly through me—a gentling, a suffused glow. If love could be morphed into a physical element, this would be it. It was strength and yet it was vulnerability. It was all-encompassing and yet it was freedom. It was a wall of protection. It was wings of trust and faith.
It was Gabriel Ross Sullivan, answering the questions I couldn’t ask. Not that everything would be okay, but that everything in his power would be done, and we’d face whatever outcomes there were together.
I meant to take questions... but forgot. My apologies. I've been deeply wrapped up in writing articles for a new authors' marketing and promotion advice website 1stTurningPoint.com
My first three topics were LinkedIn.com, Tips for Creating Buzz, and Online Piracy.
In the course of my peregrinations around the social networks, I saw a mixed metaphor that had originally been used in a business context, and which was being mocked as horrible writing.
"We're skating on thin ice. If we're not careful, we'll end up in hot water."
Being the contrarian and underdog lover that I am, I immediately started to imagine an alien world where the metaphors could work together. It's the moon Europa that is an ice planet with water underneath. Right?
It would only take a submarine volcano...
Actually, we wouldn't have to go to Europa. Imagine a volcano under the Arctic. Poor polar bears. Alas for the Russians if they started to drill for oil in the wrong spot, just to stake a claim.
The other bit of text that going me going was a url that I enjoyed so very much that I had to make a joke on LinkedIn.com .
Yesterday, I noticed that the punctuation on the url has been changed to http://WhoRepresents.com thereby thwarting a storyline I was considering where my Prince Thor-quentin might visit the offices hoping to acquire a gift to take home to his brother. Actually, it doesn't thwart it, as long as the old url was in use in 1995.
Best wishes for everyone's safety this Memorial Day weekend!
Yes its me, the missing blogger. There are a lot of reasons for my lack of posts, the foremost being that I've been working on historicals lately and its hard for me to think "alien" when I'm back in another century. The other is that my Colby Hodge career has taken a beating lately. I got so far behind in my writing with my dad's illness last year that Colby kind of fell by the wayside. Then she ran out of contract right when the economy tanked. So while I have fans asking for the next books in the Star series, the publisher doesn't want to publish them. Its all about the sales. (But please Zander fans, keep asking. Let the publisher know you want his book.)
So I finished a historical, started the next one and took a look at what was going on in my career and the market. Since my publisher did not want to go with more Star books I wrote up a proposal on another series. A sci/fi heavy post apocolyptic world that would cover three books. It had mech heroes, paranormal heroines, and three different societies all struggling for control. I shopped it around to several different publishers and it got rejected at each one. There was no empathy for the characters. Quite a blow to me, who writes strong character driven stories. Also this market is just not strong enough at the moment. The fan base just is not there. The fans are hard core but the numbers don't support it. While I love the genre, my sales in historicals are four times what I sell in sci-fi.
So what does my failure to sell this series have to do with writing? Stick around for the next several weeks and you'll find out. I'm going to post the proposal, then show you what I did to revamp it for a new and rising trend in today's market.
Jericho by Cindy Holby writing as Colby Hodge
Things are not always what they seem.
Setting: A dark future
There are times in history when progress takes a great leap forward. The twentieth century was such a time. In that century, innumerable discoveries were made that changed the face of the world.
Late in the twenty-first century a synthetic was created called admanium. It was touted that this synthetic could bond with any living tissue. People with missing limbs could have new ones bonded into their skeleton and with the advent of synthetic skin no one would know the difference between the original and the replacement. Further experiments were done to see if the admanium could be used to replace failing organs such as kidneys, the liver, or even the heart but while the substance could bond, it could not replicate the purposes of those organs.
During these experiments another discovery was made… a discovery that changed everything. Admanium displayed the ability to bond with brain cells. Alzheimers and Dementia were no longer a dreaded result of the aging process. Through outside stimulus those that suffered from these diseases were able to live out their lives in a normal way and recall their loved ones.
This led to another discovery. A discovery made by a group heavily involved in researching connectomics which is the wiring of the brain. Researchers could trace the estimated 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses and the human mind became an instrument of great power. It also proved beyond any doubt that the human mind held paranormal capabilities. An International Institute for Paranormal Research was formed with scientists from around the world. They discovered that Admanium administered to subjects with paranormal tendencies could achieve mind control over those who did not possess such talents. When the discovery was made public, the general outcry was one of fear and paranoia instead of joy.
Everyone wanted the power. Nations worried that others may use it against them. Mass hysteria broke out around the world. Paranoia became the norm. War broke out and biological weapons were used. The great cities of the world were decimated and the nations of the world became isolated from each other by circumstance and by choice. The biologics also affected the weather into extremes. The far north became an artic wasteland, earthquakes destroyed everything west of the Rockies and the East coast began at the Appalachian Mountains. Islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific disappeared beneath giant waves, along with Southeast Asia and Japan.
Some people survived because of immunity to the biologics. Others were forever genetically altered. Some sought refuge in the mountains and forests. Others stayed closed to what were once the cities and did what they could to build a new society. In times such as these the strongest take control. The IPR (Institute for Paranormal Research) formed a new society in the Midwestern United States and with new technology developed from the admanium enclosed the surviving generations in a dome. All of the Dome citizens were encouraged to lead peaceful lives through subliminal messaging enhanced by the admanium.
Not everyone went inside the dome. Some of the survivors did not want to be controlled by the IIPR who felt they knew what was best for everyone. There were in the IIPR who thought they should have all the power. Then there were some who just wanted to be left alone.
The dome is run by a ruling council which oversees the administration of the PRISMs. (Paranormal Research Instruments of Subliminal Messaging or PRISMs) The PRISMs are culled from the general population by the IPR to be instruments of the government. In reality they are nothing more than tools, used for their paranormal abilities and attached to the computers that regulate every aspect of life inside the dome. The PRISMs are controlled by the governing body which then make “suggestions” to the PRISMs who in turn use subliminal messaging to keep the population under control. Everyone is happy and everyone is at peace and order is kept in society. The PRISMs have no idea of what they are doing in reality. Due to the mind control that the council holds over them, they live in a dream like state called symlife where they think they are functioning normally. In reality they are kept plugged into the computers where they eventually wither up and die. There are some who hold value and the use of muscle stimulants and intravenous feeding keeps them alive for a while and easy prey for the whims of the council.
Those who do rebel against the council suffer a worse fate. Some are executed. Some, who are deemed to have potential, are reintroduced into society with some alterations made by the admanium. They become servants and are used to work the baser tasks that keep the society running. Others are incorporated into the army after being outfitted with the admanium so that they may better serve the society that they harmed with their criminal acts. All of these have their memories and consciousness erased so that all they know is obeying the orders given to them without thought.
Edmond Swain is part of the ruling council. That is not enough for him. He thinks there should be one person in charge instead of a council. But in order to achieve that goal he needs an edge. He needs a PRISM that is stronger than the others. He begins a quiet search for someone who he can use to accomplish his goal.
Outside the dome people are just trying to survive. They have their own independent society. They till the earth and scrounge for whatever they can find to make life more livable. They have to put up with disease, the elements and the wild beasts that roam the deep forests that have reclaimed the earth. They also have to deal with the lawlessness of the Scrabbers who inhabit the mountains and only attack at night. The so called Scrabbers are descended from those who suffered genetic mutation due to the Great Biologic War.
Those who live ouside believe freedom is worth their struggle to survive. They are free of the whims of the IPR ruling council, except when the council decides their lawlessness needs to be controlled and send their mechanized army to attack and acquire workers for the dome.
Merritt and Dax live outside the dome in the place called The Real. Dax’s father is the leader of the group and hopes that Dax will take over some day. Dax doesn’t think about that now as he is in love with Merritt. He knows there is something special about her and trusts her instincts as she seems to know when trouble is coming their way.
On the day of their wedding the mechs from the dome attack. Everyone scatters from the celebration but the mechs follow only Dax and Merritt. It is as if they are being tracked as they run through the ruins of the former city. Finally they are cornered and Dax is severely injured when he tries to fight them. Merritt is taken and Dax is given over to the mechs to replace the soldier that he killed.
Swain takes Merritt as his PRISM. He alters her memory so that she thinks she is his daughter and the symlife that she lives as she is connected to the master computer is very real. Except for the dreams she has. The dreams of her past life with Dax.
Dax is enhanced with the admanium and incorporated into the mechs. They are all interconnected to each other and to the master computer. It is there that he sees flashes of his past life. His sees images from his life with Merritt and he realizes what has happened to him. His consciousness returns and he rebels and escapes with one thought.
He finds help in a Doctor who thinks Swain and the council are committing crimes against humanity. At one time he had been involved with genetic research using admanium. He realized what he was doing was wrong and went into hiding where he helps those who try to escape their fate. Meanwhile the council is after Dax because if it is known that a mech has escaped and the life chosen for him it will bring chaos down upon their society.
Dax finally finds Merritt and takes her away. But Merritt does not know if Dax is real or just a product of her dreams. She does not know which life is truly hers. The one Swain created for her or the one she lived in the Real. Only Dax’s love can bring her back to discover her true self. Then she can help him defeat Swain and the council and show the inhabitants of the Dome that really living life makes it all worth while.
At our latest Marriage Encounter meeting, the presenting couple read us an abridged version of THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, the classic story about a stuffed bunny who is made real by a little boy's love. The discussion question focused on moments in our married life when our spouse's love makes us feel "real." Coincidentally, the homily at my niece's wedding this past weekend touched on the same subject, with the message that when love takes us outside of ourselves, we become most truly ourselves. That strikes me as an excellent capsule description of the value of romance novels.
At our best, we make our beloved feel "real" by making him or her the center of our universe. I imagine one of the sharpest losses involved in widowhood must come from no longer being the most important person in the world to one other person. Fortunate widows and widowers continue to enjoy the love of children, friends, or siblings, but those people all have their own lives. It couldn't be the same as having a life partner who creates that feeling of "realness" in a unique way. Romance fiction of all subgenres captures this wonderful experience and allows the reader to relive it in all its freshness with each new story.
To achieve this feeling of being "real," we have to bridge the gulf between our self and another person who is also locked inside his or her own skull. If we are all mysteries to each other, and especially if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, in a sense all romance is "alien romance." By writing about unions between human characters and supernatural entities, mythical creatures, or extraterrestrials, authors make concrete the metaphor of reaching out to the Other that underlies all erotic love no matter how "mundane."
This is a writing lesson in the effect of SETTING on story, plot and character -- i.e. the place of SETTING in storytelling. And this lesson is from a Hollywood producer.
J. Neil Schulman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Neil_Schulman the SF writer and producer of the (incredible!!) movie (starring Nichelle Nichols) LADY MAGDELENE'S, sent me an email advertisement with an itinerary for a Cruise titled PSYCHICS AT SEA.
Yes, this is a real ad from a real company, Carnival Cruise.
Schulman's comment on this ad was: Does this sound like a perfect setting for an episode of Monk, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, or what? (for our non-USA residents, these TV shows are cultural icons here. I wish I could give the equivalent in your own culture).
Thus primed, almost salivating, I scrolled down to read the advertisement (I mean, I KNOW Neil and he's really sharp about this stuff) and as I read, INSTANTLY stories began scrolling behind my eyeballs.
This is the effect Blake Snyder (and other screenwriters) label "High Concept." One sentence and you're seeing whole stories. But no two people necessarily see the same stories! It's all ideosyncratic and internal. Novelists must (these days) hit for the highest possible concept for a novel because it's only the high concept novels that get advertising push from publishers! So this is a lesson for all writers.
Keep the concept of High Concept firmly in mind while you read about this SETTING and note what stories scroll behind your eyeballs.
Your stories might not be Romance, per se. Neil suggested a number of detective mystery characters who would explode into a plot set here. Your character could be from international intrigue, or the Dirty Dozen, a politician, a Pathologist. The setting could include Grand Opera or retired Western actors or any other group with a common interest thematically related to your main character.
Before you open your imagination and read on to see what I thought of, jot down what you think of as you read about this setting. This is a writing exercise, and it's not "just for fun." You could find yourself with a real, genuine, sellable HIGH CONCEPT. Relax and read this.
Here's the advertisement sans graphics:
PSYCHICS AT SEA Cruise on the Carnival Triumph to Canada Sept 3-7 Labor Day weekend Presented by Susan Duval Seminars and Utopia Travel
Thursday, Sept 3: Departure mid-morning by private bus from the Doylestown area to the port in NYC. Refreshments will be provided, compliments of Utopia Travel. Upon boarding, get settled in your cabin (complimentary chocolates and wine for everyone!) and have fun exploring the ship. A Meet and Greet Reception with the Psychics will be held in the early evening. Our group will be seated together for dinner, and our wonderful Guest Psychics will join different tables each night, so that you can get to know them personally.
Friday, Sept 4: Fun Day at Sea. Get a private reading and attend a seminar given by one of our outstanding psychics, and enjoy the camaraderie of new friends with similar interests from our area. In addition, you'll be able to get luxurious spa services, sit outside on the deck, go to an art auction, visit the duty-free shops, see a first class stage show, try your luck at the casino, sing karaoke at the piano bar, play mini-golf, take a yoga class, work out at the gym, soak in the whirlpool, get pampered at the hair salon, dine on fabulous gourmet meals in beautiful settings, and dance the night away. There are tons of activities for children and teenagers as well. Bring the family!
Saturday, Sept 5: Stay on-board and relax, or choose one or more shore excursions in charming St John, New Brunswick. Some of the options are: lobster cookout, kayaking on the St. John River, harbor cruise, Bay of Fundy coastal photography class, golfing at Rockwood Country Club, discover the picturesque fishing village of St Martins, St John River cruise, visit a rural farm, or explore Hopewell Rocks (a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve). You may register for your excursion when full payment is made or while you're on board. Another psychic seminar or gallery will be offered in the evening.
Sunday, Sept 6: Another Fun Day at Sea to relax, enjoy the amenities of the cruise ship, receive private readings, and get to know your new friends. A seminar or gallery will be held during the day.
Monday, Sept 7: disembark at 9:30am and take the bus back to the Doylestown area. You'll be back in time for your neighborhood Labor Day picnics in the afternoon!! Brag about your cruise!! -----------------------------
Schulman is a FILM PRODUCER (and an SF writer). He saw this advertisement and his mind produced stories in PICTURES.
Jot down what pictures you see.
Here's what came to my mind, just instantly off the top of my head, that I wrote back to Schulman.
--------------- Oh, yeahhhh. Among the showman psychics is of course a REAL one.
A showman psychic wants to murder the real one for being too good, but the real one strikes first and throws the showman psychic-murderer overboard into the icy water, or better if it's a Monk ep then the real psychic innoculates the showman psychic with whatever virus is killing people aboard ship, but they're stuck at sea because of a storm that tosses the ship around and makes everyone vomit.
I can just see Jessica Fletcher making friends with a real psychic. Jessica would be very protective, but then find she's protecting the murderer -- but then find it was self-defense.
Monk would catch whatever virus is killing people and solve the crime anyway.
Or better yet, let Monk be onboard under cover posing as a psychic. He's good enough to make the showmen think he's the real thing. But the really REAL psychic catches him and thinks Monk is the murderer because he isn't who he says he is.
Oh, the SETTING can become THE STORY. Nice.
And Schulman wrote back:
Practically writes itself, doesn't it? :-)
And yes, stories that arise from a High Concept do indeed "write themselves."
When you find a story you are writing dies in your hands, it's very possible the real problem lies in the Concept itself.
Or possibly in the Setting.
If you change the setting of your story, you might find everything about the story morphing before your eyes into something that could attract serious advertising money.
You can also refresh a story you're writing by changing the SETTING of only one scene. See Blake Snyder's technique he calls POPE IN THE POOL in SAVE THE CAT! (http://www.blakesnyder.com/ )
"Pope in the Pool" is the technique of setting an expository lump in a place fraught with suspense and cognitive dissonance due to the setting is a very old trick. In writing for the stage, they teach you to sit your main character in a chair centerstage, a chair with a BOMB planted under it.
Blake Snyder names the technique after a scene where two people in an office in the Vatican dialogue at each other about the exposition while the viewer sees through the window that the Pope is swimming in his private pool. And you can't take your eyes off the Pope because you're wondering what he's wearing, or not wearing and whether someone else will notice. Meanwhile, you learn all this important stuff about the story. A "Pope In The Pool" technique can be worked into almost any story, including narrative.
The bomb and fuse gimmick is the suspense image and it can work if done literally, but stands for any EVENT the viewer will anticipate while watching a clock (fuse) tick off the seconds until the event HITS the characters who will be surprised and have to react.
Notice both the bomb and the pool are SUSPENSE techniques, but they are VISUAL. Even in narrative, go for the VISUAL. Use the reader's imagination to evoke the image by reference to the SETTING. (Pope = Vatican)
What the bomb is and what the fuse is can be derived from the SETTING, either the setting for this whole story, or the setting for this particular scene.
The artistically appropriate suspense mechanism will leap out at you once you've selected the correct SETTING for your story.
Note how Schulman was thinking (not what he thought, but HOW he arrived at the thought).
Here's a setting, PSYCHIC CRUISE. What interesting character do we know who would have an adventure on a Cruise? And he thought of a couple of well known TV "characters" who have done shows on cruise boats (BUT THIS IS A PSYCHIC CRUISE).
But you should think of the characters who've been floating around in your own mind for a while. Characters you know well. Then think of a theme for the Cruise (or Dude Ranch expedition, safari, whatever) that would be the last place on earth you'd ever be able to drag that character (conflict is the essence of story!) Go for high contrast here.
Neither Monk nor Fletcher would normally choose to go on a psychic cruise. So immediately, I thought of what would bring each of these characters to this cruise and added my usual SF twist (the unthinkable is in fact true - lump it - that's SF's prime mechanism).
You know the "formula" of the Monk Episode, and the Murder She Wrote Episode. If you've seen 5 or so episodes of either show, you KNOW that formula. Some of those episodes may be available online.
So given the SETTING, and a CHARACTER, and given a plot-structure, the whole story unreels before your eyes. That's what Concept does.
Now, take that SETTING of the Psychic Cruise, pick a character you've got bouncing around in your head or about whom you've been writing and choose a plot-structure you've mastered.
Put them all together and write an OUTLINE of a story (or 3 stories).
Can anyone provide the URL of the posts where I've discussed outlining?
Now do the exercise again with another specialized group on a Theme Cruise (there was once a Star Trek Cruise with the stars of the show -- pick a theme of your own.) Note you can also do this in space, cruising across the galaxy with various species in confined quarters.
Some scriptwriting books call this a BOTTLE -- you bottle-up the characters, confining them. That creates CONFLICT that must RESOLVE within the bottle, a conflict that wouldn't exist were it not for the bottle.
Then do it again, trying to inject all the potential for VISUALS that Schulman saw in this advertisement for a Psychic Cruise.
Perhaps you want to start by writing the galactic advertisement.
That's the exercise, but it could produce something that's actually sellable. In that case, don't post it anywhere. Develope it yourself. But if you spin off useless material as I did, show us what you produced on editingcircle.blogspot.com in the comments section.