Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Off to V-con!

Heading up to Vancouver, Canada today for V-con! I will be doing panels and workshops today and tomorrow. My tummy always gets a little queasy with these public speaking style conventions. It’s always amazing how quickly one becomes an “expert.” Still I hope I offer aspiring authors some good advice.

Dennis is at working at home so the dogs don’t freak out. Isn’t that sweet?

Here is part of my packing list: flyers, books excerpts, postcards, Freebie posters

My schedule for V-con is:

Can You Write SF Without A Science Background? – Friday 3pm 

Is it easier to write a science fiction story if you have the technical or science background or does it get in the way? Can you write believable science fiction without a science background? How do you weave in the science without making it an info dump?

(This is going to be so much fun. I am going to explain that yes I am a college-dropout who writes hard sci-fi. Yikes)

 Donna McMahon (M), Kristi Charish, Dave Duncan, Elizabeth Guizzetti, David Ng, Wolf Read

Reading – Friday 7pm

I am going to be reading chapter 7 & 9 from Other Systems. Also the first 25 people to show up get a free mini-button!

Drawing Monsters – Saturday 10am

I am going to teach how to draw both cute and colossal monsters in this workshop. Supplies provided.

So You Want To Be A Writer? – Saturday 11am

For brand-spanking new writers. What the writing life entails and what it’s really like to be a full-time published author trying to stay afloat. How in the world did I get to be the moderator? Well I definitely know what it is like to struggle to stay afloat.

Elizabeth Guizzetti (M), Don DeBrandt, Alyx Dellamonica, Julie McGalliard, Lorna Suzuki

Sources Of Inspiration – Saturday 2pm

Panelists discuss what acts as a source of creative inspiration for them. This one is pretty self explanatory yet I have no idea what I am going to talk about: Projects building on other projects, Newspaper articles maybe? 

Karl Johanson (M), Don DeBrandt, Alyx Dellamonica, Elizabeth Guizzetti, Stephanie Johanson

Drawing Maps Of Your World – Saturday 6pm

During this drawing workshop, I will show how to draw a map of the world for your next novel or graphic novel. This is for all the people who want to be Gods or Goddesses of their very own world!

Reading of Chapter 1 from Other Systems

Here I am reading Chapter 1 from my debut science fiction novel, Other Systems.

This chapter introduces the idealistic stargazer Abigail Boyd Lei and her life on Earth prior to the Kiposi landing.

Parental Warning: Other Systems is an adult novel. Even though she is 17, in her culture, Abigail is considered an adult. She thinks about getting married and finds her crush in the communal washroom with another woman. The act is not described, only Abigail’s reactions to it.

Other Systems was published April 1, 2012 by 48Fourteen and available on e-book from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Web Reading!


Elizabeth Guizzetti reading an excerpt of the prologue from her debut science fiction novel, Other Systems.

Parental Warning: Other Systems is an adult novel. This chapter is about a family dealing with a suicide. There are a few spoken obscenities.

Other Systems was published April 1, 2012 by 48Fourteen and available on e-book from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Westercon Roundup

This was an odd weekend. Never before had I gone to a convention as an “author” only as a comic book artist and being an author with access to a green room and free food is in two words: freaking fantastic.  I did not table this Westercon, I was on panels and did the artshow.

Here we go.

Thursday: I attended to a panel on Mining on the Moon and learned about what resources were thought to be on the moon.

Then in the next room for my first panel with Alma Alexander, Anna Sheehan, Corry L. Lee, and Stephanie Weippert which was Whining vs. Angst: Fine Lines in Characterization We discussed how we go about writing characters.

Afterwards I had a nice time speaking to Stephanie Weippert and her husband for a few moments before I went to set up for the artshow.

Introducing Your World which was about World building where we discussed the perils of info dumps. Also on the panel was Brenda Cooper, Elton Elliott Rhiannon Held, and Stephanie Weippert

then I had Dark Reflections with  M Todd Gallowglas Mike Shepherd Moscoe Richard A. Lovett  Ted Butler which was all about writing villains. This was my favorite of all my panels. I felt like I had the most opinions here.

Then I taught a Drawing comics class about Monsters. I thought I was teaching kids, but I ended up teaching adults. So that wasn’t as I had planned at all. Kids have no problem telling a group story, but the adults were definitely quieter.

Finally I ended the day at  From First Word to Finished Work

A panel for writers, from beginners to more experienced authors; we focus on the writing process, the importance of editing, and the creation of a final product. Erin Tidwell Gregory A. Wilson James C. Glass Mike Shepherd Moscoe


So You Want to do Indy Comics?  Along with Steven Cox who is running a new gaming company iMage, I thought I was speaking about the ins and outs of running a webcomic, a small press or independent comic book publications company, but in fact the people who came just wanted to now how to get published.

My reading went fabulous. Richard A. Lovett seeing I was so nervous offered to attend. I admit I totally botched the introduction, but I felt I read well. I know I sold one book at least as a young man came up to me and told me he bought it. Richard suggested I go watch David Brin in order to see a master at work and he was right, I learned a lot watching David Brin.

Finally I had my autograph session which was fairly funny because I sat right next to Robin Hobb‘s huge line all the while I had four people. I didn’t feel bad about this, in fact I learned a lot watching her too.

I also learned quite a bit from listening to authors in the Green Room. Basically everyone I met was wonderful and down to Earth and willing to share their knowledge with a debut author. Especially since I am obviously anxious speaker.

Sunday, I went to another few panels–Archery for Authors and Artists and Urban Science–as well as David Brin’s autograph session. Then I picked up my artwork, stopped at Popeye’s chicken and headed home. Westercon was a wonderful experience.

Memories of Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury died on Tuesday. I neither feel sadness nor shock, he was 91 after all. Yet another tiny bit of my childhood has gone. See, when I was young, he was my friend and one of my mentors. Of course, he didn’t know that. We never met.

Imagine if you will, me as a young girl, probably about age 10, though I cannot say for sure, maybe I’m 11. I am about to leave the Children’s fiction area in the Sylvan Public Library and wander into the land of Adult Fiction. My mom is with my sisters looking at kids books and toys, but I am much too old for that now. I don’t remember if my brother is there, but he would have been 14 or 15 at the time, so he didn’t always come anymore.

I had (and still have) brown hair. I am sure  that I am ugly, since I don’t know within a few years, boys will start showing interest. I’m not a unpopular kid who gets picked on too much, but not popular either. My grades are  good, but I’m not spectacularly good in anything. I come from a fairly large extended family, and though I am well-loved, I often consider myself an outsider. I think I want to be a writer, but everyone always makes jokes about it.

The Sylvan Library is one of the bigger libraries in the Kitsap County System. (Though small compared to the massive libraries of Seattle which I am now used to.)  There was still an old-fashions card catalogue, but I tended to use the double row of biege computers and had tiny golf pencils and slips of paper beside them.  Plastic and metal chairs surround tables and the independent reading stations which are made out of mdf covered with an oak veneer. The short rough brown carpeting.

One of the first authors who I discovered was Ray Bradury. I think I recognized the name, maybe my brother mentioned it, I don’t know why out of the many books there, my finger stopped on his.

I do remember while checking out, being asked by the librarian, “Who told you what to look for?”

My response was something to the effect: “Nobody, I just picked these books up. They are cool.”

I think she agreed with me, but maybe she was just happy to see us three girls (and maybe our brother) with a mom who cared enough to bring her kids to the library every few weeks in the summer.

I wish I had the vocabulary back then to explain that I had sat down on the floor and already scanned a few stories. And within a few thousand words, I cared about the characters and their situations which Bradbury portrayed. He wrote things that were terrifying and exciting. Technology was always part of the work, but it was never at the expense of the characters. But ultimately he could burn an image into my mind with prose.

And 25 years later, I can still remember the images.

The first time I read There Will Come Soft Rains. I remember seeing a vision of the outline on the house of the dead family–especially the little boy and girl playing with the ball. I put myself in the place of the little girl and imagined it was my ashes that stained the wall with my brother and sisters. The image remains in my mind to this day. I kept hoping the story wouldn’t end the way it did. That the kids would miraculously reappear, that no one was dead, but they were. In a story published 26 years prior to my birth, I saw death. And the fear of what a nuclear war might really look like. In this way, war became something more than the bunch of dates they kept trying to get us to remember at school.

I remember crying for Margot in All Summer in a Day.  Maybe its growing up in the Pacific Northwest and having days upon days of rain, I wept because I felt like I had locked her up and made her miss the sunshine.

I could go on, but the point is that Ray Bradbury, while truly a master at writing short fiction, was more than that to me. Along with many other writers who did not write for children, he  was a friend of my childhood. He inspired me to stretch my imagination and not fear writing about the dark sides of just about anything and everything. After all, he wrote dystopic science fiction long before it was popular.



Character Creation: Part 2

Like many authors, I do keep a character Bible and I fully admit there are lots of ways to write character descriptions, but this is how I do it. First of all a character description should take no more than an afternoon –maybe two. If you are spending months writing backstories, sorry but you’re wasting time you should spend working on your novel.

Step 1: who is this guy/gal? And what purpose do they serve in the story. If you cannot answer this question: this person is not a character to your novel.  If they are just a waiter or the delivery person, you need to decide if they are important enough to even have a character sheet.

So I am going to show you how I built Harden Alekos in Other Systems. (Note: there are no spoilers here, everything that fact that the description says you discover in the prologue!!!)

So I needed a ship’s captain. While I did consider making it a middle aged female, I ultimately chose to make him a middle-aged male due to the fact, I wanted a lot of tension  between this character and the protagonist who is a young female.

Step 1: Physical Description 

World Facts for Other Systems: Due to gene modification and therapies there is three separate species of human on Kipos. While some people have facial features that might show ancestry, nearly everyone of all three species of human has tan skin, brown or black hair, etc. Eyes in shades of Gold, Hazel, Brown, Black common. Blue eyes extremely rare. Green eyes extinct in Homo kiposi and the Homo garo, recessive gene in Homo khlôrosan.

Now back to Harden who is a Homo khlôrosan.
Species specific description:  Tan skin with embedded microscales. Gold eyes, Nearly no body hair except of heat centers (top of head, genitals, under arms.)

Personal description: Tall, but slender. Wiry. Due to body type and the way he smiles, he reminds people of his mom. Slouches. He has scars. Paternal Ancestry (on Earth): Greece, Maternal: French and English.

Clothing: On ship: coveralls over a t-shirt, on leave: coveralls over a t-shirt. Only times he dresses up is for off-ship dinners. Slacks, and a button down shirt and a jacket. No jewelry or tie. His underwear choices are not applicable for my story, so I don’t worry about it.

Step 2: Naming Once I know what they look like and their ancestry, I begin the naming process which I described last week.

Step 3: Character Description: Introverted. Has trouble relating to new people, doesn’t know how to make small talk. In social situations, he leans heavily on others. Loves puzzles. Social drinker, sometimes likes to have a beer when coming off duty, but never drinks to excess.

Education: Doctorate in Physics and Engineering

Job: Planetary Survey Team. Age when protagonist comes into his life: Early 40’s

Virtues: Loyal, honest. Loves his crew/family.

Vices: nearly constant swearing, can’t quite give up smoking.

Step 4: Relationships: Parents: Cole Alekos and Rosemary Finch. Raised by Mom, but after parents separate, she is a radio transmission. Loving, but slightly cold relationship with Dad

Siblings: Sister, Helen (originally -14 months) also due to the solitary lifestyle of space explorers: she is his closest friend.

Brother Mark (-15 years) He loves his little brother, but they only become close after Mark becomes an adult.

Offspring: Sterilized. Only offspring terminated in the womb.

Romantic Relationships: Primarily Heterosexual (though like most fleet brats he enjoyed bi-sexual experimentation in his late teens and 20’s.)

Okay, now while I think things like favorite music or color is irrelevant (except when it is relevant to the story) there are a few important things you can ask yourself and afterwords you will always know how the character will behave.

Step 5: Important Questions: 

How does he get out of trouble?

Intelligence. never violence.

Relationship Trail with Protagonist:

Since this would give away a subplot for Other Systems, I am not going to answer this, but all writers should think about it. Every single relationship has a trail it follows. Not only will it help with character interactions, it is generally a subplot to the story.

To write a relationship trail consider:
  • First Reactions to  the Protagonist
  • Protagonist’s first reaction to character
  • Major events that turn each character toward or away from each other

An easy romantic example is the “classic boy meets girl”, boy and girl falls in love, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again and they get married and live mostly-happily ever after.

An easy non-romantic example: When I was born, I needed my mother to nourish and protect me. When I became a little girl, my mother still had to nourish and protect me, but now was also the loving authority in my life. She had to teach and make decisions for me too. As I grew older I got more freedom along with more responsibilities. I fought her, but she never stopped being my mom. When I moved out, we became friends. It is possible that someday our roles will revert if I became injured and could no longer take care of my self or reverse as she ages.

So there you have it. An afternoon of work and I have a full fledged character and at least one subplot figured out. Woot!

For the other writers, out there, what other things do you find useful for building your characters?

Character Creation: Part 1 Names

So this week I have begun working on my next novel-writing project. (I am also working on Faminelands #3 in the comics arena.) I have finished my outline and started the naming.

What is in a name? A good character names has meaning. A good name might denote rank and gender. In a pluralistic society, it defines the character in terms of nationality.

Now call me old-fashioned, but since I speak (American) English as my primary language–as do most of my readers–it is important to me to have names for my characters that the reader can easily say. Even in Faminelands where I might have gone into crazy elvish names, my protagonists are referred by their given nicknames: Lark (Meadowlark) and Orin (Orodherthin).

For my first novel, Other Systems the main character is Abigail even though it is set in 1000 years in the future. Why?

First off it’s easy to say.

Secondly it has a long history. Abigail has been around for millinea. From the Bible, Abigail is Nabal’s wife and becomes the third wife of King David. So it stands to reason, the name will be around in another 1000 years. It has fallen in and out of fashion of course and right now is on an upswing.

Thirdly, it fits the character. Abigail is a female born in Seattle which is no longer part of the United States but a city-state. I knew she was going to use her intelligence as her primary means of getting through life. She starts the novel at 17. She is a stargazer.

So how did I pick the name? At first I looked at names with the meaning of intelligence, “Akilah, Lassie, Monisha, and Parmena” came up. Akilah: I am not sure how to say, but phonetically it reads A Killa. Parmena sounds too close to Parmesan cheese, Lassie is the name of a dog, so out of my first list “Monisha” was the only name, but it didn’t fit with how I pictured the girl.

The girl’s father is Caucasian with ancestors from Scotland and her mother is Asian with ancestors from China. We also know that her father believes in a monotheism deity while her mother and maternal grandmother believe in an animal zodiac and ancestor worship. She is the first born out of five and well-loved by both her parents especially her father. She is a bit of a daddy’s girl.  According to, the meaning of Abigail is “Father’s joy” or “the Father is rejoicing.”  That’s how I picked the given name.

Then I chose the surnames. I wanted to use both maternal and paternal surnames in the naming structure. I decided that during this time period there was two naming systems. Most people who lived in communes have three names: a given name, a paternal family name and a maternal family name.

Once again I looked up specific nationality’s surnames and chose ones that would be easy to say. I decided on a Scottish name “Boyd” and a Chinese name “Lei.”  Thus this character became: Abigail Boyd Lei.

Now how does this character, her family and contemporaries refer to her? Pretty much everyone uses the nicknames: Abby or Ab.

How does her boss on Earth refer to her? Miss Boyd Lei. She refers to him by his surname as well.

Finally now that I have a lead character’s name generally I will not name another character with the same first initial. However, the second two most important characters in the novel are Harden and Helen. I used the double H’s purposefully. Harden’s name was chosen first and then his sister.

So anyway that’s how I pick my names, how does everyone else do it?

The last book in the Reading Rampage Change of Pace by Sofia Essen

Hello faithful readers, so Change of Pace is most likely the last book in my two week reading rampage.  Tonight is the Jet City Drink and Draw and I have some other things I would like to do before ending my time off and going back to work. Yes, I’m looking at you my disorganized bathroom closet/laundry area. I would also like to springify my patio, however the temperature keeps dropping.

All right back to the review:

Essen’s debut novel is a wonderfully light beach read. The synopsis begins: “What do you do when you get dumped, fired, and turn thirty in a single unfortunate week? You book the last available ticket on the next plane to Greece. Or at least that’s what the normally unadventurous Anna Cox does in a moment of uncharacteristic spontaneity…”

While the beginning moved a bit slow with relaxing shopping trips and drinking wine, this worked well as it mimicked the life that Essen was describing on Crete compared to Anna’s previous life in New York. The novel is written in first person, so the reader won’t always know what is going on with other characters and why, but Anna is an interesting narrator and it adds to the fun of watching her learn about Crete, her family and herself.

If you want a book that is upbeat and an enjoyable read, this is the book for you.

Reading Rampage Continues: The Tourist Vol 1 by Lucas Bantner

The next book in my reading rampage is The Tourist: The Immutable Volume 1 by Lucas Bantner. It is a interesting story with a great opening. So good in fact, I was hooked right from the beginning. Banter writes with great visceral detail when describing both the situation and Ian’s dreams, though some of the violent imagery in the police station comes off a bit shocking.

The only misgiving I had at all, is not really a complaint. It took me a while to find all the main characters sympathetic–however  this works for the story.  While I did not have an emotional connection to him, Ian is completely absorbing. I wanted to know what happened to him and why it was happening. Teresa did a few stupid things in public which launches her storyline. Once again, this works in the course of the story. So while I didn’t feel they were necessarily sympathetic, I did want to know more about what is going on. Because the plot was instrumental in my enjoyment of the book, I don’t want to give anything away.

Due to the violent nature and language, definitely a book for grownups.

Preparing for a convention Part 3: Freebies

So back on to the topic of preparing for a convention and specifically the use of freebies to drive people to one’s booth.

If used correctly, freebies can help generate sales. They need not be expensive, and they MUST NOT take the place of your pitch. The best sales tool that you have is your pitch, but if you open with a “Hi would you like a bookmark?” It’s a nice way to segue into the pitch if the person accepts one. (However, it should be noted that if the person says no, then we just say “Okay” or “No problem” and leave it at that.)

Generally, we hand out bookmarks for each of our graphic novel titles. To the right is the Carp’s Eye Bookmark. The original is 2 inches by 6 inches and printed on heavy 14pt card stock. The front is glossy and in full color while the back is in b/w with text about the book.

For Out for Souls&Cookies, we have used stickers. In many ways stickers are easier because more people say yes to them, but they can be harder, because people hand them to their kids–even when the book is not for kids. Now Out For Souls&Cookies is technically all ages, however more than once people have pulled their kids away from the “demon dog book.”

The other thing we did for Faminelands: The Carp’s Eye (as it was our first title) we not only had the book mark, but I also created a short mini comic to get people interested. It was not an excerpt from the book, but a short backstory about the main character, Lark.

For Other Systems we are using a similar strategy: we have a 12-page excerpt of Chapter 4 to get people (hopefully!) excited for the novel. While I originally thought I was going to get 1500–a special on booklets at the printer made 2500 the better deal. The same excerpt is available on

We also have bookcards to hand out. These are the size of business cards and  these are specifically are for the people who say, “I don’t read e-books.”

After five years I can say without a doubt, we get both sides at the conventions–people who only want digital and people who love print. Other Systems is coming out in e-book on April 1st, so the book card has a link to 48Fourteen’s comment page, I am going to tell them to let 48Fourteen know that they want to read it in print, because if there is a demand for Other Systems to go to print–it will go to print.

On a final note: Business Cards. While people won’t and shouldn’t really consider your business card a “freebie,” as an artist or writer your business cards should make people interested in your work. My business cards are full color had the cover artwork from Lure on the front and a list of all four of my titles on the back. Maria has Lord Fluff cakes from Out for Souls&Cookies on hers. Remember your business cards should not be kept. Give them out! I probably give out 1000 a year. Maria has 500 a year to give out.

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