Writing

The End of an Era

No, the Totality series isn’t over yet! But I did reach an important milestone. Back in 1999, when I started writing the original incarnation of what would become Totality, I imagined I would finish it in a couple of years, planning for about 100 installments and publishing one per week. In reality, I ended up taking several breaks, and my motivation petered out right around installment #90. Though I had an outline written up for how the rest of the story would go, I never actually wrote the individual chapters.

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10 Space Sci-Fi Tropes to Avoid

Don’t let these happen to you! I’m being a little cheeky here, but considering that Totality is a space science fiction novel series, why not? I’ve consumed a lot of science fiction books, TV shows, and movies over the years, and there are certain things that just raise my hackles which I try to avoid in my own work. 1. Amnesia Have you ever been enjoying a perfectly good story, and suddenly a major character has amnesia due to some convenient plot device, and this seems to occur only to delay the story or go on some irrelevant diversion that ultimately won’t matter?

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The Curse of Plagiarism

The world of novels was recently rocked by a plagiarism scandal. Let’s dig in. If you haven’t seen the #CopyPasteCris hashtag going around lately, you can get a good summary of the whole scandal here. But in brief: bestselling author Cristiane Serruya has been accused of lifting passages from dozens of other books into her own books. Some have been heavily modified while remaining recognizable, while others are quoted basically verbatim.

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What's a Protagonist Good For?

The central character of a story can make or break it. Sometimes breaking it is better. In lieu of telling the entire story again, I’ll sum up: William Pearson, the protagonist of _TOTALITY: The Militiaman_, was originally a straight-ahead, unambiguous hero. This was back when I cooked up the series in 1999, before leaving it on the shelf for many years until I felt it was time to revisit. Now? He’s a “potty mouthed Andy Griffith,” as one reader told me.

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Finding Emotional Truth and Resonance

This one is a little unusual for me, so buckle up! Totality is a sprawling science fiction and fantasy epic, with a lot of space opera elements. It is easy to lose sight of humanity in such an endeavor–the human elements can be subsumed under all the fanciful, fantastical aspects. But I’ve always wanted this series to be driven by genuine human emotions, to have people react in believable, faithful ways to the many amazing and unusual events that transpire.

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OK, But Seriously, Book Promotion

How do you actually promote a book effectively? Recently, I wrote a piece lamenting the soul-sucking sensation of self-promotion. I feel like that’s not terribly helpful, however, unless I can bring some actual, useful advice for the would-be self-promoter. First, let’s be clear about expectations: this advice will be for those trying to promote their own books when they don’t already have a large following. I am, for instance, much more successful at marketing myself in terms of my software development skills–I have to turn down recruiters all the time!

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Cyberpunk, Hopepunk, and the Future

Is science fiction trapped in a rut from which it can’t escape? Lee Konstantinou over at Slate sure thinks so. In his recent piece, he chronicles a brief history of the cyberpunk subgenre and the struggles of science fiction to find a new, forward-looking niche that packs the same punch. Many options are on offer: solarpunk, mannerpunk, sharkpunk, and a variety of others. Konstantinou argues that none of these are poised to dislodge cyberpunk as the premier science fiction subgenre–which sucks, because cyberpunk is tired.

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Self-Promotion Sucks

I get tired of writing like a machine that generates marketing copy. _Totality: The Militiaman_ is published by a small imprint. This means there’s not really a budget for marketing or promotion. Don’t get me wrong–they are wonderful people and they do the best they can. But it’s simply not the same as having a major publishing house pushing your books. A lot of work falls on me. And you know what?

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Divisive Characters

One of the things that surprised me when I had friends read Totality: The Militiaman was how divisive a particular character was. I hadn’t anticipated it and I had to spend time figuring out how I felt about it. That character was Linda Pearson. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know she is William Pearson’s ex-wife. (And if you haven’t, rest assured that that is no kind of spoiler!) Her inclusion in the story was always interesting to me because she didn’t tend to fit into the typical expectations of a sci-fi novel.

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Scratching That Itch

Most of us are in the middle of the so-called “holiday season.” Right now, we’re somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Day. A lot of people are on vacation, enjoying time with family and friends, or perhaps just some peace and quiet as the year winds down. My habit for the past several years has been that when I start a new book in November, during National Novel Writing Month, I write every day.

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