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Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and the fun stuff about being a writer.

This week’s blog was inspired by an email conversation with a columnist in a regional newspaper (themselves, sadly a dying breed). The column has no website, no email, no means of getting in touch other than by mail or phone.

When I finally tracked down an email contact to compliment the writer, he was predictably pleased that I’d reached out. But on the bottom of his response was the line, “I don’t read all my emails…pick up the phone.”

Well, no. Writers don’t get to tell our readers/customers how they can read our work. That’s up to them.  I used to wonder how you could read my books on a phone. In a word, convenience. You nearly always have a phone with you.

Beacon Homeworld 2

My current Beacon sci-fi series is published by Momentum, the digital-first arm of Pan Macmillan with the last in the series, Homeworld, released last week. I had to edit the series entirely online, rather than marking up a printed copy, which used to involve a language of editorial squiggles we mostly don’t see any more. To me, the hash sign # still suggests “space out” and we’re not talking taking illicit substances, but spreading out a piece of copy.

No longer. I love hashtags because they connect people to your conversation. The Twitter hashtag #AmWriting is read by millions around the world who share an interest in the writing process.

I admit I sometimes struggle with technology. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes the technology. But I soldier on because it’s fun  being part of this exciting world.

Celebrating a couple of decades working together, my agent gifted me an iPad Mini, a generous gift by any standards. I felt totally challenged by it but persevered and it’s now the best camera I’ve ever had. Not long ago, I had a live chat on it with writer friend, Jennie Adams. For her, it was early evening in Australia. For me, it was midnight in Las Vegas and we chatted as I waited for a flight #lovemyiPad

Other ways NOT to be a writer today:

Refuse to deal with ebooks.

Like most writers, I like print books, but my Kindle has over 500 books on it. Sometimes I’ll read the ebook version because I can have it NOW. Then I’ll order a print copy, especially nonfiction, to study at leisure.

Overlook technology in your stories

I see this a lot with entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia. Too often characters are stuck in last century. There’s almost nowhere your characters aren’t linked by their devices. I’m judging this year’s finalists very soon with the hashtag #ValerieParvAward on Twitter and I’ll be looking for tech savvy characters.

Change the story to take account of real life. You can only have batteries go flat so many times. Likewise, in a story, you can only have doubt about a person’s parentage for two weeks or less, before DNA testing gives the answer. In Private Sydney, written with James Patterson, Kathryn Fox wrote about new technology that gets it down to one hour and while not as detailed as the longer tests, still reveals a lot. Using technology can broaden your story. Need characters to find answers to something? Let them share on social media or Google the details. Every writer I know blesses Google for making research a breeze.

If you aren’t already, get good at researching. Writing Homeworld, the final  book in my Beacons sci-fi series, I needed to know if you could launch a space shuttle off the back of a Global Express private jet. My net search turned up the PR division of the plane’s makers who sent my query to the designers. They not only wrote back that it could be done but included diagrams, thrilling me with their generosity. Learn the tricks to search terms and dive in.

You notice the difference if you dip into the past for entertainment. I enjoy the1980s cop show, T J Hooker, starring William Shatner, my tweetheart. Thanks for that lovely word, Joanna Sandsmark. He’s seen here with fellow Star Trek alumni, Leonard Nimoy. Watching him in action is fun, but I can’t help wishing for a cellphone every time he has to find a phone to take care of police business.

Kirk T J Hooker 2

Another fav. Is  Murdoch Mysteries, a detective show set in the 1890s where everything is old school. Yannick Bisson as eye candy in the title role doesn’t hurt, either. Former VPA “minion” (what previous award winners call themselves) Erica Hayes writing as Viola Carr, writes a fun series about the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll who inherited his affliction. In these page-turners,Viola employs the tech of the day – plus some neat inventions of her own – beautifully. Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the first in the series – you can’t do much better than that.

Currently I’m developing a book where one lead character steps back in time. The other remains in the present with all its technical goodies, while my character has to deal with the comparatively low tech of the time she finds herself in.

Love it or loathe it, this is our reality as writers today. Technology also changes how we write – but that’s a subject for another blog.

How do you deal with technology in your writing? What books do it best for you as a reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re monitored to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.


Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via & – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)






Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring, July 2016 – how NOT to be a writer in the 21st Century" (5)

  1. Wonderful advice, as usual! Mom and I were commenting on watching something filmed in the 80s how the characters needed cell phones, and then in the 90s, how gigantic the cell phones were! (But at least they had them!)

    I hadn’t thought about it, but I have been incorporating some modern tech into my contemporary suspense novels. In the revision I’m doing for my new editor, I have the heroine showing an inventory question to her partner in the veterinary clinic on a tablet. I started to write “clipboard,” and then it struck me, no, they’d be using tablet computers, and I chose to insert that. (No brand or operating system mentioned. I still don’t have a tablet, so have no opinion of which is best.) Mobile phones are a given, as are office computers. Must admit, though, I’m longing to write something set back in time, or in a fantasy world, where technology is either a dream, or magic. 😀

    Thinking of the future, though, I once had a dream about a science fiction novel/screenplay I’d written, and dreamed that instead of a joystick, the ship was guided by a six-inch ball embedded in the conn. This was years before the Trackball was invented. I immediately wrote that into the ship, thinking something like, “Wow, that would really be better than a joystick.” *sigh* Now if I included that in the SF novel, people would think I based it on current tech. Ah, the troubles of science fiction writers…

    (PS We love Murdoch Mysteries, too, but can only watch them on the DVDs at the library. Wish they would get MORE of them, as they’ve only ordered the first two seasons.)

    • Good for you having characters use tablets even if you don’t. My characters are all much more tech savvy than me. I asked Kathryn Fox if the one-hour DNA test was a thing, and she said yes. I thought she’d invented it, which we can also do. Staying ahead is indeed a challenge for science fiction writers, me included.

      • Definitely! But just think how much modern tech is based on things first invented by science fiction writers! 🙂
        And thanks!

      • Tablets included, really… (Thinking back to the yeoman handing Captain Kirk a tablet and stylus, back in ST-TOS…)

  2. So true, Marion. Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, researched his tech thoroughly and had savvy advisors reading the scripts. As with the tablets, much of what we saw predated cellphones, auto doors, floppy disks, diagnostic imaging, needleless injectors and lots more. Good to think something we write now might inspire others down the track 🙂

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