Monday, May 2, 2016

Mixing Science and Fiction

As I've mentioned a few times on here, I've been working on a YA science fiction novel.

For the traditional path to publishing, you need an agent. Part of getting an agent involves sending out query letters. A lot of query letters. And trying to quickly explain a true science element in my story when most of the other science in my story is (currently) speculative fiction has been a challenge.

My story takes place in 2058 when things like cyborgs, genetically engineered humans, automated cars and planes, and virtual reality in a wearable contact lens are a normal part of everyday life.

My main character, Mark, is a high school student who carries a genetic disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia. Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a real albeit rare prion disease like "mad cow" disease. FFI typically strikes people later in life with debilitating insomnia that progressively worsens until the person can no longer sleep at all and eventually dies. It isn't contagious, and it has no known cure. FFI is real science.

In my story, Mark's father is a scientist looking for a cure to FFI, and his experiments may have caused a deadly outbreak. That's the science fiction part. My story also explores our understanding (or lack thereof) of the nature of sleep.

Back to real science and our time circa 2016. Scientists still don't know why humans (or other creatures) have to sleep. Sleep takes up a third of our lives, but scientists still know very little about why we need it—other than it is essential. If we don't sleep, we die. Why is that? My science fiction story provides a possible answer to that question with disturbing implications.

A query letter has to get a lot of information across in a very limited amount of words. And most of those words (200 or so) are spent on the hook. The first part of the hook is pretty straight-forwarded. "I have a completed [word count] [genre] novel titled [TITLE HERE] about [protagonist name] who [description of conflict]." The trickier part in a limited space can be explaining what your character wants, why he wants it, and what keeps him from getting it. Setting up my story hook plus explaining the conflicts and choices my main character is facing doesn't leave a lot of room. So, I'm struggling on how to or if I should try to eloquently insert commentary about "real" versus "fiction" science in my story.

I hope my quest to find an agent has a happy ending...I'll keep you posted.

I'm Julie Tuttle Davis, and I'm trying to get an agent to pick me out of the "slush pile" and guide me through the journey to published author.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Busy Making Other Plans

I didn't post on this blog at all in 2015 because life has been keeping me rather busy on other things. Now that a quarter of 2016 is here and almost gone, I wanted to write a quick update before this year goes by without a blog entry too!

Just because I haven't been posting on here doesn't mean I haven't been busy (I suggest you follow me on Twitter and Facebook if you want more timely updates!) I've been to Hawaii (the Big Island) twice. Once in January 2015 with my husband, and once this January 2016 with my husband and two sons.

One of the biggest changes to happen already this year has been getting a new job. I started back at Ball State University in March 2016 working for The Indiana Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. And I must say IT FEELS GREAT TO BE BACK AT BALL STATE! It also feels great not to be working in a city over two hours away from my house, husband, kids, dog...essentially my life as I know and love it. My time in Terre Haute at Rose-Hulman was a learning and growing experience, but as cliche as it sounds...I'm glad to be starting a new chapter.

Speaking of chapters...I'm also still working on my book. I've been writing and rewriting (and rewriting) for what seems like a millennium now. I recently joined an online critique group. And I also started to send out query letters to seek representation for my completed YA sci-fi novel.

Alright 2016, you're feeling like you might be a big year for more Indiana Julie adventures. Stay tuned...