Monday, January 30, 2012

Behold The Book of Beasts!

OK, it's not exactly the Eighth Wonder of the World (that would be the lost shrine of Zagawa, for those of you who have Curious George addicts in your home), but it is my latest short story. Here's the description:

Jonur, a biology student at the University of Selath, doesn't believe in demons or magic. He thinks there's a rational explanation why almost nothing lives in the area around Lake Forsaken. As he and his partner collect samples from the area, they become sick themselves. Then Jonur encounters a foreign girl with a stranger book. She claims the area is poisoned and that Jonur and his partner are now affected. However, she plans to use her book to create an animal that can neutralize the poison. Who is this girl? Can she and Jonur work together to fulfill her plan, or will she let him die?

This story is set in the same world as my current WIP, Scattered Seasons. "The Book of Beasts" is about 5,000 words long, and it also includes a bonus sample chapter from Lyon's Legacy. It's currently available as an e-book for $0.99, and you can find it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with this book, particularly Meghan Derico of Derico Photography, who made the cover.


Please Stand By....

I should have an exciting announcement soon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Science Experiments

Normally I do a Science of the Week post on Fridays, but since I already posted about science a couple of times this week (and to be honest, I'm behind in reviewing my Science Blogs), I thought I'd give you a couple of science experiments from YouTube today. If you're a tea drinker like me, you can make yourself a tea bag rocket:

(Obviously, it helps if you use tea bags instead of loose-leaf tea.)

And liquid nitrogen is always fun:

I remember for one of my physics classes in undergrad, the professor dunked a rubber ball in nitrogen and shattered it against the wall.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shattering The Happiness

Yesterday, I was paging through my "To Read" collection on my Kindle and came across a free book I'd downloaded last month. I read a couple pages, then backed out and deleted it. No, it wasn't because the book was horribly written. The beginning featured a man and his pregnant wife, and I knew that she would die. (That's not a spoiler; it's part of the blurb. I may have subconsciously remembered that when I started the book, but I couldn't even remember the title.) I didn't want to experience her death.

We all know that happy characters make for poor fiction; they need to deal with problems to move through the story. I've certainly given my characters their share of troubles. But as a reader, when a story starts with characters in a good situation that I know won't last, I'm reluctant to break that veneer of happiness and plunge into pain. It's easier to start with them already dealing with their problems. I had the same problem with Louise Cooper's Indigo series; it started with the princess happy with her family and her betrothed. I didn't want her to ruin everything, even though there would be no story without her reckless action. I read the first couple of pages, then abandoned the book and the series.

Is this quirk unique to me, or do other people hesitate to "shatter the happiness"? Have you found books where the end justified shattering the happiness at the beginning?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scientific American, February 2012 Issue

Here are some of the most interesting stories from the February 2012 issue of Scientific American:

Is Space Digital? (are matter, information, and space linked?)

Swept from Africa to the Amazon (how dust may explain our weather and the fertility of the Amazon--the rainforest, not the bookstore!)

All Hands on Deck (citizen volunteers are helping scientists collect data about our climate from WWI ship logbooks)

The Future of Chocolate (a very important topic!)

The Brittle Star's Apprentice (a chemist draws inspiration from nature for new materials)

I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Success of Failure

For all of us who struggle with creativity, this article on CNN reminds us that failure is a necessary part of the process. It's better to try, fail, and learn something from it than to fear failure and never do anything. I think that's especially important for all writers now in these changing times of publishing.

Has fear ever kept you back from doing something? Did you regret it later?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Science of the Week, 1/20/12

It must be time for more science.

Electron's negativity cut in half by supercomputers

Electrons are fundamental particles that can't be split. However, supercomputers allow scientists to conduct virtual experiments that do split simulated electrons apart to study their behavior. In the experiments, the electrons condensed at supercool temperatures and behaved collectively as a superfluid.

Although I read some other interesting news articles on Science Blogs, this was the only one that I felt merited a link here.

Did any of you come across some interesting science news this week? If not, did you learn something else?

Edit: Whoops, this published too early! Sorry about that. I'll just leave it here for Friday. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Writing Rewards

Writing can be a lot of hard work, but it does have its own rewards. I was lucky enough to get two rewards yesterday. I got to see the cover of my next indie project, and it's much better than anything I could have done with my next-to-nothing skill with GIMP or Photoshop. Also, I'm rereading Twinned Universes before I send it to the editor. There are quite a few things I need to change or reword, but this Sandra person can turn out some readable prose. ;)

What are your writing rewards?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On the SOPAbox

Some of you may have heard of SOPA, the Stop Piracy Online Act, and PIPA, the Project IP Act, controversial anti-piracy bills. If you want to learn more about these bills, you can check out some articles here and here.

I'm all for protecting the rights of content creators--I'm one of them--but the language of these bills is murky when it comes to defining pirate sites. To quote from the CNN article, "A site could be deemed a SOPA scofflaw if it takes 'deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability' that its service will be used for copyright infringement." SOPA was originally written to require that sites with pirated content have their domains blocked. My understanding is that this language was removed from SOPA but is still present in PIPA, and PIPA is farther along in the legislative process than SOPA. Wikipedia is supposed to go dark today in protest of these bills, as are several of the blogs I follow. (I learned about this protest here.)

I'm not going dark because I believe it's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. If you want to protest this bill, support Wikipedia with a donation or go here. The link will give you other ways to counter this bill, including contacting your elected representatives and senators.

How do you feel about SOPA/PIPA? Too much, or a needed counter to piracy?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Time Traveling with Broad Universe

I think I've mentioned on this blog before that I'm a member of Broad Universe, an organization dedicated to promoting women writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. One of the activities they do every month is host a podcast with a specific theme. Since this month's theme is time travel, I volunteered to read from Lyon's Legacy. Other readers include S.A. Bolich, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Pauline Baird Jones, and Justine Graykin. Roxanne Bland is the hostess, and Justine Graykin put it all together. You can listen to it here, and don't forget to check out Broad Universe here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazon Pricing Issue Fixed

I saw it yesterday, after I got an e-mail from them saying they would check into the issue.

Not much else to add today, other than I need to get to work so I can leave at a reasonable time (we're supposed to get a lot of snow this afternoon) and that I should reach 50,000 words in my first draft of Scattered Seasons today.

Have a good day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mapping Dark Matter

Yesterday, there was an article online at Scientific American discussing scientists' efforts to map dark matter in space. If you're not familiar with dark matter, don't worry; no one really is. It's material that can interact with ordinary matter through gravity but is otherwise undetectable. Dark matter may make up as much as 98% of the universe, but it doesn't seem to be present on Earth, only in space.

Although I'm no expert on this branch of science, I find it fascinating that there's so much out there we don't know about yet. If scientists ever discover the nature of dark matter, we could be in for another paradigm shift, like the ones Kuhn talks about in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (I still remember that from my History of Science class during undergrad.) I attended a panel on dark matter in science fiction last year at WisCon; you can read my notes here if you're interested.

What areas of science do you think we know the least about?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Pricing Problems

I've mentioned on here before that I put Lyon's Legacy on sale for $0.99 for the month of December. I did this for Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Between the drop in price and increased promotion, I had my best sales last month, though I'm still light-years away from anything vaguely resembling a bestseller list. On New Year's Day, I raised all my prices again. (I don't want to sell my work too cheaply, as Kristine Kathryn Rusch advises writers not to do that. If you haven't read her essay from last week, you need to, no matter what type of publishing you're pursuing.)

Last Thursday, I was on Amazon and happened to notice that the price of my novella had been discounted back to $0.99, even though I knew the price had been higher. What had happened? It turned out that two of the stores Smashwords distributes to, Kobo and Diesel, update their catalogs less frequently than the Apple or Sony stores. Kobo and Diesel were still showing the $0.99 price for my book, so Amazon dropped the price to match them. As of Sunday night, however, both Kobo and Diesel were showing the new price. I republished my novella on Amazon last night, so we'll see if that raises the price--and keeps it there.

I hope other self-published authors take note of my experiences and plan accordingly. If I do decide to lower the price of one of my stories again, I may only do it on Amazon and B&N in the future. Smashwords is a very valuable site for self-publishers, but the complications with different distributors make it tricky to adjust the price there, especially for temporary promotions.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Back on the Blog Chain--Our House

Welcome to the first blog chain of the year! For this round, Jon has challenged us to a writing exercise:

Imagine the home(s) where you grew up, and start drawing a floor plan. As you draw, memories will surface. Grab onto one of those memories and tell us a story.

In lieu of any drawings, I'm going to post a video instead:

No, my house wasn't quite like that. The first house I lived in was a ranch; after that, we moved to two multi-level houses. All of them had basements, which inspired this story based on true events:


When she was eight, her parents redid the basement. Gone was the play area under the stairs where she drew on the wood with chalk; gone was the grayness and the spooky shower. Instead, her parents put in wood paneling, black-and-white tiles, and a bar. They christened the new area with a huge party.

A few days later, the basement flooded.

Shortly thereafter, they sold that house and moved to one that already had a finished basement. They put the Christmas tree down there, despite the carpet. When she examined the presents, she was already planning which one to rescue in case another flood occurred.

As she grew older, she collected more treasures: books, letters, report cards, trophies, and other memories of her past. One day, she and her husband bought their own house. Into their unfinished basement went all the boxes of memories, to be unpacked someday when they could afford to bring color and softness to gray concrete. They had time to wait; the house inspection had turned up no problems.

They came home one weekend to find the power out and the basement transformed into a wading pool.

The basement is dry now, and clean. But when she goes down there now, she's not even sure which memories had to be discarded like holey rags.

Amparo posted before me, and Matt will post tomorrow. Go check out what stories their childhood memories inspired.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Writing Classes with Cat Rambo

Normally Fridays on this blog I round up some science news articles for the week. However, I just ran across something that might be useful to other writers out there, so I hope you don't mind if I share it with you instead. Author and BroadUniverse member Cat Rambo is teaching several online writing classes over the next few months. You can find the class descriptions, including schedule and pricing, here. The "Your First Page" class looks especially interesting to me, though I have to see what my schedule is like. You can get a discount if you help spread the word about these classes or register by Wednesday, 1/11.

Have a good weekend! If you're online tomorrow, swing on by to catch up with the Blog Chain. Otherwise, see you Monday.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Setting Goals--Challenging or Realistic?

One of my writing goals for this year was to write 1000 words a day. I managed that for three days, but yesterday I barely got 300 in. Part of the reason is I haven't been sleeping well (again), and I was feeling especially brain-dead yesterday. If I'd pushed myself to write, I probably would have ended up using Curious George words like "blimlimlim."

Another thing I've noticed over the last couple of days is that since I'm pantsing this draft, it can take me a couple of hours to get to 1000 words (since I have to first figure out what to say and then wrestle my ideas into words). That hasn't left me with editing time for some other projects I want to self-publish. I may end up scaling back my daily writing quota so I can squeeze in editing time.

When you set goals for yourself (not just writing, but any type of goal), do you set something challenging, or do you plan something you know you can accomplish? There are advantages to both types of goals, but I was wondering if people tend to one type of goal or another.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

This Month's Scientific American

Here are some of the most interesting items I found in the January 2012 issue of Scientific American:

The lead story is about new discoveries about the pathway of aging. (The studies were originally inspired by a compound found in microorganisms from Easter Island; this compound increased the maximum life span in rodents--something no other chemical has done.) What we're learning about aging suggest that it's the flip side to growth; mechanisms that support growth and development (such as cellular growth and replication) prove harmful as we get older.

Other interesting articles discuss animals' magnetic sense, computer models that predict crime (the article even mentioned The Minority Report), quantum tunneling and glories, sustainable food supplies that use less energy, and the dusty future of the American West.

If you need a little extra incentive to stick to your resolution to lose weight, there's a photo essay on the hidden dangers of obesity.

And on that note, it's time for breakfast. Have a good day, everyone!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Reading Report for 2011

Welcome to 2012! How many of your New Year's resolutions have you broken so far? ;)

As you probably know if you'd poked around the blog, I've been tracking everything I've read (with the exception of cereal boxes, work-related stuff, etc) last year. I thought it would be fun to take a look at what I've read.

The grand total was 166 items finished. (Three I didn't finish due to lack of time.) This includes nineteen magazines and eight short stories published independently on Amazon, for a grand total of 139 books read. Of those books, twenty were paper.

Here's the breakdown by genre:

Science Fiction--16

And here are my favorites by genre:

Science Fiction--The Clockwork Rocket
Fantasy--The Night Circus
Mystery--I'm not sure I can pick a specific book, but I did like the Crochet Mystery series
Non-Fiction--For writing, I would pick Flogging the Quill; for science, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
YA--The Hunger Games is an obvious choice, but I would also recommend Rampant
Self-Published--I really loved the humor of "Smite Me, Oh Dark Lord."

This year, my goal is to read 120 books. I picked this number before looking at my stats for 2011, so now it seems a little low. My tracking on the blog broke down toward the end of the year, after I joined Goodreads. It's much more convenient to track books on that site, but it doesn't work as well for magazines. I'll probably skip tracking my read item here, so if you want to follow along with my reading, please feel free to friend me on Goodreads. My author profile is here if that helps.

Did you track your reading for 2011? What were some of your favorites?

Site Meter