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"New futures from old horizons." Author of off-kilter sci fi/fantasy books. Fond of apocalyptic and fantastical things. Known for phuquerie. I bite. On Amazon.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

More Breaking News: Blog Tour! New Release!

Hello hello!

So, another promo-y post because there's more fun stuff to announce. First, the Euphoria/Dysphoria blog tour with my coauthor Nic Wilson is kicking off soon! 

Check out each blog on the day of the tour to hang out for exclusive flash fiction, recipes based on the book (mmm...rats...delicious!), and to hang out with us in the comments. You don't want to miss this one. 




December 1
Roxanne’s Realm
www.roxannerhoads.com

December 2
Sapphyria's Book Reviews
http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

December 3
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
www.creativelygreen.blogspot.com

December 4
Lisa’s World of Books
www.lisasworldofbooks.net

December 5
Deal Sharing Aunt
www.dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com

December 8
Anya Breton Author's Blog
http://blog.anyabreton.com

December 9
The Reader's Hollow
http://thereadershollow.wordpress.com

December 10
Share My Destiny
http://sharemydestiny.blogspot.com

December 11
Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
www.pratr.wordpress.com

December 11
CBY Book Club
http://cbybookclub.blogspot.co.uk

December 12
JeanzBookReadNReview
http://jeanzbookreadnreview.blogspot.co.uk/

December 15
Fang-tastic Books
www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com


And that's not all. Look what else is finally out! 





You can grab your copy right here. It's got all the diversity and queer representation you can expect from my books--i.e., PoC are front and centre--in a love story set long after the apocalypse. An apocalypse that might sound familiar if you've read The Underlighters. Is that a hint? It might be. Check back for info on the blog tour for this baby, too! There will definitely be prizes.

***
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Descripturbation: How to (and How Not to) Describe Characters

Hello hello!

Today I'm going to talk about one of the thorniest and most often-ridiculed issues in writing--character descriptions. Some authors describe every pimple, dimple, dent, and wrinkle of lace; some basically avoid description at all, which can leave readers feeling as though the characters are no more than wooden silhouettes with "Protagonist's Name Here" taped to them.

So, what does too much detail look like? 


Women's clothes often get the brunt of this. The men's clothes in the same works are often less elaborate, but have a look at the paragraph below.

"Her blue paisley dress had delicate puce and chartreuse ribbons on the puffed sleeves. The layered chiffon skirt was hooped, and numerous petticoats trimmed in yellow lace spilled out from beneath its voluminous edges."

Now, that's ugly, in many ways. There are too many adjectives, some passive voice, and the actual dress combination is pretty hideous. But fancy steampunk/Victorian dresses are easy to ridicule. What does overdescription with a male character in a more contemporary setting look like?

"His perfect nose was Euclidean and his brow was high and fair. He had deeply-set brown eyes with smooth lids, and his eyes twinkled under dark brows and short black lashes. His mouth was slender-lipped and his smile, very wide. His dimples dotted golden cheeks and the creases of his grin reached almost to his dark sideburns. Slick, anthracite hair that had been gelled into perfection flopped insouciantly off to the side.

His neck was slim but strong and his golden skin showed through the opening of his blue and white plaid button-down shirt, a real second-hand item, not a designer look-alike. His Gotye t-shirt had stylized doves and hands opening on it, and his jeans--which were fashionably worn and ripped, but had obviously been broken in--had a dove embroidered on the pocket as well. I stared at his Converse sneakers and fell in love."

As a friend said, "I just think it's kinda awesome that someone who writes so well can just as easily write so BADLY at the drop of a hat."

These two paragraphs are excessively detailed, to an irritating extent, because whatever else was happening in the scene stops DEAD to let the description show itself out.

"His brown eyes sparkled as he grinned at me. He ruffled his slick black hair and leaned back, his band t-shirt peeking through a plaid button-up."

This rewrite is a bit simpler, but it still gets the feeling across without stopping the action dead. It also makes the description more active, contextualizing his eyes and hair with expressions and an action.


What about insufficient detail?


My personal prejudice is that "less is more", but if a story is full of lush descriptions elsewhere, it's probably okay to let yourself go in the character descriptions. For first drafts, it's also okay to go a bit bananas--you can always cut things later. For those of us who write fantasy and sci fi, there are extra challenges, because the books exist in unique universes.

That said, it's often a good idea to trust the reader. They can imagine things, they know how tropes work, and it's okay to skim over descriptions a bit when referring to something that should be ordinary. Wastebaskets, for example, or toilets. Focus on what's different, not just what's the same. For both characters and the setting, it's often wise to add bits of description throughout the book, sprinkling them in. Using relative descriptions can also be helpful in keeping the reader immersed. One of the best things you can do is make a description active, so that the character interacts with their environment rather than being set apart from it. Here's an example.

"She smiled and stretched her long, tanned limbs. She was tall and stringy, and her grey-streaked black hair gleamed like steel in the light of the twin suns."

We know she's on an alien planet--possibly one with low gravity--and that she's an older woman already. It's not a lot, but it can go a long way. But that's the easy stuff--what about specific character description issues?

Source. This is a great resource.

How do we describe diversity without having to say, 'this character is black or Japanese'?


The best thing you can do is get yourself a colour palette of skin tones. Dark skin comes in many, many shades--there are some incredible resources to explain some of those shades.

"Her reddish-brown skin glowed in the sun, and she squinted, her full lips curving into a smile. She unholstered her pulse rifle and trained it on the scruff-rat leisurely, then fired."

Now, you could describe her skin as 'chocolate' coloured, but that kind of description has really fallen out of use. The problem with food-like descriptions is that it's othering and a bit creepy when all protagonists are edible. It's fine in small doses--and I've seen black authors use "almond eyes and chocolate skin" as descriptors, and "creamy" or "milky" skin do get used to describe white characters, but Asian characters don't have "teriyaki or sesame skin" and Latino characters don't have "corn tortilla" skin, Nor do, say, First Nations people have "pemmican complexions". The problem is that people are sometimes unaware that the way they describe others is fetishizing (which makes a person into an object) or just plain absurd.

When it comes to describing eye shape and colour, "almond" eyes are used a lot for Asian characters, but this has become contentious and annoying for the same reason mentioned above. The jury's out on good ways to describe monolids and epicanthic folds, but mentioning 'angled' eyes, 'crinkled' eyes, 'smooth' lids, deeply-set, or teardrop-shaped eyes are all possible choices. It's better to talk to someone from the ethnic background you're trying to describe if you're not sure. As always, research is your friend.


Any final words?


We'll all make mistakes. That's life, and that's writing. Experiment and do research, and run things by friends who can mock you safely (without being too mean) if you're worried that something sounds ridiculous. And, of course, there's always asking your editor or beta readers.


***
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Breaking News: Cover Reveals! New Releases! A Street Team!

Hello hello!

So it's been a while since this happened, but I finally have a post that's related to--gasp--my writing and work. Nic Wilson is a cool science fiction writer whose work has been on my blog a couple of times, and perhaps unsurprisingly, we've become pretty good friends. We even teamed up to write a book. Katie de Long, collaborator and instigator, was also involved. Together, we crafted exactly what you'd expect.




Buy the thing here! 

Execution above or extinction below... 


Survival is hard enough in the poverty-stricken streets of the Lower Blocks, and this woman is far from the first to flee the Engineers who oversee the City. But now Christine's a target: hunted by the aristocracy, her future uncertain, and past laid bare. And a person with Christine's powers can't afford to be caught. 


Humanity built the Foundation to elevate themselves from the poisoned earth, but Christine and Ilsa must choose whether to descend to hell below, or remain in hell above.



Please note, Euphoria/Dysphoria contains a lesbian romance, graphic violence, and some disturbing material. It is intended for mature readers.



But that's not all. After the Garden will also be launching soon.





Memories of another life and lover guide her, but are they even hers? She is a Bearer—keeper of past lifetimes and gifted with strange talents. Ember must find her answers away from safe Longquan Village, snared instead in the sensuality and dangers of The City. Hidden among spider farmers and slaves, prostitutes and weavers, a nest of people like her are waiting.

A powerful man outside The City raises his forces, determined to hunt down the ‘demons’ who could taint his followers. Threatened from without and within, can the Bearers even trust each other? 


And there's still more. A couple of blog tours will be coming up in the next few months to celebrate the launches of these books, and you know what that means--Rafflecopters! Swag and loot! Not only will I have some signed paperbacks, I'll have things like exclusive book-based jewelry, both featuring cover art and jewelry I've created, bookmarks, and even weirder bits of loot! Sure, some of it will be on offer for contests, but street team members will have special perks. In addition to the treasures, you can count on cover previews, snippets, advance notice of sales and new releases, and superb ways to waste your time on Facebook at work with other fans!

Curious? All you need to do is click here. Once I see that you've requested to join, you'll be in!

***
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Euphoria/Dysphoria

Now available on Amazon

Execution above or extinction below... 






“Please help me. I'm pregnant.” 
A chance encounter with a fugitive has turned Christine's life into a nightmare. 

Survival is hard enough in the poverty-stricken streets of the Lower Blocks, and this woman is far from the first to flee the Engineers who oversee the City. But now Christine's a target: hunted by the aristocracy, her future uncertain, and past laid bare. And a person with Christine's powers can't afford to be caught. 

Humanity built the Foundation to elevate themselves from the poisoned earth, but Christine and Ilsa must choose whether to descend to hell below, or remain in hell above. 

From post-apocalyptic authors Nicolas Wilson (Homeless), and Michelle Browne (The Underlighters) comes Euphoria/Dysphoria, a biopunk dystopia. 

Please note, Euphoria/Dysphoria contains a f/f romance, graphic violence, and some disturbing material. It is intended for mature readers.

Buy it here: 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Cult Classics for the Modern Cult

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo eBooks






Ten insane short stories from the B-movie realm fill out this anthology. There's a little violence, some adult (18+) content, and a lot of completely bizarre creatures. Straighten your altar to the dark gods, pop open a can of your favorite mutagen, and hold on tight--there are threats much bigger than Godzilla, and they're coming to a Kindle near you.

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