Friday, June 29, 2012

Science of the Week, 6/29/12

It's hard to believe the year is almost half over already. Next Wednesday, I'll post a quick rundown of what I've read so far in 2012. I'll also have some extra posts planned for Sunday and Monday. In the meantime, here are some of the most interesting articles I read on ScienceBlog this week:

Picatinny Army engineers set phasers to "fry" (science catching up to science fiction)

New planet-weighing technique found

Palladium beats iron for toxic cleanup

Focused light may lead to scapel-less surgery

'Neural fingerprints' of memory associations hint at mind reading

Diamonds to help laundry detergent bring back bling to dirty clothes

Rewriting quantum chips with a beam of light

New hormonal gel combination shows promise as reversible birth control for men

Discovery of material with amazing properties

I finished reading the July 2012 issue of Scientific American this week. Articles include the evolution of cooperation, the education of computers so they can learn on their own, and the laughter of rodents.

Back in April, I discussed a Petridish science project to study the DNA of African village dogs. The project did obtain enough funding to go forward. I donated enough money to get e-mail updates from the field. I don't think I should share them here, but it has been interesting reading about the scientists' mishaps and encounters with villagers as they collect their samples.

Enjoy your weekend. If time permits, please stop by next week as I interview a BroadUniverse author, discuss indie books, and present Smashword coupons!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some of My Favorite Pins--Recipes

Maria asked last week to see some of my favorite pins on Pinterest. I have enough boards (collections of pins) for several posts. Some of my collections are book-and-writing related; some aren't. Today, I'm going to display a few pins from my recipe collection.

My husband and I joined Weight Watchers in January, so I'm always looking for meal ideas that fit into the plan. I've saved a lot of promising recipes from their website as well as from SkinnyTaste. Here are some recipes I've actually made. I'm afraid the pictures themselves won't post, but you should be able to follow the links.

Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge

Zucchini, Basil, and Goat Cheese Omelet

Baked Eggs with Wilted Baby Spinach

Low-fat Baked Ziti with Spinach

Asian Skillet Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas

Cookies and Cream Shake

I think I need to start printing these recipes out and storing them in a binder.

Do you look for recipes too? If so, for what type of food? Do you tend to look up recipes for a one-shot deal, or do you save them for later use?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I've Been Interviewed!

We interrupt this Tuesday morning to let you know that the gracious Misha Gericke has interviewed me on her blog. It was a live interview done by many e-mail exchanges. You can find the link here. Thanks for having me, Misha!

Monday, June 25, 2012

BRoP Interview with Robert David MacNeil

 It may be the beginning of the work week, but it's the final leg of the Blog Ring of Power's interview with Robert MacNeil. Please visit Dean, Terri, Theresa, and Emily in that order for the first four parts of the interview. Let's finish up with some words of wisdom.

1. Tell us about your route to success – how/when did you decide to self-publish?  How did you handle the editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.
I think the biggest question facing authors today is, "Do I self-publish?"  When I wrote Iona Portal, I assumed the best way to publish fiction was to seek an agent and a publisher.  I even queried one agent.  But in the process I began to research the publishing industry. 
I found that the publishing industry today is sort of like the “horse and carriage” industry at the turn of the 20th century.  It's an industry with a long and glorious history, but it has passed a tipping point and will never be the same again.  And for the author, that's good news.
The traditional publishing industry has never been kind to authors.  An aspiring author can often spend a year or more just finding an agent.  I’ve talked to some who have spent several years, sending query after query, and still no agent.  Rejection slips pile up.  Some agents don’t even send rejection slips any more.  If they’re not interested, you never hear back from them.  You wait… and wait… and wait…
Assuming you finally get an agent, your agent then tries to sell your book to a publisher.  Then come edits and re-edits, and sometimes major re-writes.  The typical timeframe from a query to publication can be 2 ½ to 3 years.  But even then, success is not likely. The failure rate for first-time authors is about 90%. 
Why would any author choose to go that route?  Because, until recently, it was the only game in town. 
But in the last 5 years a major earthquake has struck the publishing world.  We've seen the rise of, print on demand, and most of all, the e-book revolution.   The whole paradigm has changed.
The key to success used to be getting your book prominently displayed in brick-and-mortar bookstores, and to do that, you needed a publisher.  That’s not even an issue anymore.   We’ve entered an era when the vast majority of books sold are sold online.  That means you don't have to go through an agent and publisher to get your book to the people.  Any author can now have his book for sale at the biggest "bookstore" in the world.  It will be there for as long as he wants, available to anyone who wants to buy it.
So the traditional route of getting an agent and a dead-tree publishing company is no longer the default option.  In fact, unless you are a celebrity, or you’re already a bestselling author, that route is probably not your best option.
So I decided to self-publish.  It wasn't easy, but I did my homework.  The crucial thing is figuring out what you can do yourself and what you have to pay to get done. 
I don't think any author should try to edit or proofread his own work.  You're too close to it, and won't spot your mistakes.  I usually have my books proofread by three or four people.  They're all experienced proofreaders, but they all tend to find a different set of mistakes.
The cover is another biggie.  Unless you have a lot of experience in graphics, you should NOT try to do your own cover. 
I am fully convinced Iona Portal could have done very well going the traditional route, but in the end, I'm very comfortable with my decision to self-publish.  Iona Portal has been out on Amazon Kindle for 8 months now.  For five of those months it's been in the "top-ten" of Amazon's best-rated science fiction books.  It's not a best seller yet, but it's moving closer. 
If I had gone the traditional publishing route, chances are very good I'd still be querying agents, and probably be a year or more away from publication.

2. What tools are must-haves for writers?
The crucial tools for a writer today are laptop with a long battery life and a fast internet connection.   I'd find it very hard to write a book without and Google search.

3. Do you have any advice for other writers?
In the future I'd avoid trying to publish in all the markets.  I spent a lot of time publishing on Smashwords because of all the distribution channels, but found I couldn't really promote adequately on that many channels.  I've heard that a lot of people do very well on Smashwords, but I've been very disappointed in my sales there. 
My primary focus right now is Kindle.   Amazon has been amazing to work with, and are quick to respond to questions.
I've also loved publishing in paperback through Amazon's Createspace.    I've heard some writers debate whether it's worthwhile doing a paperback version in today's market, but Createspace makes producing a paperback easy, and I've found that they do sell well.  
Lots of people tell me they still like the feel of a real book in their hands.  And as much as I love my Kindle, if I'm going to the beach, I feel a lot more comfortable leaving a paperback book on my towel when I go in for a swim.

4. What do you feel is the key to your success?
My philosophy for success in writing is that you have to start by writing a good book, then you have to work really, really, REALLY hard to market it.  If you have a good book, market it well, and give it time, it will find an audience.

5. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
My primary goal is to entertain.  If you're looking for great literature you probably want to read a different book.  I want Iona Portal to grab your attention in the first chapter, keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you a little breathless at the end. 
But I also want my readers to know that some of the events in Iona Portal are based on true encounters, just shifted into a science fiction universe.  As Araton tells Erin Vanderberg, "You’ve seen a tiny sliver of what is true, but there’s a much larger reality beyond what you’ve known.”  That's true for all of us.  One of my favorite Steven King quotes is a line from The Gunslinger, "Go then, there are other worlds than these."  There really are other worlds out there.

6. What are your current / future project(s)?
My goal is to finish Iona Stronghold (book two of the Synaxis Chronicles) by the end of this year.  My working title for the third book in the trilogy is Iona Rising.

Author Bio

Robert David MacNeil is an author, wine-lover, and investigator of things supernatural.  Over the last twenty years he's traveled to 32 nations researching, writing, and teaching on angels, demons, and supernatural encounters.   His travels have taken him from the steppes of Mongolia to the jungles of Thailand, and from the Eskimo villages of Northwest Alaska to le fin del mundo, the "end of the world," at the tip of South America. 
Long a fan of science fiction and suspense thrillers, Robert also has a love for history–especially ancient Greece, Rome and medieval Europe.  He's particularly fascinated with Patrick, Columba, and the ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland.  The Celtic monks had a special relationship with the angels.  They also loved beer and invented whiskey.  The Irish really did save civilization!
Robert and his wife, Linda, live near Dallas, Texas.  He has authored five non-fiction books under a different pen-name.  Iona Portal is his first novel.

Please let us know where your readers can stalk you:
Twitter:  @RDavidMacNeil

What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?

Iona Portal is available in paperback and Kindle e-book at  Amazon Prime members can read Iona Portal free on their Kindle

Friday, June 22, 2012

Science of the Week, 6/22/12

Ah, aren't you glad it's Friday?

Here are some of the most interesting articles from ScienceBlog this week:

Researchers Estimate a Bunch of Ice at Moon's South Pole (Good detail for setting stories on the moon. No word on penguins.)

Extensive water in Mars' interior

Rare "Hot Jupiters" and the Search for Alien Life

The Weight of Nations: An Estimation of Adult Human Biomass

These articles are from Time:

Lakes found on Titan

You Don't Need Heavy Metals to Build a Good Planet

Not very much to report this week, but I did receive the latest issue of Scientific American yesterday. I'll post more about that sometime next week, whenever I finish it.

If you're on Facebook, there's a new page called SciFact Central that promises to deliver fun facts about science, technology, and the people of science and technology. Sounds to me that deserves a "Like."

Enjoy the weekend, and see you Monday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Would You Like to See on This Blog?

Every now and then, I like to ask my blog readers the above question, and I felt it was time to ask it again. I have several author interviews coming up in the next few months, so I don't intend to give those up (and I don't want to). I know there are also some readers out there who like the weekly science roundup. What other topics interest you? Here are a few ideas:

1. Geek/science humor
2. More discussion of the books I'm reading
3. More about the projects I'm writing/my writing style
4. More about my personal life (what there is of it)
5. More blogfests
6. My favorite pins on Pinterest
7. More about self-publishing/the writing business

I'd love it if you'd leave a comment and tell me what you'd like to see here. If you have some other reasonable suggestions for topics, feel free to post them too.

Enjoy the summer solstice, everyone!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing on the Go

Normally on Monday I post part of an author interview, but we're currently between interviews. (A new one starts tomorrow on Dean's blog if you want to start following along from there.) So I shall tell you about what I did yesterday--visit the Shedd Aquarium with my family and still manage to get some writing time in.

In addition to revising Twinned Universes, I'm also in the middle of writing a short story. I printed the short story out and wrote while we drove to the Shedd, waited in line to get in, and as we drove home. Although I made sure to bring a pen with me, I couldn't find it while we were waiting in line, so I wound up using my son's red crayon instead. I got a lot more writing done than I normally do on the weekend; in fact, I even finished the short story!

Have you ever had to resort to unusual writing supplies to meet your daily word count? If so, what were they?

P.S. Happy 70th Birthday, Sir Paul McCartney!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Practicing Photoshop

Last month, when I attended a CreateSpace workshop at the local library, I met a couple who were interested in self-publishing their books. I offered to help them, and in return, the husband offered to teach me a little about PhotoShop. So I went over to their house on Sunday to practice. He taught me how to use layers, add and move text, how to select parts of a picture, and how to move parts of a picture around. It's all very basic stuff, but since I don't have much experience with graphic programs, I needed it.

Why the sudden interest in Photoshop? I'm debating doing some of my own covers for short stories to cut down on publishing costs. For novels, I'd rather have a professional do the cover, especially since I don't see myself doing anything more to a picture at the moment besides adding text. But perhaps if I ever get enough time to work on Photoshop, I might be able to do something more sophisticated.

What kind of skills have you developed for your writing or day job that you never thought you'd acquire?

Monday, June 11, 2012

BRoP Interview--Tiffany Heiser

At least we have something to look forward to on Mondays--a Blog Ring of Power interview! Today I'm interviewing Tiffany Heiser. You can find Part One here on Emily's blog; Parts Three, Four, and Five will be posted later this week on Dean's, Terri's, and Teresa's blogs respectively. Today we're discussing Tiffany's writing process.

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc. - Once an idea comes to me my notebook obsession becomes worse and there is one in every room. I will put it all on computer but certain times  passages come to mind and they go down on paper. I will have scratch paper everywhere with thoughts and ideas. I initially just write and don't try to edit the first go round. I have a hard time writing at home unless I am alone with music playing then I can write for hours, otherwise I tend to write at my other job at slow times and at lunch or like to go to Starbucks and sit with a cup of coffee and my music.      

What has been the most surprising reaction to something you've written? - I think the most surprising reaction I've gotten was for Bonded when my Grandma called me to let me know she'd stayed up all day and night reading it. She called to tell me she loved it and that I better get book 2 out soon or she was going to have a heart attack. That made me smile and gave a push to write faster. It was a great feeling especially knowing that she isn't a big reader.

What is the strongest criticism you've ever received as an author? The best compliment?
- The strongest criticism I received was that Rena, my main character, had no personality. That she was coming across stupid and weak. That was tough to hear, because that was the complete opposite from what I wanted her to be. I think in the end I changed that for her.
-The best compliment...well that would have to be when my book gets compared to Twilight in a good way. That I could or will be the next Stephenie Meyer, that makes and when people tell me they couldn't put it down.

Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support? - I have met some great people throughout the whole process and I can't give enough thanks to the group of people on Agent Query Connect. They helped me out so much, and with them I made some great critique partners and long time friends.

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?
- Although hearing anything negative about something you have been working on for years, (my baby is what I call it), but it can also be helpful. Certain comments made make you see a bigger picture and really look into what you've written. And others you just have to shrug it off and continue on, keeping in mind that it is something you love and that some people might not get into your writing.

Where can our readers find you?

Never in a trillion years did Rena really think vampires existed...or that she had enemies among them.

Beginning of senior year, and Rena Vesten is hoping for something incredible to happen. She never expected that the dark-haired, blue-eyed man of her dreams-literally-to suddenly appear as the new student at school.

The gorgeous mystery guy, Cryder, has more secrets than his inexplicable presence in her dreams. Soon Rena's world takes a turn into the supernatural when she finds out Cryder is a vampire king with a deadly rebellion on his hands, and a destiny irrevocably tied to Rena's...

...'till death do them part. 

 Vampires live a long life and it can appear to be perfect to those who don't have the option for immortality, but when your sanity and place in society is dependent on the one you love- the thought of eternity can be excruciating.

When Bristol finds his true blood-mate at an early age, the girl who knows him to the deepest part of his soul- everything seems perfect. He pictures a future of only the two of them with no rules or limitations, but one terrifying night all of those dreams are stolen from him.

What happens to a vampire when it goes insane?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Summer Goals

Do you count the first day of summer from Memorial Day or from the solstice? I prefer the solstice myself, but the weather is certainly getting hot enough for summer around here. With the advent of summer, I'm trying to think of goals I'd like to accomplish this season. It's harder than it seems.

For my family/personal life, I'd like to go on a few picnics and maybe visit the beach. (We may check that off this weekend, though we may go to a local beach instead of Lake Michigan or the Indiana Dunes.) It would be nice to go on a trip somewhere, even if it's just for a weekend. So far, we haven't picked a date or a destination, so we might not be able to accomplish this one. Hopefully we can at least pick some fruit or attend a local festival.

As for writing, I'd like to finish edits on Twinned Universes before I attend ChiCon at the end of August. I'm more than halfway through, but I still want to go through the whole thing one more time before I move on from developmental edits. I'm currently working on a short story, and I'd like to publish a couple more shorter pieces this year in addition to Twinned Universes. 

Hopefully my writing and personal goals won't prove to be incompatible. Have you made any plans or set goals for this summer? 

Monday, June 04, 2012

BRoP Interview: Jacqueline Seewald

I hope you had a good weekend, everyone! Today I'm in the middle of another Blog Ring of Power interview with Jacqueline Seewald. You can find the first two parts of the interview here and here; the remaining sections will be posted here and here.

Where do you get your story ideas?

One thing is I observe people. Sometimes I listen in on conversations in restaurants. I talk to people in general. Once I was standing in line at a supermarket. The lady in front of me had a container of ice cream. She explained it was her daughter’s favorite. Her daughter, she explained, had died tragically young in an auto accident. She brought the ice cream to the cemetery. That sparked the idea for an award-winning horror story called “Mother Love.” I also read a great deal of nonfiction as well as fiction and that sparks ideas. For example, in my latest novel DEATH LEGACY, I had read about an intriguing real life spy case, a murder mystery that was never solved. It was the initial springboard for the novel.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t. I’m experimental with my writing. I write first person point of view as well as third. I write humor as well as horror. I believe writing should be pleasurable play with words as well as work.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I try to write through it. If I’m stuck in one project, I move on to something else. I’ll come back to the earlier work at another time.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I do not believe precisely in formula writing. I tend to be an out of the box writer. I want my work to be original and my characters unique. I try to write a variety of literature in different ways.  However, with genre fiction, mysteries and romances, for example, there are certain conventions that do need to be observed.

Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?

I confess to outlining the plot before I sit down at the computer. However, the main characters need to live in my head for quite a while before I start to write a word.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?

I think critique partners are great. I know lots of people that benefit from working with other writers, but I work alone. Until I sell a book, no one sees it except editors, not even family or friends.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?

Believe it or not, poetry is the most challenging form of writing for me. Poetry should consist of the best words in the best order. It keeps my mind sharp and boosts my brain power.

Multiple award-winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught creative, expository and technical writing at the university level as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Eleven of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications. She enjoys spending time with family and friends when she isn’t writing. In addition, she is a playwright, a landscape artist and loves many types of music. 


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