Monday, August 31, 2015

Which stories do history the best?

Age is beautiful.

We know this from our admiration of old buildings, of ruins, of artifacts in museums.

We admire how age touches stories and changes them; we find ancient tales as intriguing as modern ones, and all the more so for the history behind them.

Pretty much the only place we dislike age is upon ourselves. How sad--because that's beautiful, too, the personal histories we collect, the wisdom we gain over the years. Hollywood is downright phobic about women getting old (just think about the percent of middle-aged or elderly women who are the good guys; then think about the elderly people general who are good guys, and what percent of them are female...). But women and men alike fear aging, and that's probably not going to go away anytime soon, being as no one likes being reminded that his or her bones now pop and creak in the mornings, and midnight isn't as easy as it used to be.

History in fantasy and science fiction has always been particularly interesting, because believable worlds have to have history as much as they have present. How did those aliens get that way? Why do people fear the elves in the woods? The history may not be mentioned, but it's always at least insinuated by how the characters interact.

Lord of the Rings saga is known for its history, for Tolkien's stories behind the story. Harry Potter has histories written into the stories, as well.  But what stories handle history the best? Do you have a world whose backstory you love the most? That you think handles history better than others? How about the concept of aging, in general?

Friday, August 28, 2015


Next weekend is DragonCon, an awesome 3-day sci-fi/fantasy convention in Atlanta that I will sadly be missing this year, myself. However, I've been a couple of times, and loved it. It's got everything from excellent cosplay to interesting panels to roaming packs of people playing games (besides the board game room or LARP room, that is). Big names show up (of course you have to pay for autographs from the Hall of Autographs, but author signings tend to be free).

It's a really cool convention, and while it does have a few downsides (cost, history of cosplay harassers [though they've been working on improving the harassment policy and reducing this issue], the typical assortment of cancellations), I'm excited for all my friends who are going. I can't wait to see the pictures, which usually include some of the best cosplay I'll see all year. People pull out their best works for this con, especially those who can't make West Coast events. And I know some good cosplay artists. Plus, they'll get the chance to meet some of their favorite authors.

As a relatively nearby convention (within driving distance), it's one of my favorites. Both times I've gone, it's been with groups of friends, which makes it even better. And I've thoroughly enjoyed all the panels I've been to--with as many fan tracks as they have, it's hard to find something not to like.

To everyone who's going, have a great time, and be sure to share the pictures. Those of us who can't go this year are with you in spirit!

What conventions are your favorites? Which ones that you've been to have the best cosplay?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fun things: Mushi-Shi and new King's Quest

I discovered the anime Mushi-Shi this weekend. Although I've only watched the first episode, it's just the right combination of beautiful and creepy, eerie and awesome to really tickle my interest. A young man, trying to emulate his father's sake brewing skill after his father falls ill (it's their family business), brews a sake that glows gold. When he drinks a few sips of it, he finds he can see mysterious spirits in the mountains, and he stumbles upon a gathering where people trade golden-glowing sake in the middle of the mountain woods.

On the other end of the spectrum of things I really enjoy, my fiance and I started playing the most recent King's Quest, a humor-based fantasy adventure. Narrated Princess-Bride-style by a grandfather telling his granddaughter tales of his youth, it's cute, fun, hilarious narration (especially when you die), and filled with terrible grandpa-puns. It's a puzzle game, if you're unfamiliar with the King's Quest series, and so far we're having fun with them.

Found any new anime/games lately you're enjoying?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's Publishing news and industry blogs post covers 8/7/15-8/21/15.

Publishing News

Simon & Schuster partners with in a deal that will allow eligible customers to download free one of seven e-books.

Family Christian Stores have asked for approval for their reorganization plan for their bankruptcy filings.

Educational publishers file a copyright and trademark infringement suit against US textbook-resellers Information Recyclers, on grounds that it imported and resold copies of textbooks the publishers allege are pirated editions.

The Authors Guild encourages academic authors not to give exclusive rights to publishers, a practice that is uncommon in most traditional publishing contracts but common in university press publications.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest posts some fun writing links for 8/14, and 8/21.

On QueryTracker, 5 query mistakes that make you look like an amateur.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. You've got a contract in hand but no agent, but want an agent--when do you query? (Now's good. Or when you're about to talk options.) She explains the etiquette of book reviewing. A reader asks her about a creative writing course; she says she doesn't pay attention to where writers learn to write, only whether or not they can, and the best people oto ask are the graduates.

Agent Kristen Nelson explains why a good agent should be friendly with, but not friends with, editors.

On the Editor's Blog, an issue that I have to fix all the time at my day job (yes, it really is my job to correct other peoples' grammar): adjectives modifying multiple nouns, and why order and parallelism matter and can have unintended consequences. And she gives a cheat sheet on compound words, from when to hyphenate to the differences between British English and American English.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes the story of an author who backed out of a traditional publishing deal 2 months before the book was released (Publishers' Weekly article) due to the publisher's lack of support, a move that 10 years ago might have ruined his career--and why it's a move he can make today, (Rusch's analysis) thanks to the new publishing world. Nor is he the first author to walk away from a Big Five publisher for similar reasons--Jane Friedman why she also walked away.

At Books & Such Literary Agency blog, how to look good on your webcam.

Write MG or children's books? Kids discuss the reasons they read.

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

President Meow?

Well a new presidential candidate has joined the race, this one a Democrat... Or, to be exact, a Demo-cat.
Yep, just all day every day, being driven around in a skeletal coach
by invisible horses while I play games on my phone.

Publishing news and industry blogs will be Saturday, as another birthday sails by and I spent the week being lazier than Limberbutt.

Also, there's now a book in testing that's designed to filter drinking water. Because books are cool.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tea Review: S'mores Oolong Tea

S'mores Oolong Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

oolong, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Sweet, chocolatey
Where I got it


$10/2 oz (sale right now at $2.50/2 oz)
How I brewed it

2 tsp in 12-oz mug, brewed for about 2 minutes with water from a coffee machine cooled for about 1 minute
Rebrewing notes

Not so great

There aren't many flavored oolongs that I think are really worth the money. Nor are there many chocolate teas that I go head-over-heels for. And this one is sadly about on par with both of those.

Don't get me wrong. I love chocolate, and s'mores, and this tea is made of reasonably high-quality ingredients. And this is a nice-tasting tea on the whole, especially at its sale price--in fact, I would recommend purchasing it if you want to give someone a gift who might enjoy a single-steep oolong with a touch of chocolate flavor. I mean, the price is right, and it does taste pretty good as long as you like watery chocolate. It's a cute novelty gift, but not much more.

But I don't recommend buying this tea at full price, because at the end of the day, like most chocolate teas made with a lighter tea, it's just watery chocolate. The chocolate drowns out the oolong flavor, and yet is weak and wimpy compared to actual hot chocolate. It is good chocolate--real chocolate that melts when you brew the tea, and real marshmallows that also melt into the tea, giving it a genuine sweet and chocolatey taste. It's just that it's 2 tsp of chocolate (less, actually, once you take into account the tea part of the spoonful) in a mug of hot water. So, watery chocolate.

(Note: I suggest brewing hot chocolate in steeped black tea if you want to add a tea flavor to your hot cocoa. Black teas, too, on the whole do better as chocolate teas than other types of tea, being more robust in flavor, and are sometimes worth the investment.)

As far as being an oolong, well, one of oolong's huge advantages is the number of times you can steep it, and another is its flavor, and you lose both in this iteration. So... Not worth it at full price, in my book. Decent taste, but not as good as hot cocoa; oolong isn't rich enough to stand up to chocolate's flavors, so you don't really taste the tea, either. Nothing wrong with the tea product (good ingredients and reasonable general flavor profile), it's just better in concept than in application.

Picture of tea from Teavana site

Friday, August 14, 2015

What will books be like in 100 years?

Publishing 100 years ago was dime novel territory, that revolutionary break-through of cheap fiction that "ruined" books. It was pulp magazines; it was radios and radio plays "destroying" books; it was the breakthrough of mass-printing of books when everyone could afford them. And if you asked the intellectual elite of the time, it was probably "The End" of reading and the publishing industry as a whole.

Obviously, publishing survived. It revolutionized, and it spread. And it's doing that again, and as before, the industry is changing so rapidly that few people know where it's going.

So what will books be like in 100 years?

Will they all be multi-media, full-immersive texts with virtual reality cut scenes? Will you occasionally stop reading to video chat with one of your friends on your book? Maybe you'll highlight your favorite sentence, and a custom menu will pop up, animating the scene just for you. You might even be able to customize the characters to look like you imagine them. And the author will have already selected the perfect soundtrack for every scene, ready and waiting for you.
e-Reading toy 2099: the USB book, which magically
fills a book of blank pages with a cover and words, for the
full "book" experience. Only $999.99!

I wouldn't be surprised if those were "toys" that become available. But you know what? I would be surprised if the next generation of books still includes the same number of print-and-ink books. Or at least 50-50. Because there's still something nice about holding a book.

But I do see books being printed on cheaper but more durable paper, books that you could drop in the tub and never worry about getting ruined. Not all books, but it would be a popular feature.

And I can see e-books being more share-able than ever. People sharing, texting, talking about their books live on their phones and Kindles and next-gen e-reader-tablets. The rise of the live-reading hashtag, where perfect strangers will post what they're reading and, across the world, other readers of the same thing will join in and read, together, quietly, online over video feed, sharing each others' reactions and joys and favorite lines, and talking about what they read. Instant book club.

And people who do buy print books, many of those books I can see being impressively bound, looking like showpieces. Because e-books will probably be cheaper, and they definitely take up more space, and if people continue downsizing our homes (due to population density or just a preference to tiny homes), anything that takes up space had better be a quality worth devoting space to. People will buy their favorites in ink and sturdy paper, hardbound beauties designed to last for centuries, and keep those treasures on special shelves.

What do you think books will be like in 100 years?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dubbed, Subbed, or both?

Do you ever watch anime? If so, do you prefer to watch it dubbed, or subbed?

Dubs: for when I'm dong mindless things such as choosing
the best flower pictures or extracting images in Photoshop.
On the whole, I tend to prefer the original subtitled versions. For one, the dialogue is usually more accurate. It only takes turning on the subtitles as you watch a dubbed version to realize how far off the dub usually is, as the voice actors try to match the words to the lip movements.

But I admit there are times I don't want to focus on reading as I'm watching. If I'm watching something I've seen before, or that has delved into the realm of trope-tastic or ultra-angsty, I might turn it on as I'm doing tedious hand or craftwork. Decent way to pass time.

Do you have a preference? And if so, are there times you tolerate the other?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs covers July 24-August 7 2015.

Publishing News

A Books-A-Million investor wants to stop the BAM buyout by the Anderson family.

Kindle owners begin to receive credits from the DOJ vs the Big Six antitrust settlement.

The Authors Guild urges authors to push for time limits on book contracts, and include options for reclaiming rights. (Most agents whose blogs I follow have consistently similarly talked about the importance of reasonable rights-reversion clauses; time limits may or may not be related, but be sure you know how to get your rights back in any publishing contract.)

Industry Blogs

At BookEnds, agent Jessica Faust gives advice on what to do when you get an offer of representation. She also tells authors to lead with their blurb, don't bury it at the bottom of a query. She also explains why it's important to follow query rules.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice, such as on querying as a co-authoring pair. And is it okay to give a bad review to a book that's actually terrible without giving yourself a black mark in the industry? (If you have valid, well-explained, based-on-the-writing-not-the-writer reasons, then yes.) And what's the average wait time on hearing back from a requested full? (Wait 90 days before sending a check-in.)

At Books and Such literary agency, agent Janet Grant answers questions about book contracts.

Author Jim Hines has just made the leap to going to a full-time writer. He blogs about what he did to prepare for this transition, and what his monetary worries are and will be. Good read if you think you might be ready to be a full-time writer yourself.

Author Nathan Bransford talks about how to know when it's time to leave your agent. Also, his Last Few Weeks in Books post.

Writer and writing teacher Barbara Baig suggests for those writers who are looking to improve their overall writing skills, try breaking up your learning into smaller areas of focus by figuring out your writing weaknesses and working on improving each one separately.

Some neat Friday writing links from agent Nephele Tempest.

Fiction editor Beth Hill explains that your first attempt at novel-writing probably won't be publishable, but why it's important to finish it anyway: writing a novel is a skill, and a learned one, and until you've written an entire novel, you haven't truly practiced--not even if you've written, say, a technical manual.

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Friday, August 7, 2015


Broken perception filter emergency. Publishing industry news will be tomorrow. See you then!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Businesses Missing the Point (and why quality comes before cool)

In a shopping outing this weekend, I realized--in what's probably no surprise to anyone--that the store's upper management had completely missed the point of today's technology.

If anyone has been navigating the world of wedding registries lately, you probably have seen new, different types of registries such as Zola, which are designed to let you gather all your registered items into one place online, and to let you register for nontraditional items such as camping gear and Etsy-shop items. The idea is that all your registries can be in one place, conveniently, and you can add small-store items to support local businesses, too.

It's not surprising that big-box stores don't want to share the business. But when the poor shopkeeper had to explain to me that her store's registry system was deliberately designed to be incompatible with these systems ("oh, but let me show you this need app that you put on your phone; just scan any of our products to add it to the system!"), I couldn't help but feel embarrassed for her. It wasn't her fault. She hadn't decided to create a deliberately inconvenient system and spruce it up with all sorts of apps and techno-gadgets.

But the fact of the matter is, the store had completely missed the point of the modern shopping experience. It's not about fancy scanning apps or being able to check your registry on your smartphone. What I really want is convenience and options. And that store couldn't give it to me.

It's really easy to get caught up in the toys and tricks and apps and nifty gadgets and marketing programs and hashtags when we're making any kind of advertising. We feel cool. We feel relevant. But at the same time, it's also easy to get so lost in these things that we entirely miss the point of what the consumer wants. And somehow, with state-of-the-art apps and an Instagram account being followed by thousands, we still wind up being irrelevant, because we missed the point in the first place.

That happened with coupons: there were lots of great coupons; coupon-clipping became popular; companies began mass-printing coupons but they printed them for things consumers didn't want; it became too much effort to weed out the useful coupons from piles of $2 off 40-packs of men's razors; couponing has become less popular again.

Case in point: sunrise never has made
an app, but people still get up to watch it.
For stores, relevance is about making the experience more convenient, and offering more options. And it's about still offering goods worth consuming--if brand loyalty is a thing of the past, it's because quality of output had degraded. On the other hand, things that are worth buying are still being bought loyally, regardless of whether or not the company has a neat app or cool website. I've used Ghiradelli baking chocolate for as long as I've been baking awesome, rich chocolate brownies, because it's good baking chocolate; I've never bothered to see what the company offers online. What's relevant is the good product.

But what about for writers? At the end of the day, the most relevant thing we can do is write a good book. Yes, Twitter and Facebook and G+ and Instragram are fun, and they're great for connecting to readers.

But if you don't have a product worth selling, nobody's going to buy it more than once. If all you ever plan to write is one book, congratulations, you're set. Otherwise, you've missed the point.

If you want to make a career as a writer, make sure book quality comes first. We can still be cool, and we can still advertise and market and play with the gadgets, because they do help (and they are fun!). But at the end of the day--those are less important than the quality of the product. Write a book worth reading. Because that's what the consumers really want.