Monday, December 19, 2016


I've been behind in posts between busy weekends and, let's be honest, getting distracted by Final Fantasy XV. Nobody saw that coming, right guys? Right?

As is my usual, I'm dashing around doing the side quests, reaching level 40-something by chapter 4 and finally moving on only when all the reasonable, reachable sidequests have been finished. (Do the frog-lady and photographer-guy quests. Best money and XP.)

Picture from FFXV Wiki.
It's a Final Fantasy, so needless to say the graphics are pretty. This one has a real road-trip vibe going on... which, as it basically starts out as a road-trip bachelor party for a prince with his bodyguards, makes sense. You've got a lot of open-world to explore, and if you want to put Ignis to work cooking, you can run around collecting ingredients in a completely extraneous recipe-gathering sidequest that confers stat bonuses when you have him cook.

Also, I've noticed that someone who worked on this project is a huge Star Wars fan. Really. You'll know it when you see it.

The main weakness of the game is travel-time (loading takes a while, and you can't always fast travel where you want to go, so you'll have to drive there... which can take several minutes of low-interaction scenery-passing). It's a bit frustrating. But at least the scenery is pretty and there's lots to explore, so it could be worse. And sometimes there's a character-interaction moment that interrupts the monotony so you can do something. Consider keeping a book or a phone at hand for those long travel sessions, though.

I have noticed that chapters 4-8 go by very quickly. I can't really say how big an issue this is, as I've avoided spoilers and have no idea how long the game goes, but you can spend forever up to chapter five, and then bam, you've advanced the plot quite a bit very fast. It still feels like there's a lot left to the game, though, so I'm not too worried about a few quick chapters.

Being as it's a bachelor party, there is some attempt at romance build up between the hero and his would-be bride, but as of chapter 8 she's not really been an interactive character in the game, so it's pretty cursory. Again, holding judgement until I see how that turns out. Though am I the only one who sees a slight visual similarity to Yuna? She does at least seem interesting.

As far as other women go in the game, don't get me started on Cindy the half-dressed mechanic who wiggles when she talks. And the half-hearted Iris crush is about as road-worthy as a broken-down car in need of a repair kit (stock up on those, btw; you get a nice return on investment when you save a stranded motorist). Basically the only interesting female sidequest character so far is Sania the botanist. There are a few tertiary NPCs who run shops and diners and walk around cities, but they don't really do much. The only female villain so far has the standard female armor problems, which is to say it visually would not function to protect her in battle. So on the whole, I'm... not impressed about that aspect of the game.

High note: I think my favorite part of the game thus far has been Prompto. Prompto may be my new mascot, guys. Him and chocobos. Yes, there is a bunch of chocobo riding in this game, and it never gets old to run around on a bird, especially when your bird riding skills level up enough that it occasionally buffs you in battle. Go chocobo! Prompto is silly, sweet, and seems to have some hidden depths to him as a character. He's the comic relief of the group, and if he keeps dying in battle (seriously, stay out of melee range, Prompto! You have a freaking gun!), he's amusing enough that I still like him.

I do really like the warping aspect of battle, which gives some cool visuals and adds an interesting dimension to the combat. Since Prompto catches in-battle photos, this makes for some fun 'pictures' to go through later. It's not a complex fighting system, but the variety of weapons is enjoyable, and making magic is cool and also makes getting mobbed by a lot of Imperial soldiers much less irritating (Blizzara to their faces=quick XP and less time spent in battle). Of course there's a lot of combat, but I think the amount is about normal for a Final Fantasy, and you can avoid it if you really want to in most situations.

On the whole I'm finding it a very cute game and enjoying the side-questing a lot. As far as main plots go, I'm ranking it about par with XII so far. We'll see how that develops over time. In any case, I've been enjoying it, enough to distract me from blogging.

Anyone else playing? What are your thoughts on the game?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Productive weekend

Went on a writing retreat this weekend with a friend, and it was a lot of fun. We made good progress and did a lot of writing, plus worked in some Christmas shopping and delicious food.

Our hotel room was, um, a bit more homey than I might have expected, and did not make the best first impression the night we rolled in. The table needed a couple of strategically placed crushed cups to be sturdy enough to hold the teapot, and we may have found the lack of curtains so delightful that we covered the LED light outside the window with a pillow case. That and a washcloth over the bright display screen on the phone made it adequately dark to sleep.

Working on the sequel,
la ti da ti da...
It's a good thing it was a nice cool LED lightbulb and not a normal heat-making one, is what I'm saying.

Still the beds were warm, the room was clean, and the lobby was cute. It was a good deal and a great location, so the price was right. In the evening, we sat by the lobby fire and wrote nice and cozy. We had a fridge and microwave in the room, and were therefore perfectly able to make tea in the microwave-friendly teapot, too. The staff was friendly, too.

Though it wasn't perfect, there was nothing that was an absolute deal-breaker in a room for me. We could fix the little problems we found, at least enough for our purposes. So while the room hadn't made a perfect first impression, it was basically just what we needed, and if I've been in better light-proofed rooms with sturdier bedside tables, I still found it perfectly satisfactory for a writing weekend, and was sad to leave by the last day.

It turns out that perfection isn't what most people look for in most things in life. We just want something that serves our goals (in this case, productive writing and a good time with friends). 

What makes a hotel room adequate for you for a writers' weekend? And what will you absolutely not put up with?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Memorials at the National Mall

I visited DC recently, and got a chance to see the memorials on the mall. I found the quotes on the Roosevelt Memorial particularly meaningful. Some wisdom from the past that we should continue to keep in mind:

"In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of
social justice... the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.

"We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their
background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred,
is a wedge designed to attack our civilization."
I also checked out the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I'd not had the chance to see it before, and it is very impressive.

You can find out more about the
symbolism of the memorial here.
 And of course, while I was there, also saw the World War II memorial, the Washington monument, and the Lincoln memorial.

I notice that our memorials of the past all have some things in common: embrace equality and love of mankind regardless of borders or origin, seek freedom for all, cast aside prejudice and hatred, and remember the high cost of war and social oppression.

So. There is the hard-earned wisdom of the past. If you ever get the chance, take a walk around the National Mall. And make sure to read the writings on the walls. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 11/11-12/1/16.

Publishing News

The European Union rules that for the purposes of library use, print and digital books should be treated the same, in terms of copyright. This has raised issue with publishers, who point out that digital copies do not degrade at the same rate as physical books, as well as the strikedown of a ruling that prevented libraries from lending more than one copy of an e-book at a time.

Barnes and Noble opens a "concept' bookstore that has a full restaurant, unveils and experiments with new technology to help readers, and looks really pretty. It also releases a new Nook Tablet.

Penguin Random House offers to pay half the price of membership for any of its authors joining the free speech organization PEN America.

International Digital Publishing Foundation members vote approval on the merger with the World Wide Web Consortium. Among the issues for discussion on the vote, should the deal go through, this will put the ePub format under W3C's control, as well as the rest of IDFP's assets. The terms of the deal are still not decided.

Industry Blogs

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns authors of three presses currently being reported for nonpayment of authors and staff--presses worth avoiding. All three are still soliciting new submissions.

Agent Jessica Faust answers the question of why an agent might know you have an offer, and then not respond or finish reading the full. She also updates her Publishing Dictionary, for all the terms  you need to know in the industry (or at least a lot of them). And she explains what agents mean when they respond to a query with "I didn't know where it was going" (did you establish your genre tone right away?)

Suffering a sales slump this year? At least, until mid-November? Kristine Kathryn Rusch shares some research she found that gives you good news: trendwise, sales usually slump before the election and then pick up enormously after. Plan to make it through the slump and then things may hopefully return to normal.

A new service, BookStackk, helps readers connect and discuss books.

What other major industry news have you encountered in past three weeks?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Happy post-Thanksgiving

Generic fall picture for color.
Happy post-Thanksgiving! May you have had a delicious holiday meal (if you're an American; may the rest of you had good food anyway) and good savings if you decided to shop.

And most importantly of all, may you have managed to avoid family arguments.

I managed to pick up more family stories over my holiday. This is always delightful, especially since as an adult I now know my mother was quite the mischief maker in her youth... things that were never revealed to me as a kid but have come out over the years.

I learned about my recently buried uncle, whom I'd never known had wanted to be a "mountain man" in his youth. One of the best people I've ever known, kind of heart and strong of spirit, adventurous but with a strong sense of home.

I learned that my own name was an old family spelling... which my mother had not (consciously) known when she named me!

I watched my parents and aunt and relatives solve a Sherlock Holmes mystery in half the time me, my husband, and my brother solved it. They have sharp deduction senses, and also picked up on clues we'd have never noticed... though I think our exchanged looks and suppressed laughter every time we remembered some rabbit hole we'd gone down didn't help. (In our defense, we did do much better on the second mystery, knowing how the system worked.)

And I met cousins I hadn't met before, spent time with relatives I rarely get to see, barely missed others I haven't seen in a while, and enjoyed way too much pie.

So it was a very good holiday for me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

End of November

Most caught since above level 20.
The only one over 1000
was hatched. The rest were wild.
So... how's your Pokemon hunting going?  Mine's slowing down as throwing is getting harder with numb fingers, but it's still a way to convince myself to get outside when I'm tempted to be lazy and not get fresh air and exercise.

But for everyone who isn't playing, or who isn't still playing, or who's playing but done talking about it, it's almost the end of November and the cold is settling in. NaNoWriMo-ers keep it up and go write something! You're almost there!

How are you preparing for the end of warm weather? And what kinds of things are you NaNoWriMo writers doing to prepare for the end of your story? Have you already gotten it plotted out, or are you anticipating discovering the story and learning how it really ends?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Goofy Pathfinder

My husband and I discovered HarmonQuest this week.

We're both roleplayers, him with mostly Pathfinder, and me with a wide mix of d20 systems. So we were highly amused at the show, which includes live-action animation of what the players' characters are doing.

Of course, our games usually wind up taking much longer, and we spend much longer in combat--some points of the game seem to have been abbreviated for viewing ease for the show.

A piece of me would love to see an animated version of some of my games in the past. Another piece of me is thinking of the games and the plot devices like they guy who found the cursed intelligent armor that turns into a towel when it's mad, or the baby evil dragon we found and decided to try to raise into being good but then abandoned by virtue of accidental time travel, or the undead puppies, or the escapade in the elven spa, or the... ya know, let's not go there.

All I'm saying is, some things are best left to the imagination, which can be blocked and distracted when need be.

Would you like your quests to be animated? Do they go anything like the show's, or do you somehow manage to keep your adventures serious and non-goofy (you weirdos, you)?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Museums of the World

Statue from outside the
National Palace Museum in
Taiwan, outside Taipei.
I have a fondness for museums, though I don't get around to visiting them very often.

When I was young, I wasn't too interested in them, unless they were interactive and kid-themed. But as I've gotten older, I have come to appreciate the wealth of history and culture, and the beauty of what can be found.

Illuminated Tao Te Ching from National Palace Museum
It's not always possible to work in a museum visit, but when it is, I enjoy the experience. I'm no art major, nor a historian, but it's still intriguing. On my recent trip to visit my in-laws in Taiwan, I had the chance to visit the National Palace Museum and the Jade and Coral museum in Taipei 101. The ancient ceramics and artworks at the National Palace museum were a huge highlight for me, and I was stunned by the artistry at the (admittedly far more commercial) Taipei 101 collection.

I once had a chance to explore the Louvre, but I hadn't nearly enough time to really get a sense of it. I think I would have been in love if I'd had more time to explore. Meanwhile, the Museum of Modern Art in New York was pretty cool, especially seeing Starry Night in person, but honestly I think I had more fun overall at the Museum of Life and Science closer to home in NC, because of the beautiful butterfly house. Of course, that's a lot easier to visit, and has a giant tree fort, so maybe that plays a part in my preference.

When you travel, do you take the time to visit museums? What are some of the favorite museums you've been to?

Jade sculpture from jade and coral museum
at Taipei 101

Friday, November 11, 2016

Publishing Industry News

Between travel and illness it's been over a month since my last publishing news post. Yikes! But time for another publishing news and industry blogs post, this one covering 10/6-11/11/16--I'll try to stick to the highlights so it's not too overwhelming.

Publishing News

It's NaNoWriMo time again.

The Authors Guild introduces a new level of membership for writers actively pursuing publication. It's a non-voting membership but offers resources to writers following non-traditional publishing paths or still in the earliest stages of their careers.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) has voted in approval to combine with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). IDPF would no longer be a standalone organization, and its intellectual property, including ePUB file format standard, would become W3C's, which is causing some controversy. At this point, it is still possible for the merger to be rejected if the terms are not favorable.

The new Librarian of Congress has started making staffing changes at the Copyright Office.

Back in August, a major shipping company filed for bankruptcy, and the fallout is interfering with book shipping (and other shipping) as dozens of ships are stranded at sea or in the hands of creditors.

Most authors in the UK earn less than minimum wage, according to a study by the European Commission. has been purchased by NetGalley.

Amazon Prime membership now includes access to a number of e-books.

Industry Blogs

Information about metadata by Rick Beardsley. What is it, how is it used, and how does it affect you?

GalleyCat brings you what you need to know about using Patreon to fund your long-term writing project.

Researchers have created a program that judges books by their cover.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, advice for writing villains we love to hate.

On QueryTracker, how to pick a good title.

Jessica Faust at Bookends suggests authors give their agents a chance to contemplate covers before sending an "I love it!" to the publisher or artist.

Janet Reid explains that multi-book deals pay the money as an advance, and why single-book deals aren't better. And why, with market saturations, agents still look for new clients--you have to write something fresh. She also explains that yes, publishers will see sales numbers, but there's a lot of sales that aren't in the sales numbers. She answers a question--if you turned down agent B to go with agent A but the book didn't sell and you broke it off with A, is it okay to go back to agent B? (Yes, but with a new book, and only if you didn't burn bridges.)

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Post-Voting Fun Things to Watch

This week is the election. Go vote if you haven't already, and you're an American!

If you have, or you're not an American, hurrah! Now relax and enjoy yourself and try to ignore the rest of the political ads. Here's some cool stuff to watch while you wait.

Have you seen the minisode for Infinity Train? Cartoon Network's new proposed series hasn't actually been picked up yet, but the mini-episode makes it look like an awesome possible show. Plus it's pretty cool on its own.

How about Dr. River-Song's entire timeline, in her order, as of 2016? Spoilers, of course...

And if you're a fan of Phineas and Ferb, you should check out Milo Murphy's Law, a new series by the same writers.

Friday, November 4, 2016


At least the cat is feeling better, and
snazzy in his new stitches-protecting shirt.
I have joined the ranks of the ill in my household. So, no real post today. Hope you all escape the throes of fall illness yourselves!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Your first spooky?

Happy Halloween!

The first spooky books I read were R.L. Stein's Goosebumps series. I'm betting this is true for a lot of you! Not really being into horror at a young age, besides the occasional collection of short ghost stories, my only other major spooky reads were the Star Wars expanded universe Galaxy of Horror books.

I did also watch Ghost Writer, the TV show with a haunted typewriter. I think that's the first horror show I really got into.

Until I saw the Sixth Sense, I pretty much stayed away from horror movies. I wasn't (and am still not) a fan of the hack-slash style of movie, which were the only horror movies I'd seen before, and that was my first psychological horror movie.

What were your first spooky favorites?

Friday, October 28, 2016

No Post

So between caring for a plane-crud-recovering husband and a kitty recovering from surgery, I'm afraid I haven't managed a post for this Friday, but hope everyone has a good weekend. Rapid healing all around!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Oriental Beauty Tea and Tea Farm Visit

Missed Friday and Monday's posts due to being in Taiwan. Great vacation! Also, the tea was amazing. One of the things we did there was visit the tea museum at a tea farm, and at the end of the museum visit, we got to enjoy a couple of tastings.

 First there was the teacup warming, where she poured hot water into the pot and cups.

Then she added the water to the tea, pouring from high to let the water cool down before it touched the Oriental Beauty tea. The unique flavor of the tea is produced by the insects that nibble it, starting oxidation while still on the branch.

Then she poured out tea into sample-sized cups, and rebrewed the leaves.

 The tea is a beautiful honey color, which is also the flavor that develops, a fruity-honey flavor.
 For our second tasting, we enjoyed a high mountain oolong.
The shop also had pamelo teas, which are made by hollowing out a pamelo, mixing the insides with tea, boiling the mixture several times, and repacking it back into the pamelo skin to season. It's also known as the 18-year tea, as it was often done as part of a girl's dowry: The tea was prepared for a baby girl, and left hanging by her bed until she married. The idea was that, since the tea is supposed to be very healing, if she got sick when she was a newlywed, she could drink some pamelo tea and be able to continue adjusting to her new life. I took some home (in tea bag form), and drank it to ward off plane crud that my husband caught, which seems to have worked so far. It's quite good, a fruity oolong tea that holds up the flavor for at least three brews.

I also learned that Oriental Beauty tea is called that because the queen of England dubbed it such, thinking of the beautiful cheongsams from the East. Before that, it was called formosa tea. And in Chinese, it was known as "boasting" tea, or "puff" tea, because to create this tea, the tea leaves are attacked by insects. This results in a crop that is withered and sad-looking, often appearing half-dead in the fields. Therefore, when the growers marketed it at exorbitant prices, buyers would accuse them of exaggerating, due to the ugly-looking nature of the leaves in the field. But the fruity-honey taste won them over, and today Oriental Beauty tea continues to be sold at incredible prices for the best leaves.

In fact, the tea farm guide told us that their quickest-selling teas are the most expensive ones; they were already sold out of the premium two teas! So we only got to try the third-best. But I must say, it really does taste like honey, especially by the fourth or fifth brew.

If you get out to Taiwan, schedule a tea farm into your trip. It's amazing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Politics in fantasy

Game of Thrones. The Farseer trilogy (Robin Hobb). The Mistborn trilogy (Brandon Sanderson). The Inheritance Trilogy (N.K. Jemisin). 
I could this as a modern palace...

All these books have a power void, a question of regal inheritance and who owns the right to the throne. Something about royalty intrigues us, secret princes and princesses and power struggles being a trope that never actually goes out of fashion. 

Which, from the viewpoint of living in a democracy with no acknowledged aristocracy or royalty, seems a bit strange. I suppose it's not much different from the Billionaire craze: there's that underlying desire to be incredibly wealthy, and incredibly important. And "Who should rule" isn't just limited to kings and queens, but also to political factions--the Rebellion in Star Wars, the Weyr leaders in McCaffrey's books, the rebels in the Hunger Games. 

I guess people just like politics in fantasy. It even shows up in stories I'd call epic fantasy instead of political fantasy. Lord of the Rings has Aragorn. The Belgariad has the rightful ruler Garion. 

Which political plotlines in fantasy stories have you enjoyed the most? What do you love about them?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Coffee, Tea, or Klah

"I am bearable only with tea."--Morning
You've probably guessed I'm a fan of tea by now. Morning has a hard time happening without it.

Lots of people swear by coffee, too (those brave souls). The intent of waking up via caffeine is a cultural icon, and although I know people who drink neither, and some who drink one or both but neither in the morning, what we think of when we hear coffee or tea is "morning palliative."

Of course the tea plant and the coffee bean aren't plausible in every fantasy world. Different fantasy worlds have substitutes, such as the klah in Pern. And tisanes are a staple of many worlds, with hot mint tea or other herbal teas being staples (and also often as medicines). Of course the tea plant seems to be more widely spread across the fantasy universes.

What are your favorite fantasy substitutes for tea or coffee? Have you ever tried a recipe meant to replicate the taste?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Consequences in RPGs

Consequences... I remember one game of Dungeons and Dragons where we accidentally nearly destroyed the world, and the only reason we didn't was because the rogue carrying the loot from previous sessions had connected the dots that we were being manipulated by the bad guy, and so abandoned us and ran off to enjoy a nice vacation on the beach instead of joining us for the final boss fight. Meanwhile, we, assuming her super-rogue skills were active and thus that was why we couldn't see her with us, had no idea she wasn't there... Until the boss tried to summon the magic stones to allow him access to the world-destroying magic.

You know, much like how Link brings the Sacred Stones and accidentally allows Ganondorf into the Temple of Time. Except that in this scenario, the rogue looted the party and ran away, and for once it was a good thing, because Ganon didn't get his Triforce.

I'm really enjoying the new King's Quest series because the consequences of the previous chapters are holding up in the current ones. Yes, okay, the wives are basically interchangeable, but there are a few differences between them, and you're reminded in each chapter of some of the choices you made previously. Mr. Fancycakes will never forgive us for leaving him to die, you know.

There are a lot of RPG video games where you're so railroaded that your actions never make a long-term difference. Or the choices are things like "I can't equip this weapon because I never got it." Games where you don't see the effects of the changes you make at all. So it's always a delight to make a lasting change for me. Even if it's a minor one.

To me, the best dungeon masters are the ones who are able to bring in your characters' decisions and make them relevant later in the game. But of course that's tough to do, and easier in a time-consuming self-designed campaign than a pre-designed one.

Have you ever made your characters' decisions matter in a pre-made d20 game? How did you do it, and how did it affect the game?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/24-10/6/16. It's been a quiet couple of weeks, all told. Guess everyone's starting to clear their plates with NaNoWriMo on the horizon?

Publishing News

The National Book Awards finalists are revealed.

Penguin Random House unveils a sci-fi/fantasy website.

Industry Blogs

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. Does your book's political affiliation hurt your changes of being published? (Not really; agents and readers are pretty diverse too; it's about the writing.) Tired of waiting for a response from an agent; should you just self-publish after a few months? (Why are you only querying one agent? Also, agents have long timelines; if you want self-publish then do so, but not because the agent is responding quickly.)

Agent Nephele Tempest shares Friday links for 9/30 and 9/23.

On the Editor's Blog, mistakes that pull readers out of the story. Never break the suspension of disbelief!

At the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, how to dump the info dump.

On QueryTracker, an explanation of show don't tell: Don't explain. Just make it happen. Also, how to handle a critique.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stories That End Well?

My apologies for missing not one, but two posts last week! Unexpected things that needed to be taken care of.

But is it the right end of
the path?
One thing that bugs me about a lot of series is the lack of endings. Endings are very satisfying, that which completes a story, and without a good one, you're left begging Fox for season two of Firefly for a couple of decades or more. I mean, you feel like there should be more, because it's incomplete. I like a good series myself, but when the series never ends, never really completes a season, and never has a good wrap-up point... well, unless you're writing Doctor Who, it bothers me. (Doctor Who should never end. Also, it does provide endings in the form of completing seasons, and ending companions, and Doctors.)

The alternative poor ending is the over-ending, like when you've watched a movie and you think it's over, and then there's another scene and it's clearly the ending, no wait there's more, and really now's the--nope, another scene.

It's a balancing act to write a good ending, in other words. Something that wraps up a story well, and caps it off. I'm fond of Branden Sanderson's Mistborn series ending, as did Madoka Magica (the anime). I guess the best way to perfect an ending is to practice, write a few, cut them down until they're better, and repeat. Also read a lot of good books that really nail the ending.

What stories have you read, watched, or played that got the ending right?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 9/5-9/23/2016.

Publishing News

Google Play Books offers a new Discover feature to help readers find new books they'll love.

Publishers Weekly posts about current publishing industry top executive salaries, and the salaries of the industry as whole. Also, a look at how publishers plan to deal with the new overtime laws coming into effect in December, with the first most common choice being to limit time worked to 40 hours for affected employees who currently have a tendency to work over 40 hours, and second choice most common choice being to pay overtime.

Industry Blogs

On QueryTracker, a great blog on how to get and give advice about manuscripts--be nice in your critiques, and thank critiquers. Also a blog on using story structure as a tool for revising, and advice on writing well-rounded characters.

On The Editor's Blog, a nice link digest to various grammar posts. Also, a tipsheet on setting up auto-hyphenation for print works.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts a writing links blog for 9/16.

Agent Kristin Nelson with story openings to avoid (part 4--talking heads).

Agent Jessica Faust warns to beware when writing a trilogy or a series that readers waiting a year between books aren't lost by the time they pick up the next one.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice. She clarifies the difference between a platform and a website: volume kicks the website into a platform. She answers a question about why new agents are, in fact, worth considering signing with. And she explains what to look for in comp titles.

At Books & Such Literary agency, a reminder that when authors miss deadlines in traditional publishing, it costs people money.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch points out some cool opportunities for indie writers that have developed for writers since 2009.

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Best time for scary movies?

When do you watch horror?

I'll admit it, as much as I enjoy horror movies, they scare me, and I often prefer the mid-day approach so I can sleep well at night. Nice bright sunlight for a few hours after, thanks, and I'll sleep much better.

Though if I'm with a group of people, a stormy night is good, too. As long as I can hang out with friends for a while afterward.

It's funny how we like to scare ourselves. And how people who like horror movies have different preferences for how they scare themselves. I'm a strictly psychological thriller, that's my thing--not into slasher movies at all. Yet that's not everyone's taste.

I like roller coasters.

Some people like sky-diving.

Others hate all of the above, but will sit for hours with a book of terrifying true crime stories.

People are weird. And we like to scare ourselves. So what's the best time to scare yourself? And what's your scare preference?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Celebrations in fantasies

Legends and festivals and celebrations--pretty much every fantasy story I've read has a few. As does the real world.

In one strange land, people gather together in giant picnics
and make things explode in the sky to celebrate successful
treason against their ancestor's king.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated in China, Korea, and Vietnam (and anywhere else their diaspora live). One of the stories about its origin (much simplified) are about an archer named Hou Yi and his wife Chang'e. Hou Yi performed an act of heroism and was sent an elixir of immortality, but when he left the home, a treacherous apprentice tried to steal it. So Chang'e drank the elixir to keep it safe, but doing so made her fly off into the sky. She took up residence on the moon, and her devoted husband began the tradition of offering sacrifices once a year to her of her favorite foods.

My husband tells me his memories of these celebrations revolve around eating moon cakes and having barbecues.

Every culture has legends, has parties, has celebrations. Like in reality, the timing often coincides with major events, such as solstices and equinoxes and harvests and plantings. And what and how people celebrate tells you a bit about them, about how their society began.

When you begin to plan a celebration as a plot device, it's a good idea to know what the people in your world hold dear, and how they would celebrate. Food? Dance? Prayer? Offerings? Costumes? Usually parties of some kind! It's also a good way to kick up the detail in the world, perhaps work in some local legends, or even a touch of foreshadowing. And it can even help set the tone, from a macabre autumn celebration of death and honoring ancestors in a court where too much nostalgia for the past is treason, to a cheerful farmer's welcoming of a new planting and hopes of good things to come.

Have you seen celebrations used well to set tone in a work of fantasy? And were any legends about the holiday used to create setting?

Monday, September 12, 2016


Bays, harbors, the seven seas, the open ocean: waterways connect and yet also separate the world.

I remember playing Cid Meier's Civilization games, many years ago, and having a love-hate relationship with oceans. On one hand, water-touching areas meant ports, which meant better access to exploring the the world. On the other hand, early-game play meant that oceans were barriers, limits.

This was a consistent pattern in games, actually: Final Fantasy VII, before you could cross water, it was a frustrating (if necessary) blockcade that eventually turned into open-world exploration later in the game; Chrono Cross, starting on a large island, with islands all around that you just couldn't explore (yet); even Legend of Zelda, Wind Waker, where the game is all about open-world sea exploration begins with being unable to leave your starter island.

Of course there's a reason for having a starter area. It's where you learn the rules, the functions, the basics. Your starter area teaches you what you need to survive in the greater universe and helps you level up enough that you won't immediately die the second you step out of your home base.

The new face of interstellar travel?
And the next few areas help you level up further, until you finally achieve your go-anywhere pass.

It's not far off from planetary exploration, either. Just substitute water for space and you have Kingdom Hearts. Or... Earth today. Makes you wonder, is humanity closing in on another Age of Exploration?

And if we're leveling up for open-universe exploration, what'll we find next? Guess we have to craft a few cross-universe ships before we can find out. Or whatever we use.

Hey, maybe we'll Stranger Things it instead of space travel, and discover the reason we've spent so long leveling is that there are some, uh, stranger things our descendants are about to encounter in other dimensions.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Healing in Fantasy

Fantasy stories often include either magical or herbal remedies for sickness and pain (often both, in fact). Pretty much every story I've read involves the hero being treated for wounds with poultices and bandages, or encountering some kind of magical healing that speeds her recovery from physical or magical illnesses.

Even Frodo Baggins had the elves to treat him, and if not for Aragorn's herb knowledge, he would have been tainted by darkness long before laying eyes on Mount Doom.

One of my favorite fantasy writers, Tamora Pierce, has a YA series centered around a group of youngsters living in a healing circle, learning to use their magic under the instruction and care of healing mages. They deal with pirates and plagues both, saving lives and finding each other.

The long-running classic Wheel of Time also has healers, a whole Ajah of women dedicated to using their powers for healing.  They also encounter and conflict with Wise Women, un-magical healers who use herbs and non-magic remedies to heal villagers.

And of course Healer Hall in Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern is a main location for the plot of several books, as dragonriders help find a cure for terrible plagues.

What are some of your favorite examples of healers in books?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Publishing Industry News

Oh dear, this was a wee bit late. My apologies, an unexpectedly busy weekend interfered. This week's publishing news and industry blogs covers 8/20-9/5/2016. It's a bit light, as summer tends to be slow and some of the major sites I follow have been on vacation.

Publishing News

Publishers once again appeal the GSU e-reserves ruling.

Amazon announces plans to open another brick-and-mortar location.

Industry Blogs

Agent Kristin Nelson shares Story Openings to Avoid.

Agent Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her Contracts/Dealbreakers series by looking at the agent clause in publisher agreements, things she considers dealbreakers in agent contracts, how to hire a lawyer, and a look at an actual contract, released due to a lawsuit, with a breakdown of the problems in it. (It is worth mentioning that Rusch is strongly against hiring agents and prefers hiring contract lawyers.)

On the Editor's blog, questions about writing in deep point-of-view are answered. No, if your protagonist wouldn't think in similes and metaphors, you can't get away with using them in deep POV.

A look at the current publishing industry in Hong Kong and China.

Also, because I missed most of last week, a few pictures for public domain:

Flowers in Ravello, Italy
Sunset in Edenton by the salt marsh lighthouse
Succulent growing on a wall in Ravello, Italy

View in Praiano, Italy

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The words of dancing

Tight shoulders or loose shoulders, pounding feet or twirling grace, carefully structured rhythms or spontaneous flows of motion—there are as many types of dance as there are cultures in the world.

A celebratory dance floor
How the dancers move, and who dances, is one way writers and media-makers help create a setting. We have stereotypes as viewers as to who does what kind of dance. Barn dance, to cheerful music, and everyone stomps their way through songs? You're in a rustic setting. Sweeping skirts of the wealthy, and gentle twirls, with carefully orchestrated motions, to an actual orchestra? You're in a court, glitz and glamour to the max. Loose shoulders, young dancers, with a dark lighting and throbbing music? You're in a modern, trendy, edgy world.

Where the courtiers go to conspire between dance sets
Dances are where people meet, where they conspire in public places to avoid being overheard, where they court one another or lay traps for vengeful heartbreak. It's a well-known convention that conspirators on the dance floor will never be overheard, and if anyone slips out between dance sets to "cool off," conspiracy is afoot. And everyone suspects a chase scene from a club in a paranormal world. Dark elves, as everyone knows, are rock addicts who would rule the dive bars if they wound up in them.

Writers use dances to set a tone, to create a mood. The music is light and airy, or dark and throbbing, or a cascading crescendo. Visual media makers use the dance floor to create visual art to the same effect.

What kinds of dancing show up in your favorite worlds? And how does it influence the story?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Warning Signs

In good fiction, foreshadowing natural disasters with warning signs is a great way to add a layer of realism to the story. Real natural disasters often have warning signs.

Pompeii in 2016
In many disaster movies, warning signs are often just ignored or covered up (often by uppity or greedy politicians) until the hero shows up to warn everyone. But that's always seemed like a stretch to me, and makes it hard to suspend disbelief: a more realistic approach is simply that either the signs are seen too late, or not understood.

Back in AD 79, when Mount Vesuvius erupted over Pompeii, the people had no idea what a volcano was. There were many signs, a drawn-out horror of minor disasters stacking on top of each other and no one actually knowing what they meant. Earthquakes had rattled the land for nearly two decades before Vesuvius erupted. They were so common, as noted by Pliny the Younger, that they were considered not a cause for concern. And while many people did leave the area, others focused on constant rebuilding, or came to study the events.

Of course, among the other hallmarks of bad disaster movies are probably-doomed, adrenaline romances, and bad science so bad it has less chemistry than the forced romances. And let's be completely honest: I like bad disaster movies; their awfulness is part of the appeal.

But disasters show up in fiction from historical to fantasy, and good writers can foreshadow them in with warning signs. Even science fiction (and its often non-natural disasters) can warn readers of things to come. The trick is framing the events from the characters' points of view: "It happens all the time" might be a explanation of constant earthquakes, or perhaps rumors of distant giants could explain the shaking ground. An obelisk with ancient carvings, including some that are warnings, could be mistaken for artwork or an ancient war. Old high-water mark statues could be mistaken for ancient temples.

What fiction have you seen that makes use of disasters, and does it do foreshadow them well? Or does it stretch your suspension of disbelief a little too far?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Publishing Industry News

Since I have a rather backlog of weeks to cover, due to a little marriage-honeymoon-adjustment hiatus, this week's publishing news link digest will be limited to 3 sources (Publishers Weekly, Galleycat, and Writer Beware) for 2 months' worth of links.

Publishers Weekly:

The Book Industry Environmental Council issues a report on the sustainability of the industry, and finds there continues to be room for improvement, as publishers try to increase their sustainability but encounter hurdles such as low availability of recycled paper.

Barnes and Nobles fires its CEO. Therefore the current chairman is postponing retirement until a replacement is found.

In the Georgia State University e-reserves case, the judge rejects further attempts from the publisher to refresh the case and push it further, and also affirms the school's right to be compensated for legal fees by the plaintiff.

Last May a lawsuit was filed against Simon & Schuster for failing to adequately pay royalties on digital works; this suit has been dropped as S&S never published the digital versions of the books. The plaintiffs plan to sue the Wiley instead.

Hastings Entertainment files for bankruptcy and plans to close all its stores by October, and its assets go to Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers (who also handled the Borders demise).

A bill is introduced to the US House of Representatives that aims to help individual copyright owners pursue federal copyright actions through a tribunal.

HarperCollins redesigns its website, with features for direct selling among the changes.

Sisters in Crime, an organization for women crime fiction writers, writes and releases a report on diversity within its ranks, and plans to use the results to improve.

The online writing and reading community Wattpad now offers a program that will give writers the option to place ads between the chapters of works, allowing the writer to earn money any time a readers views the ad, (and now there will be ads in books).

Pokemon is bringing a sales boom to bookstores, since a number of bookstores happen to be Pokestops or Gyms, and therefore attracting customers.


All those credits from the $400 million e-book price fixing case should be either credited to customers or in the process thereof, so check your accounts for credits.

Barnes & Noble begins to offer self-published books in stores, for qualified authors.

The Expert Editor creates an infographic called "The science behind writing drunk and editing sober." And, uh, Barnes & Noble will soon be there to help you out with that.

Lee & Low books surveys the publishing industry, including publishers and review journals, and publishes a report on diversity. It's still problematically low.

Researchers look at whether reading is linked to a longer lifespan. There does seem to be a correlation.

Writer Beware:

Month9Books, a publisher of YA and MG fiction, reverts rights to many authors and reduces its list. There have also been historical problems with nonpayment and author complaints. The owner addresses concerns in an interview with Writer Beware, and expresses a positive outlook for the future.

Strauss looks at termination fees and offers an example in the form of Sky Warrior Books on how those fees can be used as retaliation against authors.

WriteIndia launched a contest, but then changed the terms and conditions midway through the contest; although it was legal to do so, Strauss points out it was not a particularly fair thing to do.

Tate Publishing, a publishing company that although possessed of an A rating by the BBB has numerous complaints against it, is sued by Xerox.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Formula for Success?

Building off things that already exist, and that people already do or want to do--is that a formula for success?

Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, NC, has 4 Pokestops and
is also a great place to watch the sunset.
Pokemon Go builds off going out and walking around, going to popular places, even going to restaurants and places people like to hang out. All things people do already. Most of the gamers I know, in fact, also enjoy things like hiking and eating good food and hanging out with friends in nice areas.

Some of the largest collections of Pokestops I've seen (admittedly I've only been playing a couple of weeks) have been in places like malls and parks and designated loitering areas. There's even a Yelp feature to find restaurants near Pokestops. So it's no effort at all to play the game, since these are things we're already doing anyway. It just adds an extra motivation to keep going on that last, tired mile. Or something else to talk about as you play boardgames on a warm summer night outside the coffee shop.

It makes me wonder if that's part of what has made the game so successful. It builds off nostalgia, yes, but it also incorporates an excuse to do things people already want to do.

Of course the game wasn't the first one to do that. Ingress was hugely popular for the same reasons, and yet it wasn't anywhere near as well known. So nostalgia and possibly other things, like levels of interactivity and the amount of dedication needed, may play a part of it.

Do you see more phone games following this path? What do you think is the main component of Pokemon Go's success?

Friday, August 12, 2016

What I learned about editing from crafting

I made my first bead-loom bracelet at seven years old, courtesy of a bead loom Christmas gift. Turns out I liked jewelry making, because I've been doing it on and off since, though only as a hobby. 

Naturally, this lead to me making my own wedding jewelry. But there's a thing about crafting: it takes a while to learn the skills, and even when you've learned them, projects may need remaking. Often many times. 

Design #3 (when I started recording
my different re-makes)

Design #4. Flowers didn't lay right.

Design #5. Remade this one 3 times
to get the center flower to sit right.
Finally concluded that I liked it,
but it wasn't what I wanted. 

Design #6.Remade several times to get
the charm to hang right. Flowers hand-
sewn into metal backings. But finally,
it was the form I was looking for.

Adjusted length of necklace to match
dress neckline. Fixed earrings to
hang correctly--center of balance off.
Finally, ready to go!
It took several months before I had a jewelry set I was satisfied with. First I found beads I liked and decided on the charm I wanted to use--much like coming up with an essential idea. But putting it together, I constantly found that it just wasn't quite right yet. It didn't hang right, or I couldn't make the charm fit on the necklace, or it just didn't make me happy. So I rewrote redesigned it. We'll call this 'developmental edits.'

And when I did finally find a form I was satisfied with, I still had to adjust it. Create longer earrings so they would hang correctly instead of dangling downwards; make it longer to better fit the neckline; adjust the strings so that instead of sending 3 beaded strands through a single set of large clear filler beads, each strand had its own set of small clear beads. Line editing.

And then there's the finishing touches: tucking in the threads, gluing down threads that can't be tucked, painting over threads so they're less noticeable, making sure wires aren't poking out. Let's call that proof-reading.

The thing about crafting is that it isn't a one-step process. The product isn't created into its finished state: you have to re-shape, or sand and polish, or tuck in loose threads. You always have multiple steps in the process.

Nor do you expect to begin perfect. It takes experience to learn how which types of wires act which way, and how to crimp a crimp bead without breaking it, and how to approximate how many beads to add to get the right desired length.

But many beginning writers become disappointed that writing fiction is not a first-try feat. Yes, it takes practice, because it's different from classroom writing or office writing. It takes editing. Sometimes it takes reflowing the entire story. Sometimes it requires reflowing the story multiple times. That's normal. Even people who outline rigorously sometimes find that they have to add whole scenes, or remove whole characters from an entire book.

Because writing is a craft. And crafts are many-step processes. And chances are, your first piece is not going to be perfect--it may take several tries before you write a story that you can sell.

But when you're done, when you've made lots of pieces and know what you want to write, when all the strings are glued and all the wires tucked, you'll have something pretty. So keep at it. And don't be afraid to edit.

(Photographer: Jim Colman)