Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Giveaway & Blog Tour: Guardian by Jack Campbell

Publication date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Ace

Admiral Geary’s First Fleet of the Alliance has survived the journey deep into unexplored interstellar space, a voyage that led to the discovery of new alien species, including a new enemy and a possible ally. Now Geary’s mission is to ensure the safety of the Midway Star System, which has revolted against the Syndicate Worlds empire—an empire that is on the brink of collapse. To complicate matters further, Geary also needs to return safely to Alliance space not only with representatives of the Dancers, an alien species, but also withInvincible, a captured warship that could possibly be the most valuable object in human history. Despite the peace treaty that Geary must adhere to at all costs, the Syndicate Worlds regime threatens to make the fleet’s journey back grueling and perilous. And even if Geary escortsInvincibleand the Dancers’ representatives safely unharmed, the Syndics’ attempts to spread dissent and political unrest may have already sown the seeds of the Alliance’s destruction...

Listen up, aspiring writers!  

Jack Campbell, the author of the incredible Lost Fleet series, has graciously provided insight on researching. His thoughts are invaluable to anyone who is currently writing or in the process of researching for a new story. If you have not read any of his books, I highly suggest that you do so immediately! He is a wonderful storyteller, and his books are saturated with incredible details. Check out his thoughts below!

I discovered how difficult researching SF or Fantasy could be when I wrote a time travel story in which the character has a conversation with Shakespeare.  Stan Schmidt (the editor of Analog Magazine at the time) liked the story, but he insisted that I ensure the Elizabethan grammar used by Shakespeare was historically accurate.  That's when I learned that it can be surprisingly difficult to get Elizabethan scholars to help out in grammar-checking a time travel story.  But I also learned that by asking around enough I could find someone like Kage Baker, an extremely good writer of SF and Fantasy who was also an expert on Elizabethan grammar.  Kage saved that story (Crow's Feat) for me, and taught me just how important professional contacts could be.  It never hurts to help out fellow writers and to get to know them.  The things they know can be downright amazing as well as occasionally helpful.  (Sadly, Kage Baker died in 2010, but her excellent books are still available.)
            Aside from asking your fellow writers for help, there is also the internet.  The problem there is the immense amount of information (some accurate, some not so much) and the need to ensure that you phrase your search right.  I rarely settle for the first reference I check online.  Usually I use that as a means to narrow my search, or rephrase it.  The detail you can find online is immensely important for framing a story.  Another time travel story of mine (These Are the Times) was set in Boston in 1775.  Finding a map of Boston dating from that period on the site of the Library of Congress gave me roads, towns, villages, and lots of other information I used to help firmly set the story in its time and place.  (Admit it, you probably don't know exactly why the "one if by land, two if by sea" thing was important.  I didn't.  It was because at the time Boston was almost an island, with one narrow neck of land connecting it to the mainland.)   Thanks to details that came from that map, I had Boston natives asking me if I was also from there.
            In terms of a pure reference work, I find my copy of The Synonym Finder by Rodale to be very useful.  If you're looking for just the right word it works a lot better than the usual Thesaurus for me.
            One of the most important things I do is to just read and watch and look at lots of things.  Not because I'm searching for some particular piece of information I need for a current project, but because everything I absorb that way becomes fodder for the creative subconscious (or muse, as my own daemon prefers to be called).  The more you expose yourself to, the greater the chance that something will trigger an idea or provide an example you can work from for events in your own work.  History is particularly valuable this way, I think, especially first-person history (memoirs, auto-biographies and such) because in addition to offering endless events and personalities to draw on for inspiration, they also give you a sense of how people talked and felt during that period.  The only thing you have to watch out for is that real events only have to actually taken place.  Fiction, on the other hand, has to be believable.  Some real events don't work well in fiction because it's so difficult to make anyone believe they would actually happen (even though they did happen).
            I think it's a good idea to have multiple projects going at once, so you can give your muse time to think about things.  It may take a while for a good idea to work itself out.  My Lost Fleet series (of which Guardian is the latest) was built on two different concepts that I had been thinking about for a long time (one being the common legend of the sleeping hero from the past who will awaken when needed, and the other whether a long retreat in space could be done realistically and with a powerful enough tension).  When I finally realized that those two ideas could come together into one story, supporting and expanding on each other, I had the Lost Fleet's main story arc.
            The biggest tip?  Listen to your muse (or daemon or subconscious or whatever).  If the muse wants something in a story, put it in even if you don't know why it's there.  Odds are that eventually you'll reach a point where you say "Oh!  That's why that's in there!" and it may turn out to be a critical plot element.  The muse usually knows what it's doing.  Now, if we could only get it to show up on a reliable basis...

I never thought about working on several projects at once. I refrained from such an endeavor for fear that the process would become muddled, but in Jack’s case, he was able to connect two ideas to create a fascinating story. My fear of working on multiple projects is no longer as strong, and I can’t wait to get started! Do you work on multiple projects at once?

Penguin is kindly offering 5 US readers a copy of Jack’s newest book, GUARDIAN! Penguin is the best! Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter. Good luck! I really hope you win!

1 comment:

  1. It can be astonishingly hard to get Elizabethan scholar to help out in grammar-checking a time journey story.

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