Me as a writer: 7 facts

keyboardI was challenged by Lynne Provost to write 7 facts about me as a writer. I’ve been interviewed about my historical fiction elsewhere, so I’m going back to my writing roots here:

1. I didn’t pen many stories when I was young – the ones I wrote down were required for school. But my imagination was my playground. I had stories of the past, present, and future—of real people and imaginary ones. Apparently I had the Partridge family on Star Trek… And an original character from the future who ended up in the American West of the 1880s and 1890s.  Somehow I’d managed to forget that Partridge Family idea until an old friend recently reminded me of it. (You’ll probably want to forget it too.)

2. I have never taken a creative writing class.

3. The first short story I wrote and submitted was accepted for publication in a role-playing game magazine licensed by Lucasfilm, Ltd. in 1994. Artist Mike Vilardi did an exceptional job capturing the look of my original main character Alex Winger.

4. I get a little upset when people refer to my Star Wars short stories as fan fiction. My stories were vetted by an editor at West End Games and by content editors at Lucasfilm. Though my inexperience as a writer shows in those works, someone saw a glimmer of hope. 🙂

5.  After publishing several short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal, I worked on my first original novel, a SciFi story. I wrote about 40,000 words and got stuck in the middle. I didn’t write another word for almost 6 years. Family came first, and work exhausted my creative energies. I finished a first draft of that SciFi novel around 2005. It’s still sitting on the hard drive. I re-read it a couple of years ago and hope to resurrect it some day.

6. In retrospect, I wished I’d received more constructive criticism on those short stories. Fortunately, I have 3 wonderful ‘teachers’ in the writing group I joined in 2009. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel my writing is improving.

7. Dialogue is my strong point. The first drafts of my 2 published novels were written in what I’d describe as a screenplay format with very little narrative. Once I had the story down, I went back and revised, adding the descriptive elements. I struggle with narrative and description., but as I mentioned in #6, I feel like my writing is improving.

Bonus #8. I got to “THE END” of Book II of Battle Scars, For King and Country. The manuscript has been sent to 2 beta readers.

Keyboard photo taken by me. CC BY-SA 4.0

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Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Alex Winger – birth of a Star Wars Expanded Universe character

 

alex-sog1 catSWith the resurrection of “Shades of Gray: from the Adventures of Alex Winger“, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Alex’s history.

A LONG TIME AGO…
I loved Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but the universe created by George Lucas flew off my radar after Return of the Jedi (RoTJ) left movie screens in 1983. It wasn’t until 1992 when I was browsing for something to read that I discovered Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, volume 1 of The Thrawn Triology (TTT). And shortly after that, I devoured Dark Force Rising. Tim’s books resonated with me and I pulled out my Star Wars‘ VHS tapes and rewatched all 3 movies over and over. Then I re-read vols. 1 & 2 of TTT, knowing vol. 3 wouldn’t be available for months. As Darth Vader says in episode III, “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”

It was a crazy time in my life. So what did I do? I decided to write a novel. I’d never written a novel. I wrote a short story way way way back in high school. My novel would be a sequel to Tim’s vol. 3 even though I had no idea how he’d wrap that up. In today’s world, that novel would be called fanfiction. In 1992, it would’ve been fanfic, too, though I’d never heard that term or seen any online until several years later. A dear friend read my novel and encouraged me; she even sent a letter to Bantam on my behalf and we both learned that unsolicited manuscripts weren’t being accepted. (That’s still the policy today at Del Rey, for those Star Wars writer wannabees.)

It was quite by chance that I stumbled across role-playing games material. Buried in the back of one of the Star Wars sourcebooks was a call for short fiction for a new journal from West End Games (WEG). The stories would include role-playing statistics. Blaster, 2D, anyone?

GUIDELINES? WHO NEEDS GUIDELINES?
The call for fiction said, “Write us for guidelines.” (This was before e-mail was an everyday thing, folks!)  So I wrote them. Four weeks later, nothing. I got brave and called, got an apology that they’d missed my letter, and was promised the guidelines would be in the mail right away.

My jaw dropped open when I opened that letter. My novel had broken nearly every rule: it was too long, it used Luke, Leia, and Han extensively, and it was set in a time period beyond TTT. At that time, the guidelines stated submissions could include events

“…between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of Tim Zahn’s novels. [Other time periods] are in very early stages of development by everyone (Dark Horse, Bantam and West End), so writing for these periods is much more difficult. Beginning authors should stay away from these…periods.”

Sigh. Beginning authors. Yep, that was me. Time period: my story referenced characters in Tim’s novels and was highly dependent on the politics of the galaxy at that time and my assumptions of what might occur post-TTT. And role-playing stats? The only thing I knew about role-playing were the words “Dungeons & Dragons.” Really? A Star Wars role-playing game? How the heck does this work?

But…but…but… I had an original character with an incredibly rich background. Alex was cool – I saw her as a mix of the best and worst of Luke and Leia. Okay, maybe the best. Yes, she was beautiful thanks to interpretations of my written description by artist Mike Vilardi & later by Cat Scaggs. Intelligent, sassy, a great pilot, and an ace with a weapon in her hands. I know a lot of readers loved her though, looking back, I still had a lot to learn about character development. (Still do.) I feel blessed that WEG editor Pete Schweighofer overlooked my writing inexperience and saw a glimmer of hope (no pun intended) in my storytelling abilities. Thanks, Pete.

REBELS ON GAROS IV
I fleshed out Alex’s background and changed some of the history I’d created in my novel so it wouldn’t conflict with WEG guidelines. And then I sat down to craft a story under 10,000 words. I maintained my post-TTT setting. I eliminated the big 3 (Han, Luke & Leia) except to reference a sandy-haired, blue-eyed guy who appeared in Alex’s dreams. Rather than Alex fighting with the big 3, she hoped they (well, the Rebels/New Republic) would show up and help eliminate the Empire on her homeworld. Garos IV became the base of my stories rather than a known planet, a known Rebel base or ship. This was Alex’s life in the Rebel underground on her own world, keeping her loyalties hidden from her Imperial Governor father. A young woman who’d only heard about Yavin, Death Stars, and Jedi but knew the Empire’s atrocities firsthand.

Fingers (and lightsabers) crossed, I submitted my first short story, “A Glimmer of Hope.” Thanks again, Pete, for publishing Alex’s adventures in that short and others that followed.

My Star Wars short story

“Shades of Gray” comes back to life!

I was thrilled to hear that Del Rey and Lucasfilm, Ltd. agreed to set up an online library to re-publish short stories that had been web exclusives in the old members’ section (Hyperspace) of starwars.com. I thought my 2009 story would never see the light of day again when the starwars.com site was re-vamped and all the original fiction disappeared.

Read “Shades of Gray: from the adventures of Alex Winger” here!

The original online publication included fabulous art work by Cat Staggs. If you go to Cat’s Star Wars page, you can see 4 of the illustrations (top row, beginning with the 4th image of a female Rebel (actually New Republic) pilot.

Did I just get 15 more minutes of fame?  I’ll take it!