Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lyon's Legacy--Holiday Sale and Kindlegraph

I thought I'd experiment a little with pricing, so I'm putting Lyon's Legacy on sale for 99 cents until the end of the year. Please feel free to share the news. You can find my novella on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Also, if you'd like my autograph (or at least the right-handed version of it), I'm now signed up with Kindlegraph. You can request a personalized inscription and signature for your e-book copy here. You don't need a Kindle to get this; you can get the signature as part of a PDF file. (You don't even need an e-book, as signatures are kept separate from the book itself.)

If you're an author, you might want to sign up with this service. It's free, and it's another way to connect with readers. Here's the link to the sign-up page. You'll need to enter the book's Amazon Standard Identification Number, which you can find on the book's Amazon page.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Scientific American, December 2011 Issue

I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend! Eugene and I spent part of Thanksgiving at the Kristkindlmarkt in downtown Chicago before going to his aunt's house for dinner. Among other things, I also took Alex bowling, set up the tree, visited the Wonderland Express exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and finished reading the latest Scientific American. No, it's not as exciting as preparing for the holidays, but there were still some interesting articles that offer ideas for science fiction. Here's the list:

1. A special feature about 10 World-Changing Ideas (including microbe miners, digital currency, year-round crop plants) and a computer model under development that would contain enough data to predict the future.

2. New plans for getting to the asteroids and Mars.

3. Ways in which cities are adapting to climate change.

4. Epigenetics and the mind. (Epigenetics deals with molecular markers on DNA that affect how it's regulated.)

What did you do over the weekend? Do any of these articles interest you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

I had another post scheduled for today, but I postponed it after learning last night that Anne McCaffrey had passed away.

Anne McCaffrey was one of the first authors I got into when I became a science fiction/fantasy reader. I have twenty-five books of hers in my collection. Naturally, many of these are in the Pern series, but I also especially enjoyed The Rowan and its sequels.

What's your favorite Anne McCaffrey book?

P.S. I'm taking tomorrow off, so Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'll be back on Friday with my usual science links.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meet Editor/Author Lauren Sweet

I first met Lauren Sweet when I was looking for an editor to help me with Lyon's Legacy. When I contacted her again for another project, she told me she had just published a book of her own. Naturally, I had to learn more. She graciously agreed to let me interview her for this blog.

Please tell us about yourself.

The basics: I was born and raised in New Jersey, spending my formative years with a book in my hand (or sneaked under the desk during math class). I tried my hand at writing romance novels in the ‘80s, took a twenty-year detour through the business world, and finally escaped to Alaska and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I now live near Portland, OR, and am a freelance writer and editor. My other esoteric skills include astrology, tarot card reading, and the ability to do a perfect split.

Some things I love: Caramels, Muppets, office supply stores, Nathan Fillion, fudge, Stargate SG-1, sappy love songs, snarky humor, fountain pens, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, crystals, my Jeep, down comforters, my fabulous hundred-acre couch, Winnie the Pooh, flamingoes, and comfy clothes.

How did you get into writing and editing? Which came first? Which do you prefer?

Writing came before editing—the editing part was kind of accidental. I always like to know how things work, so when I started writing seriously, I read a lot of writing books and studied other people’s writing to figure out how stories are put together. Later on I joined a critique group. I learned an amazing amount from analyzing other writers’ works-in-progress and pondering not just what wasn’t working, but why it wasn’t working and how the problems could be fixed. I found I enjoyed that and had a talent for it, and people started asking me specifically to help them with their work. Eventually that led to getting paid.

I love writing and wish I could spend more time on it each day, but it’s also very satisfying helping other writers achieve their dreams. If I had to pick one or the other, though, it would be writing.

How did you get into freelance editing? What are the pros and cons of being a freelancer?

After I finished my Creative Writing MFA in 2008, I hoped to ease into full-time editing by getting an office job and freelancing part-time. But the economy crashed the second I hit Portland and there were no office jobs to be found, so I was thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool as far as freelancing was concerned. Looking back, I’m glad it happened that way, because otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve taken the plunge.

Pros: setting my own schedule, working at home in my pajamas, setting up my business and my services in a way that fits my goals and personality. Plus I get paid for reading some really awesome books!

Cons: uneven income, no holiday or vacation pay, having to provide my own medical insurance and other benefits, extra self-employment taxes, dealing tactfully with the occasional writer who doesn’t want to accept how much work their project needs.

Could you please explain the difference between developmental editing and copyediting? Do you find one type of editing easier or more enjoyable?

Developmental editing has to do with the craft of fiction writing—the way the story is told. Plot, story structure, character development, point of view, narrative tension, dialogue, setting, scene structure, tone—all the “big picture” issues.

Grammar, spelling, typos, word usage, and similar language issues are copyediting issues. If copyediting also includes correcting paragraph and sentence structure, clarity and flow of ideas, it’s usually called line editing.

There’s some overlap between these definitions, depending on the editor, and some editors will also address language issues in a developmental edit, but I normally don’t. Usually after a developmental edit scenes will have to be added, cut, or totally revised, in which case any line editing/copyediting has to be done all over again. Which means the client will have wasted their money having me do it the first time, and I don’t want that.

Copyediting is easier, but developmental editing is more fun.

What is Aladdin’s Samovar about?

It’s about a woman named Amber Polaski who buys an antique brass samovar that turns out to have a (very sexy) genie in it. She makes a wish to find her long-lost father, only to find that he’s on the run from the Mafia. People get shot at, shrink wrapped, and pounced on by a pack of Happy Puppies—and Amber is forced to defend herself against Mafia assassins with common household appliances. Plus, Jasper the genie turns out to be nothing but trouble—in more ways than one!

How did you get the inspiration for Aladdin’s Samovar?

When I was getting my Master’s degree in creative writing, I started a short story about Amber finding the genie in her samovar. (I wish I could remember what possessed me to put a genie in a samovar instead of the usual lamp, but I don’t.) I never finished the story, because in that version she had only one wish, and I couldn’t figure out what she wanted most.

I put the story aside and didn’t get back to it until three years later. At one point after writing the first version, I’d had a conversation with a classmate who said that since Amber had never met her father, her wish would be to meet him. (That was a head-smack moment for me; those things always seem so obvious once someone has pointed them out to you.)

Once I reread the story with that in mind, I wondered what would happen if Amber found her father, but he wasn’t what she expected—if he were, say, on the run from the Mob. I immediately realized that could be the jumping-off point for a novel—or even a series. And Aladdin’s Samovar was born.

Did you edit your own book, or did you hire another editor to look it over? What factors influenced your choice?

I have beta readers who help me pick up any inconsistencies in my work (and let me know if it’s really as funny as I like to think it is). But other than that, I’m my own editor—I’m a nitpicky perfectionist, so I’m usually more critical of my work than anyone else is.

I also have writing colleagues that I turn to when I’m stuck on a solution to a writing problem, who are kind enough to brainstorm with me and let me bounce ideas off them.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you admire them?

Hmm—so many writers; so little time… I love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, because her characters feel so real, and I always finish her books convinced that I know what it’s like to live in the 1700s. She also raises a lot of interesting questions about the way we look at issues like violence, gender, war, honor, marriage and religion, by voicing various points of view from people who lived in completely different circumstances than we do.

I also love Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series—about a sixty-year-old widow from New Brunswick, New Jersey who becomes a CIA operative. Some of the books are kind of dated now, but the character is so much fun!

And a non-novelist—I’m a blatant worshiper of Joss Whedon, the TV/film writer who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. He’s so deliberate (yet brilliant) in his storytelling—everything is planned out and he knows exactly where he’s going with the long-term story arcs in his shows. I also love his originality—he knows every potential cliché in the business and manages to throw a fresh, surprising twist on each one.

Are you planning to write other books?

I’m already working on the second book in the Amber and Jasper series. One of the characters from the first book, Iggy the homeless dwarf, was formerly a carnival performer. He drags Amber (and the genie) off to help him rescue a friend from his carnie days. There’s a murdered clown, buried treasure, a midget cowboy show, and a very scary ventriloquist’s dummy. Plus some unexpected romance, and hopefully a lot of laughs!

What do you like to do to relax?

One of my favorite things to do is kick back on my aforementioned couch with a cup of tea, a cozy blanket and a good novel (or a stocked-up Kindle!). When I’m on vacation, I can easily go through a book a day. I also ice skate—I take figure skating lessons and once in a while I do a competition—jumps, spins, spangly dress and all. And I love to sing Karaoke—mostly cheesy country songs.

What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?

I look like a little suburban cream puff, but inside I really want to be Xena the warrior princess, wear studded black leather and kick butt.

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for (besides more wishes)?

Jasper the genie is already smirking! (When he grants a wish, it rarely turns out the way you thought it would. He’s a trickstery kind of genie…)

Let’s see. I think I’d like a superpower—the ability to fly. Flying dreams are so cool…the reality would be amazing. My second wish would be that Dulce de Leche ice cream would no longer have calories (and no, Jasper, the no-cal version has to taste the same, or there’s no point). I guess my third wish would be that my Amber and Jasper books go viral and become runaway bestsellers. Either that, or that Michael Trucco would give up his acting career, throw himself at my feet, and become my Boy Toy. (Kidding!)

Or we could go with world peace, ending hunger, and cleaning up the Texas-sized island of plastic garbage in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

Aladdin's Samovar is available on Kindle for $2.99.

If you'd like to contact Lauren, please e-mail her at writerservicesATlauren-sweetDOTcom

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: My Biggest Accomplishment

Michelle's topic was this round was partially inspired by National Novel Writing Month:

This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

Amparo posted before me, and Matt will post tomorrow.

I think I would have to say my biggest accomplishment is my relationship with my husband, Eugene. We met over twenty-one years ago. We dated for fifteen years before we got married, and much of that time we were long-distance. If we can go that long and endure so many changes, I'd like to think we can make it through the rest of our lives together. Love you, hon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting Past the Slog

I've been trying to crochet a "yarn train" for Alex since last year. It's an actual 3-D train, with the crocheted pieces sewn around a plastic frame which is stuffed by fiberfill. I plan to post a picture when I get it done--if I ever get it done. I don't work on it every day, and I have to admit there were places where I goofed up and had to start over or had trouble figuring out how to follow the directions. Probably my biggest challenge to date has been trying to figure out how the boiler and smokebox go together. The directions didn't quite make sense to me, so I put it off as long as possible while I crocheted the pieces for the cab. But now that I finished that, I didn't feel I could go much farther without assembling it. So I just took a deep breath and did it the best I can. It doesn't quite match the picture that came with the pattern, but it's doable. (I may try to make the back part bigger by adding more fiberfill.) Once I get the cab made, I can go back to crocheting.

It's funny that when we write books, no matter how exciting the story is, there always seems to be that middle sloggy section that's hard to write. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and plow through it. At least it's a lot easier to edit a story after it's done than trying to change a finshed crochet project!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Science of Science Fiction: She-Male Hawks

There's an interesting article in The New York Times about female mimicry in animals, especially hawks. (To read the article, click here.) Some animals, such as garter snakes and harriers, have a significant number of males that either look like or act like females. For instance, in the spring, the garter snakes will emit female pheromones to attract other males. The other males gather around to warm up the she-male snake; when he's warm enough, he turns off the pheromones. For the hawks, the female disguise is permanent, and they are actually more aggressive than the he-male hawks. (The he-male hawks manipulate the she-males into attacking outsiders while the he-males sit back and watch.) Scientists suspect the she-male hawks benefit because they are able to participate in what the article terms "extra-pair copulations," though this hypothesis is still being tested.

As a scientist, I'd love to find out what makes a she-male a she-male. Is it mostly genetics, mostly environmental, or a mixture of both interacting? The percentages of she-males varies, but there's a group of hawks in France with 40% of the males looking like females. Why is that so high?

Whether or not you want to draw any parallels to human behavior, this does sound like an interesting trait to include in an alien race.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Second-Book Stall

Dean Wesley Smith put up an interesting post over the weekend called
“The New World of Publishing: 95% of All Authors Will Never Indie Publish.” He admits this number is a guess, but he raises some good points about the thoughts that go through writers' heads, discouraging them from either trying to indie publish or to stop after putting out just a couple of books. No matter how you feel about traditional or indie publishing, I think it's worth a read. At the very least, it's worth knowing you're not the only author out there with negative thoughts in your head. ;)

Have you ever suffered from a second-book stall, where after completing the first project, you struggle to start, finish, or submit/publish your next project? How did you get out of that?

Friday, November 11, 2011

String Bridge Chart Rush

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit
the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack,
Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is
purchase the
book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and
then email the receipt to:


She will
then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

Amazon UK

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are
not familiar with String Bridge,
check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my
veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page,
yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of
heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as
with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and
musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the
difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout,
seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that
allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world
begins to unravel …
String Bridge is
a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a
hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion
and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer
of great skill and depth.
She doesn't pull back from the difficult
scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds
barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop
character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel.
I look forward to reading her
next novel, and next and next.”
~ Karen Jones
Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Connect with Jessica:
Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


I found out through The Passive Guy's blog that Scrivener, a writing program long available for the Mac, is finally available in a Windows version. If, like me, you're not familiar with this program, you can learn more about it here.

It looks interesting, but it seems like it might be more useful for plotters instead of pansters like me. (I admit I'm a bit stuck with Scattered Seasons at the moment, so I spent the evening outlining what I've written so far to figure out where to go next. Maybe I'm only a semi-panster, which sounds even odder.) On the other hand, it looks like there's much more to Scrivener than a virtual corkboard.

So, does anyone out there have previous experience with Scrivener? What was your experience like? Would you recommend it to others?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: My Favorite Monster

Matt has been encouraging us to indulge our monster mania this round with the simple question

What's your favorite monster?

Several other people have mentioned cute or cartoon monsters, so I don't feel quite so embarrassed revealing my favorite monster. Perhaps I should be, seeing he comes from a 70s Saturday morning cartoon show that I liked a lot as a kid (and I doubt it was for the science). Who is he, you ask? Look no further:

After all, who wouldn't want a fire-breathing sea monster on their side? Of course, that does mean you have to put up with Godzuki...

Strangely enough, I've never seen the Godzilla movies. I should do that in my numerous microseconds of free time.

I'm the last one in this blog chain, so you can either start from the beginning with Matt or work your way backward with Amparo.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Science of the Week, 11/4/11

Here we are at the end of another week. I took Monday off, so my sense of time is off too; it feels like a short week. Anyway, here are some science articles I found of interest this week:

Technology makes storing radioactive waste safer

World's most powerful laser could "tear apart the vacuum of space"
(I found this article linked here. Wouldn't it be cool if scientists could prove the existence of other dimensions?)

"Vampire" Bacteria has potential as living antibiotic

(Humm, coincidence that this article was released the day after Halloween? I think not.)

Do bacteria age?

Communication in the depths--perhaps not as primitive as we would like to think

And I can't ignore this one from CNN:

It's not "Star Trek," but NASA wants a tractor beam

I do have something to celebrate--Lyon's Legacy is finally part of Smashwords' Premium Catalog. I had to redo the formatting a couple of times before it passed the AutoVetter. Hopefully it will be easier with my next project.

Do you have anything to celebrate this weekend?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Oma Lisabeth

Today would have been my grandmother's birthday. I can't remember her birth year off the top of my head, but she would have been in her late 90s. This picture of our family was taken about two years ago. She's in the pink/rose sweater. I plan to dedicate my next story, "The Fighting Roses of Sharon," to her. (I still have to get it edited and have a cover made.) The story revolves around a teenager, her mother, and her grandmother, Rose. Like my own grandmother, Rose is interested in flowers, but for a much different reason.

OK, all you NaNo writers, time to get back to writing!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Setting Reasonable Goals

This may be the wrong month to talk about setting reasonable goals, but I know the writing goals I set for myself in October were too much. Among other things, I wanted to write three chapters of my current WIP, send another story out for editing, and maybe outline a third story. This month, I've scaled back a little. I plan to focus on writing 1000 words/day on my current WIP, arrange editing for the second story, and have a cover for the second story drafted. Since I didn't make my writing quota today, I already feel behind. (Then again, I spent the evening working on the second story, so I wasn't entirely bad.)

If you routinely juggle multiple projects, how do you balance them? And how much writing can a working parent accomplish on any given day?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

And the Winner Is....

I was so busy writing through lunch I almost forgot to post who won the Harry and David gift basket in my Lyon's Legacy promotion. The winner (selected by a random number generator) is....


Thanks so much for your review and interviews, Michelle! Please contact me so I can have that gift basket shipped to you.

Also, Briane Pagel just posted his own review of Lyon's Legacy on his website, plus I have the honor of being the first author to answer his "10 1/2 Questions." You can check both of them out here. Thanks, Briane!

OK, back to the laptop for a couple more minutes....

Ten-Word Tuesday: For Those About to NaNo...

May the words flow as steadily as caffeine this month!

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