Writing Space: Futuristic Writing Room

Writing Space of the Future

Not everyone responses to a traditional home office space, sometimes a place with futuristic elements can bring out the child in us all. What I like about this space is that the main pieces of the office are standard and easy to obtain, bringing down the cost of the overall look. The walls and shelving are white, the desk is a simple out of the box glass tabletop station and all the lamps are standard, although they punctuate the office with bright colors. What draws the eye are the funky, black, futuristic chairs and the stylized animal stool that set the playful tone of this unusual office space. You can see more about this office here.

Book Review: Galactic Patrol

Book Name: Galactic Patrol
Author: E.E. “Doc” Smith
First Published: 1937

Edward Elmer Smith grew up in Spokane, Washington. His early work was as a laborer until he injured his wrist at the age of 19. He would later attend the University of Idaho and entered its prep school, graduating with two degrees in Chemical Engineering by 1914. The following year, he married Jeanne MacDougall, the sister of his college roommate. They had three children together. It has been noted that the two leads in his Lensman series, Clarissa MacDougall and Kimball Kinnison looks very similar physically to Smith and his wife, although he used her sister’s first name for the character.

Smith earned his master’s degree in chemistry from the George Washington University and completed his PhD in chemical engineering with an emphasis in food. His dissertation, The Effect of Bleaching with Oxides of Nitrogen upon the Baking Quality and Commercial Value of Wheat Flour, would help land him a job as chief chemist for F. W. Stock & Sons of Hillsdale, Michigan, working on doughnut mixes.

It was during this time when his ideas for space stories began to come to him. He was urged to write them down by friends and the offer of dialog help for the romantic scenes was given by the wife of one of his former classmates. In time, this became the Skylark series. Skylark was not a huge hit and Smith probably spent more on the postage to mail in his stories than what he earned with them. However, Smith was bitten by the writing bug and while he continued his career as a food chemist, his ideas for space opera continued to fuel his creative side.

In the mid-1930s, Smith had been contemplating a new “space-police” story. He reviewed cops-and-robbers stories for inspiration and wrote an outline that would become the first four novels of the Lensman series, beginning with Galactic Patrol. While he liked to use a loose outline to follow when he wrote, he confessed that his “characters get away from me and do exactly as they damn please.” Galactic Patrol was published in 1937 as a serial. Sales at Astounding, the magazine that published his story, soared and Galactic Patrol became a hit. Later, it was novelized in 1950 and remained in print for decades.

Smith would continue to work as a chemist until his professional retirement in 1957. Then he was purely a science fiction writer, traveling from Florida to Oregon in a travel trailer, writing his stories and visiting science fiction conventions along the way until his death in 1965.

The story of Galactic Patrol spans eons of time, starting long before human begins have been on Earth and moving on into the far future. It is about a war between two super-alien races. The Arisians, who are a peaceful species native to our galaxy, and the Eddorians, a warlike species from another dimension that wishes to invade. Each species tries to influence the younger species of our galaxy, including humans. The Eddorians are a force of evil, trying to promote chaos. The Arisians promote peace and aid in the creation of an interplanetary council and the Galactic Patrol, a combination of an interstellar police force and military, with the duty to defend and preserve the galactic civilization. In this force, the Lensmen were the elite of the Galactic Patrol. The service was male dominated, with woman serving in more subservient roles. Each lensman is given a jewel that imparts the wearer a myriad of telepathic abilities. It is bonded to its owner, killing any other person, and deteriorates after the death of its recipient.

Galactic Patrol begins with the introduction of Kimball Kinnison, a graduate Lensman. His first assignment is to capture a pirate ship and get the specs for its new drive back to headquarters. Kim is given a spaceship known as Brittania and a crew: Clarissa MacDougall (nurse), Van Buskirk (Patrolman), and Worsel (alien) and they set off on a grand adventure to infiltrate the Boskone pirate syndicate. Before all is done, Kim will work as an inspector, an undercover agent, a pirate hunter and act as the scout for a vast space fleet.

As the action propels you forward in the grand space opera style, you begin to realize that there is more to the jewel-like “lens” than meets the eye. As Kim learns how the jewel works and explores its properties, hints of the master game the Eddorians and the Arisians are playing peek through his explorations.

Why read the Lensmen series? As a science fiction reader and writer, I feel that it is important to go back and read the early works of our genre. It helps us to understand the origins of what has shaped our writing today. Plus, often times, the books are great reads even if their cultural ideas are old-fashioned due to the time in which they were written.

E.E. “Doc” Smith is known as the father of the space opera. Long before Star Wars, Avatar and other stories, there were the Lensmen. Threads from the concepts in these space stories run through much of science fiction during the past decades. You will read nods to Doc Smith in the books by Heinlein and it is said that the Lensmen were the prototype Lucas used to fashion his Jedi Knights.

There is some confusion about where to start reading in the series. The Lensmen series originally consisted of four core novels:

Galactic Patrol
Gray Lensman
Second Stage Lensman
Children of the Lens

These four novels build the story in a compelling fashion with a proper climax at the end. Due to the success of the books, Smith’s publisher asked for him to use previously published stories that were unrelated to the lensmen and change them so that they would fit into the Lensmen universe. These are:

Triplanetary (prequel 1)
First Lensman (prequel 2)
Masters of the Vortex (sequel)

The two prequels and sequel are not quite up to the quality of the original four and should be read after the core four novels. Many claim that First Lensman has enough moments to make it worthwhile to read, the bets are off with Triplanetary and Masters of the Vortex.

Two authors were authorized to write further novels in the Lensman universe.

William B. Ellern wrote:

Moon Prospector
New Lensman
Triplanetary Agent
(only in serial form)

David A. Kyle wrote:

The Lensman from Rigel
The Dragon Lensman
Z-Lensman

Galactic Patrol Book CoverSee what I mean by confusion? Not only are the paperback books hard to find, but the kindle versions are published in chronological order based on the timeline of the novels, not in the order that they were written. This is what kept me from reading E.E. “Doc” Smith, even though I had seen references to the stories for many years by other authors, most notably Robert A. Heinlein.

Start with the four core novels. If Galactic Patrol grabs you, you’ll want to read all the others. Doc Smith himself considered it his best novel and his one true science fiction story. Hold onto your hat. You are in for a wild, but fun ride.

Follow the Baton: A Blog Hop

baton passThe starter’s pistol has been fired and baton is in motion (virtually speaking), slapped from one writer’s hand to the next. I have received the baton from Heather Poinsett-Dunbar, a fellow author of a small writer’s cabal we both belong to. Heather has been featured here on No Wasted Ink. I hope you’ll check out her guest post where she speaks about her writing space.

Heather Poinsett-Dunbar is one of the co-creators of Triscelle Publishing, an up and coming independent press. She and her husband, Christopher Dunbar, have woven a finely knit universe where history and mythology have spawned fascinating characters and situations in a dark, seductive twist on what we know as reality: The Morrigan’s Brood series.

Now that I’ve caught the baton, I need to answer a few questions:

1. What am I working on?

My main writing project is a steampunk trilogy and I’ve been working on it since 2010. I’m currently in the early stages of revision of the first novel and completing my writing research about steam engines, Victorian customs and battles. The research and map making has been a real hoot, but I’m glad that I put it off until after I completed my rough draft.

I also write short stories. They range from science fiction, fantasy and creative non-fiction. So far, I have published three creative non-fiction stories (the third is due out in May). My sci-fi and fantasy shorts should be finding homes this fall. I will make announcements here on the blog as they are available.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write in my own artistic voice and my stories tend to be character driven. I’m self taught as a writer, but due to my extensive reading of science fiction and fantasy, I have a clear grasp on the troupes of these two genres. I like to take the rules and twist them a bit.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I have always been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I have read most of the major authors in the science fiction and fantasy genres and a great number of classic literature works. All of this colors my own writing, from the concepts I explore to the characters that I create. The only real surprise to me is the creative non-fiction I’ve been doing for the past two years. I never thought that I’d be drawn to writing memoirs. The first one started as a writing exercise, but I have continued to write more of them and find them to be a great deal of fun.

4. How does your writing process work?

I write every day. I don’t have an official word count, but between blog posts, comments, stories and whatever, I estimate that I’m writing 2000 to 3000 words a day.

My stories start out as brainstorming sessions with a fountain pen and a notebook. I like to brainstorm on paper because I feel it taps into my creativity in ways that the keyboard does not. Once I have a rough outline completed, I move this outline into Scrivener. Each bullet point of the outline becomes a new text file in Scrivener. It creates places for me to fill in the details of the story. If I need to move parts of the story later, it is easy to do within the program.

Strangely enough, I do not always write the rough draft in Scrivener. I will write in the program for blog posts and short stories, but I find that I have trouble writing my novel in the program. There are too many internet distractions that interrupt my train of thought in my home office. Instead, I take my Alphasmart Neo, essentially a digital typewriter, and park myself at the local coffeehouse to write my drafts. I schedule myself to go out once a day for around three to four hours in two week blocks of time. I have a goal each day of 2000 words of rough draft. I don’t come home until I reach that goal. If I can write more, I go for it until the muse stops speaking to me. When I come home, I upload the day’s work into the designated Scrivener file of the novel. I alternate these writing blocks of time with days where I stay home and work on blog posts instead. I find if I do the coffeehouse too often I burn out.

Once the rough draft is done, I begin the revision process. I submit the rough draft to beta-readers to get a feel of how the story is going. They point out plot holes and major typos to me.

I tend to do revising at home in my office. Hand in hand with revision is writing research. I do this at home because coffeehouse wifi is notoriously slow. I like to start a new Scrivener project at each revision pass. This means that I have the old draft stored where it will not be changed and I can return to it when I need to. I realize that Scrivener has a snapshot feature, but I tend to not trust it. I will have several versions of the novel when I do this. I make sure that I label each project with a version title.

Once I have revised for content, I then start the editorial process. I run each chapter through a couple of programs that check for passive voice, for adverb usage and proper nouns. These will catch the typo errors that are expensive for a copy editor to find and correct.

I still feel that there is a great deal of value to have a human editor go over my novels instead of relying on the software only. I hire one after I’ve run the story through my software. This means that there will be fewer errors to be corrected and this translates into savings on my editor costs. I do not use an editor for short stories. Because there is less return financially from them, I do not feel that it is cost effective to do more than ask for them to be read by beta-readers.

The last step is independent publishing. I have not gotten to this step with my novels as yet, but I hope to have the first of the trilogy out sometime in 2014. Fortunately, short stories simply go to the editor and I let them worry about the artwork and publishing.

Passing the Baton:

I will pass the blog baton on to three other writers that I hope you’ll enjoy discovering. Each one has a unique writer’s voice and I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I do. They will post their Baton Catch on April 7, 2014.

1. Author Thomas Skidmore
Thomas is an up and coming author. I’ve been watching his writing career with interest for the past year or two. He writes science fiction and fantasy. His latest short story, Unicorn’s Kiss, was published in eFantasy Magazine. You can see his science fiction novel on Amazon. It is called “Under the Moons of Lasaria

2. Author Mariam Kobras
Mariam and I have been online friends for a year or two. We met on twitter and later began to chat online. She is an accomplished author with several novels available. You can read her No Wasted Ink Author Interview or read more about her on Amazon. I recommend her Stone series, Mariam writes in a vivid literary style that draws you in.

3. Author Lori Nelson
I’ve known Lori for quite some time. We belong to several online writing groups together and we have a shared love of gemology. She will soon publish her first book, TORTURE. A memoir detailing an accident that turns into a relationship with an angel. Lori lectures on cruise ships, is an educator and gemologist. She enjoys dark chocolate and currently lives in Atlanta.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksMy weekly surfing has yielded a nice bevy of articles for this Monday. Subjects range from marketing, to editing, and publishing. Plus a few “just for fun” reads. Let me know how you like them!

On Book Tours And Lighting Your Hair On Fire

Fiction Author Platforms: Why You Need One and How to Build One

How I Got My First National Magazine Article Gig: Step-By-Step

The Sentence Thief

Finding Your Perfect Editor and Editing Level

Identity and the Writer

What It’s Like To Live At A Bookstore In Paris

Popular Hashtags and How to Use Them Effectively

Do You Worry About Your Writing? How To Stop And Fall Back In Love With It

Are You Publishable or Not? Reading the Tea Leaves

Methods of Conducting Writing Research

stacks of booksWriting research is the cornerstones of good story telling. As a writer of science fiction, fantasy and creative non-fiction, research is important to the story writing process. I create entire worlds, often with technology that is not commonplace to the everyday reader, but which needs to be understandable to them in order to enjoy the story from a myriad of researched details from many sources. I tend to not research my stories before I begin writing. I like to let my characters to shape the way the plot will go. Once my rough draft is completed, it is at that point that I fill in the necessary details that embellish my stories and allow it to conform to historical events, customs, and locations. As I write my rough draft, I leave document notes in Scrivener to make sure that I double check historical details, research technology or cultural viewpoints. When I am in the revision stage, I will fill in those details to the story, enriching it and gaining word count in the process.

Wikipedia

The first way that I research a topic is to use wikipedia. I do not use the information that I find there as confirmed facts, but it is a good way to see how the information in question is viewed by the public. Because what is found in wikipedia is written in by anyone who wishes, it is usually not the best place to find facts. However, at the bottom of the page in wikipedia are the sources where this author had gained their information. It is these websites which are the ones I use to research my facts. Often times, these sites will be from universities, libraries or societies that are experts on the subject matter.

What you want to find are primary sources of information. People that know the information first hand and then write about it. Biographies, archeology texts, scientific studies and reports are all good primary sources. A secondary source would be a paper about a historical figure written hundreds of years after the man or woman in question was dead and all information taken from other sources to compile into the text.

Books

After wikipedia, I research topics by buying a book on the subject, preferably a primary source book, but secondary is acceptable depending on the topic or availability of the subject. For each container universe in a story series, I tend to purchase at minimum a dozen books to support my research. I go through each of these books and write notes from them that I feel are useful. It is the notebook of notes that I use while writing, but I like to keep the original book handy on a nearby shelf or in my kindle library in case I want to double check a small detail.

Classes

Another way I research is to take a class on the subject. This method takes longer and time dedication, but often times an instructor can shave off days or weeks of search by providing you with an overview of the subject. The included list of further reading or links on the web to accelerate your research. For me, the savings of time and to have someone to ask questions of is often worth the price of the class.

Experience

One of the more powerful ways to research is to experience the activities of your characters in a personal manner. For instance, I took a semester course in fencing in order to get a feel for handling a sword. I am not by any stretch of imagination a good swordswoman, but by taking the course I learned what muscles I would use in match, the basic moves of fencing, what it is like to be in a modern fencing tournament, and most importantly, what it feels like to be a person who is fencing. I have taken courses in sailing, horseback riding, dancing, metalsmithing and other activities that all combine to give me a feeling of what skills a person in a fantasy setting might feel on a day to day basis.

I also take trips to locations that are similar to ones that I’m writing and take photos and notes of the places, trying to take in the feel of the place more than the facts. These sensations are easily applied to characters that I am writing about. Google can always tell me the facts, but it can’t always provide the little details that the experience itself does. Whenever it is possible, I recommend that you experience the activities your characters would, or at least a safe close approximation.

Google Earth

Hand in hand with travel is Google Earth. Using this application you can zero in on most places on the planet, you can check street names, landmarks, and develop walking, driving and public transit routes. This can be helpful when writing about a place you have never been and discovering travel times between locations or the appearance of buildings in the area. While it is always preferable to visit the location and gain the sights, sounds and smells of the place, Google Earth is a handy substitute that lurks inside your computer, always at hand.

Conclusion

Writing research is a necessary part of creating a novel. Some genres take more research than others, but ultimately, every story needs facts to help flesh it out and ground it in a semblance of reality. How much is too much? Only you the author can decide. I believe that the key to keeping your research in control and not overwhelming your story process is to do most of it after the rough draft is completed. Do not allow the small details of history to swamp your original plot. If you keep this in mind, you should have an effective course of research using the above tools.

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays on Writing * Writer's Links

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