Something incredible has happened. Allies and Enemies: Exiles has been named a finalist for “Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel” for the 2017 Dragon Awards hosted by Dragon Con.
And you’re totally behind this!
You might remember that last year, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, had also made to the short list in the same category in the inaugural year of the awards. I’m flattered and deeply honored to end up a finalist again. I’ll be there to cheer on the winners at this year’s Dragon Awards ceremony on Sunday, September 3rd during Dragon Con in steamy Atlanta, GA. It may also interest you to learn that I’ll be on a panel at this year’s con. (The info is tentative so I won’t mention details just yet.) If you find yourself in Hotlanta this Labor Day holiday, drop by and say “hi”. (That is if you can find me in the ginormous crowd!)
If you’d like a chance to vote and see the other categories and finalists, there’s still time to register for a ballot. Click here to enter your info. The deadline is August 28th.
Why not join my email list if you’re in a form-filing out mood? You can keep up to date on news and other cool announcements about the Allies and Enemies universe.
I have a confession to make. I, Amy J. Murphy, was born a pantser. You know… an author that writes from the “seat of their pants.”
It goes a long way in explaining why it took me about 10 years to finish my first book, what ended up (after much hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth) to become Allies and Enemies: Fallen.
Basically, I’d read what I wrote previously, tweak it, re-read it, tweak it some more and then set off on some tangent that made very little sense in the scheme of an overall story. If you plotted my course, it’d probably look more like one of those Family Circus maps with the dashed lines. In my defense, I got there in the end. A great deal of it had to do with career changes and the challenge of living with ADD. Ultimately, it did require intervention by a professional editor to produce an actual book. There was a lot of “killing of darlings” involved.
I realized that in order to derive the full benefit of having an actual editor’s time and attention, I should probably try to shuffle my loose collection of ideas into a structure that made sense and did important things for the story and for the reader. It began with baby steps. I created an outline. Nothing fancy, mind you. Just a list of bullet points that said what was going to happen next in a more or less logical progression. I treated it the same way anyone would approach a “to do” list: easy stuff first. That left big chunks of stuff that wouldn’t be so easy to write for the end. By the time I got to those “big ticket items” I was so tired of the story, that I nearly came to resent it. So, that didn’t work so well.
Maybe I was cursed to go back to pantsing my way through another ten-year novel. By this point, I had the first book completed and to my astonishment readers actually wanted to another book in the series. They wanted to know more about Ty and Jon. I had an obligation to those folks. I am nothing if not duty-bound. Even as I was writing Fallen, I knew that there was probably a “right way” to create a novel. That approached just seemed so boring.
There were terms like “pinch points” and “inciting events”. To me it felt ersatz, manufactured. It lingered dangerously close to the disciplines of self-publishing wherein authors were simply writing to market. There’s nothing wrong with making money on your hard work. But writing a book according to a formula to fulfill sales feels phony and soulless to me. (Fun Fact: This is EXACTLY how big 5 publishing works.) Any reader worth their salt will see that from a mile away. Science fiction fans are smart folks with discerning tastes. They deserve better than that.
There had to be a way to write the story I wanted without feeling as if I was using some sort of machine to make it. And here is where I start my grand experiment. I’ve got another trilogy in the works. The tentative title: Dark Spaces. And, yes, as you can guess from the title, it’s more horror/sci-fi than space opera. So not everyone that’s stuck through Allies and Enemies will dig it.
(I’m going to get Dark Spaces out of my system before I return to space opera. Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan for that one which is more like a Tattoo/Expanse mashup.)
Anyway, from this point forward I’m going to use a system and restrain myself from straying back into the way of the punster. The plan is to try out a new system (or at least it’s new to me) using Rayne Hall’s book, Writing Vivid Plots. I’m a huge fan of her Writer’s Craft series and so this shouldn’t be a surprise.
So wish me luck. And perhaps we’ll meet on the other side of this, dear reader.
Star Heroes is a space opera collection with nine novels of the galactic frontier. Exploration, alien invasions, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence–it’s all here. Blast off with these adventures by New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors with one click!
Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker
In this fast-paced space adventure, Captain Alisa Marchenko must brave sadistic savages, fearsome cyborgs, and brutal pirates to steal a ship so she can find her way home.
Starship Eternal by M.R. Forbes
When a critical injury leaves Space Marine Captain Mitchell “Ares” Williams having visions of a lost starship and an alien invasion, he thinks he’s going insane… He isn’t.
Icarus by Matt Verish
Cole Musgrave’s dream of interstellar travel has become a nightmare. When a delivery is compromised aboard a classified cargo vessel, the unorthodox captain finds himself embroiled in a deadly assignment that will alter his life forever.
Attack on Phoenix by Megg Jensen
Two hundred years ago, an interplanetary expedition crashed on a deserted planet. Catching the attention of the dragzhi, an aggressive alien species, they found themselves in a war they were doomed to lose … unless Torsten Vikker, a soldier who’d rather read than fight, can find a way to save them.
Archangel Down by C. Gockel
Commander Noa Sato doesn’t believe in aliens. She’s too busy trying to save the lives of millions and her own skin to ponder the existence of “others.” Fortunately for Noa, aliens believe in her.
Destroyer by Chris Fox
One maverick captain, an unlikely crew, and an aging vessel are all that stand between humanity and the Eradication.
Space Carrier Avalon by Glynn Stewart
Avalon was the first and most legendary of the Castle Federation’s space carriers, but she is now old and obsolete. Accepting the inevitable, she is sent on a final flag-showing tour.
But war clouds gather and this final tour will be anything but quiet.
Symphony of War by David J. Adams
Lieutenant Marcus Servus and his soldiers, a penal legion, stand against insectoid boogeymen from another galaxy. Marcus has a gift. An edge against the monsters: he hears music. Songs in his head guide him, granting him knowledge and foresight, a weapon against the alien hordes. But who plucks the strings?
Allies and Enemies: Fallen by Amy J. Murphy
Purpose-bred soldier of the Regime, Commander Sela Tyron is as subtle as a hammer. To hammers, any problem can look like a nail, but solutions aren’t always that easy. When Sela encounters a son she is forbidden to know, falls in love with a man who is clearly off-limits, and is abandoned on a planet of insurrectionists, things get complicated.
Fiction writers have a unique problem when compared to writers of non-fiction: names. If you’re writing a biography of someone’s life, the name game or what to call your character (i.e. the subject of the biography) is pretty much a done deal. But as a science fiction author, I have often found myself pondering the problem of what to call a character. If you’re in the same boat, your character’s names don’t always jump out at you. You know what they’re all about and what purpose they serve in your story, but you don’t know if they’re a Tom, Dick or Henrietta. Names, although on the surface may seem arbitrary, tend to bring with them emotional meaning and can suggest a history or even the appearance of the person. They’re very powerful things.
For example, George Lucas had at one time settled on the name Luke Starkiller for the protagonist we all came to know as Luke Skywalker. You have to agree, the former name has a definite edginess to it when compared to the fluffier-sounding “Skywalker”.
Or consider the sillier example of the episode of the Simpsons when Homer, inspired by a hairdryer brand, elected to change his name to “Max Power”. The end result: Homer was treated differently by others because of what the name implied.
Names can imply age, economic status, ethnic origin, race, sex, religion—they’re powerful tools to convey a snapshot about your character very quickly.
There are five great sources to search out your next character name if you’re stumped to find a good one:
http://fantasynamegenerators.com/ This site is like quicksand, but in a good way on this random name generator. It’s enormous with tons of content for not just people, aliens or creatures, but locations, weapons. And it’s a great source for gamers.
Latin Dictionary: (I know, weird, right?) I have an old fashioned hard cover Latin dictionary from my pre-med days. As I tend to write science fiction, I have a lot of leeway in terms of what to name a person or an alien race. I tend to go for the meaning of a name first and build the name “backwards”. For instance, in Allies and Enemies, the protagonist, Jonvenlish Veradin. The surname, Veradin is a name I derived from the latin root “veritas” meaning truth. I named Sergetnt Pollus Valen from the latin root, valeo, meaning “strong”.
And now a cautionary tale. There is such a thing as being so enamored with a name, you forget how it would look to a reader. I once named a character in such a way that when coupled with her surname it made her sound like a suntan product. Not good.
Have fun with your next character naming adventure!
To the many tens of people following my posts out there (*waves*), you may be aware that Allies and Enemies: Fallen was recently a finalist for Best Military SciFi Novel at the 2016 Dragon Awards hosted by Dragon Con. I have to admit it, I’m still on a bit of a high over that. There were some pretty impressive names on that list of finalists. The honor went to David Weber in my category. No big surprise there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s cool to be on any list like that.
I had a very fun time being interviewed at my friend’s podcast show, Comedy4Cast. And the hilarious group of fellows from Technorama. (I’ll add a link to the show once it’s posted.)
The Dragon Awards, being the inaurgal year, was not exactly standing room only, but conducted in a heartfelt manner with some lovely opening remarks by Bill Fawcett, Pat Henry and Dave Cody. The actual awards themselves were pretty stellar looking. I went in with not great hope of winning, being star-struck by the other names on the list.
The next round of awards for 2017 starts the nomination process in October. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back next year.
On the urging of my “unofficial handler”, I’ve had the cover changed to the second book in the series, Allies and Enemies: Rogues. Free ebook copy of it, to the first person who can spot the difference.
I admit. I’m not terribly versed in the whole “sad puppies” controversy. But being a part of fandom, I’m not surprised that it happened. I’ve seen the seedy underbelly and political wrangling that can happen at cons.