Annoucement

I write about time travel, but as far as I know, we can only access time in one direction. Which is why I’ve been giving lots of thought to the status of SHIPBUILDER. Whatever decision I make, there’s no going back to fix things.

From the beginning, my dream for this book was to have it available in time for the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, which is April 15, 2012. I wrote the book as my own, admittedly quirky, homage to Thomas Andrews, her chief designer. He was on board for the maiden voyage, responsible for the shipyard’s Guarantee Group. Their job was to make sure the ship worked perfectly, and to fix whatever wasn’t perfect, whether it was a misplaced mirror in a stateroom, or catastrophic engine failure.

The engines worked fine, of course. But they did have to move a mirror.

Every one of those men died. Thomas Andrews was only 39 years old, with a much-loved wife, a 2-year old daughter, and parents and siblings and cousins who all loved him.  I know he wanted to live. And I know he died devastated, heartbroken that his beautiful ship could not save those 1500 people who depended on her for their lives. He would have done anything to fix that.

So I wrote a time travel novel. To give him another chance.

I know it’s fantasy. The ship is still at the bottom of the ocean, and Thomas Andrews long ago became part of that deep sea.  But in the spirit of honor for his legacy, I announce that my book, THE TIME TRAVEL JOURNALS: SHIPBUILDER, will be available in print and e-book formats in September 2011.

I’ll chronicle the adventure as I navigate through the sometimes murky waters of self-publishing. I have a lot to learn. And there’s no going back to fix things.

A Former OWW-er Hits the Big Time!

Let’s keep dancing…

The Writers and Illustrators of the Future bash plays the honor roll to the hilt, with a tightly run awards ceremony full of glitter and panache. There were over 400 people there (best guess), and we were a good-looking group, if I do say so myself, proving that even SF types clean up all right when we can be pulled from our computers.

Rick and I packed as much as we could into a few hectic hours. The first highlight was meeting fellow-OWW-er Stelios Touchditas and his beautiful wife, Ira. (The handsome fellow in back is Rick.)

Resident Los Angelinos, they met us at the hotel for a pre-ceremony dinner (Er – dinner for us. Stelios, being Greek, eats at a more civilized time of 10PM or so…)

We checked into the ceremony shortly after six, happy to discover that we had reserved seats right next to a chair with Patty Jansen’s name on it. We’d been wondering how we would find her, but they already had us down as her guests and cheering section. We got to meet her before the show started!

The ceremony will eventually be online at writersofthefuture.com. For now, you’ll have to trust me. It was filled with literary and artistic stars of the genre. Speeches, cheers, and encouragement ruled the night. The twenty-four (!) award winners (12 writers, 12 illustrators, although did I count just 11 illustrators?) each gave a short acceptance speech as they received their trophies. Yeah, that took a while, but they were worth it!


Patty with her illustrator, Scott Hargrave. I’m sorry it turned out blurry!

Here’s a better picture of Patty and her trophy (no, Gregory Benford is not the trophy!)

Patty, like all the winners, was swamped. We all got a copy of the this year’s anthology and they had to stand around for hours signing everyone’s books. Rick and I, and the Touchditas’, made the rounds too, getting our own copies signed by everyone.
    

Patty got to spend all week at the WOTF workshop for the winners, getting invaluable advice on writing and publishing, and establishing career-building contacts with the judges, editors, and publishers of this community. She was a sweetheart though, and made time for breakfast with us in the morning, before dashing off for an interview. The price of stardom!
Congratulations Patty! Happy publishing!

Vegan Fun

I’m still ambivalent about the vegetarian-not-quite-vegan-diet. I’m not having any trouble sticking with it – I’ve been eating lots of fresh vegetables for years. I’ve always avoided grains, but when I did have them, I had whole grain. So there’s not much that’s different. I’m just eating less meat and dairy.  I have meat once a week or so, maybe some cheese occasionally. Pancakes on Sunday are a tradition around here, and those are made with buttermilk and eggs. So it will not happen, that I go completely vegan.

But I’m enjoying the food. I’m eating a bit less than usual, and I’m far more satisfied between meals. This means I’m not sneaking prodigious amounts of nuts or sugar throughout the day. I have lost about a pound, which is discouraging since I’ve been doing this for almost a month. But as usual, my exercise is not where it should be.

I’m used to being adventurous with vegetables, so I’m not having trouble finding recipes to try. It’s a big help that it’s just me and Rick. No kids to complain about the food. Rick does not complain, but he would love to have meat every day. Maybe twice a day. But that hasn’t happened in so long, he doesn’t even bother to desire it. He’s not thrilled with the increased cutback, but like I said – he doesn’t complain.

He’s a good husband. But y’know – he’s the one with the heart problem.

Speaking of heart problems, I just coincidently had a blood test done, and my numbers are the best they’ve ever been. I doubt that a month of a mostly-vegan diet is enough to make a big difference, but there it is.  Can’t hurt, right?

Here’s an example of a recent dish:

Yes, it’s basically a pizza. The crust is whole wheat phyllo dough, so it’s called a tart. There are several steps, but this doesn’t take very long to prepare.

1. Place 1 red bell pepper under the broiler, turning every ten minutes until it is roasted on all sides. Let cool.

2. While the pepper is roasting, thoroughly wash a bunch of spinach. Place in a bowl, cover, and microwave for 4 minutes. Place in a colander and run cool water over it, then squeeze it dry.

3. Place spinach and 8 oz feta cheese in a food processor. Blend together, then add salt, pepper, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 tsp rosemary. Blend and set aside.

4. Place 1/2 sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to soften.

5. Slice 1 onion, 2 zucchini, and 8 oz mushrooms. Sautee in 1/2 cup white wine until softened – about ten minutes. Place the mixture on a clean dish towel to drain. You want it as dry as possible.

6. Peel and slice the bell pepper. Drain and squeeze dry the sun-dried tomatoes.

7. Drain and slice a jar of artichoke hearts.

8. Spray a cookie sheet with oil and place a sheet of phyllo dough on it. (I used 1/2 of a 1 lb package by cutting the whole stack in half.) Brush or spray with oil. Repeat with all the dough and crimp the edges.

9. Spread the spinach mixture over the dough. Add the onion mixture over that, then the bell pepper, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts.

10. Back in 375 oven for about 30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Sprinkle the tart with sliced fresh basil and pine nuts.

This is so loaded with vegetables, that its calorie count quite reasonable. You do have to watch the oil on the phyllo dough. I was very stingy, because those calories can really add up. But it’s the only fat in this recipe.

What did I do with the rest of the phyllo? I layered with oil, like the first batch (with a little butter, too). I sliced the raw dough into 12 pieces. Then I baked it at 375 for about 8 minutes, until it was brown.  I’m going to use the squares for a strawberry shortcake (well, tart) on Mother’s Day.

It won’t be vegan – we’re having whipped cream with it.

The Business Rusch: Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my! | Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Business Rusch: Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my! | Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

This a must-read for writers who want to be published. It’s alarming, it’s scary, it’s disheartening. But, cynic that I am, it’s not surprising.

You know what gets me the most? That I have to work my ass off to get my writing to a place where an agent/publisher is interested enough to be willing to rip me off.

Okay, I don’t really believe that. And I don’t think that’s what Ms. Rusch is trying to say. But my own brief experience with, for example, IP lawyers, publishers, and contracts, has left me even more cynical, and alert for scams or dishonesty.

I still want to be published by a real publishing house. I still want an agent (I think).  But whatever I end up doing, I am damn well going to go through every contract with a ruler, highlighter, and red pen. I will do this myself, and make sure I understand every line, whether the contract is with a publisher, agent, or someone in between.

Contracts are scary things, because they  are binding. Writers need to understand them, and also need to understand that when it comes to someone being on your side, only you can stand in first place.

Springing Along

Spring is well and truly here and I have a happy native garden to prove it. This plant is the star. It’s called Pride of Madiera (Echium candicans). It just burst out with at least thirty flowers. The bees love it.

Then there are the blueberries. All four bushes are loaded.

Oh, and grandsons to help out. Isn’t he a handsome lad?

Cupcakes and Vampires

Go see Mindy Klasky’s post over at SF Novelists.

Although I love that Mindy’s serializing a novel online, I can’t say that the cupcake thing worked well for me. Some of my true answers would have been “none of the above,” meaning I didn’t like any of the choices offered. But it’s all in fun, and at least part of me is “nutty karma cupcake.”

Nutty Karma Cupcake
Nutty Karma Cupcake
You are a Nutty Karma cupcake – caramel cake with candied nuts, topped by dulce de leche frosting.

You are a spontaneous, wild-and-crazy person who is easily talked into doing silly things. You likely have or want to have a tattoo. You love crowds, and you are comfortable in unfamiliar situations. You are impulsive and energetic, relying on your natural empathy to understand the world around you.

Your preferred careers include actor, musician, bartender, massage therapist, or writer.
What Kind Of Cupcake Are You?

May Days

Last week was busy and eventful, and I didn’t get anything done related to writing or blogs or darn near anything else. I will probably not catch up, but I can at least pick up where I left off.

So first: Happy Beltane! We celebrated with a lovely breakfast of crepes, strawberries, and whipped cream. Oh, and some chicken-apple sausage. Then we partook of the annual Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, wherein we visit strangers’ homes to traipse around their gardens and get ideas for our own yard.

I must say, I think this is an excellent beginning to a busy month, which will include, but won’t be limited to, the following:

1. I will (WILL!) finish World’s Apart, Draft the First. In fact, I’m sort of cheating by starting on Draft the Second, even though there are a few scenes still to write at the end. It turned out to be helpful, in that some revision of early chapters made more clear what’s needed to end it. Whatever works, y’know?

2. Two childbirth classes weekly or biweekly throughout the month.

3. Writers of the Future awards ceremony in LA. I get to meet fellow OWW-er Patty Jansen, who’s up for an award. Also, I believe there will be at least one other OWW-er there – Stelios Touchditas. Hope I get to meet him too.

4. BayCon. I do not have an entry in the writer’s workshop this year, but I will bring along a few entries for Iron Editor. Go ahead. Do your worst.

5. The Danish Royal Ballet.

6. Mother’s Day, when I get to see (some of) my kids. Also, birthdays, especially that of the Best Husband in the World.

Let the games begin.

A Little Hodge Podge of Links

Contracts:

There are million details to be alert for when looking over contracts. This is one reason agents are good to have. But for those who find themselves treading the publishing path alone, it helps to have Information. Which some of those agents generously provide (ghoddess bless them, everyone)

Here’s a link where  Kristin Nelson discusses the phrase, “in perpetuity.”

Is the Price Right?

I really, really, really don’t like authors who sell their ebooks for 99 cents.  I’m talking about novel-length works, here. Is that all your work is worth? I know for a fact that mine are worth more than that. If that’s what you’re charging, I won’t buy your book. It can’t possibly be worth my time. And my time is worth a hell of a lot more than 99 cents, whether I’m using it to write my own books, or to read yours.

A possible exception  might be that you’re offering this price as part of an introductory special – with a specific time frame.  Say, two weeks, to introduce your first book. And I do think this can only be used by first-time authors. Your second book? Sorry – charge the right price.

But a better method would be to offer the first 10% or 20% of your book for free, as an excerpt the customer can click on. Then let them buy the whole book for the regular price.

What is that “regular price?” I dunno. I find paperbacks are usually $6 – $10, depending, I guess, on size.  I have a gut feeling that $6 – $8 is good for ebooks. Maybe $4 for anything under 70K.

The core of this argument is that you wrote this book. You committed time, energy, and emotions to create this story. You spent more valuable time perfecting it. If it’s self-published, you also paid to have the book edited (you did have it edited, didn’t you?)and to have a cover made (or you made it yourself). You formatted it,  sometimes for multiple formats. You’re the PR department, too. The time and work that goes into those electrons for people to download… huge. Huge.

Don’t belittle it by selling it for the price of a candy bar. You hurt yourself, and you hurt every other writer, too.

I know I’m a slow writer. But if I take a year to write a novel, and several months to get critiques and edits, then more time to revise, perfect, and polish… I am not going to pretend this work is worthless.  If you’re dashing off something in a couple of weeks and slamming it up on Smashwords or Createspace, then yes – sell that for 99 cents. Because if that’s what you’re selling your book for – I’m going to assume that’s what you’ve done.

And just so you go away happy – check out this Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Who’s on First?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. When I start a new novel, I usually have one or two basic ideas – a character I want to write about, or a setting, or a situation.  I’ve thought it about a little, and have a few scenes in mind. These scenes are not necessarily the beginning of the story, in fact, usually they’re toward the end. But I write ’em as they come to me.

I always find, about halfway through, that things are a little… confusing. I lose track of time in the story. Action A needs to happen, but does it come before Scene 30 or after Scene 22? Character B needs to argue about Action G, but how will that affect the timing of Scene 8?

I need to see the Big Picture. I need a timeline.

Ah, but the making of timelines in any useful way has eluded me. I’ve used spreadsheets, outline templates, tables… none of it does what I want. I want to see a real timeline with all the scenes listed, in a format that will let me see the entire thing at once.

There are software packages for sell. But at two or three hundred dollars, they don’t tempt me. I don’t get paid for my writing yet, you know.

There are few timeline templates available online. These are free – you just need to register and get busy. But I ran into snafus. In one case, you had to download the software, and I wasn’t going to do that without certain assurances and information about the host. But the links, such as “About Us,” or their privacy policy, terms, did not work. They had the links but not the information.

Too chancy.

Another one, after I downloaded the file, just didn’t work. It wasn’t a file type my computer recognized and I couldn’t find instructions on the site for what to do. So off with that one.

Some of the sites wanted monthly fees. Or their timelines just didn’t work.

But I think I’ve found the solution. See here:

Isn’t that pretty? I couldn’t fit it all into the picture, but it’s spread over three pages and I can see everything at once. It’s not perfected yet, but basically, it does what I want.

So here’s the secret. Start with a blank Excel spreadsheet. Then go here. This guy gives you step-by-step instructions for creating the timeline. I just copied his formulas into the cells. It works beautifully.

I admit I had my husband’s help with some of it. He’s the Excel King, but he’d never made a timeline before. Still, he was able to help with the chart part of it, so I didn’t go crazy trying to name things or make the timeline clean and readable. I ran into trouble because in the story, lots of action happens on one day, then there would be a few weeks between action, and a lot more would happen. Or there would be action over a few days at once.

That made it difficult to know what increments to use for the x-axis. These are the dates on the timeline. If I show every day, the timeline is too crowded with dates. And since the story takes place over a three month time span, there would be large blank spaces where nothing was happening. So after some experimentation, I set it to show every two weeks. My story is about a werewolf, so I had to keep careful (but simplified) track of moon phases.

Just putting this together forced me to solidify several actions in the story. It immediately all came together, showing me where there problems with my plotting, and helping me keep track of actions.

I haven’t tried to use this with my other WIPs yet, but I will. This is something I always need to do, and I’m excited about it.

Let me know if you try it. Hope it’s helpful.

Those Bonnie Dumbarton Drums

I’m joining the Vegetarian Brigade

Temporarily joining it, that is. I’m experimenting.

Amy got me started on it when she blogged about her own experiment after reading The China Study by Colin Campbell. I got the book and thought it made enough sense to give it a try.

I don’t really go along with deprivation diets or the latest fad of “eat this” or “don’t eat that.” Our bodies don’t work in isolation with nutrients. It’s all one big, synergistical (is that a word? It should be) party. We need a varied diet for optimal health.

We are also omnivores, and I think it’s a mistake to pretend otherwise. So I don’t plan on never eating meat again. But I do agree that we need far less of it than we think.

Two things have always bothered me about vegetarians. The first is that so many people think they just eat lots of pasta (white pasta) and rice (white rice), along with loads of cheese. Oh, and salads – lettuce, tomato, cucumber… And those baby carrots out of a bag. And maybe tofu.

What a joke. That’s not a healthy diet. Try replacing the pasta and rice with whole grain pasta and rice. Then spread out into the other hundreds of whole grains available. And then – here’s the kicker – start eating vegetables.

Then there are the vegans – same as above, except they substitute soy or other faux products for the animal ingredients. So they are eating soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy or almond milk, eggbeaters, TVP (textured vegetable protein that looks like meat), and things like veggie burgers.

The vegan diet bothers me most of all, because for me, nothing is more important than eating “real” food. I realize that soy is a real food, but it just seems like the vegan products go way overboard in their efforts to imitate animal foods.

Why bother?

The China Study author recommends a whole food, plant-based diet. No animal products, lots of vegetables, lots of whole grains.

That I can do, with the caveat that I’ll have eggs and cheese once in a while, and probably meat or fish once a week. I haven’t decided about milk yet, but I don’t use it much anyway. Ice cream is the main thing.

Must. Have. Ice. Cream.

And I will have it, occasionally.

I’ve been eating mostly vegetarian for about a week, now. We had a couple ounces of grilled buffalo on Sunday. Oh, and I had two pieces of bacon with my husband’s buttermilk pancakes, which have an egg in them. And yes, buttermilk. So Sunday was not a vegan day, at all. But the rest of the week was.

I haven’t lost any weight. Although I’m eating a lot less, calorie-wise, I think I started out eating too much, in an attempt to get all the grains in. Forget it – that’s just too much food. The grains really do fill me up more.

And I love them. I’ve always been a big lover of carbs, of the bread variety. Breads, cereals, grains… Bring ’em on. In fact, one reason I always feel deprived on my usual diet is because I never allowed myself to eat many grains. Not even whole grains. I could have one or two servings per day – say two pieces of toast, or one waffle square. That was it.

And I always wanted to eat everything in sight because I was never satisfied. What a conundrum.

Anyway, so far, so good. If I haven’t lost weight, I haven’t gained any, either. As usual, I need to exercise more. Some things never change.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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