Friday, October 30, 2015

No Humans?

What if you woke up as a monster? What if everyone did?

I've been watching iZombie, which follows a woman as she tries to adjust to life post-death. It's half Walking Dead, half Medium, and half CSI. Yes, the math works--think Venn diagrams.

Monster shows always seem to be from the "trying to survive" side--either as the monster or as a human fighting off monsters. Sometimes they even have a "trying to live a normal life" angle. What if everyone was a monster, though? What if monster was normal?

I've seen a couple of pieces where there are only a few humans left. (Last Blood comes to mind.) These are interesting, but again, it's a story of survival. Still, it's a pretty cool look at where humans are the minority.

The closest I've seen is in science fiction, stories where there has been a disaster and humans are almost extinct. What about in fantasy, though?

Have you seen many shows or books where no one is human, or almost no one? Was it done well?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Paint your own pottery

In my case, it's a Hylian Crest and
some hearts.
Painting your own pottery is one of those things you don't realize is incredibly fun until you do it. There are a lot of ceramic options these days, from sculptures of dragons to Boo! statues to gnomes for your garden, but my favorite is still the basic blank plate.

A blank plate is like a blank page--it's endless possibility. It's a little of everything until you decide what you want to do with it.

It's a blank canvas. And as anyone can tell you, a blank canvas is only boring if the person using it is boring.

Turns out much brighter after baking.
The tools don't make it easy, but going with a friend made it fun. Great way to keep the hands busy while we caught up. Definitely something I'd do again. Also, I have a new large mug that's the right size for tea. (Too small tea mugs are always a problem.)

Have you ever painted your own pottery? What did you make?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs covers 10/10-10/22/2015.

Publishing News

The US Appeals Court affirms that the Google library book scanning project is indeed protected by fair use.

Apple's court-ordered monitoring has ended, the monitor having been originally appointed as a result from the anti-trust case.

Amazon sues over a thousand people for writing/selling fake reviews, targeting account holders on Fiverr. Most of the people aren't named as they're not actually known yet. (Actual complaint filed can be viewed on Scribd.)

American publishers (12 of them) have signed a pledge to "monitor and address incidents of censorship in Chinese translations of books."

Industry Blogs

Of course, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so here's a blog from author Nathan Bransford with NaNoWriMo resources to get you started/back into gear.

A new Author Earnings report is out, this one looking at a variety of e-book markets.

Agent Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes the newest author earnings report (that came out right after her last post with some of the very information she'd mentioned wanting to see), discussing its limitations and possible business implications.

Agent Jessica Faust explains how to follow up gracefully on your submission.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. Is there a best time of year to send your queries? (No.) She gives advice on how to make the most of a group critique at a conference. Do writers get rejected because of typos in the query? (Yes.) Her thoughts on the best and worst kinds of authors swag.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts some interesting writing-related links in her Friday Links post.

Agent Janet Grant of Books and Such Literary agency talks about how to gain and take advantage of word-of-mouth publicity.

Pew Research Center has, in their latest survey, noted among their findings that slightly fewer people on average have read a book (digital or print) in the past year, although reading percentages in younger readers (18-29) is higher than older generations.

On The Editor's Blog, a list of grammar resources for all your grammar questions. (I'm a Chicago Manual of Style-based writer myself, but hey, there's lots of style guides to choose from.) She then answers some specific grammar questions from readers.

Author Karen Dionne explains the best way to leave your agent.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance Writers blog, Rebecca Zanetti posts about world building and characterization, and how the two interact.

At Publishers' Weekly, a report on how much people at various jobs in the publishing industry earn. It also looks at the traditional publishing industry's demographics.

Bowker, seller of ISBNs and barcodes for books, now can help authors and publish register copyrights during purchase of ISBNs.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015


A friend recommended a game to my fiance and me, so we tried it out this weekend: Undertale.

It's a very cute, very silly RPG (you can find it on Steam) that subverts tropes. Sure, you can fight your way through the first boss... but why not talk your way through instead? And what's not to love about a game where sleeping at the inn gives you a refund because you only slept for two seconds?

You start out as a kid who trips and falls down a hole into GenericLand the ruins, remnants of when monsters fought humanity and were then banished underground after losing. You're immediately rescued by a helpful friend, who obviously desperately wants a kid to love and protect and raise as her own. (And you, sweet child that you are, immediately begin running off down side paths and getting into trouble. Because you can.)

The writing is prettier than the graphics.
It's not going to wow you with graphics, as it's an 8-bit game. Pretty standard game music. And it makes no bones about being a pretty generic plot and world, at least at the beginning. But the concept is cute, and in execution it comes across as amusing and fun. Silly pretty much throughout and the gameplay is easy to pick up. The writing is clever, and be prepared for the fourth wall to occasionally be broken.

I'll admit I haven't finished it yet, but so far it's been worth the playtime.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Work in fiction

Work. For most people, it's a default setting on life: you go to work, and if you're lucky, you go home in time to do other stuff. Sometimes you go to more work. And most of us really prefer this state to the more terrifying prospect of "too much free time"; job searching sucks.

But have you noticed how little work interferes with fictional characters' lives?

Lots of winery/brewery/small
business owners in fiction.
In some stories, it's because the job is the basis of the storyline; the character is defined by what she or he does: bounty hunter, detective, police officer, soldier, doctor, lawyer, etc. Boom, setting and character all wrapped neatly up together. On the other hand, you never get any heroes from less interesting jobs this way. No delivery workers, no office junkies, no barista/burger flipper/retail workers. By the definition of interesting characters, only interesting jobs that involve a lot of moving around and flexible scheduling can be used for this.

It's a theme of fiction, though, that adventures can happen to anyone. So how else do writers deal with jobs? You know, like those jobs everyone wants to pretend no one does, or no one wants to think too hard about because it hits a little too close to home.

"Zoo worker" in books seems to involve much less
waste-scooping and much more cuddling with giraffes
or tigers or wolves than the real thing.
Vacation is a useful tool, for workers who get it. And in the nature of adventures, typically workers who can't get time off are pulled away in such a fashion that their main source of worry is staying alive, not how they'll pay their rent. A lot of them are young and not yet in the work force, while some are unemployed and staying with family. And in some cases, the heroes keep going to work and the story only progresses in the off hours, because nobody wants to ride along with a hero while she is spending her 9-5 redeeming other peoples' savings bonds and telling them their new bank balances.

And of course, there's always the tried-and-true "vaguely described job that somehow earns lots of money without interfering with the character's schedule except when it's convenient for plot." That one comes out a lot.

At the end, though, we often have to turn to the suspension of disbelief. Characters in books and movies have more time than we do, and get paid more so that they can better stuff and bigger homes. I call this the wishful thinking effect: we write it because it's what we wish our lives were.

Can you think of any books where the protagonist has a mundane job where the job is handled realistically? And which characters' jobs do you most wish you had instead of your own?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tea Review: Tazo Pumpkin Spice Chai

Pumpkin Spice Tazo Chai Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

black, bagged
Flavor aspects

Sweet, spicy
Where I got it

Harris Teeter
(online through Amazon here)

On sale at HT for $4.50;
online $6.99
How I brewed it

1 bag in a 12-oz mug for 5 minutes with slightly less than boiling water
Rebrewing notes

Did not try to rebrew

Enjoyable. It's pumpkin-spice chai. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, the whole shebang. I brewed it with water, no milk or sugar, and it was still good, which isn't always true for me for chais; it's naturally slightly sweet and the flavor is rich enough to stand on its own.

I found it on sale on the seasonal rack at the grocery store, and am pleased with what I got. Tazo, in my experience, typically makes pretty good bagged teas, and this is no exception. If you're looking for a pumpkin-spice tea for the season, whether for a gift or yourself, and don't want to splurge for some loose-leaf fancy seasonal novelty (few of which I've really found worth it), then this is a good buy.

I don't tend to rebrew bagged teas, since I rarely find second brews worth it, so admittedly I didn't try with this one, either. If you have the inclination, I would suggest trying it with milk and sugar; chai teas tend to be pretty amazing made that way, and if you want to impress, it's a good way to make your tea seem fancier without adding a lot of extra cost or effort.

Note that I have not tried the pre-brewed versions of this; this review only applies to the bagged version of the tea.

Picture from Tazo website

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/25/15-10/10/15... and is a bit late. Uh. Sorry. It was a long work week. Whoops!

Publishing News

Michael Glickstein put in a bid last year (on behalf of his investment firm) to purchase majority stakes Barnes in Nobles, but did not have the financing to do so; as such, he was charged with fraud. A settlement has now been reached.

A class action case against educational textbook publisher Pearson has been approved, for now, on the allegation of failure to pay proper royalties.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest posts writing-related links for 10/2 (and have you set your writing goals for this year?) and 10/9.

Agent Jessica Faust explains that when an agent is looking for something in particular, that doesn't mean they won't accept something else from their already-established clients. Also, why agents don't sign non-disclosure agreements before reading submissions. Also, start your query with "haves," not "have nots"--don't start off talking about what you haven't done.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. She explains how to evaluate a small publisher. Should an author looking to drastically change genres with a new pen name go ahead and create the new persona, or wait until query success has been reached? (Yes, start now.) She gives examples of questions to ask potential agents if they offer a chance to ask questions. What if your current agent hates your newest book and won't try to sell it? (Talk to your agent, see if you need to part ways, know that you shouldn't "shop around" until you've ended your previous contract.)

Reid answers more questions and gives more advice. If you've posted parts of a story on a writing website, is there a way to know when that will affect your ability to get a contract with a publisher? (It's up to the publishers whether to accept these or not; digital-first/only publishers will probably be the most affected by this.) Can you use citations from works in the public domain without permission? (You need permission if the copyright is still in effect, and you still need to cite your sources even if it isn't.) In nonfiction, what is considered platform

In Shelf Awareness' latest issue, Simon & Schuster CEO's keynote address to the Book Industry Study Group is summed up, with some pretty big looks at the recent changes the publishing industry is taking into account, including the power of metadata and the desire for print books.

Author Hugh Howey releases another set of author earnings' reports.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes S&S's CEO's keynote for what it means for authors, and how "frontlist" and "backlist" are now outdated terms when what really matters is "accessible or not." She also analyzes the Author Earnings reports, for both their weaknesses and what she has gleaned from them.

Agent Kristin Nelson shares 3 tips for improving your manuscript gleaned from a recent conference discovery: less is more, don't try to get too fancy too often with language, and anchor the reader in the setting during dialogue.

On The Editor's Blog, how to properly capitalize holidays, and their greetings.

Cover designer Fiona Jayde talks about cover designs and reminds authors that they're to give the reader the gist, not the exact details.

Twilight author Stephanie Meyer publishes a gender-swapped version of Twilight. (link goes to video of interview/announcement)

On the Simply Novel Teachers Blog, an infographic on challenged and banned books.

In T-Magazine, an infographic of Penguin Books' 80 years of business.

The employees at Amazon selected their Top 100 Sci-Fi & Fantasy novels (link to GalleyCat as it's easier to read the list than Amazon's, which is in browse-buy format).

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Weddings in stories?

Ack! I forgot Friday's post! Well, you know the drill. Some more pictures for public domain.

Why did I miss the post? I was a friend's wedding. Which makes me think about the weddings I've seen at the ends of stories. Not "Red Wedding" kind of weddings (obviously no one can stop reading a Martin-style wedding), but happy weddings.

It's not a bad way to wrap up a movie (usually one or two short clips of a wedding, like Aragorn and Arwen's wedding), but I rarely see weddings ending books. I've actually seen more weddings-for-the-sake-of-wedding endings in fantasy books than in romance books, probably because we all know what a regular wedding is like, but fantasy one is something new and different. (Although there are entire romance genres where a wedding starts the book... but that's serving a different purpose.) What was the last wedding you read in a book? Did you think it wrapped it up well?

Anyway, since I missed last Friday, here are some pictures for the public domain:

Let's call this the "textures and memes" set.

A little texture, anyone?

For all your meme-ing needs.

Light playing on a bottle.

I'm sure there's a thirsty meme for this one, too.