Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WisCon Schedule

If it's late May, that means it's almost time for WisCon, my favorite convention in my favorite city. I'll be arriving Friday during the day so I can help set up the Broad Universe table. (I'm not running it this year, but since I'm event coordinator for the organization, I keep the table supplies between conventions. It's easier to bring them to the convention myself instead of shipping them to the table manager.) Here's a list of the panels and readings I'll be participating in this year:

Saturday, 8:30-9:45--Rebel Scum: Finding Hope In Resistance: Feeling glum about the current political climate? Join us for an hour of discussion about two of the key themes of Star Wars: "hope" and "rebellion. What can we take to heart from our favorite characters from the films and related novels, particularly the Rogue One movie? We'll talk about outright rebellion, uncivil obedience, and how you too can participate in making the galaxy a better place for all sentients (clones included!). 

Saturday, 1:00-2:15--Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading: I plan to read from Fifth Season.

Sunday, 2:30-3:45: Are you new to feminist SF and feeling overwhelmed? Do you wish there were a starter or beginners panel? A panel that talked about people you should know in this field and works that have changed this field. If you're trying to research all the names and little bites of important history that panelists talked about, bring your questions here!
Of course, I'll be attending other panels, browsing the Farmer's Market, catching up with Madison and WisCon friends, taking a turn at the Broad Universe table, and in general being very busy. Expect a full report next Wednesday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Star Wars Crochet

Although my mom used to crochet, she didn't teach me how to do it since I'm left-handed and she's right-handed. I finally taught myself how to do it from books. It was easier to learn how to crochet right-handed than figure out how to reverse patterns, so that's what I do. I've made sweaters, pillows, an afghan, a baby outfit for Alex, and even a stuffed cat, but lately I've moved onto smaller projects: stuffed Star Wars characters.

Since I don't know how to create a crochet pattern, let alone for something as complicated as Yoda, I use crochet kits such as this one and a sequel. The kits come with materials to make two of the patterns, but you have to buy your own yarn to make the others. I think the red yarn is a different weight than the other two, which is why the red stormtrooper is bigger than Yoda and the regular stormtrooper. (If you're wondering why I made a red stormtrooper, it's supposed to be a magmatrooper from the Battlefront game. My son has a red suit of armor.) The books provide step-by-step instructions for not just the patterns, but also the stitches used, so even a beginner can figure out how to make them. It does take some practice getting the expressions right, however. They work up pretty quickly, so even with my busy schedule, I can create one in less than a week. Currently, I have another stormtrooper and a Jawa in the works.

I plan to make several of these for my son, but others will be given away as gifts to other kids. Currently I'm working on a Jawa and another stormtrooper. There are patterns for Princess Leia (I made one, but I don't have a picture), Luke, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader (IMO, his face doesn't look like the character), R2-D2, Rey, Finn, BB-8, and several other characters. I'll sure be busy making them all!

What character do you think would be hardest to crochet? Who's your favorite Star Wars character? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Short Story Balance in Collections

I'm taking a break from Summon the Seasons so I can get a fresh perspective on it. In the meantime, I'm editing the Young Seasons collection. I think I've discussed that project before, but in case you don't remember it, it's a collection of four short stories, each featuring one of the Season Avatars (Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay) at a critical point in their lives before Scattered Seasons. It's both supplementary material and an alternate entry point into the series (since there's about eight hundred years between the prequel Seasons' Beginnings and Scattered Seasons.) Right now, the word counts vary widely. Here are the ranges:

Gwen's story: 4,500 words
Kay's story: 2,100 words
Ysabel's story: 9,400 words
Jenna's story: 2,700 words

I'm a bit worried that the stories may seem out of balance. Gwen's story seems to be close to "ideal" short story length. (Five thousand words seems like average short story length to me.) I do have more material I can add to the second and fourth stories, and I'll have to see if I can tighten Ysabel's story.  In the end, though, I'd rather focus on making each story as good as I can rather than trying to shoehorn them into a predetermined story length or balance. Hopefully the readers will agree once the collection is done.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Summer Writing

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, it's tempting to spend time outside, away from the computer. I have the window open in my office, but it feels like a waste of a nice day to be indoors. (Though since my son is sick, we can't do anything today anyway.) Once school ends next month, we won't have to worry about homework or school activities, though there will be other things to replace it.

They say the best way to deal with temptation is to give into it. One way I cope with summer's call is to go for a walk in the morning. It's cooler then (an important consideration as summer progresses), and that way even if it's a workday or we have other plans, I've been outside at least once. 

Although I have tried bringing my computer outside, screen glare makes it difficult to see anything. Finding a shady spot helps. My smartphone has an outdoor setting; perhaps newer laptops have something similar. Alternatively, I could always write the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper.

Do you have trouble focusing on writing when the weather is nice, or do you shut yourself away from the weather and ignore it? Do summer schedules make a difference in your routine? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Formatting Fun

I've gone through Summon the Seasons once for a developmental edit, though I have a feeling there may be scenes that I'll want to revise again before I'm satisfied. In the meantime, I've been formatting the manuscript. I use a template that I bought from Book Design Templates. It's simple to use and works for both eBooks and paperbacks. I still have to comb through the manuscript to make sure everything looks right, and I always order a paper proof to check formatting. Formatting gets easier with practice, though.

How do you format your books? Do you use a special program or work with Word? Do it yourself or hire it out? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Lilacs (and Tulips) of Lombard

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers, both fragrant and fleeting. Every spring, I go on a orgy of flower-sniffing. There's a park near us that's filled with lilac bushes and tulips. It's one of our  traditions to visit it every year. Last weekend was rainy, and this weekend I was sick. However, I was determined not to miss out on the bloom peak, even if my stuffed nose isn't up to appreciating the wonderful scent. Here are a few pictures from yesterday:

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

IWSG: Research

Since it's the first Wednesday of May, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. You can learn more about the group on their website and Facebook. This month's hosts are Michelle Wallace, Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet, and Feather Stone.

Before I get to this month's question, I want to follow up on last month's question, which asked if you'd ever used the A-Z Blogging Challenge to promote your work and if it was effective. Now that April is over, I can say that yes, I've seen an increase in downloads and sales. Some of that is due to paid ads I ran to promote sales, but overall April was more active than previous months.

For May, we've been asked the following question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story? 

I don't want to match stories to specific research areas for fear of spoilers. However, I've researched IVF techniques; the physics of time travel; Victorian homes; and ways to kill characters with various poisons, diseases, and injuries. Other research I've done has actually been part of daily life or my own interests. For instance, my son's interests have led me to pick up knowledge of prehistoric cities and dinosaurs, which I've then used in stories. My own interest in the Beatles has influenced my work in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. I look at every non-fiction book or every new experience as a chance to research something for my writing. If I can't always be in front of the keyboard typing away, at least I can be accumulating topics for my work.

What's your approach to research? Feel free to share some of your research topics in the comments.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The News You Missed

April was obviously an active month for blogging, but my family and I were busy with other activities too.

We dozed with the dinos again at the Field Museum. (This time, we found a better spot to sleep--though Alex didn't get to spend the night on his favorite bed in the Egyptian marketplace.)

We also got to go behind the scenes and see dinosaur fossils that aren't on display. They have so many some are still in their field jackets, waiting for preparation.

 I marched for science in Chicago. Due to poor weather, lack of energy, and my plantar fasciitis, I skipped the climate march.
 The March for Science was the same weekend as C2E2. I hunted droids, including this oddly shaped one that was looking for a doctor. I walked over 19,000 steps on April 22nd, my second highest distance since I started tracking my steps. No wonder my feet are so sore!

My husband and son had a blast getting blasted at...

So I awarded Alex the Dark Side Cookie Award. I'm wearing my Imperial Staff Officer costume, which was just approved by the 501st Legion.
Here's a better view of the costume. (Humm, maybe next year I'll do Star Wars Costuming A-Z.)

Oh, and I finally finished the developmental edit of Summon the Seasons. Now to format it and maybe give it a quick sentence-level edit before I send it to the beta readers.

So, what did you do this April? Feel free to share in the comments.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Zoology

Fall Avatars aren't the only ones who are interested in animals. The University in Wistica has its own Zoology Department. Students can not only study the collection of modern preserved animals but also study fossils of ancient animals. If you happen to be the owner of the land where a fossil was found, you can come present your own lecture speculating what kind of creature possessed such strange bones. Just don't be surprised if the Fall Avatar in attendance corrects you. Zoology plays a role in Fifth Season,which is told by the Fall Avatar in charge of animals.

This concludes my Season Avatars A-Z Blogging Challen. I hope you enjoyed it! If you'd like to explore the world further, the prequel Seasons' Beginnings is permafree.

Congrats to Karen O'Connor for winning the series giveaway! Please let me know what format you'd like for your eBooks.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Ysabel

Ysabel s'Ivena Lathatilltin is one of the Fall Avatars and the first Season Avatar to be half Selathen. Her mother is a noted pianist, and she has several younger brothers and sisters. She's a Fall Avatar who's very warm-hearted and eager to see Gwen and Jenna get along. Sometimes Ysabel takes her kindness and unwillingness to hurt others to extremes. That's difficult enough when she has to balance the needs of predators versus prey, but when strange animals invade Challen, she doesn't know how to handle them. As the reincarnation of Kron's wife Bella, Ysabel also has to decide if she still loves him despite not remembering their life together. She tells her story in Fifth Season.

Even though tomorrow's Sunday, it's also the last day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Be sure to stop by!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: X for Unknowns and a Series Giveaway!

I'm slightly biased toward April 28, since it's my birthday. However, April 28 is also the day assigned to the letter X, one of the hardest letters to blog about during the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I don't have an X associated with the Season Avatars series, so I will invoke birthday privilege and use the algebraic X to stand for the unknowns in the story.

The biggest unknown at this point is how--or if--the Season Avatars will be able to end Chaos Season, particularly after the events of Fifth Season. If they are able to pull off this momentous feat, what will it mean for Challen? And how did Challen wind up with Four Gods and Goddesses anyway?

The good news is that these questions will be answered in the final book of the series, Summon the Seasons. The bad news is that although the rough draft is complete, I don't have a publication date set yet, and I haven't discussed the cover with Maria. I'm currently editing this book and plan to publish it later this year. The section I'm on has been a slog to revise, but it's almost at the end of the book, and the climax doesn't require as much extensive editing. Further updates will be posted on this blog as soon as they're available.

Since it's my birthday, I want to give away some presents. So, I'll give all five eBooks in this series (Seasons' Beginnings, Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons when available) to one lucky random commenter on this post! Winner will be announced in Sunday's post.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Winter and Wistica

The God of Winter is perhaps the most frightening of the Four Gods and Goddesses. He controls not only the weather, but also the land of the dead. People who have committed great crimes are punished by having their souls frozen so they can't reincarnate. This is why Challens swear by saying "Freeze it!" or "That frozen such-and-such!" The God of Winter has two colors associated with Him: blue (for weather) and white (for death). The rest of the Four only have one color each. 

Wistica is the capital of modern Challen. It's located in the southeast section of Challen, where the Chikasi River meets the Salt Waters. The Season Avatars maintain a second home in Wistica, since they come to the city at the start of every season to perform a soltrans ceremony at the Temple. Other key locations in Wistica are the kings' palace and the university. Wistica is semi-officially divided into quarters named after each of the seasons. (There's no wall or structures marking the borders between quarters.) Challens address letters in a way that we would consider upside-down. If you were to invite Gwen and the rest of the Season Avatars to take chocolate with you, you would write the following lines on the envelope:

Spring Quarter
4 Seasons Street
Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil, Ava Spring

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Vistichia

Vistichia is the original name for Challen's capital. Back in Seasons' Beginnings, Vistichia was more of a city-state than the capital of a much larger country. I actually modeled Vistichia on ancient city-states. The homes in Vistichia were built of mud-brick; few, if any, traces of them remain eight hundred years later. The only building from that era still mostly intact is the Temple for the Four Gods and Goddesses (They claimed an existing building instead of ordering a new one to be built.) The Seasons Avatars' house in Wistica is built on the site of their home in Vistichia. (The original home was severely damaged during the Fip Annexation.) Seasons' Beginnings is the only book where Vistichia appears. By Scattered Seasons, language changes and a tendency to shorten words changed the city name to Wistica. We'll take a look at the modern city tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: University

Challen has a single university in Wistica, open to men and women from all walks of life. Although the Season Avatars don't attend, the university is the setting for a couple of scenes in different books. In Scattered Seasons, Gwen and Jenna first meet Kron at a lecture he presents on ancient civilizations. Ysabel, Kron, and Jenna attend a different public lecture during the opening of Fifth Season. Later in the same book, Ysabel has a key insight while touring the university's zoological collection.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Time and Tradetown

This is the last full week of the 2017 A-Z Blogging Challenge. To celebrate, I'm putting Fifth Season on sale this week for $0.99.

As I've mentioned in earlier blog posts, Salth is obsessed with time and gains additional time-related magic in Seasons' Beginnings. This magic allows her to create the Chaos Season storms she sends against Challen. She can slow down time, speed it up to age someone to death, and summon things from the deep past. Her main weakness is that she focuses on the past, not the future.

 Tradetown is a town near the border of Challen and the Dead Land, or Selath. It gained its name long ago when Challens and Selathens met there to trade. Today, Tradetown still is home to many Selathens, including Ysabel's family. We see Tradetown first in Scattered Seasons and also in Chaos Season.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: A Slew of S's

There as so many "S" characters in the Season Avatars series that I can't do full descriptions for them. Here's a quick rundown of what makes the letter "S" so special:

Goddess of Spring: The Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen have no names other than the season They're associated with. Spring is normally pictured as a matronly woman with long blonde hair, and She looks after the people of Challen. Although She's considered "married" to Winter, Summer and Fall aren't Their children.

God of Summer: Little is known about this quiet God, pictured as a green-skinned youth thin enough to disappear into a tree. He controls all the plants in Challen through His Avatars. Homosexual, bisexual, or transgender men, as well as men who wish to remain single for other reasons, might declare themselves Summersmen.

Salth: A magician from Kron's original time. Rumor has it she was born in a king's harem and escaped it thanks to her gifts. Obsessed with magic and time, she is both neglectful of her son Sal-thaath yet his fierce protector if he's threatened.

Sal-thaath: Salth's son, created through magic and skilled in magic himself. He seeks Kron out for company in Seasons' Beginnings.

Selathens: Descendants of people who fled the Dead Land when Salth's power increased. Most of them have settled near the border, but some moved inland and assimilated into the general population of Challen. Those who remain separate have split into two groups: those who want little to do with magic and those who worship Salth. Ysabel's father belongs to the latter group. Perhaps due to lingering resentment toward Salth, Selathens generally hold women in lower esteem than men.

Sophia: The Fall Avatar from Margaret's quartet. When Margaret dies suddenly, the other two members of the quartet have no interest in holding the group together, leaving the inexperienced Sophia to pick up the leadership.

I'll be participating in the March for Science in Chicago this morning and attending C2E2 the rest of the weekend, so I won't have much time to visit other blogs until Monday. My report on C2E2 will be delayed until May as well.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Reincarnation

Everyone reincarnates in Challen, but only the Season Avatars remember anything from their past lives.

Challens view the dead as resting in the God of Winter's domain until they're ready to be reborn. They refer to the dead as "absent" and believe that they will be reunited with their loved ones in a different life, though their relationships may change. For example, a parent and a child may switch roles in their next life.

For Season Avatars, reincarnation is different. They're reborn in different parts of Challen and different classes so they know the needs of the entire country. They need to know as much as possible about what their magic affects, such as the human body, plants, animals, or the weather. Therefore, they remember what they learned in their previous lives. It doesn't all come back to them at once, but gradually, when they need it. (They always know they're meant to be Season Avatars, as if their birthdays and auras didn't give it away.) They may remember some personal details from previous lives, but not all of them. (This affects the story in Chaos Season.) It's also easier for them to remember recent lives instead of earlier ones. This is why they don't remember the Four as clearly as Kron does.

Here's the full list of Season Avatars, with their names in Season's Beginnings (their first life as Avatars) in parentheses next to the names they have in the rest of the series:

Group 1  (Future Avatars--They become official mid-series)
Gwendolyn lo Havil (Galia)—Spring
Jenna Dorshay t’Reve (Janno)—Summer
Ysabel s’Ivena Lathatilltin (Bella)—Fall
Kay Seltich (Caye)—Winter

Group 2 (Current Avatars in Scattered Seasons and Chaos Season)
Margaret gran Garnell (Magstrom)—Spring (deceased)
Charles vin Estcher (Carver)—Summer
Sophia vin Estcher  (Sylva)—Fall
Dorian gran Garnell (Domina)—Winter
Group 3 (Past Avatarsall deceased)
Tylon fi Vort (Tylan)—Spring
Frederick min Jole (Flilya)—Summer
Helene ava Hartfut (Hala)—Fall
Olivia ava Kalt (Ocul)—Winter

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