Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Videos and Kindle Update

To celebrate the holiday, here are a couple of seasonal videos. My son was fascinated with Casper the Friendly Ghost for a while; this was one of his favorite episodes (I think he liked the chewing gum part):

And here's the opening to one of my favorite childhood shows:

Last Wednesday, I briefly discussed my new Kindle Paperwhite. Since then, I've had a chance to read on it. Here are my thoughts:

The Good--Adjustable brightness of the background, uniform brightness of background, crisp text, suggesting words to speed up searches in my collections, smaller size is even easier to carry.

The Not-So-Good--For some of my books, I get an error message saying they're registered to another user. I have to delete them and download them from the cloud to regain access. Learning how to navigate via touchy is tricky; sometimes when I want to highlight text, I turn the page or make something else happen. If the text I want to highlight is at the top of the screen, then I end up accessing the main menu instead.

Overall, though, I'd say the Kindle Paperwhite is more treat than trick. Now I just have to figure out what to do with my Kindle Keyboard. Should I sell it or raffle it off when I publish Twinned Universes?

Happy Halloween, everyone, and best of luck to everyone attempting NaNoWriMo tomorrow!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blog Ring of Power: Cary Caffrey

Today we're in the middle of a Blog Ring of Power interview with Cary Caffrey. You can find the first two parts on Theresa's and Emily's blogs; Dean and Terri will host the concluding parts of the interview. For now, let's hear from Cary about his writing process:

Where do you get your story ideas?

It's always the characters that grab me first. I think about people (characters) that I want to read about, and then think about the situations that will really showcase their personalities.

I'm also a huge history fanatic. A lot of the ideas for TGfA came from my fascination with Feudal Japan. The ruling corporatocracy of TGfA is like the Shogunate of old Japan (in my mind); the Lady Hitomi Kimura is very much a Daimyo. I saw the Kimura Academy like some ancient secret compound of a Ninja Clan, hidden away up in the mountains of Alcyone.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I'm working on it!

I don't know if I have a style as much as a goal. I try to write as lean as possible. My goal is always to write a skim-free book. This is probably because I'm such an impatient reader, but also because I'm such a fan of those old 50's and 60's novelists. Those cats all came out of the newspaper business. They were trained to write in a really lean and concise style. Novels from that era were also drastically shorter - a trend I'd like to see come back in vogue.

I'm always happy to err on the side of too little versus too much.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Hmm... When I figure that one out I'll let you know.

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

I definitely don't have a formula. It's different every time. I always set out with a plan, but once things get put into play, the book, the characters, the plot, take on a life of their own. The key for me is constantly working to identify what works, what doesn't and why. I try not to force things. I just let things play out in what feels like the most natural way. Mostly, I always try to stay flexible and not get locked into any one course or idea.

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

Definitely a pantser! I always try to plot things out. I write lots of notes and outlines, but once I'm at the keyboard all the notes seem to get thrown out.

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

Definitely beta readers. I don't think critiquing partners are a good idea (I'll get in trouble for saying this. LoL). Critiquing partners are writers, and writers and readers approach reading books differently (for the most part). Their agenda can be quite different. It's hard for another writer not to say, "if it were me, I'd do this...blah, blah, blah." That kind of approach to critiquing can be detrimental to another writer - it's too easy to get pulled off course. It's for the same reason I don't recommend workshopping WiPs.

It's more important for me to learn if what I wrote worked, and if it had the intended affect. That's why beta readers are the perfect solution for me. They're a great way of gauging whether or not my writing is having the impact I intended.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?


I think in almost anything I've written there have always been sexy bits, but I'd never written an actual sex scene until TGfA. I never anticipated having sex in the book. It wasn't something I planned. But when I got to that point in the book it became abundantly clear that it was something I had to tackle. That scene absolutely had to be there. It was so important to the plot and the development of the main characters. I didn't want it to be explicit (I certainly didn't want it to be porn!), but I knew I couldn't chicken out or conveniently fade out to the "crackling fire." It was important to see these characters come together.

I've never sweated a scene so much as I did that one, and I've never felt so personally exposed as a writer. But I'm absolutely thrilled by how it's been received.

Author Bio: I grew up reading vintage science fiction from the 60’s and 70’s, loving the works of Harry Harrison and Joe Haldeman, Ursula Le Guin, Andre Norton and, of course, Douglas Adams. I still think The Forever War may very well be the best Science Fiction novel ever written. If Ridley Scott ever gets off his can and makes this movie, we're sure to be in for a real treat (favourite directer, meet favourite writer. Favourite writer meet... Well, you get the idea. Wild).



Facebook page:

Goodreads author page:

Twitter: @CaryCaffrey


Friday, October 26, 2012

Science of the Week, 10/26/12

It's time for the last science post of the month! Here are some of the most interesting stories from ScienceBlog this week:

Scientists build "mechanically active" DNA material

Highly efficient production of advanced biofuel by metabolically engineered organism

Can your body sense future events without any external clue?

Improving effectiveness of solar geoengineering

How a fish broke a law of physics

Climate change may alter amphibian evolution

Living cables explain enigmatic electric currents

Voice prostheses can help patients regain lost voice

As if all of these articles aren't enough, I also read the November 2012 issue of Scientific American  this week. It has articles on the inner life of quarks, how to grow eyes outside the body, how penguins evolved, the link between autism and the technical mind, and how quantum theory may offer a way out of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Happy reading, everyone, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kindle, Meet Kindle

I purchased the Kindle Keyboard two years ago and really enjoy it. It was easy to use right out of the box. However, it does act up on occasion. So for our anniversary last month, my husband pre-ordered the new Kindle Paperwhite for me. It finally arrived today. You can see the two Kindles charging side-by-side in the picture. The old model is on the right, and the new one on the left. Here are my initial impressions:

1. It wasn't hard to set up. I had de-register it (since my husband didn't specify it was a gift), re-register it to my account, and enable it for our home's WiFi. Once I remembered the correct password, I had no problem.

2. I have a lot of samples and sideloaded items (from Smashwords and Kickstarter) that aren't part of the official library on Amazon. In order to transfer them to my new Kindle, I wound up copying the contents of my old Kindle to my laptop and then pasting them onto the new Kindle. So far, it seems to have worked.

3. I don't mind the ads at the bottom of the screen; in fact, I used one to save on a cover for the new Kindle. However, I'm not interested in seeing part of the Amazon store on my Kindle. Since it only shows up when the covers are displayed, I just switched to the list view.

4. The toughest part so far was figuring out how to organize individual items. I was able to import my collection folders after transferring over my books, but not all of my books were sorted properly. To make matters worse, I couldn't figure out how to select a book and put it into a collection. On the Kindle Keyboard, you can select a book by pressing right on the five-way controller. Here, there's no such thing. Every time I touched the book title, the book opened for reading instead of giving me a way to work with it. The official FAQ from Amazon didn't address this problem. I finally found the solution on the Kindle Help Forum; you can bring up the menu options for individual books by "long-touching" the title. It's a little trickier than what I'm used to, but at least it works. I was obsessing about this so much I couldn't read anything on my new Kindle!

I need a couple more weeks of playing around with it before I deliver my final verdict. So, has anyone else bought one of the new Kindles? If so, what do you think of it?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Promote Your Book Here!

I don't have a Blog Ring of Power interview today because the next one won't start until Thursday. In the meantime, since I normally promote other authors on Monday, I thought, "Why not follow the lead of some of the really big blogs and let other authors promote themselves?" So, that's what we'll do today. Feel free to plug your work in the comments below.

A couple of guidelines to prevent this from going nuts: please only post once and only promote one work. (If you have it out at multiple sites, it's OK to post multiple links.) Also, please focus on SF/fantasy works, or those with some speculative element. (This includes paranormal and horror.) Finally, while I can't enforce this, I recommend that if you post here, please take the time to support another author by downloading or purchasing his or her work. Authors need to be readers. I can't promise to sample everyone's work, but I will download any samples I find intriguing. Please be patient with me though; I have such a backlog that it'll take me years to get through everything currently on my Kindle!

Happy reading, everyone! Authors, I hope you all pick up a couple of new fans.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Science of the Week, 10/19/12

Happy Friday, everyone!

I have to lead off the news this week with the discovery of a planet with four suns (it orbits one pair, and the other pair orbit the planet). Here's the link to the article on CNN, and you can find more details on NASA's website. Hooray for the citizen scientists who made the discovery! Any speculation as to how life might evolve on a planet like this? Keep in mind it's a gas planet.

Speaking of planets, one was found recently orbiting our closest neighbor, Alpha Centauri B.  It's still over four light-years away; think we'll ever get there?

Here are some more news articles from Science Blog:

Using the eye as a window to the brain

The Internet of things to transform our everyday?

Language is shaped by brain's desire for clarity and ease

That's it for now. Have a good weekend, and see you Monday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Back on the Blog Chain--Books and Movies

For the next two weeks, Michelle has asked us to discuss books-become-movies:

There are so many book-to-movie adaptations out there. Which are your favorites? Which are your least favorites? Why? Do you make sure you've read a book before you go see the movie adaptation, or do you prefer to read it after, or not at all?

I don't have much to say about this topic because I haven't been to the movies since 2005. (The last movie I saw in the theater was Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Coincidence? No comment.) Even at home, I don't watch movies or TV in general due to child monopoly of the boob tube and lack of free time. (Writing must come first.) So my examples are going to be old.

Favorites/Least Favorites: I thought The Lord of the Rings was well done (at least the first movie; for some reason, I never got around to seeing the other two). I don't have a least favorite. The movies I recall as being poor weren't originally books--as far as I know.

Which Comes First: In general, I'm more likely to read the book first, because that's my preferred form of entertainment. While I might not spend a lot of time visualizing the characters or scenery as I read, I like how a book can give me a deeper POV than a movie can. I think there were a couple of instances where I saw the movie first, then read the book. One of those was The Color Purple. I hadn't heard of the book before I saw the movie. I recall getting more out of the book than I did from the movie, but that could be due to other factors, since I was older when I read the book.

Kate discussed this topic yesterday, and it'll be Christine's turn tomorrow. In the meantime, please feel free to continue the book/movie discussion in the comments section. I'm sure you'll do a better job than I can!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Ring of Power Interview: Zvi Zaks

Last week, the Blog Ring of Power hosted one of my crit partners from the Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Today, I'm lucky enough to host another one of my longtime OWW crit partners, Zvi Zaks. His books include A Virtual Affair, IMPLAC, and A True Son of Asmodeus. Please give him a hearty welcome as we get to know him a bit better:

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing in my twenties, (many decades ago.)  It's hard to say why, but it was fun and a good way to express myself.

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?

Never.  I'm an amateur.  If I make money - great - but I write to share ideas with others.

What genre do you write?

Almost always science fiction, preferably 'hard' science fiction, though one of my books is a vampire story, which would put it in the fantasy category.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

Most of my stories have a Jewish theme, though the main character is never a devout, orthodox Jew.  There's a lack of Jewish science fiction, which is regrettable, especially as one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, Isaac Asimov, was Jewish.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I'm happy with my day job as a physician, but if I had to choose a career other than writing or medicine, I'd probably try my hand as a professional violinist.  I already have a small band (see and it's a lot of fun.

For the rest of Zvi's interview, please see the schedule below:

Tuesday: Part Two, Dean
Wednesday: Part Three, Terri
Thursday: Part Four, Theresa
Friday: Part Five, Emily

Blog: http://www.fiddlerzvi.comFacebook page:

Goodreads author page:


Is your book in print, ebook or both?  Both

Friday, October 12, 2012

Science of the Week, 10/12/12

I've been tweeting the Nobel Prize announcements as I see them on the news; one of the prizes is discussed at one of the links below. What do you think of the awards so far? It was no surprise to me that the discovery of the Higgs bosom didn't make it; that discovery is too recent and hasn't been verified properly yet.

In an era where you may have hundreds of scientists working on a project, how do you decide which ones get the Nobel? The award can only be split among three winners. Perhaps the team as a whole should be the winner, not just the lead scientists.

Anyway, here are some of the most interesting news articles I read on Science Blog this week:

MIT Team Builds Most Complex Synthetic Biology Circuit Yet

New Interactive System Detects Touch and Gestures on Any Surface

Extending Einstein's Theory Beyond Light Speed

Dead Stars Could be the Future of Starcraft Navigation

Nobel Update: Prize Goes to Particle Control in a Quantum World

Climate Change Set to Shrink Fish

Super-microbes Engineered to Solve World Environmental Problems

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Are You Reading?

I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion about what we're currently reading and how we learned about them. I'm currently in the middle of two books: Uneasy Spirits and The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. The first book is a mystery set in Victorian-era San Francisco. It's the second book in a mystery series, and it's about a boarding house owner named Annie who sidelines as a fortune teller to make ends meet. Annie is out to prove a pair of mediums are cheating one of her boarder's relatives out of her money. It's the second book in a series, and I found out about both of them when they were promoted as Kindle freebies. The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain was not a freebie. I'm not certain where I learned of it, as it's been several months. I think I read about it in Scientific American. This book is out to prove that even though our processing speed goes down as we age, we grow better at skills such as problem-solving and pattern recognition. I'm reading this one in hardcover because the paper edition was much cheaper than the e-book. So, what are you reading? Where did you learn about it, and would you recommend it?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Blog Ring of Power Interview: Heidi Garrett

As a long-time member of the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (more commonly known as OWW), I've developed relationships with several steady crit partners. I'm privileged and excited today to bring to you the first part of an interview with one of my OWW crit partners, Heidi Garrett. She recently published her first novel, Nandana's Mark, which she workshopped on OWW. (
Edited to add: Heidi is giving away a copy of her book! Go to the end of the post for the link.) Let's learn more about Heidi and her work:

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was about 13 years old.

When and why did you begin writing?
The first thing I wrote was poetry. I kept a lot of emotions bottled up inside of me. Writing was a natural, private, and comfortable form of self-expression. I was always drawn to free verse, and that’s how I wrote. Perfect rhyme has never appealed to me as a writer.
      Although I’d been telling stories all my life, I didn’t begin writing them until after I graduated from college with a business degree.
      Before completing my first novel, I also experimented with journaling, songwriting, and blogging. I do feel like writing in all these different styles has helped me to continue to grow as a writer. However, writing a novel requires specific craft. Learning that craft has been both challenging and rewarding. 

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?
Recently. When I published my first book.

What books have most influenced your life?
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA had a tremendous impact on my young mind. The final book in the series, THE LAST BATTLE, had me thinking for years: What might the afterlife really be like? I found the idea that it might be what you believe it will be intriguing.
      This influence is clear in my debut novel NANDANA’S MARK. The metaphysics of the Realm of Faerie and the Mortal World are driven by mortal birth and death. The afterlife--and what happens when mortals die--is a key element in the world of NANDANA’S MARK and THE QUEEN OF THE REALM OF FAERIE series. Umbra, the antagonist, has formed in the Void from ‘psychic ash’ released upon mortal death. 

What genre do you write?

Here's Heidi's interview schedule for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: Part Two, Dean
Wednesday: Part Three, Terri
Thursday: Part Four, Theresa
Friday: Part Five, Emily

Melia has always wanted to fly, away.

From her two sisters, who’ve found their place in the Enchanted World, despite being half-faeries with no wings.

From her mother, the full blooded faerie who practices black magic, and weeps every night when she thinks her daughters aren’t listening.

But mostly from her father, the mortal druid who broke his faerie troth, and lives to reunite with Melia’s mother. He believes incarnating Umbra—the one entity everyone in the Enchanted World fears—will give him the power to return to the Realm of Faerie.

But Melia comprehends the horror of Umbra far better than her father ever will.

Umbra seduces.
Umbra corrupts.
And Umbra destroys.

When her best friend—a pixie named Tatou—urges Melia to turn to the mysterious Illustrator for help, she gives Melia the courage to challenge her father.

As secrets are revealed and a family’s dark legacy spins out of control, Melia’s wish to fly comes true.

It’s just not quite what she expected.

Facebook page: Coming Soon

Goodreads author page:

Apple: Search the iTunes store

Is your book in print, ebook or both?

Do you love faeries and pixies?

Do you love faerie tales, fantasy and magic?

Then enter to win a copy of the new adult novel NANDANA'S MARK, book one in the Queen of the Realm of Faerie series and the debut novel by author HEIDI GARRETT.

What do you have to do?

Just fill out the rafflecopter form below for your chance to win. The giveaway is open Oct. 8 through Oct. 12, and the winner will be announced on Monday, Oct. 15, via the participating blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

About the Book

Melia has always wanted to fly away.

From her two sisters, who’ve found their place in the Enchanted World, despite being half-faeries with no wings.

From her mother, the full blooded faerie who practices black magic, and weeps every night when she thinks her daughters aren’t listening.

But mostly from her father, the mortal druid who broke his faerie troth, and lives to reunite with Melia’s mother. He believes incarnating Umbra—the one entity everyone in the Enchanted World fears—will give him the power to return to the Realm of Faerie.

But Melia comprehends the horror of Umbra far better than her father ever will.

Umbra seduces.

Umbra corrupts.

And Umbra destroys.

When her best friend—a pixie named Tatou—urges Melia to turn to the mysterious Illustrator for help, she gives Melia the courage to challenge her father.

As secrets are revealed and a family’s dark legacy spins out of control, Melia’s wish to fly comes true.

It’s just not quite what she expected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 05, 2012

Science of the Week, 10/5/12

I hope you had a good week. I took a mini-vacation to write and get some things done around the house. While I always feel I should be more productive writing-wise during these times, it's satisfying to take back the living room from the toys that were overrunning it.

Anyway, here are this week's list of links from Science Blog:

Cute Little Vampire Dinosaur ID'd in South Africa (this just sounds like a story waiting to be written, doesn't it?)

Novel Crystal Heals Itself

Quantum Causal Relations: A Causes B Causes A.... (Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn't get any more confusing...)

Contact Lens May Help Halt Nearsightedness in Children

Egyptian Toe Tests Show They're Likely to be The World's Oldest Prosthetics

New Antibiotic Cures Diseases by Disarming Pathogens, Not Killing Them

That's it for this week. Enjoy your weekend, and see you Monday!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Back on the Blog Chain: What's in a Name?

Those of you who've been following me for a while may remember I used to participate in a Blog Chain. It went on hiatus for a while, but now it's returned with a slightly new format. There will be two topics each month, and I will post about them on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. (I haven't decided yet if I'll still blog on that Wednesday or if I'll stick to three blog posts a week.) I missed the discussions the Blog Chain inspired and am looking forward to more of them in the future.

Kate picked the topic for this round, and here it is:

What's in a name? What if Harry Potter had been Larry Snotter? What if Edward was Jacob and Jacob was Edward? What favorite books had character names that you loved or hated? And how do you come up with your own character names?

 Character names do make a difference as to how you view the characters. While Harry Potter sounds like a name an ordinary person might have, "Snotter" sounds like a parody of a name. "Edward" and "Jacob" paint different backgrounds for the characters, though Jacob makes me think of the Biblical line, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

As far as character names I've liked or hated...I did think J.K. Rowling did a good job with names in the Harry Potter series. The names were unusual but fit the setting and characters. It's also interesting to note that the main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, was so feared that few people dared speak his name, giving it more power than it would have had otherwise. Another author who picks good names for her characters is Lindsay Buroker in her Emperor's Edge series. Some of her names and characters include the assassin Sicarius; heroine Amaranthe Lokdon, a former enforcer; a former professor nicknamed Books, and  Maldynado, a noble pretty boy-toy. I must confess, however, that even though Buroker included a pronunciation guide to the names in one of her books, I came up with my own way to pronounce the names and can't make the mental switch.

I use several different ways to come up with character names. I look for names that fit the setting and ethnic background of the character. Meaning and connotation are important to me, so I look up names online or in baby books.  Since I like to plan multi-generational sagas, my families have their own methods for passing down names. The main character in Lyon's Legacy is named Joanna. She's descended from a famous musician named Sean Lyon, and since Sean is the Irish version of John, his descendants share versions of his name: Joanna, John, Ian, and Jack. Joanna mentions she dislikes her name but can't come up with something that fits her better. What will she name her own children? You'll see one name near the end of Lyon's Legacy, but you'll have to wait until I publish Twinned Universes to find out another name. (I will give you a hint: Joanna's second child is named after someone in Lyon's Legacy.)

 To find out how Christine, who posts tomorrow, and the rest of the Blog Chain Gang respond to this question, please check out the links in the sidebar. See you in two weeks for another Blog Chain post!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Blog Ring of Power--Cat Torres

Today I'm interviewing Caterina Torres for the Blog Ring of Power. This is Part Four (About Your Current Work); you can find the first three parts on Terri's, Theresa's, and Emily's blogs. Dean will host the concluding part tomorrow.

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it? My current book out is Zombie Whisperer and people can purchase it on Amazon, Lulu, iBookstore, Nook, and Createspace (you an find all the links on my website,

 Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject? It's a book about zombies, but the main character and villain can both telepathically control them using their minds. In a sense, they have the ability to command an army of the undead.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? The ending. I wanted it to end in a way that felt final, yet I could continue it through a series. I think I nailed it.  

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? My favorite part to write was the interaction between the president and the leader of the terrorists because I love writing as the villain. A close second was the part where Jane has to fight off a hoard of zombies in a small room.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? I learned how much I love writing about bad guys. They get to do whatever they want, without consequence.  

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book? I might've lengthened or added scenes of the relationship between Jane and Josh and Jane and Gerald.

 Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Yes - the economy might suck, but don't unleash a terrible virus on the nation because of it.  

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like? The photo is from my cousin, Caterina Grandy of Cat's Eye View Photography, and a friend did the graphics of the photo.

ZOMBIE WHISPERER: She can speak to the dead. Only problem is, they’re still walking around.

After enduring a week-long flu, Jane Smith wakes to find out a terrorist organization has spread a deadly virus over the nation, changing anyone who’s infected into the walking dead. With no choice but to flee her home, Jane teams up with her boyfriend, Josh Williams, as they venture to find something better than the desolate land that was once called the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Driving across the country, Jane encounters some of the newly turned and finds she can hear their thoughts inside her head. Before she can understand her link to the undead, Jane and Josh are captured by the terrorists responsible for the virus because of one special reason: they know she can communicate with the infected and they want her to be a part of their fight to take down the rest of the world.

Afraid for their lives, Jane must decide if she should join the terrorists or use her new found powers to stop them.

Bio: I am in my mid-twenties and I graduated with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Humanities. The name I go by is Cat and I love to write about the apocalypse, but not in the biblical sense of the word. Any sort of dystopian, end of the world stories seriously interest me. I guess it has a lot to do with being part of the rat race of life, trying to climb the great ladder of success.

Please let us know where your readers can stalk you: Website:
 Facebook page: 
 Goodreads author page: 

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