With a science degree and a day job as a science teacher, including helping run Space Camps, author/editor Jaleta Clegg seems uniquely qualified to write science fiction. Nexus Point, the first book in her eleven book space opera series, is out from Cyberwizard Productions’ Altered Dimensions imprint. More books are soon to follow. Her short stories can be found in publications like Abandoned Towers and Bewildering Stories magazines and anthologies like How The West Was Wicked, The Last Man Anthology and Wretched Moments. An active social media user, she can be found on Twitter as @jaleta_clegg, on Facebook and through her website/blog at www.jaletac.com. Information on her novels can be found at www.nexuspoint.info.
SFFWRTCHT: Book 1 in her space opera series, Nexus Point, out from Cyberwizard, is the story of a female starship Captain who crash lands on a primitive planet. I enjoyed the action and characterizations. Tell us about how you came up with the idea for the story.
Jaleta Clegg: I wrote Nexus Point mostly because I wanted to read books like it and I couldn’t find any. So I wrote my own.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you envision multibooks or start with the one idea and it grew?
JC: The characters really took over. By the way, the published version is the third rewrite of the original. I chucked the plot & reworked it is book one, but I promise, no cliffhanger ending. Each book is complete story. There are 11 books in the series, all written, all under contract. The series grew from a bunch of different novel starts originally with different characters. Then I realized they could all tie together and the big story took shape as I wrote. Book 2 Priestess of the Eggstone is coming out the second half of this year. Editing it now, well not right this minute. Books 1-9 are separate stories that build on each other but should be able to stand alone. Books 10-11 tie everything together.
JC: I have loved Andre Norton’s science fiction since I discovered it in grade school. I want to be like her. And Elizabeth Moon. I wrote them years before I sold the first one. As for the type of book, I wanted one where you cared about the characters and there was plenty of action in the story. Most SF features men. Dace just kind of happened. I relate to her, so she was easy to write, mostly. Okay, I admit it. I want to be Dace. No, wait. She gets in too much trouble. I just want my own starship.
SFFWRTCHT: So they are all written already then? Will you release 1 a year?
JC: The publisher’s plan is to release one a year until we have them all out. My grandmother wants them sooner. She’s 94.
SFFWRTCHT: Okay, describe Dace in 140 characters.
JC: Dace – short, spunky, loyal, determined, strong, and a trouble magnet.
SFFWRTCHT: Besides Dace, who are the other recurring characters?
JC: Book 1 introduces Malcolm Tayvis, the hunky Patrol undercover agent she has to convince to help her. Yes, little bit of a romance. One kiss scene in book one and it’s almost traumatic. I’m a romantic, but it isn’t the main story. Most of the characters in Nexus Point come back during the series. Commander Lowell shows up in the beginning of book 2.
SFFWRTCHT: Have you written any short stories using Dace and/or her cohorts?
JC: I’m working on some shorts about some side characters from the series. I can’t make myself write short stories about her. Dace’s story is told in the books. Her past is too depressing to write. I have one very short vignette about her leaving Tivor. Dace has a very hard life. I don’t want to be depressed by writing about her childhood. The series ends with her quite happy though.
SFFWRTCHT: How big of a part does science play in your stories? You have a lot of action. Did you create science too?
JC: A little bit of science, mostly the hyperdrive and some technobabble. I have a science degree and teach science. Can’t fake it.
SFFWRTCHT: Yes, your day job is pretty cool. You work with the Christa McAulife Center teaching kids right?
JC: http://www.spacecamputah.org/ is the site for my day job. I’m listed as Planetarium Director, Curriculum Specialist, Office Manager, Camp Cook, Costumer, Story Consultant, Flight Director, Teacher. And my favorite title: Ultimate Queen of the Galaxy.
SFFWRTCHT: Ultimate Queen of The Galaxy? That’s pretty lofty!
JC: A fortune cookie promised me a raise. I gave the fortune to my boss as a joke. He gave me the title instead.
SFFWRTCHT: You cook alien food for Space Camp. What’s that all about?
JC: We do camps every summer. I’m in charge of feeding 60-70 people. We do normal food and give it weird names. Targ patties. Eyeball Jello was a favorite last summer. I invented a new character – Hak’h P’tui, Klingon Lunchlady. Serving pizza as her.
SFFWRTCHT: And here I was wondering what planets your recipes came from…
JC: I like to play with my food. Abandoned Towers Magazine print issues have dinner menus from me. The center is loosely Star Trek so mostly Star Trek names and dishes. We have starship simulators. You can be crew. I have eight kids, cooking had to be fun or I would have gone nuts years ago. Especially with the food allergies.
JC: Nexus Point is plot and character driven. The science and tech support the setting. Romance is a very subplot to my story, the action takes precedence. It’s 1st person, though, so you’re inside Dace’s head.
SFFWRTCHT: Have you gotten any feedback from young female readers on Nexus Point?
JC: I’ve gotten some responses, not many young female readers. Most are 12-14 year old boys and college aged women. They like it.
SFFWRTCHT: How’d you wind up with Cyberwizard?
JC: Serendipity. I spent two months researching publishers. She accepted series proposals. She loved the books. They publish a wide variety of genres. Fantasy is their strongest, but SF is growing. Cyberwizard is a great publisher. I went to FenCon in Texas last September just to meet them. Crystalwizard is head editor.
SFFWRTCHT: You’re editing an anthology for them now. Is that your first editing gig?
JC: Wandering Weeds, Tales of Rabid Vegetation is my project. My friend and I are acquisitions editor. Makes me sound pompous. Cyberwizard is publishing it and taking care of line edits. take horror, western, SF, fantasy, silly or serious. As long as the weeds are evil incarnate. It’s my first time as acquisitions editor, which means we get to pick the stories. Other than self-editing and editing for work, this is first.
SFFWRTCHT: And this was an idea you two pitched to Cyberwizard, right?
JC: My friend and I are part of a writing group, they’re in Washington state and I’m in Utah but the magic of the internet lets it work. We kicked around the idea and I pitched it to Crystalwizard. She loved it.
SFFWRTCHT: Who are some of the authors and books which most inspire you in your own writing?
JC: Andre Norton, Elizabeth Moon, Isaac Asimov, Julie Czerneda, Roger Zelazny, Tad Williams, and Elizabeth Peters and some other romance authors, too. Great characterization and dialogue from them. I get inspired from many genres, too. I think that’s important.
SFFWRTCHT: First person is a real pain when it comes to exposition, isn’t it?
JC: First person is a pain, period! But it really worked for Dace’s voice.
JC: I have lots of short stories subbing out to anthologies this year, and I am working on new novels. But life happens, slow going. That’s one reason I make myself do NaNoWriMo every year. I got one third of my fantasy novel written last November. I need to finish.
SFFWRTCHT: What made you want to be a writer? At what age did you first start writing? Does anyone else in your family write?
JC: I’ve been dabbling since I was little. Didn’t get serious until my first computer– a Commodore 128 from a garage sale in ’94. My sister was supposed to be the writer. My dad’s published many scientific papers. But no fiction writers except for me.
SFFWRTCHT: I used to want a Commodore 64 so badly…
JC: Commodore 64 was a great machine. I’d own one, except they aren’t in business anymore. So I do Macs. No Windows unless I have to.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you write out character bios and plot outlines first or let the story unfold as you go?
JC: I write the first few chapters, then do a very vague outline so I know where I’m going. I let things mostly unfold. I write very seat-of-the-pants. My fantasy books are too complicated, Have to do an outline. Can’t keep it all in my head. But once I get into it I roughly outline a chapter ahead to stay on track. My outlines are two to three sentences per chapter, but they’re subject to change. I know where I want to end, the rest is discovery.
SFFWRTCHT: Working with a small press, how do you promote your books?
JC: I hate promoting myself, but it has to happen. I started blogging a year ago to help build a following at http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com/. I promote anywhere and everywhere I can without being a pain. Cons, online, chat groups, bookmarks, local stores, this chat. I can’t say I’ve got wonderful sales, but a few here and there start to add up. Cyberwizard gives me at least 5 years in print. Getting my name out there is just the first step. I feel like a pimp. “Lookin for a good time? Read this book!” It’s the benefit of POD publishing. No warehoused copies that need to sell. They print them as they sell.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you continue tweaking the other books as you edit the early ones or pretty much wait until they’re due?
JC: I’m slowly working on initial edits on the other books. Then they go to the editor when it’s time.
SFFWRTCHT: Is Print On Demand a problem as far as getting brick & mortar stores to house the books?
JC: POD is a problem only if their computers equate POD with vanity press, which isn’t true. Most sales are through Amazon.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.