Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday's Interesting Links (on Saturday)

What? You mean it isn't Friday? Maybe I need to rename this :D.


Picked up this tip from A series of web tools for helping with things, including providing a list of words that fit with your partial on a crossword puzzle:


A breakdown of the advance/royalties/foreign rights earnings that will make it all too clear why most writers cannot support themselves:

I may not agree with every one of these steps, but here are some solid suggestions for making progress even on non-deadlined projects:

I just started reading Jim Baen's Universe and clicked on the below Mike Resnick editorial. He says so eloquently (and with examples) what I believe to be absolute truth about the submission process: never give up.

For those of us looking to Twitter to see the human faces of agents, Agent Query has provided an exhaustive list. I only follow a portion because too many and I'd be unable to keep up.


Angela James, who is an avid e-book reader as well as the Executive Editor for Samhain Publishing, discusses her recent experience with buying a group of e-books. It's an interesting look into what's important in the production and sale of e-books.


I showed this article to my older son, and his comment was that designer babies are just around the corner. Me, I just thought it was cool.

Ida made such a big splash that some scientists are questioning not only her connection to human evolution, but the media circus which hailed her announcement:


I'm in the process of redoing my bipolar (literally) website into a more traditional writing one with the programming side of Left Brain/Right Brain just linked. Therefore, I've been reading website building tips and this one makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BayCon Report and
Friday's Interesting Links (on Tuesday????)

I know, I know, Friday used to mean a particular day, but... I left for BayCon (an annual Bay Area science fiction convention) on Thursday and I ran out of time to prepare things. There aren't as many links as there have been because I didn't spend much time reading as I scrambled to get everything set.

The convention was wonderful as usual.

I presented on a panel about future laws and was surprised to discover that I'd thought about this topic quite a bit in my writing :). I do have a question to ponder and/or research if I have a moment though: Have I ever written anything from the position of the law keeper? I have characters who become law abiding citizens, or who aid the law in their own, off-the-wall ways, and even a few who become law keepers by the end, but I cannot think of a single one who starts out that way. Maybe as I edit some of the myriad short stories and novels that have yet to see a red pen, I'll find buried in there a law keeper or two. This is very odd considering I grew up always taking the role of the knight and as a firm believer in chivalric code.

My other two panels were a source of some terror for me as it was the first time ever that I was selected to moderate in real life. I have two teenagers, I've been in management--even of teams composed of strong individuals--I've herded the two-legged cats more often than I can count, and I moderate on line, but in person? Yes, I was quaking in my boots. I went to the "How to Moderate a Panel" discussion to prepare, and I would really recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in maybe, possibly, doing so in the future, as well as us already under a ticking clock. The presenters were funny, entertaining, and had a lot of good tips that could help in much broader circumstances than just at a convention.

My second panel was on world building, and specifically when and what to research. It ended up rather balanced between those who work ahead and those, like me, who start out with a framework and identify research points as they go. The audience seemed to enjoy what we had to offer, and some discussions continued out the door, which as far as I'm concerned is the best sign.

My third was on rejection letters, though we segued a bit into submission methodology in general. Once again no awkward silences (my greatest fear especially since on that one I actually used all of the 5 questions I'd prepared to keep the discussion rolling ;)), and I know at least one audience member found it helpful.

BTW, if you did go (to any convention) and enjoyed specific panels, drop a note to programming so they can add your feedback to the available information when considering what to offer next year. Deciding the programming for the next con is a huge job and I can only imagine a vacuum would make it even more difficult. At the con, you can always drop by and say that you really appreciated X topic, too, even if it won't be helpful for you next year. There are always new people coming on board.

Besides my panels, I went to quite a few others, probably too many to mention. The Birds of Prey panel (though I missed the beginning) was very interesting and I got to see another raptor with the white at the base of its body whereas before I'd thought only harriers had that. Though I'm still pretty sure the birds by my house are harriers, now I have to wonder :). I also went to my first Birds of a Feather (connection a coincidence) meeting only to discover it's a casual chat where we did manage to discuss a little Joss Whedon, some programming/electronics, and Wicked of all things.

Which brings me to the most successful part of the con for me. I talked to strangers :). Now that may sound strange all things considered, but however I appear online, in person I need a framework on which to cling before I'm comfortable. Speaking on a panel is okay because there are rules of engagement. Hall chatting, on the other hand, is a dark, complex world of rules in smoke that blow away just when you think you've got them down. But maybe I now know enough people thanks to panels leaking out the door when we ran past time to escape that next year. I look forward to crossing paths again with all of them and seeing what changed in that year. I also hope to cross paths with the folks I already knew a bit more.

I managed to miss out on all but a glimpse of filking this year, only got to the regency dancing once instead of twice, and didn't touch base with some people I had been hoping to see. That said, though I regret the missed opportunities, I can't regret a moment of the con I did have, though I swear I won't go into it exhausted next time. I did, however, get the opportunity to prove beyond a doubt that caffeine is useless in keeping me up ;). Three to four cups of I-hop drip coffee, and I barely made it into bed before I was dead to the world :D.

And now for the links I failed to post:


On evaluating your Internet promotion efforts and whether they're meeting your goals:

Eight tips for restarting your creativity. It's for photographers, but the concepts are sound for everyone.


This is just funny, but if you like my blog, you'll probably get it real quick ;):

Scroll down and then read for a heartwarming, tear-causing narrative of parenthood:


Discovery of an incredibly well-preserved early primate skeleton raises compelling questions about evolution:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Gnostic Mystery by Randy Davila

(Crossposted on LibraryThing)

In a quote on the back of the book, The Gnostic Mystery is put in the same category as The Da Vinci Code so it's no wonder that I was expecting a fast-paced mystery thriller. I find what I consider false advertising a sad thing because it could turn away people who would find this book fascinating, while making those who do stop to pick it up feel mislead.

Luckily, I read with a very broad mind so when the book turned out to be much different than my expectations, I accepted what had come into my hands as a mystery of a different sort, a book whose purpose and focus remained to be discovered.

Randy Davila does offer a story in this novel, though to call that tale a mystery is a bit of a stretch to my mind. The true mystery has nothing to do with the story itself, but rather is a voyage in which two characters explore what religion in general and Christianity in specific means to them personally and how that meaning is strengthened or changed by new understandings that unfold as they interact with a religious scholar and her colleague. These characters are brought together by a chance purchase of an ancient Gnostic scroll that opens new vistas for the main character and his friend.

The book itself is a thinly disguised thesis on the history of early Christianity and the Gnostic movement. The material is presented by Chloe, a professor of philosophy and religion in Jerusalem, who is asked to translate the scroll initially as a first move in the dating ritual. But soon this quest for answers becomes so much more than that as the foundation of Jack's and Punjeeh's understanding of Christianity is undermined.

Jack goes to Israel to visit his friend and come to terms with the emptiness he's found in his life. He expects to find the answers in the historical roots of the religion he was brought up in but which never quite captured his imagination. His friend and former college roommate has always been a devout Christian and so seems a reasonable guide. However, Jack soon learns Punjeeh has set aside the trappings of Christianity if not the teachings because he is horrified about what is being done in religion's name in the conflict between Arabs and Jews. As an Emergency Room doctor, he gets to see first hand the damage done to uphold different religious views.

The scroll and Chloe's explanations of both the Gnostic beliefs and what little is known about their historical presence challenge Jack and Punjeeh to question what they've always been told. They explore a different conceptualization of Jesus' life and the historical events accepted as true in the Bible, guided by Chloe's spoon feeding so that their worlds are not shaken so much all at once that they respond emotionally as opposed to considering the information for its value.

Rather than a quest for external treasure, this novel explores the religious beliefs and philosophies of the characters, offering information rarely considered outside of a scholarly environment and adamantly opposed by some Christian leaders, in a fiction framework that allows the reader to consider not only the revelations, but also the characters' reactions. I think Davila did a good job of making the characters likable and revealing the information in small enough doses that though I could see the thesis aspect, the characters kept me wanting to see their journey through in a way no academic text could have, even if I read it for the information alone.

In case you doubt my interpretation, at the end of the book are discussion questions worthy of any advanced literature or philosophy course concerning both symbolism within the text and your own positions regarding the information presented to the characters. The marketing may attempt to disguise its scholarly nature, but the study guide supports the author's apparent intent to educate.

Overall, I found The Gnostic Mystery fascinating. I'm a bit of an amateur philosopher and now I have to wonder where, in my rather unorthodox Catholic upbringing, I was exposed to Gnostic principles. The thoughts attributed to them here match rather well with my own religious ponderings, which seems an unlikely coincidence.

As a novelist, I feel Davila still has some growth to do. The balance between the thesis material and the tale that provided a vehicle was a little off, the resolutions too easy. Israel and Palestine provide a rich backdrop for these types of questions. I think the novel could have taken advantage of that fact more to build the narrative, and make the story as rich as the Gnostic discussions. However, this is his first novel-length work. Should he spend more time on the story in the future, and learn how to develop the complexity necessary for a novel plot, I think he will be able to offer many interesting works that explore philosophy and religion through the eyes of characters rich enough to avoid the lectures but reveal the same content.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Friday's Interesting Links (on Saturday)

Sorry for the late post. My neck seized on Friday and I couldn't stay at the computer any longer.


People-like robots in need expose a surprising aspect of New York life:

Forensic science elective - taking education back from the tests and into what makes it fascinating:

Dinosaur research has had my attention since I was tiny, an affliction I passed to both my kids for a while at least. Luckily, there's always something new and interesting to find out. The last explanation for large pterosaur flight was that Earth's gravity might not have been as strong, but here's another theory:


Reasoning and suggestions for a pre-release author website:

Plausibility is a big thing for me. When I critique something, that's the first aspect I look at because everything else is window dressing. This article does a decent job of laying out the big aspects of plausibility, while also showing they are not hammers to slam down on everything:

Two solid examples of how to make your villain well rounded. I love the second one:


Now if this weren't my husband's favorite cereal, I would have put this in science, but it has a social impact on me. I find it interesting that Cheerios is being targeted when many cereals make health claims and an odd choice when the impact on the economy and jobs to hit General Mills that hard could be significant:

I happen to be a musical buff, but in this you get a two-fer-one. West Side Story redone as the current financial crisis. Good for a laugh or two, especially if you know West Side Story:

And in case one isn't enough, you can find a bunch of Walt Handelsman's musical editorial cartoons here:

Sun Protective Clothing. I sent my parents off around the world with a couple boxes of Rit sun protectant. They never said how well it worked, but neither did they come home with peeling noses or complain about their sunburns that I remember in their travel blog ( Here's an article about non-sunscreen options:


I don't often find articles on programming that click with my philosophy. (Go to Left Brain/Right Brain in the left sidebar and read my rules of thumb for a glimpse of how I approach programming.) This article does a good job of it while providing some useful tips.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Touch of Fire by Maria Zannini

When I pick up Touch of Fire and look at the cover, it gives me certain preconceptions. As I open the book, those thoughts seem to hold true with a mage watching the end of a tavern brawl. We quickly learn of an uneasy truce between those who wield the power of the elements and those who are just trying to get by. That's enough to draw me in because I love watching cultures in conflict, and seeing how attitudes and alliances shift the social landscape.

But Maria Zannini doesn't stop there. From almost the first moment, there is a tension between the two main characters, Leda and Grayhawke Tams, that has little to do with the slave collar she secured around his neck. Leda can't help but be drawn to Gray nor can she easily explain away her interest as a method to extract the information she needs from him. On Gray's part, he has reason enough to hate the fae-kind, having lost his little brother to their initiation trials and having fought against them in a recent war...that the plainfolk won...and yet his instincts offer other feelings that lead the book to its careful labeling on the publisher's site which states: Warning: Sex, sin and sauciness abound.

Then we learn the world is even more complicated when Gray fingers his little god statue from ancient times, a mouse standing on hind legs. This is only the first of the clues that we are not in a more primitive past.

Gray and Leda bicker and fight and love their way across an apocalyptic Earth in search of an ancient book full of deadly secrets. Danger appears on all sides and nothing quite turns out the way they'd expected.

This book has numerous layers that offer things to enjoy, its initial simplicity a mask for depths demanding to be explored, puzzle pieces to put together into a wonderful tale that pulled me in and kept me reading.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am one of Maria's critique partners. I was interested in reading the final product, as the version I had critiqued was obviously less polished. It has been a while since Maria asked us to crit the novel so she could meet a call for submissions deadline, so I can't say what changes she made, but I can state that the final version holds together well and showcases her talent for conflict and complications. I only stumbled on one minor plot point rather late in the book, possibly because I had read it before, for all that I don't remember, and soon was drawn back in. I don't know exactly how she's going to manage the sequel with where this one ends (yes, it's a complete and satisfying ending but with threads to explore), but I can't wait to find out. Leda and Gray have a ways to go before Maria lets them sleep.

To find out more about Touch of Fire, check out the Samhain Publishing site here:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday's Interesting Links


Homo floresiensis editorial (because I'm fascinated. I used to study everything there was to know about Lucy.)

Science? Maybe, but it reminds me strongly of my first novel, especially the top picture. Beautiful cave:


An interview with Donald Maass about what he sees as important to build a writing career:

A very nice breakdown of what works and what doesn't for one line pitches:

Melinda Goodin has updated her spreadsheet that compiles all the Locus sales announcements. It is very useful for agent searches:

It's time to consider whether you can participate in an awesome writing conference that is 100% online. No hotels, no airplanes, just you and around 2000 others enjoying workshops, chats, and even pitch sessions. This will be my fourth year at the Muse Conference, and my third year offering a workshop (the first year became the seed for the first ever FM Workshop). This is a celebration of every aspect of writing, with enough going on that there will be at least one if not ten or twenty things you're interested in on each day. Check it out here:

For those of you who follow my writing blog, you know that I have issues with the heavy application of "rules" that aren't actually fixed in stone. However, this summary, along with specific examples, is a solid explanation of why it's important to make conscious decisions about how you use the language.

Rachelle Gardner on what happens after "The Call":

Solid advice on writers' etiquette from an editor (Miss Manners for the Publishing Industry):

And something for writers to check in to. Some cities are requiring business licenses for freelance writers, etc.

Simple, step-by-step videos that offer marketing tips for authors and demystify the technological aspects. I'm in it for the tips, being a techie myself, but the example one had no critical errors and was rather straightforward for those less technological.

A breakdown of common myths about editors:


I didn't know how to categorize this, but it's just incredible art done solely with letters in different typefaces:

Ah, one of the reasons to live in a big city. Viral delicacies on the hoof:

A little food fun for those with a hand at baking, or just looking for a shocking laugh.

I've been to several bed-and-breakfasts that had a guestbook for guests to sign with notes for later guests, but I never really connected those to Facebook until this article:

For all procrastinators out there:

This is part of Valerie Comer's excellent workshop on getting in touch with your muse (Me, My Muse, & I) at Forward Motion, but it also is a fascinating test of left and right brain focus. My question is did it make your head feel funny? It did mine :). (Do the spinning dancer one.)

You might have noticed I have a wee bit of a smilie addiction, though I try to control it for the blog. This article is then, of course, fascinating [deleted smilie]:


A friend pointed to this link where you can read classical short stories. Though you can do this at the Gutenberg Project, this site will email you a story a day :).

Umm, okay, reading is stretching it, but an interesting surrealistic tale in short film form:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ins and Outs of Concentration

As I sit here at my desk, bouncing up and down on my new exercise ball desk chair, talking with a friend in IM, reading email, reading online articles, and commenting on Twitter, I run across this article in the New York Times about how the brain is incapable of concentrating on more than one thing at once:


So I start to wonder just how different people like me are.

Last night, my husband was borrowing my Rebounder (an enhanced exercise trampoline) and watching TV. I came up to ask him a question, and he stopped bouncing. I said he didn't have to, and he said if he didn't stop, he wouldn't be able to concentrate on what I was saying.

A friend on Twitter mentioned how his wife has learned she has to make him stop everything if she wants to be heard.

And then there's me.

Why am I doing all the above instead of working on my next short story like I wanted to? I have it open.

The answer, I've learned, is that I forgot to turn on my music. My brain needs at least two complex things to concentrate on at once or else it scatters and doesn't focus on anything.

I can keep track of dinnertime conversation better if I'm also doing a word search. If I just try to listen, at some point my attention will drift and I won't realize it until too late.

But when I play music, my mind hooks into that, and my focus improves significantly. Now I did grow up with music around me at all times, and I had my own tape recorder on which I played radio programs and audio books until I could recite the whole thing...special voices included...but there have been times when silence won the day and hyper-focused me.

Now I keep reading down to find that they have considered people with attention-deficit problems. They are beaming pulses of light directing into the brain to calm and focus them.

What's odd to me is that the article is about avoiding distractions and the negative aspects of distraction. But isn't this therapy a contradiction? I'd think light pulses into the brain would be the quintessential distraction. I see that as equivalent to my need for music, and start to wonder if I should keep a colored strobe light on my desk?

I also wonder how they would work on people like my husband and friend who can only focus on one thing at a time. Sure, they'd be focused, but exploring a flashing laser beam isn't exactly the definition of success in relaxation or work ;).

I remember this time when I wrenched my neck so severely that I had to be driven to the mass transit because I couldn't turn my head to check for traffic. They put me on two Vicodin and told me it would knock me out.

It didn't.

So I went to work. (I am a card-carrying workaholic after all.)

Those two days were the worst ever. I felt like I was slogging through molasses, like someone had replaced the air with thick honey that clung to me and impeded my every thought.

For all of that, I was productive in a limited way. I could only work on one thing at a time. It felt so ridiculously slow, and I wasn't prepping for the next in the back of my mind either.

My co-workers' reaction?

Relief :p. Apparently they found me easier to track/handle when I was drugged out of my gourd.

So...multitasker or singletasker? And do you have to distract yourself to concentrate, or plug in earplugs and block out the world?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday's Interesting Links


From my friend Val who has determined I must share this punctuation torture with you :D.


An editor's perspective on how she approaches the submission pile:

QueryDay summary for those of us who couldn't follow all of it:

About local authors and indie bookstores:

Justice Department Interested in Google Settlement:

A free workshop to get in touch with your muse. You do need to be a member of Forward Motion (FM) and logged in to follow the link. (If not, go here first: and click "join." The account is free.):

For years, one of the FM mods, Justin, with the occasional help of others, has put together a daily prompt. I have converted these into a random prompt generator that snags those efforts and gives you one or more depending on your request. Go check them out (Note: this is open to everyone, not just FM members):


A list of ad campaigns that went South quick for your amusement?

Here I thought friendliness in email was all about the smilie ;), but apparently I need to throw in one or two of these: !!!!! Or maybe five :D.

And how sometimes the most delectable victims...are not:


I've known about the Espresso Book Machine for a while, but this article has actual pictures:

Interesting comic (literally) take on books and publishing: