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Guest Post: Michael Tinker Pearce Talks Aliens

Today on the blog we have one half of the writing duo of Michael Tinker Pearce and Linda PearceThe couple’s second novel, Rage of Angels, a military science-fiction story, is now available on Kindle. Michael stopped by today to talk about fictional alien invasions of Earth, and how they often seem to involve aliens that aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the galaxy. Read on: 


Earth is maybe the luckiest planet in the cosmos. Sure, we keep getting invaded but the invaders are always, well, stupid.  From the very first alien invasion story, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the prerequisite for attacking Earth seems to be that you must be dumb. Wells’ Martians had overwhelming technical and military superiority and they steamrolled us. It seemed like the perfect plan… except they forgot to filter their air-supply, caught colds and died.


In almost all books and movies on the topic the invaders make stupid, elementary mistakes. In Pandora’s Planet the aliens invaded despite the fact that they were less technically advanced than we were, and even holding the orbital high ground was almost not enough to insure victory. In Independence Day the aliens had never heard of network security. In Battle: LAthe aliens were doubly stupid- they designed their entire offensive around a single point of failure and they invaded for what? Water, made from some of the most common elements in the universe and readily available in space. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of these books and movies. I just had to work extra-hard to suspend my disbelief. 

The thing is that smart aliens almost certainly wouldn’t attack our planet unless they knew they would win. The energy and effort to cross interstellar space is just too great and expensive to bother otherwise. Kudos to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for figuring out why a race that might not win would attack in Footfall, a great book and well worth reading even if it is a little dated now. Of course even his aliens expected to win, and would have but for one of the greatest and most entertaining ‘Hail Marys’ in science fiction.
So what if smart aliens attacked Earth? What if they had a good reason to do so and had a good plan that capitalized on their strengths? That was the foundation of the idea for Rage of Angels. The answer, it turned out, is ‘We’re screwed.’  Two thirds of the way through the book we realized that we couldn’t figure out a believable way for the people of Earth to win. Um… problem there…
We did eventually work out a satisfactory and believable resolution, did a lot of math to insure that it would work and finished the novel, but it was touch-and-go for a while.  It turned out that even our aliens weren’t quite as smart as we’d thought, but no spoilers.
We’re lucky in that we live in the best time to be a writer in human history. Especially a science-fiction writer. Not only do we have the ability to self-publish and reach a world-wide audience but we have the greatest research tool in the history of the world at our fingertips: The internet. Whether it is the history of the Viking Era or the maximum effective range of an M16A2 rifle it’s all there for the asking. And then there is Google Earth… Almost every location in Rage of Angels is a real place. As a writer I can look for the perfect location for my action, swoop in and get details of the terrain, elevation etc. Mind you, you don’t have to include that information in the story, but even if you don’t it allows you to visualize the action and describe it more accurately. Yes, you have to be careful and work from multiple sources when using the internet, but it’s still an amazing tool.
There is another reason that this is a great time to be a science-fiction writer. There are actually scientists at NASA and around the world working on Warp Drive and related physics. Seriously. We may well be only decades away from a faster-than-light space drive. Hilariously it works remarkably like the warp drive in Star Trek. What this really means to me of course is that I can use warp physics in my stories and still call them ‘Hard Science.’  Fantastic!  
As interesting as the science may be it’s the characters that drive the story.  Male or female, human or alien. Memorable, sympathetic and likable or coldly sociopathic and calculatedly evil. Without the characters it just isn’t going to happen because in the end it comes down to people. What ever else may change I think that’s likely to remain true for as long as people tell each other stories.

******

Michael ‘Tinker’ Pearce lives in Seattle with his wife and co-author Linda. He got the nickname ‘Tinker’ in the 1980’s when he was at various times a soldier, college student, a bodyguard, a private investigator, a meat-carver at a restaurant, a police officer, an illustrator, heavy equipment operator, competition shooter, cover-copy writer, outlaw road-racer, Drill Instructor Candidate, receptionist, executive assistant to the heads of corporate banking at Citycorps, Tobacconist, courier for a currency exchange etc.

He finally settled down to become a knife and sword maker, specializing in the blades of medieval Europe and the Viking Era. He is the author of ‘The Medieval Sword in the Modern World,’ and the designer of the CAS Iberia Tinker Line of medieval swords and trainers. He is a trained theatrical fighter and choreographer, and a student of Historic European Martial Arts. He co-authored the Foreworld novella ‘The Shield Maiden’ and the couple released their first novel ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman’ in early 2013. They released a sequel novella, ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rear Guard’ in September 2013. Their second Foreworld Novella ‘Tyr’s Hammer’ was published in October 2013.

The couple has just released their second novel, ‘Rage of Angels,’ a hard-science military science-fiction story based on the events in ‘The Killing Machine’ and ‘What Happens in Dubai.’ Future projects include the full-length sequel to ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman,’ ‘Lord of the North’ and the Contemporary Fantasy “The Gray Man’s Journal.’
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Guest Post by Jeff Wheeler: Here There Be Dragons

The great 47North blog swap of 2013 continues! I’m on Jeff Wheeler’s blog today (talking about History’s Mysteries, or where to look for the story) and he is here to tell us how maps help shape his books. Read on:

There is something essential about having a map in a fantasy world. Back during medieval times, a cartographer would reach the edge of their known world and often draw a picture of a dragon or a sea serpent with the label, “Here There Be Dragons”—meaning, in short, “I have no idea what’s over here.”

I write fantasy fiction and maps have always intrigued me and are a key part of my writing process. Just as the story evolves, so do the maps as I continue to build the world and explore new areas. Let me illustrate how this works using the world of Landmoor as an example.




First off, I am not an artist. Sometimes I sketch my maps on my computer and sometimes I sketch it by hand. There needs to be a mix of mountains, forests, valleys, and rivers. There are little stories behind each of the countries and places and how their history fits into the general plot. I like to keep the borders of my worlds rather vague, suggesting that there are places that have not been discovered yet; where the dragons live, so to speak. It gives me flexibility as an author to continue building the world.

When I was writing my novels Landmoor and Silverkin, I was lucky to have a digital artist friend, Reuben Fox, who took my pathetic rendering and transformed it into the lush map you see above. But the maps always start out as black and white in my head or on the page.

Another question I get asked is how I choose all the place names. This is part of the creative process that I really enjoy and I rarely have trouble coming up with new names. I have a notebook where I write down different character and place names when the flashes of inspiration strike and I often consult that list to pick and choose. I also study maps of this world to be inspired by countries, cities, rivers, and mountains that exist today. But in each of my worlds, there are usually a few key locations which are part of the storyline, the pivot around which the plot rotates.

Take Landmoor—for example. When I was first creating that world, the plot centered around a small fortified town near the edge of a swamp and close to the sea—kind of like a medieval New Orleans. That was the first location I crafted in the world. A moor is a swamp. I stuck the name “land” to it and liked how it looked on paper (I was fourteen when I first imagined that story). I’m always combining words and testing out how they fit together. As the plot of the world began to develop, I realized that there were three different political powers struggling for control over the valley between the two mountain ranges. Because the valley has limited ground, it caused military and political tensions between them. Landmoor became a crossroads for this conflict and provided a place where the tensions intersected and flared up. Add a secret magic hidden in the swamps, some powerful sorcerers manipulating the kingdoms, and soon you have a situation ripe with tension and conflict in which to plop the main character, the son of an eminent trading family who longs to escape his social class and explore the kingdoms outside his stifling cultural expectations.

Now, even though maps are so important to me, I’ve often been asked why I didn’t include one in the world of the Muirwood Trilogy. I do have maps of this world and use them for reference, but I did not include any with the novels deliberately. You see, in Landmoor the main character, Thealos, comes from a trading family and he knows the world he grew up in. He’s familiar with the borders and the politics. In Muirwood, the main character is a kitchen servant who only knows the grounds of Muirwood Abbey where she was abandoned as a baby. As she leaves that world, she is completely lost in a vast world full of locations and politics she knows nothing about. Readers explore the world through Lia’s eyes and there is no looking ahead, trying to use the map to predict the plot or where she may end up. In the first book, she explores the land around her beloved Abbey. In the second book, she gets to see more the kingdom she lives in. In the third book, she leaves her kingdom and travels to another. I left the reader blind on purpose.

One of the neatest things about creating a new fantasy world is that I don’t determine everything in advance. I use a general map as a framework for where the action will happen. But often as the characters wander around a bit, I weave in elements from my own personal travels or places I wish to travel someday.

Let me go back to Muirwood for a moment. I knew the main character, Lia, was a scullion abandoned at an Abbey kitchen. I began searching Google for medieval kitchens to help inspire me. I found a striking image of the Abbot’s kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey in England. I even went so far as to e-mail the groundskeeper and ask for pictures from the inside, which he generously e-mailed to me. On the Abbey’s website, I found an image of the grounds:

On that map, I discovered delightful details, like the Cider Orchard which played a prominent role in the story. This was the beginning of the world. Then I hunted down an ancient map of Glastonbury and the environment around and that research led to other opportunities for topography, climate, and story ideas. Before I had crafted the first chapters, exploring this map inspired many of the scenes that would later happen.

World-building doesn’t happen all at once. While mine begins with a map and a general understanding of the plot and characters and how they will mesh together, I explore the world with my characters leading the way and invent the things that need to be filled in.

Currently, I’m writing the last book of the Mirrowen Trilogy. Yes, it also started with a hand-sketched map. On the northern edge of the map is a scribbled area known as The Scourgelands. For the first two books of the series, I’ve hinted at how dangerous and perilous it is. Now I’ve dragged my characters into the midst of it and am trying to make the journey fit the hype. It’s a land of nightmares and forgotten magic. I can’t wait to drag my readers there next. Perhaps I should post a sign outside that reads, “Here There Be Dragons.”



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Jeff Wheeler (@muirwoodwheeler) is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write.
More information about how he became a writer is found on his website:
http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/
Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/muirwoodwheeler
You can find out more about Jeff’s books on his Amazon page

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News This Third Week of June

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer (or winter, depending on which part of the world you’re in). Lots of rain, green, and mosquitoes here.

Over on Chris Henderson’s blog, TheWriteChris, I talk about Writing Sci-Fi and Making it Real. Chris sent me a list of insightful questions, such as What’s the best advice about writing you want to pass along? Spoiler alert — I quote Neil Gaiman in the answer.


The sequel to The Far Time Incident has gone into the developmental edit and I’ve been reworking the draft based on feedback from my editor, Angela Polidoro. Angela is fantastic at her job, somehow managing to zero in on small, sentence-scale issues while simultaneously keeping her finger on the big-picture pulse of the story. This stage of things is both fun and stressful, as I’m making any last major changes to the story and watching it (hopefully!) all come together. 

Book 2 in the Incident series is slated for publication sometime in early 2014, which seems really far away, but there is a lot to be done between now and then for the book via the trusty hands of everyone at 47North. After the developmental edit, there’s the copyedit, the proofread, cover design and promo text, Advance Reader Copies to be printed and sent out, and whatever else I might have forgotten to put on the list! Rolling up sleeves and getting back to work…

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News on This First Week of May

Today’s news is that the big May snowstorm veered off at the last minute and just missed us — towns just south of us got 8+ inches, but our lawn stayed green. Also that I was invited to write a guest post for the Kindle Daily Post. The topic suggested was What are your five favorite time travel novels? Had I thought about it really deeply, it would have been hard to choose from all the great time travel novels out there, so instead I went with the more straightforward method of listing the first five books that popped into my head (figuring that was a sure-fire way of guaranteeing they were my favorites). Read my guest post here and let me know what your favorite time travel novels are!

In other news, I’m doing a giveaway on Goodreads for both the new book and my first one. If you’re a Goodreads member, you can enter to win a signed copy of The Far Time Incident or Regarding Ducks and Universes (or both!). The giveaway runs until May 13.

Finally, The Far Time Incident has been picked by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Kindle editors for their list of books “no self-respecting geek should go without,” which is, of course, unbelievably cool. I don’t know how often they change or update these lists, but for now you can spot the book there, nestled between Flatland and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Like I said, very cool stuff.