Friday, August 29, 2014

What pulls you in?

What draws you into a book? 

For some people it's voice. For others, it's a high-action scene with lots of danger, and a lightning-speed pace; or lyrical prose with vivid settings. Great fight scenes get some readers into the stories, and for others, it's dialogue.

I'm a voice kinda girl. The characters don't have to be speaking or running; but I have to be able to hear the protagonist's voice right away. Snark is a plus, with a character's witty commentary (in dialogue or in her [or his] head) pulling me in.

My favorite POV styles to read are the "deep" third-person POV or first-person POV. I want to hear what's going on in a character's thoughts. I want to be limited by her perspective, and make the same errors she does, and only discover in retrospect where she went wrong and how she was mistaken.

I want to be right there with her, as she's discovering magic, and trying to connect it back to what she already knows; or crying with her with frustration as she finds the magic she's used since childhood isn't useful enough. I want to grow with her, learn with her, lose with her. 
If the protagonist is an iguana, I want to feel the
hot sun on my back, and think about how awesome
those crunchy crickets taste.

There are books that are written in omniscience that I really enjoy (Terry Pratchett, for example, always makes me laugh with the asides). The advantages of knowing what's really going on with the world, and of knowing more than the characters, can give levity. But on the whole, I want limits.

Some people put multiple perspectives in stories. I'm okay with this, but I want limits there, too: I prefer not knowing what the bad guy is doing. I don't want to be in the redshirt's head. In fact, the only minds I want to get into are the heroes'. As exciting as it is to see the murder happening to get the book started, or to find out what traps the villain is laying, I'd rather have a more distant POV for those scenes. Or just skip them altogether. 

That's not to say I don't enjoy books with deep POV for the villain. Many I do. But in general, I like the thrill of discovery, of finding out what's going on as the heroes do.

In the end, it's a strong voice that immerses me in a book the quickest.

What's your favorite point of view? And what draws you into a story the fastest?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sample jobs of strength Powers

Most strength Powers are in some branch of the military. Those that aren't, are sixth class or government agents of another kind. Fifth-class strength Powers or stronger are not eligible for police work, except on contract basis such as with SWAT teams.

Enrigo Martinez is a fourth-class strength Power. He works with the US Department of Justice as an adviser on Powered interests. Although a strength Power, he rarely uses his magic, instead spending his time researching current events related to the interests of strength Powers, providing expert testimony to the Supreme Court and the District Courts. With the rest of his family in the Navy or the Army, he's well-motivated to advocate for their rights. Even if family gatherings tend to be mildly volatile.

Anna Higuchi, a third-class strength Power, is a member of the Coast Guard. A big fan of tabletop roleplaying games, she relaxes with her friends between patrols rolling dice and playing a hero. Since her duties involve activities such as rappelling down to stranded boaters and rescuing them from the middle of hurricanes, it's not too different from her regular work, although she does enjoy the lack of official paperwork and the fewer periods of extended boredom on most patrol days. For one month out of every year, she leaves her unit to work full-time at the PT center, helping keep her fellow Guard members in peak condition.

Janet Singh is a second-class strength Power and an officer in the Army. Her work revolves entirely around fitness: as a member of the Army, she helps train recruits and reserve-duty members, including those needing extra help to achieve the necessary physical conditioning for duty. Although not usually a drill sergeant, she can act as one when needed; most of the time she moves from squad to squad, providing rotating supplemental conditioning.

Louis Martinelli is a six-class strength Power. Although working in the public sector provides him a choice of occupations, the demand for strength Powers is high enough that he doesn't regret his employment as a security guard for a bank. In his younger years, he worked as a male model; now that he's in his fifties, he enjoys the steadier work of deterring crime through being friendly to customers, while also being very muscular. He boosts his income by hiring himself out as a workout partner at the gym he visits, which helps keep him in this rather intimidating shape.

Amelia Martins is a fifth-class strength Power in the Navy, where she works as an IT specialist. While much of what she works on during the day is classified, she also designs web games after hours, and is an active member of the local SCA. She hasn't decided whether or not she plans to marry or have kids, nor will stating such a preference enhance or diminish her career now that it's started: for a modern government that wants to strongly encourage the growth of the strength Power population, providing ample opportunity and excellent family benefits has shown better results than direct interference, with far less legal cost.

(Wondering what strength Powers of each class can do? Here's a detailed chart on what, exactly, their abilities are for each class level.)

Tone-deaf Kelly has long considered her inborn music magic to be useless. But after a disaster drowns the American South in magic, including her whole family except her twin brother, she discovers her “useless” magic lets her hear the voices of those lost. Now, with the help of her twin and her handsome, green-eyed neighbor Derik, she’ll face magic itself to save them–only the attempt may cost her everyone she has left.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flower pictures

 How about some flower pictures?

Something about taking pictures of flowers is very soothing. Maybe it's that, in a hectic world, taking the time to see something beautiful reminds me it's not all about the here-and-now or the Freshly-Minted-Outrage-of-the-Week.

Sometimes it's about that seed or seedling that gets stuck in the ground and left more or less alone for a few months.

And when you come back, there you have it--something beautiful.

And if you don't take the time to appreciate it, how easy it is to forget it ever even existed.

Flowers don't usually live a very long time, not in the grand scheme of things. So if the minute and a half spent taking a picture seems like it does as much refreshing of my mind as an extra half day of vacation, well, clearly I'm just falling into flower time.

Not a bad way to count, if you ask me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs covers from 8/9-8/21.

Publishing News

Authors' United put out a letter a couple of weeks ago criticizing Amazon's actions in the Hachette negotiations. Amazon followed up with this one, which it sent straight to authors' e-mails and posted on the web at a similar URL to the one used by Authors United (.net vs .com). The Orwellian reference is possibly misused in Amazon's letter, but the intent is clear enough: Amazon thinks the over $9.99 e-book prices Hachette plans to bring back are bad for business, and by their metrics so should authors. Pietsch, CEO of Hachette, replies to the e-mails he receives due to Amazon's letter. Not surprisingly, Amazon and Hachette are in turn using stronger and stronger wording against one another in attempts to sway public opinion in their respective favor. Then German authors join in with a letter of their own, venting their frustration with Amazon's tactics against the publishing group Bonner and in general. Amazon responds with a statement that Bonner charges the same as or more than e-books for print books, a dangerous maneuver in sales.

Changes in copyright law in Canada hit publishers hard, especially those whose works are used in the education industry under the newly expanded "fair use" interpretation.

Samsung & Barnes and Noble teamed up for e-reader products, and have now released the new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook as their first joint Nook product.

Apple and the Big Five are ordered to mediation by Judge Cote with three defunct e-book retailers who claim Apple's and the publishers' price-fixing collusion drove them out of business.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 8/15.

Also on QueryTracker, Jane Lebak shows us how to take an "okay" scene to an engaging one.

Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware warns writers to steer clear of "middlemen" services: companies that, for a fee, claim to contact agents for writers to get them representation and eventually publishing contracts. These schemes don't work; agents don't want to hear from someone other than the author.She also notes that Writers' Digest has teamed up with another fee-based self-publishing company, but this does currently have a much better reputation than the previous company, greater transparency and better prices. So... be wary, know what you're getting, know you can definitely self-publish on your own without the fees... but she doesn't say it's a bad company, or one that rip off authors.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, writing tight can maximize impact: when editing, here are some ways to boost the impact your scenes. And if you want to avoid dialogue tags but keep it clear who's speaking, replace them with action beats. Also, don't be intimidated or distracted by the sheer number of search results you get during research. Everyone gets overwhelmed; that's normal.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. If your agent shops your book around but doesn't sell it, how do you handle possible commission--or lack thereof--if you self-publish? Is it unethical to pay your agent, or unethical not to?  (Right now, that's between you and the agent; make sure both you and agent have an agreement in place before this scenario comes up.) You have a friend who's a contract attorney who wants to be your agent. Good idea or bad? (Very likely bad; agenting isn't just checking the contracts, but also having the contacts, knowing what to look for in contracts, knowing what sells, and more.) If a small press is temporarily open for submissions, is it okay to submit to them while also querying agents? (Your choice. There's an opportunity cost either way, assuming you're accepted.) What's the deal with Absolute Write? (She likes it and it's helpful to many people. Turns out there are also horror stories.) Not sure if an agent got your full 3 months after sending it, and the assistant isn't answering your e-mails? (It's okay to politely send a question directly to the agent at that point.)

And more from Reid: If your write juvenile novellas, why aren't agents biting? (It's not a novella when it's children's or YA; the <40K standard only applies to adult books.) If an agency that says it responds to all queries and that queriers shouldn't query more than one agent at a time doesn't respond in a timely fashion, is it okay to query a second agent? (Yes. If you wait beyond the time frame and hear nothing, even with a reminder, go ahead and query the next agent at the company.) If you've parted ways with agent and are looking for a new one, but know an editor has liked your previous works and would be amiable to a submission [but not to the point you're sure you'd be accepted], should you wait to submit until you've found the new agent? (Yes. Agents dislike coming in when you've already submitted to editors.) And you can't fit everything into a synopsis. What to do? (You're not supposed to fit everything into your synopsis.) How long will it take to earn out an advance of $10K? (This varies. Widely.) You're in your 15 minutes of fame. Should you mention it when querying a book unrelated to the fame? (No.)

The Editor's Blog suggests cutting or limiting certain words, punctuations, grammar structures, and literary devices in your manuscript. It also covers common verb tense errors, when tenses can be blended, and when they can't. And how much detail and what kinds of details give substance to your characters' environments? Don't forget, they probably aren't interacting in a vast vacuum (unless they are).

GalleyCat explains how to submit to the London Book Festival.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Bonus: Possible jobs of 3rd class flight Powers

Eleanor Gatsby is a third class flight Power.

As a third class flight Power, she can completely reduce her weight at will, and can reduce her acceleration to 1 ft/s/s without trying. When she focuses her magic, she can control the speed at which she falls, and fly for 30 continuous minutes with a maximum speed of 20 mi/hr. She has to rest for a half hour afterward, but because she practices on a daily basis, she's built up a lot of endurance, and can get airborne 4 times before needing a longer break to recover.

Usually after the fourth trip, she needs a couple of hours to really catch her breath, although she can take a shorter flight after a half hour.

 So what does she do for a living?

She works with a telephone company, specializing in power line repair. Using special equipment, she corals live lines (staying well clear of them--by no coincidence, she's great with chopsticks) and flies them out of roadways and other areas that might endanger people. She also helps hang new power lines, her flight ability meaning she accomplishes the job quickly and never has to worry about falling. Flight Powers are in high demand with utility companies for these attributes, and are often part of first-response teams when storms knock down cables.

Her cousin Marcus Smythe is also a third class flight Power. Marcus works as a park ranger in a national park in the Midwest, adding aerial patrols to the rangers' regular ground patrols. He helps search for lost hikers, keeps an eye out for poachers and troublemakers, and helps monitor wildlife populations; however, his most important job is spotting forest fires before they get out of hand. Flying over slowly the park, he's spotted smoke from three wildfires before they spread, allowing the ranger team to contain them with minimal damage and redirect them to controlled burns when needed.

Their aunt, Deborah Evans, meanwhile, is a third class flight Power working with the fire department. Although the fire hose has too strong of a kick for a single fireperson to control, three flight Powers working together can hold it steady mid-air. Working together, they can also lift several of the lighter fully-suited firefighters, helping them down from upper floors when passageways become blocked. Most often, the flight team secures emergency ladders for trapped inhabitants to get to safety from higher levels, or check for toxic fumes in high-ceiling areas where other firefighters cannot reach. They also sometimes rescue cats from trees, although they do that more often off the clock than on.

LaKeisha Tanner was licensed at the same time as Deborah, but she chose a different route: she's an FBI agent. Although her first- and second-class colleagues must work for the government, many less powerful magic users also choose the position. LaKeisha's flight ability means she can approach suspects from the air, at an angle they usually don't expect; of course, there's less cover in the air, but a good sense of tactics has kept her safe so far. She can also reach locations other agents can't during stakeouts and other investigations. When her duties keep her on the ground, where she performs much as any other FBI agent, after hours she and her fellow agents keep in shape at their local headquarters' aerial obstacle course, sometimes with super soakers (when their lead officer isn't around).


Tone-deaf Kelly has long considered her inborn music magic to be useless. But after a disaster drowns the American South in magic, including her whole family except her twin brother, she discovers her “useless” magic lets her hear the voices of those lost. Now, with the help of her twin and her handsome, green-eyed neighbor Derik, she’ll face magic itself to save them–only the attempt may cost her everyone she has left.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Roller coasters

Do you like roller coasters?

I do. I've enjoyed them for most of my life. But the reasons I enjoy them have changed over time.

Disney's Thunder Mountain coaster:
Not all that scary, it's more about theme than ride.
For a coaster, no more than 4/10 for fear/track coolness, but
it's a pretty cute ride, and scores high on theme.
Often, it's the adrenaline--the way I step off the coaster feeling like a superhero. It's the rush of facing my fears and surviving (because goodness, yes, staring down that 60-foot near-vertical drop causes a sickening rush in my stomach, a churning level of fear that comes out as a 120-second constant scream, since being securely strapped down I have no choice but to continue).

When gravity disappears, and falling begins, and Earth approaches all too quickly--that's a primal moment. It's powerful.

Griffin coaster in Busch Gardens:
8 out of 10 for awesome. The designers
put in a deliberate pause at the top of this,
just so you can see the fall you're about to take.
(Image by Fritz Spitzkohl)
I scream and laugh and feel like I'm flying--on the good roller coasters, anyway--and as I'm tossed about I wonder if this is how birds feel flying through turbulence. Perhaps the flight Powers in my books feel like this the first time they learn to fly, young people falling up and away from the world and feeling their stomachs drop in anticipation.

And then, when they go forward and up and down and spin around, and gravity ceases to hold them, the rush and joy and thrill and fear?

Then I emerge victorious and strangely not dead, and with fight or flight raging hard in me, I'm stronger and faster than normal, at least for a few dizzy moments. Whatever day-to-day fears I've hanging over me, I can't remember. I'm too busy enjoying still being alive.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who design coasters are sadists or beneficent healers.

Do you enjoy roller coasters? What's the best coaster you've been on?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Creating a Fantasy Language: creating an alphabet

(Creating a fantasy language: (Lesson 1, Rationale, Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4, Choosing words, Creating an Alphabet)

I mentioned in my last "Creating a fictional language" post that I enjoy creating symbols when coming up with words. But there are a few ways to do that.

There are two essential ways to create an alphabet: Start with a set of sounds, or start with a set of "letters."

If you start with your sets of sounds, you simply draw a character for each sound. If you have a system that combines consonant and verb sounds, it may help to arrange your sounds in a chart. Then draw a character that will stand for each sound.

possible words: "bahteelo"; "saybolay"

You can also start with the symbols and assign them sounds. This works especially well if you have an alphabet-style language, which combines letters into words.

Combine characters to make words: "kosnowch"; "groy"
In each case, you'll want to decide if the sounds are analogous to English, especially verb sounds--do you have a single "o" letter for both "for" and "both"? Is "aw" different from "apple" or "apricot"? If you have multiple forms of a vowel, you may consider having different symbols for each pronunciation. 

You might also decide the reverse, giving multiple pronunciations to a single character based on context. If so, I suggest holding off on deciding the rule until the end of establishing your alphabet (but you will need a rule.)

You may also have letters that "interrupt" or "add on" to sounds, especially if you have verb-consonant characters.

"traton" would be "ta" in a box + "to" + "-n"
And just ignore the "L" at the top I forgot to delete...
In the example above, adding a box around a triangle would be pronounced "pray"; a box around vertical line would be "tro." Meanwhile, a dot above a triangle would be "pays" and above a horizontal line would be "tays" (like "taze"). I usually make modification sounds their own column.

(This example also has a couple of irregular letters in the "p" column: "pled" and "peel." Just because you follow a pattern doesn't mean your letters all play by the rules.)

If you've waited this long to create your language, you probably already have a good idea what major sounds your language uses. I typically also try to keep each letter to 1-4 strokes when writing it, with most being simple--after all, an inconvenient language takes longer to write.

Assigning a scribble to each letter doesn't take terribly long. It's memorizing the combinations that gets hard. Keeping each letter distinct can be tricky, and you may end up with a system like a vertical line for all "ah" sounds with different scribble variations denoting which consonant.

And of course, a 6-consonant language is pretty hard to work with. I've found that single-letter alphabets are shorter to work with, while consonant-vowel combos take more characters to make a complete alphabet. The more sounds that go into a single character, the more characters you'll need to express your entire language.

After you've put together your alphabet, consider if you want any characters to have special rules ("paw" never goes beside "tae"; "pled" never gets an "-n" added to it; "bay" when combined with "-ed" sounds like "blade"; etc). If you've started with a language and have a list of rules, add these rules to your list; they're just as important.

Then it's just practice. Write a couple of words in the language (if you have a vocabulary list, try a few already on it. Then try a sentence or two.)

As a final step, think about punctuation. How do you denote sentence stops and sentence beginnings? Or do you? I find it a lot easier to have the basics period and comma, at the very least. Or if not a period, then a sign that new sentence is beginning.

(Creating a fantasy language: (Lesson 1, Rationale, Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4, Choosing words, Creating an Alphabet)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

As I was growing up, I watched lots of Robin Williams movies. He was a funny actor, in the movies I was allowed to see. When I got older, I got to see some of his deeper movies, the ones that cast him not just as a comedian but as a character. And some in which he wasn't funny at all, in which he was a dark character, or a different kind of character.

But I remember him for his humor.

What is humor? Why is it important?

It's how we face the darkness inside ourselves. It's what gives us the strength to look beyond the moment, look past the night, and see the sunlight coming up over the edge of the day. It helps us face the worst of the world but makes it okay to do so; it's how we acknowledge that there is a lot of suck going on, and we're helpless against most of it--but that there is good, too, and we can still partake in the good. And it lets us think about dangerous things, dark things, brings us to the questions we couldn't bear to face otherwise, and helps us ask them, helps us think.

When confronted by darkness, we want to hide or fight. Humor gives us the chance to choose neither; to fix instead of run or destroy. It eats the fear and helps us see.

Humor alone doesn't fix the demons. It doesn't stop the night. And it can't bring back those who are lost.

But it's a sword in the hand, and a candle in the window.

I'll always remember how he made me smile. His life was a blessing, and I'm glad to have seen parts of it; it wasn't perfect, but it brought a lot of good for me and mine. He lit a lot of candles and gave us many hero's swords.

May he have peace. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Caffeine in Tea: myths

Have you ever heard that steeping tea for 30 seconds will naturally decaffeinate tea?

Rooibos tea is naturally decaf,
if you're wondering.
(Not my favorite, though--
I have to add milk and sugar
before it's enjoyable, so
no actual health benefits for me.
I had, and I wanted to know if it was true. Based on the research I found (okay, online), this does not seem to hold up. Yes, some or much of the caffeine will be removed, but not enough that what remains could be considered decaffeinated.

I suggest reading through this guest post by Nigel Melican, founder of Teacraft, LTD, from Cha Dao. You'll find some very interesting statistics.

There's also a nifty experiment here, the Asbury College study, that further disproves the 30-second myth.

Furthermore, caffeine content of teas tends to be more reliant on the picking of the leaf than on the type of preparation (so some green teas would have more caffeine than some black teas).

Caffeine varies in the fresh green leaf depending on fineness of pluck. The fourth leaf (Coarse) has about one third less than the first leaf (Very Fine Pluck). Caffeine varies with type -seedling tea (3-5%) has perhaps twice that of clonal tea (1-3%).  

Or switch to sparkling water.
That's decaf, too.
So there you have it: yes, you can reduce the caffeine in tea by steeping it for a short while, but there will still be caffeine in the brew. No, green tea isn't innately less caffeinated than black tea--you use less tea when steeping, and the manufacturing companies can manipulate the tea to have less caffeine, but that doesn't always happen.

In other words, look up the info for each individual tea if you're concerned about caffeine; and be aware even then the seller might have inaccurate information--safest bet is to assume your tea is caffeinated if it isn't a tisane (herbal tea) and treat it accordingly.

If you fully brew your first steeping (steeping it the recommended time for an actual brew), you should have a greatly reduced caffeine content. So if you're reducing caffeine content in your afternoon diet, use a tea that resteeps well; drink your first fully-caffeinated brew in the morning, and resteep your leaves in the afternoon. You might also drink decaf, or brew your first cup(s) for >5 minutes. But if you want to eliminate your caffeine content, you're probably better off switching to herbal.

(Oolongs, in my experience, tend to rebrew very well for several steepings--that would be my personal recommendation, if you like them.)

I suggest single-size servings, if that's your plan. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 7/26-8/8.

Publishing News

The letter addressing the Amazon Hachette dispute, directed mainly at Amazon and signed by 900 authors (now called a formal group called Authors United), will be appearing as a full-page ad in The New York Times. Amazon, meanwhile, writes a blogpost explaining what it wants, including that (among other things) high prices are slowing ebook sales and lowering most ebook prices to below $9.99 must be prioritized in its deals with Hachette; as well as sending all royalties to Hachette and letting Hachette choose how to split the 70% of each book sale.

Internationally, libraries struggle to obtain e-books and keep up with demand, and book subscription services offer a serious challenge.

Amazon expands and Barnes and Noble (with the help of Google) now offers same-day delivery for books: order by noon, and (at least in certain cities) get your book that evening.

News Corp (HarperCollins' parent company) finalizes purchase of Harlequin.

In the Apple vs DOJ price-fixing suit, although Judge Cote earlier did not seem pleased with the terms of the settlement, the terms were not modified. The judge did end up granting preliminary approval to the terms, meaning the deal can proceed as-is.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 8/1.

Also on QueryTracker, clauses such as "and any subsequent work in a series" in your agency contract can extend the contract even beyond a termination of the agreement to work the agent. Make sure you understand the clauses in your contract when you sign. And what if you get a quick rejection? What does that mean? Not too much, actually; there are a number of reasons, up to and including that the agent just doesn't rep that genre. If you get several, maybe take a closer look at your query to see if you can find a problem. Plus, some tips on balancing your writing life.

Victoria Strauss on Writers Beware advocates for authors to beware interminable agency clauses (clauses wherein the agent remains the agent of record for the life of a book, beyond when its publisher reverts the rights--important in the world of self-publishing backlists). Also be sure to clearly include in your agency contract what happens to books you self-publish, up to and including backlists, and how those will be handled. Strauss also posts an example of an advertisement from Author Solutions, pointing out the red flags and why it's not a good deal for authors.

(But don't despair if you didn't know to avoid Author Solutions: after all, Simon & Schuster did just acquire an author for the very first time, ever, from Archway Publishing, an ASI subsidiary owned by S&S. Just, er, don't get your hopes up--still a company Strauss specifically suggests avoiding.)

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. Is it okay to call something set in the 60s or 70s historical? (No. Some agents were born in the 60s and 70s.)  How long should you wait to hear back before sending a follow-up reminder? (Check the time frame on the agent's site. Otherwise Reid gives advice based on type of request: query, partial, or full.) Accidentally fell for a vanity, er, "subsidy" publisher--should you mention it? (No. Don't say this is your first novel but don't mention it.)

Reid continues: Will having a niche book hurt when selling other books, or will it even be possible to find a publisher for it? (Many niches have regular publishers; no, it probably won't hurt.) An agent randomly dumps you, never having submitted your book--is this normal? (No. Make sure you're not crazy or rude; if you're clear, they might be crazy; and your book still has a chance elsewhere.) Shoot, sent the wrong version of the manuscript! What now? (Send the correct one immediately.) Don't expect an agent to represent you if you started querying publishers on your own. And how many books does it take to earn out an advance?

From the Editor's Blog, how much backstory should you include, and when should you include it? Also, a look at dependent clauses and commas, a explanation for a topic many writers struggle with.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, author Hailey Edwards talks about how to effectively write as a "pantser" (or "write organically"). Author Pepper Phillips explains how she figures out if her latest idea passes muster to be turned into a book (works best if you're a plotter). And author Jane Kindred talks about overcoming writer's block.

At an editors' panel at an SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) conference, editors share advise with authors.

Agent Carly Watters explains what you can expect from literary agents. She also explains what you can't expect from literary agents.

You can now create e-books with both Evernote and Google Docs.

Author Jim Hines talks about the conundrum authors face when writing about characters from other cultures (particularly from the POV of a white male), why he does so, and juggling the need to do so with the fear of doing it wrong.

If you're in Australia, tomorrow is National Bookshop Day. (h/t to Mike Kruzel for the link)

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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Bonus: Studying the Lost

In the Broken Powers world, what agencies are there that examine magic and the Lost?

Kelly, a tone-deaf Carolina woman who tries to use her music magic to protect her remaining loved ones while investigating the Tides that entrap most of her family, notes in the novel that surely some of the Lost must have been experimented on at one point or another. The Lost are all that remains of the inhabitants of the South, animal-like creatures that are cold to the touch.

And she's perfectly correct.

Investigations began from the American Powers HQ, located in New York. This agency, in addition to overseeing licensing and certifications for Powers, being the central office of Powers in law enforcement, and coordinating requests for help from Powers, also oversees research into the nature of magic.

Powers HQ helps fund and archive data from places such as Mechany's, researching magic and helping those with magic control their Powers. They also maintain a database on magical anomalies, the better with which to treat--or neutralize--magic problems.

This includes cases when magic traps an entire region of the country, and the results thereof.

During the first High Tide, some Lost wandered into border areas such as Memphis, TN. Many were rounded up by animal control. Those who were did not fare well as the Tides flowed out, leaving the Lost stranded too far from magic; the ones who were not released died. Most were, however, allowed to leave, as those mourning the loss of their friends and families spread rumors that the Lost might be somehow related to getting them back.

Meanwhile, the Powers HQ sent teams down for research. More than 40 Lost were rounded up, blood samples drawn, and their physical and magical reactions measured. First through fourth class Powers reported hearing voices from the creatures, senseless babbles; third class and higher Powers reported also seeing visions of various things, most related to panicking.

When the Lost thus monitored were found to be affected by the retreating Tide, they were either released or the research stations moved.

Of those that moved too close to the Tides, the inhabitants of three simply disappeared. Notes seemed to indicate the subjects of the research had not been treated well, having been subjected to more extreme "tests."

Experiments continued to be conducted by teams staying within the Tide Zone all the way up through the beginning of Into the Tides. Scientists involved (most fifth class or lower, or unPowered, as higher classes found the Tide Zone nearly unbearable for long periods of time) focused on attempting to interpret the babble and visions and discover the natures of the Lost. No progress was made in understanding the creatures' babble or vision.

Under a microscope, samples from the Lost frequently lost structure and evaporated, rarely surviving long enough for real study. Most progress was made studying pictures taken within the first fifteen minutes of taking the samples. Since the Lost were by that point considered patients, they were treated with some consideration for their comfort, although confinement was required for consistency of subjects.

A few unsanctioned groups, including amoral scientific groups, rogue cults, greedy medical corporations, and curious criminal elements, conducted unsanctioned experiments in border areas during High Tides (those who entered the Tide Zones disappeared, with rumors of terrifying monsters called Hunters spreading). The fates of the Lost who were studied depended on the group.

Tone-deaf Kelly has long considered her inborn music magic to be useless. But after a disaster drowns the American South in magic, including her whole family except her twin brother, she discovers her “useless” magic lets her hear the voices of those lost. Now, with the help of her twin and her handsome, green-eyed neighbor Derik, she’ll face magic itself to save them–only the attempt may cost her everyone she has left.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Unpacking Problems

Boxes mostly unpacked, most of the artwork hung, three cats not murdering each other... yes, we're settling in nicely in the new place. Even the tea cabinet is unpacked and filled.
Random giraffe.

Okay, I admit it; yes, that was the first thing unpacked and set up.

Which leaves one last major conundrum.

How do we mount the lightsaber?

Sword mounting supplies? Or special hooks?

I'm sure people have encountered this before. I'm thinking a vertical wall mounting; but a horizontal isn't out of the question, especially as it will probably be easier.

Hm... Must research.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Marrying Mr. Darcy: the game

My name is Jane Bennet, and I did not marry Mr. Darcy.

In fact, my dear younger sister Elizabeth immediately accepted Mr. Darcy's first proposal. But she was soon thereafter caught in an unchaperoned situation with the devious--I mean, dear--Mr. Wickham, whom she then married, because of course we all know how feisty Elizabeth is, and Mr. Darcy really oughtn't have insulted her with such an improper and insulting proposal in the first place. Of course, after she took to calling Charlotte her sister instead of me (even stealing Charlotte's bonnet!), I find myself wishing her a very long marriage with her new husband.

I must admit that I had my hopes set on the sweet Mr. Bingsley myself, but as you know, I'm getting older, and when Mr. Bingsley left town I settled with the quite reasonable Mr. Denny, who as a good friend of my Dear New Brother-in-law Mr. Wickham was willing to gamble with me at cards (I have quite a fondness for gambling; many people do not know this about me.)

Meanwhile, dear Charlotte settled down with Mr. Collins, for although she did not at first love him, they both soon discovered their mutual delight in closets, and have decorated their home with the most marvelous and fascinating closets that a person interested in closets could imagine (I do not judge; a woman must find common ground with her husband where she can).

Georgiana, that prideful sister of Mr. Darcy's, who become quite our rival after Elizabeth broke the engagement with Mr. Darcy to elope with Mr. Wickham, ended up as an old maid, and I surely wouldn't claim that she deserved such a thing, for it would be in poor manners to do so. Besides, from what I hear, her aunt and uncle have taken her under their wing, and her substantial dowry is more than enough to keep her cared for.

Lady Laura, whom you may not remember from my sister's tales, married Mr. Darcy in turn, and of all of us ladies seemed the most successful in her marriage pursuits. (Kickstarter backers got cards of themselves.)

(In case you're wondering, this alternate timeline is courtesy of the card game Marrying Mr. Darcy, which as you can tell I quite enjoyed. It's cute, humorous, and easy to play; probably not the most balanced game in the world, but the concept is adorable and it'll delight most Jane Austen fans. Plus, there's an Undead Expansion option [which I have not had the chance to play], for fans of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.)