Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oops! Wrong link on the Lost Genre Guild. Try this:
Touring Lost Genre Guild--Christian sci-fi, fantasy, horror! Great group 4 writers and readers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread--Great Gift or Low-Tech Chain Mail with Food?

Amish Friendship Bread--Chain Mail as Food!

If you've read my blogs for awhile--or if you just know me--you know my low opinion of those "forward me" e-mails that never seem to die. You know--the kind that beseech you to pass it on to 5 or 10 or 50 of your "closest" friends--but only if you truly love them? The gift that keeps on cursing!

Little did I know that the Amish have their own low-tech version of the "forward to your friends" curse.

At after-Mass fellowship early in December, Rob brought over a bag full of dough and a sheet of paper: Amish Friendship Bread.

"Thought you might like to try it. Could be fun," he said.

Warning bells should have gone off. After all, was he going to make the bread? Was he going to clean up afterwards? Did he read the instructions? But no, naïve and trusting, I thought, "Sounds neat," and took the little bag of trouble home.

And actually, it was kind of fun. For five days, all you do is squish the bag. Kind of takes you back to when you were a kid and got to play with dough--only not as messy. Day five, you add more ingredients and continue to squish the bag for five days more. (And of course, realize that I have not read ahead in the directions.)

Day ten, they drop the bomb--or, to keep it Amish, swing the scythe.

Now you pour the bag into the bowl, add more ingredients and separate out four more bags of the stuff to give your friends!

It's a chain letter with food guilt!

It gets better: The instructions for actually making the bread are more complex than any I've worked with in a long time--with 11 ingredients, plus the starter. One of the ingredients is Instant Vanilla Pudding! (So much for being Amish. Or did they take pity on us "gentiles"? So Amish women really make vanilla pudding from scratch just to toss into this bread recipe?)

I was a sport. I made the bread. It's not bread. It's dessert! It's so wonderful, it's almost sinful. If I'd been on a diet, it would have ruined it totally. I decided to save one bag of starter for myself and give the other three away.

Did I mention that most of my friends are long-distance? By the end of the week, I'd only managed to find two victims--er, friends--and those were the boys' teachers, who would never turn down such a loving gift from such a sweet face. (The boys', not mine.) Meanwhile, squish, squish, squish.

Christmas rolled around, and I still had two bags of the stuff. I decided to go ahead and do a mega-bake-off, cook the entire contents of one and split the other. I'd give folks a completed bread and the starter and the instructions--with the additional instruction of "If you don’t want to hassle, just toss it. I won't be offended!"

That was three days ago. I've managed to give one bag away.

Which reminds me. I'd better go squish the dough.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vern on post-Christmas sales: Competing to acquire stuff? Sure! Tinsel&plastic santas@75% off? Not motivating enough.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wondering what to get the Author in your life?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

10 books sold! Is it the weather, the season or the prayers? Either way, hooray! PS-Scraped the inside of the windshield again.
Another book signing today--no blizzard this time. Pray it helps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

-15 and 6" snow and no sign of stopping! Didn't know Al Gore was in ND!
Humbug or Holy Night? "Christmas Spirits" the DragonEye, PI mystery, on sale for $1.50. (short story):

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Reactions and Writing Group Reactions

You're on an asteroid mining team has just been hired for a secret mission. Your supervisor will only tell you that it's the most amazing thing you'll ever do and that it'll pay a wonderfully obscene amount of money plus a percentage of what you recover.

Your team boards a ship heading to the edge of the solar system. You find it populated with a minimal crew and a bunch of scientists who lord it over you like you're some kind of ditch digger from Earth. No one will tell you anything until the mission commander (an astronomy professor who's enjoying his time as King of the Hill) decides to brief the entire team.

The time comes--and you learn you're about to excavate the first-ever discovered alien spacecraft.

How do you react?

This is the question I was struggling with for Discovery. My group of miners were on the ship Edwina Thomas heading to the Kuiper Belt for a week before the Rescue Sisters could join them, and only then would Dr. Thoren agree to brief everyone. In the first draft, he had already briefed everyone but the sisters, but I thought it'd show his controlling nature to make them all wait. Besides, it'd be fun to write the reactions.

I wanted a range of reactions, so I asked some of my favorite groups. I got surprisingly similar answers. As one friend summed it, "Fear or excitement. that's about it."

But is it? There's denial, stunned silence, awe, even greed for what they might find and sell. (In this future, which has become highly commercialized in the academic circles, that's actually the prevailing motivation: how can this turn a profit and improve my stature?) Then there're those like Sister Thomas, who simply look at it from a practical standpoint; or Sister Ann, who immediately empathizes with the aliens who have died and starts praying a rosary for them.

And of course, humor, because I don't write anything without a little bit of fun.

It's always interesting to ask questions like this and see what ideas you get, but when it comes to writing, you have to know your characters' personalities to get their reactions. No one can dictate those for you.

Fave Phrase: Here's how the scene panned out. I don't see Thorem saying "all right!" so I need some more pompous exclamation for him.

"Ladies and gentlemen--"

He put a hologram of the alien ship.

Sleek and dark against the gray of the asteroid, the ship rested. Six arms, like crescent moons arched away then back toward a roughly ball-shaped center, then ends of one settling on the join of the next, except for one that was half-buried under rubble from the crash. Even after months of studying it, Kris never tired of admiring the design, or what it meant for humankind:

"--we are not alone."

There was a moment of silence, then.

"Oh, vac! How long are you going to yank our chain?"

"He's serious, Harper," Hayden said.

"You're kidding right? Why wouldn't we have seen it by now?" Fred Harper griped.

"No one's looked!" Kris said. He almost yelled; the answer seemed so blindingly obvious. He pulled up another hologram--this one of the solar system and the route taken by the Seeker probe. While he tried to explain about the probe and how he'd happened upon this discovery, the miners started talking amongst themselves. Some were hooting with joy, others shaking their heads, but a few were snarling. Did they think he was still lying? He kept talking, but cast an uneasy glance at Dr. Thoren.

Hayden snapped, "All right, people, focus. You can gripe about the bet later."

"--on the far side of the asteroid when it crashed-- Wait a minute. You had a bet?"

"Sure. On what we were digging up."

"And I won," Dale Michaels said smugly.

"Right and I don't believe for a minute you--"

"Mr. David!" Sister Ann spoke up. "Your ship didn't crash. Did it, Tommie?"

Sr. Thomas mashed her lips together a moment, then said, "No. It's not a great landing, but it's not a crash. An uncontrolled collision and that ship would have blasted that rock apart. Instead..." She got up and walked to the display. By setting her hands on the section she wanted, she was able to rotate it toward the miners and enlarge. She pointed to one area. Kris walked around so he could see as well.

"Instead, you have this one spoke that's dug into the side of the asteroid. They had to have been going pretty slow at this point, or they'd have sheared off that part of the rock. More of an angle, and they might have caught and flipped. Of course this is all looking at it like a human pilot."

"What if it's an anchor, like the screw on a MiGR?" Sr. Rita asked.

Sr. Thomas was looking over the ship carefully, causing the miners to holler for her to move away so they could see. "I don't see much damage at all. Are we sure it's a ship and not a station?"

"Uh, we're really not sure of anything," Kris answered. From the corner of his eye, he saw Andy grinning. Did she wink at him? He looked hear way, but she'd turned to the youngest nun.

Sr. Thomas grunted. "Hope for a ship. Easier to move."

"I'm all for easy!" one of the miners called out and promptly received a number of derogatory comments from his peers. Side conversations started as the miners, now accepting that these people at least believed they'd found an alien ship and weren't pulling some kind of sick practical joke, speculated on what they'd find, how they'd extract it...

The noise rose, but Kris didn't care. Interspersed among the mundane discussions of equipment and procedures, he heard comments like "I hope it's a station; we'll see how they lived," "What do you think they looked like?" and "Can you imagine if we find..."

Some people were almost shouting in their excitement, but under it was the whisper Kris had longed to hear: kindred spirits...

George Powers, a loudmouth even in the best of circumstances, stood and hollered, "I cannot believe we are going to be the first to encounter aliens! Actual Goddamn, fuckin' aliens!"

Sr. Ann stood and turned on the miner. "Shame on you! We don't know what God's plan is for those poor souls."

"Or how they reproduce," Galen added dryly, causing the room to erupt with laughter and a speculation of a different kind.

"All right!" Thoren called out. "Let's get back on topic, shall we?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Faerie Dragons celebrate the season with a long winter's nap--say 2, 3 months. --Vern,
Faerie dragons celebrate the season with a long winter's nap--like 2, 3 months. --Vern,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ever had to scrape the INSIDE of your windshield? It's an interesting experience. -5 right now. Love ND

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christian writers of speculative fiction (fantasy/sci-fi/horror)--check out my post on the Lost Genre Guild.

Book signing in a Snowstorm

Saturday, I had a book signing at the BX, our on-base department store/mall. I'd thought about backing out, as it was snowing and a blizzard was expected that afternoon. (It never really hit, though we got a lot of blowing snow and it's been -10 to -50 all weekend.) However, they'd advertised it, and I had at least one person who'd said they'd come, so I packed my stuff in the car and braved the bitter cold. (Rob came to help me unpack. Love that man.)

As it turns out, I sold 6 books. This was the weekend for fantasy, it seemed, so five of those six were Firestorm of Dragons, although I had two folks ask for the ordering information for Infinite Space, Infinite God. I also had an interesting conversation with a lady who was completely convinced that dragons are Satan. Needless to say, I did not make a sale, but I did get a great start for Vern's first article in his newsletter, A Dragon's Eye View. (The newsletter comes out in January--to subscribe, register on the website at

I also had the chance to use the terrific poster my daughter made for me:

As you can see, I have made it so I can adapt it for different events. You can't tell on the photo (and not live, either), but there are three page protectors in the frame. I can print up event-appropriate flyers and insert them. In this case, I was also doing a charity booksale for St. Paul the Apostle Parish, so the CWG flyer is there to advertise that.

Amber would like to make this a business, so if you'd like to have a basic background designed for your book signing poster, e-mail me and I'll get you in touch with her.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sold 5 copies of Firestorm of Dragons and 1 of Leaps of Faith. Not bad for an impending blizzard day! (PS-Vern's 1st book comes out Mar.)
Have a book signing today at the BX (military mall.) Say a little prayer and wish me luck.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Biggest Full Moon in 15 years TONIGHT!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Check out the DragonEye, PI Christmas Carol.

My Novel's Journey: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite

Discovery is going far more slowly than I'd anticipated. There's something daunting about taking a two-year-old manuscript and re-writing it. On the one hand, you'd think it'd be easy, since I'm 55,000 words ahead and have the plot all lined out. However, the rehashing of scenes, the decision to keep this, scrap that, move the other is more mentally taxing than just sitting and writing afresh. Must be because I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer and not a big outliner. (LOL--I wrote "poutliner" at first--you can see my mindset.)

At any rate, with all the cutting, I've probably written 10,000 words and only have 3,000 to show for it. That's OK--they're better words. Right now, I'm re-writing a scene for the second time. It's a rather comic scene, where I illustrate some of the problems Sisters Thomas, Rita and Ann will have to deal with as far as the attitudes of the research team and the asteroid miners. The first time, I had a walk-and-talk as Andy tells them the problems. This time, I have Sister Rita have to deal with them--miners grumbling about cleaning up the messes the researchers are leaving, researchers pouting about having to keep the place so hyper-neat, researchers scattered all over the ship as they pick whatever room they feel like, and one adventurous professor who thinks handling a exoskeleton should be easy. That scene is fun--in the first write, I just mentioned that he pulled his shoulder trying to use the mechsuit. This time, I have him losing his balance, falling on his back like a turtle and putting dents in the walls as he struggles to get up, calling the whole time, "I'm OK! I can do this! I--ow!"

Second writing was from Kris David's POV. Kris is a grad student at Luna Technological Institue (yes, he's a LunaTech). He discovered the alien ship that they're going to explore. His supervisor is the leader, and a bit of a pompous jerk, so Kris is going to get slowly pushed into a leadership role. This is his first "push." I did it as a flashback, but that didn't work, so I did it again as he experienced it. However, that's not working out--there's too much him reacting to what Sister Rita does. So, I'm going to re-write it with Sister Rita in the limelight and have her observing him floundering. Then at the end, I may have his overall reaction when Andy comes over to talk to him.

In the meantime, I have my Christmas story up on the DragonEye, PI website. "Christmas Spirits: From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI" is available for download for $1.50.

Fave Phrase: Since I'm re-writing the mech suit scene, here's Sister Rita's, Sister Ann's and Sister Thomas' first view of the Edwina Thomas, the interplanetary cruise ship ColeCorp bought to carry the research team to the alien ship:

The Edwina Thomas, so named for the actress who starred in a successful series of holographic games called Lola Quintain and the Star of Vengeance, was a bullet-shaped behemoth with a shiny metallic finish and red piping along the three fins that flared over the "bottom" third of the ship.

"It's almost as big as the convent," Rita whispered, then laughed. "I can't get over the stabilizer fins, though! 'Pre-millennial motif,' indeed!"

"It gets better--look!" Tommie focused the forward screens on the stories-high painting splashed over the nose cone: A buxom woman with skin the color of expensive coffee dressed in a hardshell spacesuit posing in front of the words Edwina Thomas.
"Well, that's certainly..." She tried to think of an appropriate word and ended up snorting through her nose and falling into giggles.

"And this is what ColeCorp bought to explore an alien ship?" Tommie asked. She tried--and failed--to sound stern.

"I guess the secret's safe!" Rita managed to gasp out. The magnitude of their mission and the lack of sleep from the preparation had left her feeling punchy. She'd taken a nap, but it had been short and full of weird dreams she only half-remembered. At least the only time she had thought of James was when she prayed, and then only to notice that she hadn't thought of him. Still, laughter brought welcome release.

Testing out Ping to see how it works for updating the social networks.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Houses--Fun to watch!

This has been the craziest year for Christmas events. In the past weekend, we attended four parties, one of which I coordinated with my friend Melissa Healy, and we hosted the after-Mass fellowship. Further, in addition to the Christmas presents to our-of-towners, I sent out about 20 copies of Leaps of Faith and Infinite Space,Infinite God to contributors and reviewers--and the first royalty checks for ISIG! (Imagine splitting royalties 17 ways--it takes a while to build past pennies.)

At any rate, I have neither the time nor the inclination to decorate the outside of my house. I'd rather use that time to some much needed prayer and playing a game or watching TV with the kids. And maybe mopping my floor...

However, here are some folks with time and inclination. I love to watch these!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gift Giving Ideas for Authors and Fantasy Readers

I'm taking the week off of writing to do all the Christmas "stuff": gifts, getting ready for parties and events, etc. I'm also working on building up the DragonEye, PI website, in which I have posted a short story for sale.

When FlintCorp Developing threatens to destroy the businesses and homes of Territory to build a mall and luxury condos, neither Vern nor Grace are feeling the Christmas spirit. But when Flint is threatened by the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, they put aside their humbug feelings in order to solve the mystery. Will they succeed before the Ghost of Christmas Future makes a lethal visit? And will their modern-day Scrooge have a change of heart?

This is my first experiment with selling my DragonEye, PI stories online. Vern, the cynical dragon private detective made his debut in Firestorm of Dragons and has garnered many fans who enjoy is witty satirical perspective. This story looks at his and Grace's first Christmas together, a tough one for Grace, who is not used to the bluster and commercialism of the Mundane world.

A nice little electronic "stocking stuffer" for the fantasy lover on your e-list.

$1.50 for PDF Download at

My daughter also designed this great poster background for me.

I'm going to use it for book signings. I've got a frame for it (22 x 28) and will have three page protectors attached to the frame. Then I can slip in a printout of whatever I need for a booksigning or event. In this way, I can use the same general poster and customize to the occasion. The local BX (military mall) has one like it for book signings, and it looks great. Amber will make one for you for $12.50-$20, depending on the complexity. (Mine is a $12.50 job.) Contact me if interested.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Off to the Publisher

Live and Let Fly went to the publisher at 10:30 CST last night!

I want to thank those who took the time to proof and critique the manuscript, especially my friend Ann Lewis. Ann's mother died last month, so she only got through the first chapter before her life went topsy-turvy. However, she pegged me on my main weakness--the early data dump--and called me on it. As I looked it over, I decided I liked the narrative, and didn't see a way to weave it into the action of the first chapter, so I made it the prologue, which is a much nicer fit for the information, anyway. Then I needed a title for that, and Ann came through again.

Everyone who read the manuscript and got me back comments made a difference. When you read it, know that you have them to thank.

Of course, another great help to a manuscript is to read it after not having laid eyes on it for a few weeks. As I went through it for the last time this weekend, I found even more repeated words (that's becoming my pet peeve!) and a few places where I missed a detail or felt, now that I saw the action with new eyes, that I hadn't explained enough. No matter how much you tweak a manuscript, there's always something more you can do.

However, there's also a point where you say, "Good enough!" and send it off. That time was late last night. I feel really good about Live and Let Fly.

What's next? Christmas decorating, editing Infinite Space, Infinite God II, and finishing my sci-fi novel, Discovery. I had planned to make Discovery hard sci-fi, but given the publisher I hope to send it to, I'm going to soften it up by putting more of the tech behind-the-scenes. It's less pressure on me, too. Stay tuned Thursday evenings or Friday mornings for my next Novel's Journey as we explore writing Catholic sci-fi.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Picking Book Covers!

One of the joys of working with independent presses is that they often give the author a say in their book covers.

Book covers are very important. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but an attractive cover that reflects the theme of the book will draw readers. In the bookstore, that will get a book off the shelf and into someone's hands--and from there, you the author can sell the story. Now, this is my educated opinion, but it's been corroborated by authors with more experience than me and some case studies. Here's a series of articles on book covers by Laura Resnick, and an abstract asserting that the reputation of the author (in the case of technical books), reputation of the publisher and the attractiveness of the cover influence readers.

Rob and I have been fortunate that we have worked with publishers who listen to us. the eye-catching cover of Infinite Space, Infinite God was a last-minute decision when the more complex cover just didn't work out. (It would have made a gorgeous print, but didn't work as a cover.) Leaps of Faith started out with a ship entering a space station. Unfortunately, the station looked like a giant PacMan brain to me and I had visions of Monty Python for some reason. I let Cynthia know, and she made some simple changes--using a planet instead of a station--and the cover is very eye-catching.

Dindy at Swimming Kangaroo is letting me take an even closer hand with the cover of Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. She has given me a list of four very talented illustrators to choose from. they are all terrific; so much so that none stood out and screamed "I'm Vern's illustrator!" I spent most of the weekend poring over their art, looking at their websites, consulting with my artist daughter and with Rob. I narrowed it down to two and sheepishly sent Dindy a note with my thoughts. I concluded with the wish that the two I chose would Vern in the style we were thinking of. I really didn't expect that she'd then take that request to them, but later that day, she asked me to send her a description of Vern for the two authors to try out.

So the exciting process continues!

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem comes out March 1, BTW. I can hardly wait!

BTW--here are the finalists I chose:

Brian England

Megan Stringfellow

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Atheism--the Logical Choice?

Rob found an article about atheist greeting cards. (Here's a site where you can see some.) Now you can celebrate all the crass commercialism of the holiday season without any of the uplifting spiritual message!

Rob didn't keep the link to the article, but the comments were both intense and very funny. the best had to be the atheist saying he was "sure as hell..." I don't think that should mean to him what he thought it means. Someone else posted this sign:

I'm not trying to argue atheism vs. Christianity here, just using this to point out that, from a logical, rational standpoint, both sides are on the same ground. At some point, the empirical method breaks down. It all comes down to belief.

BTW, Rob and I spent the past 3 days working like faith-filled maniacs on Infinite Space, Infinite God II. We hope to submit it to Twilight Times in early January--we are running our poor contributors through the editorial wringer this time. It's going to be a an awesome book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tattoos and Good Taste

About twice a year, I hear from my godfather. "Hear" is a loose term; what I get is a copy of his tattoo directory. For 15 years now, he's made a business of publishing a catalog of tattoo parlors and piercing places across the US and the world. He often attends tattoo conventions, and as a former professional photographer, he takes photos.

Frankly, since I already suffer for art every time I get a rejection letter, I have no interest in enduring pain to put someone else's art on my body. However, as a writer, I have had characters get tattoos, from my nurse Sachiko who did it to explore her "wild side" to the nuns of Our Lady of the Rescue, who get wedding rings tattooed when they take final vows. Still, I find it hard to believe some of the "art" that people put on their bodies.

Let's talk basic good taste. There may actually be a place where skulls with large flowery eyes are an attractive decorating idea--but on your kneecaps? Chibi Golem in purple and red? Or what about colorful carp? On the buttocks? I'm telling you: your spouse had better have a sense of humor or your love life is toast--with a fishy spread. Then there was the woman with Our Lady of Guadalupe tattooed into the valley of her chest. I'm not sure the thinking process that goes behind having the Mother of God peeking out of your bra. Even worse, the artist did her with a man face.

On that topic--how about checking the actual talent of the artist? One guy had something tattooed to his eyebrow--I could not tell if it was an ice skate blade or a sideways kite. Do you really want someone's first impression of you to be "What the heck is that?" I saw one photo of a woman with an ugly nurse tattooed on her chest. Is her husband supposed to fantasize that he's having an affair with a disfigured Florence Nightingale?

I did see one that was tasteless, but funny at least: a large, orange Buddha tattooed on the guy's side. Buddhaside! At least, when the guy's belly gets bigger, so does Buddha's. Plan ahead, right?

The piercings can get even more bizarre. I saw one young woman who had eyelets inserted along her back so she could lace it up! Never mind how it looks--how do you ever lean against anything again? How do you sleep on your back?

There's a magazine that advertises in the catalog. It's called Pain. Talk about truth in advertising. Now if there were only one that was called, Pain with Good Taste...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I "failed" the Jesus Test

I got a message from a friend today. She sent it because she liked the pictures, but it hits two of my pet peeves.

It's a "Forward to your friends" message--and those who know me know how I feel about them. This one was worse than usual.

It proposes to have a test for me and wishes me luck in getting 100. Then it has a bunch of famous paintings of Jesus' life. I'm thinking it's a trivia test, and since it's from a friend and the pictures are lovely, I scroll down instead of deleting it like I normally would. Sandwiched between the paintings and a photo of a mountain is this message:

I'm not ashamed He is the only one that can save this
country and they want him removed from the government.

Our great nation will not stand if we delete HIM from all aspects of our government as the atheists want.

Well, that's nothing I haven't heard before--and since Obama is now president-elect, I suppose I expected it. What I did not expect was this:

Jesus Test

This is an easy test, you score 100 or zero. It's your choice. If you aren't ashamed to do this, please follow the directions. Jesus said,'if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.'

This is the simplest test If you Love God, and are not ashamed of all the marvelous thing he has done for you.. Send this to ten people

I'm not ashamed of my faith. I'm not ashamed to want Jesus in my life. But I'm not forwarding this message. It has nothing to do with shame. It has to do with my not using the name of my Lord in emotional blackmail. Perhaps, PERHAPS, if the message had been a reasoned argument, a link to an article or a personal and impassioned appeal for action, I might have considered it. This, however, will not change governments, minds or hearts, IMHO. It just spreads emotional spam. I deleted it and wrote this blog. Guess I failed.

Or did I?

Monday, November 10, 2008

44 Things About Me

A friend sent me this, but I hate those "forward to 200 of your closest friends" requests. However, it makes for good blog fodder, especially since I'm tired from the book tour and the damage control I had to do last week over a review.

1. Do you like blue cheese? Hate it. It smells and looks like mold. It's the kind of stuff you'd cut off cheese.
2. Have you ever smoked? No
3. Do you own a gun? NO
4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? Ick. Overly sweetened, artificially flavored water should only be Coca-Cola.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Hm. Hot dogs as an issue...nope, not seeing it. Pass.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? Veggie Tales. Fave line: Mousetrap. I wanted to play Mousetrap. Ya roll your dice, ya move your mice. Nobody gets hurt.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? coffee. Decaf, though that may be a contradiction to some.
9. Can you do push ups? If needed
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? earrings, but I don't wear jewelry very often
11. Favorite hobby? playing unusual card games with the kids and watching sci-fi
12. Do you have A.D.D.? Are you kidding? I have excellent concen---hold that thought! Just had a great scene come into my head. Ooo, and I'd better check my e-mail, and there's that laundry to be done. Did the kids eat? I'd better--what was the question again?
13. What's one trait you dislike about yourself? That I can't clone myself to get everything done
14. What is your Middle name ? Lynn-Gay
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment: Rob should have gotten a down day. Think anyone will read this silly blog? Vern's having an...interesting...discussion with Santry. (I'm actually thinking the conversation, but that would take too long to write and be a major spoiler.)
16. Name three drinks you regularly drink: water. Coffee. Coke Zero
17. Current worry? Finishing Discovery, ISIG II and the ISIG study guide in time
18. Current hate right now? That I can't write faster? I don't hate anything, seriously. Or anyone.
19. Favorite place to be? with my family
20.How did you bring in the New Year? sleeping
21. Where would you like to go? Cruise the Mediterranean
22. Name three people who will complete this? Probably someone who received this, but not from me.
23. Do you own slippers? Yep. Wearing them now. Moccasin types, though I have others.
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? red
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Yes, but not the pillow cases. I like two pillows and they slip around too much. Also satin is no fun in dry weather--too much static.
26. Can you whistle? Yes, with a metal whistle.
27. Favorite color? burgundy
28. Would you be a pirate? No. I like bathing, regular meals, and living a law-abiding life
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don't. I dream up my next scene in the shower
30. Favorite Girl's name: Don't have one
31. Favorite Boys Name: Don't have one
32. What's in your pocket right now? air
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Vern scene I was working on
34. Best bed sheets as a child? Don't remember a best, but I used to have some with Raggedy Ann. My mom kept them and passed them on to my daughter.
35. Worst injury/illness you've ever had? Broke 3 metatarcels in my foot and had to have a pin put in to hold one in place
36. Do you love where you live? Yes--everytime we move, I love our new home
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One
38. Who is your loudest friend? Don't know. We all laugh loud.
39. How many dogs do you have? One
40.. Does someone have a crush on you? My husband, even after 18 years and it's mutual
41. What is your favorite book? A Swiftly tilting Planet and the Myth, Inc adventures
42. What is your favorite candy? chocolates
43. Favorite Sports Team? Don't watch sports
44. What song do you want played at your funeral? On Eagles Wings

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Religion and NOT Writing Just What You Know

I've had some interesting comments on Rob's and my latest anthology, Leaps of Faith. This is a collection of 14 stories of Christian science fiction. While I didn't fully itemize each faith represented, there are Anglican, Catholic and Christian stories and one Old Testament Biblical.

However, I've gotten a couple of comments to the effect that Leaps is a Catholic exclusive book. "written by Catholic writers" "a Catholic anthology" "I'm not Catholic but I enjoyed it." And the one that, frankly, insults the non-Catholic Christian contributors, the Christian publisher and my husband and me: "My only problem with this anthology is that uncomfortable feeling that the Catholics are the only people of God."

I'm not going to argue that here--you can check out the reviews on Amazon to see what people think about the mix of Christian and Catholic themes. What I want to talk about today is the ironic fact that many of the "Catholic" stories in Leaps--and some in Infinite Space, Infinite God, for that matter--were written by non-Catholics. In fact, we never asked anyone their denomination when we read the stories, and sometimes have been surprised ourselves to find out who practices what faith.

I'm always ticked at how that amazes and even scandalizes some people, even fellow writers. We think nothing of a housewife writing a detective novel or a computer technician writing a chick lit. Guys write romance with female protagonists while women write military sci-fi with predominantly male characters. Yet a person writes honestly about a particular faith, and people immediately assume the author practices that faith. Why is that?

I'm sure some people believe that to do anything different is to blaspheme in some way. I don't agree. To me, writing the faith that is right for the story is staying true to the creative talent God gave me. As long as I'm not glorifying a heresy or encouraging a sin, I feel safe in exploring other ideas, whether it's an atheist being pursued by a vampire or nuns living in outer space.

So what about writing what you know? I think writers that limit themselves to that do not go very far. There's such a wealth of adventure out there, some of which we will never know about first-hand. But we learn. I don't know asteroid mining--but I'm learning about it as I write Discovery. I didn't know Norse mythology until I started writing Live and Let Fly--and as I learned more, I had to change the story. That's what I love about writing. That's why I do it, even when I don't make the big bucks or get yet another rejection letter.

One person e-mailed me that he believed I preferred Catholic stories because that's what I'm more "comfortable" with. That's not true, not for me, not for a lot of writers I know. I'll stick with me, however. First off, I don't read a lot of Catholic fiction. (Yes, my fellow Guildies, I have not yet read Chesterson or Flannery O'Connor. They're on my list.) I read about wizards and aliens and serial killers and all kinds of non-comfortable things. I've written a story about a psychic teen who was mentally tortured. I've tortured one of my favorite characters while her best friend was forced to watch, and I have a scene for an upcoming book where the main character has to fight off a rapist. Think these were comfortable? Not at all, but they were disturbingly interesting to write and necessary to the story.

If I were to write what I "know" and what is "comfortable," I'd be putting out stories about how my kid didn't want to wear his jacket in the blizzard. That's about as much angst as I get in my life and believe me, I like it that way!

So it is with writing faith--not all my stories are Catholic. In one trilogy, the alien planet is Deist, and the other has its own odd mix of faith. They each had their own salvation stories, too. My Faerie world has what is called a Catholic Church, but "catholic" means "universal" and while it's similar to the Roman Catholic, there are enough differences that it is a unique religious organization. I could have (and maybe should have) called it the Faerie Church; I'm betting I take some heat from both Catholics and non-Catholics for it as time goes on. But if I do, I know it's because I've written a convincing world.

I'm starting to ramble here, but my point is that writers with real talent do not need to be limited by their current knowledge or beliefs. Imagination can take us to many exciting--and sometimes uncomfortable--worlds, and writing talent can help us share those worlds convincingly with others.

That's what the writers of Leaps of Faith and Infinite Space, Infinite God did. That's why I'm proud to have edited these anthologies.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Touring Two Books in November!

I'm touring two books this month!

Leaps of Faith is an anthology of Christian sci-fi that Rob and I edited. It was an EPPIE finalist in 2004 and is now in print from The Writers Cafe Press. Here are the dates of places touring:

Over the next month, Leaps of Faith is touring the blogsphere. My husband and I edited this anthology of Christian sci-fi, which was a finalist for the EPPIE award in 2002 for best anthology when out in e-book and is now available in print.

I'll be doing some special posts during the week and here's where you can find more:

1 Book Info and Interview with Editors Free Spirit
1 Author's Interview and Book Info Time with Tannia
3-9 information, reviews, interview Christian Fiction Review Blog Roll
2 Book Information Tree-lady
2 synopsis of some of stories Cathi's Chatter
3 Interview with Karina Bibliophile's Retreat
3 review Cathi's Chatter
4 Interview with Susanne Bibliophile's Retreat
5 book trailer Cathi's Chatter
5 Information, Interview Joy in the Journey
7 (Review) Bibliophile's Retreat
12 (Interviews) Review Hutch
13 (Interviews) The Book Connection
14 (Interviews) The Book Connection

NEXT, is Firestorm of Dragons. This one features my story "DragonEye, PI," which starts the Vern stories!

All month, the fantasy anthology, Firestorm of Dragons is touring the blogsphere. We'll be doing some special blogs on it next week, but in the meantime, here's the list of who is featuring interviews, reviews and more:

1 (Authors and Characters Interview) Time with Tannia
1 (book Information) Tree Lady
3 (character interview) The Book Connection
3 (Information) Interview Joy in the Journey
5 (summary) Brenda Weaver
6 (Summary) Kim Richards on Live Journal
6 (summary) Kim Richards on My Space
6 (summary) Kim Richards on Blogger
10 (character interview) The Book Connection
13 (Kim Richards Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat
14 (Review of Anthology) Bibliophile's Retreat
15 (summary) Cathi's Chatter
16 (review) Cathi's Chatter
17 (character interview) The Book Connection
20 (book trailer) Cathi's Chatter
22 (Bios/book information) Books and Authors
24 (Karina Fabian and Vern Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat
25 (Sandra Ulbrich Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat

Thursday, October 30, 2008

DragonEye, PI research

My friend and fellow author Grace Bridges is visiting this week and we had some fun yesterday doing research for Vern.

I don't know if other authors ever do this kind of stuff. I do tend to leave ordinary citizens flat-footed by my requests, but they always play along. Probably because they're afraid of the crazy lady.

Don't forget--if you like Vern, go register at his website to get a free story!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Need a Socialite's Guide to Social Networks

Social Networking 101, anyone?

I've never been a social person. I was shy and unpopular in school, had a small cadre of friends in college (who I hardly hear from anymore), and don't have a lot of local friends as an adult. When I was in the military, my lack of insight into the social structure of the workplace hurt people's impression of me; like one commander told me, "You do excellent work, but no one knows it."

Small talk doesn't make sense to me. If I need something, I ask for it; if I get it, I think the person. If I don't, I ask again. I'm a good nag. If I see someone in need, I offer to help. I'm a good helper, too. What I'm not good at is the in-between: just hanging out, making contact for the sake of contact, calling someone up "just 'cause." I feel like I'm wasting their time--and I guess I give the impression that someone who did that to me is wasting mine.

You'd think, then, that writing would be the ideal job for me. I sit at my computer, wrapped in my own little world, chat with writer friends via IM or the couple of chats I attend, and sometimes meet others in person at conventions or events. If I need to interview someone, I've no compunction about getting on the phone and cold-calling.

Unfortunately, my social ineptitude is hurting me where marketing is concerned. I belong to a few dozen social networking sites, form MySpace to Ning, Yahoo to forum groups. I make my little sites, post my little news...but then what?

I really hate glitter graphic comments of "Have a happy..." I don't want a strawberry on facebook. When someone posts news on a Yahoo group and I see there are already 20 congratulations, I don't feel like I need to add to the traffic just to add a "ditto." And while I answer questions and occasionally ask for help, I feel like most of the time, I'm just promoting myself as a product. I don't much like that either.

So, like in high school, I'm present. I'm known. But am I "popular"?

No one gave me a handbook on how to be popular in high school. I'm still looking for one on how to make real connections on social network sites. Telling me to just leave comments is very artificial to me. what do I say if I don't want to post a useless glitter smiley?

Got any ideas?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barak Obama's stand on life

Do you support infanticide? Do you believe a baby is a punishment? Do you believe your "pay grade" determines your ability or right to make tough moral decisions?

If you said, "no," are you planning on voting for a candidate who does?

Barak Obama has shown in his words and his actions that he is pro-abortion--and, if his comments to Planned Parenthood are to be believed, that he knows he could be president at a key time when the issue that's "above his pay grade" must be addressed. Whether or not he wants to admit it, he's passed his judgment.

Here's a video that says it succinctly. Ignore the rest of the message if you want, but listen to his words and the reports of his political actions on this issue.

I don't want to argue this. I know plenty of people don't feel as I do about the issue of life. But if you do, please watch this video and think hard about who you vote for in November.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Playing catch-up

Still recovering from the conference and gearing up for the February Catholic Writers Conference Online. Be back Thursday.

In the meantime, Vern did post some MuseCon homework. Check it out--and if you like what you see, sign up for his website.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Novel's Journey: "Second" Edit Done

This week, I finished reading Live and Let Fly to the kids. That ends what I usually call my "second edit." We had a 2-hour marathon read toward the end; I was anxious to be done, and the kids were anxious to get to the "Loki chunks" line. Like "Run Away!" from Monty Python's Holy Grail, I think that's one phrase that will be heard in our family for a long time.

My oldest son has a new saying, "That never gets old." He sometimes repeats a punch line or gag to himself, then chuckles, "That never gets old." Usually, it's about something slapstick or puerile, but funny nonetheless. He's now quoting Live and Let Fly. How could I not agree with him?

One thing I discovered this time is that I'm using phrases and in-jokes that are at a more mature level than I'd expected. Many times I had to stop to define a word, explain a situation or joke, or remind them of how something earlier in the book applied to the current situation. I enjoyed it--and I found it encouraged my younger boys to ask me about words they didn't understand in other situations as well. (Liam has asked me several times in Church to define a word from the Scripture reading.) We still read to the younger two at night, but usually the stories they want to hear, so I enjoyed expanding their horizons with my story.

I did find the epilogue needed a restructure, but it was a simple enough change. Now I wait for the critiquers.

Fave Phrase: Here's one of Steven's "never gets old" and has Monty Python elements, too.

Sister Michaela Joan hopped onto my back, strapped and bucked herself on and declared herself ready to rope an errant demigod.

The command crew gathered outside to watch us.

The lieutenant said, "You know, when we got called to duty yesterday, I never expected to see something like this."

I reared up dramatically and Sister Michaela Joan, an experienced rider, held her balance.

I said, "No one expects--"

"The Spanish Inquisition!" my caballera nun finished with me.

I flapped my wings, applied my magic, and we flew off amid applause and calls of "Oorah!"

"Someday, you must tell me why that is so funny," Sister Michaela said to me as we gained altitude.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Some Actions in the "Name of God " Really Take His Name in Vain

The past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about how we take God's name in vain. It can be a simple as showing disrespect, whether inadvertently as many Catholics had been doing with songs like "You are Near," which have a popular mispronunciation of God's name, to actions that we do in the name of God that are not Godly at all.

What a coincidence that this article should appear in the AP last week. Here's an excerpt:

In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law takes a back seat to the rule of God, religious zealots are on a crusade to stamp out unchaste behavior. They hurl stones at women for "sins" as trivial as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores that sell devices that can access the Internet. In recent weeks, modesty enforcers have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her because they suspected she consorted with men. They also torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography.

I don't know a lot about Orthodox Judaism, but it does seem to me these vigilantes are more interested in giving reign to their own desires for violence than they are to upholding the Word of God.

I have a friend who is an atheist. He said he came to his decision because so much violence has been done for God. Sadly, this kind of nastiness is exactly what would fuel his fire.

The problem is, they aren't doing this because of God. They are simply using God's name as an excuse.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Third Stage Edit Brings Embarassing Results

This week, I started the third stage edits of Live and Let Fly.

Second stage is read aloud, which I'm still doing. (Reading aloud lets you hear your book: its cadence, phrase choice, joke set-up and execution. You engage a different part of your brain, and it judges your manuscript differently.) Since my kids love Vern stories, it's become our nightly routine. However, that takes awhile when going one chapter a night, so I also started the third edit, which is read it backward.

That's right, backward. Starting at the bottom of page 192 and working to the top of page 1, one sentence at a time. Some people like to read backward one word at a time, but I prefer to do it one sentence at a time, so I can check punctuation and meaning as well as phrasing.

Why read backward? When we read forward, especially when reading fiction, we tend to get caught up in the story. As a result, our minds overlook errors, fill in blanks and "forgive" clumsy phrasing in order to continue the story. When you read backward, you separate the sentence from the context, and you mind can focus on it alone. As a result, you can catch more errors, especially in grammar and word usage.

Well, I thought I'd done a pretty good job with my first edit, but when I started the third, I was mortified at the errors! Using the same word twice within a line of each other. ("...bring them in," he said. The doors opened, and they brought in..., for example.) I also found misspellings and grammar that Word didn't catch. (Never trust Word alone.) I had phrases that added nothing and some sections that didn't make full sense without a little more explanation. I found things I brought up in the end that I didn't set up earlier on. I also found (partly through read aloud, partly from thinking back) that I didn’t tie up all my loose ends in the last chapter. I had to add several pages.

Here are a couple of pages with edits. I used red for one edit and black for another. (They get mixed up in the middle, so don't ask which is which.)

In all, the manuscript was such an embarrassing mess that I wrote my critique crew and begged them not to look at it until I'd sent a better copy. It took about five days to read it backward and will take three to put in all the changes. It's worth every minute.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Writing and Taking God's Name in Vain

Last week, our music director informed us of the Vatican's decision to remove "Yahweh" from all the songs and literature used in Mass. The reason given is that "Yahweh" is a mispronunciation of YHWH, the Jewish letters for God, which are never to be pronounced anyway. Apparently, using "Yahweh" is a fairly recent innovation in the Church and an error we are now trying to correct. I agree with it. My name is mispronounced on a regular basis. I've gotten used to it, but I know how upset I'd be if my books came out as "Katrina Sabin" and no one cared to correct them. Why would I show such disregard for the name of God?

This got me thinking, however, of the many ways we writers might use God's name in vain.

On a small level, when you say "Oh, God!" as an expression of surprise, amazement, or disgust, rather than one of praise or entreaty to the Divine, you are disrespecting God's name. In writing, this can pose a challenge. People use this phrase regularly, and to be realistic, a character might need to as well. The trick, as with all forms of profanity, is to use the phrase judiciously, in character, and for a specific purpose. Personally, I avoid it unless my character is entreating God.

Nonetheless, a bad habit phrase is minor compared to a more serious misuse.

Some years ago, I heard a wonderful definition of "taking God's name in vain" from Dr. Laura. She suggested that we take God's name in vain whenever we use it or Him for our own purposes. At the time, she was talking to a woman who didn't want her husband's wild stepdaughter to live with them because she had "a good Christian home to protect." However, you can see it in the publishing world as well.

* The publisher that loudly proclaims to be Christian in order to project the image of trustworthiness.
* Publishers and editors who are Christian yet put out works counter to Christian principles.
* The writer who thinks that just because his or her work is "Christian," God will personally see to it is published and sells well--without the person going through the work of editing, re-writes, querying publishers, etc.
* The writer who writes Christian (or Jewish) stories, articles or books not because they believe, but because it's where the money is
Or worse...
* The writer who condemns the specific religion or religion in general in order to be trendy, vent their own frustrations or stir up trouble.

I have seen all of these--from the vanity press website "loudly" proclaiming, "We're good Christians! We take care of our authors!" to writers submitting to Infinite Space, Infinite God II who decided priest-bashing scenes qualified the story for Catholic sci-fi.

Does that mean that publishers or writers who define themselves as Christian are taking God's name in vain? No. Like the phrase "Oh, God!" it depends on intent as well as form. The Christian writer who refuses to write an erotic scene even though it would make her romance more marketable; the Christian publisher who look at his submissions not only for quality of writing but moral value--these people are using the name of God in a way that defines them and are doing respect to Him and His name.

What about those who firmly believe "God called them" to write the book? I've known some writers like that. Michael O'Brien comes to mind. However, just like the prophets had to work at what they did--and boy, did some work!--so, too, writers must work to perfect their stories. After all, if you are doing God's calling, shouldn't you also give it your human best? Unfortunately, just as I know many wonderful writers who are divinely inspired, I know some who feel that since "God called them to write," whatever they hashed out the first time must be exactly as He wanted--i.e., perfect. That hasn't happened since the Gospels.

Taking God's name in vain is more than just an injunction against certain phrases. It's an injunction to live by our beliefs, and that applies to writing as to all we do.

Monday, September 29, 2008

blog will be late

Had a sick child and a couple of fast deadlines, so I'll get the blog out tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Musical Minions

I'm in the read-aloud edit right now, which is slow since I'm reading it as a bedtime story to the boys. (Steven, 15, has joined his little brothers and Amber occasionally joins in.)

Tuesday night, we came to one of my favorite scenes, when a badly outnumbered Vern evens the odds by picking off minions in a variety of unusual and comical ways. We'd made it through the laughs and were gearing up for the big crisis when Alex noted, "Mom, you've got too many minions."

He was right--this was a fast-writing scene with nine minions to start, and I'd lost track of who Vern had picked off when. I even had two minions still going after Vern after they'd left the room! Oops.

Lessons here:
1. Read your stuff out loud, to someone else if you can. You catch so much!
2. Sometimes drawing out a scene graphically works better than trying to make a list or keep track in your head.

So Wednesday, I sat down with a pen and paper, made a list of McThing's McMinions and drew a map of the evil overlord lair.

Then, as I re-read the scene slowly, I made notes of who moved where, who left, who replaced whom, all on the drawing.

When I finished, I realized I'd still written about twice as many minions as Vern really had to deal with. Guess he was seeing double. It also made for an interesting conundrum. Vern can take three guys, even in his weakened state. Why didn't he? Fortunately, I had a ready-made excuse: Heather, who refused to be much more than a damsel in distress. Vern and Charlie could never count on when she'd show her plucky side.

So, it's taken some re-writing, but that's what the editing process is all about--finding the mistakes before the editor--or worse, the reader.

Editing progress: Through page 86, but loving hearing my kids laugh. Lots of boy humor. Of course, my husband just about spit out his Diet Coke when he heard me describe the Top Secret briefing room. After years of working in that world, we both know how true it is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Respecting the name of God

The Vatican has declared that the name of God should not be used in Mass. This is apparently not a new decision, but one that has been slipping, especially where the name "Yahweh" is concerned.

This was announced in a two-page letter from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, dated June 29 and addressed to episcopal conferences around the world.

"Yahweh" is a mispronunciation of the Tetragrammaton: YHWH, the four consonants of the ancient Hebrew name for God.

"As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord,'" the Vatican letter said. Similarly, Greek translations of the Bible used the word "Kyrios" and Latin scholars translated it to "Dominus"; both also mean Lord.

You can read more here.

It brings up an interesting issue: respecting the name of God. One of the commandments specifically says not to take God's name in vain, yet we interpret that in so many ways.

In our house, you don't say, "Oh, God!" unless you are praying or (as in this case), using the phrase to educate someone on what not to say and when. Yet how many people just use it as an expression of surprise? Many a time, I've had to correct one of the kids' friends because they shout it out when someone says something funny or their video game character gets into trouble. And they will actually argue with me that there's nothing wrong with using it that way, even though some of them are from good Christian families. Obviously, they've learned a different application of respect.

I also know it's a cultural thing, too. My dad, who wasn't an especially religious man when younger, had to train my mom, a devout Catholic and a Puerto Rican, out of the habit.

But what about when it is being used in a devoted way, like in the song "Yahweh, I Know You are Near?" Well, first of all, the Tetragrammaton was meant to be unpronounceable, and so any attempt to make it pronounceable is most likely going to be wrong. How would you like it if your spouse were to get your name wrong while declaring his love?

So why would God give us a name for Him that no one can pronounce? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. My own reasoning is that there are some things humans are not ready to know. For example, we don't really, with detail, know what heaven is like. Our human bodies don't have the senses to process what the soul will experience. So, too, with God's name: a name with such beauty and majesty that we are to know it with our souls and not our human bodies. Until then, God has given us many other wonderful names: God, Lord, Abba, Father, and of course, Jesus Christ.

Having grown up singing "You are Near," it's going to take me a while to replace the word, but I'll keep at it. God deserves my respect.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Novel's Journey: the Bleeding Manuscript

Finishing the draft is only the first part of writing a novel.

I write pretty clean copy, meaning that I don't generally have to rip the entire thing apart bit by bit and rearrange the whole thing, but I always have a lot of work to do when the last word gets set on the paper. Live and Let Fly, being a thriller/mystery, has some interesting challenges, too, since I need to make sure clues are set and loose ends tied up--at least the ones I want tied up. (Which reminds me, I need to make a note. Excuse me!)


My method of editing is to read it three times: Once for content, once for readability, once backward for detail in grammar and wording of individual sentences. This week, I did the content proof.

First, I print it up, because I catch more errors when I see it on paper. (Incidentally, this is after the minimal spell and grammar check on Word. Never trust Word alone!)

Then, I read it through once. I'm looking for flow, characterization, obvious mistakes and holes in the content. For DragonEye, I also highlight or circle any important items I need to include in my glossary and DragonEye Canon. That way, I can keep my facts straight from story to story. Also, I read it just to enjoy the finished work. Usually, 70 percent of the pages look something like this:

I put in those changes, then print it up again. If I have time, I do the next two edits, then send it to my critiquer friends. This time, however, I'm on a tighter deadline, so I sent it after the first run.

Next week, I'll tell you about the second and third edits.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The 37 Plots: Which One's Yours?

I came across this article ages ago, and sadly, have lost the source, but I thought it was interesting and wanted to share it with you:

What's your story about? A scholar in the early 1800's (Georges Polti apparently)
identified 36 basic plots, to which later scholars added one. The 37 are:

1. Pleading/prayer story
2. Deliverance
3. Crime pursued by vengeance
4. Vengeance
5. Pursuit story
6. Revolt (as in a tyrant versus good guys)
7. Disaster story
8. Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
9. Daring enterprise
10. Abduction story
11. A puzzle story
12. A story about getting something
13. A story about hating someone you should like
14. Rivalry between friends or family
15. Murderous lovers/friends
16. Betrayal of love or friendship
17. Story about madness
18. Dangerous carelessness
19. Involuntary crimes of love or friendship
20. Stories about hurting someone who turned out to be important to you
21. Self sacrifice for an ideal
22. Self sacrifice for a person
23. Self sacrifice for a stranger
24. Self sacrifice for a loved object
25. Rivalry with a superior person
26. Crimes of love or friendship
27. Discovery of a crime done by a friend/lover
28. Obstacles of love or friendship
29. Sharing love/friendship with an enemy
30. Stories about ambition
31. Conflict with a God or mythical creature
32. A story about jealousy
33. A wrong decision
34. Regret or guilt
35. Recovery of a lost one
36. Loss of a person
37. Argument

I find it interesting that these are missing:

38. Crime followed by justice
39. Returning to faith
40. Discovering inner strength

I think I write more along those lines.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Novel's Journey It's Done!

Tuesday, I wrote the concluding sentence of Live and Let Fly! Woooooo!

Now, of course the real work begins--editing--which I'll address this week. However, I'm thick in that process trying to get the first polish done so I can send out critique copies to trusted readers by Monday. My apologies to folks to whom I'd said "Friday." There's more to change than I'd thought.

So what does one do when she finishes a 92,000-word novel?

1. Cry a few happy tears
2. Jump around the house shouting, "Woooo!"
3. Call some friends and shout "Woooo! It's done!" into their phone machines.
5. Clean desk while printing manuscript.
6. Review all the lists of things you've been putting off and try to make a manageable master list.
7. Look in the mirror and vow to go to the gym (BICHOK [Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard] is NOT a good exercise program.)
8. Yell "Wooooo!" some more. Resist urge to run down the block shouting and waving the printed manuscript around.

So my adventures writing Live and Let Fly are done, but my novel's journey continues. Stay tuned for discussions as I edit, get critiqued, and move on.

Word Count: 92,017, which is a great number, as it gives me play room.

Fave Phrase:
I have a lot of fun scenes, but don't want to introduce spoilers, so here's a description of the evil lair.

I opened my eyes, expecting to see Helheim. I found myself disappointed and confused while my eyes took in the room and my head narrated like an announcer for Lairs by Larry:

The underground chamber sported a cement and steel decor--and evil overlord classic. Broad stripes in "Danger Red" add panache, as do the automatic sliding doors of the same color--and what door would be complete without its own guard? Italian submachine guns and black fatigues--and honestly, is there really any color for Kevlar besides black? It's just so right. You'll notice our villainess has gone with the theme with her own tailored flak jacket under a "Summer uniform," but given it her own personal flare. No one can wear hot pants like Hel. Naturally, no base headquarters would be complete without a raised platform from which to gloat at your victims--and Hel's gone all out with a wall-sized high-definition screen from which to illustrate her maniacal schemes. Forget the steel railings--so '70s--Hel has pulled materials from the volcano where she's made her home. Don’t the stalagmites and carved lava rock add just the right touch of sinister? Be still, my fearful heart!

I think Hel and McThing used the same decorator. I also think I've been watching too much TV.

Speaking of fearful... the lower level serves multiple purpose, but right now, we see it in victim intimidation mode, with harsh spotlights and dark shadows and the roof reflecting the interior pool, populated of course by--
"Why do you have sharks?" I know. We've failed in our mission. We're in mortal danger. And I'm asking about the Nefarious Koi Pond. Like I've said before, denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

Apparently, that amused Hel. "Do you like my pets? Fascinating creatures. They live for the kill--"

I did a double-take. "They have frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!"

Hel shrugged. "I saw it in a movie."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Authors: Want to help build a library and get international recognition?

I received this e-mail from Linda Hutchinson, and thought I'd pass this opportunity along:

I have a pen pal in Poland who is attempting to build a world-class library. His name is Tadeusz Glowinski. You may read more about him here: "The Librarian Who Loved Books", September 23, 2007

When I first heard from this remarkable man, it was because he had somehow stumbled upon my website. He sent me the link to the article about him. I was impressed!

I wrote back to tell him that I found his dream to build a library in one of the most run-down neighborhoods in Poland a very worthy project. I also let him know that my wonderful step-father had emigrated from Poland. Hence his reply:

Dear Linda, my "Polish Sister",

thank You very much for interesting in my matter.
Simply, I look for good People on the World who can help for my GLOWINSKIS' LIBRARY.

I will be very happy if I will have Your book in my bookscollection.

Dear Linda, see please that link:

In my GLOWINSKIS' LIBRARY there are much parts but the best is
special bookscollection (for books with autograph or dedication).
See please, how much these books I have in my library, from whole the World.

Linda, Your website is beautiful, You are The Best !!!

If You want to help me (link to my story on Your web) I agree with You on all Your ideas,
I believe that it help for my GLOWINSKIS' LIBRARY.

Once more thank You very much for all.
Linda, I agree with You about Your step-father, that he was beautiful man!
All Polish people are wonderful, me too!!!

Best from Poland,

Tadeusz Glowinski

I don't yet have a book published, but I know many, many, authors. How about it? Can we each send an autographed or dedicated book to Tadeusz? Can we send him 5,000 books by October 1? I think we can!

Here is his mailing address:

ul. Waly Jagiellonskie 20
56-400 Olesnica
Poland - Polska

Please email Tadeusz at or with the title of the book you're sending and the date sent. Please also tell him you're a friend of mine so he'll know why you're sending him a book.

The goal is to send 5,000 books in the next 27 days! Please feel free to post this with all of your groups and in your newsletters.

Thank you!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Novel's Journey: My Main Man, My Main Muse

Last week, I blogged about some of my Yahoo! muses. Today, I want to tell you about my main Muse, the one I turn to first and again, and who has never let me down with his wit or fabulous ideas.

My husband, Rob.

Rob has this incredible mind. You can give him a bunch of disjointed ideas and facts and he can focus in on the key issue. He's like that at work, too, but that's for another blog. Add to the fact that he's got a terrific if sometimes quirky sense of humor and is well read in my genres, and you have the perfect mate for a writer!

He's been invaluable in this book, too, as in all my writing. Everywhere, you'll find his stamp: a key area of plot, an unusual but logical solution to a problem, a phrase that cracks you up. When I needed an evil overlord for Live and Let Fly, all I had were some general ideas: demigod, probably work good with businessmen, master plotter who would be smart enough to avoid the usual Evil Overlord mistakes but who would have one fatal flaw Vern could exploit. Rob didn't have to think two minutes before he suggested Loki. (Of course, things have changed, but you'll love what I do with him!) Yesterday, I needed a new booby-trap for Vern and Company to deal with; his answer is both devious and elegant and fits perfectly with an earlier scene. Then, when I woke up from a dream of a totally different ending, I presented him with the holes, and he plugged them up in a way that set me laughing--and I think it'll make you smile, too.

No, I'm not telling. That'd be too much of a spoiler! Let's just say even I didn't expect this, but I'm soooo glad I came up with it!

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem is dedicated to Rob, but no matter what book or story you read of mine, you're also getting a peek into the mind of Rob Fabian. And that just makes the stories all the better.

Word count: 75,700. I thought I was in the final stretch until yesterday's dream. Looks like 20,000 more to go!

Fave Phrase: I can't share it. It'd be a major spoiler (Though some friends have seen it. I almost didn’t write the scene, but I'm glad I did.) So here's the scene where they are about to go sabotage the nuclear reactor until the cavalry can arrive and stop Hel (aka Loki?) for good.

He paused and looked each one of us in the eyes, slowly. "It's crunch time. We're behind enemy lines. I know everyone will do their best but understand: In operations like these, someone usually gets killed."

I raised my eyebrows. "Don't look at me."

Heather clutched Charlie's arm. "I've got too much to live for!"

Charlie shrugged. "I volunteer you, mate."

Grace just rolled her eyes. "I think this is one cliché we can dispense with."

Rak huffed to himself like we were all lunatics, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. I think he actually resisted the temptation for some kind of team handshake, however.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Funnies

I'm not really laboring this labor day, though I'm trying to get to 71,000 words on Live and Let Fly. Trying, but not very hard, mind you. Besides, Vern and Charlie did soemthing stupid, which always slows me down as they try to figure out how to get out of it.

Anyway, here are some funnies I've picked up over the past couple of weeks, thanks to my DH Rob.

The Anti-LOL Cat

My friend Gray is running for President on an anti-campaign. He said I could be vice if I promise not to do anything. Works for me:

And finally, a Terry Pratchett story on why you can't cheat death, even with quantum physics.

Happy Labor Day! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Yahoo! Muses

A lot of times, e-mail, the Internet and especially Yahoo IM can distract me from writing. However, when I am stuck, there's nothing better than bouncing an idea off a friend, and e-mail, Yahoo groups or IM is the best way for me to do it. With the stuff I write, that means that the "lucky" writing friend will share a conversation like this with me:
Karina Fabian: Need a metaphor to finish this sentence: I strolled out, head held high, reminding myself that I was the top of the food chain even if I did feel like the bottom of
shayk1951: the outhouse?
Karina Fabian: want a food/animal thing to keep the theme
shayk1951: Oh, okay
Karina Fabian: I thought "of the dumpster I ended up ralphing in."
shayk1951: that sounds good.
Karina Fabian: a dung beetle's breakfast plate?
shayk1951: Ooooh, yeah! I like that one better
Karina Fabian: nice way to say sh*&
shayk1951: yep, it is

Fortunately, I have a few very understanding friends.

I can depend on Ann Lewis, my best friend (who I've only met once in person, incidentally) to give me great advice. She can narrow in on a problem, suggest just the right word or find things on the Internet in record time. This week, I needed to describe a nice modest but fancy ball gown for Grace to wear while undercover at a party, and she found me a place that named the different kinds of necklines. I never even thought of necklines as having classifications!

Sharolyn Wells is great for encouragement, hugs and (as you can see above) bouncing ideas off of.

With Rebecca Butcher, I indulge the wilder side, more profane of my imagination (which I tone down for the book.) She's got a quirky sense of humor, too. This week, we brainstormed titles for Rhoda Dakota's finale song for the dance scene. Vern had just as an unfortunate but funny experience, and I wanted a song to fit the irony. Together, we came up with "Undercover Lover, Do You Know Who You Are?" It still makes me grin.

These are my three IM "regulars," but there are several others who get the unexpected message from me: "Need a word..." "What do you think of..." "Got a minute? I'm working on..."

For those who put aside their projects for those few minutes. Thanks.
Writing does not have to be a lonely biz.

Word Count: 66,513. I took yesterday off to play with the boys.

Fave Phrase: Vern (in his human guise) and Grace are working undercover in separate teams and pretending not to know each other, but need to pass information. In this scene, they are at a dance, and during a waltz, Grace passes him a mini memory disk. While the details of the dance were fun to write, I like this paragraph best because Vern really told me how much he loves Grace.

When the song ended, she let go of me quickly and headed back to the table. I didn't mind. With eternity to live, one thing dragons treasure above everything else is a good memory. I'd just danced as a human with my best friend. That was about as precious a treasure as I'd ever get.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Fairy Dancers: Linda Donahue, Julia Mandala and Julia Burchard

Today, I present to you the Faerie Dancers, Linda Donahue, Julia Mandala and Julia Burchard. The trio have been performing for many years now at various conventions, and these photos are from the world SF convention in Denver this year. Linda is a friend of mine and offered to share them. Below is what she said about dancing and writing:

We love to dance for the exercise and we love to perform for the fans. It's just our way to add another dimension of entertainment at local conventions. Juli and I were dancing at conventions before we were attending as writer panelists. And now we have a sort of cross-audience of fans. At a recent convention I'd attended a panel and forgotten my name plate. I apologized to the audience and a lovely lady in the front said, "It's all right. Your fans know who you are." At the time, I'd assumed she meant those who read my stories as this was a writing panel. But afterwards, while we were talking and she took one of my bookmarks, she said, "What have you written?" So it turns out, she was one of my dance-fans who'd seen the show the previous night. Now that brought a smile.

About the pictures, we do a sort of belly dance performance--although we blend in jazz, ballet and even some of my tai chi into our shows. We're a fusion style. Belly dance is a very old dance and was originally for women and by women, taught from mother to daughter in part to strengthen her body so she wouldn't die in child-bearing. It's roots are very old and in countries that oppress women, it is often the one thing that lets a woman be "elevated" above a man. In case you didn't know, belly dancers first started using canes and swords as props to poke fun at men and dancers in these cultures are "divas" or "goddesses." Furthermore, the older the dancer the more respect she commands. That's why, if you hang out in or with belly dancers, you might hear a reference along the lines of "At 50, every dancer becomes a goddess/diva." Anyway, it's not the hoochie-coochie dance some people think it is. It requires a lot of muscle strength, balance and coordination. All the minor "shimmy" movements are actually done by selectively clenching muscle groups and relaxing them. It's like pilates in that sense. If done right, belly dance combines the best benefits of pilates, yoga, aerobic and weight bearing exercises.

Oh yes, I'm in the purple wig. Julia Mandala is in the black & pink wig. And Julia Burchard is in the blue. These costumes feel weirder to me because they show so much more leg than usual. But we were trying to go for the sort of Amy Brown fairy--but without actual corsets so we could dance a little more easily. I'm the oldest of the bunch as I'll be 49 in December. Julia B, at a mere 30, is the youngest.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Novel's Journey: Location, Location

What's a super-spy thriller without exotic locations?

I knew for Live and Let Fly, that Vern and Grace had to travel to some unusual places. After all, what self-respecting Evil Overlord puts his base of operations in, say Pueblo, Colorado? (My home town, so I can make comments, thank you.)

I have two EOs--one who does things evil and well and the other who's, well, a six-sigma flake with delusions of TQM Grandeur.

Six-Sigma, aka Ronald McThing, needed someplace fun, someplace unexpected, Idaho! Yeah! Idaho! But not just anywhere in Idaho, oh, no! Somewhere small, out of the way and with a fun name. I searched the World's Atlas and came up with Arco. I loved it: the Evil Overlord from...Arco!

Arco turned out to be a great choice, for it not only offered some nice buttes where McThing could make his insidious complex and toy museum, but it's also the site of America's first nuclear reactor. Hey! Guess what you need to make your own Gap? A nuclear accident! And why waste good funding and spend all that time on paperwork for building something new when you can buy out the old one, hold secret experiments and "oopsie!"? (Please don’t e-mail me all the holes in that plan. It's McThing's strategy, not mine. He's also pathologically afraid of Smurfs.)

As it turned out, I didn't get to do as much in Arco as I'd intended. Everyone got far more violent than I expected and Vern was in no shape for sight-seeing. However, I did get to mention the Arco Airport. McThing will fly out of there in his corporate jet. Of course, it was such a small airport, I didn't know if it could handle a corporate jet, and the FAA stats are just so much numbers to someone who doesn't even know how much her luggage weighs, much less a small jet. So I called the first number on the FAA site for Arco and got the chamber of commerce. When I explained the situation, the lady gave me the number...

...for the drug store!

"Talk to Steve. He's on the board and he can answer your questions," the lady assured me. He did, too, even setting me on the right track to find a jet. I settled on the gulfstream 550 because it has the better range to take McThing to his boss, the Evil Overlord Frank Li in...

The Exotic Island of Bandar Baru!

If you go to your handy atlas, you will not find Bandar Baru in the index. I've made it up to avoid any international incidents. So how do you make up your own island?

Determine needs: I wanted a small island nation, homogeneous population, with a volcano and subsequent religion of volcano god worship, which makes it ripe for a Faerie demigod to come in and set up religious housekeeping. It also had to be a playground for the rich.

Determine location: If you pull up a map of the currents in the Indian Ocean, you'll see a nice dead zone along the Tropic of Capricorn. I thought that would help it stay off the main trade routes. I wanted to minimize the Western influence until very recently (air travel).

Determine history: I gave them a disaster, so the US and other nations could come help them and they'd then turn their economy into tourism, only have that ruined by a volcano that can't decide when to erupt. This, of course, revived the old religion of Apikema, the volcano god.

Determine details: Since I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, I'll figure a lot of these out as I go, but I have found a couple of things useful: the Indonesian/English dictionary online lets me create a reasonable-sounding foreign language by playing with the actual words. (Bandar Baru means "new port," which will have significance.) I'll probably get names from the same source or go to the handy White Pages for Sumatra and Madagascar. I get a lot of names that by looking in foreign phone books, incidentally. For the rest, I'll pull up some travel brochures of similar islands in the area, and rely on my own experience as a fabulous jet-setter.

Give me a minute while I stop laughing.

Word Count: 54,700. I finally managed to get through the plodding part. (Write. Write. Write) and had a fun scene where Grace turns Vern human so he can go with them to Bandar Baru.

Fave Scene: Which has nothing to do with this post, but it's fun. Vern turns human. (BTW: Tap out the sequence and see if you recognize the song.)

Eight...two sixteenths, eighth, quarter eighth, eighth, eighth. Eight...two sixteenths, eighth, quarter eighth, eighth, eighth. Eight...two sixteenths, eighth, quarter eighth, eighth, eighth...

"I don't think it's working." I didn't know if I was disappointed or relieved.

"Keep going. Don't break rhythm. This is an unusual spell. You have to let it get into you."

Eight...two sixteenths, eighth, quarter eighth, eighth, eighth. I started tapping with claws on all four limbs.

"You know, I don't really like that idea."

"You don't have to go."

"No. I'm fine. But I don't think it's--ergh!"

Suddenly, my whole body heated up and got all...gooey. Then I felt like I was being forced into a trash compactor, or maybe a mold that was too small.


I got heavy, boulder heavy, and fell to the ground. I didn't understand how I could make such crashing sounds when I was so much flubber. Then I started feeling a little more solid, but lighter, which panicked me--or would have if I weren't so distracted by being gelatinous.