Wednesday, March 11, 2015

For my Daughter

I already wrote a blog post for my writing career today. This one is for my daughter.

As a programmer, I've noted for years the dearth of women in the STEM field. I vowed to shield my daughter from influences that block access to these male-dominated fields, but the interference is subtle and pervasive. My wife taught both our children to read before kindergarten, and both have IQs within three points of one another. However, Emily idolizes Pierce because he's "so much smarter." My kids play the same nerd games like Pokemon, read the same books, and watch the same geek shows. However, no one raised an eyebrow at my son skipping a year. My daughter on the other hand has been questioned from all quarters for the last six years. We have to constantly tell her that she belongs there. That bugs the crap out of me.

We do our best to balance the family reading list. For every story with a male lead, we try to find one with a female or at least a balanced cast (Sisters Grimm, Fablehaven, Percy Jackson). TV is more difficult without going fantasy (Wizards of Waverly, Mermaids, or RWBY). I always try to treat my wife with affection and respect around the kids, so they can see how to treat and be treated by members of the opposite gender. This demands constant vigilance, but all it takes is one peer to wreck it.

Two years ago, Emily had her picture hanging in McDonalds for a month because she had the highest scores in math. This year, some kid two years older than her (in the same grade) crushed her self worth with a casual comment. What can I do? Well, hours of dodge ball practice with my daughter helped the most. Seems this boy is considered a whiz at the game, and she can smoke him at it now. She feels powerful and capable now. That's what I can give her.

Most recently, I go to her volleyball games and cheer. At this age, there isn't much volleying. With encouragement and confidence born of her own hard work, I'm proud that Emily runs toward the ball instead of shying away like some of the "girlier" team members. At ten, we're lucky if the players on either side can get it over the net more than they miss. But beyond practicing, Emily has earned something critical--encourage the girls next to you at every opportunity, I think this will help turn the tide for her generation more than my math tutoring or endless setting the ball.

Let's face it, Emily isn't nearly the introvert I am and would likely be bored by number theory and programming combinatorics. She's much more social. The lesson I meant to teach her was that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Yet she shouldn't be a standout in this. If she's the only woman, however exceptional, she'll spend the rest of her career in the same battle she's faced in school. "You don't belong." I think she has the right idea in helping those around her. Life is a team sport. You can't win if you're the only player. She's learned to develop her own support network when I'm not there anymore. But that's hard to shout approval for from the sidelines.

Space Opera Begins with Void Contract

With help from my associates, I should have the first TWO novels in the Gigaparsec series out by mid April. I just started writing the third book. By May 1, I want to have a big give-away or sale of some sort. Normally, I interleave series novels with stand-alones, but I seem to be putting a lot of eggs in one basket because a) the beta readers liked them, b) the reading level is smoother and shorter than anything I've done before (average 6th grade reading level 80 K words versus my usual 120K and 7th or 8th grade), and c) I need to reconnect with my sci-fi fan base.

Book 1, Void Contract: A veteran of the Gigaparsec War, Dr. Max Culp hunts alien war criminals. Suddenly, his only surviving teammate is kidnapped. To free his friend, Max is forced to take a mob contract on a fugitive hiding at the borders of Human space. But Max is tired of wet work and alien conspiracies. Can he find a path back to civilian life without losing what’s left of his soul or those closest to him?

After all the work I did on star travel tech and the history of planets, Max takes this for granted, using whatever tools he finds to do his job. He tries to shake of injuries like John Wayne, even though his scars keep accumulating. Because he cares much more about the adventure than the tech, and this series has a sweeping galactic backdrop, I've categorized this novel as my first space opera.

The female engineer, Roz, takes over Point of View in the last chapter and retains it through her mission to the "Supergiant" system to complete the equation for a new Magi star drive that can go ten times faster. She delves deep into the tech, but personal relationships and ethics are equally as important to her. Most of the bombshells in this novel tend to be verbal. She plans everything mechanical in advance, but people still confound her. (Renee should start work on the cover tomorrow. I'll post when it's ready.)

In book three, "Union of Souls," the Goat side kick, Reuben comes into his own. During a race across the extremes of Human space, he is forced to give up his own childish desires for the good of his own people and another proto-intelligent species. This is rather like the time after college graduation where people choose to grow up and pay for the debts they've incurred over the last couple decades. I just finished the brainstorming phase and am on chapter two. I anticipate finishing the first draft about the time I'm having the give-away in May.

For the pictures to be readable in ereader format, I had to carve this master star chart down to contain only those systems mentioned in each novel. I present it here in its raw form. Note that all various of the color blue are refueling stations belonging to Blue Giant Fuel. Also notice that the name Laurelin was chosen from Tolkien Elvish to denote both the golden tree and to honor the matriarch of the clan, Laura Llewellyn, from the Jezebel series.

As a total aside, I've been giving several talks to high school kids about being a professional author. The positive response has encouraged me to investigate starting a writers' support group at the local community college. I'll look into the prospect when I give a talk there tomorrow.