Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I went to school in Boone, North Carolina, at App State. It was great, and sometimes I miss it.

A beautiful mountain lake in North Carolina is pretty much the perfect place for a picnic. Or a hike. Or just sitting around taking pictures of something.

It's summer, and a great time for the mountains. Ten degrees or so cooler than the rest of the state, they're bursting with green and trailing beautiful flowers everywhere.
Don't worry, Snowpuff, we're
almost at the top!

Then there's the hiking, which around there sometimes feels like scaling sheer surfaces for the fun of it. (Okay, most of the paths aren't really that steep. Just a few.) This happens to be how I like my hikes: a good adventure, of the sort that makes me and my adventuring party feel like we've collected XP.

I'm expecting to drop by the mountains sometime this summer. I want to rock-climbing up a mountain river, and ogle the scenery, and maybe watch the stars on a midnight picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway with my friends. Can't wait--although I don't live there anymore, visiting the NC mountains always feels a bit like coming home.

Where's your "coming home" place? What do you love about it?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Long car trips

Long car trips... there's something about them that is simultaneously appealing and repelling. In general I rather like them. As a girl I would be crammed into the back of my parents' car for these long trips, usually with a bag of something-or-another lodged under my feet to keep me entertained for the journey (typically books). While reading in the car never bothered me, inevitably I'd wind up spending half the time staring out the window.

Watching the scenery pass by had the strange hypnotic effect of watching laundry in a dryer. I'd stare at the tall, yellowed grasses by the roadside, flicking my eyes back and forth to create a clear, still scene instead of the general blur nearby things become at high speeds. I'd watch the road rise and fall in comparison to the surrounding land--or more accurately, watch the land rise and fall in comparison to the road.

Public domain image
Road cutaways.
Road cutaways, where mountains or hills still bore the patterned slices from the process that made the road flat, where I could see the colors of the hill's insides and speculate on what sorts of rock ("shiny and dark" or "dull and white" was about as technical as I got at that point) filled it, were some of favorite scenes.

But water also had its special, telling beauty, with light glimmering over its surface and the edge-of-the-water societies just touched with a feel of relaxed rusticity. Of course most of my lakeside experiences were vacations at a friend of the family's home on the lake, so surely every home by the lake was a place were people were kicking back and taking it easy, and thus my imagination always had life slow, happy, and easy in these dock-bearing homes.

Then there were the tree-lined roads that left me feeling like I was journeying under a canopy, a secret trail where I'd meet a Bombadil of my own, or some monster I'd have to heroically defeat to save my family. They were tunnels through jungles (sometimes suburbs and rural highways look like jungles to children with active imaginations...) with ziggarauts of gold at the end, or ruins containing the secrets to curing all disease everywhere.

And nothing beat the foggy mountain highways, just in the edge of winter, when a sheer cutaway cliff had been half-reclaimed by greenery. In winter there were white frozen streams crystalline among the weaving evergreen sprouts clinging to the rock. In summer, the frozen streams were dark streams spouting from the hidden earth, pouring with diamond spray-sparkles over bright green moss and ferns between those same evergreen sprouts. And in spring and fall, it was all that existed, every other angle fading from view into the thick whiteness of fog, so that you were at the center of a very small world. Every creeping inch was a new discovery, and somehow the encompassing white made every green and brown and grey brighter, vibrant, brilliantly alive.

(These days, driving in fog is much less fun, since I'm the one in the driver's seat...)

 While long hours of sitting still don't come easily to most children, finding myself swept away in the green made the lack of running around bearable. Of course the prospect of long car drives always leaves that restless feeling, but there are compensations.

We live in a beautiful world.

Did you ever enjoy long car rides? What were your favorite, or least favorite, parts?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 7/13-7/26. It's been a fairly quiet couple of weeks, fortunately for my sleep schedule (or unfortunately, as it may keep me up wondering what major thing I've surely missed...)

Publishing News

The Writers Guild of America plans to try Joan Rivers for violating the writers' strike against E! by writing and running Fashion Police during the strike.

How much have publishers paid to settle the DOJ vs Apple and Big Six price-fixing suits? Approximately $166 million USD, apparently. This is before including the cost of lawyers and the trial, and not including any of Apple's possible liability.

Industry blogs

QueryTracker for 7/19 and 7/26.

If you haven't heard, J.K. Rowling re-discovered something many debut authors know: new authors have a harder time selling than established ones. She published a crime novel under a new pen name and suffered less-than-stellar sales compared to her Harry Potter series, until she outed herself as the author. But why, as an author, would she do that? Kathryn Rusch suggests it comes down to getting a clean slate and honest reviews untainted by the success of her previous works. Something Stephen King did, too. Rusch does then go on to scold the traditional publishing industry for blaming the writer (why didn't Rowling write more, write better, do more advertising, etc.). Of course, sales have taken off since Rowling came out.

Why do you need a query if you're self-publishing? QueryTracker's Ash Krafton explains why... and it has a lot to do with the fact that agents aren't the only people you might want to know about your book.

Publishers' Weekly publishes a report on the environmental impact of publishers, highlighting some of the industry's major improvements (that somewhat are helped by the rise of e-publishing, naturally).

Rachelle Gardner explains what it means to "get your rights back" from a publisher, an issue many veteran authors face. Make sure to have a reversion clause in your contract. And she offers 13 ways to convince a literary agent to represent you. Also, why it's important if you have an agent to let the agent play "bad cop" to the editors and publishers: you don't want to be known as the problem author, after all.

And Agent Rachel Kent offers safety tips for authors, who, in addition to fans, may come down with anti-fans. Don't become a target for identity theft or other crime: getting a P.O. box is a good idea, for one.

Jonathon Gunson talks about 11 things authors do to kill their marketing efforts.

And Suzanne Johnson encourages you to kill characters, and offers suggestions on how and when (hint: usually it's a bad idea to kill your hero. Usually.).

A new app, BookVibe, helps readers turn to Twitter to pull out book recommendations by noting the books the people they follow talk about.

GoodReads is up to 120 million readers. (Which is why seeing my book listed there is one of those daydreams I sometimes have in pre-published land. Is it odd that being on GoodReads is one of the things I think will make me feel like a "real" novelist?)

Fancy literary terms are explained through simple Disney examples.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday oops!

Oh dear. Did I forget Monday again? I forgot Monday again. Curse you, Mondays!

(Me: Take a -1 to all rolls. Ha!)
(Mondays: We have spell resistance 35. What's your caster level again?)
(Me: ... Not nearly high enough. Drat.)

As such, you get bonuses. Here are pictures that I donate to public domain as penance.

Wild flowers. No, seriously, in the last pic it
was all "Flowers gone wild."

Don't you need a mysterious mountain path?

AAAAH! The clouds are eating the mountains!

Pretty mountain road. Nom nom nom, mountain.

Proof of alien life? (No cars or people
were hurt in the making of this picture, I promise!)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Confession? My terrible secret

I have a confession.

You will probably think less of me for it. You probably should think less of me for it.

You see, I like terrible SyFy movies. The worse, the better. It's my pocket addiction, my guilty pleasure, and one I indulge in less now that I no longer have cable (although Netflix fills the gap).

We're talking entire Saturdays with bad movies running in the background as I write, or late nights when I'm too tired to think and too tired to sleep staring at the TV with probably same the horrified fascination as that drives people to watch those spectacularly bad reality TV shows--you know the ones.

Sometimes it's the "science" that leaves me rolling off the sofa holding my sides. Other times, it's the acting, the special effects, or just the unapologetically ridiculous plot. And of course there's the monsters/disasters themselves, strung together by bad luck and an assortment of TSTL (too stupid to live) characters.

This is why I'm somewhat disappointed I missed the Sharknado premiere. But don't worry; I plan on seeing it as soon as I have time and it's on Netflix or the SyFy website.
There. I've admitted it. I've made my confession and you all are laughing at me now, because you have much better taste.

But that said...

What's your favorite terrible movie? What made it so fantastic/ terrible/ hilarious? 

And what terrible movie would you write, if you could write one?

(I claim dibs on "The Time Rabbit" and its sequel "Bunnisaurus," in which a meteor hits time itself and splashes into it, trapping the hero and his ex-girlfriend into bodies of bunnies and sending them back into the Jurassic, where they must fight dinosaurs... as bunnies. After which, when they have returned to present and become human again [and following a breakup of the relationship they repaired in the last movie], the bunny-bodies [due to leftover ripples in the time waters] begin slowly turning into dinosaurs and must be stopped before they destroy the city. 100% bad science and cheesy tropes guaranteed. SyFy, I'll let you have the idea for the low-low price of $5 million USD, or just $5 and a promise to have a bunny out-hop a pyroclastic cloud at least once.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mansions and palaces for the public

Every billionaire has
dancing fountains.
I often think that malls look a lot like mansions, or even palaces.

This is an outdoor mall I went to recently. I look at it and see a millionaire's mansion. When I want to imagine a mansion-style setting? I just go here.

What romance goes down in the
the gardens tonight?
Indoor malls, with their fancy balustrades and marble floors, sweeping arches and long halls, are just an inch away from a small palace.

How about fancy gardens, perfect for clandestine meetings or romances? Again, outdoor malls.

I can see this being someone's
private mansion gate.

Country clubs are also good, if you know one open to the public, or public gardens and arboretums. But what I like about malls is accessibility. They're far easier to get to than actual palaces, and much more common than even arboretums.
It's a pretty flower. Sure
it goes with the theme
of this post.

Of course if you can find one, real mansions are great to visit. But those usually cost to get into.

Where do you get your inspiration for scenery? Have you ever used a real-life place as a base for an imagined one? What are some of the most inspiring places you've visited?

Monday, July 15, 2013


Tribute accepted.

Need a little something awesome to start your week?

Every kitty needs a TARDIS.

That is, in case you are wondering where you can get one, a home-made TARDIS cat house by the talented Jad Bean. My cats are jealous (or they would be if they were able to understand Doctor Who, which their human keeps insisting on trying to get them to watch, by dint of watching it herself).

And yes, I am now considering taking up wood working, just in hopes of being able to build one of these. Sounds like an acceptable summer/fall/winter project, right? After all, the fuzzballs do need a feline climbing tower.

I don't think this was Doctor I was looking for...

If you are talented in the wood-working realm, check out the link for how he built his. You can even admire the mini-ood cat toy.

And if you do build a cat TARDIS, mind making one for me?

Did you encounter anything awesome over the weekend? Share in the comments and give us all a great start to the work week!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 6/28-7/12.  While things tend to be fairly quiet this time of year, there are a couple of major developments in the big trials, and the Apple vs. DOJ case reaches a final verdict.

Publishing News

Apple loses versus the DOJ in the price-fixing trial. They promise to appeal the guilty verdict, of course.

The Random House-Penguin merge has completed, officially, and the two are now one company.

Hachette acquires Hyperion, Disney's adult book imprint.

In the (filing for class action status) lawsuit against Author Solutions, Judge Cote allows authors an extension to file amended complaints.

In the Google bookscanning case, the Authors Guild's request that had been granted to be class certified is overturned, and this is once again not a class action lawsuit. At least until Judge Chin rules on whether or not Google's bookscanning counts as fair use, at which point, he'll technically be able to re-establish class certification, if desired. But fair use is such a tricky subject that it doesn't look like it'll be dealt with any time soon.

The CEO of Barnes and Noble resigns.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker for 7/5 and 7/12.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about selling foreign rights, both through foreign publishers and by selling direct translations, some of the trials she's faced, and how's she dealt with them.

Going to a readers' conference, and want stuff you can give to recruit potential fans? Best-selling author Terry Spear shares her resources: how she made magnets and created goodies to brand herself, and how she sold books and was able to accept credit cards using just her phone.

On Digital Book World, Kristen McLean talks about what she thinks the Barnes & Noble poor profits means for the future of books, in terms of the growing digital book age.

K.M. Fawcett conquers fight scenes. How? Noting what characters notice based on their backgrounds, using the setting, and using make-do weapons, among other things.

GalleyCat lists 5 ways authors can sell their books through indie bookstores online, and thus encourage readers to support indie bookstores.

Alice Gaines, romance author, offers advice on writing sexual tension in your book. Awareness of one another is important, don't feel the couple has to be panting at one another in the first scene, add a little flirtation and body language, and more.

What makes readers put down a book? GoodReads takes a survey and makes an infographic with the results.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Effective advertising!

Fairly effective advertising:

VERY effective advertising:

I bought one! ;)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Children in books

I'll pounce on the feather. You wrestle the fish, and when
no one is looking, we'll both attack the string, which will
make the bowling ball fall down on the bad guy's head...
Are there kids in your books? What roles do they play?

Children in stories can be the protagonists. They can also be foils, background characters, plot devices, or comic relief. What roles they play frequently has to do with the target age of the reader--but not always, as plenty of adult books cast children as viewpoint characters, sometimes as the only ones, and sometimes as one of many.

Why might adult fiction have a viewpoint from a child? In some cases, it's to create a foil with innocence: what better way to contrast your main character's jaded side than with a young person? Children also lack the societal constraints adults deal with, which means they can do things adult characters can't, such as interrupt a tense scene, or even admit to their vulnerabilities ("I'm scared!") and give voice to the feelings adults cannot.

I often see the latter used as a way to enhance an adult's strengths. A child admitting fear stirs adult protective instincts, and make an adult less likely to back down, or acknowledge their own insecurities. This can be a good thing when the protagonist is plagued by self-doubts, and needs a push to gain the confidence to do what needs to be done. Children's fears also help alpha-type characters, who often do not or even cannot express their own emotions in most circumstances, admit that they, too, are afraid. It makes your strong characters more realistic, by giving them weaknesses. At the same time, offering comfort to another makes them stronger, and shows the protective, caring nature of a good guy.

As a contrast, someone who doesn't take the time to reassure children is reinforced as a villain. While heroes can be insecure around kids (which is a frequent humor device), they'll at least make the effort to comfort and protect them. An evil villain, on the other hand, will simply not care if a kid is happy or crying, or will be angry that the child's crying is interrupting things. As an alternative, a likable villain might care about the children, and try to spare them as much as possible, or make an effort to keep them safe. This also works for antiheroes, and can give depth to any 2D bad guy by giving them a good side.

But kids, when confronted by the villain, may be at an advantage for the simple expedient of creativity. Kids as characters give writers leeway to do things that would be borderline impossible, simply because children have no limits in creativity. What a full-grown character can't do, because the sheer amount of luck that would be needed to pull it off? It's far more believable if a child makes it happen. Kids can also find solutions to puzzles adults can't figure out, by stating the obvious, or by doing something so off-the-wall it might just work. By writing the scene from the child's viewpoint, the author can describe the logic behind it, making the most insane idea seem perfectly sound.

Are there children in your favorite stories? What do they add to the stories?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Finding Problems; Fixing Problems

I know there's a flaw here somewhere! Everyone search!
Misplaced conflict: that was the problem.

One of the bright spots of having a good critique group is finding the problem you knew you had, but couldn't identify.

Such was the case with the first chapter of Book 2, the sequel to Into the Tides. Or, more specifically, they helped me realize my opening conflict was focused too much on the past, and not on setting up the current story--and also how to fix this problem.

Having a critique group is like having a private army of investigators helping you search for a lost set of keys on a beach. Looking by yourself can take hours, days, even weeks of ruminating and head-banging-into-desks. But call on a few other beach-goers, and the search ends quickly, hopefully before you get far enough along that changing things will be more difficult (or the tide buries your keys).

Now I've got a good direction to head in. Which is great, because the first book is scheduled to go out this fall, which means #2 needs to have a good start if I want to publish at a reasonable pace. So while you all read about tone-deaf Kelly trying to use her "useless" inborn music magic to save everyone she loves, I'll be taking away the career a man has spent his life working for, in exchange for a magic he doesn't want.

When something is bugging you, and you feel like it's a little bit off but you don't know why, how you figure it out?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Fourth (on the Third)

Sunrises and sunsets are beautiful.

Clouds gather above, and yet we admire them for the way sun hits them, sit in awe over the striking beauty of colors created by oncoming (or departing) storms.

 There are things that happen in my country that I do not like, clouds such as homelessness, poverty, crime.

But I find my country, on the whole, beautiful. I see so much good in it. I've the opportunity to write. I have the option of working and supporting myself, of being an independent woman able to pursue the careers I love. I see the ability to use the internet uncensored, and the chance to have my own blog. I know I won't be prosecuted for saying I disagree with the way the government handles something, or for liking something on FB that the government doesn't. I'm not constantly afraid of having my home overrun by armies or mercenaries, and I can walk down the street in broad daylight and know I'll probably be safe. I know many, many good people who will help me if I'm in need. And if I go to the local authorities, I can reasonably expect they'll try to protect me, instead of making me "disappear" for having a problem.

So if you live in America, and if, right now, you're frustrated with anything about it (and you probably are, because there are clouds in the skies no matter where you live), take a moment to admire the sunrise: the good things about the country, and all the people in it. Think about all the people who volunteer to help each other, about all the heroes who stand strong in the wake of tragedies, about all those who speak out for the voiceless. About the fact that we can speak out.

Nowhere will you find perfection. But's a beautiful place to be, all the same. And we can all pitch in, each in our own way, to make it even more so.

Happy Fourth of July (er, one day early).

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to train a dragonslayer

Everyone needs a tiny dragonslayer in their lives. Here's how to train a kitten to be a dragonslayer:

Our hero, and the star of this video, may seem brave, strong, and noble now, but she comes from very humble beginnings.

Mochi started out as a shelter kitten, one of three litters all born close in date to each other and lumped together as soon as they were weaned for convenience. The shelter is seriously understaffed, yet is the only shelter in their county, and thus has a continual influx of new residents--leading to an unfortunately high kill rate. They often search for foster homes to take in adoptable animals, to help reduce the strain on resources and give a fighting chance at life to as many animals as possible.

Fortunately for Mochi, my roommate agreed to take her in until we can find her a forever home, and so she gave the kitten her first few vaccinations, brought her home, and thoroughly cuddled her. Then she gave the young fuzzball into my tender tutelage, where I have taught her to brave and strong, and to hunt evil dragons (we leave the nice ones alone, of course).

So no matter how you came into life, don't ever doubt your ability to be a hero. And if you happen to want a renowned dragonslayer to guard your castle, well, Mochi is happy to teach every kitten out there just what to do. She knows herself just how scary the real world can be... but that happy endings, and loving homes, are more than just a fairy tale.

*Edit--speaking of which, Mochi does have a forever home, and is happily settling into her new castle right now!