Craig Cormick in an Australian science communicator and author. He was born in Wollongong in 1961, and is known for his creative writing and social research into public attitudes towards new technologies. He has lived mainly in Canberra, but has also in Iceland (1980–81) and Finland (1984–85). He has published 15 books of fiction and non-fiction, and numerous articles in refereed journals. He has been active in the Canberra writing community, teaching and editing, was Chair of the ACT Writers Centre from 2003 to 2008 and in 2006 was Writer in Residence at the University of Science in Penang, Malaysia.

Five Lessons on The Pitfalls of Writing A Sequel

by Craig Cormick

Everyone loves a sequel, right?

Well, not necessarily. They are great for those who enjoyed a book and want to continue the enjoyment and spend more time with those characters and in that land, or fighting those aliens or demons or whatever. But they can be the devil to write (not a paranormal reference).

I’ve been trying to find a good metaphor to best explain the particular problems that writing the second book in a series presents for an author? It’s not quite like having a second child. It’s not quite like visiting an exotic city for the second time. It’s not even quite like having sex for the second time with the same partner (not a paranormal romance reference).

But in a way it’s a little bit like all of these, as there is a certain undeniable special magic that goes with the first that is lacking in the second.
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Susan Klaus was born in Sarasota, Florida. She has been published in several magazines including Cats, ELL, and SRQ. Klaus is the founder and president of the Authors Connection Club, and is also the host of a Web radio show called Authors Connection that went into syndication this year. Flight of the Golden Harpy is Klaus’s first novel. Follow Susan at her website, Twitter as @KlausSue and on Facebook.

Choosing Your Protagonist

by Susan Klaus

Okay, I’m a newbie here, newly published and new to blogging and posting, so I’m hoping you’ll cut me some slack. My first fantasy novel comes out this week, and my first thriller was released last Oct. and its sequel hits bookstores in August, three novels within ten months. As you see, I’ve been busy writing books and haven’t had time to dabble with Social Media but I’ll try to write a profound, inspiring blog that you’ll never forget. Therefore, let’s talk about Brad Pitt.
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Kevin Lucia recently served as a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and his podcast Horror 101 is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles. His first short story collection, Things Slip Through was published November 2013. His nw novel is Devourer of Souls, an original tale of cosmic horror.

Hiding In The Cracks Between Things

by Kevin Lucia

My initial attempts at writing horror resulted in very obvious attempts to “scare” the reader. I had monsters – vampires, werewolves, demons – and I had blood and pumping viscera. There were incantations, tentacles, and “unspeakable horrors from beyond the grave.” Frequently, I had awful people doing awful things, and awful things happening to those awful people as a consequence.

Though some of those early efforts glimmered with potential, most of them were cliché, on the nose, and very obvious “horror stories.” Most of them were rejected, for which I’m very thankful, today. Luckily, I was new and clueless and convinced I was the second coming of [Insert Horror Writer's Name Here], so I kept plugging away.

Eventually my technique improved. I learned how to end stories. I learned how to cut, learned word economy. I started selling stories here and there to small press, semi-pro venues. Some folks found them entertaining, and hey: progress was progress.

But about the time I turned down invitations to both a vampire and zombie anthology, (thinking, “Geez, I don’t WANT to write those kinds of stories.”) I began turning my thoughts toward the kind of stories I DID want to write. I’d accepted the horror genre as my own, if only because my stories didn’t seem to fit anywhere else. Now I felt the need to stop writing stories for submissions calls, and start writing stories for me.
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J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City came out from Penguin in 2013. The sequel, The Seat of Magic debuted July 1. Her website can be found at www.jkathleencheney.com.

Forgiving Anne McCaffrey

by J. Kathleen Cheney

Writers have an ingrained fear of being stuck in an elevator at a convention with the person who turns around and says, “On page 213 of Book 4, you contradicted a statement made on page 119 of Book 2. How do you explain that?”

I have to admit, I’ve got a bit of that reader in me. I’m constantly noting continuity errors in movies and TV shows. Don’t get me started on inconsistencies in The Big Bang Theory. And yes, I always noticed them in books. When I hit something that bothered me, I would go back to double check whether I’d simply misread something.

Now, I love the works of Anne McCaffrey. In high school, I voraciously read every word of hers I could find. But there were problems…
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Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of her website, Sex Scenes at Starbucks.

Three things I Learned Writing Fantasy

by Betsy Dornbusch

Besides that it’s challenging, all-consuming, damned fun, and as addictive as those new churro ice cream sandwiches.

I’ve learned lots more than three things from writing fantasy, but I decided to tie this to Exile, The First Book of the Seven Eyes, my book that just came out in paperback. I wrote Exile eight years ago and these are the challenges that jumped out at me then. You’d think I’d have moved on by now. Except as I draft Enemy, the third book in the series, I’m finding these challenges have become more tenets I lean on. Problem is, they each have inner conflict. You know, to keep things interesting.
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Writing a Sequel: Lessons Learned

Sequels are utterly ubiquitous in fantasy, a genre that thrives on trilogies, quintets, cycles, songs, sagas, and every other form of length multi-volume narrative you can name. As a fantasy reader, I’ve been reading books in that format my whole life, but until I got started on The Shadow Throne, I’d never actually written one myself. It was a different experience than writing the first book, for better and for worse, sometimes in ways that were a little bit unexpected.

Some of the good parts are pretty obvious. One reason sequels are so popular in fantasy is because the genre embraces deep, complex world-building, and it’s difficult to explore the full breadth of a realistic world in a single book. Writing a sequel allows the writer to introduce new characters, new locations, new cultures, things that in the first book were only distantly referenced or place-names on a map. At the same time, because the first book has laid the foundation, the author doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel and lay the groundwork all over again. In The Shadow Throne, my characters leave the distant colony of Khandar and return to their home in Vordan, which gives me a chance to show off all kinds of interesting bits and pieces of culture, geography, and history.

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Jo Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her short story collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories was published by Fablecroft Publishing in 2013, and won the Aurealis Award for Best Collection. Her novel, Debris was published in 2011, followed by Suited in 2012. Debris was shortlisted for the Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel, and Suited was shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Novel! Joanne won the 2012 Ditmar for Best New Talent. You can find her online at http://joanneanderton.com

What Finishing A Trilogy Has Taught Me About The Creative Process

By Jo Anderton

In my original ideas for the Veiled Worlds Trilogy, scribbled on a post-it note and carried around in my wallet for days, Tanyana’s suit had an ultimate form that involved giant silver wings. Also, her main romantic interest was a mythical being known as the gatekeeper.

Let’s all take a deep, relieved breath that none of that actually happened.

I still have that ratty post-it note. It’s stuck inside the unfortunate notebook that the cat vomited on, but it’s legible. All my notes – every random idea, every comment from a beta-reader – are kept in a set of three notebooks. I guess you could call them the blueprints for the trilogy, each one a sketch of the novel they ultimately became. But they’re also a record of the creative process itself, how ideas begin life, and the way in which they change.
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Alison Sinclair is the author of the science fiction novels Legacies, Blueheart, and Cavalcade (nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award). She is presently living in Montreal where she is working on the next novel in the Plague Confederacy trilogy. Her latest novel Breakpoint: Nereis is avilable on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound.

5 Lessons from Writing BREAKPOINT: NEREIS, or Old Dogs, New Tricks

by Alison Sinclair

1. Delegate the Power Struggles.

It’s embarrassing to admit to engaging in power struggles with figments of my own imagination. It suggests I haven’t quite got the grip on professionalism, not to mention reality, that I ought. I might jokingly claim my characters have minds of their own, but I know who’s in charge.

Or I did until I ran up against Creon McIntyre.
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[GUEST POST] S.G. Browne on The Writing Life


S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, Fated, Breathers, and the forthcoming Super Duper, as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus and the ebook collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. He’s a Guinness aficionado, ice cream snob, and a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life. He lives in San Francisco.

The Writing Life: We Are Not Alone

by S.G. Browne

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

The above quote was taken from Robert De Niro’s presentation for the screenwriting category at the 2014 Academy Awards. I don’t know who wrote the words that De Niro spoke but whoever it was nailed writers to the post.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from the incredible Elizabeth Bear! – Sarah Chorn

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction. She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. On April 8, 2014 Elizabeth Bear released the third and final book in the Eternal Sky trilogy, Steles of the Sky.

On Writing Disabilities

by Elizabeth Bear

It’s kind of funny to realize as I write this that I originally wasn’t going to submit a piece to Sarah’s blog series, because I didn’t feel like I had much to say about writing disabled people in science fiction. But after the second colleague suggested that I would be a good fit for the series, I had to stop and consider why they would think so.

And I realized that it’s probably because I write a lot of disabled protagonists. From Jenny Casey and Genevieve Castaign in Hammered and the sequel books–an amputee with neurological damage and a girl with cystic fibrosis–to the aneurotypical Michelangelo in Carnival from Matthew Szczgielniak with his maimed hand and congenital adrenal hyperplasia sufferer Lily Wakeman in Whiskey and Water to Tristen and Perceval Conn in the Jacob’s Ladder books, one of whom has albinism and the other of whom has lost the power of flight–now that I actually stop and think about it, it seems like most of my protagonists are “imperfect” in some way.

I have written characters with forms of epilepsy and characters with bipolar disorder. I have written anxiety sufferers and paraplegics and I have helped invent entirely new, science fictional syndromes. I have written more than my share of characters with post-traumatic stress disorder. That last, frankly, is because I don’t know how to write people who don’t have PTSD.

I’ve been trying to learn, though. You all are so unpredictable.
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Katherine Addison‘s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her new novel, The Goblin Emperor, was just published by Tor. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

Tolkien, Orcs, Elves and Goblins

by Katherine Addison

I write a lot of different things, but one of my first and deepest loves is the genre that sometimes gets called “epic fantasy” or “secondary-world fantasy”: stories that take place entirely in imaginary worlds. Unsurprisingly, I came to Tolkien early, I loved–and love–him deeply, and he is undeniably one of a handful of very profound influences on my writing. (Tolkien, Wolfe, and Kushner are the three fantasy writers I most want to be able to write like, which probably explains a great many things about my books.) I love the world he invented, and I strive in my own writing to give the same sense of depth that he does, the same intense sense of history. And if I could write travel narrative as well as he does…well…that would be shiny.
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[GUEST POST] Sabrina Benulis on The Daunting Task of Writing a Book Series


Sabrina Benulis lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and a spoiled cockatiel. When she isn’t writing like a madwoman, you can find Sabrina enjoying old school video games, Japanese anime, and of course a good book. Archon, her debut novel, is the first installment in The Books of Raziel series. Her new book, the sequel, is called Covenant.

A Book Series is A Journey

by Sabrina Benulis

There really is an art to writing novels in a fantasy series, and by now I firmly believe that no matter how many books you read, this is a skill that someone can only firmly acquire through experience. Many times when I’m asked how many novels I’ve been contracted for in The Books of Raziel series and I say ‘three,’ people first congratulate my good fortune, and then they look at me flabbergasted. The next question inevitably is, “So how exactly can you write three books that are all connected?” or better still, “How in the world do you keep track of everything?”

The short answer is: it’s complicated.
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Miles Cameron is the author of The Traitor Son Cycle, which merges epic fantasy with intricate plotting and scathing action. The first book was The Red Knight. The second book, published this week by Orbit Books is The Fell Sword.

Writing Fantasy-Battles, War, and Violence

By Miles Cameron

In the Traitor Son series, there are a great many battles. But battles, IMHO, are like murders in a good mystery novel. Each of them needs to take place in a context and the results have to have consequences. You can’t just have a battle to see how the magic sword works. Or the hero, for that matter.

And I have to admit that my writing of violence in a Fantasy setting is enormously complicated by having actually seen a war or two.
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A filmmaker now exploring novel-writing and illustration, Darryl Knickrehm has 8 short films under his belt. In 2013, in addition to co-founding Waylines Magazine, Darryl was a finalist in The Illustrators of the Future. Twice. This year he is releasing the dystopian series, The Citizens of Oblivion. The first book, In Dreams, came out in January, with the next installment, Sympathy for the Devil, came out March 3. For more information on other projects, check out dariru.com, his blog, or on twitter as @DarrylKnickrehm.

The Story Behind The Citizens of Oblivion
(or, How To Make an Entire Series from a Simple Writing Exercise)

by Darryl Knickrehm

Just where do stories come from? Do they dwell on some ethereal plane, floating through the flotsam until someone taps the midi-chlorian barrier and a fully formed epic is let loose? Maybe for some. For most of us, however, the answer is a little more down to earth. Sometimes we pull from personal experiences. Sometimes we’re inspired by real world events. But a lot of the time, stories are developed. Through plotting. Through planning. And sometimes through little writing exercises. And if you’re lucky, like me, those little writing exercises might turn into an epic odyssey, one that leads to epiphany upon epiphany and an entire six-book series.

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E.L. Tettensor is the author of the Nicolas Lenoir series of fantasy mysteries. She lives with her husband in Burundi, Africa, where she spends her time working, writing, and defending her home and garden against the insidious, creeping onslaught of the jungle – which is possibly why she equates the colour green with evil. You can learn more at her website, www.eltettensor.com.

How To Spice Up a Mystery Story with Speculative Fiction

by E.L. Tettensor

“I couldn’t put it down.”

The five little words every author wants to hear. For mystery writers, especially, this is the Holy Grail of review language. The validation of every plot twist, every cleverly placed clue, every chapter left teetering on the edge of a cliff like a school bus in a Superman movie.

So, what makes it work? What turns a reasonably paced read into a ravenous, up-till-two-in-the-morning page burner?
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Pamela Palmer is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including both the Vamp City and Feral Warriors series. When Pamela’s initial career goal of captaining starships failed to pan out, she turned to engineering, satisfying her desire for adventure with books and daydreams until finally succumbing to the need to create worlds of her own. Pamela lives and writes in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Bringing a Long-Running Series to a Close

by Pamela Palmer

The first rule of any story is knowing where it starts and where it ends. Of course, authors are nothing if not rule-breakers and we often dive in with only a general idea of where the whole thing is going to end.

When I started my Feral Warriors shape-shifter series, I’d anticipated writing nine books. After all, the story was about the last nine shape-shifters left in the world, each of whom shifts into a different animal. And, being paranormal romances, each character would get his own book. Ideally. The trouble was, I love plot every bit as much as I enjoy romance, and I ended up telling one big urban fantasy tale. Each story focused on a different pair of main characters, a different couple, but ultimately, it was all one tale as the shape-shifters battled near impossible odds to keep the Daemons from escaping their magical prison after five thousand years.
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More than two decades ago, when I was banging my head against a keyboard in desperation trying to write fiction, I somehow became convinced that I should abandon prose and begin writing screenplays.  I read several books, some of them concentrating on formatting (useful because I had, at that point, never considered that writing a screenplay required different textual semiotics from prose), but learned the most from those focusing on structure, such as Robert McKee’s Story and Syd Field’s Screenplay, among others.  Although they never quite get me to the point of actually writing more than a few pages of half-baked ideas (though I did collaborate with one friend on a spy story made obsolete by the abrupt conclusion of the Cold War), they taught me enough about what made stories work to allow me to begin finishing prose fiction at a regular pace.

Had Dan O’Bannon’s and Matt Lohr’s Dan Obannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure: Inside Tips from the Writer of Alien, Total Recall and Return of the Living Dead been published at that time, it easily would have been one of the books I absorbed.  It certainly would have been something I studied carefully.  McKee’s Story offered a wealth of dos and don’ts, Syd Field’s Screenplay broke down three-act structure in a way that made sense, but this particular manual came from the same mind that produced one of the greatest science-fiction horror movies of all time, one of the best-known zombie movies (made before zombies shambled into the cultural zeitgeist), and one of science fiction’s best known indie movies.  He also worked on one of the greatest movies never made, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune, so what he said would have carried a great deal of weight for this budding science fiction writer.  In fact, his work views drama in a manner that seems self-evident but that other writers seldom explore.  It’s a work I’d recommend not only to screenwriters, but also to those who want to write fiction.

Dan O’Bannon died in 2009, before he and Matt Lohr could finish their collaboration.  I got the chance to talk to Matt about the book, and about what makes his approach to writing different from others.
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[GUEST POST] DK Mok on Endings, and What Comes After

DK Mok lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes fantasy, science fiction and urban fantasy novels and short stories. DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour. Her urban fantasy novel The Other Tree is available now (Spence City). DK’s short stories include ‘Morning Star’ in One Small Step (Fablecroft), ‘Autumn Moon’ in Holiday Magick (Spencer Hill Press), and ‘Keeping It Together’ in Midnight Movie: Creature Feature (May December Publications). Find more online at www.dkmok.com, on Twitter @dk_mok or on Facebook.

Endings, and What Comes After
by DK Mok

I tend to remember endings.

I still recall with intense clarity where I was when I finished reading John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. Sitting at a wobbly plastic table, afternoon light slanting in through the windows, the world around me seeming to stretch and shrink and hang in that moment of silence and light.

I love a good ending, although what constitutes a “good” ending can vary immensely. Sometimes, what an author considers an apt finale can leave readers taking to social media in an unholy rage. This can occur when an ending is rushed, poorly written, or unconvincing. But sometimes, this occurs because the ending is not what the reader wanted or expected.
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[GUEST POST] Marie Bilodeau on The Name of the Trickster

Ottawa-based storyteller and author Marie Bilodeau‘s work has been described as “fresh and exciting” by Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo award-winning author of Wake. She attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and served two terms as President of the school’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Club, an honor that she will never live down. (Not that she cares to.) Her novel Destiny’s Blood was nominated for the 2011 Aurora Awards and won the Bronze Medal for Science-Fiction in the Foreword Book Awards. The final novel in that trilogy, Destiny’s War comes out January 31st, 2014.
To learn more, visit her official website at MarieBilodeau.com.

The Name of the Trickster

by Marie Bilodeau

We all grow up on narratives, and few in the SF community aren’t lovers of stories and narratives in general, whether they consume them through literature, movies, long-running TV and/or video games. The character arcs swing us around, climaxes make us tingle and we love us a good trickster.
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[GUEST POST] Paul Kearney on The Road to Writing


Paul Kearney is the critically-acclaimed author of The Monarchies of God and the Sea Beggars series. He has been long-listed for the British Fantasy Award. His latest novels are A Different Kingdom (available now) and The Ten Thousand (available next month), both from Solaris books.

The Road to Writing is Paved with Blood, Sweat and Tears

by Paul Kearney

I remember one night, sitting down with Robert Silverberg and Rob Holdstock, and getting really, really drunk with them, and thinking: this can’t be right.

That drunken night was over twenty years ago now, but I treasure the memory. I am not a great conventioneer, but in the few I went to I was always somewhat startled by the sheer approachability of the big guns of the genre.
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