It’s all about perception

So I saw this delightful article about a photographer who takes creative pictures of the moon, and was reminded that so much in our experience of life, the world, or even a story is all about our perception of it.

A fairytale I read as a child illustrates the point: Once upon a time there was a spoiled princess (at least, that’s how I remember her). The one thing she wanted most in all the world was the moon. Obviously, no one could give it to her – deeds drawn up by the king’s solicitor didn’t satisfy, nor did any of the creative efforts of the rest of the court. It wasn’t until one insightful courtier actually had the bright idea of asking the princess what *exactly* it was that she wanted that the dilemma was resolved – to her, the moon was a tiny, silver disk, no larger than a penny, floating through the sky. So the courtier gave her a pendant with a tiny moon on it. The princess was delighted. Then the courtier asked what the rest of the world would do, now that there was no moon to light up the night sky. The princess laughed at him. “Silly man,” she said (or something like that), “A new one will grow, just like it always does each month.”

My perceptions of the world may color my stories, but my stories don’t generally reflect how I see the world, just some possible variations. Like the photographer playing with his moon photos, I just like to have fun with ideas, turning them upside-down and inside-out, and often being very surprised with just how the resulting stories turn out.

Memory at Lascaux

I attended a writing workshop not long ago where thirty writers crowded around large tables listening to four professional editors comment on short stories we had written for them. On some stories the editors agreed, on others they disagreed. It was entertaining, enlightening, and educational. And a whole lot of fun.

For one of the stories, we’d been given the following assignment: “…One of the greatest attributes of mankind is our ability to fight for survival, even when the struggle to continue seems hopeless. [Your assignment] is to write stories detailing humanity’s struggle after a planetary disaster…”

Coincidentally, the same day I received the assignment, I also received a copy of BBC Knowledge magazine – and not just any copy. I got the “Days that Changed the World” copy.

As you might expect, the assignment and the articles in the magazine collided in my brain, tumbled around, and, after a little bit of research and fact-checking, the ideas spilled out onto the page to create a story based loosely on events in our own planetary history. Here’s how I describe the story:

With the world covered in ash and clouded in despair, there are only two choices: lie down in the ash, or find a way to survive. 

While I usually write stories that are clearly science fiction, I think I might have accidentally committed literature with this one. You’ll have to tell me!

Available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. $0.99

#RandomNovelResearch – Cryovolcano

Over on Twitter, I post an occasional topic with the hashtag #RandomNovelResearch. (Okay, just searched the hashtag and my old tweets and discovered that I haven’t posted a #RandomNovelResearch item in a couple of months – but that doesn’t mean they’re not pretty cool! I’ll post more, promise!)

Anyway, my point was that as I’m writing along, happily making stuff up, I occasionally find myself wanting to know if what I’m making up has the slightest chance of being believable. So I do a quick search on keywords that come close to what I’m writing about – and in the process, sometimes find some pretty cool *real* stuff!

Sotra Facula Ice Volcano, Titan (NASA image)For example, w-a-a-y back in December, I just read about a possible cryovolcano on Saturn’s moon Titan. A cryovolcano, if you didn’t already know, is a volcano that spews a mixture of slushy ice and minerals, rather than ash and lava. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool! (pun intended)

Is there a cryovolcano in the novel I just finished writing (yay!) and am in the process of editing? Sadly, no. But you can bet one is likely to show up in a future story – and if not a story of mine, probably one by another writer. And that’s the point of the #RandomNovelResearch hashtag: sharing ideas with anyone who might find them interesting.

If you stumble on a cool bit of info, use the #RandomNovelResearch tag to share the link with other readers and writers. Let’s grow this topic as a idea bank. ‘Cause you know that no two of us are going to write the same story, even if we use the same shiny topic as our jumping-off point.

What’cha think?

The story-behind-the-story: Rumors of My Death

A long time ago, in a far-away land…

Oops, wrong backstory there. Let’s try this again.

Immediately out of high school (that’s where the long ago and far away fits in), my older brother went into the Marine Corps. As a result, when he got out of the Marines and went to college, he was a semester behind his pesky little sister – you guessed it, me. That really aggravated him, but his aggravation has little to do with the writing of Rumors of My Death.”

Rumors of My Death - a short story by Leigh SaundersHowever, my brother had a roommate, who had been blessed with the theoretically gender-neutral name “Kim” (I say “theoretically gender-neutral” with many apologies to everyone who has been given a gender-neutral name and experienced the startled reaction of someone who assumed, from hearing your name, that you were of the opposite gender. I run into this on a regular basis myself. Sigh.)

Anyway, the idea of playing with a gender-neutral name in a story wandered around in my head for some time before finally bumping into a character (a newspaper columnist) in a setting (Salt Lake City) with a problem (an accident on the Bonneville Salt Flats) that seemed to suit it. “Rumors” was the result. And while I could have gone very dark with the fictional Kim Taylor’s situation, I chose to keep it lighthearted. Sarcastic even.

In fact, I can almost hear my brother’s voice narrating it in my head.

Whoever’s voice you hear, I hope you enjoy the read!

“Rumors of My Death” is a  short story,
available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. $.99

Where did the year go?

It seems like I just *blinked* and the fall was over and the snow was falling, leaving me wondering what on Earth happened to the last three months.

Of course, like any good science fiction writer, I suppose I should just accept the fact that those days slipped into an alternate universe (or maybe I did), got swallowed up by a wormhole, or eaten by a Targ. As I attempt to make my living in this world, however (it was a nice alternate universe!), I must acknowledge that I blew most of the last quarter… working.

And not on the fun stuff  🙁

But have no fear! My whiteboard is now loaded with notes for the stories I’ll be writing – and posting – over the coming quarter, probably well into the new year. Some of them will be stand-alone shorts, others will be… somewhat longer (I never know how long until the word “end” miraculously appears at the bottom of a page). I’m planning additional stories in both the Synth and Rhysian universes, and have sketched the political complexities of what will probably become a set of medieval fantasies.

So even though it’s only the beginning of December, I’m looking forward to the new year I’m just starting on – after all, what’s the fun of being a SF writer if I don’t create my own calendar along with creating my own worlds!


#RandomNovelResearch – Dark Fireworks

NASA Science News - frame from ultraviolet movie of the explosion shows a 'solar tsunami' wave

You have to visit this NASA Science News page – and watch the videos.

They’re awesome, just awesome.

Trust me on this. Have I ever led you astray?



This is going into a story… not sure when or how, but wow, how could I not use it?



Run for cover!

Mount Pinatubo - photo by Alberto Garcia/CorbisWatched a fascinating video recently – In the Path of a Killer Volcano, a NOVA special about the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. Not only was it simply spectacular to watch (safely, from a distance of many years and many thousands of miles), but it also put me in mind of the scenario I’d envisioned when writing Memory at Lascaux, and the world-altering events in that story.

We live on an amazing planet, with forces we cannot begin to control. I am in awe…

Ghost Writer #10 in Italy!

Ghost Writer is one of my favorite short stories – and, at the moment, has actually found its way to #10 on the Amazon Kindle Horror list in Italy, rubbing elbows with Stephen King and Anne Rice. I’m thrilled and honored!

I don’t often write stories about other writers, but when a writer-friend of mine developed the unsettling habit of dropping out of sight for unspecified stretches of time, looking for a little peace and quiet while working on her next story, my imagination went into overtime. Fortunately (for her), my imagined scenario hasn’t caught up with her in real life… Yet.

Ghost Writer

a short story

Thomas Browne is a writer with a problem – not writer’s block, that would be easy.

In fact, if he could just stop writing, it might save his life…

Available on KindleNook, and Smashwords. $0.99

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away, a short story by Leigh SaundersI must admit, I’ve never done research for a story in quite the same way as I did for this one – actually sitting down to dinner and taking notes of the flavors as I went along! But it was worth it – or at least Nereus, the sea-god who is the central figure in this story seems to think so!

The One That Got Away

a short story

The search for an exiled sea goddess leads Nereus, Warden of the Outcasts, to a small restaurant in the Pacific Northwest, and a broken fishing float.

Available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. $0.99

Missing WorldCon

Sadly, I’m not going to make it to Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention. Much as I’d like to be there – both to see old friends and meet new ones – real life demands are keeping me at home.

Fortunately, my publisher, Camden Park Press, came up with an idea I hope will catch on – during the WorldCon weekend (Aug 17-21), we’re discounting the price of my novel, Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record to just $2.99 (using Smashwords coupon code PG94B).

"Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record," a novel by Leigh SaundersSo if you’re looking for a good science fiction novel to while away the hours and distract you from the WorldCon events you’re missing – or if you’re at WorldCon and want to take a book home to read that doesn’t add any weight to your luggage – I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record this weekend!

And [shameless plug here] if you enjoy it, please post a review and tell your friends!