Monday, March 30, 2015

Gem Shows and Things I've Yet to Learn

The dragon in me is always happy to attend gem shows.

There was one in my region this past weekend. No, I didn't get much--a pretty geode, some cheap strings of beads--but walking down the aisle of the sparklies pleased my inner dragon indeed. (Inner goddess? I think the dragon ate her, sorry.)

It always reminds me how much I have yet to learn, though. So many gems whose names I didn't know. So many that I barely recognized. Meanwhile, rockhounds and specialists tossed around long stone names like they'd spent years studying them (like? okay, "because").

There's always more to learn. And that's one of the great things about life. No matter how much I know, I can be certain there are things yet to learn about.

I hope one day I learn more about gemstones and minerals. And I hope I continue to improve in everything I do know about, whether its writing or cooking or tea or making beadwork jewelry.

What new things do you hope to learn more about one day?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news post covers 3/14-3/28/15.

Publishing News

OverDrive is being bought by the Japanese company Ratuken. OverDrive was one of the first companies to bring e-books to libraries and will still continue to do so.

In the GSU e-reserves court case, the case nearly went back to court for a second trial. However, the judge has ruled that no additional trial is needed, as no sufficient new evidence has been brought up.

Industry Blogs

Writing links over at agent Nephele Tempest's blog for Friday, 3/20 and 3/27,  Particularly recommended is the Publication Opportunities for Writers collection for April and May over at Aerogramme Writers' Studio. 

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss looks at Omni Reboot, a reincarnation of Omni Magazine, and its contract language. She's still waiting for clarification, but if you're considering submitting, make sure you read the fine print to be sure you get the correct contract... whatever you sign shouldn't sell away your lifetime rights to your fiction. Also of note is that a second class action lawsuit has been filed against Author Solutions, Inc. Anyone who has signed with them can still add information to suit.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. An agent requests a partial, disappears, and doesn't respond to nudges for months--should you worry? (Yes; that's a bad sign... agents shouldn't disappear.)  She gives an informative review of answers, questions, and general useful info from the past week or so. She also gives clarification on what pre-empts are, and some info about book auctions.

Reid also advises that if an agent promises to reply and doesn't, it's okay to send a nudge to be sure the query arrived safely. If a NY Times best-selling author offers a blurb, is it okay to say that in a query? (Sure. Can't hurt, but say why they made the offer.) You published a book when you were a kid for some friends, and took it down in a week--are you previously published? (Yes, but you don't have to say it at the query stage, or anytime soon. Just make sure your agent knows about before entering you for awards.)

Agent Jessica Faust lists what the agents in her agency enjoy.

On the Editor's Blog, advice to look at the intention behind writing advice. A one-line ultimatum might be short, sweet, and make a nice meme, but it probably has some really important exceptions.

QueryTracker offers a series on querying well. Make a spreadsheet, research your basics to avoid dumb mistakes, figure out what to do while you wait and who to query, learn how to get over rejections and keep on querying.

Author Kristin Kathryn Rusch warns writers to beware thinking that early success means eternal success--if you don't keep growing, you'll eventually wash up.

On the FF&P blog, agent Sara Megibow gets interviewed.

Author Jim Hines takes a look at the effects of being a Kindle Daily Deal on his sales, and the overall impact the deal had. He also invites a series of guests to talk about representation. One talks about the impact of lack of representation when growing up bisexual, another talks about the need for the presence of characters with disabilities in SF, another about the over-mystifying of Native Americans in SF and Fantasy, and about being an older female writer in SF&F.

Author Angela Quarles posts about SELF-e, a site that helps get indie authors into libraries.

At, an infographic on writing content for a webpage.

And if you're self-publishing, make sure your cover isn't bad enough to wind up on the Kindle Cover Disasters Tumblr page.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015


It was one of those weeks were I overscheduled myself and then flopped onto the sofa for a five-minute rest.

Publishing news post will be tomorrow, on account of Thursday evening being hijacked by a three-hour nap. Oops.

Moral: Its important to remember to take care of yourself, yes, even giving yourself enough sleep. Otherwise you'll do so when you planned to work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tea Review: Rooibos Chai

Rooibos Chai

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

Rooibos, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Where I got it


How I brewed it

2 tsp with boiling water for 3 minutes n a 16 oz teapot, with a dollop of heavy cream and honey
Rebrewing notes

Have not rebrewed

By now I know I don't like rooibos without milk and sugar (or, in this case, leftover cream from a pasta recipe and honey), so I made it with both. It's a chai, and as such is a spice tea. Coincidentally enough, with milk is also how I tend to like my chais, so... works well.

The price is good, and as a rooibos it's caffeine-free. I've had spicier chais, and it's not exactly the standard flavor, so if you're particular about your chai you probably won't be impressed. But if you're willing to try a non-black chai tea it's quite good. It's basically cinnamon-ginger rooibos.

I rather like it, on the whole. Given a choice between a regular chai and rooibos chai, most of the time I'd go with regular, but as I don't want to toss and turn tonight, it's great. So... basically a chai substitute that fills that craving when it's too late for the regular kind, and if it's a little mellower, it still has a tasty flavor and even has a built-in excuse for making it with cream and sugar (y'know, in case you ever feel guilty about that or anything).
Looks like a normal cup of rooibos.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not all plot peeves are created equal

You know when you make yourself a pot of one of your favorite oolongs, but then you buy a new oolong and you want to try it, too, except then you can't remember which set of leaves is which when it comes time to resteep them, and they're similar-looking oolongs, so you can't really tell which is which just by looking? Only you want to write a review of the new one.

"How on earth will we get across the river?"
"I know! Let's dive in, wrestle a pair of
alligators, and get them to swim us across!"
"But what about the bridge?"
Obviously the solution is to just brew one and taste it, and if it's the wrong one, brew the other. It's oolong; you're good for 5-6 steepings (or more). See, some problems are more easily solved than others.

It always bothers me when a story plot (be it movie, book, or TV show) has a really obvious solution that nobody thinks to try. Or, worse, only one character thinks up. An obvious solution should either be the first thing someone tries, or the first thing that is dismissed as a possibility (for reasons, not just because logic isn't cool or something). 

Like in Frozen (a movie I really love by the way), why didn't they ask the trolls for clarification instead of subjecting a daughter to lifelong trauma? Or in Terminator, why not send more than one terminator?

It's a pet peeve, but not as bad as the "Stay here"/"No I'm going to go run into danger" and "There was a gunshot in the forest"/"I'm going to go investigate without backup" silliness. I like a movie less when the supposed-to-be-smart heroes do incredibly dumb stuff.

The strange thing is, unlike the others, blatantly ignoring an obvious solution doesn't always ruin the movie. I'm willing to suspend disbelief a little longer if the solution used instead is entertaining enough, and sometimes I'll even still call the movie "good" at the end. Because it's not about the solution; it's about the journey to get there, and the characters who are going. As long as I can buy into those two, I'm willing to ignore a plot hole or two.

What are some of your plot pet peeves? And is there any movie that you love anyway, despite having those peeves?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con: Sunday Review

I love conventions. Heck, I even love business conferences (yeah, I know, I'm weird). A well-done convention with good programming is a sight to behold and a joy to attend. You make new friends, you get to wander around a dealers' room, and you learn some pretty great things at the programs.

But I also don't have the money to attend many, so I pick a couple and hope they're worth it. That's why local conventions (y'know, within an hour or two of driving) are nice--save the hotel room and spend the cash on tickets.

What don't I love? Having two conventions under the same name at the same time, linked by location and divided by the amount of cash you drop.

I only hit up Sunday, which was the last day of Wizard World Comic Con. My local chapter of the RWA had a meeting Saturday (and it was amazing), so Sunday was the only day I could make. Sundays have a reputation of being when everyone hits the dealers rooms at most cons anyway. And there were a couple of panels we found interesting, plus a couple that were fairly appealing but just not the right cup of, uh, coffee (there's not really such a thing as a wrong cup of tea for me).

So, the good first.

For an $85 three-day con, the programming listed sounded pretty good, if more sparse than most of the cons I've been to. A panel with Sean Astin, with Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder, panels discussing costuming, geekdom from a minority perspective, steampunk, William Shatner, meeting the cast and crew of Star Trek New Voyages... Saturday had a very nice line-up. Friday barely bothered with four programs total, but it started at 5, so it was the pre-party anyway. Sunday was lighter on the programming, being also a short day, and really most cons expect Sunday to be dealer room day anyway. But although there were a couple of programs I was glad we caught on Sunday, Saturday was the true day to go.

The dealers' room was nice. I mean, besides the fact that it's a fandom kingdom of joy. There was a good variety of items to purchase, with a mix of collectibles, swords, handmades, local artists and authors, and even a couple of photo ops (Batmobile, Scooby Doo van, Dinosaur van). While I've been in larger dealers' rooms, for a relatively small convention this room was bigger than I'd expected. There were a few big names doing photographs and autographs, too. (We got a Master Sword, which will be treasured like the Precioussssss it is.)

They also seemed quite organized, with the registration moving quickly (on Sunday, anyway), and the area nicely laid out. The Raleigh Convention Center staff know what they're doing when it comes to conventions (seriously, it's in the name; it's literally their job, and they're good at it). The location is nice, and there's a parking deck right beside the convention center, so easy to get a spot.

And I can't help but note the cosplay. Raleigh's got a lot of good cosplayers, so many of those wandering around were, shall we say, well attired. Although the concourse would have made a great area for cosplay display, it was more a thoroughfare and there wasn't as much in the way of posing as I usually see, with much of the photography going on in the registration room and dealers' room. Still, some people were taking advantage of the great lighting.

Posing with K9 was free, though, and you better
believe I did. Sick 'em, K9!

So what did I dislike about this con?

For a con that made a really big deal of bringing in David Tennant, if you didn't pay more than twice the price for a VIP pass (or an extra $100 for a photo op), then you didn't see him in person. Even his autograph was extremely expensive (I've seen $20 for big names at other cons; this was more). Basically there was Wizard World Comic Con, and David Tennant Con with Wizard World access included This wouldn't bother me that much, since he was added to the docket later, except that much of the merchandising and advertising made a huge deal over his presence; the convention seemed to be missing its cornerstone if you didn't pay the extra. Had there been a "budget" package that said "budget members lose the chance to see Tennant in exchange for a lower price," it would have been better played--as it was, it felt like going to see The Hobbit at a theater advertising cheap tickets, but unless you pay the full price, you don't get to see any scenes containing Gandalf. Still a good movie, but there's something missing.

They didn't hide that Tennant was extra, by the way; it was pretty clearly implied from the beginning that he was extra. And everyone could watch the Q&A panels with him the same way they usually see him--on TV, or specially on ConTV. So... I guess we can say we got to be in the same building, and I have some friends who got to see him, which is something, at least.

Besides Tennant, the autographs and photo ops seemed pretty pricey on the whole, too. At least compared to the other conventions I've been to. The program list, while nice, was also less extensive and varied than other cons, with fewer tracks and fewer overall options. Good quality, small quantity. I note here that I've gone to smaller cons with more programming of equal and even higher quality, so I knock off some points here. And on the whole I got a "very commercial" vibe. I mean, it's a con, so I expect they're there to make money, but this was more than usual.

Would I go to this convention again? Meh. Not likely. I had fun, but if I have a limited number of cons I can attend, I'd rather go to different one next year.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/28-3/14/15.

Publishing News

In the Publishers vs Georgia State University case, wherein GSU stored e-reserves of work under the claim of fair use and publishers claimed that constituted copyright infringement, the publishers bring up new evidence in hopes of starting a new trial--specifically, their point hinges on the fact that in 2009, technology and practices have advanced, so titles that now have e-rights should be considered infringement cases. (The publishers technically won the case the first time around, but were unsatisfied with the result, and so have been pushing for a new trial.)

Amazon opens Write On by Kindle to the general public. The site is a community where readers can give feedback to writers who share their works in progress as they write them.

Industry Blogs

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss notes that some of Author Solutions' imprints are doing poorly. This may or may not something to do with the lawsuit leveled against them for deceptive practices, in which authors are currently seeking class certification (to cover about 170,000 authors or so). She also says that pitch websites (in which authors post pitches for agents to read) aren't that great, in no small part because few great agents want to use them ("just more queries," "added work," and "the people that come to me know who I am" [sending personalized queries instead of general pitches] are the common themes of the responses she got from agents).

On QueryTracker, breaking down the query process to explain what you'll need to do. And sometimes it's not the query that's ridiculous, but the rejection... though sometimes you can still get good info from those rejections.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answers questions. If you've previously had an agent, and are shopping a new book, when do you need to talk about your previous agent? (Depends on if you've been published or not; publishing credit area of query if so.) She explains payment structure: how and when you get the money from an advance. Also, she explains what a comp title should be.

She gives more advice and answers. You completely rewrote a rejected manuscript; can you resubmit as a new work to the same agents? (No. Send it to someone with fresh eyes or admit its a revision taking their feedback into account.) Your characters are people of color but you're not; when do you fear crossing the line into appropriation of culture? (It's a complicated question, but you can start by writing your characters as people, not as their culture.)

Agent Jessica Faust drops in with what's selling hot in romance right now.

Agent Kristin Nelson talks about what makes agents effective, including how well they command authority. She also gives tips: short query letters get better requests, agents don't always read the full query letter, pointing out your novel's market place is good, good titles make a difference.

On the Editor's Blog, why you shouldn't explain the motivations of actions of characters (and what this means, because readers do have to have enough to understand what's going on)., the science fiction website by the associated publishing house, has a great piece by Kate Elliot on writing women characters. Also, advice on how to use character names in fiction for realism and effective writing.

If you're one of those people who hate swearing and wish you (or your kids) didn't have to read it, a new app blocks swear words from your e-books for you. Beats getting a library book with all the curse words marked out... And if you're taking advantage of Penguin Random House's new website that's supposed to help you raise a reader, you might just want to get it for your little bookworm.

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Another Loss: The Great Terry Pratchett

(Publishing News post will be up on Saturday.)

Portrait from his Goodreads page
A second giant loss for the kingdom of fandom: Sir Terry Pratchett has passed away.

An author lives whenever a person reads his stories. Pratchett, therefore, is sure to brush on as near to immortality as humanly possible. Because we never stop needing to laugh, and we never stop searching for the themes of life, death, family, and being a hero when it's least convenient.

Here's to Terry Pratchett, a great author, and by all accounts a great man as well. May his books make him a little more real than time itself, for he will be missed.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Productivity for the Geek

Geeking out online is easy to do. Just a quick search for any fandom will give you a million hits or so, and you'll have hours or more of inspiration.

But juggling geekery with responsibilities is tough. It's easy to get distracted.

You can usually juggle yourself into work with the carrot-stick motivator, giving yourself a break every so often. There's also the strategy of shutting off the internet to work.

If you're going to watch the clock, it should be a pretty clock.
You can leverage your obsession to work for you with the carrot technique, but the peril is that you'll start giving yourself too many carrots.The other end of the spectrum, slash-and-burn, seems awfully bleak, though. Short of recruiting a second person to control your breaks for you, your best bet is to use a timer.

Yes, Rube-Goldberg machines are fine, but make sure you don't spend more time making the machine (and watching it go) than doing what you should.

Working in groups is another big help. Accountability by giving your word is a great option lots of 1k1hr writers use--1000 words in 1 hour, with check-ins every hour to see who reached their goal. An easy alternate is to recruit your fellow fandoms, have everyone set a goal, and check up with each other each hour to see what kind of progress is being made.

But not all jobs allow accessing massive online communities during work hours. Sometimes you have to find your own accountability. Sometimes, you have to make yourself a list-reward: You can buy a candy bar at the store if and only if you accomplish the goal you set in the morning.

What are some productivity strategies you use? How do you focus?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Leonard Nimoy: An inspiration

(Photo from the Wiki page)
Did you know the Bank of Canada has had to ask Star Trek fans to please stop "Spocking" their $5 notes?

I was more Star Wars than Star Trek as a girl, but that didn't make me immune to loving the series all the same. Spock was a recurring reference, yes, but  the classic series was a bit before my time, so I got less of him in the shows.

But in the books...

Yes, I read the Star Trek books, or at least some of them, anyway.

One of the (many) special things about Star Trek is how it reaches across time. In fact only Doctor Who seems to ignite a longer-running fanbase, and in the US, it's Star Trek you'll geek out over with your parents and grandparents.

A book series only lasts as long as people still find it inspiring enough to keep reading new books. Star Trek is still running. And it's inspiring new inventions even now... as well as inventions we use now.

Nimoy was more than a character, but his character was a lot to a lot of people. Spock wasn't the "cool kid." Spock wasn't as calm and collected as he appeared, and his own emotions were often something he had to fight to figure out... much like many of his fans. But he was competent, and brilliant, and always in control--all the things we all wish we could be.

His character helped define Star Trek. He defined his character. Beyond the screen, he was a poet, a director, a volunteer, and more. Simply put, Leonard Nimoy was the definition of "a great man."

So here's to a man who helped inspire millions, across time and space, who became a cultural icon and who left us all a little more logical.... and yet a little more appreciative of our emotional, human side, too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tea Review: Cream Black Tea

Cream Black Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

Black, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Before brew: Chocolate
After brew: Natural
Where I got it

Adagio Teas

$2/sample (~1oz), $6/3oz, or $19/16oz
How I brewed it

1.5 tsp in 12 oz mug, brewed with coffee machine water for 3 minutes
Rebrewing notes

Rebrews pretty well for 2 cups before losing flavor, so long as you don't brew too long. Fairly standard black tea. Usually noticeably weaker by 3rd cup, though still flavorful enough to be drinkable.

Opening this tea up reveals the scent of the leaves is pure, rich, decadent chocolate. It's cream tea, so don't get too attached, as the tea neither tastes nor smells like chocolate after steeping. Don't be fooled. Flavor and scent-wise, you'll get a fairly standard loose-leaf black tea. The cream flavor adds a little extra richness, though if you're looking for significant milk taste, you'll need to add actual milk or creamer. Not enough to replace the taste of real dairy.

It's a good tea, especially for the price. The cream flavoring tastes almost vanilla-y, but is very subtle. It's pretty mellow, and mostly just tastes like, well, black tea with a hint of cream/sweetness/vanilla. Pretty standard fare.

It would be a great tea to drink with scones or other sweets. It's also pretty good as a slightly sweeter morning tea, if you want a black tea, but want a change from Earl Grey/etc. I've had better black teas, but not for this price, and it's perfectly decent. Good for buying in bulk and caffeinating up for the day, so you can save your best (and pricier) teas for sharing with guests, or for a special treat when you're awake enough to really appreciate it.

Where this tea shines is as a blender. If blending teas is your thing, it makes a great base for or addition to other flavors. It would go really well in anything fruity, nutty, or spicy. I use it with a coconut pu-erh to mellow that out. I've also added it to other black teas that have started to grow a touch weak after a couple of rebrews, but enough good flavor left I'm not ready to give up on them yet. It extends their tastiness and adds more caffeine if they've been brewed past the pick-me-up without substantially altering the taste.

Long story short: Reasonable black tea at an affordable price. Great for blending.

I didn't take a picture, and their picture wasn't of the tea,
 but I wanted to include some kind of image... so... >.>
You get a logo.