Monday, November 25, 2013

Me Write Science Fiction? – Larry Collins, Guest Blogger

I have always loved reading science fiction and fantasy, starting with Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.G. Wells when I was in grammar school. Then later A.E. van Vogt, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

In the 1950s, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, originally written as one super-long book, broken into three parts by the publisher, led the fantasy realm into what has been dubbed “Epic Fiction” and “Myth Arc” books.

The 1960s and 1970s exploded with myth arc. It is similar to a standard story arc but is larger than can fit in a single book. It demands sequels. Think the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, the Man-Kzin Wars by Larry Niven, or the Well of Souls series by Jack L. Chalker, all of which I have read and enjoyed.

The 1980s and 1990s saw more character-driven stories. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is an example. An epic battle between good and evil is the overall myth arc plot, but how the characters, like Dumbledore, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger, change and grow are what make each book interesting.

Okay, So if I like the sci-fi genre, why haven’t I written it?

Science fiction and fantasy usually involve some epic theme: save the world or the universe. I don’t write big themes. My stories tend to involve a small slice of life. In my mysteries, the protagonist solves a murder or saves a friend, but not much more.

As Carl Sagan wrote, "To make an apple pie, you need wheat, apples, a pinch of this and that, and the heat of the oven. The ingredients are made of molecules—sugar, say, or water. The molecules in turn, are made of atoms—carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and a few others. Where do these atoms come from? …the Big Bang, the explosion that began the cosmos. If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

I feared writing science fiction required me to invent an entire universe.

Other types of fiction don’t have those requirements. If you’re writing about the old West or the Civil War, the terrain and characters you’ll meet are well known. If you’re collecting characters from present day, you need only to look to the personalities around you. But if you’re making a futuristic universe and populating it with alien species, you need to make all up. Or so I believed.

In our weekly critique group, one of the authors started a young adult science fiction novel. She had questions on how to portray certain events or define an alien landscape. I was able to help her with examples of how other writers handled similar situations.

I realized, as Joseph Campbell said of the hero’s journey, “…we have not even to risk the journey alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path…”

So it is with writing sci-fi. I write my own story, told in my own words. But the concepts of time-travel, faster-than-light spaceflight, or alien encounters are well-known. Readers are familiar with them. I need not re-invent everything.

I’ve finally started a sci-fi story, but in mine, the protagonist sets out to save his kidnapped brother. Another character finds a family. And neither saves the universe. Now I find I’m enjoying writing science fiction as much as I have enjoyed reading it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Elephant Parade Has Left Town

Last night, the three dozen or so Asian elephants in the Elephant Parade were auctioned off. Today they will go to their permanent homes, and our town will go back to its pre-pachyderm invasion.
They arrived in August with a ‘parade’ up the sand and throughout Doheny Beach. I must confess, I wasn’t sure about the event at first, but after seeing these beautiful works of art, I was enchanted. Even our Japanese daughter, Yuko, got to enjoy them on her brief visit.

Next, the parade moved throughout the city. On our morning walks, we went by about eight of them, and our routine started to include greeting each one as we passed. In addition, on our way to and from the marina, we drove by three or four others on street corners. Sometimes we stopped by the Ocean Institute to check on Jack, the one decorated like an airplane.

During the months since, we located nearly all of them and visited. Each time, we were impressed by how charming they were.

Last week, the herd was rounded up and transported to Lantern Bay Park, where we went each day to visit them again as a group. On Saturday, a huge community gala was held as a final farewell to the gentle giants.

Last night they were auctioned off, and we hope they raised a great deal of money. We bought the book and three of the miniatures, one to keep (Gentle Guardian, the angel one above) and two for gifts. (Those are a secret.) Only ten of the three-dozen were available for purchase in the tiny form, but they included some of our favorites.

Unfortunately, Larry’s favorite, California Surpher, was not among them.

However, rumors abound that several, including this one, may have been purchased and will stay here in town.

We are very grateful for the visit of the Elephant Parade to our city. Every time we saw them, we had to smile. And we will continue to smile whenever we think about them. 


This is a worldwide movement called the Elephant Parade, created to save the Asian elephant. These majestic creatures are nearly extinct, and this art installation is intended to raise funds to help save the species.

A different city sponsors each event. Dana Point was chosen as the first US city to participate. Local artists as well as those from around the world (about a third from Asia) decorated the elephants. Each is about five-feet tall, the actual size of a baby elephant. They are displayed in each location for several months, and then they are auctioned off. All the proceeds from the books to the fundraisers to the miniatures to the auction go to the fund to save the Asian elephant. So far, they have held events in Singapore, London, Emmen (Netherlands) and Dana Point. We're proud to be the first place in the US to host them!

But we're sad to see them go.

Did you see the parade? What did you think? Would you like to buy a miniature like we did? Ten of them are available here:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Come to EPICon 2014!

Every year since 2006, we have attended EPICon, the annual conference for EPIC, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Why do we go year after year? Here are a few reasons:

EPICon features speakers on all aspects of publishing, focusing particularly on the publication of ebooks. The EPIC membership consists of e-publishing professionals: published authors, editors, publishers, cover artists, publicists, agents, marketing experts, etc. The workshops presented are intended to provide information to the attendees about the current state of the industry. Since it is a moving target and has been for the past ten years or so, we stay current. We’ve never attended without learning something. 

We met two of our current publishers at EPICon. We were able to get to know them personally before we submitted our books to them. They remain close personal friends as well as our business partners. I also met one of my writing partners at EPICon 2006. She has been part of all five of our romance anthologies, including The Art of Love published this past September. She’ll be included in number six, as well.

For readers, this conference provides a chance to get “up close and personal” with lots of published authors. At meals and during free time, these folks are available to chat or question. Even I have been able to get to know some of my favorites, like Holly Jacobs. I’m a bibliophile (that’s a book junkie), so I read more than I write. Finding out what motivates my fellow writers has been one of the great blessings of attending this conference every year. And I’ve found new authors, as well.

We’ve been able to pitch our latest work to several different editors and publishers. This year, EPICon will provide even more opportunity for aspiring authors with “Speed Dating With Editors.” Each writer will be given a couple of minutes to pitch their work to editors from several publishing houses. This is a unique opportunity most aspiring authors never get. So if you’ve always envisioned yourself as a published author, here’s your chance!

This is probably the main reason we attend. Over the years, we’ve formed quite a number of lifelong friendships. These folks are our supporters, colleagues, and most of all, friends.

If you want to ask any specific questions about the 2014 EPICon, email