Friday, March 31, 2017

Dragon Hoards

It almost looks like an impressive pile... until you realize
that's the window sill and get a sense of scale.
It probably comes as no surprise, if you've been following my blog for a while, that I enjoy shiny things like gemstones. If I were a dragon, my cave would be filled with jewels, art, tea, and books. Oh, and obviously, friends to help enjoy all of these things.

As it is, my apartment is full of books, tea, art prints, and a couple of handfuls of flawed crystals that glitter in the sun. Hey, citrine, amethyst, and smoky quartz are all both pretty and affordable!

What would be in your hoard, if you were a dragon with a large cave and could hoard anything?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Scene Breaks and Audiobooks

Scene break transitions are portals to a new scene,
but if you don't see the door, how do you know you're
in a new room?
One thing I've found about audiobooks is that not all of them have smooth transitions. I'm talking problems with scene breaks, where a half-breath extra pause doesn't seem enough to put you in a new scene.

I never really thought about auditory transitions in a book before listening to audiobooks, because it's pretty obvious when you're reading.

But a visual scene change is entirely different from an auditory one. It makes me wonder how many writers have a plan for scene transitions when they write. Chapter breaks are usually announced by a tone, but scene changes?

Of course, the voice artist plays a big part in this. A really skilled actor or actress can pause just right to cue a switch to a new time or location. But it seems like this is the sort of a thing a writer can work ask for, and maybe help plan for.

Have you listened to any audiobook that does in-chapter scene breaks well? What did they do?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 3/9-3/23/17.

Publishing News

Educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt begins restructuring.

The proposed presidential budget for 2018 eliminates funding to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Institutes of Museum and Library Services. Small publishers express concern, especially over the NEA cuts.

Wattpad partners with Hachette to poduce Wattpad-book audiobooks.

Industry Blogs

 Agent Jessica Faust has suggestions for making the most of publishing networking events, even if you're a nervous introvert. She also explains--sort of--why books can be hard to get and more expensive due to foreign rights.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answer questions. Must it be called a manuscript instead of a novel? (No, novel is fine.) Is it okay to send thank-yous for rejections? (Yes, but not required or expected, especially for form rejections.) If your agent sends you a copy of the pitch letter they'll be using, should you critique it? (No.) If you get a response on a project while another is read by another agent, what do you do? (Inform the first agent that second project is being looked at.) How do you stay published with lackluster sales?

Reid gives more advice. If you can't intern at an agency, or network with the publishing world, you should not become an agent until you can--the background and network are part of the job. How well can a pen name protect your anonymity? (Not all that well from serious, technologically proficient people, but decently for most purposes.) She also shares 6 reasons agents say no. Do agents care if you don't live in the US? (No; they care about the writing.)

Agent Nephele Tempest posts writing links for 3/10, which include a searchable database for writing contests for 2017.

Agent Kristen Nelson talks about what to do when your books are translated and sold in a country that does not uphold copyright laws.

Author Nathan Bransford talks about what makes a good editor.

At the Books and Such Literary Agency blog, some tips on secondary characters.

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pi and Pie

How many of you celebrated pi day last week, on March 14? It's the math holiday that's delicious, and if you're like me, you're just waiting for the Supernatural episode where Dean pulls out his geek and demands he and Sam celebrate pi day the traditional way, with as much pie as possible.

Also, whoops, I was perhaps still distracted by thinking about how to up my strawberry-banana crisp recipe to remember Friday's post! Sorry! (I'm thinking I'll do half the filling sugar as brown sugar and add a touch of cornstarch, in case you're wondering.) And take two of the spinach-gruyere quiche turned out just as delicious, even though we forgot shallots and added broccoli, and used frozen spinach instead of fresh (sauted with habanero salt and pepper), and obviously used a store-bought crust (because who's got time for making it yourself?). But yeah, not writing blog posts, that's what I was forgetting. Oops.

Any round dessert will do, really.
What's your favorite pie? (Including "pie" for things that aren't technically pie, but close enough for Pi Day purposes.) Do you celebrate any other math or science holidays, like Mole Day?

And if you missed Pi Day, don't worry. You can always celebrate Pi + 1, on April 14. After all, there's no rule that says you surrender your love of pie just because it's not on a mathematically approved dessert day. Plus there's always Pythagorean Day, coming up in August this year... How about a little triangular cake for that one?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Daylight Saving Zombism-Fighting Tips

Chances are, if you're in a country that observes Daylight Saving Time, you're groggy this morning.

Fight the zombism with some interesting info:

A list of scientists born on March 13, and a few inventions/discoveries
Read up on the latest science news at Science News.
Myths and Truths about Daylight Savings Time from CNN (if you don't have AdBlock, this link makes noise)

Get some random facts at the Random Fact Site.
Or join me in pretending to be on the beaches
in Capri today, eating delicious Italian food.

And if you're not happy to be at work today, pretend you're somewhere else by browsing amazing travel adventures at places like G-Adventures or National Geographic Adventures. (Sure, I'm totally in shape enough to go sea kayaking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding in New Zealand, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro... And if you believe that, I'll pretend I can afford to do it, too.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/19-3/9/17.  It's been a bit slow these past three weeks, so a nice short reading list this time around.

Publishing News

Amazon opens its first brick and mortar store on the East Coast, in Massachusetts.

Industry Blogs

Author Nathan Bransford posts a The Last Few Weeks in Publishing for 2/17.

At Books and Such Literary Agency blog, an explanation of what an Editorial Style Sheet is, and why it's important.

Agent Kristen Nelson has her first reader, Jamie Persichetti, pipe in on why the phrase "has diverse characters" in your query letter is not really a selling point (even though diverse characters are).

Editor Beth Hill on the Editor's Blog talks about picking the right words for character's regional dialect--diction, not accent.

Author Janet Reid gives advice and answer questions. Don't pay an agent to edit a query letter.  How much should you pay to hire a publicist if you do? (Consider how effective they are and what your goals are.) If an agent requested a revise & resubmit, but changed agencies, what should you do? (E-mail to the direct e-mail if you have it; but also continue querying other agents as the agent may be looking for new things now.)

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about how she manages a writing career while dealing with chronic health problems. She also discusses money management as an indie author.

A defense of the IDFP-W3C merger as a positive move, by a writer at Publishers Weekly.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Breath of the Wild, again

Zelda evaluation, after a weekend: Still wow.

Official website here
Once you get out of the starter area, it's really open world. There's a suggested "where to go," but I ran around and completed the quest in another part of the world instead. Since you scrounge for your weapons, you aren't limited by having to get special quest items before taking on each major area. Though the first few battles fought with boko clubs are pretty rough... Well, let's just say goofing off and exploring are good ways to get skilled at dodging and shield using.

Which is indeed the good side of the weapons setup. It has indeed grown on me, because it wouldn't be possible to do this game so very open-world style if you had the traditional "complete quest, gain next item, which is the only way to advance to the next region" weapon-obtainment style. This way you can upgrade your items to suit your area. I mean, sometimes you'll inconveniently run out of weapons, or find yourself facing off with a creature too strong to defeat with your current clubs and swords and axes and bows, but you can always run away from those.

The limited weapons cache is the biggest hurdle to this method of play. Luckily, there is a way to increase it... if you can find him. Look for Hestu, is what I'm saying. And don't bother with increasing shield space. Of all the things I go through, shields last the longest and are easiest to replace. I do pretty well on bows, too; it's not a bad idea to increase that, but my experience says the best choice is melee weapon space.

Also, horses. You can ride horses. Not just an assigned Epona, but any horse you can catch! And tame. That's also important. Yup, I got bucked off a few times. Word of warning, if you leave your horse behind, it does not have super hearing, so if you're too far away when you call for it, it will not come. This means my Link has done quite a bit of running, because I keep flying away... Oops! Save some of those apples, because you can feed them to your ride as an apology for abandoning it to the wolves.

The dungeons and mini-dungeons (shrines) in this game are less combat-focused than other versions of Zelda I've played. They're almost exclusively puzzles, or with a single combat thrown in, and so far even the major dungeon had just the one boss fight. The puzzles are cute, and I'm enjoying them greatly; I think this is my favorite take on dungeons yet.

On the whole, the more I play, the more I love the game. I die a lot (a LOT), but the auto-save is good, so I don't get set back far. This is shaping up to be one of the best of the series. Can't wait to see where it goes next!

Friday, March 3, 2017

First thoughts of Breath of the Wild

If you're a Zelda fan, it's no surprise to you that Breath of the Wild is pretty.

My husband was not willing to forgo this toy. I have
no complaints.
My husband and I set up two TVs side by side, so we've been able to compare the Wii U version with the Switch version. There is a noticeable difference. The Switch version is better textured, and the graphics just a bit cleaner and sharper, so if you're looking for pretty, go for that one.

That said, if you have a Wii U and don't feel like going in for a Switch, and your spouse is willing to forgo the pretty, bad-tasting toy, it's the same game, and the controls are similar enough that you won't miss out. So far the graphics are the only difference.

It's pretty open world in the beginning, more so than a lot of the other games in the series. Yes, there's a person pointing which way you should go, and there are defined limits to where you can go, but these limits are much broader than most of the series. And nobody's forcing you to get on with the plot. You want to go run around the forest cooking? Go for it!

That said, if you don't at least start the plot, disembodied voices do try to usher in that direction. Once you've gotten the first plot point down, you're free to explore. Your first four mini-dungeons are basically your freebies to learning the world. (I can't tell you what happens after that, since I've only finished three...)

Also, hunting. You get to hunt down your own pigs and birds and turn them into steaks and drumsticks. And then cook with them. Link's cooking song is adorable. And since you won't find hearts lying around, you really should cook, because that's the only way to heal (so far).

You can also climb, and climb anything, which is honestly a bit freaky when Link starts scaling ice... You don't need vines or anything that looks like a "climb here" format. You're in control of your jumping with a button instead of an auto jump, which is bit different from the other games in the series, because really, no auto jump at all.

Equipping is an interesting affair because you have a lot of options (nothing beats killing an enemy with its own weapon, or better yet, the wriggling arm of a skeleton). But I'm not fond of the weapons breaking, which can be inconvenient in battle. I think I prefer having a little less choice in the weapons department, to be honest, and not having to deal with weapon after weapon flying into shards mid-battle. Still, it is fun and an interesting style of play, so once I'm used to it, I may warm up to it.

On the whole, after 5 hours, it's beautiful, it's fun, and I'm going to go back to playing until I can't keep my eyes open any more.

Which, honestly, won't be much longer... G'night, folks!

Late post

Today's post will be coming later tonight, and will probably be ravings about the new Zelda game. Breath of the Wild, eagerly awaited...