Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CSFF Tour - Residential Aliens Day 3

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...

Yeah, been there, done that.

If you are looking for new and fresh science fiction and other speculative creative work, you need to check out Residential Aliens - which is why we're featuring it for the tour in August.

One thing I like about ResAliens is the fact that they look for fiction that accepts the spiritual as something acceptable to write about. Some may say that the "science" part of science fiction should preclude spirituality from being in the fiction. Doesn't science disprove religion?

Mike Duran blogs frequently about the state of fiction, Christian fiction in particular, and speculative fiction. In his post "Why Science Fiction Embraces Religion… and Science Doesn’t," he quotes another article that has this statement (regarding various sci-fi stories):
It’s never “Does this force actually exist?” It’s, “What do we call it?” Or “How do we treat it?” Or “How do we interact with it?” One of the many things that fascinates me about these stories is that the thing, whatever it is—a being, a force—always exists. Some choose to acknowledge it via gratitude, giving it a place of honor, organizing their lives around it and allowing it to feed them spiritually. Others simply use it as a thing, a tool, taking from it what they will when they will then calling it a day. But neither reaction negates the existence of the thing.

This seems to me to be what ResAliens is after - allowing authors a platform to use entertaining sci-fi stories to explore ideas that relate to spirituality.

I didn't get a chance to exhaustively peruse the whole site, but I did find one story that stood out in quality of writing and depth of ideas. "Of All Things, Seen And Unseen" is by the CSFF Tour's own Fred Warren. I picked this story to read because of this connection, but my praise is earned through his quality of work only.
The story is based on a universe/concept from Robert and Karina Fabian, where there is an order called the "Rescue Sisters" that aids spacefaring travelers in distress. Fred's story is his own other than being set in their universe.
Sister Claudia has always wanted to be a Rescue Sister. She is young and talented at what she does. However, a routine assist goes awry when she goes against orders, and she ends up losing part of her right arm. Her new disability limits her from the front line, and she struggles to find her place among the Sisters of Our Lady of the Rescue.
It is a straightfoward premise, but it is well-written and drew me into this setting. He paces the short story perfectly, putting us in Claudia's dilemna, giving the background needed, and propelling the plot forward. To set up an appropriate conflict and resolution in a short story while having rounded characters and an intersting setting is a significant challenge, and Fred meets all of these points. More importantly, he paints a beautiful theme with Claudia's adventure, and it is inspiring as well as entertaining.
I am intrigued enough with Residential Aliens that I will be watching for more from them, and will perhaps trying my own hand for a story there. I hope any fans of science fiction will check it out. My fellow tourmates have more on this, and Becky's blog keeps track of all of these.
Happy spacefaring!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

CSFF Tour - Residential Aliens Day 2

Welcome back, science fiction fans!

The CSFF Tour is featuring Residential Aliens, the sci-fi zine that features online and print/e-reader science fiction/speculative fiction with a spiritual bent.

The site has an impressive amount of authors who have contributed. It isn't such a niche product that there's only five people who have written for it. I recognized a few names from our very own tour, which was way cool.

One thing you should check out is the contest to win a free copy of Dead or Alive - An Aston West Collection by T. M. Hunter. Mr. Hunter has written a few novels and several short stories featuring Aston West, a good old fashioned kind of space pirate - the kind that gets into trouble and scrapes to get out of a mess. Fan of Han Solo and Mal Reynolds? Aston fits the bill. I read his short story "Some Assembly Required" featured on the front of the ResAliens page this month. It was entertaining and drew me into Aston's world without boring me with backstory. It was a thoughtful story contemplating the thought of free will and individual freedom, without being preachy. The ending felt a little rushed - maybe he had a word count he had to hit - but it was a worthwhile read.

In honor of the CSFF Tour, ResAliens is offering a free download of a recent issue for e-reader format. Check this link to try it out for your e-reader of choice.

Finally for today, if you like to write sci-fi or other speculative fiction, ResAliens takes submissions. They pay a small stipend, but it is a publishing credit nonetheless. Checking out the submission page today, out of 32 submissions, only 8 were accepted. They are discriminating.

Tomorrow I want to discuss a story I read on ResAliens that was particularly well done, as an example of the quality that smaller outfits like ResAliens can highlight.

As always, if you're looking for more, go to Becky Miller's website where she keeps track of all the posts for the tour. Don't be blazing by in light speed - stick around and enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

CSFF Tour - Residential Aliens Day 1

Welcome back Tour!

It is time again for the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour. My favorite time of the blogging month. We took a hiatus last month due to the busy summer, but we have some interesting things in the works to make up for it.

This month we're focusing on the Residential Aliens zine, featuring "spiritually infused speculative fiction."

According to editor Lyn Perry, his goal is to "embrace literature from a spiritual perspective. Combining spec fic and spirituality, and wanting to contribute to faith-informed genre fiction, ResAliens Press offers fans of science fiction, fantasy, and spiritual & supernatural thriller a quality venue in which to share their passion."

I know the quote gives the whole gamut of speculative fiction as targets, but it seems to me that ResAliens really caters to spiritual science fiction. Some would argue that sci-fi and religion are mutually exclusive - the "science vs. religion" divide. I disagree. There are many ideas in science fiction that have greater resonance with spirituality mixed in with it. Why cut off a longstanding vital aspect of human culture?

You can find out more at the ResAliens editor's blog, and Lyn's personal blog discusses other aspects of ficiton writing as well.
I'm enjoying delving into ResAlien so far, and I will be back the next two days to hopefully point you to some quality short stories. Until then, check out my tourmates below for more fun and madness!
Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
D. G. D. Davidson
Dean Hardy
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Lyn Perry
Sarah Sawyer
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Survey Says - Who Wants to Win?

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends--

Your opinion matters. It really does. I love hearing from readers about what worked for them in a story and about what doesn’t work. Reader feedback changed the balance between romance and suspense in my novels. After the Rock Harbor trilogy, I wanted to write more suspense in my novels because that’s what I personally like. But readers really wanted more relationship and romance in the books so I moved back that direction to about the same mix of 50/50 that the Rock Harbor novels contained. I write for you even more than for myself.

I had no intention of setting a whole series of books at Bluebird, Texas. It was going to be only one book, but readers sent me requests in droves for more books. The fourth book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Angel, will be out in October. The Rock Harbor novels were going to be complete at three. There are now five and I’m thinking about another one! All due to reader demand.

I’ve often asked for reader input on names and locations too. When I was struggling for a name for my hero in The Lightkeeper’s Ball, I turned to my readers. Harrison really fit my character, and my readers told me. Love that! When I was trying to decide on a location for the new Hope Beach series I’ve started, I asked readers. Their overwhelming response was for a series set in the Outer Banks so guess what I’m writing?!

That’s why we’re coming to you for answers. We want to give you what you really want! Don’t be afraid to let us know what you really think. We value your honesty and the time it will take to share with us. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Your friend,

Colleen Coble

Friday, August 19, 2011

Recent Writing Links

Quiet week on the blog front. I've been busy the last three weeks with family, vacation, a medical conference (always good fodder for story ideas), and this weekend a family camp for church. To make up for a lack of content, I present the articles I've been able to read that have helped me in the last week or two.

Kristen Lamb is a major encourager for writers, and she helps put self-discipline in context.

My friend Nicole helpfully pointed out this post, which gives tips for helping family understand the quirky needs of a writer (and if all else fails, there's always the flamethrower).

I've heard Scrivener talked up as a great writing program, but it has only been available for Mac. Now there is a beta version for Windows us PC users can check out.

Even the seat of the pants writers need structure at some point.

Finally, my friend Athena Grayson has a simple but effective exercise to help us writers "find the time".

If you find any of these links particularly helpful, please let me know!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not a Quitter?

OK, the title of this post is lousy since my last rambling was whether I should quit blogging to focus on writing. It is lousy because it is misleading. And since I'm still here, I'm not quitting blogging.

But I want to be a Quitter.

I've known about Jon Acuff for a while. I've checked out his Stuff Christians Like site several times and have chuckled at numerous articles (learned what a Jesus juke is, and found I'm not opposed to massages at church). He has a new book out called Quitter. I was curious, so I checked it out.

He pitches it with this statement:
Have you ever felt caught between the tension of a day job and a dream job? That gap between what you have to do and what you’d love to do?
(That's where I'm living right now)

Jon offers practical advise in a very humorous package. It turns out Jon is a successful quitter. In two ways. First, he was good at hopping from job to job. The problem was they were lateral moves, not into his dream job. Finally, he was able to leave a good day job to a dream job. It's from this experience that he shares.

He tells people not to quit too soon - to use the time with a regular job that pays the bills to prepare for the time they can do something different. He gives pointers on finding the dream you may have. A major point is to work hard (hustle) to make things happen. He had to learn to be happy with small successes before he hit the "big-time".

He writes this book for a general audience, but he includes biblical principles without preaching or quoting chapter and verse. One idea I appreciated (and was challenged by) was his emphasis on not stealing from a current job while working toward a dream job. This seemed to echo the principle of being faithful with little, so that the Lord can give more. He doesn't explain it like this, but the book has several points like this.

Jon came to fame as writing a satirical blog poking fun at the church. Thus, the book has plenty of humor. I appreciate his sense of humor and laughed at many points. Any satire/comedy won't work for everyone, so I'm sure there will be those who don't appreciate it. Those people probably don't read this blog anyway.

If you're toiling away in a job that doesn't give the type of satisfaction you think it should, if you are wondering if there is a way out of the quagmire of the grind, then Quitter is a book that can give you insight and inspiration toward a better job. It won't buff your resume or give you angelic revelation. I was bummed. But, it helped me realize I need to do more than complain, and it was an enjoyable read.

Oh, and I would recommend not leaving it out on your desk when reading it during lunch breaks - it might bring up some unwanted questions...
Anybody out there wrestling with this issue? Any experience with this idea of day job vs. dream job?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Writing Wisely?

After a hectic week of family and vacation, here I am again.


In my deeply missed absence (snicker), I have been considering some priorities and some problems that go with this.

I am trying to become a writer. Some would say I am a writer, as I have maintained this blog on a fairly regular schedule for five years now. I am not sure about the designation, but maybe I'll get there someday.

I'm also working a full-time job, trying to take care of my wife and four kids, and be a leader at church. In addition, I am also coaching soccer, keeping the house from being overrun by weeds, and avoiding stepping on two cats.

It leaves precious little time to write, and I struggle with the balance, as I know a gazillion other people out there do (I'm not trying to complain to gain sympathy, it's just the facts, ma'am.)

I wonder sometimes if I should take the time I use in writing this blog and put it toward my main project. On the other hand, the writing gurus out there recommend having a "brand" or "platform" to help you get published. So if I abandon the blog, what happens to my platform, such as it is?

So in the irony of the internet age, I am writing a blog post to ask if it is better to divide time and continue blogging, or should I back off here to put more time into "productive" writing? I would also "ask" if I use "quotations" "excessively," but I suspect I know "the" answer to that one.

Any thoughts, internet peeps? To blog or not to blog, that is the question?