Tag Archives: saving grace

Character Interview – Dr. Daniel Thorne from the Grace’s Moon series

Jun 21, 2016

I’m continuing with my series of interviews with characters from my novels today. Right now I’m going to bring up a character you may not even know exist from a series that I would give my eye teeth to have more time for. I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Daniel Thorne from the Grace’s Moon series. I’ve only had a chance to publish two books from this series, Saving Grace and Fallen From Grace. Let’s talk to Danny about it…

 

MF_SavingGrace_2_smallMerry: Hi Danny. Thanks for being interviewed today, and I’m sorry that I don’t talk about you more.

Danny: That’s perfectly all right. I understand completely. And honestly, I’d rather stick to the shadows anyhow.

Merry: Ooh! Mysterious! Why do you suppose I don’t talk about you all that much?

Danny: Most likely because my books are not romance novels, and that’s what you’ve become most known for. My stories, Grace’s stories, are Science Fiction. They involve the sabotage of a ship carrying some of Earth’s first colonists to another planet.

Merry: You didn’t have anything to do with that explosion, did you?

Danny: … No.

Merry: Okay, then! What makes the Grace’s Moon books different from most Science Fiction?

Danny: For starters, they’re not really about futuristic technology and spaceships. There are no aliens, no magic powers, nothing too weird. Just a group of people who crash on another, virgin world and have to figure out how to build a society there. It’s actually more like a Historical novel than a Science Fiction novel.

Merry: How do you mean?

Danny: Well, when a couple hundred people find themselves stranded on a new world with no way to communicate with Earth, the advanced technology they have will eventually wear out and stop working. That means that they’ll eventually end up reverting back to some kind of earlier society. Without refineries to make the metal for computer parts and without anything close to plastic, they’ll likely end up at a more medieval level of technology.

Merry: Is that what happens?

Danny: … Your readers will have to pick up the books to see. But there are other, more pressing concerns that we ran into right off the bat.

Merry: Such as?

Danny: Such as the fact that three escape pods landed on the new world, but they contained members of two competing factions. It was pretty much war from the moment we stepped out of those pods.

Merry: And that was it? Just you guys from the pods?

Danny: …Yes.

Merry: I see. And what about Grace? Everything ends up revolving around her, doesn’t it?

Danny: It does, but mostly because Grace is a take-charge kind of woman. She was sent along on the mission as a logistics coordinator, so naturally she stepped in to organize things when the pods crashed.

Merry: But she was important before that, right?

Danny: True. Grace was involved in a few key incidents before the transport ship crashed.

Merry: Interesting. The first book, Saving Grace, begins with your escape pod crashing. Do we ever find out what happened on the transport ship?

MF_FallenFromGrace_small

Merry: Is that you, Danny?Danny: Yes, it is!

Danny: Yes, you get to see some of that in flashbacks.

Merry: So what exactly is your relationship with Grace? Are the two of you a couple?

Danny: (takes a long time to answer) No. We’re not a couple.

Merry: But you’re close?

Danny: …Yes.

Merry: Is there a reason why you don’t want to talk about the exact nature of your relationship with Grace?

Danny: … There is a reason, yes.

Merry: Some people have complained that a lot of men who crash with you seem to want Grace, and that that makes her a little unbelievable.

Danny: (laughs) Well, Grace is unbelievable for several reasons. But no, every man who crashed does not want Grace. … Just three of us.

Merry: A three-way love triangle?

Danny: (hesitates) It’s not really about love. Well, not for all of us. Some of it is about power. Think of Grace as the queen on a chess board.

Merry: Oh really?

Danny: (pauses) Maybe I’ve said too much. Oh, and the moon that we crashed on also seemed to have had some properties that made people…amorous.

Merry: Okay! So, do you think I’ll ever have time to write more about Grace’s Moon?

Danny: I sure hope so. I know that our story doesn’t end after only two books. I also know that you put in a lot of work on the third book in the series, only to realize an important part of the plot was physically impossible.

Merry: That’s true, but I might just have come up with a way to work around that recently.

Danny: So do you think you’ll have time to write more in our series? I know you have ideas for generation after generation of inhabitants of the moon and their stories.

Merry: I do! We’ll just have to see if enough people bug me to keep writing them!

 

So there you have it! The books in the Grace’s Moon series do need to be read in order. Saving Grace comes first, then Fallen from Grace. They’re available exclusively at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited.

About-Face

Aug 14, 2014

The following story is a cautionary tale. It’s a cringe-worthy true story that is basically me offering advice about writing couched in telling tales on myself. There are a few morals to this story. One is “Do your research before you start writing.” The other is “Follow your writer’s heart.” Here it is.

11-26-13 © vsurkov | istockphoto.com

11-26-13 © vsurkov | istockphoto.com

So. Historical Romance and Science Fiction, right? Those are the things I write. I love all of it. I particularly love the stories that have been rolling around in my mind for years now. This summer I finally published the first two books in my Grace’s Moon sci-fi series. Yay! I’ve had those stories in me for years. I actually have a major portion of the entire history of that world in my head. Fun stuff.

This month I’ve been writing the third book in the series. It involves the children of the main characters from the first two books, particularly Grace’s son, Grayson (see what I did there?). A major focal point of the third book—in fact, the central object and plot device that provides the core of the action, the climax of the book, and all of the intent from the beginning of the story through to the last word—is the discovery and rescue of a massive spaceship that has sunk to the bottom of a lake.

Okay, so giant spaceship (capable of transporting a thousand people), a great big lake, and people trapped but still alive in the ship eighteen years after it sank. Very cool, right?

Aaaaand this is why you should do your research before you start writing a book. When I got to about 65,000 words of what was shaping up to be a 75,000 first draft, while Grayson and his buddies were devising and carrying out all sorts of plans to dive to the ship and discover the keys to a lot of plot threads and motivators, it dawned on me that I should probably Google the question “How deep can you dive without any equipment?”

The answer? Your average human who has not trained as a diver can only go down about 15 feet before the pressure becomes painful. (Although the record for free diving is about 600 feet, which is kind of ridiculous if you think about it) Translation? There is no way my characters could dive deep enough to reach, let alone rescue, a submerged spaceship. And there is no way I could place the ship in a shallow location without bringing up questions of why its inhabitants haven’t tried to get out on their own.

So basically, I have to not only rewrite almost the entire book, I have to reconceptualize just about everything about the external plot in order to make it work. I’m working on it. I’ve got a few vague ideas, but this opened a giant can of worms for me.

Research is one of the most fun parts of writing, but as I’ve just learned, the time to research technical questions that you know you’re going to run into is before you start. Now, I knew that you can’t dive particularly deep without equipment. The thing is, I didn’t realize it was THAT hard to dive. But when you’re researching, sometimes it’s hard to grasp what you don’t know that you don’t know. I’m beginning to think I (you?) need to create a spreadsheet or a list of possible technical questions that I have before I start the drafting process.

And now we come to the second moral of the story.

Now, I hate it when things that people have told me for years turn out to be true. I want to be iconoclastic and buck the system so badly. Maybe it’s hubris, but there’s that part of me that wants to be the exception to the rule. In this case, it’s all about the challenges and pitfalls of writing outside of your genre.

10-25-11 © John_Brueske | istockphoto.com

10-25-11 © John_Brueske | istockphoto.com

So as I finished publishing Saving Grace and Fallen from Grace and geared up to write book three, something unexpected and wonderful happened to me. I met a bunch of really great fellow western historical romance writers. Not just met them, I was accepted into the fold of both writers and superfans of the subgenre. I’m actually going to be part of a box set called Wild Western Women this fall! (You heard it first here!) I am totally in the western historical romance zone right now. And I had a miraculous brain-flash for a series set along the Oregon Trail in the midst of all this. We’re talking a half dozen specific romance stories and subsequent characters showing up in my head at the same time singing halleluiah.

At the same time that my sci-fi story was experiencing utter breakdown.

My heart said, “Hey, let’s set the sci-fi aside for a few months and work on this really cool western historical idea!” My head replied, “Dude, that sounds a little too much like quitting for my comfort.” But then my heart said, “You’re supposed to write what you love, though, right?” And my stubborn head said, “I love Grace’s Moon too.” And my heart countered with, “Yes, but your fans are primarily in historical romance, you are hot in historical romance right now, and odds are that you’ll sell more historical romance than you will sci-fi.”

I asked some friends, writers and non-writers. The response was pretty much unanimous. Set the sci-fi aside and work on the western historical romance. Listen to your heart.”

So what have I learned from this nails-on-the-chalkboard painful reversal of the momentum I’ve been trying to build all summer? What advice can I share coming out of the situation? Write the books you want to write, but put things into perspective as you write. If your goal is to publish the books you’ve always wanted to publish without any care for reception or income, then work on whatever feels right. If you want to write for both yourself and the readers you already have and/or if you’re hoping to generate income from your writing, consider directing your efforts to the tastes of the fans you’ve developed.

And above all else, strike while the iron is hot. If someone hands you a hot iron, you’d be a fool not to strike it.

So write on! (But research first) And don’t make the same mistakes I did.

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Would You Have Been a Colonist?

Jul 22, 2014
© CoreyFord  | istockphoto.com

© CoreyFord | istockphoto.com

Okay, in my newly released novel, Saving Grace, the characters were all on their way to Earth’s first extra-planetary colony when their ship explodes and they have to land (crash) on the nearest habitable planet (or moon in this case). They have to start over from scratch where they are. However, they were almost going to have to start over from scratch once they got to the planet Terra, as the colony there is only ten or so years old. So what does that make this? Yep, it makes Saving Grace a story about building a colony.

This is another one of those ways that this “Science Fiction” story of mine is actually a historical novel in disguise. I’ve always been fascinated with stories of the earliest colonists that came to America. What American kid doesn’t start learning about the Pilgrims every November by dressing up in black with big buckles and funny hats? It also doesn’t take us long to learn about the Oregon Trail and other intrepid pioneers heading West to set up a new life. Even European history is full of storied of colonists. Australia, Africa, India…every continent has stories of colonists to tell.

And of course the first thing we learn about colonists is how hard their lives were. Carving civilization out of the wilderness is a challenge, no matter what era you live in. The Pilgrims may have come to Massachusetts seeking religious freedom, but their first challenge was simply to survive the winter. They had a lot of material to work with—good land, tools, knowledge, and determination—but they had to apply all of that to a land and climate that was unlike the world they had left behind.

Pioneers heading West were faced with the same problems. Land was abundant, the soil was fertile, minerals waited in the hills, but the sheer vastness and wildness of the territory was overwhelming to the small bands of people who set out into it. Not to mention the fact that it was already inhabited.

Spoiler alert, the moon that Grace and her friends (and foes) land on has no other human inhabitants (well, that they know of, at least), but it has abundant wildlife, rich mineral resources, and fertile ground. The whole thing is just waiting for them to claim it. The biggest problem they encounter—and it’s a huge problem—is each other.

© Americanspirit | Dreamstime.com

© Americanspirit | Dreamstime.com

Grace and company aren’t the only colonists who had that problem. One area of history that I am dying to explore more of is that of the initial colonization of Australia by the British. What I know of it paints an odd and exciting picture of ships full of convicts turned loose on the virgin landscape, surviving, evolving, devolving, causing chaos, and somehow, amidst all of that, eking out a living and creating a vibrant culture that lasts today.

This is what really excited me about writing the Grace’s Moon series. Taking what I learned in my history classes and studies about how colonies form, who the brave souls are who tend to start them, and the reasons they were founded formed the bedrock of the world on which this series is built. What would these advanced, clever people do when they suddenly had all of their technology taken away from them? How would they deal with the problems and conflicts they brought with them from Earth? Is it even possible to form a Utopian society, even when the landscape around you is rich with promise?

I wonder if the waves of colonists we have seen on Earth asked these same questions. Certainly the Puritans came to New England seeking a Utopia, but further south, in, say, Virginia, it was more of a “get rich or die trying” sort of inspiration that drove people.

Incidentally, I have an ancestor, a carpenter named Jonathan Lax, who was a settler at the original Jamestown settlement in Virginia. I don’t know much about him, but I wonder what made him leave his home in the Lake District of England to risk his life in a land that was as far away to him as the fictitious moon Grace and her people land on is to us today. Would I have been that brave? Would I have been a colonist?

You know, I think I would have. In fact, given the right promise, I think I might volunteer for a colonial mission to another planet myself. How about you? Would you leave everything you know to start over in a virgin land?

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Release

Jul 17, 2014
© Dreamstimepoint | Dreamstime.com

© Dreamstimepoint | Dreamstime.com

Ah! There’s a reason why the day a book is published is called Release Day! It may mark the day that a book is released to the public but to the author it represents a great big exhale and release from the intensity of that final phase of a writing project.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing a novel is a long process that certainly doesn’t end when the book is published. Writing is one thing, editing another thing entirely, and marketing the book so that it finds its way into the hands of eager readers is a whole different can of worms. Every different writer has a different opinion about which phase of the process they love or hate more or the others, but any way you slice it, the sheer liberation of clicking publish and moving on is the biggest release of all.

I published two books—Saving Grace and Fallen from Grace, the first two books in my all-new Science Fiction series, Grace’s Moon—on Tuesday. The first drafts of the books were actually written as long as five years ago. I’ve tinkered with them over the last few years, but the serious work of revising them enough to show them to other people has absorbed me for the last three months. And believe me, it’s been an intense last few months! But Tuesday I clicked “publish” and sent those books out into the world.

And now here I am on the other side.

There’s an important lesson to be learned in the aftermath of publishing a book. After putting all that effort into producing a product that is presentable to an outside audience, we can be tempted to fall too far to one side or the other of the fence. On the one hand, it’s so easy to let out that last great breath and collapse back, completely spent…and to do nothing. I mean, at this stage of the game we’re so done with the damn book that we may very well want nothing to do with it ever again.

The problem is, though, books don’t sell themselves. Publishing is only the beginning. Unless we’ve already made a huge name for ourselves (and really, how many writers can say that? 5%?) we still need to work on finding promo opportunities, lining up guest posts, and seeking out places to talk about the book and sell it to new readers. If left on its own to find its way in the world, your book will die. And nobody wants that.

woman readingOf course, there is another side to this whole post-pub coin that can be equally as dangerous. This is the pit I fall into after every book. It’s important as a writer to stop and rest now and then. Yep, sometimes once you click “publish” you actually have to flop back, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. I tend to want to jump right into writing the next book in the series or to start a new series all together. It’s an admirable impulse and one that will keep any given writer brimming with possibility for years to come. But as Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says, you have to sharpen the saw for a while before you can go back to cutting down trees.

My weapon of choice when it comes to combating post-pub burn-out is to read. There’s nothing like a good (or even a bad) book to mellow you out after all those months of frantic work. It’s not just a method of relaxation, it’s a way to work on your craft through the art of observation. It can even be a way to get new ideas. I’m not talking about the kind of ideas that get you in trouble with readers later for imitating the masters, I’m talking about methods of showing backstory, character nuances, and even good old sentence structure. There’s a lot to be learned from reading, as we all well know.

So yay and congratulations to anyone who finishes a book and publishes it! Way to go! And I wish you all the best in navigating that treacherous balance between taking on too much work after you’ve clicked “publish” and not doing enough. It’s a fine balance, but listen to your writer’s heart. You’ll know when you’ve done enough and need a rest and you’ll know when it’s time to get back in the saddle and write again.

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From History to the Stars

Jul 08, 2014
© Noirodts | Dreamstime.com

© Noirodts | Dreamstime.com

One week, people! In one week the first TWO books in my Science Fiction series Grace’s Moon will be released! Yep, the epic adventure of stranded colonists trying to build a new civilization on a habitable moon in the middle of nowhere is my first foray out of Romance and into Sci-Fi. Sure, there is a romance that plays a key role in the plot that stretches through these two books, but it’s an entirely different genre for me.

So what, you might ask, is an Historical Romance writer doing penning extra-planetary Science Fiction? What kind of a leap is that?

Truth be told, I don’t see it as a leap at all. In fact, in order to write the Grace’s Moon series, I’ve ended up doing a lot of historical research. Real, deep, involved historical research.

There isn’t all that much of a difference between writing a novel set in the past and a novel set in the future. Both kinds of stories involve some place and time that is not here and now. Both require a lot of world-building and setting of scenes that are unfamiliar to the reader. Details become hugely important. What people wear, how they talk, how they interact with each other, and how they view their world are key elements to bring into a story to make the reader feel at home in a strange world. Both genres take the reader away from where they started and open new horizons.

But for me, for Grace’s Moon in particular, I have sought to bring as much history as possible into this story of the future. The kernel of the idea that sprouted this story and the end that I am aiming for is one simple question: If a highly technologically advanced society suddenly lost all technology and lost the capability to make more, what era of history would their society devolve back into? What would people do if they had advanced knowledge but didn’t have the infrastructure to continue it? How quickly would the knowledge die and what would be preserved?

Cool stuff, eh? And believe me, I’m going to spend a lot of books examining these ideas and developing a society that is both advanced and ages behind where we, the readers of the 21st century, are now.

But what about that historical research that I did for these books? What exactly do you research to help develop a brand new civilization on a distant moon?

The first thing I found myself researching (years ago, actually) was how animals became domesticated here on Earth. I mean, at some point in pre-history, animals were animals and humans weren’t that far behind. So how and why did some species end up on a farm while others stayed out in the wild?

ffl-cow-field.jpgThe answer was kind of fascinating. As far as we can tell from ancient records and modern animal behavior, some species are naturally inclined to be herd animal. Cows and sheep in particular seem to be born to be around humans in packs or herds. Ancient records suggest that once early humans started feeding these kinds of animals and keeping them close, they stayed close and let themselves become farm animals instead of living life in the wild. Humans protected them from predators as much as they were the predators themselves.

Not so for other animals. Some just refuse to be tamed, no matter how you dress them up and put them in Vegas shows. Yep, I’m thinking of big cats here. But this is my science fiction world, right? I can tame whichever animals I want to and leave the rest to develop in the wild. And being a cat person (with secret fantasies of owning a tiger), well, some of the animals Grace and her friends discover on the moon are not quite the same as their corresponding species on Earth.

Of course, my stranded settlers have some advantages that naturally-developing humans on Earth didn’t have. They do bring some technology with them. Maybe even by forethought, maybe by slightly nefarious means. *wiggles eyebrows* You’ll have to read to find out. I did have a great time researching shelters that would be easy to build with limited resources, where cereal grains, salt, and yeast came from if not from the supermarket, and how long it would take for modern, manmade clothes to disintegrate. You’ll see.

One week! In one week Saving Grace and Fallen From Grace will be out!

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