Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Seasonal Stories from the Sagan

I don't have any new holiday stories this year, so I thought I post about the ones I have set in the Catalyst Chronicles universe. There are two of them published together under the name "Seasonal Stories from the Sagan." They're set during Twinned Universes, so it's best to be familiar with that book before reading them. Here's the universal link, a direct link to Amazon, and blurb if you're interested.

Two short stories set in the science fiction Catalyst Chronicles universe during the time of Twinned Universes. (Warning: contains spoilers for Twinned Universes.) Both storie

"A Solstice in Space"--Cass wants to celebrate the winter solstice with her friends and family, but they don't share her pagan beliefs. Can they create a ceremony that respects everyone's beliefs, or will she have to observe the solstice by herself? And how can you celebrate a solstice when you're not even on a planet?

"Snowballs in Space"--Paul's plans to have a snowball fight with his friends may land him in hot water with the Sagan's officers when he "borrows" a lot of materials to make fake snow.

s take place on the starship Sagan.

Monday, December 11, 2017


One of the reasons I like reading the Passive Voice blog is that the comments can be not only entertaining to read, but also useful. Last week, one of the discussions turned to discoverability. An author recommended the service Bundlerabbit. This is a website that specializes in box sets. Readers can come here to purchase box sets, and authors and curators can work together to create these box sets. I've set up an author account and put Twinned Universes in the Content Marketplace. I'll add a couple of my short stories once I convert them to the proper format. The site doesn't seem to accept permafree books, so I can't currently offer Lyon's Legacy or Seasons' Beginnings. That's a shame, as one of my goals for 2018 is to create a box set for the Season Avatars series, and Bundlerabbit looks like a simple way to do it. I'll have to do some research on box sets before I assemble mine. In the meantime, if you like reading box sets of books or want to offer up your books for possible inclusion in a box set, check out Bundlerabbit.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

IWSG--2017 Rewind

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is "A database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links – all to benefit writers!" Learn more about them on the website and Facebook Page.

This month's blogfest is co-hosted by Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner. Here's our question for this month: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

This is a tough one to answer, at least for me. While I did meet my publishing goals for this year, both of the novels I started in 2017 are a long way from finished. Trying to find more writing time would have helped, but I'm not sure if that would be enough to get me past my current blocks on those projects. I need to focus more during my writing sessions and start with a sense of where the scene will go so I don't waste time.

On the marketing end, I probably should have sent out more frequent newsletters to my subscribers, though I don't want to send out so many I become annoying. I had planned to make some graphics with quotes from my books, but I haven't had much time for that either, even on Marketing Monday evenings. (Honestly, it can be difficult enough just keeping my subscriber list current.) I would also like to find other marketing techniques to try. At least this year-in-review gives me a chance to consider my goals for 2018.

How do you feel about your writing for this year? Will you be setting new goals for next year? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Juggling Characters from Different Series

Although I've finished the Season Avatars series, the characters still call to me with other stories. I've planned for this with a spin-off series that I would start in 2019 or so, after I have a chance to outline the overall arc for the series and individual books in the series. Then I saw submission guidelines for a themed anthology that fits with some elements from the Season Avatars series, and the next thing I know, I'm working on a short story. Even if the story isn't chosen for the anthology, it'll help me establish characters and situations for the spin-off Selathen Avatars series, and I can also self-publish it. However, even though the story seems to be coming together relatively easily, it's taking writing time away from my current novel, Dryads to Discover. I would also like to return to "The Unnumbered World," a short story set in the Catalyst Chronicles universe and featuring Julia Kee as the protagonist. Finally, there's a fourth project, a middle-grade novel called Welcome to Costume City, that I started earlier this year and abandoned partway through the project.

While in one sense juggling these four projects may seem like a matter of setting priorities and time  management, there's also the added factor of what appeals to me. I find (not surprisingly) that it's easier to write characters I'm already familiar with than to develop new ones. However, if I always push new characters aside to spend time with my favorites, they'll never get developed. It seems like my best options are either to work on two projects at once (which is probably better in terms of keeping both stories fresh in my brain) or else speed up my projects so I can get through them faster. I imagine juggling stories and characters only gets harder as you write more stories. Hopefully at some point I'll have enough free time to write them all.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Remembering the Funny Side of George Harrison

To remember George Harrison on the anniversary of his death, I thought it would be good to celebrate his humorous side. Here he is on Saturday Night Live. The show had promised $3000 to the Beatles if they reunited on the show. George showed up hoping to collect the entire reward:

George also supported Monty Python and appeared on Eric Idle's TV show, though he didn't exactly cooperate when they wanted him to sing instead of pretend to be a pirate:

Even his music videos exhibited his sly sense of humor and a willingness to poke fun at himself and his problems:

That's why, in my heart, George and the rest of the Beatles will be forever Fab:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Writing Over the Holidays

Although I had a five-day weekend (my son had no school on Wednesday, so I took the day off too), I got very little writing done. I spent a lot of time cooking, baking, washing dishes after cooking and baking, cleaning, and decorating the house ready for Christmas. Oh, and I visited Christkindlmart and participated in two parades. Thanks to fellow Midwest Garrison members Kim McCaffrey and Ted Ruler for the photos below.

 (I'm the Jawa in the front row, next to the female Tusken.)

My normal weekday schedule is to write on my lunch hour at work and before bedtime. When I'm home, I generally don't get that lunch hour. Sometimes I'm able to take some time in the afternoons to write, but it depends on how many household chores I need to catch up on or if we're doing something else.

With the holidays, there are extra demands on people's time to shop, wrap presents, decorate, bake, and/or attend social events. How can a writer protect her writing time during this season? I struggle with this myself. Here are a few ways to make holiday prep a little easier:

1. Start early with gift shopping.
2. Order presents online.
3. Delegate some of these activities to someone else.
4. Scale back to the most meaningful activities.
5. If you still have vacation time at work, take it.

What else would you add to this list? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Science of the Week, 11/24/17

One of my musical traditions is to play Steely Dan's "Black Friday" on, well, Black Friday. Here it is for your enjoyment too:

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Brain training game first to successfully reduce risk of dementia

Tooth cavities may be fought "naturally" with Galla chinesis

Study: non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

I didn't pick a lot this week, but it is a holiday weekend. Have a good one, everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Musical Gratitude

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I thought I'd recognize the occasion with a few songs of gratitude.

Of course, I have to feature the Beatles (even though this video cuts off abruptly):

I couldn't resist including the theme from The Golden Girls. After all, friendship is something to be thankful for.

Finally, even though I've never been into Alanis Morissette, I thought "Thank You" was oddly appropriate:

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates the holiday!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World

With Thanksgiving coming up in a few days, it seems like a good time to think about the Native Americans who enabled the colonists to survive. Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, reminds us how much we owe the Native Americans. I'm only a few chapters in, but I've already learned how the gold and silver the Europeans took made a world economy possible, how potatoes improved the lives of peasants and farmers, and how cotton helped make the Industrial Revolution possible. That said, the way the Europeans (and later Americans) treated the Native Americans is one of the world's great tragedies. I'd heard of an alternate history that has the two worlds meeting on more equal footing. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name off the top of my head. If someone else remembers it, please feel free to post it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Science of the Week, 11/17/17

If you're named Jennifer and have a hotmail e-mail address, please check your inbox. I randomly picked the winner of my Strong Women in Fiction giveaway last night, and you've won five autographed books in my fantasy Season Avatars series! Thanks to everyone who participated and to Terri Bruce for organizing the blog hop.

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Is this the end?

Carbon emissions on the rise again

Wolves: the power of the pack

Very low calorie diet can reduce Type 2 Diabetes

Group literally taking air-pollution monitoring to the streets in California

Hunt for dark matter is narrowed.

Have a good weekend, and see you Monday!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution

Speculative fiction often uses real creatures as inspiration for fantastic (or science-fictional) beasts and aliens. How realistic is it to expect that all sentient beings will be humanoid? (Star Trek costuming notwithstanding.) In Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution, Jonathan B. Losos examines examples and counterexamples of convergent evolution, which occurs when dissimilar or unrelated species evolve parallel traits to meet the same challenge. For example, dolphins, sharks, and whales all have a streamlined body plan for swimming in the water.

Although Stephen Jay Gould famously claimed you can't replay the tape of evolution and expect to see the same events unfold, Losos points out instances where that has happened. He cites examples of lizards colonizing a series of islands and filling the same niches on each one. Experiments with lizards and guppies, both in the lab and in the wild, show that if you introduce the same predator into different isolated populations, natural selection will favor the same adaptation repeatedly. When you start with populations that share the same genetic material, it's not surprising that they independently evolve the same adaptation to the same challenge.

Of course, there are plenty of unique species out there that serve as counterarguments to this premise. Nothing alive today might be stranger than the duck-billed platypus, but its bill, venomous spur, and electro-location abilities all have analogues in other animals. Perhaps the platypus is an example of multiple instances of convergent evolution. There are also defining moments in evolution. Without the extinction of the dinosaurs, it's doubtful mammals would have evolved into so many different species--and us. If dinosaurs had continued to thrive and developed intelligence, they might have looked more like parrots than us. Finally, many traits (such as the ability to metabolize a certain type of food or resist antibiotics) are coded by multiple genes. A mutation (or lack thereof) at one point in the pathway may be necessary before the final phenotype develops.

No matter how you develop creatures for your stories, you're bound to find some food for thought in this book. If you're interested in evolution, it's worth checking out.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Remakes Blogfest--Beatles and Bangles

Today, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner are hosting the Remakes Blogfest, a chance to discuss the remakes of songs, movies, and TV shows that are equal or better than the original versions. For the full list of participating blogs, please visit Alex's blog using the above link.

I debated about participating in this blog fest for a while before signing up. I'm pretty conservative in my music tastes. I stopped following popular music when I became a devout Beatles fan in 1995, and I tend to imprint on the first version of a song that I hear. However, the Beatles covered quite a few songs on their early albums, so I can discuss a couple of them.

First up is "Twist and Shout." It was originally performed by a group called the Top Notes and was produced by Phil Spector. That version flopped, so I'll post the more familiar Isley Brothers version instead:

It's a pleasant version, perhaps a soulful one (see the comments below the video on YouTube). The Beatles' version, however, is much more intense and rocking. When they recorded it for the Please Please Me album, they saved it for the final song of a twelve-hour recording session, since they knew how hard it would be on John's voice, especially since he was suffering from a cold at the time. John was only able to manage one take, but it was an immortal one. The version I posted below is from the first Ed Sullivan Show appearance. (I didn't see the album version on YouTube.) The sound isn't great, but you can still enjoy John, Paul, and George harmonizing.

The Beatles didn't release the Isley Brothers' "Shout" until Anthology 1, but thankfully they performed it on TV a couple of times. While the original version is great (and probably the one I heard first), the Beatles' cover is also fun. I think the energy both groups put into their versions is comparable.

I could go on with Beatles covers, but I'd like to finish off with "A Hazy Shade of Winter" by both Simon & Garfunkel and the Bangles. As a teen in the 80s, I most likely heard the Bangles' cover before the original. I love the energy the Bangles put into it; plus they also remind me of the heroines of my Season Avatars series. I can see Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay performing this song (though they would be dressed more modestly) to welcome winter in Summon the Seasons.

Which versions of these songs do you prefer? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reading Goal Update

Last year around this time, I was really pushing myself to reach my Goodreads goal of 200 books read in 2016. I barely made it, so for 2017 I decided (for the first time ever) to decrease my goal. My original goal for this year was 180 books, but this weekend I decreased it still further to 160 books. At least I'm on track to meet that goal! There have been so many other things going on this year that unlike last year, I don't feel bad about lowering my expectations. In the meantime, we'll see how much reading I get done in the next few weeks.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Signed Books for the Holidays

I'm already getting notices from companies wanting me to advertise with them for the holidays. However, I think people prefer giving paper books over eBooks. While you can order my books through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you can also contact me directly to get books slightly cheaper (though I will ask you to pay for shipping) and even better, have the books signed to the recipient. As you can see from the picture, I have copies of all my print books available. If you'd like to order something, my e-mail is in the right-hand sidebar. Payment will be through PayPal. I'll accept orders through mid-December.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

IWSG: NaNoWriMo and Strong Women in Fiction Giveaway

Welcome to November--and the start of National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. If you're participating, best of luck to you!

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group Post is brought to you by co-hosts Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ FiField, and Rebecca Douglass. Here's our question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

 I've done NaNoWriMo twice, and I "won" both times. However, I didn't finish either project (which means they're still unpublished). I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, so the pressure to write faster than I normally do leads to rambling drafts. I'm reusing some of the ideas from my first NaNoWriMo in my current WIP, and I hope someday to return to Catalyst in the Crucible, my second NaNoWriMo project. As usual, it's a case of too many projects, too little time.

Speaking of little time, I'd holding a limited-time giveaway for the Strong Women in Fiction Giveaway, running now through November 15th. The four heroines of my fantasy Season Avatars series all have different types of powerful magic and are second only to the king of their country in rank. Together, Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay can tame Chaos Season, a magical storm that mixes up the seasons. To do this, they need strong minds and wills, as well as other talents. I'm celebrating the recent conclusion of this series by giving away signed paper copies of all five books (Seasons' Beginnings, Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons.). You can enter below. I'll add collected e-mails to my mailing list, but you're free to unsubscribe later. U.S. residents only, please. The winner will be selected randomly and will have one week to send me a shipping address after I contact him/her. If not, then I'll choose another winner. Let me know if you have any questions.

Other authors are participating in this giveaway hop, so use the linky below to check out all the prizes.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quotes about Writing

One of my favorite writing quotes comes from E.L. Doctorow: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." It sounds to me as if he was a pantser, writing from scene to scene. Of course, you still need to have a set of landmarks that you're looking for, whether you're going somewhere or writing a story that requires a plot structure. Still, to write this way requires a certain confidence that you'll end up where you want to.

Here are some other writing quotes that resonate with me. You can find all of these, and many more, listed on Goodreads.

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."--Maya Angelou

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."--Toni Morrison

"Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it."--Lloyd Alexander

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader."--Robert Frost

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -- Ray Bradbury

I was tempted to list more, but I'll stop here. Which of these quotes appeal to you? Are there others you like? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ghosts of Projects Yet (or If) to Come

Pat's comment on Monday about keeping an idea list made me think about all the projects I'd like to work on "someday." There's a lot. I've already mentioned how I want to write another series set in the same world as the Season Avatars series. I'd also like to write more stories in the Catalyst Chronicles series. Indeed, it seems like many short stories beget novels, which beget series, which soon become multigenerational family sagas.

I could probably spend the rest of my writing career just expanding on the worlds I've already created. However, there are still plenty of other ideas and genres I'd like to explore. They include superhero stories, alternate history, and solarpunk, to name a few. I don't want to say too much about these ideas now in case they change later.

So, what's stopping me from working on all of these ideas? One of the biggest obstacles is lack of time. I have a lot of daily responsibilities to manage, and what little writing time I have tends to go toward works in process instead of new ideas. The other major problem is that many of these ideas are just that: ideas. They might give me a backdrop, but I still need to develop characters and a plot to turn these ideas into stories. To do that, I need time for research and rumination, and that can be hard to find.

Ultimately, I don't know how many of these ideas will ever make it out of my head and onto the page. They'll have to be managed around with the rest of my other projects. I may never get to any or all of them, but they'll inspire me to keep writing as long as I'm physically and mentally capable of it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ghost Projects

Recently, my blogger friend Terri Bruce posted on Facebook on how 2017 has been a year for her to complete what she called “ghost projects,” crafts and other things she started a long time ago but was unable to finish until now. It's been a very freeing experience for her to get them done. It got me thinking about the various ghost projects I have in my life.

Many writers have what they refer to as “trunk” stories, stories that never quite came together or were sent out and never found a home. There aren’t any projects from my beginning days as a writer that I want to pull out, but I would like to return to the world of Lyon’s Legacy and Twinned Universes. I’ve started a story currently titled “The Unnumbered World,” about a minor character (Julia) from Twinned Universes and her experiences after the book ends. I’m having trouble defining the conflicts involved, plus she’s half Dine (Navajo), so I’ll have to revisit my research on her culture before I finish her story. I’ve also started a sequel to Twinned Universes, but it’s not a time travel story and would take the series in a completely different direction.

In addition to the Catalyst Chronicles stories, I have a couple of stand-alone short stories that need to be finished. One of them actually did get completed, but after receiving a developmental edit on it, I abandoned it. Maybe it’s time to dig it out and see if I want to revise it or stick with my original plan for that story.

There are several craft projects I need to finish. The highest priority projects are sewing my Jedi robes and finishing a train I started to crochet for Alex when he was a toddler. I also want to make him a Star Wars blanket, and I know that’s going to be a big time commitment. One reason I like crocheting Star Wars amigurumi characters is because they only take a few days to complete. (I also make these for other people, so sometimes there's a deadline to get them done before I see the recipient.) Of course, when you want to do several of them, the time goes up.

I'll mention that I have various projects that need to be done around the house, but I don't want to list them all.

In order to manage my projects, I write out lists of them and assign them priorities. I think to make progress on some of the bigger projects (like the Jedi costume), I need to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Of course, finding time for these projects is also a challenge. I can get an hour or so of crocheting done while my son is doing his homework, but for sewing, I want to set aside a larger chunk of time, and that's harder to do.

How many ghost projects do you have floating around? Do you plan to work on them at some point, or have you given up on them? Feel free to share in the comments.

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