Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Feedback on Story Title and Blurb

As if I don't have enough writing projects (I've been splitting my writing time between two very different novels), I've returned to the Season Avatars world long enough to write a short story set about fifteen years after Summon the Seasons. This will be the first story in what I'm calling the Selathen Avatars series, and it features Rob, Jenna's son. Rob will be one of the protagonists of the first novel in the Selathen Avatars series, and this story will set up the situation that we'll find him in. I'm hoping to publish the story at the end of September to tie in with my appearance at the Gail Borden Comic Con. The story's already been through a rewrite, but I'm still trying to decide on a title. I posted three on Facebook, and of those, "Seeds in Strange Places" was the favorite. It doesn't capture an important element of the story, though. Some possible alternatives are listed below:

"Seeds and Visions"
"The Season of Visions"
"The Seeds of Vision."

Any favorites? 

I'd also appreciate your thoughts on the blurb:

As the son of Challen’s Summer Avatar, Rob has learned everything that can be done with plants without magic. But he is also the son of the Fip Empire’s War Avatar, expected to marry a Fip princess despite his lack of interest in women. The Fip’s God of War also wants to use Rob’s strange vision for His own purposes. Can Rob sort through the conflicting demands on him to create his own path?

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Golden Age of Fandom

My son did something on Friday night that almost had me ask him what he'd done with the real Alex. He's always been indifferent to antipathetic about superhero movies, but on Friday night, he wanted to see Black Panther. We ended up getting the digital version on Amazon. Now we're discussing whether to go straight to Infinity War or start at the beginning with Iron Man. (We're going to skip to Infinity War.) You may remember that earlier this year I had to see those movies by myself in the theater because my son didn't want to go, so while I'm not a big Marvel fan myself, I am glad that he's expanding his fandoms. Hopefully this doesn't lead to him abandoning Star Wars; it's become a big part of our family by now.

When I Google "The Golden Age of Fandom," the top hits are all about comics or movies, not about stages in a person's life. I'm not sure if it's still true that the preteen years are the peak season for fandom. If anything, adulthood and a steady income allow one to buy collectibles on a whim and attend conventions. Parenthood certainly leads to a decline in disposable income, but if a child becomes interested in superheroes, Disney, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or any other fantasy world, they may rekindle a parent's interest or develop something new.

As a girl, I read all sorts of books, but I particularly remember reading Andre Norton's work along with the Oz series and other fantasy books. I didn't become heavily invested into science fiction/fantasy until my late teens/early twenties. As a middle-aged mom, I don't have the time or energy to feel intensely about a particular fandom, but I still care about the field. I think too that as a reader who follows her own interests, not just the best-sellers, I find less of a fandom for some of my favorite series. I can enjoy them even if I don't always find fellow fans to share them with.

Anyway, when did you enter fandom, and what brought you into it? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Inheritors of the Earth

When most people think of biodiversity, they think of saving the species we already have. While that's important, there are other ways that nature adapts to change. Chris D. Thomas discusses them in Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.

We are currently living in an Anthropocene Age, where the Earth is markedly affected by our actions. Many people say that due to human activity, we are currently living through a sixth mass extinction. Thomas, however, turns conventional thinking about biology upside down. Instead of removing invasive species and preventing them from hybridizing with local ones, we should move endangered plants and animals to locations where they are likely to thrive. Although there are cases where invaders out-compete native species, this is because the invaders are fitter. For examples, island birds may lose the ability to fly over time. For them, flying is a waste of energy (since they have no predators) that could be better used for reproducing. When predators come, the birds can't escape, and they may be less able to fight new diseases. Mainland birds that have had to deal with challenges constantly are better able to survive in this situation.

Moving new species to different locations can create new niches in the ecosystem and give rise to hybrids that can form new species. One of the examples discussed in the book is an invasive plant that offered butterflies a new source of food at a time when their normal food source was threatened. When the apple tree was brought to America, it allowed a type of fly to specialize in a different food source, ultimately splitting off to form a new species. This new apple fly has three specialized parasitic wasps associated with it, so the apple tree brought about the development of four new insect species. These developments can happen fairly quickly, over a couple of centuries instead of millions of years.

Thomas ultimately reminds us that we humans are a part of nature, so everything we do is natural. Since the dawn of civilization, we have developed new species by selective breeding and brought others with us on our journeys. Global travel is creating a second Pangaea. Change has been part of life since the first unicellular creatures came into existence (and they brought about a mass extinction by releasing oxygen into the air). We should not try to recreate some long-lost Eden, but try to preserve as much biodiversity--genes--as possible, no matter in what type of body they reside or what types of technology we need to use.

As a science fiction writer, I find these ideas intriguing. Often, future worlds are depicted as being either all city or an ecological wasteland. Thomas offers alternatives. Camels and mammoths roaming the American Southwest, anyone? Science fiction writers should also think about the implications of colonizing a new world. Will Terran life forms be able to hybridize with otherworldly ones? If so, what would be the result?

Do you have a particular endangered species that you love--or a common one that you love to hate? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Comic Book Mania Convention

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be participating in Gail Borden Public Library's Comic Book Mania Convention. It'll be Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I'll be there as Solar Unicorn Publishing, the imprint I use for publishing my books. In addition to my books, I'll also have crocheted characters and fabric Porg, Harry Potter, and Pokemon lanyards for sale. Buy a book and get a raffle ticket for a chance to win Tyrone the T-Rex! I'll add more details as they become available closer to the event. Hopefully I'll be able to schedule an online sale around this time for those who can't make it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Porg Lanyards for Sale!

Reposting this from my Facebook Solar Unicorn Stitching page. I'm not ready for Etsy or Shopify yet, since I have so many other demands on my time. And no, Pilot Porg (the model) isn't for sale!

Porgs are friends, not food. And friends do favors for you, like help you keep track of your keys, badges, or flash drives. These porg lanyards are made out of four layers of fabric and are about 18" long. They come with either gold (13 available) or silver (7 available) hooks. $10 includes shipping in U.S. Please either message me your shipping address or include it with your Paypal payment, along with your hook color preference.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Signal Boost: Writers of the Future "Firewall"

One of the most famous contests for science fiction writers is the Writers of the Future contest. It was started by L. Ron Hubbard, who also founded the Church of Scientology. The church continues to run this contest, though there is supposed to be a "firewall" between the two. However, as Writers of the Future winner J.W. Alden discusses on his blog, contest winners may find themselves in for more than they bargained for. The link to this blog entry was posted in a public Facebook group, so I'm boosting the signal here. I think I did apply to this contest a couple of times when I was starting out, but I'm glad now that I didn't advance. You're welcome to comment either here on on Alden's original post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Hope Never Dies and Real Person Fan Fiction

First of all, I'd like to wish my husband, Eugene, a very happy birthday today! You'll always be my knight in shining armor.

If you loved all the Obama-Biden memes (particularly the ones after the 2016 election such as this one), then you might like Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, by Andrew Shaffer. I read about this book a few weeks ago and immediately put it on hold at my library. I finally had a chance to read it last week. Basically, after an Amtrak conductor dies in what everyone else assumes to be a suicide or accident, Obama and Biden team up to discover the truth. Biden is the first-person narrator. I've never gotten closer to either man than through the voting machines, so I don't know how accurately they're portrayed. Certainly some of their escapades seem a bit unreal, and other reviews I've read say Obama comes across as more remote than he actually is. Still, the pair do make a fun Holmes-Watson couple.

Since I used to write Beatles fan fiction, I was interested in the real-person fan fiction aspect of this book. In the New York Times article I read about Hope Never Dies, the author relates how he met Biden but didn't tell him about this project. The standard disclaimer at the beginning of the book says that "All characters--including those based on real people, living or dead...are used fictitiously." Celebrities do give up some of their rights to privacy, and we live in an age where YouTube can make someone a celebrity (notorious or not) overnight. I still don't think I'd be too comfortable using a living person as a character. Even if I was inspired by a certain aspect of their personality, I'd rather remix with other traits and disguise them. While I may have been able to get away with using John Lennon as a character in Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes, he might have drawn attention from the main characters. If I ever get past the block I have with the next installments of the Catalyst Chronicles, then the story will go in a different direction anyway.

How do you feel about using real people in fiction? Does it matter if they're contemporary or historical? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, August 06, 2018

The Woman Who Smashed Codes

If you enjoy reading about spies and secret codes, you'll love the biography The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone.

Elizebeth (yes, that is the real spelling) Smith Friedman was a former schoolteacher who was hired by a rich man to help verify secret messages left by Bacon in Shakespeare's plays. (Spoiler alert: There aren't any.) While she stayed at his estate in Illinois (not too far from where I live), she met a geneticist named William who also worked for the millionaire. Elizebeth and William gradually worked out a scientific approach to codebreaking, fell in love, and got married. The couple both became highly sought after codebreakers during World War I and served the country through World War II. They wrote volumes about the science of cryptography and trained others in the techniques. They learned how to break book ciphers (where a cipher key is taken from a book) without ever seeing the text and even learned how to crack Enigma machines manually. Some of their projects were so secret they couldn't discuss them with each other. During Prohibition, Elizebeth worked for the Coast Guard deciphering messages from smugglers. She gained fame as a codebreaker, but she promoted her husband's work in front of her own.

All of this codebreaking served as a warmup to Elizebeth's work during World War II. She was assigned to decrypt radio messages sent by Nazi spies in South America. The spies hoped to promote fascism in the region with the ultimate goal of using the continent to target the United States. Elizebeth broke multiple codes used by the spies, including those using Enigma machines, and passed the information along to authorities (including Hoover and the FBI). They had to be careful how they used the information she gleamed from the spies, for fear if the spies learned their codes were no longer secret, they would change them. Eventually, the English were able to kidnap a low-ranking German spy and "extract" information from him. From that point, the FBI worked with local police to break up the spy ring. Hoover got the credit, and Elizebeth was told never to discuss her World War II work with anyone. Fortunately, records of her work were saved. This unsung heroine passed away in 1980 at the age of eighty-eight, but she's been rediscovered.

Do you admire any little-known historical figures? Are you interested in codes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

IWSG: Writing Pitfalls

It's a new month and a new post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. My regular readers should be familiar with them, but if you're not, check them out on their website, Facebook, and Twittter. Our hosts this month are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery.

For this month, we've been posed the following question: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I think the most important pitfalls to be wary of are scams. There are all kinds of scams directed at writers, from agents who recommend "book doctors" to people who overcharge for publishing services. One of the best sources to learn about such scams is the Writer Beware blog. I also recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Business Musings blog series. She doesn't just discuss scams, but also practices in traditional publishing that are harmful to authors.

As far as writing craft goes, I think one pitfall to avoid is overwriting or putting your work through countless drafts. As a beginning writer, I did this a lot. If you're part of a crit group or writer workshop and getting feedback from multiple people, it's tempting to revise your story to try to please all your readers. Unfortunately, that's impossible. I definitely did learn a lot from participating in workshops such as the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and getting feedback on Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes. However, some feedback I received on them didn't fit the vision I had for those stories. Eventually, it's possible to get sick of a particular work. You'll learn more by releasing that story into the world and working on something different.

What writing pitfalls have you encountered in your journey? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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