Tag Archives: Kim May

Sophie’s Convention

A guest post by Kim May.

34890898Every year, I’m forced to make my very own Sophie’s choice. Except instead of choosing which child has to die, I have to choose which seminars, workshops, or conventions I’m going to attend. As much as I’d like to, I don’t have the vacation time or energy to attend them all. Not to mention that my meager travel budget can’t accommodate it. But they all have something unique to offer. Some, like Clarion, can be life-changing, while others like the Superstars Writing Seminar, have so much to offer that I’d be crazy not to go. WorldCon is enormous fun, and there are enough craft workshops to make my head spin.

So which one gets to live and which one gets to be taken out back like Old Yeller?

I don’t know if I’d ever be able to choose if it weren’t for a mentor’s advice. His advice was to consider what would be of the most benefit to my career at this stage. So where is my career? I’m still getting my name out there and trying to make my first sale. I’m also still mastering the craft (I suspect I’ll be striving for perfection the rest of my life, but that’s a discussion for another day). This means I need something that’s going to help me move forward.

Going back to a favorite workshop or convention is all well and good, but if all I’m getting out of it is renewing old contacts, something that I don’t have to do in person, then it’s in my best interests to go elsewhere. Even if a workshop updated its course materials, the majority would still be a review for me. If I need a review, and I often do, I can look at my notes. They’re free.

With this in mind, I can look at what each has to offer and make my choice. Like Sophie, I do harbor some regret that I can’t have them all. However, I can rest assured that my choice is the right one. Besides, just because it’s not wise for me to revisit doesn’t mean I can’t ever go back. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be asked to come back to one of them as an instructor. Until then, I’ll have to make the grave in the backyard a little deeper and keep enough ordinance on hand to double-tap the desires that I can’t fulfill this year.

Guest Writer Bio:
Kim MayKim May writes sci-fi and fantasy but has been known to pen a gothic poem or two. She works at an independent bookstore and dog/house sits on the side. A native Oregonian, she lives with her geriatric cat, Spud, and spends as much of her free time as she can with family and friends. She recently won The Named Lands Poetry Contest. If you would like to find out what she’s working on, please visit her blog.

Fishing for friends

A guest post by Kim May.

One of the most important skills a writer can develop has very little to do with writing. Nonetheless it can open doors into the professional realm that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise and can provide vital insight to the industry. So what is this pivotal skill?


Since most writers tend to be introverts who loathe departing from their sanctum of creativity, this skill can be one of the hardest to develop. Be that as it may, it’s still important to know how because of the reasons I listed earlier. The old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is just as true in publishing as it is in other fields. Think of it this way, a fisherman doesn’t expect the fish to swim up on shore, walk on fin tip to the market, and place themselves on a bed of ice. They have to get in their boats, sail to where the fish are, and cast their nets.

So, who should you network with? Everyone. Whether you’re at a book signing, a seminar, a convention, or at church, everyone you meet is a potential reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to walk around with copies of your book(s) stuffed in your pocket but it does mean that you shouldn’t be shy about your involvement in the craft. If no one knows that you write, no one will anxiously await the release of your novel. Of course, the most valuable connections you can make are with those in the industry: editors, agents, bookstore events coordinators, and authors. But that doesn’t mean that you can afford to ignore the lady that shows up to every bookstore event or the man at the bus stop reading that book you love.

There isn’t a secret Jedi technique that you need to master in order to be good at networking. I find that the best way is to just say hello and start up a conversation. If you’re nice, and personable, chances are they’ll want to read your book. It won’t matter if you’re book is Wheel of Time erotica, and they’re a retired nun. If they like you enough they’ll read it anyway.

Don’t have a published work to promote? Promote yourself instead. It’s never too early to build an audience. When someone asks what do you do for a living or what have you been up to lately, tell them “I’ve been writing a book. It’s about (insert pitch here).” If they’re interested, give them a business card so they can follow your blog/website. That way they can run out and buy your book the second it’s available.

The one thing you don’t want to do is to go on and on about yourself for half an hour. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your experiences, and desires for your career. Where it becomes burdensome is when every turn in the conversation is directed by you, for you, so you can talk more about you. There’s a fine line between promotion and bragging and once you’ve crossed that line there is no going back.

Once you’ve made a good impression, don’t let it end there. Maintain that relationship. Say hi to them when you pass them on the street. If they invite you to an event, take them up on the offer because you don’t know who else might be there. I’ve lost count the number of industry folks I’ve met while at the movies or out to dinner with someone I met at a signing. If I hadn’t made that initial connection, I never would have met the people who have become an important part of my life.

So you see? It’s worth leaving your sanctum, and saying hello to a complete stranger. That person may be the agent who gets you your first sale, or the future admin of your fan page, or your biggest fan. But you will never find out if you don’t make the first move.

Guest Writer Bio:
Kim MayKim May writes sci-fi and fantasy but has been known to pen a gothic poem or two. She works at an independent bookstore and dog/house sits on the side. A native Oregonian, she lives with her geriatric cat, Spud, and spends as much of her free time as she can with family and friends. She recently won The Named Lands Poetry Contest. If you would like to find out what she’s working on, please visit her blog.

Odysseus and the Leviathan

Guest Post by Kim May

What could a Campbellian hero quest possibly have in common with a twenty-fifth century space battle? On the surface they are completely different entities, but if you strip them down to their basic building blocks, you can trace the thematic elements in both stories back to ancient myths and legends. To show you what I mean I’ll break down one of my favorite shows – Farscape.

For those who haven’t watched the show, Farscape is the epic tale of American astronaut John Crichton. While testing a prototype spacecraft an extremely large solar flare knocks him into the mouth of a wormhole that takes him to a galaxy far, far away. He joins up with a group of escaped prisoners – Zahn (a priestess), Rigel (deposed emperor), Dargo (berserker-like warrior) – and Aeryn, the kick-ass space marine. They sail through the strange and wondrous galaxy in Moya, a living space ship, with it’s symbiotic pilot as they try to avoid Commanders Crais and Scorpius’ many attempts to re-capture them. Oh yeah, and a third of the characters are Jim Henson Creature Workshop puppets.

This show is so rife with mythic themes that it’s hard to know where to start. I could talk about the character archetypes because Crais is the threshold guardian, Scorpius is a shadow figure, and Rigel is the epitome of the trickster. Or I could break down the show’s biblical parallels with John as Jonah and Moya as the whale. However, that would be too silly since that would mean Aeryn is Mary Magdalene (which is so frelling wrong). So lets look at it through a Greek lens instead.

First off, the overall premise of the show is an Odyssian journey. Like Odysseus, John’s primary objective is to go home. More than once John is within sight of his goal when he is cruelly torn away and forced to travel the path again. Of course, in John’s case, he never makes it because it’s either the wrong version of home or his crewmates need his help out of a deadly situation.

Some of the episodes have an even more direct correlation to the Odyssey. In Back and Back and Back to the Future, they answer the distress call of a couple of scientists, and the good deed almost gets them killed because the scientists were playing with black holes. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the similarities between a black hole and Charybdis – the whirlpool that threatened to pull Odysseus’ ship into the depths of the sea. The Sirens also come to mind since the distress call lured them into danger just as the Sirens’ song lured passing sailors.

In Thank God It’s Friday, Again they encounter the uncharted territories’ version of the lotus eaters – a hippy commune growing plants for “medicinal use” and are a little too generous when it comes to free samples. True to the myth, when Dargo consumes said sample, his rage and desire to return to his son completely disappear. He spends most of the episode in a Matthew McConaughey-like daze and it’s up to John to save his crewmates from their drug addiction before they start playing the bongos.

One of my favorite episodes, A Human Reaction, has a built in Deus ex machina. John thinks he’s made it home only to find out it’s all a dream and his dad is Zeus…I mean an ancient alien disguised as his dad (which is totally what Zeus would do if he ever went into space). The most brilliant aspect of this episode was that they never explained the technology that allowed the Ancients to do this. Because of that they have a very godlike distinction for the rest of the series; and unlike Stargate, the writers don’t overuse the device. One could argue that the Ancients ultimately harm John more than they help him in the end – which is exactly what the Olympians did to the Greeks.

So why do these classical elements work so well in futuristic, technology laden settings? First of all, they’re familiar. They’re the security blanket we can clutch when hostile forces threaten to destroy Moya or when Scorpius is frying John’s brain in the chair. Because of the storytelling tradition of myth and legend, we know that eventually, somehow, the hero will emerge victorious. Whether it’s a clever idea that helps them or they’re rescued by one of their companions doesn’t matter, as long they win the day.

Another reason is that depending on the viewpoint, magic can be science and vice versa. The two can even be combined into one epic tale. Ken Scholes does it wonderfully in the Psalms of Isaac novels.

So when you sit down to write your next story, don’t be afraid to mix the genres and use ancient legends as inspiration. The slipstream may be what your characters need to find their way home.


Kim May writes sci-fi and fantasy but has been known to pen a gothic poem or two. She works at an independent bookstore and dog/house sits on the side. A native Oregonian, she lives with her geriatric cat, Spud, and spends as much of her free time as she can with family and friends. She recently won The Named Lands Poetry Contest. If you would like to find out what she’s working on, please visit her blog.


James Bond and Kitchen Fires

Guest Post by Kim May

Kim PicWhat do Robert Ludlum, Vince Flynn, Kathy Reichs, and Michael Jackson have in common?


The thriller genre has a fount of wisdom and literary tricks just waiting to be tapped. So, why are thrillers so popular? Besides being fast-paced, they’re, well… thrilling. They often involve occupations we don’t see on a daily basis. Intelligence agency operatives, the Secret Service, commandos (who are thankfully not commando), and cut-throat lawyers are often at the center of these heart-pumping tales. All of these are real occupations, and while it doesn’t require the reader to stretch his or her imagination, it’s still far enough into the realm of the unknown to fulfill the same fantasy role as a wizard or rocket jockey. It also means that the conflict is easy to understand. The reader doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know why a missing nuclear warhead is a bad thing.

Another draw you’ll find is an exotic location. Think of James Bond. Is he content saving the world in good old London town? No, he’s jetting to every enchanting and mysterious locale on the planet. (Coincidentally, this also provides him with a bevy of beauties to tap.) Granted, the secret lair inside a hollow mountain or Q’s conveniently placed and well-disguised labs probably doesn’t have real-world counterparts, but it’s certainly fun to think they do. I know my imagination runs amok every time I pass gated stairways and mysterious doors. You never know; there may be a super-secret ninja training room inside a donut shop. These things happen.

I realize that neither of these are monumental concepts, nor are they only found in thrillers. Sci-fi and fantasy are just as loaded with exotic locales and professions, many of which are more exciting than those found in reality. For some of us, James Bond in space is a lot cooler than James Bond in the jungle. But I have to admit that not everyone has the imagination required for sci-fi or fantasy-I have family that fall in this category-and there are times when it’s nice to unplug the brain and just be entertained. This is something that thrillers are really good at.

Not every thriller has an exotic location or mind-blowing dilemma. It’s not unusual to find one set in the town next door, or a major metropolis that thanks to TV and movies; we’re very familiar with despite never setting foot there. When the danger is close to home, it can increase the tension. For example, in the Jack Ryan novels by Tom Clancy, one of his most nail biting conflicts wasn’t when Jack was smuggling Russian submarines or fighting South American drug cartels. It was when a vengeful foe tried to kidnap his family. Whether we have been in that situation or not, it’s one that we are socially aware of, scared of, and wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. When it happens to someone we care about, such as the hero of a story, we cease caring about the pot roast burning in the oven because we NEED to know how it ends.

The biggest draw for this genre, and what should be employed more in other genres, is the use of hooks and cliffhangers. If you look at how a thriller is structured, you’ll see that just about every chapter ends with a hook-a burning question or perilous situation (that may or may not involve anthrax) which causes you to turn the page instead of feeding the dog, fetching the kids from soccer practice, or putting out the kitchen fire (seriously, they should put warnings on these things). Hooks are a handy way of entrancing readers. They’re the fabled chemical inside KFC’s chicken that makes you crave more. Can you think of a good reason not to put that in your stories (excluding kitchen fires)? I didn’t think so.

So, if this storytelling tool is so tried and true, why are they not employed in other genres more often? In short, I don’t know. I suspect it may be because we don’t always look outside our chosen genre, but that’s a topic for another day. Regardless of the reason, it does make this the perfect time to use hooks, cliffhangers, and realistic conflicts in your fiction. Thanks to technology, our readers have a lot of entertainment options at their fingertips. Not only are we competing with daily life for the reader’s attention, we’re also competing against every game, social network, and cat video on the internet. Using the draws of the thriller genre will put us ahead of all that. All of the writers I mentioned at the beginning are very good at doing these things and it’s why their work consistently tops the charts. Yes, even Michael Jackson. His ability to thrill audiences got him crowned the King of Pop. I see no reason why we couldn’t be similarly crowned.


Kim May writes sci-fi and fantasy but has been known to pen a gothic poem or two. She works at an independent bookstore and dog/house sits on the side. A native Oregonian, she lives with her geriatric cat, Spud, and spends as much of her free time as she can with family and friends. If you would like to find out what she’s working on, please visit her blog at http://ninjakeyboard.blogspot.com/