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Jun 29, 2013

Look Inside Alexia Purdy's Ever Shade

I'm excited to join five other amazing fantasy authors in a new collection, Faery Worlds. For the rest of the week I'll be featuring the other novels you can find in this ebook full of magic, love and fae.

Alexia Purdy's Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1)

A dark twist on faeries. For Shade, a chance meeting with a powerful Teleen Faery warrior who wields electrical currents and blue fires along his skin, has her joining him on a treacherous mission for the good Seelie Faerie Court across the land of Faerie. Magic and malice abound and nothing is what it appears to be.

"A fantastic read, full of magic and greed, love and loss, and stories to unfold. I highly recommend this to all lovers of the magical world of Fae." -- Review for Ever Shade, Anne Nelson, Angel Anne Reviews


ONE LONG PAUSE and the man pondered the choice he had just made. The faery exile, Verenis, watched the woman and her new husband as they laughed and chatted away inside their house. Her long, honey-brown hair shone in shimmering waves down her back and swung around as her husband twirled her about the kitchen, dancing to the music from the radio, which sat on the windowsill. Verenis didn’t acknowledge the pangs of jealously that swirled in his stomach; he had made his decision, and now had to let it play out. She’d be safer this way.

The child would grow without knowing him, without knowing her powerful potential. He would not be there to teach her the ways of their magic and life. It had to be this way and he could not change it, no matter how much he longed to. For the safety of the child and the love of his life, he had erased the woman’s memory of him forever. He watched them as the happiness spread across their faces. He had handpicked the man for her, made sure he would be a great father, love the child like his own, and love the woman more than life itself.

The faery closed his eyes, feeling the breezes of the cool winds graze his face. He had never wished to leave her like this. He longed to hold her, and be the one to swing her around in a flowing dance. The tragedy of it all caused a fierce ache in his heart and arrested his breath in his throat. Glancing back to her one more time, he turned away and ran with the wind toward the embrace of the forest.

Chapter One

“YOU DIDN’T REALLY mean that, did you?” Shade said as she observed her friend Brisa, whose face reddened with frustration.

“Rachel had it coming; she’s the one who started it!”

Shade looked at her friend’s ruined shirt, streaked with the remains of a red strawberry smoothie. The substance was sticking to her, and it felt cold. Her top was no longer the vibrant yellow it’d once been.

“She’s a dumb idiot anyway,” Brisa muttered. “She shouldn’t be calling you those names. I only stated that she was a ‘dumb as a wall, self-diluted bitch’ in self-defense. I said it for you. Besides, it’s only the truth.”

Jun 28, 2013

Look Inside Jenna Elizabeth Johnson's Faelorehn

I'm excited to join five other amazing fantasy authors in a new collection, Faery Worlds. For the rest of the week I'll be featuring the other novels you can find in this ebook full of magic, love and fae.

Jenna Elizabeth Johnson's Faelorehn

Meghan has been strange her entire life: her eyes change color and she sees and hears things no one else can. When the visions get worse, she is convinced she has finally gone crazy. That is, until the mysterious Cade shows up with an explanation of his own.

"The use of Celtic mythology is refreshing... Ms. Johnson uses her knowledge to weave a beautiful story of love, friendship, and legend. The atmosphere that the author created was eerie and haunting and the creatures were truly disturbing. The ending left me breathless!" - Review for Faelorehn, Krista Loya, Breathe in Books

Chapter One: Memories

The only reason I knew that I was awake was because of the pale green glow of neon stars staring back at me from my ceiling. I lay in my bed for a few moments, taking deep, steadying breaths while letting my eyes adjust to the darkness of my room. The remnants of a dream still danced in my mind, but as the approaching dawn light chased away the dark, it tried to slip away. Unfortunately, this particular dream was familiar to me, and it would take a lot more than my return to the conscious world to eject it from my mind.

I turned my head on my pillow and blinked my eyes several times at my alarm clock. Groaning at the early hour, I rolled over onto my stomach and buried my head into the pillow. I guess the darkness had some claim on the subconscious world, because instead of dispelling the dream, my actions only made it come racing back.

Jun 27, 2013

10 Things You Need To Know About Publishing FanFic on Amazon

Legolas Teg the Urban Elf and Snape Damon have an intense confrontation in this fan fic Kindle Worlds story

Amazon is rocking the publishing world once again with a brand new kind of publishing: legal fan fic. Okay, there have been licensed novels before... Star Trek novels, Star Wars novels, movie novelizations... but this is far more accessible.

It's called Kindle Worlds. Right now, there are only about twelve Worlds available to write in. Some biggies, like Harry Potter and Twilight, are not on the list. A few are television worlds, a few are author's own worlds (such as Wool).

However, before you break out dancing and toss your Snape and Legolas slash romance/adventure into the ring, there are a few things you need to know about publishing fan fiction with Amazon.

1. This is not self-publishing, as with KDP.

Amazon's self-publishing platform, KDP, allows authors to keep all rights to their own works. Amazon takes a cut of the royalties as a distributor, but Amazon is not the publisher. With Kindle Worlds, "All works accepted for Kindle Worlds will be published by Amazon Publishing."

That said, this doesn't seem intended to be as exclusive as the Singles program. Amazon wants your content, as long as it's not something they will be sued over.

2. The steps seem pretty easy.

1. Select a World and read the Content Guidelines, Content Agreement and Quality Guide.
2. Upload your guide-abiding manuscript.
3. Make a cover with their templates.
4. Sign the agreement.
5. Kindle Worlds will review your story to make sure it follows the rules. They accept or reject.
6. If they accepted, your story goes on sale online.
7. You collect monthly royalties.

3. The author gets 20% to 35% depending on length.

According to PaidContent: "Kindle Worlds pays fan fiction authors a royalty of 35 percent for works of at least 10,000 words, and a royalty of 20 percent on works between 5,000 and 10,000 words. The authors of the original properties also get royalties, but Amazon will not disclose how much those are."

4. There are rules, people. Rules!

You can only write in a "World" which Amazon has licensed. Each "World Licensor" has provided "Content Guidelines" for each "World," and all works must follow these Content Guidelines. For example, Obidiah Archer doesn't insult other people's religions, "despite his upbringing in a fundamentalist family." And Aric, from X-O-Manowar doesn't torture little kids "despite being a man from another time."

5. No crossovers.

 Sorry, the timeless love of Snape for Legolas will have to wait. There are strict rules for what kind of fan fic is allowed, and one of the biggies is that, in general, you're not allowed to mix'n'match. No crossover. I know, I know, that's half the fun of fan fic. Well, too bad. There are rules, people. Rules!

6. No smut.

Besides, your Snape/Legolas slash wouldn't be allowed anyway. No pornography. I don't care HOW popular Shades of Grey was, or if it started as a Twilight riff. It's still on the no-no list.

7. No crap.

People, if you can't spell, use proper grammar and consult the frickin' dictionary when it comes to frequently confused homonyms, Amazon doesn't even want to hear from you.

8.  Kindle Only

Sorry, Barnes and Noble and Kobo readers. This is a Kindle Party Only. Well, kindle and kindle-friendly. "Stories are available in digital format exclusively on, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps." Amazon adds helpfully, "We hope to offer additional formats in the future."

9. You may not re-use your own characters outside the Kindle Worlds.

Remember, Amazon is the publisher, not you, and they own the rights to the story, not you. So, any character, scene, invention, or cool plot idea -- what they call "New Elements" that you use in your fan fic belongs to them after you've published it with them. So, let's say that you do introduce a race of elves to the world of Vampire Diaries. As far as I know, that doesn't violate their Content Guidelines. You have an elf hottie named Tegoloz. After writing several stories with Teg, Damon and Elena, you decide you want Teg to go on his own adventure in an urban fantasy novel set in your own world.

Oops! Nope. Amazon owns Teg now. He belongs to the Vampire Diaries world forever after.

10. Your characters can be used in stories by other authors.

However... and this is where it gets weird, although it makes perfect sense if you think about it... if some other fan fic author wants to publish a new Vampire Diaries for Kindle Worlds that features Teg the Hottie Urban Elf -- yes, your Teg! -- that author has Amazon's blessing to do so. Whether you like it or not. According to Kindle Worlds, "You agree that the New Elements are available for unrestricted use by us without any additional compensation, notification or attribution, including that we may allow other Kindle Worlds authors, the World Licensor and other third parties to use the New Elements."

If you're familiar with the script-writing world, none of this will seem at all weird. In fact, it makes sense. Amazon is right about this, I think. They want to foster a world which builds upon itself, and it's possible that a "New Element" could become really popular with readers ... so popular other fan fic writers want to include that New Element in their own stories too. Fan fic of fan fic.... That's what it's all about, nu?

Look Inside Anthea Sharp's Feyland: The Dark Realm

I'm excited to join five other amazing fantasy authors in a new collection, Faery Worlds. For the rest of the week I'll be featuring the other novels you can find in this ebook full of magic, love and fae.

Anthea Sharp's Feyland: The Dark Realm

Faeries. Computer games. When realms collide, a hero from the wrong side of the tracks and the rich girl he's afraid to love must risk everything to defeat the dangerous fey.

What if a high-tech computer game was a gateway to the perilous Realm of Faerie...

"Feyland: The Dark Realm is pure, delightful fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging quest and romance. It blurred the lines between reality and gaming. I highly recommend Feyland to fans of fantasy, video games, quests and romances." - Review for Feyland, Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer


Jennet faced the Dark Queen, her mage staff at the ready. Excitement fizzed through her blood like it was carbonated. This was it. She’d completed the quests, mastered each level of the game, and made it here. The final boss fight.

“Fair Jennet.” The queen’s voice was laced with stars and shadow. “You think to best me in battle?” A faint smile crossed her pitiless, beautiful face. Her dress swirled around her like tatters of midnight mist.

“I plan on it,” Jennet said. She tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear, then shook off the sudden anxiety that settled on her shoulders, cold as snow.

Jun 26, 2013

Look Inside JL Bryan's Fairy Metal Thunder

I'm excited to join five other amazing fantasy authors in a new collection, Faery Worlds. For the rest of the week I'll be featuring the other novels you can find in this ebook full of magic, love and fae.

JL Bryan's Fairy Metal Thunder

A teenage garage band steals instruments from the fairy world and begins enchanting crowds, but their shortcut to success soon turns them into enemies of the treacherous Queen Mab.

"Fairy Metal Thunder has the same feel that the movie Labyrinth has, this wondrous fantasy world that you're desperate to have at least a small part of, even to the point of stealing." -- Review for Fairy Metal Thunder, Bending the Spine

Chapter One

After school, Jason rode his bicycle across town to Mitch's house for band practice, with his guitar case strapped to his back. His palms coated the handlebars with nervous sweat. He'd spent the whole day ignoring his teachers while he furiously scribbled lines of the new song, crossed them out, and rewrote them. He'd accumulated three notebook pages' worth of jumbled, blotchy words, plus ink stains all over his fingers.

During sixth period Social Studies, he had very carefully copied these bits of song onto a single page, using the most legible handwriting he could muster. He'd titled the song “Angel Sky” and then hesitated a minute before writing “For Erin” underneath the title. Then he'd folded it into neat squares and tucked it in his pocket, where it now burned like a handful of hot coals.

Jun 25, 2013

Look Inside Elle Casey's War of the Fae: Book 1 (The Changelings)

I'm excited to join five other amazing fantasy authors in a new collection, Faery Worlds. For the rest of the week I'll be featuring the other novels you can find in this ebook full of magic, love and fae.

Elle Casey's The Changelings
Elle Casey's War of the Fae: Book 1 (The Changelings)

Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old, and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a typical high school existence – until, along with a group of runaway teens, they are hijacked and sent into a forest where nothing is as it seems. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

"A brilliantly original YA fantasy. This was an extremely fun, exciting, and original book. I couldn't put it down. The pacing and suspense in this book are perfect." -- Review for War of the Fae, Ally Arendt, Word Vagabond book blog

Chapter One

I can't take much more of this high school nonsense. I feel like I'm not supposed to be here. Where would I be if I weren't here? ... I don't know. All I do know is I'm in the middle of all this crap, going to class, taking tests - but I'm on autopilot, going through the motions, waiting for life to start happening.

I'm sitting in World History, and there's a girl one row over who's the polar opposite of me. She's staring attentively at the teacher, her pen poised above an already nearly full page of notes, eager to write down every nugget of educational wisdom he's throwing our way. She loves it here, and she has big plans for moving on to college next year. She has cheer practice after school and a boyfriend named Mike who plays wide receiver on the football team. Ugh.

Jun 24, 2013

A New Collection of Faery Fantasies!

I'm honored to be a part of this new collection of novels about the fae! I hope you'll check it out and discover some new favorite series.

A stunning collection of the first books in six fan-favorite series by bestselling, award-winning fantasy authors! Discover the many worlds of Faerie in these novels filled with adventure, love, and – of course – Fae Magic.

Amazon     Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble 




The Unfinished Song (Book 1): Initiate by Tara Maya
Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.
Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

The Changelings (War of the Fae Book 1) by Elle CaseyJayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

Fairy Metal Thunder (Songs of Magic, #1) by JL Bryan
A rock & roll fairy tale.
Jason Becker plays guitar in a small-town garage band called the Assorted Zebras, along with a few other kids from his school. Unfortunately, they have no fans, no gigs, and they're going nowhere. Then Jason catches a goblin robbing his house, and he chases the little green thief to creepy old Mrs. Dullahan's overgrown back yard, where he discovers that the miniature doors in her trees lead deep into the fairy world.
Jason returns with fairy instruments that transform the band's sound into powerful, enchanting music. Soon, the Zebras are drawing huge crowds, but they discover their new gear is brimming with destructive magic they can't control.
Their shortcut to success turns Jason and his friends into enemies of the treacherous Queen Mab, who wants to keep the fairy world secret from humans. She sends magical hunters to track them down, including one of the most dangerous horned creatures in Faerie...a small unicorn named Buttercake.

Feyland - The Dark Realm (Book 1) by Anthea Sharp
Faeries. Computer games. When realms collide, a hero from the wrong side of the tracks and the rich girl he's afraid to love must risk everything to fight the treacherous fey.
What if a high-tech computer game was a gateway to the dangerous Realm of Faerie?
Feyland is the most immersive computer game ever designed, and Jennet Carter is the first to play the prototype. But she doesn't suspect the virtual world is close enough to touch -- or that she'll be battling for her life against the Dark Queen of the faeries.
Tam Linn is the perfect hero -- in-game. Too bad the rest of his life is seriously flawed. The last thing he needs is rich-girl Jennet prying into his secrets, insisting he's the only one who can help her.
Together, Jennet and Tam enter the Dark Realm of Feyland, only to discover that the entire human world is in danger. Pushed to the limit of their abilities, they must defeat the Dark Queen... before it's too late.

Faelorehn - Book One of the Otherworld Trilogy by Jenna Elizabeth JohnsonI never heard him come after me and even as I climbed the slope and stumbled onto our shaded back lawn, I didn’t look back. It was like the day the gnomes chased me all over again, but this time I was not escaping some horrible little creatures, I was fleeing from an incredibly good-looking guy who could very well understand me completely. I was either saving myself from that serial killer I always imagined lived down in the swamp, or I had finally gone over the deep end . . .
Meghan Elam has been strange her entire life: her eyes have this odd habit of changing color and she sees and hears things no one else does. When the visions and voices in her head start to get worse, she is convinced that her parents will want to drag her off to another psychiatrist. That is, until the mysterious Cade MacRoich shows up out of nowhere with an explanation of his own.
Cade brings her news of another realm where goblins and gnomes are the norm, a place where whispering spirits exist in the very earth, and a world where Meghan just might find the answers she has always sought.

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1) by Alexia Purdy
A dark twist on faeries. For Shade, a chance meeting with a powerful Teleen Faery warrior who wields electrical currents and blue fires along his skin, has her joining him on a treacherous mission for the good Seelie Faerie Court across the land of Faerie. Magic and malice abound and nothing is what it really seems to be.
The evil Unseelie Queen and her treacherous allies are around every corner as Shade makes her way across the breathtaking landscapes of the world of Faerie, which exists alongside the mundane human world. Shade discovers her own uncharted magic and meets some of the most powerful warriors in Faerie while battling evil dryads, conniving Teleen guards and challenges on her life with every step in a world where nothing can be taken for granted.

After you've finished reading, be sure to leave a review where you purchased it or on Goodreads/Shelfari to help other readers find Faery Worlds.

Jun 23, 2013

Ebook Formatter Uses My Book as Example

You've heard it before... the difference between an indie book which reads like a trad pubbed book and an indie book which reads like a vanity press heap of toad dung is all in how much effort you invest in doing the details.

The biggest priority is to have a good editor. I've found that having a team of Beta Readers as a follow-up is even better.

The next most important thing is to have a gorgeous cover which clearly communicates your book's genre and subgenre.

Finally, there is the issue of internal formatting. I admit, I gave no thought to this for the first couple of years. I couldn't afford to hire help, and I wasn't able to do it myself.

However, as eReaders have proliferated, screen quality has increased, and the tablet market has exploded, internally attractive books--with features like hyperlinked Tables of Contents--have become more important.

My formatting is now done by "Tech Guy." (He charges $50 an hour, if you're in need of a formatter.) He now has a blog, Unclogged, for those among you who are suitably nerdy. :) This dude has every eReader ever built, I swear, even those weird cheap brands that are so cheap, you've not only never heard of the brand, you've never even heard of the country where the brand is made. He recently posted about how to take screenshots of eReaders, and he used The Unfinished Song: Initiate, as his example. Check it out.

What is Amazon Author Rank?

You may have noticed that Amazon is Beta Testing a new form of ranking, which ranks the author, rather than the individual book. The logic, I presume, is that individual books may be relatively unimpressive in ranking, but if the author has many of them, the author is still selling well overall. At least, I think that the reasoning.

Here's what Amazon has to say about it:

What is Amazon Author Rank?

Amazon Author Rank is based on sales of all your books relative to the sales of other authors. Amazon Author Rank shows how an author's books sell relative to other authors. Like the Billboard charts, lower numbers are better. An author with the Amazon Author Rank of #1 in Mystery & Thrillers is the bestselling author in Mystery & Thrillers on Amazon. Amazon author rank is updated hourly.

What's Included in Amazon Author Rank?

It's the same approach we use with the book bestseller list we've had for many years - we look at paid sales of all of an author's books on It includes books in Kindle, physical and audio formats.

Where will Amazon Author Rank be seen on

An Amazon Author Rank will only appear for authors in the top 100 overall or in the top 100 in a browse category. Amazon Author Rank will appear on book detail pages in the More About the Author widget, on an author's Author Page and, on the Amazon Author Rank page.

Reading an Amazon Author Rank in Author Central

In Author Central, you'll see your Amazon Author Rank over time. The chart will show multiple blue points and an orange point. The blue points show your best author rank of the day, recorded around midnight, Pacific time. They show only that one point in time, and don't represent an average of your Amazon Author Rank throughout the day, but your best rank during the day. The orange point is a snapshot of your Amazon Author Rank right now. It's taken at the beginning of the current hour, and is updated throughout the day.

My current rank in Science Fiction and Fantasy is about #2000-#2500. Alas, not good enough to show up on any page....

Jun 20, 2013

Self-published Ebooks 20% of UK Genre Sales

How terrible that we have a larger choice of reading material than ever before in human history!

The UK market is a year or two behind the US market in the shift to digital reading, though they are the second highest in the world, and UK ebook sales spiked 134% in 2012 to total £216 million. The impact of indie authors can be seen there too. Now, according to Bowker Market Research, an astonishing 20% of all genre sales go to indies:

Self-published books accounted for more than 20% of crime, science fiction, romance and humour ebooks sold in the UK in 2012, according to newly released statistics. The figures, from Bowker Market Research, show that while self-published books made up a tiny proportion – 2% – of all books purchased last year, this figure increases dramatically, to 12%, when print books are removed from the equation. When just adult fiction and non-fiction ebooks are looked at, self-publishing's share increases to 14% of the market, and in the crime, science fiction, romance and humour genres, self-publishing took more than 20%, according to Steve Bohme, UK research director at Bowker, which tracks book-purchasing trends by interviewing over 3,000 book-buyers a month. Only 3% of children's ebooks, by contrast, were self-published.
Of course, the obligatory Ritual Insulter of Indie Books, speaking for traditional publishers, in this case, Andrew Franklin, rushed to assure everyone that this in no way changes the fact that self-published books are "unutterable rubbish" that "don't enhance anything in the world."

But Franklin, we knew that already. ANYTHING women like to read is considered rubbish: 
Bohme said that price was the reason most cited by readers for the purchase of self-published ebooks. By contrast, price was only the third most important reason for choosing to buy other ebooks, and books as a whole, behind "author" and "subject". And Bohme revealed that women are more likely to buy self-published ebooks than men, with 68% of buyers of DIY ebooks female – more than the 58% of female readers buying books as a whole. Those who bought self-published ebooks were also more likely to be heavy readers, with the statistics from Bowker showing that 61% of buyers of self-published ebooks said they read daily, compared to 37% of buyers of books as a whole.
Franklin also added, as a warning to any would-be indie author, that, "the principle experience of self-publishing is one of disappointment."

Aw. That's touching. I'm sure those 2% indie authors snagging 20% of genre sales are weeping all the way to the bank.

Jun 19, 2013

Special Spice: Alliteration

A guest post by Rayne Hall

Several words close together starting with the same sound can either empower your writing or spoil it, so use this technique with thought.

Here are some examples of skilfully applied alliterations from famous books:

...the foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks.... (Moby-Dick by Herman Melville)

… the baked red ruts of the road.... (The Beaver Road by Dave Duncan)

A sliver of soft sunlight pierced a crack in the silk drapes (Panic by Jeff Abbot)

… tokens of the mitred, martyred St Thomas (Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin)

….the all-over tan, the tailored teeth... (How to Kill Your Husband and other Handy Household Hints by Kathy Lette)

Fires were a common occurrence, leaving more and more buildings blackened and boarded, and discarded drug paraphernalia clogged garbage-filled gutters. (Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich)

Alliteration is an effective technique for creating impact. If you want to emphasise a sentence, perhaps for an emotional revelation or a shocking twist, or make the reader remember a certain phrase, try alliteration to make the section poignant and punchy.

The English language is perhaps the best language in the world for alliterations. The earliest literature in the English language used a lot of alliterations (e.g. Beowulf).

Alliterations are highly effective for audiobooks, performances and reading aloud. It also works superbly in humour, in poetry, for public speeches, for slogans, headlines and titles.

Next time you're stuck for a title for a story, play with alliterations. Examples: Pride and Prejudice, Famous Five, Sense and Sensibility, The Pickwick Papers, Love's Labour's Lost, The War of the Worlds, Nicholas Nickleby, The Wind in the Willows, Of Mice and Men.

In poetry, you can use a different alliteration for every line. Alternatively, you can use a different alliteration for every couplet (two lines) or stanza (paragraph), or you can use the same alliteration for the whole poem. Another option is to sprinkle pairs of alliterate words throughout the poem. A famous poem using frequent but subtle alliterations is The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

In prose, it's best to use alliteration sparingly, no more than four words in a sentence, and not in every sentence. It often works well in setting descriptions, but not in dialogue.

Caution: strings of alliterations can be silly. This may be the effect you want if you write humour, but for most kinds of prose it's better to use alliterations sparingly.

Some sounds have psychological effects on the reader/listener. 'W' is good for powerful nature and wild weather. 'B' is good for blunt bold aggression. 'D' is good for sadness and defeat. 'J'/'Ch' is good for jolly cheerful moods. 'Sn' can serve to hint at sneaky, untrustworthy people. 'Tr' suggests traps and troubles. 'R' creates urgency and speed and is perfect for fast-paced scenes. 'S' can create spooky effects, useful in ghost stories. 'P' hints at authority, force, masculinity or pompousness. 'L' suggests sensuality, laziness or leisure. Consider choosing alliterative sounds for their psychological effects.

How much alliteration you use is one of the aspects of your voice. You may like to use a lot, very little or none at all. Treat alliteration as a special spice: a pinch adds flavour, but too much spoils the meal.

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

Jun 17, 2013

The Day My Son Discovered Death

I have three sons, who are six (almost seven), four (almost five) and three. Their usual conversations involve stories about dinosaurs and potty jokes. Yesterday, however, they startled me.

The boys were fighting--hardly unusual--but when I went to break it up,  my middle son turned to me and said, "Mommy, I wish you'd never had [Youngest Son]. You did a bad thing, Mommy! Because now [Oldest Son] loves him and hates me!"

I cuddled him and the other two boys crept near to hear what I would say. I was a little angry, I admit, because I knew exactly what had precipitated this outburst.

I said to my oldest son, "Do you see how upset your brother is? This is because of the comments you've been making lately, saying one of your brothers is great and the other is a bad guy. That's not nice to either of your brothers. It turns them against each other, and that's not fair to them. Imagine how you would feel if someone else said those things about you."

I repeated some of his comments verbatim, but with his name, concluding, "How would you feel about that?"

He started crying.

Then I turned to my middle child and said, "Your younger brother loves. And you love him. Why would you let someone else destroy that? All of you are brothers. You all love each other. You're all on the same team."

Youngest brother was oblivious to the drama and enthusiastically threw himself on middle brother to give him a hug. Or maybe it was a tackle. Anyway, there were hugs all around, and the crises passed.

It was not forgotten, however.

That night, after the younger ones had fallen asleep, my oldest one started sobbing in his bed. I heard and went to check on him. He said his thoughts had made him sad.

"What thoughts?" I asked.

"I can't remember the games I used to play before [Youngest Son] was born," he said. "What if in the future I forget all the games I know now too? What about in the future when I stop living here and I don't have a Mommy and Daddy anymore? And what about when everything goes away?"

Ah, I thought sadly. He's discovered death.

Of course, the children already knew that if you are hit by a car, you will "die." But they also know that zombies and sword-wielding pirate skeletons are "dead," so it's all kind of relative to them. My oldest, though, he figured out this year that there's no Santa Clause or Easter Bunny, "It's just parents." He figured out, "Magic is isn't real."

And that includes not coming back as a zombie after death. Not coming back at all. Going away.

And he's discovered, too, that death, the great going-away, is not just a one-time thing that happens to the body, but the slow robbery committed by time of everything familiar, even your self.

He hugged me and said, "I don't want to stop being six years old. I don't want to stop being me. I don't want you to die. I don't want you to leave me."

Many times, a parent can comfort a child by saying, "What you fear is not real. You don't have to worry. I will protect you."

But sometimes, all a parent can say is, "I know. I'm sorry. I'll always love you."

"Even after you die?" he asked.

"Yes," I promised, "Even then."

Jun 16, 2013

Price Fixing Books Destroys Literature

Quebec is considering fixing book prices, joining nations like France, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, and Belgium.

The hearings on fixed prices for new releases are a direct result of lobbying efforts by the One Price for Books campaign, launched on August 22 of last year. Organized by a roundtable of major book industry players and backed by several high-profile writers and artists.... For the past 15 years, the industry has been requesting that lawmakers fix book prices.

The excuses given are the usual claptrap:

(1) "to prevent operators of big-box stores from cannibalizing small bookstore sales with deep discounts"
(2) "to stop the spate of bookstore closings"
(3) because the "book industry is fragile"
(4) "to protect its bibliodiversity"

These are thin disguises for the real motivation of the campaign, which is to stop competition from new formats (digital) and new authors (indies and small presses). When corporations scheme together to fix prices, the result is collusion and monopoly. When corporations (usually the very same ones) scheme with pocket politicians to fix prices, the result is... collusion and monopoly.

Make no mistake. The goal of price fixing is not to protect bibliodiversity. It is to crush bibliodiversity. The Big Publishers behind the campaigns for price fixing know this very well, of course. What's frustrating is some authors are taken in by the prettified rhetoric.

To see why, examine this graph, which I've borrowed off the blog from Kevin McLaughlin (where it appeared in a different context):

Indie authors, it is well known, flourish by offering their books at low prices. Some indies mistakenly think that this is exploitation of indie authors. Wrong. Indie authors are unknown to readers. Low (or free) prices can tempt a reader to take a chance on unknown authors, or on books that might have more grammar errors or less than professional covers. For a new author, Big Publishers can buy coop and advertising and send out hundreds of galleys well ahead of publication, they can pay for speaking tours and fancy gimmicks, all of which makes the readers feel familiar and comfortable with buying the book. Indies can't do any of these things, generally. They have one card to play, and that's price.

The indies use price to even the playing field and lure readers into taking a chance. After the readers have been wooed, then everything changes. My latest release, STRAT, hit the Top Twenty in two genre charts after I released it, despite having no reviews on any bookselling site yet, because by now I've built up a modest readership who were interested in buying it. But I gained most of those readers by offering the first book of my Unfinished Song series for free. And even now, I've kept the price of STRAT low, to encourage readers who don't know me to try it out.

Laws such as those proposed in Quebec are slyly but precisely aimed to knock players like me out of the arena. Take a look at the proposed law: all books would HAVE to have the same price in the first nine months after release. How many of those books in the green columns on the above chart would be there if the Big Publishers and their purchased politicians had their way? They are betting--not as many. That's exactly what they are lobbying for.

It's estimated that by 2016, 50% of the US book market will be digital. Europe and Asia are far behind. Why? In part because of collusion between Big Publisher and governments, of the kind being attempted in Quebec. In some European countries the taxes on ebooks are astronomical compared to the taxes on print books, leading to the absurd situation that it's more expensive to purchase 0's and 1's than dead trees. As always, protectionism and monopoly leads to the strangulation of innovation, competition and new technology.

The people who gain are the big corporations, the 1% of authors who are already established, and the rich who can afford any price for books. The people who suffer are the little guys, the young, new and unknown authors, and the poor, who can't afford to move into digital ereaders, which would vastly open up their reading vistas.

Finally, the other kind of diversity squashed by price fixing is the diversity of art itself. Niche markets cannot operate on economies of scale like big, popular genres. The rise of ebooks has not only allowed more authors than ever to make a living from their creative work, but it has expanded and deepened the diversity of topics, genres, and sub-genres that authors are free to explore.

When innovation is crushed by corporate and political collusion, literature as a whole suffers.

"Dad, I don't care about money"

When I was about twelve, I remember having a conversation with my Dad about What I Was Going To Do With My Life.

I said, "I'm going to be a writer."

After he stopped laughing, he said, "Okay, now be serious. What are you going to do with your life?"

He explained that only the most skilled of writers could actually make a living at it, and since I couldn't even spell (still true), obviously, that did not include me. So, if I wanted to make any money, I needed to be "realistic" and pick a more lucrative career. I then retorted, alone with every aspiring artist everywhere and everywhen,

"Dad, I don't care about money. I just want to be happy!"


A lot has changed since then. Dad has come around to my point of view. He decided that after a life-time of towing the line, he only wanted to be happy, so he changed gender and is now a woman, and also finally published his secret fantasy novel.

Oh, the irony.

But meanwhile, now a parent myself, I've come around to my Dad's point of view, that, really, all things being equal, making money turns out to be fairly crucial to that whole Feeding The Hungry Brood part of life. I don't like telling kids that I have to cancel swimming lessons because I didn't sell enough books this month. Not that I'm willing to give up on being a novelist. I just wish I'd had more advice about how to balance art and business along the way.

It's been my experience that those who are pro-business scorn art, and those who are pro-art, scorn business. There are even few other authors, already successful, who are willing to explain in a calm and sensible manner that yes, you can make a living as a writer.

In fact, a lot artists, writers, poets, painters and such not only oppose making any money personally, the oppose the idea of anyone at all making money, they oppose the whole capitalist system.

I came across an interesting article by Robert Nozick seeking to explain why intellectuals oppose capitalism. In a nutshell, verbally smart kids do well in school, and expect to do well after they graduate...but often don't. Even if they land a lucrative career in academia, they don't become billionaires like entrepreneurs  with good coding skills. Then they get resentful.

That's an interesting theory. I think it's missing a few bits, however.

For instance, I didn't exactly do well in school. In elementary school, I'd miss 18 out of 20 spelling words on the test and get an Unhappy Face on my report card. (My elementary school didn't use Letter Grades because that might make us feel bad....uh, how do you think a seven year old thinks about a giant Unhappy Face and being made to stay in recess?) I took Algebra three times and never did get higher than a D. In college, I nearly flunked a course when I blew off finals to write a novel. I was possessed by my muse...what was I supposed to do? Wait to write it, and miss my moment of inspiration, which I well knew would never come again?! Pah!

 I think that we humans have two standards to dealing with others. One is for dealing with family and close friends. A friend in need is a friend indeed. A fair weather friend is no friend at all. True love is in sickness and in health, for better or worse. You commit whole-heartedly to those you love. You love them whether they are poor or rich, sick or healthy, reviled or respected.... if you don't, it's not real love.

The second way is for dealing with total strangers. That's where money comes in. If you are a decent person, you deal fairly with strangers, giving them value for their money, being honest in your transactions, and relying on mutual self-interest to ensure the other party will do the same. If someone cheats you, you never deal with that person again, and warn others against him as well.

Both systems of morality are important, but they are completely different. Imagine if you had the attitude that if your child lied to you, you wouldn't ever do business with them again.

Parent: Did you wash your hands already already?
Child: (hides dirty, sticky hands behind back quickly) Yes!

Uh, that wouldn't last long.

Anyone who has had a newborn in the house knows that if you didn't love your children irrationally, you would behave like a lizard parent, just to get a full night's sleep, and eat them in the first week.

My theory is that our artistic creations, art and novels and such, are the children of our mind. We must love them even if no one else can. Because if we didn't love our art just as irrationally as we love our children, we wouldn't keep at it for the 10,000 hours we need to produce works that outsiders are finally capable of recognizing as worthwhile.

The first picture you drew, the first story you wrote, the first work of art you tried to produce, no matter what the medium, was, I guarantee you, crap. Except, of course, to your parents, who stuck in on the refrigerator with an Alphabet magnet. If you were lucky, no one tried to inform you of the market value of those pieces until you were at least into puberty.

Because of that, we disdain and scorn making art for money. It seems...uncouth. Not real art. It would be like parents who said, "We're going to have a kid to raise some cash." Wtf...? They should be arrested! An artist or writer who says, "I'm only going to work on that project if it makes a lot of money" is the epitome of slime. (Never mind that there are plenty of them.) And the strange thing is, those who love their art actually achieve greatness more often than those who are trying to turn it into a cash-cow right from the start. So our scorn feels justified.

But once we have put in our 10,000 hours , and the work we produce no longer looks like scribbles, I'd say it's time to put aside that scorn.

Not while we are in the throes of creation itself. That's a process like childbirth, and really, the only thing to focus on at that point is to push that product our. (Ok, that's a very maternal metaphor, so for you dads; hold onto your muse's hand while she's in labor, even if she almost breaks your arm.) (I'm not sure that metaphor was better... moving on....)

But at some point, we can put on our business hats without betraying our art. And we can be appreciative that we live in a free market society where we can sell our art on an open market, as opposed to ninety-five percent of history, where we would have had to sleep with our patron and/or praise tyrants you loathe to publish anything.

Art and business do not have to be enemies. They can be allies.

Anyway, that's what you can tell Dad next time he asks you What Are You Are Going To Do With Your Life.

Jun 15, 2013

Barnes and Noble Firesale on Nooks

Rumor has it that Barnes and Noble is planning to give up direct production of the Nook. Microsoft might take it over, or a breakaway child-company.

The firesale on Nooks seems to lend credence to this rumor. The upside though is that you can get Nooks at incredible prices right now

Wouldn't that make a great Father's Day Present for dad or hubby? Hehehe. My husband got his three days ago, a little early! (He is the nook fanatic, and I'm the kindle girl.) I also bought him Daddy's Little Princess... sequel to the equally poignant yet side-splittingly hilarious Vader and Son.

Jun 11, 2013

Of Mechs And Men


In yesterday’s post, I discussed the pre-existent ideas about the future that a sf author should be aware of when world-building. In fact, if you think of these as a series of scales or levers, just answering these questions can toss up an interesting setting for a SF story.

1. Will artificial intelligence ever expand, change, or overtake human intelligence?
2. How might we travel Faster Than Light?
3. What would be the biggest challenges to establish colonies on other worlds?
4. Has life evolved more than once? Do aliens exist? If so, how might they interact with humanity?
5. How will genetic engineering change what it means to be human?
6. What social, political, and military changes will emerge in response to new technology and new discoveries?

I’m going to talk about the decisions I made while building the STRAT universe, and explain them.

1. Artificial Intelligence

STRAT is a story about artificial intelligence… but not hypersmart robots. In fact, even though “mechs” are an important part of the story, they are not Transformer type mechs, with human intelligence and a taste for pop music. Nor are they Kill All Humans obsessed Terminators. They are merely tools that extend the fighting leverage of human soldiers
This isn't to say that mechs never turn on humans. During training for the Galactic War, the hero and his platoon are taught two different ways to program strats into their mechs, one using "chained tactics" and the other, "freestyle."
Chained tactics meant you stacked a decision tree with a long list of tactics, and the mechs followed that order of operations. You could program complex stratagems that way, creating traps and bluffs and long-term deployments. The downside was that if any of your planning assumptions were wrong, your whole decision tree would be hacked down at the root, and the long chain of tactics would be worthless, leaving the mechs helpless to readjust without direct oversight.

Freestyle tactics meant that you gave your mechs a multitude of short decision trees, and let them shuffle through the tactics randomly as they traversed the combat terrain, learning on their own which worked best. The drawback was that freestyle mechs took a while to learn what worked, so they could be sucker-punched by the other side. Worse yet, sometimes they learned wrong.

Mechs operating freestyle could screw you up royally, if they fell into a bad rut, which sometimes happened for no obvious reason. Sometimes they even turned on each other, or worse, on you. When you had your own mechs bite you in the arse like that once or twice, you tended to shy away from freestyle. But despite a few spectacular screw-ups, freestyle mechs usually beat chained mechs in most dust-ups. The longer and more chaotic the engagement, the more likely freestyle mechs were to triumph over mechs chained to a pre-ordained decision tree.

Even freestyle mechs are tools, however, not people made of metal.

The real artificial intelligence tech in the story is “meme” tech, the ability to store and transfer memory from one mind to another. In addition to meme tech, there are also two other forms of neural adjustment technology: emotivation, which is imprinting an emotional state or attitude (i.e. loyalty to a lord, or love for a husband); and mindwiping, which is turning a human into an obedient doll... programmable much like a mech.
Is meme tech all-powerful and irresistible? Is human nature like plastic in the hands of the architects of direct neural propaganda? Or does reality bite back? That's the question.

2. Faster Than Light Space Travel

In the STRAT universe, I hypothesize two types of FTL transportation. One is the old stand-by in SF, the wormhole, or “jump gate,” suitable for large ships at the edge of star systems. The other, which is called a “synapse,”  works on the principle of quantum entanglement. Neither idea is new to SF. What was important to me was to choose a method that could conceivably evolve and improve over the course of time.


3. Colonies in space

Since FTL travel is possible, colonies on other planets are also possible. (In this particular series, I don't explore anything more exotic than other planets--that's for another book...) Here I hypothesized that in seeking another world, the single most important “Earth-like” quality humans would seek would be the right gravity. They have no easy way to create that in the STRAT universe, whereas if they can create spaceships, I figure, they can also create self-sufficient archologies that have air, water, plants and living space for humans.

Because of this, planets which might seem inimical to human life, like Neraka, with its atmosphere, glaciers, volcanoes, and seas all oozing sulfur dioxide, are colonized. Neraka is not easy to terraform, but it has the right gravity, so that makes it “habitable.” Ironically, this means that once established there, the denizens are condemned to mad scramble for breathable gases. They mine oxygen and carbon from the rocks, to keep themselves and their crops alive. Mass asphyxia, not famine, has been the great killer in times of want.

4. Aliens

Aliens, and their relationship to humanity, are extremely important in STRAT, but not in the usual way. That’s because the aliens do not (usually) interact with humans, so their influence is felt only at arm’s length. Who the aliens really are and what they want, and whether they work for humanity’s harm or benefit, are huge questions in the background of the novel. STRAT is in many ways a straightforward military adventure novel, but this was an element that I wanted to remain ambiguous and uncertain, as real life is ambiguous and uncertain.

5. Genetic Changes to Humanity

It’s possible that humans on other planets would change their own genetic make-up rather than their environment. After all, it’s easier to manipulate DNA—we can do that already to some extent—than change the weather…at least in the direction we want! However, I treat this conservatively in STRAT. Humans prefer to genetically engineer microscopic symbionts to help them adapt to poisonous environments. They also use genetic engineering on animals, such as the mouse-cows that provide miner families with fresh milk, or the unicorns that adorn the gardens of the nobility.

The main ways that human groups differ from each other are the accidental and incidental results of the separation of different lineages over long periods of time. Racial differences, in other words. These are not important, except as a cause social friction: “Sagittarians and Cygnians,” the hero observes, “differ from one another in subtle ways, the cast of the eye, the tint of the skin, trivial divergences that fools make much of.” (He also finds that decapitation does marvels for discouraging attacks by racist hooligans.)

6. Social Changes to Humanity

Social change is really at the heart of STRAT. Many SF stories take a snapshot of the future…the technology is already different, and people have adjusted to this new way of life. Often, if the author is good, the characters take their amazing new abilities and circumstances for granted. However, I wanted to show a society experiencing an accelerated rate of change. There are a few authors who have done this well, and they happen to be among my favorites: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, of course; Haldeman’s Forever War; Olaf Stapledon’s First and Last Men and Star Maker; Stephan Baxter’s Evolution....

Where else would change be most rapid, most obvious, and most lethal, than in war? That’s why I wanted STRAT to be specifically military SF. What if a millennia worth of change in military technology all occurred within the lifetime of one man? How would he deal with that? It’s said that generals are always prepared to fight the last war. In the STRAT universe, that’s a particular danger, because both military and social technologies are changing so rapidly.

It’s hard enough to show change. It’s even harder show change accelerating. It’s hardest of all to show accelerating future change—by definition unknown! So, I admit, I cheated a bit, and looked to the past for inspiration. This is a time-honored tradition in military SF too, by the way. The Honor Harrington series is basically Horatio Hornblower in space, StarshipTroopers references WWII, the Forever War can be read as an allegory of Vietnam, and after 911 a whole new slew of military SF featuring sneak attacks and terrorist suicide bombers emerged. In Star Wars, they fight with glowy swords. Really? Swords? Really?

Also, have you ever noticed how common monarchies and empires are in SF? What’s up with that?

Well, I can’t criticize. The society on Neraka at the beginning of STRAT is also feudal. While the hero belongs to an equalitarian, democratic clan-based society, who live as outcastes out in the “Wayout,” or wilderness, the majority of people are ruled by lords and their armsmen, who are equivalent to knights or samurai. My hero aquires a knightly weapon called a vajram, which has several modes, including a sword-form. (Though it’s really more like a slender, super-powered chainsaw.)

This is not because I actually think that the future will recapitulate the past.
The real reason I did this was so that I could show society moving from a feudal base to a more complex form—and show war grow larger in scope at the same time. However, within the story universe, the rise of “space feudalism” is explained in an faux academic Aside by “Demographic Density Theory,” or the hypothesis that when the majority of people are dispersed but tied to the land (by agriculture in Earth’s past, by mining for gases during the age of galactic exploration), they become vulnerable to bandits, and must turn to a strong central military caste for protection.

The hero too must give up the freedom he believes in to join this feudal system and fight for his abducted wife. That, however, is only the beginning of the story. For the feudal system is soon itself overturned by new technological and social developments. The question at the heart of the novel is whether freedom is sustainable, and what is required to defend it.

Jun 10, 2013

In the Future, We Will Look Like Zebra-Lemurs (5 Things To Remember About SF)

Nickelay Lamm predicts we will have huge, lemur-like eyes in the far future.  Presumably this will be driven by sexual selection from millennia of watching Anime. I added the zebra stripes. Because, really, who doesn't love zebras?

5 Things To Remember About SF


1. Science Fiction can be about the past, the present, or the future.

Short cut answers to the question, ‘what is sf?’ reach for topics typical to the genre: “SF is about the future,” or “SF is about space travel,” or “SF is about aliens.” Of course, SF doesn’t have to involve space travel or aliens, nor does it have to be set in the future. In fact, there is a whole sub-genre of SF that is set in the past: Alternate History. (One of my favorite sub-genres, in fact!) But whether it takes place in the past, the present, or the future, all science fiction deals with the question of how things change.
In a SF story, the author is proposing a thesis about change:

“If this happens, then that will happen.” (Future)
“If this had happened, then that would have happened.”  (Past)
“This is happening, because that is happening.” (Present)

So is SF about predicting the future? No, not really. It’s about predicting change, but that’s not the same thing. Which brings us to our next point. 

2. Science Fiction is about extrapolation, not prediction.

Prediction would be saying, “This is what the future will look like.” Humans are notoriously poor at predicting the future, and although, arguably, sf writers have done a better job than most futurists, if we judged sf works only by how many of their descriptions had been true predictions, it would be a sorry record.
Take Orwell’s 1984. The world in 1984 was not a dreary dystopia completely dominated by three warring totalitarian powers. In fact, the Soviet Union, which was most like the societies he depicted, fell only six years later. Taken as a futurist, Orwell failed.
However, that wasn’t the point of 1984. Orwell, a former Communist who was horrified by the direction he saw the ideology going once it was in power, wanted to show, in vivid and personal terms, what it would mean to live in a world where there were no longer any free societies, only rival totalitarianisms. 

3. Science Fiction is about extrapolating social and technological change.

SF is about extrapolating change, but only certain kinds of change. Supposed the story question was: “What if a waitress fell in love with a billionaire?” That situation would no doubt involve change in the emotional and financial state of the waitress, but it’s obviously a better set-up question for a romance than a SF novel. Now, if the question were, “What if a waitress fell in love with a billionaire…and then she found out he was a robot?” that would clearly be SF. But why? Not just because it involves robot billionaires, which don’t yet exist (correct me if I’m wrong), but because suddenly this love story has implications far beyond the mating game of two individuals. The question of whether a human can love a robot, at least if he’s rich enough, has implications for all humanity.

Or suppose the story question was: “What if anti-gay terrorists were going to release a bomb in San Francisco?” That would make a good premise for a Thriller. But it’s not a SF question, because we already have terrorists, and anti-gay movements, and San Francisco. Now, if the question were: “What if anti-gay terrorists were going to release a bioweapon in San Francisco, using a new technology that only infected anyone with the ‘gay gene’?” That would be SF. Why? Because this premise now asks a larger question about how a new technology (such a targeted bioweapon) and/or a new discovery (the ‘gay gene’) could interact to be a game-changer in human history.

SF is about change, but that change has to have larger implications than changes to individuals, even though SF stories are, of course, about individuals. The social and technological changes indicate something critical is different from our known present. 

4. Science Fiction is not written in a vacuum.

Science Fiction is not written in a vacuum, but in response to other SF and ideas about the future, the past, and technology. This has ups and down.

On the down side, you have to fight against falling into ready-made clichés. You might come up with what you think is a terrific idea, but readers immediately recognized it as a re-hash of Star Trek/Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica. You have to work hard to push past the obvious, easy answers, which are probably sloppy borrows from other SF, and search for true originality.

On the upside, as long as you are aware of the dangers of clichés, you can also lean on them strategically. You can use conventions, complete with acronyms, such as FTL drives (faster than light), without having to waste your info-investment opportunities. You focus your originality on the area that is relevant to the thesis of your book—at the heart of the issue you are interested in exploring. You can let sci-fi conventions fill in the rest of the story, the way literary writers use their readers’ knowledge of the contemporary world (and other literary works), and regency romance readers use their readers’ knowledge of Regency England to give a leg up in world-building.

David Farland calls this ‘resonance.’

For example, in Orson Scott Card’s classic military sf book, Ender’s Game, his aliens are amorphous BEM (Bug Eyed Monsters) intent on conquering the Earth. (Other books in the series may complicate that, but I’m referring to the first novel, which, after all, stands alone on its own merits.) Card is perfectly capable of building more complex, less clichéd aliens, but that was beside the point in Ender’s Game, which was about children fighting wars, not really about the aliens at all. Card could use his readers’ knowledge and expectations of BEMs as a prefabricated building block in the story structure he wanted to build. 

5. Science Fiction must answer, implicitly or explicitly, current commonly held expectations about what kinds of technology will change.

Because SF is not written in a vacuum, a writer building a new story universe must address, current commonly held expectations about what kinds of technology will change. This can be don implicitly or explicitly. Keep in mind, though, that if these things aren’t explained, or explained away, readers may wonder about them:

-       Colonies in space
-       Aliens

Suppose, for instance, you want to hypothesize a future in which humans have evolved bigger brains, lemur-like eyes, and zebra skin. Also, they all live in Antarctica, the only habitable continent left. You don’t specifically have to say that they don’t have robot servants, don’t have faster than light travel, aren’t living on another world, and haven’t met sexy aliens from Zor-la. That will be obvious in the context of the story. 

But at the back of your mind, you must have answered the question of why these things don’t exist

It could be as simple as the premise that faster than light travel and aliens don’t exist, or at least still haven’t been discovered yet after another 100,000 years. In other words, your worldbuilding premise is: What if all the dreams of a Singularity, colonies in space, leaving the Earth behind, and a dramatic break with our present biology were not possible? How might we still change in 100,000 years? (Stripes! Anime eyes!) You might even allow that those things do exist… maybe at some point, humanity was divided into “Those Who Left” and “Those Who Stayed,” but this story is about the latter.