Saturday, March 25, 2017

CyberPunk Defined

CyberPunk: What every fan needs to know

Cyberpunk: a genre that focuses on the juxtaposition of a world filled with high technology and a crumbling/breakdown of  the established social order

Have you ever heard the term 'cyberpunk' and you don't know exactly what that means? Does it intrigue you and yet confuse you a bit at the same time? No worries! We'll dig down deep to the root of the genre and figure out what it's all about.

First of all, cyberpunk books, movies and stories have elements of science fiction that focus on major advancements in technology that should change the world for the better. Medical tech, communications, transportation and finances are just some of the ways that technological advancements might change the way society operates. The unfortunate aspect of cyberpunk that makes it more dystopian than not, is that these advancements are usually the harbingers of the end of democracy, humanitarianism and social order in general. The glaring differences in the glamour of high tech and the dysfunction of broken society makes cyberpunk an often evocative storytelling platform. 

Have I seen cyberpunk and I didn't know it? Well, sure! Let's look at some popular books or movies that could be labeled cyberpunk, but very rarely are.

Though often labeled horror, Brian Lumley's Psychomech Trilogy has so many cyberpunk traits that I don't think it can be ignored as a reading choice for cyber fans. A blind man is taken in by a seemingly well-meaning man who believes in the powers of ESP. Using high-tech machinery, the blind man explores the powers of the human mind and everything that exists beyond. A definite must-read.

Initially appearing as a serial in Young Magazine in 1982, Akira is a manga by Otomo Katsuhiro that takes place in futuristic Tokyo. The story features Tetuso Shima, a gang member in  Neo-Tokyo after the devastation of World War III. While riding in the ruins of the city he has an accident and latent psychic powers are unleashed. Set with a backdrop of political and scientific upheaval, Tetsuo discovers a mysterious man named Akira. 

I had to add this movie here, because it's one of my favorites. When I first watched it I had no idea what genre the movie fit into, I just loved it. 

Set in an alternate 1999, during the craziness of the Y2K hysteria, a cop-turned-street hustler discovers a conspiracy to cover up the murder of a rapper named Jericho One by police. The cop's evidence comes in the form of data disks that record life through a person's eyes. "Jacking in" to the disks is like a drug in this version of 1999 LA, and our cop is an addict. 

So now you have an idea of what types of movies, books and manga are cyberpunk. There are many other examples, of course, but you get the idea! Now that you know what makes cyberpunk special, it's time to get out there and discover more in this genre. Lovers of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and SF novels will surely find something to love in cyberpunk. 

If I've interested you in cyberpunk, give my newest novel REDSHIFT a try. Redshift melds the elements of cyberpunk with romance, adventure and a bit of time-travel just for fun. Redshift is currently available for preorder and it will release on March 27th. 

A mysterious wormhole appeared on the edge of the Nevada desert in 2018, and Dr. Rand Hazen and his team were first on site to study it. When the wormhole went into flux it took the town and Rand's lover with it. Rand followed her, desperate to find her, and found himself in the far, far future in the last days of humanity. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Authors Share 10 Minute Free-Writes

Every author is different. We all look at a bouquet of flowers and see different aspects of the blooms. The same goes with writing. So, in the spirit of experimentation, I wanted to see exactly how different we authors really are. I put up a writing prompt and asked several writers to sit down and write for 10 minutes on the idea. Here are their offerings! Enjoy!

The first author up is Paul Schumacher. Find out more about Paul here.

Two thousand warriors drew their swords for a war they would not win. The roar of their determination was deafening … and yet it would all be in vain. The watcher drew back from the crystal that allowed him to see through space and time. The fates of these warriors were directly linked to the end of the world. This end was his present and it was a terrible one.
The watcher was of the last generation. No more children were born in his world and none could see how to fix the problem. The elders had withered. The enforcers were dead. No one was left to stop the watcher from meddling with time.
The watcher stared at the writings of his life and contemplated the events he might change. So many events led to this present and he could not change more than a few moments. Should he deliver a message to a king? Should he alter the course of an arrow by a few degrees? Should he try to influence the decisions of a woman whose lack of action got an important general killed before his time?
Any of these events could change the future … but where they enough? Would any of it matter? Time was a fickle beast but it had momentum. Certain events in history were so massive that they created a type of gravity in the time stream. The watcher knew he could change a few events but fate might bring the event about in a different way. Assassinate the evil dictator and the next one does the same thing under a different name and face. Save the general from the arrow and he chokes on his dinner later that night.
The watcher looked back at the crystal sphere. Two thousand warriors was a lot of manpower. That many soldiers could push hard against the great boulders of historical events. All they needed was a push in the correct direction. The watcher took a deep breath and let it out slowly. With one last look at his notes, he waved his hand.
A little girl’s face appeared in the crystal. With a light tap he knocked over the glass on her nightstand. She screamed as it spilled onto the ground and then stood there looking guilty as she was scolded. The family dog trotted over and began to lick up the spilled drink. The dog then let out a howl and died.
“There,” the watcher said with a grin, “the assassination failed. Now let us see what has happened.”

Cynthia Sax is the talented author of one of my favorite genres: cyborg romance! Find out more about Cyn here.

Two thousand warriors drew their swords for a war they would not win. Every sunrise, they would fight until they couldn’t fight anymore. Other warriors would take their place while they rested. Then they would fight again.
It was futile. The alien invaders had unlimited warriors. They pushed the humans back a couple of strides every planet rotation. Soon they would reach the settlement.
And everyone Jerrica loved would die.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead, screamed her frustration into the wind, and swung her sword with both hands, decapitating her opponent with one strike. The alien’s round bald head rolled to the right, his antennae twitching. Another alien stepped forward.

Jolie Mason writes SciFi with heart. Her books are always full of epic feels. Find out more about Jolie here.

Two thousand warriors drew their swords for a war they would not win.

That was how the old stories always began with the tragedy at the fore, and they reminded Nischa of her father. He’d tell the story of his conscription into the merc guard at the old age of sixteen, and he’d tell the story of his first battle. 

She’d been there for his last. That last breath draw deep and shallow in the effort to keep it just a little longer. He’d fought so she’d spent the last hours of his life begging him to give up. 

An old soldier should never die in bed, he’d say. Oh, it had infuriated him so that he had, in fact, been fated to die in bed. 

That was before Nischa had inherited the burden of her brothers and sisters greed and stupidity. They wanted this. They wanted that.  It was dawn on the day after his fushwa when she’d thrown a pack on her back and headed for the tram.

She sat in the tram car watching the cities turn to farms and the farms back into cities, and then she got to the station and looked up. Sadly, the stars were hidden behind a curtain of pollution and glare, but she knew they were out there. And, she was going to get to them one way or another.

My Contribution:

The world was a glorious place. Ashoh raised his eyes to the sky and watched Mother Falcon fly free and fierce over the battlefield. There were times when Brother Wolf howled in the dark of night that Ashoh felt afraid, but today he felt... alive.

There were thousands of men surrounding him, each one armed and full of pride. Ashoh looked down at his own weapon and checked it once again. There could be no mistakes.

"You look worried, Ash," his friend Josiah said with his usual grin. Josiah was full of swagger and unimpeded hubris. Sometimes Ashoh felt envious, but usually he was annoyed.

"I'm as good as any of them," he reminded his friend. "I know I can beat them."

"Beating them isn't good enough. We have to slaughter them all if we want to call this a real victory."

Ashoh remembered the last time he'd waded in the blood of his enemies. It was a powerful feeling. "I just hope they know that we're the stronger group. It's always sad to watch them fight to hang on when they should let go."

"The flag has been raised." Josiah took his place beside Ashoh and they opened the 3D rendering of the battlefield on their wristlets. "How's your battery level?"

"Full. I checked the code again last night. We can win this."

"Do you remember when men came with knives and guns and actually killed each other?" Josiah shook his head as anticipation made his whole body tremble.

"Dying is no longer necessary. We fight our battles in cyberspace now, and the winners take home the prizes." Ashoh wanted control of the only cybertech company that could rival his own. He looked over his employees again, mentally cataloging each one. They would attack the other company while he and Josiah worked their way past security with the intent to plant their virus, ultimately destroying the other group for good.

"How many people does Grayson have?"

Ashoh looked at the other group, lined up across the field. "Two thousand, give or take."

"He's about to drop the flag." Josiah grinned at Ashoh and placed his hand over the start button on his wrist. "Ready?"

"Ready." Ashoh looked at Grayson's employees with a bit of regret. They didn't know it yet, but two thousand men drew their swords in a war they could not win.

If you enjoyed these free writes, please stop by the authors' pages and check out their full length works. I hope to have a few more Writing Prompt Wednesdays in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Podcast: Interview with Karri @Art By Karri Cover Designer

Podcast Interview: Cover Designer Karri from Art by Karri

The girls and I have a sit-down with cover designer Karri, from Art by Karri. It's an interesting discussion about what life is like as a cover designer and it's a great part of our description of what it takes to bring a book from concept to bookstore. Check it out now!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Steampunk Costuming: Creating A Character Via Their Clothes

Creating a Character Via Their Clothes

There are many ways to introduce a reader to your characters. Many times, the way your character looks is one of the first things that a reader learns. A favorite way to tell a reader about your character without actually telling them anything, is to describe traits about your character with the kinds of clothing they like to wear. For example, if you tell a reader that your character wears a crown of daisies in her hair, that she prefers brightly colored skirts that float and twirl around her ankles, and that she wears her Birkenstocks year round, your reader can automatically infer a few things about your character. Creating a character via costuming is especially fun to do in a steampunk setting. Why? Because steampunk is an amalgam of Victorian and Gothic clothing, both romantic and practical and especially fun to play around with.

Let's play with some steampunk costuming. 

Character A: Character A is a man of genteel upbringing, who rarely musses his coiffure. You'll never find him with a scuff on his boot, or a stray hair upon his coat. I would dress Character A in the following clothes, to tell my reader about him without ever uttering a word.

The Callahan Frock Coat in charcoal says my character understands fashion, and practicality. 

Our gentleman, with his highly polished boots, would have no issues doing a bit of boisterous fighting, should the need arise.

No gentleman of worth would leave the house without his hat. Something expensive, but sensible, without a lot of pomp, I should think. His attitude has all the pomp required!
His walking stick is practical, but obviously handmade and quite expensive. Character A is swordsman, so something sharp might be hiding in there if you twist the handle just right!

Character B: Character B is a woman of wit, sophistication, and learning. She understands not only her worth, but the worth of her opinions. Raised in a home that placed value on education, Character B is the woman you might find dancing the night away at the ball, or just as probably, toiling away in a laboratory. 

Our lady's daywear would include dresses of both fashionable taste and practical thinking. The single-breasted dress offers her functionality without the loss of beauty in the stitching and design. 

No lady would have a complete wardrobe without a ballgown. This bowknot gown is stunning, and leaves our lady's arms free (in case she needs to wield a weapon in a fight, of course). 

 Our lady would never go out without her baubles, all of which are beautiful, but are they also deadly? Character B likes to keep secrets, you know....

So there you have it. We've taken 2 blank slates and we dressed them, and in doing so, we've created characters that our readers have gotten to know WITHOUT EVER TELLING THEM A THING! Clothing is important to who we are, it tells people a lot about our likes, dislikes and our inner nature. By dressing your characters with specific traits in mind, you can create the idea of a living, breathing person in the mind of the reader, giving them a more immersive and encompassing read.

Thanks for joining me today to discuss Costuming for Characters. I look  forward to talking more about this subject when we delve into other types of punk! Deco, Cyber, Atomic, Bio....what would THOSE characters be wearing?!

Stay tuned and we'll get to play dress up with them, too!