Category Archives: Writing

Science Fiction is Good for Science

Lately, there has been a trend criticizing science fiction books and movies for not being “scientific”. Headlines proclaim “what the new Star Wars movie got wrong” and articles, tweets, and blogs all rush to point out the errors in science fiction books and movies. Some have gone so far as to label speculative fiction as bad for science. Our opinion: Lighten up, guys!

Naturally, fiction makes things up and creates beings, worlds, and technologies that simply cannot exist in our universe. That’s why it’s called fiction. That’s why it’s fun. But beyond the fun, science fiction, in both books and movies, serves science in a unique way. It makes people wonder, what if? It tickles imaginations. It stimulates questions and creativity. It incites an interest in science and discovery. Why is imagination important to science? Let’s hear from a scientist on the subject.

In his book Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms, Albert Einstein wrote:

At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact, I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

You never know where the seeds of an idea will come from. You never know whose words will spark someone’s passion.

So lighten up on science fiction. Don’t try to stifle it’s scope and vision. It doesn’t harm science. Quite the contrary.

Oh, and one final message from Einstein:







Writing Instead of Blogging

futureWe know it’s been awhile since our last post. Where have we been? Writing. Books, that is, not blog posts.

We were originally committed to writing one blog per week, and we did for a few years. Then we noticed how much time it took to prepare a blog post. Time to think of a topic. Time to write it and rewrite it. We began to ask if blogging was worth all the time we were spending on it.

We occasionally cheated and posted memes or book covers. Then we stopped posting every week. The time between posts grew longer. Soon, the habit of writing a post was gone. Yes, blogging is a habit, as is writing. If you don’t commit to doing it on a regular schedule it simply will not get done.

As the work on our current novel wound down, we thought of our languishing blog. We talked of our preciously rationed time and had discussions about whether time spent writing was better than time spent blogging. After all, the point is to write a few novels, which, ironically, are about time. Was our time better spent thinking of plots or engaging blog topics? Were we novelists or bloggers? Could we be both and still have time to make dinner, feed the cats, and clean the house?

The final decision was tenuous compromise between writing and blogging. We probably won’t be posting weekly, but we will be posting more often. Our hiatus from blogging has given us a small but renewed flame for writing new posts. The weary cries of  “what will we write about this week?” and “but we’ve already written about that!” will, we hope, be stifled.

On the plus side, our seventh book in the Time’s Edge series is being published this December. We may not have been blogging but we’ve been writing books like crazy. So apologies to those who wondered where we were and raised eyebrows to those who didn’t notice.   😉

Why We Love NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

For those who are not familiar with NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) site, it is a collection of amazing pictures of the universe. Their tagline explains it best: “Discover the Cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.”

And why do we love it? It’s simple. Inspiration and knowledge. We always learn something from the information provided with each photo and the images themselves are simply stunning.


Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe Image Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA


Check out today’s (June 1, 2015) post, a video of a pulsating aurora over Iceland set to music.


NASA’s APOD contains the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the internet. When we look at the images, we imagine all the stories that must be out there. And then we get writing.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Releasing a Book for Publication

nervous faceAh, that wonderful day when it is time to approve that final proof for publication. You’ve slaved over the manuscript, rewritten it, edited it, submitted it, edited it some more, resubmitted it, and then… final approval for publication. Sounds easy, right?

Well, giving the okay for your novel to emerge into the realm of published books is both wonderful and terrifying. You stare at that final proof. It’s done. Of course it’s done. There’s nothing more to change. But… What about that ending in chapter six? Does it give too much away? Does it not go far enough? Is it, really, really just right? And that passage in chapter fifteen. Perhaps, just one more rewrite….

And, of course, there are the mechanics of book publishing. Does the eBook look good on all devices? Is the format a little funky on certain types of phones? I know I checked all the links, but perhaps, I should check them again, just to be sure… The paperback looks good. Yes, but that index in the back… Is that format really the best one? And that comma on page 47. Will anyone care about it except for me?

An author can drive herself crazy when its time to give that final approval. It’s akin to walking down the aisle on your wedding day. The reality hits you: It’s time to commit. Gulp.

But, ah, the freedom and excitement that you feel once the book is released for publication! It’s done. It’s out there. There are readers eagerly waiting for your book. You sigh with relief. It’s finished. Pour me a glass of champagne!

Time’s Guardians, the 6th book in the Time’s Edge sci-fi series, was released for publication on January 19th, 2015. Does having five previously published novels make a difference when it comes to that final moment?

Nope. It’s like getting married all over again. Same agony, same ecstasy. Perhaps that’s why, after we take those vows or give that final approval for publication, we reach for champagne.

The Rules of Writing (Not)

WritersIt seems everyone has a list of what they believe are the Rules for Writing. Authors often create lists giving their rules. And that’s great. If you want to write just like other authors.

The trouble with the Rules, especially for fiction writers, is that they are too restrictive. Writing is a creative process. Nothing will stop a first draft more effectively than trying to obey all the Rules. And nothing deprives a writer of their own style and voice like solemnly following another author’s dictates about how to create your novel.

Don’t misunderstand. There is a lot of good advice out there from experienced writers who know their craft. The trouble is, what works for one writer is not necessarily the formula that will work for another. Sorting through the endless advice on how to write is a search for self. You take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and meld it into your own process, a process that evolves the more you write.

We are often asked by new authors to provide a list of the Rules, and they are usually disappointed when we do not. However, we will say that the best list of the Rules that we have ever found comes from Kurt Vonnegut in his essay “How to Write with Style.”

  • Find a subject you care about.
  • Do not ramble, though.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Have the guts to cut.
  • Sound like yourself.
  • Say what you mean to say.
  • Pity the readers.

Why should writers strive to improve their style? Vonnegut wrote,  “Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them.”

And that is the the most important Rule. Care about what you write. Be passionate about your subject and your craft.

One last piece of advice to keep in mind.  Vonnegut did write another list of Rules (in a preface to his short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box). This list is more typical of other authors’ Rules of Writing:

  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

However after the list, he added:

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.


Two Writers, One Voice, Ten Tips

WritersEveryone wants to know: How do two writers write one story? We described our journey as collaborating authors in So, How Do Two Writers Write As One? However, there must be a lot of writing partners out there for we still get many requests for more information on how to pull off the two authors/one voice trick.

It is difficult to analyze all the nuances of how we work together. A great deal of our success is personality. We, simply put, are a good fit. We also have been at this for a very long time, so each knows the way the other one thinks and what our strengths and weaknesses are. But for those who wish to have a go at writing a book with another, here are ten tips on how to go about it.

1. Be nice to each other.
The Golden Rule of writing together. If you can’t follow this rule, don’t bother because you will never get anywhere. This doesn’t mean that you must agree all the time. Some of our best story ideas came out of disagreements. Just keep the disagreements respectful. No name calling. And no yelling.

2. Be honest.
About yourself. About whether you can work with  partner. About whether you even like the way they write. About everything. If you do not like something, say so. If you like something, also say so. (It’s amazing how often that simple but wonderful piece of feedback is overlooked!)  So be honest. But don’t be mean.

3. Have weekly meetings.
Even if you are living in the same house, if you have a writing partner, you need to have at least one meeting a week to discuss your work-in-progress, read drafts, ask questions. This helps to keep both writers (if you’ll pardon the pun) on the same page.

4. Know how your book will end.
This is good advice even if you are not writing with a partner. The overall tone of the story should reflect just where the tale is heading. Also, how your characters behave and develop has a direct effect on where they end up. Both writers must be aiming at the same target.

5. Write an outline of the story.
Not every writer works with an outline, but for two writers working on one project an outline is very useful. This doesn’t mean you must rigidly adhere to the script, but having a structure will keep both writers moving in the same general direction.

6. Divide the work...
Discuss beforehand who will write what. Get out the outline (see how useful it is?) and negotiate which sections each writer will tackle. Here it is important to be nice (see tip #1) and to be honest (see tip #2). Know your writing strengths and weaknesses. In our writing, Mary is good at dialogue, Joe at description. We both love action scenes. We keep these things in mind when deciding how to divide the labor.

7.  …but don’t be rigid about it.
Dividing the labor does not necessarily mean one writer per chapter. It may mean one scene in a chapter. It may mean you BOTH write the same chapter. This usually results in a blend, taking a piece of each writer’s version of the chapter and melding it into one piece. Remember that mention above about dialogue and description? We often will take a dialogue-dominated scene by Mary and blend it with a description-rich scene by Joe. Presto! A complete chapter.

8Write separately.
Perhaps there are those who can write comfortably with another writer in the room, but it doesn’t work for us. Invariably, one writer will interrupt the other with a question, idea, or to read a passage from a draft. This can be really annoying. Also, there is nothing more damping to the flow of words than to see someone either typing furiously while you can’t even put together one sentence or to be the one typing furiously while the other is staring our the window not writing at all. (By the way, the old adage is true. A writer IS working when he is staring out the window.) Need to discuss something? See tip #3.

9. Edit each other’s work.
Painful but necessary. A great deal of the merging of two writers into one takes place during the editing process. Remember, positive feedback is just as important as pointing out errors. If your writing partner is particularly good at something or really nailed a scene let him know. And when your partner criticizes your work, try to remain objective. Discuss the critiques, don’t sulk. Use your partner’s suggestions when rewriting. What you rewrite is not set in stone. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t, but give suggestions a fair try.

10. Have fun.
If you are not enjoying the process, then it simply is not for you. We have a lot of fun collaborating on our books, so the inevitable differences of opinion and stumbling blocks are bearable. Most writers we talk with claim they could never write a story with another person. They dislike sharing creative control, they don’t want another writer editing their work, they feel inhibited about plotting aloud with someone else. So perhaps we should add an eleventh tip…


National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’d like to highlight Patricia Clark, the poet who very graciously allowed us to use her poem “My Warrior “in our most recent novel, Time’s Warriors.

The poem is taken from her debut book Lady on the Bench. It fit beautifully into a scene where Kate, one of our main characters, is singing about warriors and later discusses some of the dilemmas that warriors often face.

Would you have been a warrior
One thousand years ago,
With your bold, restless spirit
No one could control?

Would your causes have been just,
For country and for king?
Or maybe for your god
To praise his glory and being?

Would your deeds have been noble?
Would mercy know your name?
Would you be hailed a hero
And never associate with shame?

Yes, one thousand years ago
Your muscle and your might
Were needed to tame a world,
Be it wrong or be it right.

One thousand years have passed,
What now is there to do
With a bold restless spirit
Such as the one in you.

Lady web cover

Time’s Warriors

Time’s Warriors, the next book in the Time’s Edge series, will be available in the Spring of 2014. The cover art is by Ali Ries. Check out Ali’s work on her website:


Time's Warriors Cover

Don’t Annoy the Writer

Anne Lamott quote


From the Facebook page of author Sue Fitzmaurice.

Too Much Book Promotion, Not Enough Writing

BalanceOh, the time suck of promoting a book. Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. Amazon. Etc., etc. etc… Everyone knows the players.

The amount of information on the Internet is infinite. The craving for new information is insatiable. The chances of readers finding a particular author’s information is infinitesimal.  (Like all those “I” words?)

Trying to keep up with the changes in Amazon’s algorithms, the constantly shifting rules of all the social media platforms, the newest must-be-there-or-be-square sites is overwhelming. (Bet you thought we were going to say impossible.) All the social media management sites on the Internet do not seem to reduce the time drain of maintaining a social media presence.

The sad truth is we now spend more time promoting than writing.

We’ve read many articles on how to reduce the amount of time spent on social media. We’ve tried management tools such as hootsuite and pingraphy. And they help. A little. However, there is no getting around the fact that even management sites require data input. An entire day can be spent setting up one month’s worth of scheduled tweets, posts and blogs, and no management software can take the place of the genuine interaction that is necessary when responding to comments and messages. Also, different platforms require different input. It would be counter-productive to simply post identical information across all sites. We have followed authors who do that and the constant repetition made us decide to unfollow  pretty quickly.

The really worrisome thing is that we have a sneaking feeling that all this time is wasted time. We have not seen a significant correlation between all our social media efforts and sales. Repins, retweets, and shares by the dozens do not seem to turn followers into readers. There are so many authors out there doing the same thing that our additions to the clamor seem like peeing in the ocean. Who is going to notice?

We could have blogged about “How to Successfully Promote Your Book in 10 Easy Steps”.  A quick Google search would have provided us with plenty of material.  But like the self-help books that try to show the path to enlightenment or the you-can-be-a-millionaire-too titles, the method that works for one person does not work for everyone, or even most folks. After all, how many blogs do we all need saying: Have a Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Tumblr page? Post regularly! Interact! Connect! Use a call for action! Be visual! We all know how the game is played by now.

We’re going to keep plugging away at it. We are also going to try to write more and promote less. Just as soon as we get this blog posted.

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