Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Libraries of Unwritten Books

I recently read a book called The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith. Not surprisingly, the book is about a library full of books that have not been written. Some of these books can't be written because their authors have died, while other books have authors who haven't been inspired enough to write them yet. Perhaps it's fitting that the library is located in Hell (although the library is considered neutral territory), as not being able to finish one's books would probably feel like a punishment for many writers.

One thing that felt strange about this library to me was that the books were all stored in a fixed form, though their characters could escape and change. For me, unfinished books are constantly in flux. I may imagine some scenes vividly, but they often change as I try to capture them on the screen. For every scene like that, there are many more that I won't know about until I write it. Even then, a book may become completely transformed from draft to draft, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. For me, a book isn't fixed until it's published--though sometimes I would still like to revise books I released years ago.

How do you feel about unwritten books? Do you think of them in finished or unfinished form? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

IWSG: Weird Google

First of all, good luck to anyone participating in National Novel Writing Month! I've already written over 55,000 words in my current work in progress, Dryad in Doubt, so my goal for this month is to finish it instead of starting something new. And if I don't finish this draft in November, I'll do it in December (or whenever I figure out the third act of this book.)

Anyway, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about this group on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter account. You can sign up for their newsletter here.

Our hosts for November are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie.

Our question this month is, "What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?"


I don't remember everything I've looked up over the course of my writing career. Since my current project is about dryads, I've been researching trees, and I blogged recently about some of the extreme trees that will play a part in this book. I've also had to research the main setting: Madison, Wisconsin. Probably one of the strangest things I've looked up for this project are hospices in Madison for a scene location. While I've drawn inspiration from maps and pictures, I changed some details about the location (which I try to keep unspecified) to better fit the story. I've also looked up layouts of local hospitals.

What weird terms are in your Google history? Feel free to share them with us, since Google will probably find a way to profit off them anyway.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Day It Finally Happens

The day before Halloween might be a good time to talk about witches, vampires, and mummies, but life has horrors that are far worse. Mike Pearl, a columnist who suffers from anxiety disorder, tries to manage his fears by studying how likely some situations are and what their impacts would be. In his book, The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans--and Other ImPossible Phenomena, Pearl examines all the situations listed above and more.

Some of these events, such as freeing all slaves worldwide, are good events, while a supervolcano eruption could theoretically kill half of humanity by blanketing the world in ash and causing a volcanic winter by blocking sunlight. Others, such as ending oil dependence and no longer killing animals to eat, would be a mixed blessing. Pearl introduces each event with a scenario showing how it might occur. He also rates how likely it is each event will occur in this century along with how plausible it is, how scary the event is, and whether or not it's worth changing our habits to avoid the event. Some of these events are more plausible than you might expect, such as creating a dinosaur park. (Pearl suggests this could be done by selective breeding and genetic manipulation, since actual dinosaur DNA would be too badly damaged to use.)  In my opinion, some of the topics he discusses, such as the end of British royalty, seem frivolous compared to the extinction of all fish or learning aliens do exist.

Although some of the scenarios Pearl discusses would be catastrophic if they ever occurred, Pearl attempts to assure us in an Epilogue that the future isn't lost. Humanity may not always exist in its current form, but our descendants would be better adapted for their environment. We may be able to avoid demise if we're able to colonize space. We also know too little about the universe to know what will happen in the far future. He stresses that he wants to convince us the future is worth it:

Some of the horrors I've outlined won't be avoided, and some will. Some of the wonderful things I've predicted won't happen, and others will....If we fundamentally don't believe in a future at all, I'm pretty sure of one thing: it'll be more horror than wonder.

As a science fiction writer, I try to predict the future even knowing how unlikely it is I'll be right. It's always interesting to read what other futurists think. Do you find these kinds of books useful for your own world-building? Free free to share your thoughts in the comments. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The To-Do List

As always, I have so many projects yet make so little progress on any of them. Here are some of the things I'd like to work on or have in progress:

1. Crochet: I recently completed a pair of fingerless gloves, but I might make some more pairs for other people. I'm also learning how to make Harry Potter characters.

2. Knitting: As if crocheting isn't enough, I want to learn how to make socks and sweaters. First, I need to start with a scarf kit.

3. Writing: In addition to Dryad in Doubt, I started a
new short story for an anthology.

4. Marketing: I recently discovered a site called Book Brush that allows you to make marketing images. Below is one I made for the Catalyst Chronicles series. I need to make more graphics for my other books.

5. Mailing List: I set up an account on MailerLite, but I have to finish importing my list from MailChimp. (MailChimp's prices have gone up, which is why I want to switch.)

So, yes, I have reasons for not blogging as much as I used to. In fact, I should end this post and start writing.

Anything interesting on your to-do list? Feel free to share in the comments.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Jury Duty

When you have to juggle a lot of roles every day, a disruption to your routine can feel like a real curveball. That's how I felt when I got a summons for jury duty. I've been summoned before, but either I no longer lived in the area or didn't get called for standby duty. This time, there was no standby option, and I'd been assigned to a court in the city of Chicago, where I don't drive. Fortunately, a friend was able to pick my son up after school, and I was able to use the Metra train and Uber to get to the courthouse.

After waiting to go through the metal detector, I had to wait in line while being checked into the jury assembly room and assigned a group number. There were several tables for people to work. I'd brought my netbook, Kindle, and a paper book with me, planning to write after going through the first draft of Dryads to Discover. But soon after the orientation video ended, my group number was called. We had to line up, put on special stickers, and proceed to a courtroom in another part of the building. Actually, we had to wait in the hallway outside for about an hour due to a delay. During this time, the first group of names of potential jurors was picked. When we finally filed into the courtroom, it was almost noon. The first group of jurors had to sit in the jury box while the judge read out some initial instructions. Then we got a lunch break, though it was a little difficult figuring out where the cafeteria was.

When we finally reconvened, the judge spent a couple of hours interviewing each potential juror. It was interesting listening to everyone's stories. In particular, I noticed very few people identified themselves as belonging to a group. I was surprised by how many people were dismissed after this round. The judge went through two more rounds of picking names and questioning people. I was called in the second group. I hoped I'd be considered too eccentric, but I wound up being chosen as an alternate juror. That meant I had to stay and listen to the trial itself, but unless a couple of the regular jurors didn't show up, I wouldn't take part in the delibrations.

To protect the defendant's privacy, I'm not going to list names or describe publicly what the case was about. It felt like the actual trial itself was shorter than the jury selection process. However, since it was late afternoon by the time jury selection was over, the trial extended to another day. Four people, including the defendant, testified. We were also show video recordings as official evidence. We got a fairly late start the next day, but despite breaking for lunch, closing arguments were done by mid-afternoon. When the rest of the jurors returned to the deliberation room, the other alternate and I waited for the judge in his chambers. There, we received a check and a certificate before being escorted out of the building. The first day went so late that I didn't get back home until close to 8:00 p.m., but the second day, I returned around 5:00 pm.

Other details worth noting: we were instructed not to discuss the trial with anyone until it was over. Once we were assigned to the jury, we had to report to the jury room, and we were escorted in and out of there. There were bathrooms attached, and we were provided food and drinks (but not tea). All the bathrooms in this old courthouse had only one stall, which was quite annoying when other people were waiting. Jurors were allowed to bring cell phones with them (everyone else had to surrender them when entering the courthouse), but they were locked up during the delibrations.

I was allowed to call back to find out what the jury result was. It turned out that they reached the same decision I had, though the group took three hours to decide. Part of me would have liked to have participated in the discussion; perhaps I could have helped the group come to a consensus more quickly. I did appreciate getting home sooner, though.

Has anyone else been a juror for a trial? If so, what did you think of the experience?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters Cover Reveal and Preorders!

I have news so exciting that it can't wait until next Wednesday. Today is the cover reveal for Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters. Here it is!



The anthology will be released on January 7, 2020. You can preorder the eBook for only $0.99. The paperback will be available for $15.95, but if you order it directly from World Weaver Press, it's only $13.95. You'll also be able to get it in December. Here are the buy links:

Amazon paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Glass-Gardens-Solarpunk-Wendy-Nikel/dp/1732254680
Barnes & Noble ebook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-and-gardens-wendy-nikel/1133945334;jsessionid=1C9D64CAD685A99538A0DCBC6CE00FD3.prodny_store02-atgap08?ean=2940156531141
B&N paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-and-gardens-sarena-ulibarri/1133980680?ean=9781732254688
Apple iBookstore: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1482306460
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/glass-and-gardens-solarpunk-winters
World Weaver Press: https://www.worldweaverpress.com/store/p169/Glass_and_Gardens%3A_Solarpunk_Winters.html

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Fantastic Trees and Where to Find Them

Since my work-in-progress is about dryads, naturally I have to research trees. In particular, I've been looking up extreme trees, such as very old or very big ones. Here are some of the most interesting ones I've found, though I won't tell you how they affect the story:

Thimmamma Marrimanu is a banyan tree over five hundred years old and spread out over almost five acres. It's found in India.










The redwood trees along the coast of California and Oregon can reach nearly 380 feet in height. They can live over a thousand years.



Baobab trees in Africa can also live a long time, up to fifteen hundred years. They bloom for a single night, and their root systems are taller than the part of the tree above ground.






I plan to introduce trees from other continents as well, but I'm still researching them. 

Have you seen any of these trees in person? Do you have a favorite type of tree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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