Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Open Disclosure

This week, I found myself in a moral dilemma.

I have a book tour blog, Virtual Book Tour de Net, where I post blurbs, interviews, trailers and the occasional review. My guidelines say that as long as it's not hate-promoting or erotica, I'm glad to post it. And for the most part I am. People have different tastes and biases and I respect that. I've come to the attention of a couple of great book-promotion companies, who ask me to tour their clients. I'm honored to this for them, and have found they're terrific people to work with.

One of those is Pump Up Your Book Promotion. They're a full service online book promotions firm. They've sent me some fun titles. This month, I toured for them Marvin Zimmerman's The Ovum Factor--and eco-thriller. I went to their site to get the information, and saw he had a trailer, so I checked it out. About a fourth of the way in, an obviously Catholic bishop or cardinal says, "Scientific research is the ultimate threat to God's creation."

Those of you who know me will understand why I stopped right there, why I will never buy this book and why I'm blogging this now.

For those that don't: I write Catholic sci-fi. My husband, Rob's, and my first book, Infinite Space, Infinite God is a rebuttal to this whole Church vs. Science cliché that is not only wrong but stupid and reflecting a narrow-minded albeit popular bias--as anyone who does a few minutes of research into the history of the Church will discover. (No, I don't feel strongly on this subject. Why do you ask?)

I thought about not promoting his book on my site. However, I said myself that as long as it's not hate-mongering or erotica, I'm glad to post it. I don't believe his book is doing either. I'm more inclined to think that he's jumped on the DaVinci Code trendy bandwagon by using the Catholic Church as a conspirator than that he has some particular bias against the Church or religion. And, at least according to his trailer, they are part of a broader group of "conservative forces" out to stop his hero. Nonetheless, it does not matter.

I have no intention of reading Zimmerman's book. I don't want to contribute to his royalties. Regardless of what his book says, if he's content to let his trailer broadcast this message, it's enough to stop me.

I'm posting this along with a link to my site and the Zimmerman's page on Pump Up Your Book Promotion which has the video along with a synopsis. If eco-thrillers are your thing, go look and make up your own mind before you buy.

I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I felt I needed to make it clear where I stand.

Monday, February 25, 2008

King Kluck and Questinos

The Saga of King Kluck is now on video! Ever thought of mummifying a chicken? Great educational project? Along with all the needed materials, get yourself a clothespin for your nose. Learn more here, and feel free to laugh as you do. I did.

This was a homeschooling project my younger sons and I did a couple of years ago. it was actually kind of fun, and the laugh value was priceless. I've blogged about it before and wrote an article about it for Home Education Magazine. Use the search function to look up the blogs.

Now a new word for authors:

What you get when you break a query down to its base elements.

Have a great, laugh-filled week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

'S No boarding for me again!

The kids have been asking us for a couple of years to take them snowboarding.

I've got to tell you, this is not something I get excited about. I can do fairly well on skis--or could do, it's been decades since I last trusted my life to a couple of strips of wood. However, I did compromise in Virginia--when Walmart had a sale, I bought some El Cheapo boards the kids could take down the driveway. That worked well.

However, now that we were in North Dakota, land of snow, we were stuck--I mean, committed--to taking them to a real slope.

Rob had it planned for months. We'd go on President's day, which was after the inspection and his trip to New Mexico. He called me from 70 degree weather to remind me to rent the snowboards from the base rec center. I went out in 7 degrees--not once, but 3 times--to get the boards for me and the kids. But I consoled myself with the thought that the prediction for Monday was a balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Rob would have to rent his at the resort, but getting them on base saved us about $50.

We got a late start, which was fine. Rob and I figured we'd get a lesson, goof around an hour and go, anyway--I mean, 12 degrees?!

As we hit the road, we looked at the temperature gage on our car: -9.

It had warmed to -6 by the time we got to Bottineau in the Turtle Mountains. (Elevation 2600 feet! That's--what?--half the elevation of downtown Denver? But oh, how they advertise. All along the road we say signs: --> Elevation 1617. --> Elevation 2205. We weren't quite sure what the elevation was where we were, since all the signs had a little hand pointing off to the right. Must be higher to the east.

Bottineau is a little resort with Black Dimond slopes that probably count for a nice blue in Colorado. However, we were interested in the bunny slope, anyway. Lessons, we discovered were free! So armed with lift tickets and an instructor, we made our way to the tow rope. That's where the trouble began.

First, everyone's board had the feet facing the wrong way. I had to remove my gloves to twist the attachments. What moved so smoothly in a nice warm rec center fought me out in the sub-zero. I was ready to cry, but I got them twisted.

Our instructor showed us how to latch both feet in and hop to the tow line. Only Alex was brave enough to try.

One by one, the kids grabbed the line and went up. Liam refused to go. Rob finally, convinced him by assuring him he'd be right behind. Of course, Rob lost his grip on the line about a third of the way up. Then Liam lost his. As he went scooting down the hill, doing very well but scared out of his wits and screaming, "How do I stop?" I let go of the time to rescue him. Of course, I had no idea how to stop either, so I struggled to keep my own balance, with my glasses fogging and my hat slumping past my eyebrows, I was shouting "You're doing great! Just fall on your butt!"

In the end, he slid to a nice gentle stop and I fell on my butt. That's when I learned that I was not limber enough to reach my release catch without some serious strain.

Of course, after that experience, Liam refused to attempt the slope again. As he lay on the snow--now he had no trouble with falling back--I looked up the hill for my husband. Maybe he could give Liam that "you can do it speech"--

As I looked up, I say Rob take what was his fourth or fifth tumble of the run.

"I quit!" he announced. "I want to ski. This S(&*s!"

So I left him with Liam and made my way up the hill. At least three of the kids were enjoying themselves. Alex and Amber were especially thrilled. At the top, Steven informed me that he does better with his feet in the other direction.

After another few frozen frustrating minutes trying to push the little pegs and twist the stupid boot latch, I declared defeat. I couldn't tell the difference between front and back anyway. I turned to the instructor. "Is there any reason he can't just turn the board around?"

He told me the front was longer than the back. I measured with my boot. If they were, it was negligible. I looked at the bunny slope, thought of my son's mission--get down in one piece--and declared, "You can turn the board around. it's not like you're going to hot dog." Off he went.

Now to get down in one piece myself.

The instructor showed me how to go and how to stop. You have to lift your back foot, swing your board so it's perpendicular to the slope and lean back on your heels. Easy, right? I pushed off, got a little speed, swing my foot around, leaned on my heels--

--and kept on sliding until I fell on my butt.

He stopped, told me again how to stop, then showed me how to get up. You swing your board around (there's a lot of that in snowboarding, apparently), so that you are on your stomach, then lean back on your heels. I swung my board around, feeling pretty proud of myself (my muscles complained later) and got up--

and started sliding backwards. I managed to twist so I was sort-of facing downhill.

20-20 hindsight, I should have asked him how to steer.

"Uh, you really want to try to stay away from the fence," he suggested, as I lay face first, my board tangled in orange rope and frankly laughing my head off.

"Thanks. I'll get the message to my feet!"

I fell twice more getting down the hill and came to the same conclusion as my husband. thanking the instructor for his patience, I left the kids with him and traipsed to the ski shack. Inner tubing. That was my speed.

In the end, all the kids elected to inner tube. Steven got tired of falling on his butt. Amber sprained her wrist but wants to go again. Alex, naturally, loved it, but tubing is more fun. Rob traded the board for skis and had the time of his life. I ended up in the cantina and running back and forth to the car for the kids.

We stayed about 4 hours. On the ride home, the temperature read -5.

Snowboard rental: $67.50
Skis and lift tickets: $137
Inner tube rental: $18
Snacks on the way home (including hot soup for me): $25
Bragging rights for snowboarding in subzero weather: Priceless.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Laptop, and Idea, and Thou--the Romance of Collaboration

People laugh sometimes when I tell them that my idea of a romantic evening with my husband is collaborating on a story. However, when we are working together on a story, I see again all the things that made me fall in love with Rob.

Rob is an attractive man, but that isn't what drew me to him. From the beginning, it's been his humor, his analytical skills and his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge that I've found admirable and, yes, sexy.

As we married and our lives joined not only spiritually but in the mundane realm of shared experiences and common goals, there was still a lot to talk about and share, but rehashing what went on at work and what the babies had done that day can get old. We've always been great communicators--a result of spending our first two years of marriage with an ocean dividing us--so when we did go on dinner dates, we needed something new to talk about.

So we started making up stories.

Our first venture, nearly 10 years ago, happened while I was writing a series on different orders of nuns and Rob was involved in Artemis Society, a group trying to establish a commercial presence on the moon. Those common experiences got us thinking that someday, humans were going to have a viable commercial presence in the solar system, and the Catholic Church would want to follow--but how? We decided on an order of intrepid nuns who did dangerous search and rescue work in outer space. By working for "air, supplies and the Love of God," they undercut the commercial competition in the S&R field and forced a path for religious in space.

"Leap of Faith" was our first story. That story has led to others--indeed to a whole universe!--and to three anthologies: Leaps of Faith (coming Summer 2008 from The Writers' Café Press), Infinite Space, Infinite God (Twilight Times), and Infinite Space, Infinite God II (accepting submissions now!)

The creative process is exciting for us. As we bat ideas back and forth and hammer out problems, I get to see Rob's mind in action in something that isn't just work related (which gets familiar and old). I can toss the most unlikely things out at him--how do you have a fistfight in microgravity? In fact, much of our collaborating is the two of us hammering out the plot, me writing, and him providing "tech support".

We laugh a lot, too, but we do that, anyway. Still, it's nice to do something with our unique (well, okay, odd) humor beside banter puns.

The key, though, and maybe it's selfish, but when we collaborate, he's focused on something that is just ours--not his and work, not ours and kids'--just his and mine together. And my focus is there, too--not on the house, the obligations of my other writing--just on what we're doing for fun. He challenges my mind to keep up with his, finding new angles, posing new situations. I feel smarter and stronger when we collaborate--and that's romantic (even sexy), too.

The past few years, Rob's work has taken away from our collaboration time, and I find I have to fight to get "storytime" with him. But he's always there when I have a question or a conundrum--and always with an answer that blows me away. We steal what time we can, and dream of the days when kids are in college and Rob's retired and we can really write together.
It's going to be amazing.

Monday, February 04, 2008

w00t! The Catholic Writers' Conference Online!

Found this while looking up I-can't-remember-what: The 2007 Word Merriam-Webster Word of th Year is W00T:

1. w00t (interjection) expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay"

w00t! I won the contest!
Submitted by: Kat from Massachusetts on Nov. 30, 2005 23:18

(I find it interesting that she submitted it in 2005. See the runners-up.)

Well, w00t! is how I'm feeling about the Catholic Writers' Conference Online. When we started organizing this in November, we had our hesitations about how many high-quality presenters we'd find--after all, on-line conferences are new and not well-known. However, we've had an outpouring of support from some major players in the publishing world--from writers to publishers, agents and marketing experts.

Here's out latest media release. For more, check out the site at www.conference.catholicwritersguild.org. Be sure to register!

Catholic Writers to Hold Online Conference

World Wide Web--Writers, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals from around the world are gearing up for the first annual Catholic Writers’ Conference Online, which will be held May 2-9, 2008, and is sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and Canticle magazine. The conference, which will be conducted entirely through the Internet, is free of charge and open to writers of all levels. It will feature online seminars, chats, and forums throughout the week on a variety of topics. Sample topics and presenters include:

• Balancing Your Life and Writing, by best-selling author Donna-Marie Connor O’Boyle
• Can Your Query Pass the Seven-Second Test? by Canticle editor Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi will also be presenting The Good Writer: Seven Important Habits.
• Ethics of Memoir Writing, by magazine editor and freelance writer Melanie Rigney
• Self-Publishing as a First Resort by author and self-publisher Meredith Gould
• Funds for Writers, by Hope Clark (her website, www.fundsforwriters.com, has been in Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites seven years running)
• Marketing Basics, by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (speaker, editor and author of The Frugal Book Promoter and Frugal Editor) and Karina Fabian (award winning writer and editor of Infinite Space, Infinite God)
• Pitching and Working with Agents, by agent Terry Burns
• So, You Want to Write a Book? by journalist and NCR correspondent Tim Drake
• Virtual Book Tours, by CWG Guild President and sci-fi writer Karina Fabian

In addition to attending seminars, aspiring and published authors alike will have outstanding opportunities to attend moderated chats from important industry contacts, including Vinita Hampton Wright (bestselling author and editor of Loyola Press), Ami McConnell (senior fiction editor at Thomas Nelson), Bert Ghezzi (veteran author and acquisitions editor of Word Among Us Press), and Lisa Hendey (founder of CatholicMom.com and Catholic Moments podcast). Other presenters include best-selling author Tom Grace and award-winning author Tim Powers.

Karina Fabian, president of CWG and chair of the event, said the conference gives writers an unprecedented opportunity to learn and network. “Online Conferences are ideal for writers, and especially for those who are shy, have physical disabilities or are on a tight budget. We’re harnessing the power of the Internet to reach people worldwide to support each other in our writing and our faith.”
Early registration is recommended, as some courses will have limited openings that will be filled on a first-come, first serve basis. Donations are accepted; proceeds will go toward future conferences. To register or for more information, go to http://www.conference.catholicwritersguild.org.