What to Include and How Much?

I write a lot of different genres, and some of my favorite ones are the ones where I make up worlds of my own. I can do or have anything happen in these worlds. I can toss the rules out the window. I also love to write stories that take place in the past. The medieval era is one of my favorite times and I can toss a few rules out when dabbling in the past as well.
But there are times when research is essential, no matter where or when the tale takes place. For instance, the Bayou Magiste Chronicles all take place in an alternate version of modern-day New Orleans and the surrounding area. Since the location is real, I need to make sure I am up to speed on the modern culture, the history of the city and the general flavor of the area. In the Warrior’s books, the research needs to be a bit more in-depth. Since there are real historical figures as supporting characters in these books, the facts need to be accurate.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to sprinkle the realism in with the fantasy. When I first started writing in the medieval era many eons ago, I was anxious to show how much I knew about the period, so I crammed in so many details around every event in the book that the darn thing ended up well over 120K words! I read and bought every book I could get my hands on about the area I was writing about, the people I was including and the general way of life of the time. I have a lovely library of books about the Middle Ages up to Elizabethan times.
Then the internet dawned and everything changed. For one thing, it was easier to buy all those research books online. For another, websites dedicated to every possible person, place and time popped up all over. I didn’t have to go to the book store or pore through mountains of books to find the fact I knew I had but couldn’t remember where I got it from. And I didn’t have to wait until the next day when I was writing after midnight and needed a critical piece of information. Of course, this created a whole new distraction.
It’s so easy to get caught up in research – the books were bad enough. I could spend hours reading through them, highlighting and flagging pages with places to refer back to later on. But the internet… I could spend DAYS clicking on links and uncovering new details and off I go to another site, then another, then another. Next thing you know, two hours of valuable writing time is gone. Oh, but wait, there’s one more place I need to look… poof! Another three hours gone.
I finally had to stop. I came up with a way to keep my focus on the story – mark the place in the book where I needed to confirm something and move on. Finish the scene, chapter, whatever it was that needed to get done. Then, and only then, look up the fact(s) that needed clarification. They can be added in or adjusted during revisions and future edits.
The other dilemma is determining how many of the facts to include. Too much and it’s overkill, not enough, and you can’t tell 1284 England from modern day U.S. Striking that balance can be difficult – it’s so easy to get caught up in adding everything you know. Setting the stage is one thing, piling mountains of monotonous details will send that stage crashing right down.
It’s the same thing with the BDSM aspects. When writing paranormal or historical BDSM-themed books, today’s standards and protocols don’t always apply. There are no such things as safewords in medieval Scotland and Wales (not that I’ve found, anyway and believe me, I looked!), but there sure as hell is bondage and spanking, multiple partners and the like. On other planets, where the culture revolves around submissive women and dominating men, again, the general rules don’t apply. That doesn’t mean there aren’t certain guidelines or standards to apply, they’re just different from what us Earthlings know.
Creating all these different situations requires a different kind of research – brainstorming. I am a firm believer that plotting and planning is research, just as much as looking something up in a book or online. A basic knowledge of our own world is enough to start the creation of another, but the details of that world still need to be spelled out clearly. Which circles right back around again to how much should be included? You want the reader to get a real visual for your world, whether it’s a time long ago, or a place on a distant planet, but you don’t want to bog it down with too many details.
Striking the balance is something I’ve learned to do much better these days, though, with each book, when I get to the final edits, I always find something in there that I have way over-killed, or even under-killed! Usually, it’s the former – I am a bit too wordy for my own good. And like all writers, every word is near and dear to me, cutting them out is like picking yourself with a needle. Over and over and over again.
I have learned to be ruthless – while some information is fascinating, and usually spurs the hunger to learn even more, sometimes it’s best just to address whatever facts there are lightly. The key, I think, is to let the characters, by their words and actions, reflect the historical data such as the laws and culture of the time, or inter-planetary customs in a galaxy far away, or even when two people, one magical, one not, interact.
At least, that’s the goal. I like to think I’ve gotten better at reducing the fat, and getting right to the meat of the story. Now if I could do that with myself! lol

Happy Mother’s Day – and a New Release

To all of my wonderful family members and friends who are moms and are celebrating today, I wish you a lovely day filled with fun and relaxation. Let the men do it all today!

In other news, in case you haven’t yet heard, Prince of the Universe was released this past Friday, May 11. I’m super excited about this book because it’s my first sci-fi and super nervous because it’s my first sci-fi! If that makes any sense. In any case, I really had a lot of fun with this tale, I love the characters, and I really got to stretch what I thought I knew about the skies around us and billions of miles away. On the other hand, while working on this book, I realized how lacking my knowledge is about the skies around us and billions of miles away!

I’m not a sci-fi buff, I freely admit it. So there’s probably a lot in here that breaks rules of  physics and all that. But I suppose, when you think about it, we don’t really know everything about everything, as advanced and knowledgeable as we are as a race. Any number of variations of living beings beyond our comprehension of the known universe is possible. So I hold tight to that for reassurance.  I just let my mind follow its path – if I like an idea, I can usually come up with some way to make it somewhat plausible.

Anyway, back to the book – here’s the lovely cover:

Here’s the blurb:

Merry Alexander found sanctuary in western Pennsylvania from a dangerous former lover, who turned out to be an alien from another planet. Prince Vega of Aldarra has spent several years journeying across the universe, fleeing the enemy who killed his father and invaded and conquered his planet. In the final stages of his plans to return and take back his home, Vega lands on Earth.

Merry’s solitude and fragile sense of safety are shattered when another alien, Prince Vega, walks into her country store.  At first terrified, Merry soon finds herself attracted to the arrogant and sexy alien demanding her assistance. She realizes her enemy and Vega’s are the same, and can’t refuse the prince’s request for help. Yet, when Vega goes so far as to claim her as his mate, she is determined to resist. Soon, she finds herself torn between wanting Vega out of her safe and quiet life and the desire to go to Aldarra and submit to him as his queen. But first, the battle of their lives looms ahead.

I really enjoyed getting to know both of these characters- Merry makes me laugh, and Vega is one of my typical arrogant alpha-males, but being out of his element puts him at a disadvantage. Not that it stops him from taking charge, but Merry certainly doesn’t make it easy on him.

I have plans for at least one more tale in this world – the characters whose story I am planning to tell were introduced in Prince of the Universe. I have the basic bare bones of what I would like to happen – of course, my characters tend to do what they want, so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, enjoy Merry and Vega’s story. You can get it directly from Renaissance Sizzler Editions, and also at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What Genre is This Anyway?

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my current WIP is a sci-fi themed story. However, in the last couple of weeks, I’m thinking maybe it’s not necessarily sci-fi, but fantasy.  Here’s the thing, I’m not a big fan of sci-fi in general – my knowledge of the genre is sorely lacking. I had several male cousins who were, so I always sort of knew a bit about it, just from listening to them, – Michael in particular, was a huge Trekkie, still is, and can go on and on until your eyes glaze over. I know, it’s happened to me many times! LOL But I did love the Star Wars movies, which I always thought of as episodes 1 through 3, but are now really episodes 4 through 6. But that was about the extent of it. I’ve really not read the genre, romance or other fiction, and certainly didn’t watch any of the TV shows or movies that so many of my friends did. As for the shows, I understand there are some really good ones, but I’m afraid I may find another obsession that I simply don’t have the time to indulge. So I’m not daring to get involved there. My time is limited enough now as it is.
Anyway, as I was saying before I started rambling, I’m not necessarily sure that Prince of the Universe is true sci-fi. The hero comes from another planet, and inter-galaxy travel is common to him, though not to my Earthling heroine. But here’s what’s got me wondering – just because it does involve other planets and space travel, does that make it sci-fi? Eventually, Vega will take Merry back to his home planet of Aldarra, but the civilization, while certainly technologically advanced in many ways, also involves magic, and the manipulation of energy and minerals to increase one’s power. Plus, Aldarra has a very different climate from ours, and the culture and customs could, in some ways, be described as medieval.
I’ve heard it said that if your scientific facts are wrong, it’s generally not acceptable to those who know and love the sci-fi genre. Is that true? I’m not much with technical or engineering knowledge (as my recent disasters with computers will attest to), so anything as far as warp speed and wormholes and the like will most definitely be “wrong.” How far can I push the envelope without someone crying foul? I’ve got spaceships, and high tech weapons, and races similar to and different from humans, but also magic and other paranormal elements. As I’m world-building, I’m wondering if I’m doing too much. I’m likely to piss off readers of both genres by doing things I’m not supposed to.
So, sci-fi fans, what am I not supposed to do, and what do I have to do to fit the genre? Or can I get away with twisting it all up?