Friday, April 21, 2017

Intergalactic Turtles

I thought it was long past time to add a new tidbit. So here's a story of intergalactic turtles:


Intergalactic turtles breed rarely. The eggs must survive black holes, cosmic radiation, and boundless cold. Best strategy? Find a planet.

The planet did not want to be found. It eschewed regular orbits already, wandering rogue between galaxies. But the turtle knew, when she saw it, that it would host her eggs. It had no atmosphere, no liquid water, no magnetic sphere to protect them. But it had crystals, and those were all she needed, anyway.

Intergalactic turtle eggs are sturdy, after all.

It spun to the left. She spun to the right and expelled air from her flippers until she came just within distance. Gravity did what it does, and while she orbited the rogue now orbiting her, she sought.

Then it was a but a exhalation of reserved gases, and she was upon it, cracking the crystals with a diamond beak, laying her eggs, reassembling the nest.

And then she was gone, for intergalactic turtles have better things to do than to wait for eggs to hatch.

Millennia later, the planet dropped into the range of a warm sun’s gravitational field. It thrashed against the bonds, weaving in and out of planet’s paths, dislodging an ancient orbit older than it, sending a moon into the embrace of a gas giant, disrupting an asteroid field long enough that a new moon grabbed onto a fourth planet. While volcanoes raged at the push-and-pull of the new moon’s settling in, the rogue planet and its precious burden swerved out to nearly the edge of the system, and then paused at a distance just on the edge of the solar system, almost far enough, before the acceleration began the other way.

Plunging closer and closer to the red sun, its crystals turned to rods of destruction, hotter than hot. But the eggs knew, as somehow eggs do, that this was their calling, their moment. And as the planet shot itself past a flare, the eggs began to move, and rock, and hatch.

Creatures as vast as intergalactic turtles do not hatch with the rise and fall of day, but rather the rise and fall of light-years. Only when gravity barely claimed their grounds did they emerge, into a universe cold and empty, light of their new sun nearly invisible at this distance. Their kickoff gave the rogue the final push over the gravity edge, sending it back into the freedom it craved; they, meanwhile, turned their noses toward their star, their very own star, and began a long swim home.

They paused in the asteroids to break their fast, and snacked up space rocks until their shells strained with weight. Then they found the rings of a giant, and slurped up the rainbows that spun around now-moonless gas planet, and thus most were content to continue the journey, except the largest.

She eyed the giant with consideration, and found it pleasing; in the rings was food and in the gases below spun patterns and songs that would light up her existence for eternity. This artist stayed, and the moonless planet had again a moon, for she withdrew into her shell, until ice came around her, and spinning and spinning and spinning she carved it into a sphere, which would draw to her surface any further meals she might need through gravity and time.

Her siblings, meanwhile, swam inward farther. Two parked themselves around the volcanic planet, and tore to shreds the new moon their birthing had unleashed. This filled them enough that they took its place, and so they, too, withdrew to watch, their weights pulling fire into the skies below.

One turtle, last, the smallest, drew herself inward still. There she found a body of frozen water and dust and minerals, the corpse of a planet that once could had been, until the volcano planet settled in to the out, and a water planet settled in to the in. Their bodies pushed and pulled the loosely cohered dust and rock and water until it decided to give up its own existence; and thus the planet that had never been born was reduced to rubble, gradually losing pieces to one or the other of its tormentors.

But the smallest sister devoured the pieces that remained, until she grew fat and heavy in the sky, and then, no longer the smallest, she moved upon the inward planet. This one, heavy with gases and rich with sloshing waters, was too sedate in its orbit to dodge the now-giant. Unlike her sibs she chose, not to watch, but to feast; and so, she drank up the atmosphere, and then to break up her meal, she let herself fall.

The dance of gravity and the anger of acceleration threw the rock into a molten orbit of devastation, splintering it into pieces. But laden with the soul of an unborn planet, she called the pieces back upon her. And gravity and time pulled and shaped and framed her meal around her, an endless buffet that would feed her as she fed from it. When the forces settled she pushed out her head and released her gases, a slow breath out that sent her into a gentle spin.

Her gases did not flee, as she had expected, but instead settled around her, warming and comforting, cradling her ices into melting and running along the channels on her surface. And so she lay her head down to sleep, the intergalactic turtle, munching ever contentedly on the plates that sunk into her jaw, feeding in turn new rock to the lands around her.

There on the surface the shell bloomed a new life, not an egg but a wish of space, a dream of eternity. And the dreamer, as she spun through space, dreamed of the many lives dancing upon her, watched the many songs roll over her, was transfixed by the changes they wrought. She spun a field of magnetism around herself, so that the sun might not harm them; and as they grew more varied and intricate, she stirred her waters and airs to keep things fresh. Occasionally she shifted things around, just a bit, just slowly, to see what they would do and where they go.

Eventually, a time would come for the intergalactic turtles to breed. She might dislodge her entertainment to join them. She would--

She would wave goodbye as her shell-dwellers abandoned her, and flew to find new shells to dance upon. She would delight in the tales they brought back of her siblings and whatever sky cousins they found, as they shared news of life brought forth from other shells across the universe, those lucky turtles who had dared to find just the right spot at just the right distance from just the right sun. She would hide those who remained from the depredations of the spawn of other turtle shells, and hold precious her children to her, for they were hers, and they were beautiful.

She would cherish what she had bourn already, for this was her bounty, and intergalactic turtles did not bear fruit often, even when they left their orbits to mingle among one another.

One day there would be none left upon her shell. If she lived yet, she would mate then. For now, what she had was enough.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Summer approaches

It was a beautiful weekend in our neck of the woods. Warm, sunny, just a touch of lingering coolness before summer moves in with relentless heat. In short, perfect weather for a lovely Easter weekend.

Which is funny, because that's May weather, not April weather. We've had warmer than usual weather this spring, and fewer storms, so I wouldn't be surprised if this summer becomes another drought.

Summer flowers are the upside. And nice beach weather.
Not that I didn't enjoy a perfect weekend. A lady takes full advantage of such things for hikes and bikes and all those outdoors activities.

Still, maybe it's time to start planning to use less water this summer. And make sure there's plenty of sunscreen and the water bottles are in good shape. If you have a magical solution to keeping cool, this would be a good time to break it out.

As long as we head north to Tortall and get ourselves out of the Great Southern Desert... no, wait, Song of the Lioness series. We'll need to send for the Bowl of Winds... no, wait Wheel of Time. Ask Corlath to use his kelar to... The Blue Sword, right. The Spice will flow, and maybe we can use the profit to hire some terraforming. Wait, no, that's Dune.

Looks like there's no magical or available sci-fi solution to this one; guess we'll have to ride it out, turn to long-term science-based solutions, and hope for better next decade. Until then, summer is coming, so prepare yourselves.

And if you're like me and enjoy summer weather, there's no point in not enjoying it while you start cutting back on water waste.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 3/23-4/13/17.

Publishing News

Amazon will be opening another brick and mortar store, this next one in New York. And it has plans for more. Amazon also gains a foothold in the Middle East.

There is currently a bill in Congress to allow the President to be in charge of selecting the next Register of Copyrights, from a select of 3 candidates chosen by panel populated by 3 members of Congress and the Librarian of Congress. Historically the selection of a Register of Copyright has been performed by the Librarian of Congress. The bill has stalled following a report from the Library of Congress about mismanagement at the Copyright Office.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest posts Friday writing links for 3/24, 3/31, and 4/7.

Agent Jessica Faust posts about her agency's experience with QueryManager. She also offers the Top 10 Reasons Your Query Was Rejected, and also the Top 10 Reasons Your Submission Was Rejected.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. She explains what questions to ask when you get an offer from an agent. Is it okay for an agent to have no social media presence, or is that a red flag? (It's fine, and not a red flag.) If you're offered a chance with a new agent but have doubts, then you're best off admitting that to yourself, and not signing, before you undermine both you and the new agent. Reid also explains about subsidiary rights.

Reid answers more questions and offers more advice. If you get a nice offer, are you expected to quit your dayjob and work fulltime on being an author? (NO, don't quit the dayjob!) She explains what a hands on agent looks like and what a hands off agent looks like. She also explain whats to do if you haven't seen a check from your publisher yet, though you suspect you should have.

Editor Beth Hill explains the use of and and how it affects--and does not affect--temporal relationships. And does not always imply simultaneous action. 

Author Nathan Bransford explains (with links!) what literary agents actually do. He also posts This Week in Books for 4/7/17.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about the problem with chasing bestseller lists.

Publishers Weekly tracks how literary nonprofits have responded to cuts in the national budget and to protect free speech and support the arts.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NC Botanical Gardens

It was a busy weekend, a good weekend, a fun weekend. And also it was a weekend in which not all things I had planned got accomplished, including Publishing News. Oops.

But, thanks to the lovely weather, I was able to stock up on springtime flower pictures at the NC Botanical Gardens. I love the gardens (and not just because they don't have limitations on photography beyond "don't squish stuff"), with a beautiful assortment of flowers. Something different is always blooming.

One particularly nice pick this time was the Eastern paintbrush. Most of the paintbrush species is gone in the eastern US, but apparently there was a plant surviving off the side of the road in Orange county, and the employees collected it for "local flowers" area of the gardens. It also has to grow in conjunction with a certain type of grass, so they had to collect that, too. I know my readers out west probably won't think it's anything special, but around here? First time I've ever seen this plant in person.

The columbine is back again, too. I loved this flower before I knew what it was called, because it has a shape that allows light to pass just right, so when the sun hits it, it seems to glow from the inside.

Are there any gardens you go to on a regular basis? Any gardens you particularly love? Where are they, and what are the highlights that really stick out to you?

Friday, April 7, 2017

March Mammal Madness

Publishing news will be late (probably Monday) due to a preponderance of things to do. In the meantime, here's something interesting: March Mammal Madness.

If you're like me and pretty meh about sports, but love science, this is a bracket you'll be all for. I'm just sad I only found it after the official tournament ended. And here's hoping I remember it for next year in time to catch it live.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mornings and Sleep in Fiction

A dragon's perfect morning.
There are few things more pleasing than passing a quiet morning by sitting in a sunny window with a cup of tea, a cat in the lap, and a book in the hand. Rare treats such as these are the things of weekends and retirement, and I'm nowhere near the latter yet, so I'm afraid most days it's more of a rush.

One thing that always amazes me in fiction is that the characters are usually morning people. They all have the lovely combination of genes that allows them to not feel weighed down and sluggish, still heavy under the weight of melatonin and circadian rhythms that demand the day not start for another hour, not until there's some real sunshine in the atmosphere. Of course, people in fiction are usually immune to sleepiness anyway, so perhaps there's no surprise there.

What it does mean is that when characters are tired, it usually has a purpose. In The Blue Sword, it's when she's half-drowsing that Harry has visions of Aerin. And that's not the only one--dreams, visions, prophecies all seem to swarm around sleep scenes.

Where does sleep fit into stories you read? What notable characters are not morning people? And what's your idea of the perfect morning?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dragon Hoards

It almost looks like an impressive pile... until you realize
that's the window sill and get a sense of scale.
It probably comes as no surprise, if you've been following my blog for a while, that I enjoy shiny things like gemstones. If I were a dragon, my cave would be filled with jewels, art, tea, and books. Oh, and obviously, friends to help enjoy all of these things.

As it is, my apartment is full of books, tea, art prints, and a couple of handfuls of flawed crystals that glitter in the sun. Hey, citrine, amethyst, and smoky quartz are all both pretty and affordable!

What would be in your hoard, if you were a dragon with a large cave and could hoard anything?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Scene Breaks and Audiobooks

Scene break transitions are portals to a new scene,
but if you don't see the door, how do you know you're
in a new room?
One thing I've found about audiobooks is that not all of them have smooth transitions. I'm talking problems with scene breaks, where a half-breath extra pause doesn't seem enough to put you in a new scene.

I never really thought about auditory transitions in a book before listening to audiobooks, because it's pretty obvious when you're reading.

But a visual scene change is entirely different from an auditory one. It makes me wonder how many writers have a plan for scene transitions when they write. Chapter breaks are usually announced by a tone, but scene changes?

Of course, the voice artist plays a big part in this. A really skilled actor or actress can pause just right to cue a switch to a new time or location. But it seems like this is the sort of a thing a writer can work ask for, and maybe help plan for.

Have you listened to any audiobook that does in-chapter scene breaks well? What did they do?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 3/9-3/23/17.

Publishing News

Educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt begins restructuring.

The proposed presidential budget for 2018 eliminates funding to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Institutes of Museum and Library Services. Small publishers express concern, especially over the NEA cuts.

Wattpad partners with Hachette to poduce Wattpad-book audiobooks.

Industry Blogs

 Agent Jessica Faust has suggestions for making the most of publishing networking events, even if you're a nervous introvert. She also explains--sort of--why books can be hard to get and more expensive due to foreign rights.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answer questions. Must it be called a manuscript instead of a novel? (No, novel is fine.) Is it okay to send thank-yous for rejections? (Yes, but not required or expected, especially for form rejections.) If your agent sends you a copy of the pitch letter they'll be using, should you critique it? (No.) If you get a response on a project while another is read by another agent, what do you do? (Inform the first agent that second project is being looked at.) How do you stay published with lackluster sales?

Reid gives more advice. If you can't intern at an agency, or network with the publishing world, you should not become an agent until you can--the background and network are part of the job. How well can a pen name protect your anonymity? (Not all that well from serious, technologically proficient people, but decently for most purposes.) She also shares 6 reasons agents say no. Do agents care if you don't live in the US? (No; they care about the writing.)

Agent Nephele Tempest posts writing links for 3/10, which include a searchable database for writing contests for 2017.

Agent Kristen Nelson talks about what to do when your books are translated and sold in a country that does not uphold copyright laws.

Author Nathan Bransford talks about what makes a good editor.

At the Books and Such Literary Agency blog, some tips on secondary characters.

What other major publishing news have you encountered the past two weeks?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pi and Pie

How many of you celebrated pi day last week, on March 14? It's the math holiday that's delicious, and if you're like me, you're just waiting for the Supernatural episode where Dean pulls out his geek and demands he and Sam celebrate pi day the traditional way, with as much pie as possible.

Also, whoops, I was perhaps still distracted by thinking about how to up my strawberry-banana crisp recipe to remember Friday's post! Sorry! (I'm thinking I'll do half the filling sugar as brown sugar and add a touch of cornstarch, in case you're wondering.) And take two of the spinach-gruyere quiche turned out just as delicious, even though we forgot shallots and added broccoli, and used frozen spinach instead of fresh (sauted with habanero salt and pepper), and obviously used a store-bought crust (because who's got time for making it yourself?). But yeah, not writing blog posts, that's what I was forgetting. Oops.

Any round dessert will do, really.
What's your favorite pie? (Including "pie" for things that aren't technically pie, but close enough for Pi Day purposes.) Do you celebrate any other math or science holidays, like Mole Day?

And if you missed Pi Day, don't worry. You can always celebrate Pi + 1, on April 14. After all, there's no rule that says you surrender your love of pie just because it's not on a mathematically approved dessert day. Plus there's always Pythagorean Day, coming up in August this year... How about a little triangular cake for that one?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Daylight Saving Zombism-Fighting Tips

Chances are, if you're in a country that observes Daylight Saving Time, you're groggy this morning.

Fight the zombism with some interesting info:

A list of scientists born on March 13, and a few inventions/discoveries
Read up on the latest science news at Science News.
Myths and Truths about Daylight Savings Time from CNN (if you don't have AdBlock, this link makes noise)

Get some random facts at the Random Fact Site.
Or join me in pretending to be on the beaches
in Capri today, eating delicious Italian food.

And if you're not happy to be at work today, pretend you're somewhere else by browsing amazing travel adventures at places like G-Adventures or National Geographic Adventures. (Sure, I'm totally in shape enough to go sea kayaking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding in New Zealand, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro... And if you believe that, I'll pretend I can afford to do it, too.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/19-3/9/17.  It's been a bit slow these past three weeks, so a nice short reading list this time around.

Publishing News

Amazon opens its first brick and mortar store on the East Coast, in Massachusetts.

Industry Blogs

Author Nathan Bransford posts a The Last Few Weeks in Publishing for 2/17.

At Books and Such Literary Agency blog, an explanation of what an Editorial Style Sheet is, and why it's important.

Agent Kristen Nelson has her first reader, Jamie Persichetti, pipe in on why the phrase "has diverse characters" in your query letter is not really a selling point (even though diverse characters are).

Editor Beth Hill on the Editor's Blog talks about picking the right words for character's regional dialect--diction, not accent.

Author Janet Reid gives advice and answer questions. Don't pay an agent to edit a query letter.  How much should you pay to hire a publicist if you do? (Consider how effective they are and what your goals are.) If an agent requested a revise & resubmit, but changed agencies, what should you do? (E-mail to the direct e-mail if you have it; but also continue querying other agents as the agent may be looking for new things now.)

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about how she manages a writing career while dealing with chronic health problems. She also discusses money management as an indie author.

A defense of the IDFP-W3C merger as a positive move, by a writer at Publishers Weekly.

What other major publishing industry news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Breath of the Wild, again

Zelda evaluation, after a weekend: Still wow.

Official website here
Once you get out of the starter area, it's really open world. There's a suggested "where to go," but I ran around and completed the quest in another part of the world instead. Since you scrounge for your weapons, you aren't limited by having to get special quest items before taking on each major area. Though the first few battles fought with boko clubs are pretty rough... Well, let's just say goofing off and exploring are good ways to get skilled at dodging and shield using.

Which is indeed the good side of the weapons setup. It has indeed grown on me, because it wouldn't be possible to do this game so very open-world style if you had the traditional "complete quest, gain next item, which is the only way to advance to the next region" weapon-obtainment style. This way you can upgrade your items to suit your area. I mean, sometimes you'll inconveniently run out of weapons, or find yourself facing off with a creature too strong to defeat with your current clubs and swords and axes and bows, but you can always run away from those.

The limited weapons cache is the biggest hurdle to this method of play. Luckily, there is a way to increase it... if you can find him. Look for Hestu, is what I'm saying. And don't bother with increasing shield space. Of all the things I go through, shields last the longest and are easiest to replace. I do pretty well on bows, too; it's not a bad idea to increase that, but my experience says the best choice is melee weapon space.

Also, horses. You can ride horses. Not just an assigned Epona, but any horse you can catch! And tame. That's also important. Yup, I got bucked off a few times. Word of warning, if you leave your horse behind, it does not have super hearing, so if you're too far away when you call for it, it will not come. This means my Link has done quite a bit of running, because I keep flying away... Oops! Save some of those apples, because you can feed them to your ride as an apology for abandoning it to the wolves.

The dungeons and mini-dungeons (shrines) in this game are less combat-focused than other versions of Zelda I've played. They're almost exclusively puzzles, or with a single combat thrown in, and so far even the major dungeon had just the one boss fight. The puzzles are cute, and I'm enjoying them greatly; I think this is my favorite take on dungeons yet.

On the whole, the more I play, the more I love the game. I die a lot (a LOT), but the auto-save is good, so I don't get set back far. This is shaping up to be one of the best of the series. Can't wait to see where it goes next!

Friday, March 3, 2017

First thoughts of Breath of the Wild

If you're a Zelda fan, it's no surprise to you that Breath of the Wild is pretty.

My husband was not willing to forgo this toy. I have
no complaints.
My husband and I set up two TVs side by side, so we've been able to compare the Wii U version with the Switch version. There is a noticeable difference. The Switch version is better textured, and the graphics just a bit cleaner and sharper, so if you're looking for pretty, go for that one.

That said, if you have a Wii U and don't feel like going in for a Switch, and your spouse is willing to forgo the pretty, bad-tasting toy, it's the same game, and the controls are similar enough that you won't miss out. So far the graphics are the only difference.

It's pretty open world in the beginning, more so than a lot of the other games in the series. Yes, there's a person pointing which way you should go, and there are defined limits to where you can go, but these limits are much broader than most of the series. And nobody's forcing you to get on with the plot. You want to go run around the forest cooking? Go for it!

That said, if you don't at least start the plot, disembodied voices do try to usher in that direction. Once you've gotten the first plot point down, you're free to explore. Your first four mini-dungeons are basically your freebies to learning the world. (I can't tell you what happens after that, since I've only finished three...)

Also, hunting. You get to hunt down your own pigs and birds and turn them into steaks and drumsticks. And then cook with them. Link's cooking song is adorable. And since you won't find hearts lying around, you really should cook, because that's the only way to heal (so far).

You can also climb, and climb anything, which is honestly a bit freaky when Link starts scaling ice... You don't need vines or anything that looks like a "climb here" format. You're in control of your jumping with a button instead of an auto jump, which is bit different from the other games in the series, because really, no auto jump at all.

Equipping is an interesting affair because you have a lot of options (nothing beats killing an enemy with its own weapon, or better yet, the wriggling arm of a skeleton). But I'm not fond of the weapons breaking, which can be inconvenient in battle. I think I prefer having a little less choice in the weapons department, to be honest, and not having to deal with weapon after weapon flying into shards mid-battle. Still, it is fun and an interesting style of play, so once I'm used to it, I may warm up to it.

On the whole, after 5 hours, it's beautiful, it's fun, and I'm going to go back to playing until I can't keep my eyes open any more.

Which, honestly, won't be much longer... G'night, folks!

Late post

Today's post will be coming later tonight, and will probably be ravings about the new Zelda game. Breath of the Wild, eagerly awaited...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Colorful Nature

Feeling a bit dreary? How about some color?

Everyone expects pansies to be colorful. Rivers and
mountains? Not so much.
As in, check out the rainbow mountains of China's Danxia Landform Geological Park.

Have you ever seen a rainbow tree? There are eucalyptus trees that naturally grow in rainbow colors.

Or how about some rainbow animals?

And let's not forget the "River of Five Colors" in Columbia.

As weird and fantastic as fantasy is, sometimes the real world creates color so vibrant we'd never believe it in a movie. But it's fun to imagine putting some of these colorful plants, animals, and minerals into a book or a video game anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Things learned from bread baking

Things learned from bread-baking adventures:

Friday night's failed-to-rise bread and Saturday morning's second attempt:

Saturday morning's attempt post-taste-test (verdict: success!). Looked up what to do with failed-to-rise bread; discovered a new recipe. Ingredients for Sunday evening's apple bread pudding:

Sunday evening's apple bread pudding:
Success! And very delicious.

Moral of the story: Failure might be demoralizing in the short term, but it's part of the learning process, and can become an ingredient to achieving a later success. Sometimes you wind up with something you never expected, and find out it's delicious and wonderful, and yet it would have never happened if you hadn't made an error in the first place.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/3-2/19/17.

Publishing News

Romance publisher Samhain Publishing will be officially shutting down on February 28.

The Authors Guild issues a statement promising to maintain vigilance during the current political climate, condemning the executive order banning refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries and the rumored possibility of the dissolution of several federal arts agencies.

Industry Blogs

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss posts warnings about Loiacono Literary Agency, Swetky Literary Agency, and Warner Literary Group.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts Friday links for 2/10 and 2/17.

Agent Jessica Faust at BookEnds chastises writers for not sending submissions when they get a request on a query. She also shares her manuscript wish list for 2017.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch reminds writers the problem with turning for help to someone whose career and voice doesn't match yours, and to remember to look at the big picture.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. She explains why "I never give up" may not be a good thing from an agent. Is it rude to hire an outside publicist? (Communicate early and you'll be fine; it's your career so worry more about success.)

An article on Publishers Weekly as to how indie bookstores use backlist, and how they balance those older books with newly published sellers.

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fish market

Publishing news will be up this weekend.

Until then, enjoy a visual tour of a Taiwanese fish market.

Fresh fish--really fresh!

Just steam and eat.

Or have some dried fish.

Does this make any other sushi lovers hungry?

Upstairs is a restaurant where they'll cook some
of the bounty up and serve it to you.

Monday, February 13, 2017


My wildest dreams.
Spring is around the corner, and I am again having delusions that maybe this year I'll have a decent garden.

Considering I live in an apartment and have no yard, nor the time to spend tending more than a couple of potted plants, nor the actual green thumb to help them survive hot summers, this is probably going to be quickly crushed again. In reality I'll probably settle for a potted tomato plant that produces a few dozen tomatoes and some basil.

Let's face it, even Victory Gardens were never intended for people living in apartments (at least not personal ones, and finding a place willing to let your and your neighbors share ground space isn't exactly easy these days), and it's not exactly like a full-time job plus writing leaves a lot of time for weeding. Nor is gardening an available hobby to most people, with it requiring so much labor and land space. So I'm certainly thankful for the local farmers market, and grocery stores!

But it doesn't mean I don't dream of one day having an actual garden. Somehow vegetables seem to taste better when you've seen them grown in the earth yourself.

Do you garden? What do you grow? And if you're short on actual dirt space, what sorts of potted plants do you grow?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Big Picture and Making the Puzzle Pieces Fit

When writing, it's hard to see the big picture. Especially if you're a pantser and don't know how the story will get to the end!

One thing writers are occasionally encouraged to do is to write a summary before writing the story. Since summaries are often required as part of the submission process, this can get one of the hardest parts of the process out of the way first, while also helping the writer focus on the end goal.

Let's face it, it's easy to fall down rabbit holes while writing. Next thing you know, the sidequest has overshadowed the entire plot! Or a character has abandoned her entire motivation to chase down a wiley wabbit. Summaries are a good tool to keep your eye on the prize as you're writing, because it keeps you focused on the main plot you first wanted.
Scenes that don't work towards the big picture
are very distracting. Case in point:
will you remember the view, or the spider?

But some people don't write well from summaries. Or they discover the rabbit hole was what the story was all about in the first place, and the 'main plot' was a less important story than what the wiley wabbit is doing tunneling underneath the city.

So it's important to do a "big picture" read before beginning edits, too. Put aside everything else, read the story, and decide how well each scene pushes towards the big picture presented by the end of the story. Is this scene necessary? Does it get the reader closer to the end of the story, or is it just a fun scene? Maybe it seems important to a side element of the plot, but if it doesn't drive the story forward, sometimes it's better to just cut the scene entirely.

Of course, if it's just a fun scene, but you really like it, there's option 3: MAKE it relevant.

Once you've finished a draft, you know where the book is supposed to go. Seed in some foreshadowing. Add in something to the background that fills in a plothole (When did Robert and Dr. Gupta actually have the chance to meet to decide they were going to conspire to protect Nji? At the wedding, of course! In the background, when Nji passes them chatting by the buffet). Throw in some dialogue that buffs up the conflict. Or a chance reference that turns out to hint at the solution.

Of course that's not a miracle cure. Your clues and foreshadows and plothole fixers have to add enough to make the scene important to the story, and still keep the scene interesting. And if your word count is high, you're making problems instead of solving them. And if there's no action, then for heaven's sakes, cut it! Nobody needs another "reflecting in the shower" scene. Not unless that moment of reflection is when Dr. Gupta notices the alien spider crawling out of the showerhead and has to destroy its nest with a flamethrower.

But sometimes changing the details to make an extraneous scene fit more neatly into the big picture can solve some other problems while allowing you to include the fun things that give your characters extra depth.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Weekend at the Beach

Some sounds can make silence both more silent and more beautiful. The crashing of the waves on an empty beach, for example, create a haven from city noise, drowning out traffic and making you feel like you're the only around for miles. The calling of the gulls are the only voices, and if it weren't so lovely it would be lonely. But there's a primal feel to it, where even the sting of sea-breeze blown sand on your ankles is pleasant, and the salt-laden air may be occasionally burdened by the foulness of decaying sealife, but even along the crab-corpse strewn beach debris it's still salt-scented, still better and fresher than the odors of streets.

Though in February the seabreeze cuts ice cold, and you're not quite sure on getting home if you're sun-burned or wind-chapped, it's still a walk in the sand. Though the sand blows into your sneakers and grits between your toes, and gives way beneath your sliding steps as you walk, making every half mile the effort a full, you feel more refreshed for having made the effort. And though the wind cuts through your jacket, the sun fights to warm you, so you're never quite at the wrong edge of cold, even if your skin when you get home is red and your hands white despite hiding in your pockets.

Even in winter throes, the beach has an innate beauty that soothes the soul. Especially in the sort of winter when a little silence is the balm you may have needed anyway.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's Publishing News and Industry Blogs post covers 1/19-2/3/17.

Publishing News

The New York Times has reduced the number of their best-seller lists. Many of these lists were considered by the company to be experimental, and are being discontinued as the NYT re-strategizes how it plans to cover the publishing industry. The Romance Writers of America has penned a letter in response to the move, protesting the removal of the e-book and mass-market lists, in which romance books often lead. Publishers also respond, including the graphic novel/comic artists, who are expected to be hit especially hard by the move due to the shift combining their lists with traditional print.

Canada's Competition Bureau bans the Most-Favored-Nation practice (in which retailers could not price books below Apple's minimum price, as established in cooperation with publishers--you may remember this policy from the U.S. court case the US Department of Justice vs the Big Six).

Nielsen Book Services, the agency known for collecting statistics on book sales, is purchased by NPD Group.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formally and officially completes its merger of IDPF.

According to reports from The Hill, a news organization covering US political news, President Trump plans to eliminate federal funding for the National Endowments of the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowments for the Humanities (NEH), both of which contribute to literary-related projects, among other things.

Industry Blogs

In response to the Trump administration's 90-day ban on refugees from seven countries, a growing list of agents have put out an open call for submissions from writers of Muslim heritage, including detailing the genres they're interested in.

Agent Nephele Tempest puts up two Friday Links for 1/27 and 2/3; of particular note is Aerogramme's Opportunities for Writers for February and March 2017.

On QueryTracker, a reminder to writers that if an agent you're considering charges reading fees, fees for being represented without being sold, or fees associated with breaking the contract, do not sign. Each of these should be considered a dealbreaker.

Agent Kristen Nelson shares her year-end stats.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, the 3 important things authors need for marketing: a FB page, a website, and an e-mail list (and why they're important).

On the Editor's Blog, editor Beth Hill makes a case against spelling accents to show a character speaking with an accent.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. She gives an explanation on how book pricing works for retailers, returns, and why big retailers have an advantage over indie stores. What do you do if your agent won't tell you to whom she's submitted your work? (This is poor agenting; call her and make sure she knows this is part of your expectations; part with her if she refuses to start keeping track and sharing track.) If you're trans but pre-legal-name-change, do you need to use your birth name and explain? (No, use the name you want to use.)

More from Reid: If you've got a book out from an imploding publisher and it's your only writing credit, will including this writing credit [and its inherent drama] hurt your chances? (Actually, agents tend to know when these implosions happen and have sympathy for the drama, so it won't put them off, and may even help you.)  Also, why you should be careful with your word choice, and why 'review' is a dangerous word when you mean 'consider for agenting.'

Writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch shares some powerful advice about writing in difficult times.

What major publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Publishing News will be up sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, here's a happy squid with some unhappy fish.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Checking Out Charities

I know a lot of people are making donations to ACLU, health organizations, domestic violence prevention groups, and various charities right now, and I want to encourage them to keep doing that. (Seriously, don't stop. You're doing something good, so keep it up.)

Here's one more organization to consider, as well: the American Refugee Committee. Works with refugees, displaced people, and those at risk to help them survive crises and rebuild lives of dignity, health, security, and self-sufficiency.

Aquariums are cool. Donating to helping people learn about
the oceans and the animals in and around them is also
a great cause. Plus when you sign up or donate,
you can say, "For SCIENCE!"

One thing I suggest people do before donating to a new charity they haven't seen before is to check the charity out and make sure it's really doing what it claims to be doing. There are a lot of scam artists around, and a lot of charities that keep more money than they give; Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are two websites that can help you verify that a charity does what it says.

One of the things I really like about the ARC is that it scores 4/4 stars on Charity Navigator and gets an A+ on Charity Watch. You know, in case I needed more reason to donate beyond "it helps people in need."

But don't feel limited to that. There are lots of ways to help people, and frankly, lots of people who need a hand right now to get back to the point that they can sustain themselves. Volunteering at organizations that help people (you'll find many close to home!) is always needed. And if you don't have the availability to volunteer, even a small donation helps. Charitable organizations, after all, were crowd-funding humanitarianism before Kickstarter was ever a thing.

So. Be careful, and don't get scammed. But also, help people.