Monday, November 24, 2014

Groots and crockpot breakfasts

There's a good chance this week's publishing industry news post will go up next Monday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Want to buy a Groot? B&N has a cute one.

So, uh, finally watched Guardians of the Galaxy over the weekend. Yes, I'm this behind on all pop culture. Pretty normal for me, really.

Needless to say, the cats have assured me they do not know how to jury-rig ships, explosives, or Ronin-blasting guns. Clearly they are holding out on me, and I must cuddle-interrogate the truth out of them.

You may interpret the purring as cries for mercy.

I might also start taking better care of my houseplants. You know, just in case any of them decide to develop ambulatory limbs. I'd hate to have a Groot on my hands with a sense of vengeance.

Mostly, the movie was cute. And fun. Did it have plot holes? Yes. Were the human(-oid) characters trope-er-ific? Yes. But sometimes a movie with blasters and jailbreaks and cute characters and heroes improbably triumphing over evil... is exactly what you want. I was in a mood for tropes and Marty Stus this weekend. Also a pineapple, an apple with peanut butter, and a pomegranate. Funny the things you crave.

An mostly unrelated note, but should you be in the need of feeding 12-some people breakfast during the holiday, I'd suggest Crockpot o' Breakfast. Put it together the night before, then leave it overnight and let people serve themselves come morning, allowing you to sleep in. I substituted bacon (cooked, chewy style) for ham and spinach (thawed & drained) for bell peppers, and it was delicious. Also easy. And did I mention sleeping in?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Fun

So what are you doing this morning? Are you watching John Barrowman teach a woman how to walk in heels? Well, you are now.

If you weren't, it's probably because you were catching the latest episode of Tabletop. Wil Wheaton presents Season 3, episode 1. Hurrah!

So you know what I'm doing, at least. If you've already watched both, then I offer you fireworks.

 That's my final offer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fujian Wu Long Tea Review

Fujian Wu Long Tea
(Golden Bridge Brand)

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

Oolong, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Natural, earthy
Where I got it

Gift from a friend

No idea, really
How I brewed it

Boiled water and let it cool slightly, maybe 10 minutes in a closed kettle. Also tried making it with coffee machine water at work.
Rebrewing notes

Rebrews well, like most oolongs. I had 3 good cups from the same leaves, and wouldn't be surprised to get more.

This oolong is light, even more so than most. Warm I can barely taste it, a very subtle flavor. When it cools it seems to have an almost coconut-like aftertaste. The first time I made it, I didn't have the water quite hot enough--I'd suggest using water at least 190, which makes the flavor more noticeable, but really even fully steeped it's a subtle taste. What I do notice is almost a green tea in taste, or possibly a white-green blend.

Don't let that dissuade you if you're a tea lover, though. Probably not for people still developing their taste for tea, but if you're an aficionado, or at least a pocket hobbyist, it's worth a try. If you enjoy plain white teas, you'll probably enjoy this one. I rather like it, and find it highly drinkable, even after 5 cups in a single day. To that point, I've had five cups in a single day, and am about to go back for a sixth...

Is it my favorite all-time tea? No, I'd probably give that honor to one of the other oolongs I've had (like this one), or perhaps the white chai. To be honest, not even in the top ten. But I'd rank it in the top 30.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tying up an old loose end, geek style

You know when you finally defeat a boss in a video game, when you thought you'd die again? When you're all, "Well, I've leveled, but seriously I'm probably going to get squished again, and this fight has lasted forty minutes, so why isn't he dead yet?"
From the Final Fantasy Wiki

And then he dies... (or dissolves, or flees leaving you some tasty loot, etc). It's a great feeling. And you're also a little bit "WTF? I mean, yay, but really? Am I dreaming? That wasn't supposed to happen.... Not that I'm complaining..."

Finishing a huge project at work is like that, and also finally getting the last box unpacked after a move, and finishing a book... That wonderful sense of accomplished disbelief.

Anyway. Finally went back and killed an optional boss I'd ignored back when I first beat the game (Gilgamesh from FFXII--Yeah, I was in the mood for a classic.) Just a good feeling. Maybe I'll even go back and finish the quest to get his sword.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 11/4-11/14.

Publishing News

Hachette and Amazon have finally come to an agreement. Hachette retains control of setting its own prices, and seems to have a deal similar to Simon & Schuster's. Reactions are varied but generally positive, especially that authors are no longer seeing their sales impacted.

Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and indie publishers unite to encourage the passage of e-tax fairness legislation.

Amazon has won the auction for the .Book domain name.

Despite having technically won the case, the publishers in the Georgia State University copyright case filed an appeal over the case in which they were sued for providing unlicensed digital copies of texts to students for coursework. This case is a defining case for the definition of "fair use" as it applies to education, and the final outcome may impact fair use rulings in the future. The judges' opinion on the recent ruling may have been in the publishers' favor, but the reasoning for 2 of the 3 did not accept the publishers' basic arguments of the case; thus, the appeal, in hopes that the next court will accept the arguments as the reason for the publishers' win.

In the case of Open Road vs HarperCollins, in which Open Road published e-copies of Julie of the Wolves while HarperCollins claimed to have controlling interest on the digital rights of the book despite those rights not being explicitly stated in the contract (the contract was written before e-books were a thing; HarperCollins was eventually awarded full digital rights based on the wording of the contract), HarperCollins attempted to sue Open Road for reimbursement of lawyers' fees. HarperCollins was denied.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 11/7.

Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware posts an alert about the Cookbook Marketing Agency and an alert about LitFire Publishing. (EDIT: added late: Also, an identity theft scam warning for freelancers.)

Author and retired accountant J.A. Kenney publishes a post about tax law as applicable to the business of writing. When can you deduct your expenses? What taxes do you pay on your royalties? Which tax forms should you fill out? And more.

Author Jane Lebak on QueryTracker talks about her experiences with making an audiobook through ACX. Author Stina Lindenblatt offers advice on writing through the holidays and on how to write a synopsis.

Agent Jessica Faust, when asked how long authors should wait to hear back after sending a query, says don't "wait"--keep writing, keep querying. Also, if an agent refers you to another agent at the agency, don't expect the first agent to do the work of querying the second agent for you. And, uh, it's usually good practice to make sure your query makes sense. Also, if you have a book that's good, and has gotten lots of "It's good and well-written, but not my thing," from agents, would it hurt your other manuscripts' chances of traditional publishing if you self-published that one? (Today, not really. Go ahead and self-pub that one and keep submitting your others.)

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answers questions. When promoting appearances, etc, remember to be detailed and precise, or your audience might not be able to find you. Most people are too busy to look things up if they're die-hard fans, so if you want to grow your audience, make it easy. If you get an offer from an agent you're not truly sure about, should you take it? (No. The wrong agent is worse than no agent.) If your first agent shopped a version of your manuscript, but you've parted ways and are now searching for representation on a vastly edited version of the manuscript, do you need to disclose in the query that it's already been shopped? (Yes. That's not always a deal-breaker, but not telling usually is.)

More from Reid: If an agent requests a full but doesn't get back to you, do you assume it's a no? (Yes, move one, and also yes, that's pretty rude of the agent.) Is it okay to include dialogue from the novel in the query? (It's not taboo. It's just not usually effective.)

On the Wyrding Ways Press blog, what to put in your front and back matter (the pages before and after you story begins and ends, such as title page and about the author info) if you format your book yourself.

Author Angela Quarles explains why you should usually avoid using the words before and until when writing in deep POV.

Doing NaNoWriMo? GalleyCat offers NaNoWriMo tips throughout the month.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Bonus: Possible Jobs for Music Powers

Music Powers have magic that allows them to perceive the world in a new kind of detail, and that also affects peoples' emotions. In Into the Tides, Kelly's father was a traditional music Power, and although she was born tone-deaf, she too was considered a music Power. You can find more about what, exactly, music Powers of different classes can do here. Some possible jobs music Powers might have could include:

Janette Callahassee is a fifth class music Power. She's a member of the US Air Force, working as a mechanic, and uses her perception abilities as part of identifying where the planes she works on need fixing. She can hear pings and rattles below the threshold of most humans' perception, and with her perfect pitch she is able to rule out several incorrect possible causes long before her fellow mechanics could. This makes her an effective and valuable member of the repair team, allowing her team to work more efficiently. She also volunteers to help soldiers being treated for PTSD, using her magic to soothe them and reduce the symptoms of hyper-arousal that cause them to be constantly on edge. This can often lead to improved sleep, better adjustment to social settings, and other benefits that can greatly help the soldiers. In her free time, Janette spends time with her kids and husband, and enjoys listening to music herself.

Clark Mayhew is a third class music Power. He works as a psychologist, in conjunction with a pair of psychiatrists who often prescribe music Power services. His typical workday is split 50-50 between counseling patients of his own and using his magic to treat patients based on prescriptions of his partners (and occasionally independent psychiatrists). Some of the time he works with groups of 3-5 patients with similar emotional needs, calming anxiety and helping his patients address their concerns in small group settings, which helps keep costs down for low-impact patients. For patients with more private issues, he offers one-on-one music/counseling combinations. In order to maintain his Powered license for counseling, a full quarter of his clientele are pro bono cases assigned to him by the local Powered headquarters, which pays him a rather small stipend in compensation. During his free time, he acts in a community theater that advertises Powered performances. His magic enhances the emotional impact of the performances, and he has a somewhat devoted following of Powered theater enthusiasts--a niche audience, but a supportive one.

Howard Ronaldo is a second class music Power, working for the US government to help enforce trade regulations. He is part of an inspection team for international facilities to ensure the companies follow labor guidelines, from preventing child labor to enforcing safety regulations. His wife, a fifth class strength Power, acts as his bodyguard during his frequent travels, with their teenage children safely at home in the care of their grandparents. Howard's enhanced hearing allows him to detect lies more easily, and to hear suspicious sounds during inspections, leading him to have uncovered several "cleaned-up" operations that had tried to hide violations during inspections. Due to the precarious nature of his job, many of his off-hours while traveling are spent either being wined-and-dined by various business owners (he's not allowed to accept gifts, however) or playing cards with the other members of his team in secure hotels. At home, he can at least kick back and relax, playing tag football with his son at a local park, or going on hikes.

Chiomi Alegi is a first class music Power who works in the Veterans Affairs department, visiting several veterans' hospitals as a medical musical assistant who provides drug-free pain relief through music. Although as a first-class Power she technically has enough magic to cause harm, her training has been extensive, and she has never caused a casualty. In her off-time, she writes fantasy short stories, and has had several published. She also enjoys cooking with her husband, and their three children frequently find excuses to avoid eating their parents' various experiments.

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, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who Disappointment

Oh, Doctor Who...

I was sadly disappointed by this season.


There were episodes that were decent, and although I initially disliked Missy's true identity, "Death in Heaven" sold me on it. I found some of the episodes amusing and interesting, and found Capaldi to be a capable and intriguing take on the Doctor. I think I'll enjoy him in the long run. I even enjoyed "Death in Heaven," which was a fun episode, and certainly better written than the first part.

But Clara's plotline, in my opinion, died a slow and horrible death. To me the moment it became unsalvageable was when she became a time-travel addict instead of rage-quitting the Doctor, and everything after that was watching Clara's character arc towards a slow and miserable final transformation into a 2D time-filler.

Image from the BBC
Of course the decline began when her plotline began to revolve around a character whose existence in turn revolved around adding angst to the show. Danny Pink was a good character, but to have achieved the promise his baggage brought, he would have had to be the main companion, or at least have existed for more than a single season. And he would have made a great companion, played by an actor who put depth into his past, and who convincingly created a loving and well-rounded personality capable of accepting a broken love interest, despite only minimal screen time. Cramming his whole story into a single season's side-arc? It just turns him into a moody side-show, which the character didn't deserve.

So rewriting Clara into a love-obsessed, emotionally crippled character who couldn't live without him--she, too, became a bit part in a side-show that somehow took up 80% of the screentime. The only sustained, successfully completed plot in this season was the Doctor/Missy plot; this, then, should have gotten the most screen time, but did not. That made me very sad.

I would have liked to have seen Clara leave the Doctor after the Orient Express episode, and not look back. Had the Doctor come to her afterward, to her and Danny both, for the final episodes... I could have enjoyed that. It would have given the season more depth and been consistent with the character arc created in the beginning of Clara's season. Had Clara's addiction to time-traveling been the sole issue, without a death driving her crazy, that might have been salaveable and even decent. But there was too much crammed in to too little time, and she was inconsistently written throughout the season, who made mistakes that should have destroyed her relationship or put it in a state that would take at least another season to recover. All in all, the season created for me a Clara I couldn't fully believe, and a romance I didn't really buy into, which left me in the end feeling deeply disappointed.

Did you like the season as a whole? What did you like/dislike about it? What did you think was strong, or could have been improved?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Links to tips for writing a synopsis

What is a synopsis? Basically, it's an overview of what happens in your book, and is generally between 1-5 pages long. Plural, synopses.

You'll often have to submit one if you're asked for a partial or a full from an agent or a publisher. If you're going traditional, you're pretty much required to write one (or several, because each agent may request a different number of pages).

Here are a few links I've encountered that may be helpful in writing your synopsis.

QueryTracker's synopses posts: Jane Lebak explains what a synopsis is and gives basic advice for writing one. H.L. Dyer offers a post on "Creating the Dreaded Synopsis" with instructions on one way to write synopses of various lengths, by breaking the book down into chapters. Ash Krafton talks about how to use a synopsis as an outline (the benefits of writing an synopsis before writing the book).

Jane Friedman explains what a synopsis is, who will use it and how, general principles, and 4 things you absolutely must accomplish in writing your synopsis.

Fiction editor Beth Hill at the Editor's Blog shares how to format a synopsis, looks at the major schools of thought about synopses, and explains general rules to always follow, as well as a few specifics.

On the Publishing Crawl blog, detailed advice on how to write a one-page synopsis.

Writers Digest offers 5 Tips for Writing a Synopsis Like a Pro, and also a ton of examples of synopses.

And yes, although even agents hate them, synopses are still required.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book bonus: Jobs for Earth Powers

Earth Powers have magic that allows them to detect and identify metals, and flaws in metals. Strong earth Powers can also sense and cause vibrations in the ground. More about earth Power abilities here.

Some sample earth Power jobs:

A fifth class earth Power, Fin Clark can sense nearby flaws in metal and the density of objects for up to three feet past the point of touch. He works as a building inspector, checking the safety standards of large buildings and resold houses. When not working, he cooks an awesome roast. He and his friends hold regular feasts and enjoy kicking back over a good meal and a game.

Serro Andrej, as a fourth class earth Power, works with a mining company to help locate and evaluate the depth of metal deposits, and helps locate caves and air pockets and faults in the earth before drilling is allowed. On the weekends, he volunteers at a hospital, visiting the sick. After work and volunteering, he tinkers with cars and electronics.

Charlotte Lassiter is a third class earth Power. She works at an oil company, inspecting and maintaining pipelines. An avid environmentalist, she often works overtime to ensure the company's pipes are free of flaws. Her boss rather hates her, considering she's called for numerous shutdowns due to degrading metal, but her dedication has likely prevented accidents, and her work, if inconvenient, is grudgingly valued. In her off time, she draws, and is an artist of considerate skill.

Danni Pham is a first class earth Power. She works for the government as an adjunct to the US Geological Survey, testing devices that measure seismic energy, and helping identify locations to plant seismic-measuring devices. She also checks ground structures used for toxic and nuclear waste disposal areas following seismic activity, which allows leaks to be identified immediately and stopped quickly. When she's not working, she watches anime with her kids, and goes ice skating.

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, November 3, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 10/18-11/3.

Publishing News

Amazon and Simon & Schuster successfully create a multi-year contract. It will be basically under a variant of the agency style. (Of course, speculation and opinions about the deal are already flying.)

Amazon's Kindle Scout program is now up and ready for voting.

In the UK, an e-book subscription service for kids, Blloon, launches.

Barnes & Noble and Samsung create a large-screen Nook.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 10/24.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts a few interesting writing links for 10/24. I recommend the Opportunities for Writers for November & December link.

Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware looks at the current and past concern over Permuted Press. Recent changes include the conversion to an e-first/e-only contract, basically becoming an e-only publisher unless sales become large enough to warrant a print run. Historically there have also been some contract terms Strauss points out as disadvantageous to authors, including overly extensive first refusal rights, substandard ebook royalties, and life of copyright term with sub-par reversion language. Strauss and the Horror Writers Association (Permuted is a horror genre publisher) expressed continuing concerns, and Permuted Press has now made the announcement to allow existing authors rights reversions on request without a fee beyond the repayment of the advance. They are also currently revising the boilerplate contract to change less-desirable terms. Strauss weighs in that she thinks the terms still could be improved, and the situation is still tenuous, but that this is a major improvement overall as well as an important show of good faith.

Also on Writers Beware, Strauss looks at the pros and cons of Amazon's new crowdsourced publishing program, Kindle Scout.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. If you get two full requests from queries to agents at different agencies, but then one agent moves agencies so that both fulls are now at the same agency, what do you do? (E-mail the person who moved and explain that the other agent at the new agency has your manuscript as well--honesty will CYA for both you and the agent, and everyone involved will appreciate it.) If you think part of your book can be published as a standalone novel, does it stop you from publishing the original piece in whole? (If you sell a part as a novel, you grant the publisher exclusive publishing rights to that part--so no, you cannot include it in another work.)

Reid answers more questions. Are any agents looking for short novels? (Agents tend to prefer full-length works. Maybe look at querying e-publishers.) Does your query have to be about your main character, or can it be about the framework narrator? (It must be about your main character. Non-negotiable.) And Reid gives some pointers on what not to do in a query. And what to do when an agent misunderstands your query.

On QueryTracker, Stina Lindenblatt talks about using subtext to clue your readers in--and to miscue them if you want to add in a red herring. And she talks about how to write a synopsis.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, author Shannon Donnelly explains what it means to "show, don't tell." Author Pepper O'Neal explains why she switched from an S corporation to an LLC as an author based on recent IRS changes.

Agent Kristin Nelson looks at HarperCollins' announcement that they'll give authors a royalty incentive to sell books directly through HarperCollins. She says that in her opinion, because authors are not encouraged to not link elsewhere, there are no conflicts of interest between the publisher and other retailers (and besides which, publishers have always had the ability to directly sell to customers; there just was never a huge market for it).

Seattle Times business reporter Jay Greene looks at the plausibility of proving and prosecuting Amazon as a monopoly, and why it will be extraordinarily difficult to do so.

Author Angela Quarles shares a tech tip: how to make the first line on a page small-capped through use of CSS when making an e-book.

Publishers Weekly chooses the 100 Best Books of 2014.

Al Jazeera publishes a web comic book about big data and the future of privacy. (Only tangentially publishing related, but interesting.)

Author John Green creates a podcast on why we need diverse books.