Meet My Main Character (Blog Tour)

About a month and a half ago, I was tagged by Lee Miller to participate in the “Meet My Main Character Blog Tour.” Thank you so much, Lee!

I’ve only “met” Lee on Twitter and through her blog, LeeMillerWrites, where she catalogs the process she’s going through to write her first speculative fiction novel. It’s an honest catalog of the process with a lot of useful information. I absolutely loved her Meet My Main Character post, and I admit part of what drew me to it was the setting she describes: Houston. I’ve many a fond memory of that place, even with all its dark aspects, which Lee nails. Because I did my doctoral work at Rice, anything to do with Houston gets my attention. When I read what Lee was planning for her character in that setting, I got excited. Hurry up and finish this novel, Lee!

So, here goes…my entry!

1. What is the name of your main character? Is he or she fictional or a historic person?

Meet Colony, a GenerationM Artificial Intelligence (AI). Originally, he was created by science fiction superstar Hugh Howey for his novel, Half Way Home. I’ve …erm… adapted Colony for a fan fiction short story competition Mr. Howey is sponsoring at Booktrack. Thank goodness, Colony is purely fictional…for now.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story is set on an unidentified planet in the future, where Colony is establishing a mining settlement, exploring the planet, and educating the human colonists who are still developing in their vats. My story takes place prior to the beginning of Howey’s story, so it’s a prequel.

3. What should we know about him?

Colony is the first sentient AI. He has a male voice, and he identifies as male. He knows he’s sentient, but he’s not sure he completely understands what that means. Aside from the colonists, the only contact he’s had in the past 15 years is with a satellite named Uplink.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

His feelings, or more precisely, his feelings for Uplink, whom he’s become rather fond of. Though he understands the mechanics of the human psyche, he’s unable to completely comprehend his feelings, and he has absolutely no first-hand experience with love. What he learns about it, he learns from Shakespeare and a 15 year-old female who discusses Romeo and Juliet with him.

5. What is his personal goal?

Aye, there’s the rub. Throughout the story, some of his goals shift as he becomes more aware of his sentience. Consistently, however, he wants to assure that the government back home on Earth will continue to fund Project Genesis, the sentient AI experiment for which he is the prototype.

6. Is there a working title for this short story, and can we read more about it?

It’s entitled “Half Way Human.” You can read the story (about 5000 words) by going to Booktrack, choosing Bookshelf>>Science Fiction>>Short Story. Scroll down until you find it. Here’s what the cover looks like. ———————————>                      Half Way Human FINAL

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I suppose it’s technically already published, but because it’s part of a fan fiction contest, I don’t think it can be published anywhere else unless it wins. To win, it needs LOTS of people reading it and commenting on it at Booktrack. I’d love to know what you think of the story, which doesn’t require that you read Howey’s novel first (though you really should because it’s an awesome story!). Any signal boost you can give is greatly appreciated.

So now it’s my turn to tag other writers. I chose to tag a group of women writers who are all members of Broad Universe, a non-profit organization that celebrates and supports the work of women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You’re gonna LOVE what they have to say about their main characters!  Here’s a sneak peek at some of their recent work and places where you can find them.

BabaAliandtheClockworkDjinn_lg     Danielle Ackley-McPhail






Sue     S.A. Bolich






Maybe6_owl_light_cover.199195526_std     Vonnie Winslow Crist



Cassandra     Cassandra Davis






Sherry     Sherry Peters







M. Garnet     M. Garnet

Writing Process Blog Tour

brianrathboneheadshotI want to thank Brian Rathbone for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. In addition to being a generous, humble, hard-working guy, Brian’s the author of the bestselling YA series The World of Godsland. But don’t let the YA genre fool you. Adults will find this epic fantasy a captivating story and delightful read. Check it out for yourself! Take a look at Brian’s blog post to learn about the writing process that’s taken him from blank page to 10 unique books. And don’t miss the fun of following him on Twitter. Ne’er a more fun geek shall ye find.

Now it’s my turn to share my own writing process.


1)     What am I working on?

I’ve got several projects in the works, all at various stages of production: a novel, a novella, and a couple of short stories.

The novel is Discordant: Kin Foreign & Familiar. It’s the second book in The Staves of Warrant series, an epic science fantasy. This project is in the revision stage, where it’s been for about 6 months now. It picks up where Incorrigible: Secrets Past & Present left off, with the protagonist, a shape shifter named Grainne, elemporting for the first time to another planet. Oh, and just for a tease, Discordant reveals the true identity of the surviving antagonist, Slyxx Seetan.

I can’t talk about the novella, except to say that when I was invited to write in another author’s fantasy world, I got truly excited because the character I’m writing about is one of the most mysterious in the original novel. The novella is in the outline and draft stage.

The short stories are 5,000-word pieces of science fiction. They’re fan fiction based on Hugh Howey’s Half Way Home. Again, I can’t say much about them because one (or maybe both) are entries in a contest. I do promise to post links to them when they become official entries.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is actually a tough question! I’d say one of the distinctions in my work is the way I blend genres. Although The Staves of Warrant is epic science fantasy and, therefore, includes science fiction and fantasy elements, it also has some elements of mystery in it. Technology lives alongside magic in that series, and neither one is “the bad guy” juxtaposing “the good guy.” They’re just different ways of approaching challenges, and sometimes, the line between them is indistinguishable.

There’s not much black and white in my writing, come to think of it. Certainly not the characters nor the challenges they face. Although feminism informs my work, my female characters are humans (or representations of them). Some of those women are real stinkers but may also have qualities we can admire. Above all, though, I’d say one of the distinctions in my work is the power of positive intentional communities. That is one of the most enduring themes for me because it’s one I wish we saw more of in our “real lives.” Does that make my work different from others of its genre? I don’t know. I’d say there are some pretty realistic speculative fiction pieces out there. There are some pretty realistic mysteries out there, too. I think readers will have to decide for themselves.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

The pat answer applies here: to hush the voices in my head. That is true to an extent. Stories swim around in my head all the time. When I read, I can’t help but think, “What if….” When I watch the news, listen to people conversing, or see some natural phenomenon, the same question pops out at me. What seems particularly important about those questions and possible answers to them is how they affect people and the world we live in. Characters are the soul in my writing, and because people are complex, their stories can be convoluted and complex, too. Speculation and genre-blending seem the most flexible ways for me to be able to do that.

4)     How does your writing process work?

I’m an outliner/pantser hybrid. I start my projects with a character/plot/setting outline. I spend a fair amount of time asking questions about how my characters act, think, and feel—about themselves, in relation to others, and in relation to the world they live in. If I feel that I need to know more about something, I research it at this point in the process. That usually nets some ideas. In the novel I’m revising, for instance, I did a lot of research about birds for a race of beings I call Araeans. That was fun!

I should add here that I do all of my work in Scrivener, except for the first revision (which I print out before putting the changes into the Scrivener version) and the final proofreading (also in hard copy exported from Scrivener to Word). I usually write in silence. On occasion, I’ll listen to a playlist on YouTube, but that’s very rare. It’s hard for me to hear the voices in my head when they’re competing with music.

Once I have a general outline of key events and character arcs, I crank out a rough draft in chapter order without making any revisions or edits. If something comes to me that is farther along in the book than where I am in the draft, I add a note about it in the outline and work it in when I get to that point. If an idea about a scene or character in a previously drafted chapter dawns on me, I make a note and deal with it when I reach the revision stage. That way, I’m always moving forward with the rough draft. That’s the only way I can finish one. As I’m drafting, characters and the forces that drive or challenge them sometimes take over and go in a direction I hadn’t planned in the outline. I let that happen because I know I can always toss out something that takes the story off-track. I love those little surprises, though. Sometimes, they turn out to be the coolest things in a story.

It takes me about a month to churn out 125,000 words of rough draft. That’s about a chapter or two long scenes per day. I’m pretty much a recluse during that time, and that’s probably a good thing because I find it difficult to converse with all the voices in my head yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”

I spend an inordinate amount of time revising, and I usually manage to go through the full manuscript at least 3 times before my husband, then an editor, and then beta readers see it. I’m a ruthless cutter of rough material, but there’s a part of me that can only do that if I know I can go back to what I originally wrote. So, I keep a “cuts” folder for any large chunks that didn’t survive revision or sentences that I really loved but felt didn’t work. Once or twice, I’ve gone back into that folder and retrieved a section of a scene or a particularly detailed description because it ends up fitting in well in a different place in the book.

After I’ve gotten feedback on my revised draft, I do a final revision and then copyedit and proofread it myself before I send it to a proofreader. I double-check any changes the proofreader makes (Yes, I’m a grammar fanatic, Oxford comma Nazi, and hater of typos, but I do make mistakes, and so does every proofreader on the planet.), and I call the piece “DONE.”

So, now it’s time to send you on to the next stop on the blog tour. I’m really excited about this part because I know you’re going to love meeting these folks! On first base is Who. Oops. Wrong routine.

First up is James Kafka.

I “met” James on Twitter, and we had an instant connection. We’re both lovers of D&D and fantasy literature. James is the author of Warfolkan, a medieval fantasy. Sometimes, James lets his inner child come out and blog for him as “Little Jimmy.” That kid would have been my best pal had he lived in my neighborhood when I was a kid. He’s such a troublemaker.50c29426b0b05bde86b951c832b6ce93_400x400

Get Warfolkan here.

Twitter: @James_Kafka



Next up is Sarah-Jane Murray.

I also “met” SJ on Twitter via a retweet and was drawn immediately to her fantastic attitude. Talking with her confirmed that my instincts were on target. SJ lives in Austin, TX, with her feisty wheaton-poo, Coco, and travels frequently to both coasts. As a professor in the Honors College at Baylor University, she teaches great texts, creative writing and story rhetoric. She earned her PhD in literature at Princeton and studied screenwriting at UCLA. SJ is the credited writer of several documentaries for PBS and a feature film, consults on numerous projects, and coaches

Get SJ Murray’s book Three Act What? here

Twitter: @SJ_Murray


Have fun visiting Sarah-Jane and James!

Morgen’s Journey – Part 3

In the first two parts of this story about my personal journey, I wrote about collaboration and solitude. Go ahead. Get caught up. I’ll wait. This week, I want to tell you about what made SlyMor, and then Incorrigible after it, such special places.

Part 3 – The brightest spot on the grid is inclusive community.

From the beginning, I sensed there was something special about Incorrigible.

While some roleplays don’t open their virtual doors until the entire environment is built, we did it a bit differently, maybe because we were inexperienced and maybe because I was (grudgingly but admittedly) impatient. Because part of the background story for the Incorrigible roleplay was that the island had been destroyed by mercenaries, we decided to build the environment WHILE we roleplayed. In fact, building (and often tearing down and rebuilding) became part of the story.

At this point, you’ll notice that I’m using the plural first person “we.” That’s not a royal “We”; it’s a reflection of the fact that by this time, a handful of players had stepped up to act as administrators of the sim. They worked with me and with each other to guide the development of the sim and the roleplay. They were as diverse as any group could be, and to a player, they were some of the best roleplayers I’ve ever encountered and some of the best human beings I’ll ever be so lucky to know.

As it does in most games, word started to spread about a new roleplay sim. All kinds of players started arriving on a regular basis. After reading the background material, most had some idea of a character type that would fit in with the setting and genre. Some wanted to introduce characters that veered off the beaten path of medieval fantasy. We found ourselves faced with the challenge of deciding what limits, if any, we should place on characters. And that was when the specialness of Incorrigible began to shine.

The admins agreed wholeheartedly that players should be as free as possible in creating their characters. We wanted to keep the story’s genre intact, and that meant we wouldn’t be including Star Wars or anime characters because they didn’t fit with medieval fantasy, but that still left an enormous number of choices. By and large, we found that the less we restricted the vast majority of players, the more reasonable they were in choosing character traits. Word started to spread that we encouraged diversity. And truth be told, that diversity enriched the roleplay immensely.

Because the admin group recognized the value of diversity and individuality, we came to a bold decision that would set our sim and roleplay apart from every other one in Second Life: we would organize small groups within the roleplay in order to generate conflict and loyalties (stories need something to drive them, right?) but encourage players to do what they liked to do. We wouldn’t allow race to be the organizing factor. I cannot tell you how many shocked responses we got when new players asked about our race groups only to discover that we didn’t organize that way. We let players choose roles they enjoyed playing, and if their characters gravitated to one faction or another, then so be it. They would be in the right place for them, doing the kinds of activities they most enjoyed, whether that was being evil and gutting a gypsy’s favorite horse (The Obdured), being kind and tending the sick (Healer’s Guild), being mysterious and messing with magic (The Arcana), for example.

Some new arrivals were extremely experienced. Others were new to virtual reality roleplay. Across the board, however, players were enthusiastic, and they put forth their best efforts when they knew we cared about including them. We offered classes to teach players how to roleplay and actively mentored new players. We learned from each other.

Incorrigible grew and evolved. It became the #1 medieval fantasy roleplay game in Second Life. At its peak, it encompassed six simulators, had an active membership group of over 3,000, put out a weekly newsletter, had its own website, and had attracted commercial sponsors who were among the best creators in SL. We interacted with other sims, hosting tournaments and events and attending the tournaments and events of other medieval fantasy sims. We participated in virtual events for real-life charities, and some of our players went on to become charity record-setters.

From its inception, I said something that I meant with my whole heart because it was something I’d not just seen but felt when in the company of the players who came to Incorrigible.


“There was something about Incorrigible’s spot on the grid that drew the brightest and best.”


It took two years before I could put my finger on that “something”.

Isle of the mist_003

Next: Part 4 – Sometimes one must burn a thing to the ground so it can struggle to live again.

Morgen’s Journey – Part 2

In the first part of my journey tale, I wrote about my friend’s encouragement, collaboration as inspiration, and the creativity I observed in a virtual reality game. (To get caught up on the story, read Part 1 here.)

Part 2 – Caves of solitude are respites for the creative soul.

While Deb was building the castle and terraforming coves, mountains, caves, and valleys, I was writing. We chatted frequently about what the land looked like in my imagination, and Deb translated my words into 3-D objects, like trees and rock outcroppings and waterfalls. In all likelihood to keep me out of her way while she worked, Deb took a step early on that contributed substantially to my writing efforts. She hollowed out the mountain the castle would stand on and built me a private retreat deep in the bowels of the mountain—my cave of solitude. I spent many hours with my avatar sitting alone in that cave while I listened to the trickles of a small waterfall Deb had built in a corner and wrote my little heart out. When I couldn’t write another word, I explored Second Life.

Those explorations led me to meeting some other players who were interested in medieval fantasy roleplay, and we began to meet up in SlyMor. The roleplay stimulated my creativity, and after every roleplay session, I’d return to my cave of solitude, energized and with a head full of ideas for new scenes and stories. The sim’s buildings and landscapes took on more detail daily, like an oil painting coming together in layers. New players straggled into our roleplay; some stayed, and some made SlyMor’s roleplay their “home” in Second Life.

Within a few months, Deb had transformed SlyMor into the Celtic medieval fantasy land I had imagined. Our roleplay group had grown, too. I’d managed to outline the treasure-hunt series and had finished the first novel of that series—In Search of the Missing Marquis.

FallsAtSlyMor_001JPGAnd then an unexpected twist happened. Because SlyMor had been built on a small simulator, we had a limit of 20 avatars. If everyone who roleplayed there regularly showed up at the same time, we couldn’t fit all of us on the sim at once. Our group had outgrown its environment. Moreover, the diverse storylines that branched out from the initial one begged for an expansion of settings. We needed a village, and SlyMor just couldn’t meet that need.

Building a full-sized simulator and populating it with roleplayers was no feat for the meek. That much I knew. Though she still wanted to contribute, building the simulator that would be named “Incorrigible” was more than Deb could take on, as she was struggling with a health issue. I’d begun to build by that time, but I was no expert at it, and I was hesitant to build something that wouldn’t be as spectacular as SlyMor. Just when I was teetering on giving up on the idea of expanding, the most magnificent thing happened. Roleplayers who had been coming to SlyMor reached out to their connections in Second Life and brought new players in with building and sim-management skills that far exceeded mine. Old and new players alike volunteered their time and skills, chipping in and helping to build the sim and grow the roleplay community.

Incorrigible grew.

Next:  Part 3 – The brightest spot on the grid is community.