Monday, February 27, 2017

Colorful Nature

Feeling a bit dreary? How about some color?

Everyone expects pansies to be colorful. Rivers and
mountains? Not so much.
As in, check out the rainbow mountains of China's Danxia Landform Geological Park.

Have you ever seen a rainbow tree? There are eucalyptus trees that naturally grow in rainbow colors.

Or how about some rainbow animals?

And let's not forget the "River of Five Colors" in Columbia.

As weird and fantastic as fantasy is, sometimes the real world creates color so vibrant we'd never believe it in a movie. But it's fun to imagine putting some of these colorful plants, animals, and minerals into a book or a video game anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Things learned from bread baking

Things learned from bread-baking adventures:

Friday night's failed-to-rise bread and Saturday morning's second attempt:

Saturday morning's attempt post-taste-test (verdict: success!). Looked up what to do with failed-to-rise bread; discovered a new recipe. Ingredients for Sunday evening's apple bread pudding:

Sunday evening's apple bread pudding:
Success! And very delicious.

Moral of the story: Failure might be demoralizing in the short term, but it's part of the learning process, and can become an ingredient to achieving a later success. Sometimes you wind up with something you never expected, and find out it's delicious and wonderful, and yet it would have never happened if you hadn't made an error in the first place.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/3-2/19/17.

Publishing News

Romance publisher Samhain Publishing will be officially shutting down on February 28.

The Authors Guild issues a statement promising to maintain vigilance during the current political climate, condemning the executive order banning refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries and the rumored possibility of the dissolution of several federal arts agencies.

Industry Blogs

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss posts warnings about Loiacono Literary Agency, Swetky Literary Agency, and Warner Literary Group.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts Friday links for 2/10 and 2/17.

Agent Jessica Faust at BookEnds chastises writers for not sending submissions when they get a request on a query. She also shares her manuscript wish list for 2017.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch reminds writers the problem with turning for help to someone whose career and voice doesn't match yours, and to remember to look at the big picture.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. She explains why "I never give up" may not be a good thing from an agent. Is it rude to hire an outside publicist? (Communicate early and you'll be fine; it's your career so worry more about success.)

An article on Publishers Weekly as to how indie bookstores use backlist, and how they balance those older books with newly published sellers.

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fish market

Publishing news will be up this weekend.

Until then, enjoy a visual tour of a Taiwanese fish market.

Fresh fish--really fresh!

Just steam and eat.

Or have some dried fish.

Does this make any other sushi lovers hungry?

Upstairs is a restaurant where they'll cook some
of the bounty up and serve it to you.

Monday, February 13, 2017


My wildest dreams.
Spring is around the corner, and I am again having delusions that maybe this year I'll have a decent garden.

Considering I live in an apartment and have no yard, nor the time to spend tending more than a couple of potted plants, nor the actual green thumb to help them survive hot summers, this is probably going to be quickly crushed again. In reality I'll probably settle for a potted tomato plant that produces a few dozen tomatoes and some basil.

Let's face it, even Victory Gardens were never intended for people living in apartments (at least not personal ones, and finding a place willing to let your and your neighbors share ground space isn't exactly easy these days), and it's not exactly like a full-time job plus writing leaves a lot of time for weeding. Nor is gardening an available hobby to most people, with it requiring so much labor and land space. So I'm certainly thankful for the local farmers market, and grocery stores!

But it doesn't mean I don't dream of one day having an actual garden. Somehow vegetables seem to taste better when you've seen them grown in the earth yourself.

Do you garden? What do you grow? And if you're short on actual dirt space, what sorts of potted plants do you grow?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Big Picture and Making the Puzzle Pieces Fit

When writing, it's hard to see the big picture. Especially if you're a pantser and don't know how the story will get to the end!

One thing writers are occasionally encouraged to do is to write a summary before writing the story. Since summaries are often required as part of the submission process, this can get one of the hardest parts of the process out of the way first, while also helping the writer focus on the end goal.

Let's face it, it's easy to fall down rabbit holes while writing. Next thing you know, the sidequest has overshadowed the entire plot! Or a character has abandoned her entire motivation to chase down a wiley wabbit. Summaries are a good tool to keep your eye on the prize as you're writing, because it keeps you focused on the main plot you first wanted.
Scenes that don't work towards the big picture
are very distracting. Case in point:
will you remember the view, or the spider?

But some people don't write well from summaries. Or they discover the rabbit hole was what the story was all about in the first place, and the 'main plot' was a less important story than what the wiley wabbit is doing tunneling underneath the city.

So it's important to do a "big picture" read before beginning edits, too. Put aside everything else, read the story, and decide how well each scene pushes towards the big picture presented by the end of the story. Is this scene necessary? Does it get the reader closer to the end of the story, or is it just a fun scene? Maybe it seems important to a side element of the plot, but if it doesn't drive the story forward, sometimes it's better to just cut the scene entirely.

Of course, if it's just a fun scene, but you really like it, there's option 3: MAKE it relevant.

Once you've finished a draft, you know where the book is supposed to go. Seed in some foreshadowing. Add in something to the background that fills in a plothole (When did Robert and Dr. Gupta actually have the chance to meet to decide they were going to conspire to protect Nji? At the wedding, of course! In the background, when Nji passes them chatting by the buffet). Throw in some dialogue that buffs up the conflict. Or a chance reference that turns out to hint at the solution.

Of course that's not a miracle cure. Your clues and foreshadows and plothole fixers have to add enough to make the scene important to the story, and still keep the scene interesting. And if your word count is high, you're making problems instead of solving them. And if there's no action, then for heaven's sakes, cut it! Nobody needs another "reflecting in the shower" scene. Not unless that moment of reflection is when Dr. Gupta notices the alien spider crawling out of the showerhead and has to destroy its nest with a flamethrower.

But sometimes changing the details to make an extraneous scene fit more neatly into the big picture can solve some other problems while allowing you to include the fun things that give your characters extra depth.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Weekend at the Beach

Some sounds can make silence both more silent and more beautiful. The crashing of the waves on an empty beach, for example, create a haven from city noise, drowning out traffic and making you feel like you're the only around for miles. The calling of the gulls are the only voices, and if it weren't so lovely it would be lonely. But there's a primal feel to it, where even the sting of sea-breeze blown sand on your ankles is pleasant, and the salt-laden air may be occasionally burdened by the foulness of decaying sealife, but even along the crab-corpse strewn beach debris it's still salt-scented, still better and fresher than the odors of streets.

Though in February the seabreeze cuts ice cold, and you're not quite sure on getting home if you're sun-burned or wind-chapped, it's still a walk in the sand. Though the sand blows into your sneakers and grits between your toes, and gives way beneath your sliding steps as you walk, making every half mile the effort a full, you feel more refreshed for having made the effort. And though the wind cuts through your jacket, the sun fights to warm you, so you're never quite at the wrong edge of cold, even if your skin when you get home is red and your hands white despite hiding in your pockets.

Even in winter throes, the beach has an innate beauty that soothes the soul. Especially in the sort of winter when a little silence is the balm you may have needed anyway.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's Publishing News and Industry Blogs post covers 1/19-2/3/17.

Publishing News

The New York Times has reduced the number of their best-seller lists. Many of these lists were considered by the company to be experimental, and are being discontinued as the NYT re-strategizes how it plans to cover the publishing industry. The Romance Writers of America has penned a letter in response to the move, protesting the removal of the e-book and mass-market lists, in which romance books often lead. Publishers also respond, including the graphic novel/comic artists, who are expected to be hit especially hard by the move due to the shift combining their lists with traditional print.

Canada's Competition Bureau bans the Most-Favored-Nation practice (in which retailers could not price books below Apple's minimum price, as established in cooperation with publishers--you may remember this policy from the U.S. court case the US Department of Justice vs the Big Six).

Nielsen Book Services, the agency known for collecting statistics on book sales, is purchased by NPD Group.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formally and officially completes its merger of IDPF.

According to reports from The Hill, a news organization covering US political news, President Trump plans to eliminate federal funding for the National Endowments of the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowments for the Humanities (NEH), both of which contribute to literary-related projects, among other things.

Industry Blogs

In response to the Trump administration's 90-day ban on refugees from seven countries, a growing list of agents have put out an open call for submissions from writers of Muslim heritage, including detailing the genres they're interested in.

Agent Nephele Tempest puts up two Friday Links for 1/27 and 2/3; of particular note is Aerogramme's Opportunities for Writers for February and March 2017.

On QueryTracker, a reminder to writers that if an agent you're considering charges reading fees, fees for being represented without being sold, or fees associated with breaking the contract, do not sign. Each of these should be considered a dealbreaker.

Agent Kristen Nelson shares her year-end stats.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, the 3 important things authors need for marketing: a FB page, a website, and an e-mail list (and why they're important).

On the Editor's Blog, editor Beth Hill makes a case against spelling accents to show a character speaking with an accent.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. She gives an explanation on how book pricing works for retailers, returns, and why big retailers have an advantage over indie stores. What do you do if your agent won't tell you to whom she's submitted your work? (This is poor agenting; call her and make sure she knows this is part of your expectations; part with her if she refuses to start keeping track and sharing track.) If you're trans but pre-legal-name-change, do you need to use your birth name and explain? (No, use the name you want to use.)

More from Reid: If you've got a book out from an imploding publisher and it's your only writing credit, will including this writing credit [and its inherent drama] hurt your chances? (Actually, agents tend to know when these implosions happen and have sympathy for the drama, so it won't put them off, and may even help you.)  Also, why you should be careful with your word choice, and why 'review' is a dangerous word when you mean 'consider for agenting.'

Writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch shares some powerful advice about writing in difficult times.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Publishing News will be up sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, here's a happy squid with some unhappy fish.