Monday, May 20, 2013

Me? Go to Science Fiction Conferences? How'd I end up here?

If you'd told me fifteen years ago I'd be attending Science Fiction Conferences, I'd probably have given you the 'what are you sniffing' look. The thought never crossed my mind. I loved Science Fiction, but didn't dress up in costumes unless it was Halloween, and was definitely not one of 'those people', a science nerd/geek. Little did I know... 

There was a reason for my 'state of denial'. You know those experiments rumors where some soc/psych whack-job got the bright idea to tell a bunch of kids they could or couldn't do something, just to see if their lies came true? Well, I think I was one of those lab kids.

About the same time I got hooked on Science Fiction, a high school algebra teacher told my class that 'girls can't learn the math and sciences'. SHE then proceeded to prove her point. By the end of the semester I hated that teacher, had a math aversion and was scared of science.

So, imagine my confusion when m U.S. Air Force aptitude tests didn't push me into a secretarial job. Nope, I rated in the top 2% of electronic scores. Go figure! Still freaked out by the all math and science involved, I went for it and became a radar specialist. A fluke? Well, when I got out of the USAF the weirdness continued. On the GI bill college aptitude tests, computer programming was my highest score. Sure! I'll give that a try too.

While I did well there, fates changed my course, throwing me into the deep end of the business pool. After being lured to LA to manage a business, the owner dropped huge black books in front of me and walked out the door, retiring. With no idea what I was doing, I gave myself a crash course in accounting, before the next payroll was due.

After a few more years of the world conspiring to tell me something. I got my degree in Accounting. Liking the deep end of the pool, I specialized in walking into a company cold, not knowing the software involved, figuring out what wasn't working, fixing the problems and teaching the employees how to do it better. The girl who hated math.

That horrible teacher left a scar and left me wondering 'what if'. Though I never became a rocket scientist, I ultimately proved her wrong. Her lies couldn't kill my curiosity. I was fascinated with so many aspects of the sciences, and dreamed of what was beyond our world. My love of Science Fiction only grew stronger, so when the fates shifted again, I turned to what I loved and started writing.

Sure, that first stuff was rough amateur material, I didn't major in English or literature, but there was a story under all the crap. And another story after that, and more ideas sparking to life. I wrote like crazy and knew it was time to learn how to do it better.

It was time to seek out writers groups and conferences, and since I wrote Science Fiction, I went to my first LepreCon, then CopperCon, followed by Desert Rose RWA Conference and DFW Writer's Con. I learned a lot and edited, re-edited and then edited that. I submitted to contests, magazines, agents and publishers, and kept learning. In 2012 my first story, The Thing Down the Road, was published by Musa Publishing. Then I signed with an agent to represent my novels to the publishers. Then I took the next leap and attended my first Comicon, here in Phoenix.

This year I'm lined up for six conferences.  Last week I participated in LepreCon 39, serving as a panelist and moderator on everything from Editing in the E-world to Military/Hard Science Fiction.  And it was a blast! I worked author panels with Astronomer David Lee Summers from Kitts Peak in Tucson AZ, Trauma Surgeon Dr. Bruce Davis from Mesa AZ, Author/scientist Rick Novy from Scottsdale AZ... Just to name a few of the awesome author/scientist/engineer personalities in attendance. And Yup, there are people in costumes and they're a pretty darn fun bunch.

This week I'm hanging out at the Phoenix Comicon with more authors, scientists, costumers and fans. And Capt. Jack will be there! Yeah, I love Capt. Jack! In July I'll be heading to San Diego with Gini Koch for the International Comicon. Unfortunately I'm not going to either Comicon as a panelist (this year), but I'M SO EXCITED!

I'll be attending Arizona Dreamin at the end of May, for fun, then back to serving on panels in both CopperCon in August and TusCon in November.

So, it's been a long weird road, full of detours and potholes, but I'm finally learning to appreciate and embrace my own inner geek. Girls can learn math and science. I'm a Science Fiction writer and I attend SF Conferences. No doubt about it, I'm one of 'those people' and proud of it!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Welcome to my blog. Read my thoughts on this great topic, then leave a comment and be entered to win swag! (Within the U.S. only. Entrants outside the U.S. eligible to win e-books only)

Recently I was putting together a Character Development mini-session for upcoming conferences. When breaking down the steps of developing characters, the first task was to decide who your character was. Was he the hero or the villain, or the villain you can't help but love. Once you decide what he's going to be, you have to know why he's the way he is. Maybe that villain is not so bad. Maybe he was driven to his evil acts.

Looking for the perfect character example, my imagination went to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Just saying his name you can see and hear him in your head. When asked to name a ‘bad guy’, many of us jump to Darth Vader’s iconic image, but consider the path of his development into such a character.

Anakin started out as a cute kid, but a slave who rebuilt droids and raced flyers. Over the series of three movies he became a hero, fell in love, then faced personal conflicts and loss. His path to the Dark Side wasn't born of evil, but of fear and pain. Evil simply found his weakness and exploited it. His journey turned him into a man driven by desperation, convinced that even those he loved had turned against him. The leap to Darth Vader, a demon, a tool for pure hatred, was easy for Evil to achieve, but deep in his core lived the true soul of Anakin. Deep down was the little boy who fell in love with Padmé Amidala.

Confronted by the final battle and the terrible choice of killing his own son, that tiny burning ember of who he once was, a Jedi… a husband… a father… returned. He fought to save his son and as he lay dying, he asked for the mask to be removed. Anakin, not Vader, wanted to look upon his son just once with his own eyes. Anakin wanted to die as a man, not as a monster.

What a perfect example for character development, spanning the full ever-evolving life of Anakin Skywalker. The same thing should happen to your characters. They need to start out innocent enough, have their beliefs challenged, maybe corrupted, but come out the other end a different, a better person… or dead. Nothing’s wrong with killing off the totally unredeemable character. Just do it in a way that leaves the reader turning the page.

Characters morph. That's another rule. We see them in our head or at least have an idea of them when we start a story, but often by the time we're done, they've grown into someone we weren't expecting.

I found myself in that position when I wrote "The Thing Down the Road". I still ask myself who the story was about, the narrator, the subject of observation, or ultimately all of us beneath our civilized skin. The subject terrifies everyone he came in contact with, even himself, but he lets his one friend see beneath the horror. He lets his friend see the anguish left when everything else was taken away.

This story makes you ask if you could do the unthinkable at the price of your soul, if it was the only thing left to do, if it was the right thing to do? Read "The Thing Down the Road", by T.L. Smith and see if you can answer that question.

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