Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beautiful Words or Wonderful Ideas?

I don't read many mainstream fiction writers regularly. One of the few I do is Sarah Addison Allen, and that's because she writes magical realism. If you're not familiar with the genre, it's similar to old-school urban fantasy (like de Lint), but with the fantasy or magical element made far more subtle. Books like these seek to elevate you above the ordinary with beautiful language. On the other hand, fantasy also wants to transport to a different world, but it takes a more literal approach. Depending on the subgenre, the style may be elevated for high fantasy or straightforward for modern urban fantasy. Patricia McKillip excels at combining a poetic writing style with a sense of wonder, and I would say Bujold does as well.

Do you have a preference for beautiful words or wonderful ideas? I'm sure many people will say they want both, but do you think one is more critical than the other? Which authors do you think do words, ideas, or both well?

Monday, August 25, 2014


Even I have heard by now of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. However, have you heard of the Pies for Parkinson's challenge? My husband decided to combine the two challenges, but he needed a little help from our son. If you follow the link, you can see the result. Enjoy! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Science of the Week: 8/22/14

It's the first day of second grade for my son today.Yes, it may seem strange that he goes back on a Friday, but I think it's partly because his school goes from preschool through high school, and the older kids have special events that take place earlier in the week. Or perhaps it's so the young kids can get the first day excitement out of the way, recuperate over the weekend, and start fresh on Monday. I'm just as excited as Alex is--perhaps more so.

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

Why global warming is taking a break

The doctor can see you now: high-tech health gadgets to watch for

First indirect evidence of so-far undetected strange baryons

New home for an "evolutionary misfit"

FDA-approved drug restores hair in patients with alopecia areata

Laser device may end pin pricks, improve quality of life for diabetics

MIT helps drones monitor their own health on long flights

The ABCs of animal speech: not so random after all

How lizards regenerate their tails: researchers discover genetic "recipe"

 Have a good weekend, and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ren Faire

My family and I went to the Bristol Renaissance Faire on Sunday. The last time we were there was before Eugene and I got married; Alex has never been there. We had great weather and a good time. Unfortunately, the pictures I took on Eugene's camera are in the wrong format for posting, but here are a few shots from my cell phone.

 A fairy posing by some flowers. Fairies were everywhere.

Eugene helps Alex with the crossbow.

Eugene and Alex after fencing with each other. (Eugene won quite handily. There's a video on my Facebook page.)

EDITED TO ADD: By request, here's a picture of me with someone else in costume.

In addition to all of this, we watched jousting, falconry, and a fire-whip show; tried archery; examined armor; and just enjoyed the atmosphere. I wore my queen costume and braided my hair and got some compliments on them. 

Have you ever been to a Ren Faire? What period of history would you like to see recreated?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Seasons' Beginnings Available for Pre-Order!

Last week, Amazon gave indies the ability to make their books available for pre-order. Naturally, I decided to try this new feature. It involves uploading a draft file, but luckily I already had that formatted. I just have to have the final draft uploaded ten days before the due date. Hopefully my beta readers will get back to me on schedule so I have time to make any last-minute changes.

The publication date is October 21, 2014. You can pre-order the eBook for $2.99 at this link. The paper version will be $14; I'll try to make it available close to 10/21. Here again is the cover and blurb:

Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. When he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August Issue of Indie Writers Monthly Is Out!

It's a little late, but we finally have the August issue of Indie Writers Monthly available. This issue includes an interview and time travel story from Jeff Hargett, blog and book reviews from me, a book review from PT, title advice from Briane, and editing advice from Andrew. Best of all, it's free today through the 17th.

If you missed any of the previous issues of Indie Writers Monthly, you can also pick them up for free, at least for now. Here are the direct links to the March, April, May, and June issues. I don't have the direct link for the July issue, but it should be free from now through the 16th.

Although the First Annual IWM INDIE-Pendence Day Anthology isn't free (unless you're part of Kindle Unlimited), it's still a good value at $3.99 for fourteen stories about time travel. Check it out here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Facts for Fiction: The Future of the Mind

It's been a long time since I posted a Facts for Fiction article. (In fact, I think this is only the second time I used it.) However, even though I read a fair amount of non-fiction, I haven't come across any books I wanted to discuss until recently, when I read Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.

Kaku's book is divided into three main sections: the mind and consciousness, mind over matter, and altered consciousness. The first section discusses ways to study the brain and provides a working definition of consciousness. According to Kaku, "consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter)." There are various levels of consciousness, with animals less able to model the world (in particular, the future), than humans. Having established this, Kaku then goes on to discuss scientifically valid ways in which telepathy, telekinesis, memory creation/manipulation, and intelligence enhancement can be accomplished. Finally, he covers even more exotic subjects such as mind control, artificial minds, minds made of energy, and alien minds. There is also an appendix on quantum consciousness, which is something I make indirect use of in the Catalyst Chronicles. Alas, Paul's and Julia's Catalyst abilities aren't considered scientifically plausible, though I can't change them at this point in the series.

Kaku provides clear explanations for how the various therapies and enhancements might work, and he does touch on some of the legal and ethical questions that might arise from them. I don't think he works through the implications of all his topics equally. For instance, he mentions that a mind without outside stimulation (for example, a mind duplicated on a computer) would eventually go insane. However, this doesn't seem to be an issue for energy minds. Perhaps this is meant as an exercise for the science fiction writer. He also talks about what characteristics might give rise to an alien intelligence. For example, he mentions that predator species tend to be more intelligent than prey species. I admit I feel a bit challenged to come up with an intelligent prey species, perhaps one that had to evolve to keep up with its predator. (The Sparrow might be a good example of a dual alien race society.) All in all, however, I recommend this book to any science fiction writer interested in learning how our minds, robots, aliens, or any type of intelligence might evolve or by affected by technology.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Seasons' Beginnings Cover Reveal!

As much as I admire and appreciate the covers Meghan Derico did for me (she's done Lyon's Legacy, "The Mommy Clone", Twinned Universes, and "The Book of Beasts"), I figure a new series should go in a new direction. I therefore contacted Maria Zannini, The Book Cover Diva. She's been featured on this blog before. Maria took my vague ideas and quickly transformed them into an awesome cover. Without further ado, I present to you Seasons' Beginnings, Book One of the Season Avatars Series!

Maria also designed a cover (front and back) for the print version, but she can't finish that until I have the final page count.

Now all I need to do is finish the next story in the Catalyst Chronicles series. Oh, and edit the next book in the Season Avatars series, and develop that idea I was toying around with earlier today, and....

Monday, August 04, 2014

Travel in Fantasy

So, with Seasons' Beginnings in the hands of the beta readers and cover artist, and with the book about 98% formatted (I still have to add some back matter, in addition to making final revisions once all the beta readers get back to me with their comments), I'm currently editing Scattered Seasons, Book Two of the Season Avatars series. The plot for this book revolves around the next leader of the Season Avatars. She must travel around the country of Challen to find the other three Season Avatars born in the same year as she was. The question I'm pondering now is how much detail I need to go into about the travel and what kind of incidents need to happen along the way. I don't want to write travelogs because they're expected by readers or to pad out the story; each event should have meaning. Based on the ending of Seasons' Beginnings, I've added a plot twist that affects how Gwen, the protagonist of Scattered Seasons, deals with the people she meets. This in turn may change how she evolves over this book. Other things I want to accomplish with the travel is to show readers different parts of the country so they can become familiar with it and the culture. Of course, there will be obstacles along the way and different modes of travel. Before I go and edit each scene, I should probably step back, reread the entire draft, and think about the overall arc for this book. Then each of the mini-journeys Gwen makes will work together, not separately.

As a reader, how much do you enjoy reading about journeys? Do you expect it? Do you find such scenes tedious and wish the characters could instantly transport themselves wherever they need to go so they can get on with the action? What do you like or dislike about travel scenes?

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