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Why I’m Changing Up My Blog

Marcy Kennedy's BlogI’ll be making some changes to my blogging schedule starting April 1, 2012.

As many of you already know, I think Kristen Lamb and her WANA (We Are Not Alone) methods are the smart road for writers to take when it comes to balancing the load of writing and platform building while still making time to live your life.

In her post Sacred Cow Tipping – More Common Blogging Misconceptions, Kristen points out two pitfalls we often fall into as new writer-bloggers. We feel we need to have separate blogs for separate topics and we give all our energy to a group blog at the expense of our own. I did both these things, and I was burning myself out, leaving little time for my novel or my life away from my computer.

Lisa Hall-Wilson and I have absolutely loved the year and a half we gave to Girls With Pens, and we don’t regret a moment of it. But it’s time for us to take the next step. We will no longer be blogging at Girls With Pens. (We’re also not getting rid of it entirely—read on.)

So with Girls With Pens shutting down, instead of posting here Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (which I have been), I’ll be posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Instead of having separate blogs for separate topics, I’ll be loosely grouping my topics into days. If you’re only interested in one of the topics, I won’t be offended if you ignore the others 🙂

Mondays will be where fantasy, science fiction, and real life collide in posts like Who’s Your Unicorn and The Lie of Helen of Troy.

Wednesdays will be devoted to posts on writing, editing, platform building, and blogging like 6 Grammar Mistakes that Will Cost You Readers and What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?” If you’ve also been following Girls With Pens, you already know what to expect on these days. I’m simply moving locations.

Friday will be the new day for interviews with fantasy and science fiction authors to help you pick your next weekend read, behind the scenes looks at the worlds within the books (like my Bertie Botts posts), v-logs, and mash-ups.

I’ll still be bringing you excellent guest posters, but they won’t have a set day.

What about Girls With Pens? Even though we’re shutting down the blog, you can sign up for our monthly Girls With Pens newsletter where we’ll be bringing you interviews with industry professionals.

I hope that you’ll sign up for my blog here, and if you’d like to hangout online, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I’m also on Pinterest, and would love to have you follow my boards and get a chance to see your boards in return.

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The Missing Hunger Games Line

The Hunger Games movie posterEven though I loved The Hunger Games movie that released Friday, I couldn’t help but notice that the screenwriters left out one of the most important lines in the book.

The night before the Games begin, Katniss finds Peeta on the roof of their hotel, watching the Capitol celebrate.

Peeta tells her, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”

This makes no sense to Katniss. In the book, she replies by telling him to care about staying alive, and in the movie, she explains that she can’t afford to think that way. Although that particular line wasn’t in the book, it was a perfect addition because that’s the way things are in District 12, where Katniss lives. Thinking of what might be only leads to disappointment. You have no chance of bettering your situation, nothing you do changes anything significant, and the best you can hope for is to survive.

And that’s the best she hopes for from the Arena as well. Only one of the twenty-four who compete comes out alive. To Katniss, any expectation that something might change this year would be futile.

Yet it’s Katniss who, by the end of the book, thumbs her nose at the Capitol and forces them into allowing two winners of the Hunger Games for the first time ever. And over the next two books, it’s Katniss who, without even meaning to, ignites a revolution and changes her world.

She learns one person can make a difference.

I’m not sure whether the scriptwriters missed this theme running underneath all the books or whether they didn’t catch the line that brings out the deepest facet of it, but in Chapter 7 of The Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss are arguing about which of them has the better chance of survival and of getting sponsors. Each believes it’s the other.

Peeta turns to Haymitch (their mentor) in exasperation and says, “She has no idea. The effect she can have.”

They left this line out of the movie, and without this line, part of the message is missing.

Not only can one person make a difference, but sometimes we make a difference in others’ lives without even knowing it.

Katniss didn’t set out to change the world. She just did what was right and change followed. She had no idea of the chain of events her seemingly small actions would cause.

It works the same way in real life.

When I was twelve, the boy who sat behind me in class would ask me to explain all our school work to him. I dreaded feeling that pesky tap-tap on my shoulder. When I finally lost my temper, he confessed—he couldn’t read. Somehow he’d slipped through the cracks, dismissed as either stupid or lazy, when he wasn’t either.

So I taught him (and felt guilty about snapping at him). At the time, I didn’t think it was anything important, but a couple years later, I overheard him telling a teacher how much I’d helped him and how much it meant to him.

I treasure that memory. So often I struggle with feeling insignificant and like nothing I do really matters, and that memory helps remind me that I won’t always know how something small I did positively affected someone else. If I hadn’t overheard, I would never have known I made a difference.

We’re not all destined to be famous leaders or world-changers, but that doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference in the individual lives we touch, sometimes when we least realize it, often just by doing the right thing. And that too is important.

Do you ever struggle with feeling like what you do doesn’t matter? Has someone made a difference in your life, probably without realizing it?

(If you’re looking for a movie review of The Hunger Games, Karen Rought at The Midnight Novelist has a mostly spoiler-free version, and Jessica O’Neal–the sexy little nerd–does a great job of analyzing the actors and the flow of the movie.)

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Wrath of the Titans

Set to release next Friday, March 30, Wrath of the Titans is the sequel to Clash of the Titans (2010) starring Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson.

Ten years after he defeated the Kraken, Perseus is trying to live in peace with his young son. Unfortunately, the gods have been so weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion that they’ve lost control of the imprisoned Titans. Perseus’ grandfather, Kronos, one of the Titans, plots to capture Zeus (Perseus’ father). Perseus must go on a quest to rescue Zeus, defeat the Titans, and save the world.

Does anyone plan to see Wrath of the Titans when it comes out next weekend? Do you think it will live up to Clash of the Titans?

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One Thing Magneto Got Right

I’m very excited to have Jessica O’Neal visiting today. Jess’ blog, The Sexy Little Nerd, is one of my absolute favorites. From her Harry Potter series, to her more recent posts on Robin Hood, fantasy book reviews, and vlogs on everything from The Hunger Games to Game of Thrones, visiting her site is like going to a friend’s house. Please help me welcome Jess…..

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I want to give a huge thank you to Marcy for having me over today. As a sister nerd, her blog has always been one of my favorites to visit. She leaves some pretty big shoes to fill and I hope that I am able to do them justice.

One Thing Magneto Got Right

Mystique X-Men First ClassWhen most people first meet me, they’re surprised to learn what a gargantuan nerd I am. Whether it is my obsession with Harry Potter, my affinity for all things fantasy, or my new found obsession with archery (which started from a desire to live out some of my favorite stories), people are always left gaping. For whatever reason, I am an unexpected nerd. Recently, attention has been called to another one of my nerd proclivities: comic book movies.

I’m a HUGE comic book movie fan. I am convinced that if I had been born a boy rather than a girl someone would have introduced me earlier to the wonder that is comic books, but alas that never happened. Instead, I was left ignorant of these fabulous stories until they started to take over the cinema. One of these movie franchises that I have particularly enjoyed is Marvel’s X-Men.

When these movies started to come out, I knew very little about the X-Men. I had, of course, heard of some of them before, such as Wolverine, but I didn’t really know much about the story. After the first movie, I was in love. As movie after movie began to come out, that love did nothing but grow. I was enraptured by these characters and the relationships they had with one another as they struggled to come to terms with who they were, what they could do, and what they should do. There were so many lessons that could be taken out of the lives of these mutants.

My favorite of the series is, without a doubt, X-Men: First Class. The history between Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto had always fascinated me, so getting to see that history unfold with the brilliant acting of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender was very nearly a cathartic experience. I am not ashamed to admit that the break between them brought me to tears. And not just a few tears. When I tell people that one of the most heartbreaking movies I have ever seen is a comic book movie, they look at me like I’m crazy. That’s okay. The understanding of others is not a necessary component to my enjoyment.

But there was the development of another relationship in X-Men: First Class that really struck a chord within me. I am referring to Magneto and Mystique.

Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence who is also starring in the upcoming The Hunger Games movie) is different than a lot of the other mutants in that the evidence of her mutation, her true self, does not allow her to blend in with *normal* society. Mystique has the ability to change her appearance at will to look like any other human, but when she is in her natural form, she has blue skin and yellow eyes. In order to feel accepted she, therefore, chooses to spend the majority of her time in a different skin.

This is something that I think a lot of us do – I know I do. We are afraid to show our true selves to others for fear that they won’t like who we are, so we morph into the person we think they want us to be, the person we think they will accept. This is an exhausting task that will gradually wear us down.

There is a scene in the movie when Mystique, in her more *normal* human form, is lifting weights. Magneto startles her by manipulating the weights to float in the air above her. He says to her, “If you are using half of your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you are doing. Just pointing out something that could save your life.” He then releases the weights and, in order to catch them before they fall on her, Mystique has to release her shifted form. Magneto then says, “You want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.”

This brief scene really resonated with me. When we figuratively put on whatever skin we think certain people want to see in order to accept us, we are actually achieving the opposite. We can not be truly accepted by someone when we prevent them from seeing who we really are. Yes, when we do reveal the real us, flaws and all, there will be some people who judge us, but are those really the people we want to be close to anyway? Wouldn’t we rather be surrounded by people who know and accept the real us?

The really amazing thing is, when we learn to love ourselves for who we actually are, people can sense that and are drawn to it. People can sense when they’re being shown a false or incomplete version of someone and are turned off by it, whether they consciously realize it or not. So by accepting ourselves, we make it easier for others to accept us as well.

In spite of the path that Magneto and Mystique eventually choose, I believe in this moment Magneto has the right idea. Self-acceptance may not be easy, but the best things never are.

Do you agree with the lesson Magneto gives Mystique? Does one need to first accept herself before she can expect others to?

Jessica O'Neal fantasy authorJessica O’Neal is a fantasy writer with a BA in Psychology with a minor in English. Alongside her writing, she co-hosts Glee Chat and Smash Chat. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and crazy Jack Russell named Moses. Check out her blog The Sexy Little Nerd, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Snow White Reboots

Two reboots of the Snow White fairytale are set to release this year. And if the trailers are any indication, they couldn’t be more different.

Mirror Mirror (starring Julia Roberts) released yesterday, and while it’s a light-hearted comedic romp, Snow White and the Huntsman (starring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart) has a darker, more epic feel to it. 

Check out both trailers below. Which one would you rather see? Although Mirror Mirror looks fun, Snow White and the Huntsman is more my taste when it comes to bringing a fairytale to life. I like to see it as it might have been if the fairytale truly could play out in our world.

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Yoda Was Wrong

I’m risking nerd exile by even suggesting this but…I think Yoda was wrong.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker travels to the swampy planet of Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda. Luke’s X-Wing ends up sunk in a bog, and Luke doesn’t think he can get it out.

Yoda tells him the only difference between moving the ship and moving stones is the one in his mind. With a shrug, Luke turns back and says, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda replies, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

In his post “The Difference between Trying and Doing,” Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, talks about how he watched self-help author Tony Robbins use a chair to explain this concept. Robbins asked a woman to try to pick up the chair. When she picked it up, he told her she’d done it wrong. He asked her to try to pick it up, not to actually pick it up. When she left the chair in place, he told her that she wasn’t trying—she was simply not picking it up.

Hyatt goes on to explain, “The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want. Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.”

Sometimes we do use I’ll try as an excuse. In some situations, there really is only a “do or do not.” You either exercise three times a week or you don’t. You either cheat on your spouse or you don’t. You either write or you don’t. Simple. You can’t try any more than the woman could try to pick up the chair.

But sometimes you can try. Sometimes trying is the best you can do.

(I know. I’m taking on Yoda and Michael Hyatt. I must be crazy.)

When Another Person Is Involved

Say someone was sitting on the chair in question. You might strain and plead, but the chair won’t move. Isn’t there a legitimate try in that case? You gave your all, but someone prevented you from accomplishing what you set out to do.

What about the spouse who goes to counseling, puts in to practice techniques to improve communication, and finds ways to truly show love to their husband or wife to save a troubled marriage, but their husband or wife walks away anyway?

They did everything they could to save their marriage, but someone else’s decision prevented them doing it.

When An Innate Ability Or Talent Is Involved

I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m strong for my size. But if you placed a 1,000-pound chair in front of me and told me to lift it, I couldn’t do it. I am physically incapable of lifting something that size alone.

As a child, I loved to sing. I sang every day. I still do. But it wouldn’t matter how many hours I practiced or how many lessons I took or how determined I was to become a professional singer, I don’t have the voice for it. I wasn’t born with it. No amount of determination can change that. (Want more proof? Look at some of the people who try out for American Idol.)

A neurosurgeon needs steady hands. What if you have a condition that causes yours to shake, and that no amount of physical therapy can rectify? Did you fail because your mindset was wrong? Or should you be applauded for trying to reach your dream even though you failed?

When It Just Isn’t Meant to Be

Occasionally the chair is just built into the floor.

As my husband was nearing the end of his five-year commitment to the Marine Corps, he submitted paperwork to go to the Navy, with the goal of eventually becoming a chaplain. He did everything right and believed he was working toward his goal. Three days after he submitted his paperwork, he had a stroke, resulting in his eventual discharge from the military and a medical ban on rejoining.

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Should a person be told to keep driving toward a dream that clearly isn’t going to happen? I think a time comes when we have to admit failure, grieve, and move on. To me, that’s a sign of true courage.

Saying “there is no try” implies we’re able to do anything if we set our minds to it. And that’s a lie. Sometimes we fail, and the value is in the trying rather than in the success.

We learn through trying and failing. We learn patience, persistence. We learn how to graciously accept defeat. We learn we had skills and strengths we didn’t dream of before. We also learn what isn’t right for us.

People who try, really try, give it their all, and fail, should be applauded. Their mindset was right. They fought hard. “Do or do not” just wasn’t an option.

Do you agree with me that Yoda was wrong (in this case at least)? Or do you still think Yoda was right?

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What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?”

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I planned to post today on “Creating Strong Yet Likeable Female Characters.” As I was researching helpful links to include, I came across a post from the New York Times called “A Plague of Strong Female Characters.” And I realized that, before we can talk about how to make sure strong female characters are also likeable, I first need to cover the inevitable debate over what we mean by strong female character.

In the NYT article, Carina Chocano writes, “I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear strong female character is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling. . . in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff.”

She goes on to conclude that “Strength, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of virtue. And what we think of as virtuous, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. Strong female characters, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.”

And yes, those stereotypes float around in books and movies—the character that could go from being a woman to a man with a simple name change and a haircut.

But when you think about strong women in real life, is that the image that comes to mind? Because, you see, what makes for a strong female character is exactly what makes for a strong woman.

Strong female characters, like strong women, can enjoy painting their nails, wearing makeup, and putting on a beautiful dress. They can wear stilettos, or ballet flats, or hiking boots. They can be moms, even stay-at-home moms. They can be musicians or cooks or doctors. They can cry. They can comfort a friend. They can listen. And yes, they can even be afraid of bugs.

None of those things define a strong woman or a strong female character.

So what does it mean when we talk about a strong female character?

Strong Female Characters Are Smart

Smart can mean book smart the way a quantum physicist is, but it can also mean a woman with common sense that lets her find creative solutions to everyday problems. Or it can mean a woman who’s talented with using her hands and can paint a picture or fix a car.

She has a skill that earns respect and contributes to society. Her intelligence makes her competent, able to help others, and not totally dependent on another person for her entire existence. (Some dependence is okay—none of us are entirely self-sufficient.)

Hermione Granger’s character in Harry Potter didn’t “play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine,” yet she was a strong female character largely because of her intelligence and magical talent. She contributed to the search for Horcruxes in a meaningful way, so much so that Ron (in the movie version) admitted, “We wouldn’t last two days without her.”

Strong Female Characters Act

We’ve all seen the female character who stands by when she clearly should have acted. As much as I love the classic The Princess Bride, would it have killed Buttercup to whack the ROUS with a stick while it was gnawing on Wesley? A strong woman would have defended her beloved.

When she can, a strong female character escapes on her own rather than waiting for someone else to rescue her. Tameri Etherton wrote an excellent post on Danielle from Ever After, a strong female character who worked to change her bad situation.

A strong female character also makes decisions, rather than always waiting on someone else to call the shots. Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager listens to advice from Chakotay (her male first officer) and Tuvok (her male chief of security), but she doesn’t always take it, and if they’re not there to advise her, she’s strong enough to act on her own.

The difference between a strong female character who acts and a weak one who simply reacts is the difference between Buffy and Bella.

Strong Female Characters Stand Up for What They Believe In

Whether or not you agree with all the decisions made by President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, she stood up for what she thought was right. From sending Starbuck back to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo (that’s supposed to help lead them to Earth) to fixing the election to prevent sniveling Dr. Gaius Baltar from being elected, she didn’t sit by if what was happening violated her beliefs of right and wrong.

She might be frightened and injured, and risking great loss, but as her hands shake and tears well up in her eyes, a strong woman stands up for what she believes in.

A strong female character, like a strong woman, can stand side-by-side with a man, confident in the knowledge that they are different but nevertheless equal.

How do you define strength in a woman? What do you think goes into a strong female character?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Deep Point of View is now available! (You might also want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.)

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The Most Underestimated Key to Success from The Matrix

Of all the cool parts in The Matrix, the one that many people remember is the “there is no spoon” scene.

Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) takes Neo (Keanu Reeves) to meet the Oracle, whose purpose is to help The One who will finally bring down the Matrix. While waiting for the Oracle to see him, Neo sits with a boy who seems to be bending and warping a spoon. It looked like the boy was doing something magical, something Neo could never do.

“Do not try and bend the spoon,” the boy says to Neo. “That’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.”

“What truth?” Neo asks.

“There is no spoon.”

All that stood in the way of Neo being able to do what the boy did…was Neo. When Neo changed his way of looking at things, he succeeded in seeing the spoon bend in his hand. Sometimes the key to success is simply looking at things differently.

While we can’t bend spoons with our minds, the same principle works in both the big and small areas of life.

I love creative cooking, and once sold an article including recipes like my apple-jalapeño coffee cake. My husband is one of the least adventurous eaters I know (he hadn’t even tried banana bread before we met). You’d be surprised how much frustration it created when he refused to try something because he’d decided in advance he wasn’t going to like it.

When what’s standing in your way is a mental block, sometimes the best thing you can do is trick yourself into taking that first step, that first bite. If Neo let himself be convinced by what his eyes saw–a spoon–he never would have been able to bend the spoon.

My husband refuses to eat squash, which means he turned his nose up at zucchini bread. I love zucchini bread. I decided the only way to get him around his mental block was to be a little sneaky. I made a batch of chocolate zucchini bread, and when he asked what it was, I simply said “chocolate bread.” Once he tried it and liked it, I told him it had zucchini in it, and he continues to eat it, despite the squash inside, because he tried it without the mental block of I can’t or I won’t.

If that doesn’t work, you can always look for similarities in things you know you can succeed at. Notice how Neo tilted his head to the side in the clip above. It’s almost like he’s trying to move his head because he knows he can’t try to move the spoon.

Because my husband loves pumpkin pie, I also focused on finding new ways to use those same flavors—pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes.

If there’s something you think you can’t do, break it down into the basic skills it would take for you to succeed. Then find other tasks you know you can do that require those same skills. When you twist the way you look at it and see that you actually have the skills you need (or can learn them), the insurmountable task doesn’t look so insurmountable anymore.

Has there been a time when a mental block turned out to be all that was standing in your way? What other tips do you have for getting past seemingly impossible obstacles?

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Behind the Scenes: Randy Ingermanson and Mars

Oxygen Randy IngermansonToday I have the privilege of interviewing award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, author of “Genius in Jeopardy” books and creator of the Snowflake method. He’s taking us behind the scenes on his fast-paced science fiction novel Oxygen (co-written with John Olson).

An explosion on the first mission to Mars leaves four astronauts with only enough oxygen for one to live. The evidence points to one of the four being a saboteur. One’s unconscious. One’s unstable. And the other two are falling in love.

(If you buy the ebook edition of Oxygen, you also get two helpful appendices. The first takes apart the motivation-reaction units—à la Dwight Swain—in the first two chapters. The second explains how they sold Oxygen to a respected publisher in less than seven weeks without an agent.)

Welcome, Randy 🙂

In your Authors’ Notes of the Kindle edition, you write that neither technology nor money are actually an issue and that “humans could walk on Mars within a dozen years.” Why do you think we should send a mission to Mars? What would make it worth the money and manpower investment?

If you believe that space exploration is a good thing, then it needs a goal. Nobody achieves diddley unless they have a goal. Putting humans on Mars is a powerful goal that anybody can visualize and understand. It’s the one goal that would move us forward fastest.

The space race in the 1960s created numerous technological advances that nobody expected. These have paid off massively over the last fifty years. The computer I’m typing on right now and the internet I’m sending you this document over are partly due to the space race. Partly.

A Mars mission would very likely have the same unpredictable side effects. I can’t tell you what they would be, because “unpredictable” means that you can’t know in advance what they are.

The usual scientific reasons given for a Mars mission are that it’ll contribute to our understanding of the history of the solar system (unfortunately, most people don’t give a fig about our understanding of the history of the solar system) and that it could possibly provide evidence of past life on Mars which would shed light on the evolution of life on earth (unfortunately, many of the people in positions to vote for a Mars mission believe that “evolution” is a four-letter word).

So let’s just leave it with this—a Mars mission will astound us with an amazing array of technological advances that we can’t predict, for a total price tag much less than the cost of running a foreign war for one month. A Mars mission would give us a vision of greatness and adventure. If that sounds like something our country desperately needs, then a Mars mission would be a good thing.

What’s the one thing you think is key to making a manned mission to Mars possible? How did you work this into Oxygen?

Political willpower. Going to Mars is not that hard, technically or financially. If you fund the project at a few billion dollars per year (this is well within NASA’s current Spartan budget) and you commit to a ten or twelve year program, you can get there. It’s harder than going to the moon, but not much harder, and we have better technology than we did fifty years ago when John Kennedy committed to putting Americans on the moon.

The key thing missing is a political champion (like Kennedy) who can look beyond the next two years. Several presidents over the last couple of decades have given lip service to Mars, but they typically backed off when something more urgent came up.

A Mars mission needs steady commitment for longer than that.

In Oxygen, we simply postulated that NASA formed a small independent unit, a “NASA within NASA” that had one guy who had absolute control and a reasonable budget. This was the only way we could see to get the continuity needed. No international collaborations. No sprawling bureaucracy. Just a small team of dedicated people.

The problem came when the budget cutters came around with their axes, looking to save a few bucks. This is very plausible, but it’s also the best way to wreck the mission. You cannot run a Mars mission that doesn’t have dependable funding. You can’t.

A lot of people see science and faith as incompatible, yet your two main characters (Valkerie and Bob) are both people of faith. How would you answer the people who say you can’t be both a scientist and a person of faith?

Roughly 40% of all working scientists are people of faith. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are conservative Christians or orthodox Jews (although some are). But it means that the death of faith among scientists has been greatly exaggerated. Likewise, a surprising number of philosophers are people of faith.

There is an odd philosophy known as “scientism” which has sprung up in the last few decades which says, roughly, that the only valid knowledge is scientific knowledge. The reason I say this is “odd” is because there is obviously no way to demonstrate this using scientific method. So scientism is self-refuting, and therefore false.

Of course I believe that science is one way to reach valid knowledge. But if it really is the only way, there’s no way for us to know that.

Given North America’s ongoing love affair with reality TV, one element I enjoyed was that you had a news station wanting to turn the Ares 10 mission into the “biggest, baddest reality show you ever saw, with a boatload of danger and packed to the gills with romance.” What aspects of a mission to Mars do you think would make for great reality TV?

In our novel, two good looking single men and two good looking single women, isolated for almost three years in a ship the size of typical Tokyo apartment was all the reality show the networks could dream of. Whenever you have that, there’s the immediate question of who’s going to hook up with whom, and when?

Throw in some jealousy and the ever-possible threat of instant death, and you really do have the best reality show ever. TV money might very well be the only way to fund a Mars mission.

Because this was a co-written novel, did you run into any “bloopers” where John wrote a character in a way that made you ask “what was he thinking?!”

Hmmmm, maybe the other way around, but we’re not going to go there. At one point, I wrote a scene that John just said no on. But neither he nor I will ever tell anyone what it was.

Early in the coauthoring, we discovered a much more insidious problem was maintaining the emotional continuity between scenes. It was just impossible for either of us to write a scene until we had read the preceding scene, because we had to pick up the emotive atmosphere in the same place.

Once we learned that, we put ourselves on a rigorous schedule where we mapped out who would write each scene and on what day at what time. As soon as a scene got written, whoever wrote it would email it to the other one, who was waiting for it.

This made writing the novel hard, but once we learned that we had to do it this way, it worked pretty well.

You’ve written a sequel to Oxygen. Will The Fifth Man also be released in a Kindle edition soon?

We’re working on final edits now. We’re shooting for a release in early April, but I can’t make any guarantees until the book is done, because life happens.

Randall IngermansonThanks, Randy, for taking us behind the scenes on Oxygen.

If you want to learn more about the craft and marketing of fiction, sign up for Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine (with more than 29,000 readers). You can buy Oxygen in paperback from Marcher Lord Press, for Kindle at Amazon, or for your Nook at Barnes and Noble.

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Grab Bag of Links (March 3)

Go ahead. Reach your hand in and grab some word candy. You know you want to 🙂

For Fantasy and Science Fiction Lovers

Why Luna Lovegood Should Have Been Harry Potter’s Girlfriend by Ellie Ann on Slacker Heroes – I’ve never been a fan of the Harry-Ginny pairing. I always thought Harry and Hermione should have ended up together, but I have to admit that Ellie makes a really good case for Luna being the perfect match for Harry.

What Buffy the Vampire Slayer Taught Me by Julie Glover – Even if you don’t like fantasy, this post has some great insights.

The Castle of Vlad Dracula “The Impaler” by Debra Kristi – The real story behind the rise of the vampire myths is creepy and doesn’t sparkle.

The Meaning of Life

Playing to Your Strengths by Jenny Hansen on Gene Lempp’s blog – Why is it that we spend so much time trying to fix our weaknesses? Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on our strengths?

My Best Relationship Was In Third Grade by Emma Burcart – Excellent relationship lessons no matter your age.

For Writers

Leaping Smart: Useful Steps for Authors by August McLaughlin – Common sense is an uncommon virtue sometimes, which makes me grateful for the posts full of wisdom and common sense August routinely writes.

6 Simple Steps for Customizing Your Facebook Timeline by Laura Christianson – If you’re like me, you hope Facebook stops making so many changes. In the meantime, here’s a quick tutorial to help you get set up on the new timeline.

The Visceral Connect by Rachel Marks on Speculative Faith – Keys for making your readers feel the emotions your characters are feeling.

Jane Friedman’s Secret to Battling Procrastination – Time is a limited commodity. Jane Friedman has some good advice for making the most of it.

Do you have a favorite link you’d like to nominate for my next grab bag?

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