Sunday, December 30, 2012

Science Fiction Soap Opera Serial

I’ve been getting encouragement to serialize one of my stories on the internet. This is a use of the internet that I’ve been watching with interest, but uncertain if I should try my hand at it. With the encouragement I mentioned, I have decided to dive in.
In the last few years, I’ve heard of authors who wrote each installment of their serial moments before they were due to post that installment. That was part of what scared me about this process; I know perfectly well my first draft is NOT ready to be read by anybody. I expect At Least 3 rewrites before it might be suitable to be seen.
Once I realized that, I looked through what stories I had, either ‘done’ or nearly done, to decide which one I would serialize: No, those are all shorts; that’s a long short, but not long enough; this one is long enough, and done, but is currently out looking for a home. Hmmmm.
It’s surprising how few novel length works I have finished (1). I have 2 or 3 others ‘in the works’, meaning about half of the rough draft is done. And then I remembered Mac.
I have said I would probably never publish Mac. I have also said that when I work on Mac’s story, I get sucked in so deeply, I can’t get any work done on anything else. But the truth is that “Mac, Book 1” is mostly done, except for a few highly emotional scenes at the end that I simply didn’t feel capable of writing a decade ago when I last worked on it. Since then, I have roughed the first 100 pages of “Mac, Book 2” and the first 25 pages of “Mac, Book 3”. So, I know where Mac is headed, and apparently, I don’t HAVE to spend months and months at a time enmeshed in Mac’s problems.
For the last couple weeks, I have been working on preparing the story into ‘bite-sized’ sections. I have also continued to rewrite some shorts and work on another novel. It seems Mac has learned to share my attention.
So, “Mac, Book 1” will start being serialized on Tuesday, 1January2013. I am setting it up on Blogspot, and will make a Grand Announcement on New Year’s Day, so watch for it. I am trying for installments of about 1,000 to 1,200 words, and I will post one each Tuesday. If people get engrossed in Mac’s antics and don’t want to wait an entire week for the next section, I will post a price for the next section to be posted early, probably about $10. I am not proposing that 1 person must send me the full amount; the readers could use the comments section to alert each other to how much they are chipping in. As soon as I receive the payment, I will post the next section.
I think you’ll like Mac. She’s a lot of fun. Or a constant irritant. And sometimes both.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

One Planet With Four Suns

SF authors are not adverse to exploring alien planets. I remember a story that took place on a planet that had a severely elliptical orbit around its sun. I don’t remember details of the orbit, but let’s say it took this planet 100 Earth years to go around its sun once. For about 75 of those years, the planet was too cold to sustain life. Everything hibernated. As the planet finally approached the sun, things thawed out; people, plants and animals woke up and went about their business. They would have about 8 (of our years) of an ever-warming spring, an equally long hot, hot summer and then a gradually cooling autumn before they all hibernated again. Weird, huh?
A lot of planets these authors explore have multiple moons. Sometimes a colony would be on a world orbiting a binary star. I was as fascinated by reading about these unusual planets as the authors were in their exploration of them.
At that time, the existence of planets outside our own solar system was an unknown. These days, scientists seem to be finding them all over the place, and the assumption is that they’ve only seen the glint shining off the iceberg.
I was thumbing through the latest Discover magazine, which goes through the top 100 discoveries made in 2012. It states over 100 planets were discovered in 2012, and it had brief descriptions of 3 of them. The one that really caught my attention was PH1, which orbits a binary star. That was enough to make me remember the unusual planets I read about as a kid, but PH1 doesn’t stop there. PH1’s binary stars are also orbited by another binary star!
Try and imagine what days and nights would be like on PH1. I’ve tried, but my brain circuits tend to start sizzling after a while. To get you started, remember that 2 suns would be in the sky each day, although twice a year, one of those stars would be behind the other. The other two suns would be even further away, I assume, and I’m not sure how close they would need to be in order to be seen from the planet as ‘small suns’ and not just a pretty light. If they are seen as little suns, they would spend most of their time also in the daylight sky, perhaps disappearing behind the big suns, or being faded out by the light of the big suns. At regular intervals, however, the little suns would emerge from behind the big suns and move around to the night time sky for several years until they slipped back into the daytime again.
And that brings us to nomenclature and religion of any people living on PH1. Would they call it First and Second sunrise, First and Second sunset, with a special term for when the main suns appear to be merged? Would they have special terms for the ‘night suns’? Would the small suns be seen as ‘enemies’, sneaking behind the planet for nefarious means? What do you think?
I’m going to put this in a pot on the back burner and see if a story grows.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Fistful of Ideas

I had many reasons to start going to science fiction conventions. They had interesting and informative panels. It was a way to meet authors whose work I had read (and agents and editors, I later learned). The dealer’s room had stuff to buy that I’d probably never glimpse in my mundane life. The art show had fantastic art that I could appreciate and drool over. The costumes (cosplay) filled me with awe and desire. When I wrote as a ‘hobby’, I frequently came home from an sf convention with lots of ideas for stories.
These days, sf conventions can offer even more to the fledgling author. Necronomicon (Tampa area) was just full of ideas. I did not see any representatives of big publishers or magazines at that con, but there were plenty of small publishers and self publishers. They were eager to share what they had learned without the help of ‘the big boys’.
At one panel, a small press handed out copies of a boiler-plate contract that an author might be asked to sign. Then they spent 2 hours going through that contract, pointing out the ‘not good’ sections, what made them troublesome and what to ask for instead. We could take notes on our copies and take them with us. Contract Negotiation 001 at a convention!
A self-published author gave a panel on how to do a successful kickstarter project. This was something that I’d been trying to find the courage to try, so I bought her book on the subject, inhaled it in a couple hours, and found a couple aspects of a kickstarter project that I had not considered before. I am planning to start my kickstarter project early in 2013. That will give me time to be sure I’ve ironed all the wrinkles out my plan.
Another author encouraged us to incorporate. According to her, it can be done for $0, if you slog through the forms yourself, instead of hiring someone to do it for you. Perhaps that’s true in Florida, but in Nebraska, you must pay filing fees. Still, the cost is less than I expected, and raising that money will be the MoonPhaze’s first gofundme project.
An independent film-maker got his start on utube, using screenplays written by his wife.
One author puts ‘episodes’ of a book on her website every week. These were sections of about 1000 words. A new one went up on a particular day, and she had several readers. If those readers wanted to read more before the scheduled posting of the next section, they could send in money for the next section. She posts an extra section for each $15 she receives in a week, and the readers discuss who could pay how much, so that they can pool their money. Some weeks, she is paid to post 2 or even 3 extra sections.
A whole fistful of ideas, obtained from one sf convention. Yeah, well worth the few dollars of membership.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When Life Skips a Beat

What happened to November? When November started, I was in Florida, attending conventions and theme parks and fighting a sore throat. I came home, got through the sore throat and on Thanksgiving Day, we headed for a con in Indianapolis. (Note to self – pack sandwiches for the day when traveling on a major holiday – we could not find any restaurants open during the drive nor when we got there.) Got home from that and had to start Christmas shopping. On November 30th, I fell on a frozen patch of sidewalk that looked bone dry. After a week of aching and hobbling around the house, I woke up realizing that I’d been so busy with other things all this time, I’d forgotten … my blog!
Sometimes life is like that. You get so busy, juggling so many things, that it’s easy for something to slip out of the mix and you don’t notice it for some time. It’s a real pain when it happens in your life.
It should be a real pain to a fictional character, too, if the author chooses to use it as a device to move the plot forward. If the heroine is too busy to remember to hire a handyman to clean out her gutters, a hard rain could overflow those gutters and flood her basement. The new neighbor who’s been trying to meet her might come to her rescue when he sees her out in the downpour, trying to wrestle a ladder into position. After he cleans out her gutter so it isn’t overflowing, she pulls him inside to dry off, and … nature takes over. (Thanks, Linda, for that suggestion.) But hot neighbor aside, she still needs to dry out and clean up her basement. If she forgets to do that, she’ll have a mold problem to deal with!
This kind of thing happens to everybody. Or at least, it happens to enough people that people say it happens to everybody. So it wouldn’t be out of line for it to happen in a story … as long as ‘fallen balls’ don’t run rampant throughout the story. And now I have to try not to let it happen again in my story.