Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 SF&F movies

Today I'm blogging at Supernatural Underground about 2010's sf&f movies - help me decide what to see, because I saw almost nothing this year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Games for the season

A lot of people are posting their Best of 2010 reading lists, but since I didn't read much this year I'll post my favorite games of the year instead. These didn't come out in 2010 and I didn't necessarily play them for the first time in 2010 either, but they stick in my mind.

If you're a huge fan of Monopoly and other "roll the dice and move" games, you might not like these. Then again, I grew up playing Monopoly and now love the new German board games from the likes of Rio Grande. These games often include the mechanic whereby everyone in turn chooses what to do and then everyone does it, rather than everyone doing something different based on their dice roll. Many also include an element of cooperation as well as competition. We taught my 12- and 15-year-old nieces to play the first three games on the list this week, and they picked them up quickly and enjoyed them a lot.

Carcassonne - Use hex pieces to build roads, fields and cities; cooperate or conquer for points.

Kingsburg - Influence the king's advisors to obtain resources, build buildings and hire soldiers that help you defend the realm against annual monster attacks.

Bohnanza - A deceptively simple card game in which you plant bean fields and harvest them at just the right moment for maximum profit.

Settlers of Catan - Another very simple but addictive resource-based game (there is a sci-fi version of this that I haven't played but I've read that each player gets a 6" tall mothership - yowza!).

Puerto Rico - Produce crops on your island plantation using slaves... ahem, colonists, and ship the goods back to the old world.

Age of Empires - Choose actions, collect resources and colonize countries in the new world; convert or conquer to expand your colonies.

And some sci-fi ones...
Race for the Galaxy - Explore and settle new worlds, produce and sell goods (a neat little card game that MCP always wins).

Ad Astra - Explore and mine planets for resources to build spaceships and colonies.

Galaxy Trucker - Silly but fun game where you build a spaceship out of jigsaw pieces, then face various dangers to see how it holds up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Galaxy Express holiday blitz - win!

Galaxy Express is having a holiday blitz giveaway. Head over there for two chances to win signed copies of my debut novel Song of Scarabaeus. To give readers down under a chance to read the book, which isn't easily available here, this portion of the contest is open to Australia/New Zealand residents only. Just comment on the blog post to be entered.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Books from childhood

My 12-year-old niece is staying with us for a few days. She's a big reader who's ploughing through Harry Potter a second time because she ran out of books. This got me thinking about the books I enjoyed before high school English lessons spoiled reading for me. To be honest I was generally more interested in Lego than in books, but here are a few I remember:

  • The Little Grey Men by B.B. (gnomes stuff marshmallows into the hold of a toy ship and go on a quest)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (loved the first book, lost interest in the rest)
  • Baby Island (sisters aged 12 and 14 are shipwrecked on a desert island with four babies)
  • Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (orphan spruces up an abandoned cottage) (written by the Julie Andrews)
  • Naughtiest Girl in the School and Malory Towers by Enid Blyton (boarding school heaven)
  • Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My other job

My other job... no, not being a mum, although that takes up more time than anything else I do... I work/telecommute part-time for an online 3D art company that sells 3D models to create images and animations - mostly aimed at hobbyists. The professional version of this you've seen in  movies like the underrated Final Fantasy, which is wholly computer generated, or Alvin and the Chipmunks, which combines CGI and live action in a fairly obvious way, unless you believe in talking chipmunk actors.

(The company is DAZ3D and its rendering software DAZ Studio is free, for anyone who's interested.)

Anyway, these days I have little time to render computer art, and in fact I just deleted (temporarily) the software from my PC because it was taking up so much room I couldn't defrag. But I thought I'd show off some of my work that's gathering cyberdust on my hard drive. These are random images from as far back as 2002, and don't relate directly to my writing. Click to enlarge.

I saw the movie Grey Lady Down in the 1970s, when I was probably too young because a certain scene has haunted me ever since. This is a sci-fi interpretation.

"Not Long Now"

"New England Cannibal"

"Pest Control"

"Strike"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Resolutions

Nathan Bransford writes about the physical and creative benefits to writers of exercise.

Unfortunately exercise just makes me bored. Mind-numbingly, excruciatingly bored. This is hardly conducive to creativity, right?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chicken Licken was right

It was a dark and stormy  night... Well, afternoon, and neither dark nor stormy but what we English call "close" - overcast, humid, drizzling on and off, too cool to be classified as "muggy". Baby and dad were playing together and all was right with the world (except for the weather).


(She's always trying to walk but at 6 months old it's not quite working out yet.)

Just half an hour later, when they were still in almost the same spot... 


The sky fell in.

Scary stuff for any parent. That chunk of wet plasterboard on the left flew across the room and it was heavy. Now we have a 2 x 3-foot hole in the ceiling, a laundry full of washed-up toys and teddies, and a Man coming tomorrow to assess the damage. (MCP has a pic of the hole itself on his blog.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Children of Scarabaeus - read chp 1

It's up! Read chapter 1 of Children of Scarabaeus on my website as well as the back cover blurb. The book will be out March 2011.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Aussies - where to buy

Want to buy Song of Scarabaeus in Australia? The following online stores are listing it (just in time for Christmas). Check each link for the best price (don't forget to include shipping) and whether they actually have it in stock. In some cases they have to order it from the US and that takes a couple of weeks.

Borders
Fishpond
Emporium Books
QBD
Galaxy Books
Dymocks (they claim it's in stock at the Collins St, Melbourne store and Rundle Mall, Adelaide, but call first to check)
Booktopia
Angus Robertson
Seek Books
Book Depository (in the UK not Australia, but tends to have super cheap books even with shipping)

John Scalzi is giving authors the opportunity to mention their books on his blog - see the comments section for tons of gift ideas. (I'm #100.)

And io9 has a list of ten SF&F book ideas for Christmas. I haven't read a single one of them because I'm about 4 years behind on my reading list, but I like the sound of these four in particular:

For the Win, by Cory Doctorow
The Dream of Perpetual Motion, by Dexter Palmer
Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow
Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Friday, December 3, 2010

I am a twit

I am on Twitter. I know not wherefore or really how it all works (WHAT is a retweet?!), but here am I: http://twitter.com/#!/SaraCreasy

I recently restricted my Facebook account to family goings-on, so I figure I'll use Twitter for writing stuff.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sold!

We are soon to become a multi-author household! MCP will blog about it soon but suffice to say his agent told him it's time to get a professional headshot.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spirituality for the non-spiritual, and a recipe

This month I'm blogging about creativity at Supernatual Underground.

As the festive season approachs... I think creativity is a good definition of "spiritual" for those of us who aren't religious (or, indeed, aren't even spiritual). Adding something new and meaningful to the world leaves both the world and the creator better off, not to mention the creation itself of course. Whether it's writing a book, tending a garden, raising a child, baking a cake, or knitting a sock (yes, even knitting), these are all expressions of ourselves that, hopefully, enrich the world a little piece at a time.

And now, here is my recipe for spiritually sound roast potatoes.
  1. Preheat oven to 230C.
  2. Peel and cube potatoes - about 1 large potato per person, although after you've made these once people are going to demand larger servings.
  3. Par-boil (drop in boiling water for 10 minutes until half-cooked).
  4. Drain water. 
  5. Place lid on saucepan and shake hard a few times to roughen up the potatoes. They will look sort of furry. This is the important step! It's those rough bits that will turn into a yummy crispy coating.
  6. Place furry potatoes on baking sheet greased with olive oil. Brush oil over tops of potatoes.
  7. Sprinkle with tarragon, salt and pepper, and powdered chili or paprika if you're feeling adventurous.
  8. Bake about 40 minutes or longer, turning a couple of times.
  9. Eat with dinner.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Riddick returns

This is old news but I'm so out of the loop that it's news to me. There's going to be a third Pitch Black movie. I'm very much looking forward to it, after being a bit disappointed with the second. As a standalone the Chronicles of Riddick worked pretty well, but it was so different in concept and feel from the first that it didn't fit at all. Pitch Black was a low-key near-future character movie with a low-tech feel - a band of crash survivors on a barren planet facing monsters that come out in the dark (including, perhaps, Riddick himself). The second movie had a sweeping saga feel with an evil galactic ruler, high-teck ships, "magic" and mythology... a grand universe that was not even hinted at in the first movie. Only the prison scenes felt like they belonged.

David Twohy, director of Pitch Black, is back for the third installment - I hope that's a good omen. Vin Diesel posted concept art on his Facebook page where the monsters look somewhat like dogs (shades of Alien 3?)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One step closer... page proofs

Today I received (electronically this time) the page proofs of Children of Scarabaeus. I hope to put up a couple of chapters soon, so stand by if you've been waiting.

HarperCollins Eos has merged with its sister companies in the UK and AUS/NZ to create Harper Voyager -- Eos is no more, so this book will have a different logo on the spine. This greatly offends my sense of order and consistency, but the merge itself will be, I think, a good thing.

The book isn't easily available in Australia but a couple of online bookstores do have it (that is, will order it in). Yesterday I donated a copy to my local library in the hope that a few Melburnians each year will get the chance to read it, for as long as the paperback holds together. MCP (still jobless) and I are addicted to our library at the moment, with me raiding the board book section and him picking out the SF & F books from among the adult fiction (they're all mixed in together).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On a list

When I made a trailer last year for Song of Scarabaeus, I found a huge selection of wonderful royalty-free music on Dano's website here, and used a piece in my trailer.

Dano read my book and must have loved it because he's put it on his Top 5 List of Best Debut Sci Fi Books! "I completely loved the depth and detail of the visionary scientific imagery."

http://www.danobuzz.com/top-5-list-of-best-debut-sci-fi-books-by-new-novel-writers/

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jungle jive

A few months ago I was sent Chris McGrath's amazing cover artwork for Children of Scarabaeus - I like it even more than the previous one. It's Finn and Edie in a jungle, and Finn has a big rifle. Yum.

The cover is now in HarperCollins's catalog and here it is for all to see...


Thanks Tez for the heads-up.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Neat bows

How many neat bows do you like to wrap up your story threads?

I have two takes on this. No one, including myself, likes to see an important plot point, particularly an interesting one, die halfway through the story with questions left unanswered. Even minor characters and plot elements need some sort of resolution so it doesn't look like the author just forgot about them.

But if things are too neat, if the story is tied up so completely that there's no wiggle room for what happens next, then my imagination goes to sleep. I don't always want to know exactly what's going to happen next. I want to imagine it for myself. This is why I wish The Matrix saga had ended after the first movie - humans hadn't won yet but they now had the means to win. The filmmakers pointed the way and it was fun to think about how our hero might achieve success.

At the end of Song of Scarabaeus, there are a couple of plot elements left hanging. One is rather important (a character is dying) and arguably demands a sequel - the "cliffhanger". But in this case, the characters discuss exactly what they're going to do to resolve the cliffhanger. If there were no sequel, the reader could assume they did just that, and succeeded. In other words, I pointed the way. I don't really see it as a typical cliffhanger.

The second unresolved plot point isn't a cliffhanger but it follows that same idea. Our heroes have obtained the means to help lots of people. They discuss exactly how they're going to proceed, so the reader can assume that's what they do. (Of course, in reading the sequel you'll discover things don't go according to plan.)

There are other plot elements that could be considered unresolved, I suppose: Will our heroes evade the Crib? Will the leash be cut? Will Finn and Edie get it on? Well, I had to leave something for the sequel! And the story works without precise descriptions of "what happens next." If there were no sequel, I love the idea of leaving the reader to imagine what happens next.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spring has sprung

Copyedited manuscript is reviewed, fiddled with, amended, sent off, and done with! Having had a good break from it for a few weeks, I rather enjoyed re-reading it (previously I was thoroughly sick of it).

Here in Melbourne it's finally warming up. I packed only short sleeves because I hadn't anticipated the cold, and while I've made do with borrowing my mum's clothes, baby Sophie hasn't been so lucky. The baby stores are all out of winter stock so she's been rotating the same three tops since we got here. The best thing about the weather - whether it's cold or merely cool - is that it's not so stinking hot we can't take her for walks every day. Walks are just not possible during the Tucson summer. And now she's old enough (4 months) to appreciate them.

A word about Facebook: I'm about to change my account to family only, as I've decided to use it to chat privately and keep up with far-flung relatives, while this blog is for chatting about writing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rural inspiration

This is the view I wish I had as I work on the copyedits for book 2. In fact it's the view from the back of my sister's house in West Gippsland, Victoria. MCP says it reminds him of Ohio (except for the mountains), while it reminds my family of England because of all the green. Either way, it's a whole different look from the southwestern desert of Arizona that I've become used to over the past few years.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food for thought

Today I'm blogging at Supernatural Underground and the topic is... FOOD!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Home?

We are in Australia, starting our new life. Baby Sophie is taking it all in stride. Her parents have a little more work to do. Her dad is looking for a job. Her mom/mum is trying to decide whether to switch to Aussie spelling on this blog. Perhaps I should stick with American because I write my books that way.

I don't know if I've come home. Tucson had become my home in that I felt settled, but I was most definitely a foreigner. Australia, where I've spent most of my life, was supposed to be home but I always felt like a British import. England, where I spent my formative years, felt foreign when I went back there in the mid-90s to work for a year. I realized the reason for that was that I missed the 80s, so my peers weren't quite my peers.

Let's see how this all works out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The big move

Ever seen a bookcase wrapped in brown paper? How about a baby swing? I hadn't either, until today. The movers are here, packing our entire house into boxes, with the help of miles of packing tape. They're leaving us the sofa and the air bed and some paper cups so we can survive the night. Then tomorrow they return to load our life into a 20-foot shipping container.

In 6 to 8 weeks, we'll see it all again on the other side of the globe. Then some Aussie movers will unpack the lot into a new house, assuming we have a house by then, which depends on whether MCP has a job by then.

Sophie is taking it all in stride, happily watching the activity when she's not unhappily grumbling for food or a nap. Right now she's asleep on my lap and MCP is doing a food run and last-minute errands like returning our cable box and taking a Nadine's cookie platter to our vet.

When he comes back with sandwiches from Jimmy Johns, we'll pack up the computers and I'll be offline for a few days, 22 hours of which will be spent in planes and airports. Hard to believe we'll soon be in Australia. It feels rather like the days before giving birth - the preparations take up all your energy, so you barely have time to think about what it'll be like afterwards. Makes it hard to believe it'll actually happen. But inevitably it will happen, ready or not.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Air travel in the 21st century

Checking our flight today, I discovered we're flying to Australia on the new Airbus A380. I tried to book this plane for our last trip, back in October 2008, but that was the month Qantas started using the Airbus and it was booked out. This time we got the Airbus without trying. It's not exactly futuristic, but it's new and shiny.

Compared to the 747, this plane has 50% less cabin noise  (perhaps not a good thing when one has a crying baby) and increased cabin air pressure -- both of which are supposed to reduce travel fatigue. It has larger windows and overhead bins, and lots more headroom.

The seats are 3.5 cm wider but I can't find any mention of more leg room. However, our current seat assignment is right in front of the self-service bar (we've been put there because there's a baby bassinet) and the leg room is much bigger than the average seat gets. I imagine there will be lots of traffic, but that just means more people to admire Sophie and more interesting things for Sophie to look and smile at.

MCP won't fly anyone but Qantas. I used to fly United because it tended to be cheaper, but there is indeed a noticeable difference in service between the two airlines. MCP says Australia is 20 years behind in many respects (no online shopping at Target!??) but in the case of flying, that's a good thing for us Economy passengers. On our last trip, our breakfast included a muffin in a fancy origami box and color-coordinated napkins. Wow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Where would you go?

Today I'm blogging at Supernatural Underground, and asking where in the world - or other worlds - you'd like to visit or live.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Podcast review

From the homeland... Keith Stevenson reviews Song of Scarabaeus on Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction Podcast #022. The review begins at about 37:10.

We arrive in Melbourne 2 weeks late for WorldCon - a real shame but that's just the way things worked out. I attended the previous WorldCon that was held in Melbourne (1999) where the guest of honor was physicist and SF writer Gregory Benford, and the Special Guest was J. Michael Straczynski (creator and writer of Babylon 5).

Benford talked about how to identify buried nuclear waste so that people in the far future (hundreds of centuries from now) would know to avoid the site even if civilization had collapsed and people could no longer read or understand radioactive symbols. Sounds kind of dry, but I remember it was fascinating.

Straczynski took the stage after the screen displayed a montage from Babylon 5. The first thing he said was, "I made that." (Exactly how I felt when my finished book arrived in the mail!) He talked about how his spin-off show, Crusade, was cancelled after network producers started writing memos to him demanding more sex scenes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The younger generation

My husband's nephew and his wife, a couple in their early 20s, are staying with us for a few days. While browsing through some Netflix options we discovered that, despite being SF&F fans, they've never seen Blade Runner or Aliens. I'm speechless!

We watched Aliens with them, followed by... Zardoz. MCP assured us this is a cult classic. I'm not sure when that phrase has ever been a recommendation. Well, all I can say is that it has Sean Connery in it...in a red diaper.

At one point he appears in a lacy wedding dress, but I suspect most viewers today will never get that far into the viewing experience.

Hard to believe that this movie is only 12 years older than Aliens and is so dated it's almost unwatchable. On the other hand, the only thing about Aliens that's dated badly is Paul Reiser's hair.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The joy of hitting "send"

Yesterday afternoon I finished my book 2 rewrites and emailed the manuscript off to my editor. This is joyful news! However, I'm so "close" to this book now that I have no real idea what state it's in. I need to wait a couple of weeks and read it fresh, to pick up any inconsistencies or repetitions or just plain awkward phrasing.

The rewrite was a much bigger task than I expected, and not just because I have so much else going on right now. A suggestion to put a secondary character more front and center, or to make certain other characters play a larger role in the plot, might sound fairly trivial, but in this case it meant rewriting most of the first two-thirds of the book. Even if the scenes are basically the same, they now have different characters in them, a different "plot purpose", a different emotional level, and they're in a different order. And when you boost one part of the story, another part has to give way. That meant simplifying several plot elements to make room for emphasizing others.

I murdered several darlings in the process, but I think it's a better book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fun with faces

A long time ago I created portraits for my characters using 3D figures. Given that the cover art of Song shows the two main players, let's assume they more or less look like that. Which leaves us to imaginate the rest of the crew of the Hoi Polloi.

This is navpilot Cat Lancer: Beauty and elegance armed with a spur.


Here's op-teck Zeke. "I forgive you for insulting my rigs."

(I drew inspiration for his attitude on Yaphet Kotto's Parker from the first Alien movie.)

This is Captain Francis Rackham, who is fussy about the precise temperature of his merlot.


And finally, the lovely John "Are you reading my memos?" Haller.


So - do they look like they should?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The price of a cute accent

We are moving to Australia. Back to Australia, in my case.

Organizing this momentous event has been a time-consuming and sometimes stressful production. Put house on the market, clear out clutter, hold garage sale, keep house spotless for viewings by potential buyers, vacate house for three hours every other weekend during open house. Fill out numerous and repetitive forms for MCP's visa, get additional paperwork such as fingerprints, certified copies of everything, and notorized statements from friends as evidence that we have a "genuine and continuing relationship". Get baby Sophie's US passport and Australian citizenship, and book a day-trip to the embassy in LA for her Australian passport. Get shipping quotes. Hold BBQ/pool parties for the friends we're leaving behind. Entertain another visitor who's come to see baby. Make lists, endless lists, about all the things we still have to do. Over the next five weeks we have ten house guests visiting in five batches staying for a total of 22 days.

And there's more! Somewhere in there I had a baby, so... Recover from c-section, shop for baby, take baby to appointments (first injections on Monday and I'm dreading it), feed and change baby, try to spend at least a bit of time playing with baby.

And finish book 2 rewrites.

You know what the hardest thing was? Getting a photograph of a two-week-old for her US passport. I snapped 200 shots over the course of several days to get one suitable photo. All were adorable, but the US passport office doesn't want adorable. They want subject looking directly at the camera, eyes open, mouth closed. Two-week-old babies don't do that much.

And then... MCP's visa arrives earlier than expected. Everything moves up a month. Scramble!

It will all be worth it because Sophie will grow up with an Aussie accent, which her Daddy thinks will make her even cuter than she already is. He said so on his visa application. Seriously.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Never rains but...

Two more nice blogger reviews of Song today:
Ray Gun Reviews
I guess I thought by now the book would have run its course in terms of reviews, but it seems some people who read a lot (certainly more than I read!) took this long to get around to it. Which is great, because while my head is deep into book 2, it's nice to surface once in a while to read what someone else thought of book 1.

One thing I appreciate is when a reader notices the moral aspects of both the plot issues and the characters. I'm sure most writers dread coming off as preachy, and I think there are two ways to avoid it. First, don't, as a writer, have a black-and-white opinion on an issue. It's bound to show. I have black-and-white opinions on a few things and I won't ever be able to include those issues in my fiction until I can bring myself to compassionately portray "the other side." That's going to be tough...

And second, make at least some characters morally ambiguous. The "bad guys" aren't all thoroughly bad and the "good guys" aren't saints. In my world, even the Crib isn't evil. It's a bureaucracy with all the strengths and weaknesses of a bureaucracy, such as ambitious or unethical individuals within an otherwise benign entity, or a committee-approved blind spot when it comes to doing what appears to be in the best interests of its several hundred billion citizens.

Back to book 2. Many people have asked me about a sequel or mentioned a hope for one in their reviews - of course, if you're reading this blog you know that there is one. Some more info: it's coming out in April 2011, it's called Children of Scarabaeus, and the cover art (which I have seen, and it's even better than the first) is again by Chris McGrath and depicts Edie and Finn. So now you know that they survive and are, surprise!, the main characters again.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Expectations of the genre

I'm blogging on Supernatural Underground today. Win a signed copy of Song of Scarabaeus by commenting (over there, not here) about your expectations as a reader when it comes to the science and mythology of SF and paranormal stories.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

MCP's agent

All can now be revealed. Actually, MCP has already revealed it on his blog yesterday and I couldn't steal his thunder. But this is relevant to me in more ways than one. Firstly, he's my husband so I have as much interest in his career as in my own!

Secondly, his new agent is... none other than my agent, Kristin Nelson. She offered him representation after reading a science fiction book that he actually wrote for yours truly a couple of years ago. Prior to that he was (and still is) working on a fantasy trilogy. He's extremely widely read in both SF and F, about a hundred times more so than me (literally) and he's an amazing writer. His first drafts are more polished than my seventh and take half the time to write. So expect copious and fascinating works of speculative fiction from MC Planck in the future.

We are Kristin's first husband-and-wife client pair. Interesting times!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blast from the past: query letter for SoS

I'd forgotten about this... A few years ago I submitted my query letter for Scarabaeus (as it was then called) to Evil Editor, who savaged it, as is his wont. Here's what he had to say.

Kristin Nelson blogs aplenty about query pitches, and you might get more mileage out of her posts on the subject. (Scroll down to Agent Kristin's Query Pitch Workshop on the right of her blog page.)

My final query letter to Kristin, the one that caught her eye--not that different from the one Evil Editor read--was as follows:

Dear Ms Knight, [Yes, I FORGOT TO CHANGE THE NAME from the previous email I'd sent. Reader, don't do that.]

I recently read Linnea Sinclair’s Gabriel’s Ghost. Your success representing women’s science fiction leads me to believe you would be an excellent agent for my work. Scarabaeus is a 110,000-word science fiction novel with a touch of romance.

Edie Shade has been trained since childhood by the oppressive Crib government to create and program advanced technology called “biocyph seeds”, which turn planets into habitable colonies. She is kidnapped for her valuable skills and coerced into working for mercenaries who steal biocyph and sell it to the outlawed Fringe worlds.

The dark and mysterious convict Finn is assigned to be her reluctant bodyguard. Their relationship is strained by the fact that he is motivated to protect her by a chip in his skull that will kill him if she dies.

With the authorities on their heels, the mercenaries take Edie back to Scarabaeus—the planet she first visited as a trainee, seven years ago. Awed by its beauty, she sabotaged that terraforming project in order to preserve the alien ecosystem.

But Scarabaeus has been evolving—under the control of mutated biocyph. As the mercenaries fall victim to the dangers of its terrifying jungles, Edie risks her life—and Finn’s—to save the world that her na├»ve meddling created.

Scarabaeus is the first of a series, to be followed by Children of Scarabaeus and Soul of Scarabaeus. I use futuristic concepts of genetic engineering as the backdrop for the novels.

I have a BS in Biology, and I was the associate editor of
Australia’s foremost SF magazine, Aurealis, for several years, before moving to the USA in 2005. I work as a textbook editor. If you are interested in considering representation, I’d be happy to send sample chapters or the complete manuscript.

Sincerely,

Sara Creasy

Kristin ultimately rejected the full manuscript but gave tons of great feedback, so I rewrote it and resubmitted it, and now my book is on the shelves!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conundrum

Must write. Macy's has baby clothes clearance sale. Must write. Macy's has baby clothes clearance sale. Must... must... must...?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Linky

Here's MCP's blog, which he just set up (with imported older posts from a previous blog).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wonderful end to the week

Woohoo! An fantastic agent has offered my hubby representation for his SF novel - I'm so thrilled for him. He has amazing talent as a writer (not to mention as a plotting partner, editor, and cheerleading squad when I've needed him, which is lots) and truly deserves success.

Keep your eye out for MC Planck! More info when i's are dotted and t's crossed.

And now I must think about making him a website...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Baby pics... just because

Busy busy busy writing... Meanwhile, I miss my newborn! Fortunately I have a gorgeous, contented, very well behaved 5-week-old to make up for it.



(I don't think green is her color)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Supernatural Underground giving away my book

I was supposed to blog at Supernatural Underground today (the blog for HarperCollins paranormal authors) but simply didn't have the time or inspiration with a 3-week-old to take care of. In my absence, Tracey O'Hara very kindly wrote a post about science fiction and is giving away a copy of Song of Scarabaeus:


Check out the comments on Tracey's post - it's wonderful to read so many positive and enthusiastic ravings about science fiction movies and TV shows. There's also a healthy dose of commiseration regarding the cancellation of Firefly. (Is there a support group?)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My other 2010 project

My debut novel was my first baby this year. On 8th June, my other creative endeavor made her appearance: presenting Sophie Ann.


2 days old, still a bit wrinkly


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Supernatural Underground launch

A bunch of us HarperCollins authors have got together with a blog and Facebook page (750 fans already!) to create Supernatural Underground. Today is launch day! Head over to the blog because during the month of June there are heaps of giveaways for lucky readers.

I'll be guest blogging on June 29th - okay, that's ages away but I picked that date because I'm crazybusy with eleven other things right now and wanted to give myself some time to think.

So do I actually write supernatural? Well, I don't write paranormal (the name usually given to this sub-genre), if that's defined as vampires and ghosts and witches. But a good deal of science fiction could be placed into the supernatural category - we SF writers take science ("nature") and twist it beyond ("super") its known limits.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game time

I've only played two computer games obsessively, and that's enough to make me realize I shouldn't take up the hobby again because of the risk they'll become time wasters. In the 80s I played Gyruss, a shoot-em-up with a spinning space ship that I liked in large part because of the soundtrack - Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Here's a You Tube demo clip of the game. (This is the arcade version, not the Commodore Amiga version that I played. The music sounds a little different from what I remember.) There are all kinds of cool remixes of Toccata, by the way, most famously by the group Sky with John Williams on guitar. And just thinking about that has sent me to Amazon to purchase Sky's second album.

The other game was Sim City - my love of this game is probably related to my childhood obsession with Lego bricks. I love the way the game "plays itself" once you've zoned areas for construction, and you can sit back and watch the buildings pop up all over the place.

These days MCP and I are into the much more social hobby of playing strategy board games with friends. A current favorite is Ad Astra, in which you explore planets, collect resources, and build space ships and colonies. I'm a sucker for cute little game pieces - here are the ones from Ad Astra. (Of course, the cuter the pieces, the more expensive the game.)

From L to R: space ship, colony, factory, terraformer


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Who's your favorite sci-fi hero or heroine?

Today I'm interviewed at Dark Faerie Tales. A copy of Song of Scarabaeus is up for grabs - to enter, go to the interview and name your favorite sci-fi hero or heroine.

As for my favorite... I'll take the easy way and pick the heroine of my favorite sci-fi movie, Aliens. Yes, Ellen Ripley is just the kind of kick-ass heroine that I didn't imitate in Song, but the movie itself is a superlative example of blending characters, action, story, special effects and worldbuilding, and even science (in terms of the aliens' life cycle).

Whenever I watch sci-fi movies from the 80s, I marvel at how amazingly realistic Aliens looks by comparison. Hard to believe it came out almost a quarter-century ago (1986).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest blog

Head over to Literary Escapism where I am guest blogging today. You can also win a copy of Song of Scarabaeus!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clutter free

All's quiet on my blog but things have been hectic in the real world. I'm finding tiny pockets of time to write, with a deadline looming for my final rewrites on the manuscript for book 2.

We're preparing for a garage sale on Saturday and it's got me thinking about why people keep stuff and why they throw it out. I'm a fairly unsentimental type. I find it easy to throw away just about anything. I've moved my entire set of possessions to a new country four times in my life (first time when I was 13) and each time required severe culling. A few childhood things have survived - the more meaningful ones aren't the trinkets but the school books (okay, and the teddy bears). Stories and news reports that I wrote in grade school, and weird poems from my teenage years.

I wrote a lot of fantasy stories, but the first science fiction story I wrote was in grade 6, about a holiday my family took to the moon. It must have been a working holiday, because while on the moon we had to collect rock samples for scientific research. Someone fell into a crater. Exciting stuff. (For one of my second-grade creative writing efforts, click here.)

But back to stuff: I'm morbidly fascinated with those hoarding TV shows - and seeing how those people live only firms my resolve to continue to minimize the clutter in my life!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First or third person?

Kristin Nelson blogged this week about an author's choice of first or third person, and I am stealing her topic today. The conventional wisdom is to use third person if you have two or more points of view, and first person for a single point of view where you want to bring the reader into the protagonist's head.

I don't know if I'm alone here, but I disagree with the generally accepted idea that first person is more intimate. First person is someone else telling you (the reader) the story. The reader doesn't become the protagonist, he becomes the listener. When I read first person, I feel a sense of distance - especially if the protagonist has a distinctive voice that's vastly different from my own.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing - only that it's the opposite of what the writer may be trying to achieve. And maybe it's just me. Maybe most readers do find it easier to immerse themselves in a first-person novel.

A third-person novel can still be entirely from a single POV, of course, and the trend these days is for close third person rather than the more distant narrator-style POV. This makes it essentially the same as first person, but without the "Buy me a drink and I'll tell you a tale..." distancing effect.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Art for Song of Scarabaeus

Over the past few weeks, I ran a contest at my favorite 3D art site, DAZ3D. The contest required forum members to create images relating to Song of Scarabaeus (the first three chapters, anyway, which were available at the time). Here are the winners! They received signed copies of the book and gift certificates.

FIRST PLACE: Wayii

Edie and Finn from chapter 1 - I loved this image because it matches almost exactly the one in my head when I wrote that scene!

SECOND PLACE: LynZem

An imaginative, otherworldly image showing a terraforming team at work.

THIRD PLACE: scorpio64dragon

This one appealed to the romantic in me.

If you're interested in making 3D art (great for fantasy and sci-fi images), click the icon below:

New 3D Artists Start Here

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review from BookPage

A really nice review from BookPage today, by Tom Warin. It has the best plot summary I've read so far. Here's what else he says:

"Song of Scarabaeus is an enjoyable, fast-paced slice of adventure science fiction, infused with a measured dose of romance. The technological and political background is revealed with a deft hand, never getting in the way of the action."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Song on the stand



It's me! In Barnes & Noble! With Song of Scarabaeus! I was thrilled to see it out there on the new releases stand. My husband forced me to ask the clerk if I could sign them (I was going to call first and arrange it) and she was happy to pull out her "Autographed Copy" stickers and let me do it. (Photo was taken before the stickers went on.)

So if you're out and about in Tucson, head to the B&N on Broadway & Rosemont and grab a signed copy.

Next we tried Borders at Park Place, but there were none to be found. The clerk checked the computer and told us they have a shipment on the way. I'll go back next week to see about signing those.

Where I am today

Busy day online for me:

I'm guest blogging at Dawn Chartier's blog, where I talk about the infernal internal editor.

Over The Edge Book Reviews has an interview with me as well as a Song of Scarabaeus giveaway if you hurry!

On the Babel Clash blog, I've asked Robin Hobb a few questions about writing, dragons and microwave ovens.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Here and there

Lots of stuff going on this week and next.

Agent Kristin Nelson features Song of Scarabaeus in "The Story Behind the Sale" section of her April newsletter (you have to be signed up to receive it). When Kristin offered me representation, I felt I was 99% of the way there toward seeing my name in print. I never had a doubt she'd sell the book eventually, but it did take a few months. In the end we had two similar offers on the table and could take our pick.

This weekend, you can read a short interview with me at Over The Edge book reviews. I'll be dropping by to answer any questions that crop up.

I have several other online interviews and guest blogs lined up, so I'll post about them as they happen.

And a reminder that for the next few days I'm blogging with Robin Hobb at Babel Clash and it looks like we'll be covering a wide range of topics.

Oh, and yesterday I achieved my dream of joining the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) - yay me!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Release day!

Today Song of Scarabaeus hits the bookstores - and my big box of author copies just arrived (yay!):


I'll be heading out to bookstores here in Tucson later this week just to see those books on the shelves for myself.

You can also buy the Kindle version from Amazon and various other e-book versions too. I confess I still haven't joined the e-book revolution myself...

Starting today and for the next couple of weeks, mega-bestselling author Robin Hobb and I (who may have sold two or three copies by now, maybe not - I know I sold one because I got my first fan mail [thanks, Maria]) are co-hosting Borders' blog, Babel Clash. We have a few topics of discussion to throw around, so drop by to join the fun.

Also, I've joined the SFR Brigade and have posted an introduction to celebrate my release day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Browse inside

HarperCollins has a cool Browse Inside feature that I've added to my website as a widget. Or you can click below to read the first 5+ chapters. I don't even have the book yet, so this is my first look at the final pages.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fresh Fiction review

A review of Song of Scarabaeus on Fresh Fiction:

http://freshfiction.com/review.php?id=25679

The reviewer makes some good observations about the social themes in the book - I like to put the characters and action first, but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes have "something to say" about the complexities of humans and the societies they form (or may form in the future). And it's nice to know readers who may not normally read "hard" sci-fi are enjoying the book.

My first interview

The Tucson Examiner just put up my (first ever!) interview:



Saturday, April 17, 2010

Song of Scarabaeus - in Australia

Looks like Emporium Books (an Australian online bookstore) will be carrying Song of Scarabaeus, for Aussies who want a copy.

EDIT: The book is also available at the Fishpond online Aussie store.

Review of Song

Woohoo! A nice review from SciFiChick.com today: "...a highly impressive science fiction novel from a promising new author." I particularly liked that she mentioned the ethics of the story, because I tried hard not to be black and white - whether the topic is bureaucracy, native culture, citizens' rights and responsibilities, piracy, or ecological conservation, it's never the case that everyone on one side is evil and everyone on the other is virtuous.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eos giveaway

Eos Books is giving away three copies of my May release, Song of Scarabaeus. Head over to their blog, Eos Books - The Next Chapter, for details.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review time!

This morning my editor sent along my Publishers Weekly review for Song of Scarabaeus - that's the one Amazon uses in its product descriptions, so naturally I hoped for a good one.

Well, to my great surprise I not only got a good review, but a starred review! Here are the first and last sentences (the middle being the plot summary):

"This brilliantly conceived debut heralds a significant new talent... Creasy's convincing scientific speculation, appealing characterizations, and eerie alien landscapes make this science fiction romance deeply satisfying."

The entire review is here (near the bottom of the page): Publishers Weekly review

The second good thing to happen this morning was that the hummingbird feeder I set out yesterday, right outside my office window, attracted its first tiny visitor! I bought the feeder for $4.99 from PetSmart because I'd seen a hummingbird hovering around our flowers. I expected it would take longer for the birds to find it, but they're smarter - or hungrier - than I thought.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Get out and about in Tucson

I visited the Tucson Festival of Books this morning, hubby and dog in tow. Half an hour after it opened, throngs were already buzzing around the 200 exhibitor booths. The Saguaro Romance Writers booth #116, on University Blvd near the Student Union, is manned (womaned) by different members every hour so if you drop by you'll get to meet a bunch of us.

On Sunday, three published authors from the chapter, including yours truly, will make appearances at various times with free books and stuff:

  • Judy Duarte - 10 to 12 (Silhouette author of contemporary romance)
  • Sherrill Quinn - 12 to 2 (Kensington author of spicy paranormal romance)
  • Sara Creasy - 2 to 4 (Eos author of science fiction/romance)

    Like today, the weather will be gorgeous for an outside event - high 60s and sunny. What else would you expect from Tucson? Well, I didn't expect a free McDonald's mini frappe with caramel drizzle. It was pretty good.

    There are also indoor panels and workshops to attend (450 presenters and authors!), including a fellow client of Kristin Nelson and author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford. He's on a Sunday panel called "Bending the Truth: Using Real Events in Fictional Stories" at 2pm.

    Visit the Tucson Festival of Books website for more info. Admission and parking are free.
  • Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Editing - the final checks

    Every writer has quirks, and some quirks - such as overusing a word or using a repetitive sentence structure - aren't good. You can creatively use Word's search tool to pick up certain quirks that may otherwise distract a reader. A few tips:

    1. Uncommon words: Is there a particular unusual word that you worry about overusing? Count how many times it appears by going to Find and Replace - type the word in both boxes and hit Replace All. This gives you a count for that word. (Here's an example from MCP: don't use cornucopia twice in the same novel unless you're talking about a cone stuffed with food.)

    2. Common words: Do you overuse common words like actually, really, quite, very? I have a problem with just. This word doesn't harm an individual sentence, but use it too often and it starts to stand out. During my final edit, I search for every occurrence and fix as many as I can. In the case of just, this usually means (just) deleting it from the sentence.

    3. Sentence structure: Another quirk of mine is the "comma but" sentence structure. There's nothing wrong with it, but I tend to overuse it. Count the occurrences as above (find and replace
    ", but") and if you use more than one per two pages, fix as many as you can to add variation. For example: While there's nothing wrong with it, I tend to overuse it.

    In many cases, the best solution is to split the sentence into two. I think this results in stronger writing. The "but" preempts your second point. Without it, the second sentence comes as a surprise.

    Her eyes shone when she mentioned the children, but it didn't fool him.
    Her eyes shone when she mentioned the children. It didn't fool him.

    4. -ing verbs: The -ing form of a verb, combined with was or were, forms the past progressive tense: He was singing. This structure can make your action drag and feel less immediate. Use the simple past tense instead:

    The rain was drumming on the roof. She was feeling cooped-up and restless.
    The rain drummed on the roof. She felt cooped-up and restless.

    Searching for -ing verbs and fixing where you can may take several hours for a full-length manuscript. ( , but) I think it's worth the effort.



    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Tucson Festival of Books

    Last year the inaugural Tucson Festival of Books had almost 50,000 attendees. This annual event showcases local authors, libraries, bookstores and other literary-related organizations, and benefits local community literacy providers. In addition to almost 200 exhibitors, this event is also a huge writers' convention with lots of talks, panels and workshops from national authors etc.

    And it's free!! It's on next weekend, March 13-14th, at the University of Arizona between 9.30 and 5.30 both days.

    I'll be manning the Tucson Romance Writers of America booth (#116 along University Blvd, subject to change) on Sunday 2-4 pm and giving away ARCs (uncorrected bound galleys with full color cover - almost the real thing!) of Song of Scarabaeus to interested readers.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    French eye candy for real

    Searching Netflix for good science fiction isn't as easy as I thought it would be. One movie we accidentally came across recently was Suspension, which has a sci-fi "widget" but is otherwise pretty much a character study. It was very watchable. And then... did we really sit through that godawful thing from the 80s with Dennis Quaid about dream research the other week?

    Last night we ended up choosing the French near-future action movie District B13 (Banlieue 13). Made in 2004, it's set in 2010 as an excuse to change (or perhaps simply exaggerate) the social structure of a major metropolis--Paris. Beyond that, there's nothing science fiction about it. It's a pure action story.

    Loved it! It features several amazing parkour (urban mountaineering) sequences that pretty much make the film. The simple storyline probably wouldn't stand without those visuals. In fact, there's not much else to say about the movie except that it's hugely enjoyable and just the right length at 85 minutes.

    Actor David Belle is one half of the protagonist duo, and is credited with coining the term parkour, a style based on the "obstacle course method of [French] military training," itself based on African tribal agility skills. Watching the "stunts" in this movie made me realize how much fun it is to see people throwing their bodies around for real instead of relying on CGI. It has about as much character development and moral preaching as Avatar (that is, not much and quite a bit, respectively) but for me it works much better as an action flick, and just as well as a visual feast. Not to mention it's over one hour of two pieces of perfectly cast muscular eye candy.

    As a side note, I studied French for 7 years and could barely understand a word they were saying.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Decompression

    Not much time or inclination to blog as I frantically finish up book 2. Today it was handed over to MCP, who has spent half the evening with it on Track Changes and only made it to the end of Chapter 2. His most excellent contribution: writing in an airlock that I forgot about. (Decompression and all that.)

    Now he pauses to consider walking the dog, and I think I'll go with him.

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Rain...

    It rains twice a year in Tucson - the monsoons in July/August, and a cold bout of winter rain round about now. It's been raining for a week and the streets are flooded. As when it snows, Tucson always seems to get caught unawares by these incidences of "weather." We have "washes" here and there - deep trenches built into the sides of the roads to redirect the water - but that doesn't help on those streets with no washes. I ventured out this morning to buy curtains, hoping my station wagon would make it through long stretches of foot-deep water, and wasn't surprised to see the aftermath of a car accident at the lights nearest my home.

    Can't complain - I love the rain (dog, however, is not impressed) - but I think Tucson needs to invest in storm water drains.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Bound galleys have arrived

    This is my book! Well, sort of. These are the bound galleys, which are uncorrected proofs used for marketing. The back cover blurb is different from the final book and all my corrections aren't taken in yet, but it's my book that I can hold in my hands and flip the pages!