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Author of the Allies and Enemies series.

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Countdown to DragonCon

See this tshirt? You can get a free ebook if you ask the person wearing it for one.

This week I’ll be joining about 90,000 of similarly minded folk for one of the East coast’s largest fan-run convention– DragonCon, baby!  It runs from 8/30 to 9/3. If you’ve never heard of it, you can check out the details here

Look for me in the crowd. (I’m the one cosplaying as “Mid-List Author”.) Be sure to say hello. I’ll be giving away limited edition FREE ebook promo cards.

I’ll be on four panels this year. Very exciting! Here’s the lineup:

Title: Military Sci-Fi Writers & Creators – Media Edition
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Chastain DE – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: A roundtable of Military Science Fiction writers & artists–whether in tie-ins or independent worlds–discuss the genre, trends, real-world accuracy, & working within the complex worlds of Military Sci-Fi.

Title: Medical Technology in MSF: Life, Longevity, & the Pursuit of Healthiness
Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Chastain DE – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: How would you choose to extend your health, life, and/or consciousness? A Sarcophagus, or Ascending? Re-gen pods? Resurrection ships? Choose your favorite sick bay! We’ll discuss medical technology in our MSFM shows, as well as real-world crossover.

Title: 200 Years of Women in SF
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 90 Min)
Description: In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Taking that as a starting point, our panelists will discuss women in SF, how they have fared, who they are, and how things have changed over the years. Presented in conjunction with the Diversity in SF track. 

Title: The Military Mind in SF
Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Many military and ex-military authors write (gasp!) Military SF. Can someone with a non-military background do well at it? What does it take?

Do You DragonCon? Join me on these panels.

Guess what?

I’m guessing that as a visitor to my website that you might already be aware that I had the great honor to be a Dragon Award Finalist in 2016 and 2017 at DragonCon.

While regrettably that did not happen this year, I did manage to snag a spot on some very intriguing panels this year. (Let’s hope I stop fan-girling long enough to add some thoughtful commentary.)

So, if you’re at DragonCon this year, you should check them out. (Please note that these are tentative.):

  • Title: Military SciFi Writers and Creators – Media Edition
    Description: A roundtable with military science fiction writers and artists–whether in tie-ins or independent worlds–to discuss the genre, trends, real-world accuracy, and working within the complex worlds of Military Sci-Fi.
    Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Chastain DE – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Georges Jeanty, Kacey Ezell, Amy J. Murphy)
  • Title: Medical Technology in MSF: Life, Longevity, and the Pursuit of Healthiness
    Description: How would you choose to extend your health, life, and/or consciousness? A Sarcophagus, or Ascending? Re-gen pods? Resurrection ships? Choose your favorite sickbay! We’ll discuss medical technology in our MSFM shows, as well as real-world crossover.
    Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Chastain DE – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Robert E. Hampson, Arthur M Doweyko, Amy J. Murphy)
  • Title: 200 Years of Women in SF Description: In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Taking that as a starting point, our panelists will discuss women in SF, how they have fared, who they are, and how things have changed over the years. Presented in conjunction with the Diversity in SF track. 90 minutes. Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 2.5 Hours)(Tentative Panelists: Bethany Kesler, Lee Martindale, L. M. Davis, Anya Martin, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Amy J. Murphy)
  • Title: The Military Mind in SF Description: Many military and ex-military authors write (gasp!) Military SF. Can someone with a non-military background do well at it? What does it take? Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: David Afsharirad, Jack Campbell, Marc Alan Edelheit, Doug Dandridge, Amy J. Murphy, John D. Ringo, David Weber)

See you at DragonCon 2018!

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be returning to Dragon Con 2018 as an attending professional. Hope to see you there!

My Interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast

awkwardEver wondered just how much of a spaz I am in real life? Wonder no more!

Listen to me tragically mix metaphors and mispronounce words on the Rocking Self- Publishing Podcast, hosted by the very charming Simon Whistler. (Seriously, this guy has the voice of Bond villain and I mean it as a compliment.) [Click here.]

(My apologies to anyone’s name I left out or said incorrectly. Sorry!)

Shout out to the following peeps!

Love you. Mean it. 🙂

Keeping it real

Recently, I was interviewed for the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast by the charming Simon Whistler. (The podcast should air on 3/30. I say should because I’d like to give Simon an easy out in case he realizes what a spaz I am.) This was a fantastic experience for me. Not only was it lots of fun chatting with Simon, but he asked some excellent questions. During the interview, I had the chance to discuss my personal philosophies on being an indie-author and ran through my Top 5 Elements of Middling Success or How to Fail Upwards. (I’m still working on the title.)

One of the elements on my list (#5) is “Don’t give up.” I think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept that you can’t judge your success by the what you see around you. Success is an internal measure. I think that’s where a lot of folks fall down. It’s easy to find reasons to give up when your self-pubbed book is not an overnight sensation like The Martian or Wool. Let’s get real. Before these two books became best sellers, they started out as ideas. They’re the result of a lot of hard work. They were not magically generated overnight. That’s crazy-think, right there. It’s pretty bricky to think right out of the gate you’re going to have a best seller on your hands without having to get those hands dirty.

You have set realistic goals. Ambition is great. It gets your motor running. But know where you’re motoring. If you continue to establish unrealistic goals, you’re heading for a cliff. So, there’s a method for figuring out your goals called the SMART technique. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for clever acronyms.)

  1. Specific – Be specific about your goal. If you’re never written and/or published a book, instead of saying “I’m going to become an author”, a more specific goal would be “I’m going to independently publish a science fiction novel by the end of the year.”
  2. Measurable – Decide on a way you can measure your success. For instance, “I’m going to write for 30 minutes a day.”
  3. Attainable – Here’s where you ask yourself what’s actually physically possible. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write 5,000 words a day when you know you struggle for the time to even write 500. Aim for what you know is possible for your steps along the way. Don’t say “I’m going to sell 100 books this week.” when you have no control over what other people will or won’t buy.
  4. Realistic – Be honest with yourself here. It’s easy to say something fantastical like, “I’ll write a book a month.” (OK, I know there are people that really do that, but I’m pretty sure they’re cyborgs or genetically enhanced.) Try saying, “I’m going to self-publish on Amazon at the end of October.”
  5. Timely – Making a deadline keeps it real. You’re making an appointment with yourself, be it 30 days or 300 days. Make yourself keep that appointment.

So, Murphy, you say, what’re your goals if you’re such an expert on this?

First of all, I’m many things, but not an expert. I only know what’s worked for me.

My goal is easy. Aim low. Well… not low, but I’m realistic. My motto: “Mid-list, at best.”

It was easy to get caught up in the excitement when my first book, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, caught some good traction. I never thought I’d be the next Weber or Scalzi. But my books have (temporarily) shown up on lists with their books which is/was pretty awesome. It’s also quite humbling. It made me realize how much harder you have to work to stay there.

And I’ll likely never receive a Nebula or a Hugo. But I am now a member of SFWA which was a goal I’ve had for quite some time.

Be real with yourself. Know what you can do to get to what you want to do. It’s not going to happen overnight. But, hang in there, kitten. It’ll happen.

 

 

Finding the Best Word for the Job – Guest Post by Rayne Hall

Anyone that’s visited this site knows of my rapid support for the Rayne Hall’s Writer’s Craft series. While I work diligently to put the finishing touches on Allies and Enemies: Exiles (due out by the end of March), check out the brilliant guest post Rayne’s this week. Learn more about Rayne Hall by visiting her site (raynehall.com) or checking her out on the ‘Zon.

 

FINDING THE BEST WORD FOR THE JOB

 

by Rayne Hall

Specific words make a story vivid because they paint a clear picture for the reader.

“A woman with a dog” creates only a vague picture. By replacing “woman” and “dog” with specific  words you can bring your story alive:

“A lady with a poodle”

“A tart with a mongrel”

“A gothgirl with a puppy”

“A redhead with a Rottweiler”

“The man looked like a sports champion” is bland.  Show us what kind of man and what kind of sports, and the sentence becomes interesting:

“The gentleman looked like a fencing champion.”

“The thug looked like a boxing champion.”

“The salesman looked like a sumo champion.”

 

Instead of the dull description with generic words “This garden is full of flowers of all kinds”  show the kind of flowers to paint a picture:

“This garden is full of roses, honeysuckles, and hollyhocks” – The reader sees a cottage garden.

“This garden is full of crocuses, daffodils and tulips.” – The reader sees a garden in spring.

Rayne Hall

“The garden is full of daisies, dandelions and thistles.” – The reader sees a garden overgrown with weeds.

 

Before tackling your own manuscript, you may want to practice on these sentences. Use your imagination to replace the underlined generic words with specific ones.

I went further down the road until I came to a building half hidden by trees.

She put on her new dress and shoes and applied make-up.

For dinner, he ate meat with vegetables.

 

 

Allies and Enemies: Fallen featured on Book Pebble

My book, Allies and Enemies: Fallen, is being featured on Monday February 13th 2017 at www.BookPebble.com. Check it out for free and bargain ebook deals!

Big Things. Small Beginnings.

How do you get your ideas for stories?

I have a long-winded answer to this common question. To answer, we have to hop into our DeLorean and travel back to the late 90s. Like much of cable programming at the time a “science fiction news” show was in heavy repeat on one of the channels. Unlike my favorite protagonist, I lack an eidetic memory. I cannot recall the name of the show. That memory file is corrupt in my brainbox.

But what I do remember is this: Harlan Ellison seated in a bookstore window typing out (on a typewriter—how retro!) a complete story for the world to see. As he finished each page, it was posted for the public to read. Chris Carter, the creator of The X-files, supplied a line to launch the story idea that Ellison typed. Carter’s suggestion:

The 102-year-old pregnant corpse.

It wasn’t until years later when I went digging on the internet, that I discovered that Ellison made a habit of doing this—writing entire stories in book shop windows like some high wire act while the public watched and read the “fresh” results. Usually it was with some tidbit of inspiration supplied by another party—a story prompt. Ellison was trying to make the point that writing isn’t a mystic act of alchemy. It’s a job that people do just like anyone else. He was going for transparency. (The “pregnant corpse” prompt ended up as the story Objects of Desire in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.)

I appreciate Mr. Ellison’s goal with this undoubtedly brave endeavor. (You wouldn’t catch me typing away in a bookshop window. ADD makes public spaces into nests of distraction. Picture noticing everything at once—noise, color, movement, smells—all without the ability to filter it out. You’d wonder if I had to go potty. I’m in and out of the chair every seven minutes, bouncing my knees, fiddling with things that don’t require fiddling… a generally unfocused mess.)

The thing that has stayed with me through the years is that story prompt Carter provided. What about the corpse? How did it end up being a corpse? Who found it? My brain conjured up an image of a human mummy, coated in cobwebs and reduced to a desiccated husk tucked away like a bad dream in the corner of a drafty attic. Considering it was Carter that supplied it, maybe it was a pregnant space alien or a human (not necessarily female) carrying an alien offspring. Creepy cool, right?

Until I’d encountered this information about Ellison and his story prompt writing escapades, I’d just assumed story ideas came fully formed to “real writers”. After all, they were professionals. My brain has a funny way of creating stories. I naturally assumed it wasn’t the “right” way. Ideas that occur to me for stories start as a visual scene in my head. It’s a snippet of a longer “film” that leads me to ask more questions. It tends to spread from there.

When I developed Allies and Enemies: Fallen, I had a vision of a battle weary female soldier in muck-covered, blood-soaked fatigues lingering in the hallway of a space ship. She’d just been through hell and had to carry a body on that journey. Other crewmembers give her a wide berth—not out of fear—but out of awestruck reverence given to heroes. Inwardly she doesn’t feel like a hero; she’s dealing with a horrendous loss and it feels like her world has been upended. How did she get there? Who did she lose? Who is she waiting for in that corridor?

The phrase that started this: I am no hero.

To quote a line from Lawrence of Arabia (which is borrowed in Prometheus), “Big things have small beginnings.” Story prompts can be your small beginnings. They’re not perfectly formed, nor do they represent an entity in and of itself. Without a place to nest or take root, they’re lifeless. You add that spark to bring the idea further along and create your “Big Thing”.

Protecting your writing time.

notrealjob


Lately, I’ve been running into some pretty big revisions in the completion of the third book in my Allies and Enemies series. (Allies and Enemies: Exiles)

While I love spending time in this universe with the characters I’ve created, I’m really ready to complete this series and move on to the next group of writing projects. I’m finding it difficult to edit/revise my manuscript and write new material at the same time. Throw the whole indie-author self-promo/marketing wrinkle and you’ve got yourself one stressed out writer. (Oh, and did I mention the “day job” too?)

The purpose of this post isn’t just my little bitch fest. Although admittedly, it is kinda cathartic. It made me seriously consider what methods are there “out there” for an indie-author to balance his or her time commitments. I see others of my ilk pumping out books just about every month while I struggle to complete a manuscript in under a year. Also, I see these folks manage to cruise through promos and blog posts? I consider myself a pretty smart person… well, I know enough to be dangerous about many things anyway. For some reason, this perfect balance seems to be eluding me.

So, here a few tips and tricks on how to help with the distractions and help protect your precious writing time:

  1. Establish a set schedule to block out your writing time and stick to it. Physically write it down on your schedule and make an appointment with yourself. Make yourself keep it. It doesn’t have to be a fancy app; even an old fashioned calendar would work. There are even free templates you can print out for Office.
  2. Take control of interruptions. Make sure that other members of your household understand that your writing time is sacred “butt in chair” time to keep the interruptions to life-threatening emergencies. Turn your phone off, if you can.
  3. Stake your claim. If you don’t have a dedicated writing space to yourself, consider carving one out. Take the laptop to the local library and camp out there. Noise reduction headphones or earplugs can drown out the noise if your best option is a coffee shop.
  4. Kill the distractions. The deep black hole of the internet is a huge time suck. (I mean you wouldn’t be reading this right now instead of writing if that weren’t true.) If the temptation to sneak a peek at Twitter or the Facebook is great enough to lure you away from writing time, leave your phone in the other room. Consider using software like Cold Turkey or Anti Social that allows you to block access to social media sites for set periods of time. You can also temporarily disable your wifi access if you don’t trust yourself.

What do you do to help protect your writing time?

When should you be aggressive about passive voice?

dontdeadLike any other writer that has the grammar and punctuation tools active while using Word, I’m sure you’ve seen the annoying blue squiggly line with the warning “passive voice, consider revising” message pop up in your editing. Most of the time (for me at least) I did not elect to phrase things that way; it just sort of happened. I don’t consciously think of verb tense when I write. It’s like driving into your day job; you go on auto-pilot. In retrospect, you may not even recall stopping for any traffic lights along the way (which is a bit frightening).

Recently, I was helping beta read a work in progress for a friend. The subject of passive voice came up. I admit I’m hard pressed to understand why it’s considered a no-no. Like “-ly” adverbs, it also seems to get a bad rap. Where’d this animosity to the tense come from?

From what I can tell, this seems to be symptomatic of native English speakers. In the US, native English speakers learn from an early age that sentence structure has a 1) subject, 2) verb and, sometimes, 3) an object. Something does something to something else.

Consider this example:

The zombie ate Negan’s face.

Subject:               The zombie

Verb:                     ate

Object:                 Negan’s face

Aside from being hopefully prophetic, it’s pretty straightforward in terms of tone and it moves things along in the action category without a lot of pondering. It’s easy to read. This format is also common to see in non-fiction and in other areas where concise communication is imperative.

Consider the same thing shown in passive tense:

Negan’s face was eaten by the zombie.

Aside from sounding a little bit like Yoda, you can see what’s going on. Negan still got what was coming to him, but the action gets dragged down a bit. The emphasis is changed. It causes questions to bubble up for the reader. Depending on your goal as a fiction writer, this may not be what you want. Automatically, as a reader, my brain starts generating questions: what’s the important thing here? The zombie? Negan’s ruined face? What kind of zombie? (I think you get the picture.)

Need a way to test if you’re using passive voice? Try this: (I’ve seen this floating around on Pinterest a lot.)

Try to add the phrase “by zombies” after the verb in your sentence. If it makes sense, then your sentence is in the passive voice.

Here’s an example.

Original:

 The Republican National Convention was overrun.

Now add “by zombies”.

 The Republican National Convention was overrun by zombies.

Yep! You’ve got passive voice. From there, you can rearrange the structure to the active tense to sharpen things up.

Here’s a WikiHow article on how to fix passive voice: (I like it because it’s pretty short and straight forward.)

http://www.wikihow.com/Fix-Passive-Voice

Used the right way, passive voice can be very useful to change the focus of your subject. Maybe you don’t know who or what completed the action, and you want the reader to feel that sense of mystery too. So, it does have a place. Doled out in particular areas, it can be useful.

But if you want your prose to zing along without bogging down the works with lots of questions, try to avoid it.

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