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:

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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?