Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Plug, A Plea, and A Plus:
Summer is a VERY Good Time To Submit

I'll be honest. Summer is submission doldrums time over at Dragons, Knights & Angels. So, here's the plug and the plea:

Plug: We are a magazine of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy and we pay. (Yes, very, very, very, VERY modestly. But we do pay).

Plea: We need fiction submissions! If you write science fiction (high on our list of wants) and fantasy (always welcome, naturally), and you aren't writing utter drivel that would make me weep to read, please submit to DKA. Read the Vision Statement, first. Then, follow the instructions, and, voila, you've submitted. It's easy.

We try to accept in decent time, and we aim to offer feedback on everything we decline or of which we request revisions.

PLUS: Our poetry contest is still open. First prize is $75.00. Second prize is $40.00. It costs nothing to enter but your time and talent.

Please drop by the site and consider being part of our ongoing effort to provide SF with a moral core and a spiritual uplift.

If Pluto, then Neptune...

A point that occurred to me, too, came up at Stromata blog:

There is, however, a matter that puzzles me. Pluto is no longer a “planet”, according to the International Astronomical Union, because it fails one of the sine quibus non, to wit, it has not “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit”. Just a minute there: Neither has Neptune. The orbits of the two bodies overlap. If Pluto is to be downgraded for having failed either to expel or capture Neptune, can one give Neptune a pass for having failed to deal with Pluto and its companion Charon? Shouldn’t it be a “dwarf” too, albeit a Captain Carrot among the dwarfish tribe?

I'm assuming the AU folks are mighty smart and meticulous, so there must be an answer.

I'm just too busy making a midnight deadline on a piece and then a 6 am deadline on something else to go google it.

Feel free to post a comment that enlightens me. I'll read it after the a.m. deadline that's after the midnight deadline, or, more likely, after I crash and doze.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Place I'll Never See: The Garden of Allah

Confession time:

I was one of those kids hooked on reading about celebrities. Then I was one of those older kids hooked on reading about old-time Hollywood and watching 20's and 30's and 40's movies on television. I grew up into a gal who bought books about "Golden Age" Hollywood and spent hours gazing at photos of faces utterly unlike mine, figures utterly unlike mine, houses never to be mine, relationships too complicated to be happy or long, and and lives a whole lot messier and wilder than mine. Every now and then, between term papers and textbooks, I sat lotus style on the floor of the college library with reproductions of old issues of PHOTOPLAY.

I had it bad.

So, there you have it. One of my dirty secrets.

Yes, I was one of those probably few (non-film or film history majoring) university students who knew who Alla Nazimova and Norma Talmadge and Helen Twelvetrees and Ramon Navarro and Mae Murray and George Kaufmann and Dolores del Rio and Irving Thalberg and Bebe Daniels were, and who could sing along to Ruby Keeler songs, and who thought Valentino WAS actually rather hot in his sheik outfit. And I was one who longed to time-travel back to dine at San Simeon during one of the costume parties there or walk through a fresh version of The Garden of Allah.

Tallulah Bankhead called it “the most gruesomely named hotel in the western hemisphere.” Others, perhaps thinking of its curious architecture or the monumental hangovers that accompanied its boozy high life, called it simply the most gruesome hotel. To most of its denizens, however—to the scores of stars, writers, directors, wits, and wags who would stay nowhere else when they went to Los Angeles to “make a movie”—it symbolized Hollywood itself. George Oppenheimer

It's gone now. Even if I were a travel-able kind of gal, I could no longer rent one of its once-desirable bungalows or walk the courtyards recalling the famous faces of its onetime residents or the scandalous goings-on of its freespirited or ambitious or troubled souls. As a kid, it seemed like an amazing place in which to reside and watch the famous be different than the rest of us. (I grew up to figure maybe not so different, after all. Mostly just more good looking.)

It's a little less magical of a title nowadays, what with Allah getting a bad rap from the actions of his more sadistic followers. But what mesmerizes a young mind keeps a glamorous glow forever.

In its place is now a strip mall with "a MacDonald's, a Subway Sandwich Shop, and a pizza place."

Since the term "Garden of Allah" puts one in mind of a particular kind of ideological heaven, we can say this: They paved "paradise" and put up a parking lot.

Except, of course, as I grew older and learned, it was no paradise. It was just a very happening and hedonistic and fascinating spot for Hollywood-o-philes to wonder about.

I'll leave you with a Garden of Allah anecdote:

Harpo Marx moved into the Garden of Allah some time in the late 20's when he first came to make movies. Harpo had thin walls. (A lot of different people mention the thin walls.) After Harpo set up housekeeping and grew a sense of ownership, he got a new neighbor whose hours didn't coincide with Harpo's hours, and who played the piano, and who wouldn't shut up even after Harpo banged on the wall, etc.

So Harpo set the alarm clock early one Saturday, tuned up his harp, and played the first 64 bars of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #1 as loud as he could, over and over and over, until his fingers bled, probably getting it wrong because he was self-taught, over and over and over all morning and into the afternoon, until he heard his new neighbor scream in strangled anguish and bang around like he was packing up, slammed his door, and disappeared, never to be seen again. A lot of effort, Harpo thought, but well worth it to be rid of such a nuisance. Then somebody told Harpo that his new neighbor the piano player was Rachmaninoff.

Photo Reminder For Those Days When You Feel Unloved and Lost In A Wasteland

Got this picture from Carmen's blog. I love it so much, I figure I'll put it here for y'all to enjoy. Do go over and read Carmen's Food For Thought, where you'll find a link to a free download of Wayne Jacobsen's HE LOVES ME:
When that love touches you, you will discover that there is nothing more powerful in the universe. It is more powerful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your dreams and even your fears.

My SF Heroine is not a Mary Sue

Mary Sues. They get a bad name among fan fic (and SF fiction) writers.

What? You never heard the term?

Here's a quickie def from Wikipedia:
Mary Sue (sometimes shortened simply to Sue) is a pejorative term for a fictional character who is portrayed in an idealized way and who is generally lacking in any truly noteworthy flaws (or having her flaws romanticized, as is sometimes the case with stories about characters with eating disorders, depression, or other psychological conditions). Characters labeled Mary Sues, as well as the stories they appear in, are generally seen as wish fulfillment fantasies on the part of the author...
Characters labeled as a "Mary Sue" have what are seen as exaggerated and annoying (and sometimes impossible) levels of superiority, especially in comparison to either the other characters, real people who are in the same fields or situations, or both.

This is the quiz result I got:
11-20 points: The Non-Sue. Your character is a well-developed, balanced person, and is almost certainly not a Mary Sue. Congratulations!

I thought sure she'd test higher, since she is the top in her job, but she's not happy about the inherent power that makes her able to do what she does. Hmmm. And I didn't make her impossibly gorgeous or even gifted in any other way. She's no superwoman.

How does your protagonist quiz out? Have you penned a Mary Sue?

And if yours does, does it matter?

I think it's a matter of degree and context. Many SF characters are superior, vastly superior at times, to their peers: Ender Wiggins and Paul Atreides and Harry Potter come right to mind.

What keeps your superior character, your specially gifted protagonist, from being overly superior mere wish fulfillment in prose?

The Last Question Is A Hoot: Going Postal?

You have a 6% chance of going postal!

Congrats! You're not going to shoot up a strip mall anytime soon. You're so well-adjusted, it's creepy.

How Likely Are You to Go Postal?
Create Your Own Quiz

Hat Tip: Claw Man.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ellison Speaks On The Gropegate Matter

I'm going to copy and paste from Ellison's message board, Unca Harlan's Deco Dining Pavilion, which I have been checking on today to see if Mr. E responds to the chatter about the groping.

He has, indeed, responded, with a mea culpa and apology, to a post by Lynne Batik that insisted it is NOT OK to grope a woman's breast uninvited. H.E.'s given permmission for his reply to be disseminated. I herewith oblige:


Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress ... and having left the hall entirely ... yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato's traditional chili party ... and having taken off next morning for return home ... and not having the internet facility to open "journalfen" (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis's left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar ...YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN'S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go 'way over the line in terms of invasion of someone's personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie's breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I've called Connie. Haven't heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It's not as if I haven't been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn't--till now--reached your level of outrage.

I'm glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

Are You Rolling in Dough? Win the Lotto?
Then Buy Me This, Would Ya?

Kinuko Y.Craft, she who has done those magnificent covers we've come to associate with the writer Patricia McKillip, did the yummy bit at left. It's called "Saint."

Don't you just love the way she mixed Titian's VENUS OF URBINO with Rousseau-ish flora and fauna?

I think it's a treat for the eyes.

If you're not familiar with Ms. Craft's work, you can browse the gallery at Graphics Collectible, where some of her fine work is for sale. Or just google her. Or browse McKillip titles or Craft's name at (She's also done illustration for children's books, so she's listed. I own her Cinderella.)

So, if you have about 10K you've got no use for, feel free to get me art for Christmas. (Psst. I also wouldn't mind any of those cool McKillip covers or the Art In The Style of Picasso bit.)

Connie Should Have Decked The Jerk!

Sometimes, a lady just needs to tap into her inner Mohammed Ali.

When I was seventeen, a couple-years-younger-than-I little git grabbed my right breast and smiled. I promptly whacked him so hard the blow knocked him off his bike. He turned red and was speechless for a good ten minutes, while I glared at him and dared him to try it again. He slunk away home. And he never grabbed my boob again.

I learned a lesson in the gender wars: Immediate reprisal can be hugely effective.

Do not ever try to grab me in body parts only my doctor and husband have legal access to. I will hurt you. And, sometimes, I carry a knife.

Apparently, the WorldCon showcased one of those times where being nice and patient and gentle comes across as enabling obnoxious twerps who should know better due to advanced age, broad education, and documented pro-feminist activities.

Here's the chatter and the lowdown:

Ian McDonald* writes:

Entertaining to see Harlan Ellison grab Connie Willi's boob (or so it looked to me from the depths of the fifth row.) Not expecting to win anything so I could sit back and enjoy.

(*McDonald later apologized for the flip attitude.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who was not at all entertained, had this to say, and it wasn't flip:
Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis on stage at the Hugos wasn't funny and it wasn't okay. I understand (from third parties; I haven't spoken to her about it) that Connie Willis's position is that Ellison has done worse and she can handle him, but I really didn't want to watch it and neither, I think, did a lot of other people in the audience. Up to then the comedic schtick aspects of the Hugo presentation had been genuinely funny. After that, I think, many of us just wanted it all to stop.

Rachel Manija Brown blogs on her own encounter with Ellison at the Willis-Grope Con:
"Hey, kid," he said. "You're not old enough to have written anything. I have things stuck in my teeth that are older than you!"

"Does your dentist know about that?" I asked, having at that point taken a slug of my thank-God-it's-legal addictive substance of choice.

"My shirt is older than you," he continued, and poked me in the belly button.

"Hey!" I grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him. He looked rather startled.

"Gotta get to my panel," I said, and fled with my coffee.

Leah Bobet , who is calling for action, answers some possible objections to a Fatwa, including this one:
But Leah, Harlan Ellison is just one man!

Yup. And the guy who, when I was twenty, told me at a convention that I could have a beer when my top came off was just one man. And the individual who groped divalea at Comicon was just one, too. And the guy who was making creepy leers at katallen in Boston two years back was just one too.

Y'know, eventually this shit adds up to a lot. Eventually it adds up to a systemic issue.

Secritcrush pretty much shares my wish that there had been a sudden, unequivocal, violent reprisal:
I wish she'd decked him but I completely understand why she did not. In life women are taught to be appeasers in situations like this from a very young age. If a boy is picking on you, you are often told that means he likes you, that you can't let him know it bothers you. (and often with a subtle implication that it is your fault and/or he can't control himself, so it is all up to you.)

Later in life, if someone grabs your ass (or other body parts) and you react aggressively, you get labeled a bitch or frigid or someone who can't "take a joke" - again, it's your fault, not theirs. So toe the line if you want to belong!

Apparently, Ellison harassed the microphone as well, according to Paul Melko in the comment section here :
I remember looking on in horror when he did it. I focused on Connie's face and I think it registered real shock; I wanted to think it was part of their act, because if it wasn't, it was just plain wrong. Ellison did fellate the microphone earlier.

Here's a photo of that illustrious moment of tender intimacy between Ellison and the mic.

Laurie D.T. Mann was onstage, behind Willis and Ellison, and she reports her perspective on the groping event:
After the Hugo Ceremony, various people came up to me and asked "Did Harlan grope you?"

I shrugged it off. "I'm a fat woman; I don't think Harlan gropes fat women." But I had no idea why people were asking me that.

What I didn't know until the next day was that Harlan groped Connie when they were standing together by the podium. Not only that, it was captured by the cameras, so everyone in the arena saw it. Connie, class act that she was, didn't miss a beat, continued with the ceremony like an adult. Connie kept the focus of the ceremony on honoring the winners, and not drawing more attention to Harlan's behavior.

While that last sentence stops me a second or two to ponder, I ultimately shake my head. No. She should have said something, no matter how short and to the point, and THEN gone on to honor the winners with the air a bit cleaner. Yes, something should have been said. It's kind of scary to hear that bit about the fat and Ellison not groping fat gals. What is implied? That he gropes regularly? And they know he gropes? He just doesn't grope...fatties?

Well, huh.

Edward Champion had this to say:
But when a woman goes up on stage and cannot be respected as a writer, particularly a writer who’s as great as Connie Willis, when she must be groped and demeaned as a sex object in front of an audience, then the time has come to re-evaluate the merits of the organization that hosts the awards ceremony, as well as the has-been “legends” who go up to claim and present awards.

I think the organization should censure Ellison. I also think there was a failure of censure on the spot. Attendees should have stood up as soon as it happened--especially women--and loudly demanded an immediate apology to Willis and to all the people present who had to witness his tacky, demeaning schtick.

I've often thought while reading Willis' work, "Wow, I wish I could write this well." Willis is a role model of sorts.

But she really needed to whack him with that microphone right in the kisser. Or at minimum, verbally smack him a good one. Then she would have been my hero, too.

Even the consummate cheek-turner Himself saw fit to whip a few moneylenders in a rage of righteous indignation. Sometimes, turning the other cheek and keeping quiet just enables creeps and maintains the lousy status quo.

Perhaps the most blue-streaked and in-your-face response--and call to action-- comes from a very, very, very angry Lea Hernandez-Divalea, to whom I apologize for editing her comment for the sake of my readers who are easily offended by the F-word, though said cussing doesn't bother me:

I do not have Connie Willis' decorum. (I'm hoping, ultimately, Connie Willis doesn't have Connie Willis' decorum.) Harlan Ellison groping Willis in ANY venue is WRONG. Doing it in front of an audience is just, as far as I'm concerned, ripping away a mask SF and comics have been holding up with both hands (with the help of the "just joking" defenders). Each new incident doesn't make me more tired, it makes me more angry. It energizes me (and others, woo hoo!) to fight. The days of exhausted resignation are over.

I don't have to be nice to impress people, keep jobs, or make others comfortable. I'm f#@$ing tired of you chimps. This is your Very Special Promise:

I will f*!@ it up with police reports of sexual assault. With public posts to LiveJournal. By telling my friends where they can find the police report online. By talking to other women and men about how you behave.

Consider this your last strained, uncomfortable smile. Your last glance at the dinner plate. Your last "just kidding."

Not a bad plan, I say.


Lis Riba gets the award for best blog post title on this heated topic: "Demon With A Crass Hand" (Ellison fans, such as I, will swiftly get the reference to a lauded episode of The Outer Limits, scripted by the groper. And when I say "fan," I mean fan of the creative work, not of the obnoxious twit. And I've yet to talk to a person in my acquaintance who has had personal contact with Ellison who didn't find the man over-the-top egotistical, arrogant, and rude.)

Lis links to blog post comments that relate Willis' reactions after the incident.
In this comments section of Laurie Mann's post, "Dieppe" reports thusly (editing of cussing mine):
At the closing ceremony Connie said something like "If someone wants to start a petition for Harlan Ellison to keep his f#^king hands off of me, I'd be willing to sign it!" Or something like that.

"Wild_patience" commented here :
I didn't attend the Hugos, but I attended Connie's interview by Charlie Brown the next day, and she started it by referring to "f*cking Harlan Ellison" and "why do I always have to bell the cat"? She evidently kept her cool on stage, but she was upset by it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Never Read SANDMAN? Well, Good News!

What's the good news, you ask? You may now Gaiman's SANDMAN #1, Preludes & Nocturnes without paying a cent. Get the FREE DOWNLOAD. Blurb follows:

A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings" which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death.

And drop by Mikey D's place, where he's posted on G.K Chesterton and SANDMAN creator, Neil Gaiman. (Who, btw, has recently been posting some very sweet pics of his kinder and of an Absolute version of Sandman that causes me to have terrible Cramps of Coveting.)

Then you can take that quiz I previously posted about that tells you which of the Endless you are.

I, of course, am Dream. Who else?

And no, I don't think the fact that I drink mango juice with some regularity has any bearing on my Endless-Identity.*

*Read the comic series and find out what I mean. Or just cheat and google it.

Why You Shouldn't Take That 99th Editor
Rejection As A Sign To Give Up On A Book

Over at The Writing Life, Terry Whalin's latest post, "Knocked Down, Not Out," stopped me at this:

“A rare winner of two Edgar Awards for Best Crime Novel of the Year, James Lee Burke has come a long way since his novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years (and upon publication in 1986 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize). Crusader’s Cross is the 14th novel in his bestselling Dave Robicheaux series. Burke’s most recent hardcover, Pegasus Descending, is #10 on hour hardcover list. Crusader’s Cross currently has 275,000 copies in print.” Crusader’s Cross was a new entry on the mass market paperback bestseller list at #14.

Let me focus you on the key terms:

First novel rejcted 111 times.

That means he submitted it to 111 editors (perhaps agents are included as well).

Think about it: 111 times. Rejected. Then the 111-times-rejected novel gets nominated for a Pulitzer. The author then wins two Edgars.

Persistence clearly pays off for the talented. (And, I suppose, often for the much less talented.)

Hugo Winners!

I'm sitting here in my underwear, drenched in sweat, trying to get cooled down enough to shower...AGAIN! I went and got pre-hurricane goodies. Boy, it's hot and humid. Yech.

Anyway, as I sit here in a state of repulsively slimy overheatedness, I thought I'd browse. Turns out, I forgot to post the Hugo winners. Elliot will be happy to see who won the novella category. I was happy to see SERENITY get one, and Doctor Who's "Empty Child," which was a spooky episode.

Here they are, with links to the winning short story, novelette, and novella, for your reading pleasure:

Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
"Inside Job", Connie Willis (Asimov's Jan 2005)
"Two Hearts", Peter S. Beagle (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005)
"Tk'tk'tk", David D. Levine (Asimov's Mar 2005)
Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press)
Serenity (Universal Pictures/Mutant Enemy, Inc.; Written & Directed by Joss Whedon)
Doctor Who: "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances" (BBC Wales/BBC1; Directed by James Hawes; Written by Steven Moffat)
David G. Hartwell
Donato Giancola
Locus, Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong & Liza Groen Trombi, eds.
Plokta, Alison Scott, Steve Davies & Mike Scott, eds.
Dave Langford
Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer [Not a Hugo]
John Scalzi

In addition to the awards listed above, Special Committee Awards were presented to Betty Ballantine and to Harlan Ellison. The Big Heart Award was presented to Forrest J Ackerman, and will heretofore be renamed the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award. The First Fandom Hall of Fame Award was given to Joe Hensley. Takayuki Tatsumi presented the previously announced winners of the Japanese Seiun Awards, Greg Egan's novel Diaspora and Ken MacLeod's story "The Human Front".

Please Pray For Ernesto's Speedy Demise

This weekend, anxiously watching the weather reports, I had time to pray for Haiti and Cuba, who were in danger from Hurricane Ernesto. I heard that the first official victim of the storm was a Haitian woman washed away by the storm surge. I don't have her name or village, but I hope you will ask God to specially bless Haiti today and protect people from further harm.

And it's Monday. Here we are on hurricane watch in South Florida.

Oh, joy.

I do have a praise:Ermesto is now downgraded (temporarily, they say; permanently, I hope) to a tropical storm. However, we're getting the message that we'll be on hurricane warning this afternoon.


I would be less concerned if I felt protected. But the twerp hurricane shutter guy still hasn't got my new shutters installed, and this after a series of missteps that prove he's an incompetent businessman. (Too many to relate at the moment.)

Note: I have shutters on all the windows and most of the doors, almost all the house. But Hurricane Wilma last year tore the shutter off one second floor door and damaged another upstairs. We're replacing those plus adding one more to an already partially-protected balcony glass door, just in case. The woes from last year's double-hit meant that getting anyone to put up new shutters was a protracted ordeal. Oh, and I still have a leaky roof in the back from last year's events.

So, I'm feeling the stress. (Serenity now! Serenity now!)

Please pray that Ernesto dies on the mountains of Cuba and never resurrects. And pray for the protection of all in harm's way.


(Serenity NOW!)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Dear, Gerard." Er, I mean, "Dear, Frankie."

It's easy for a gal's brain to get a bit scrambled at the mere thought of Scottish heart-throbby actor, Gerard Butler. Mr. B is the sort of man that God puts on the earth to remind us gals that it was a really, really wonderful idea for the Lord to create males.

So, Butler-Babe's in this flick called "Dear, Frankie." Frankie's a deaf 9-year-old who's been writing letters to his seafaring father, only the letters he writes go to his mom's P.O., and the replies from his dad are written by mom. Frankie's dad is a worthless pile of dog doo, and his mom is on the run, constantly, from the Poophead, always trying to protect her son from the harsh realities of the past (and present).

But, ah, the made-up ship upon which daddy-dear has been fictitiously sailing has come to Glasgow, unbeknownst to the mom, but known to Frankie. He now expects to see pop, so now she must scramble to provide a father for a day.

Enter swoon-boy Butler, all leather-clad and sober-faced and more than a tad mysterious as "the stranger." No name. No past, future, present. Just a guy provided by the nice friend/boss-lady of the mom's, Marie.

The charade is on. It's only supposed to be for one day, but hunka-hunka fake father takes a shine to Frankie and insists on another day with the boy...and with the mom.

But the real father re-enters the picture, and things get emotionally complicated--like, yeah, Gerard Butler, duh--and the truth may have to out.

My only quibbles are that 1. the movie needed a lot more Butler. No, really, it did. 2. the kiss needed to be longer. No, honest.

Oh, okay. Scottish accents on gorgeous men oozing alpha-testosterone makes me daft.

I recommend "Dear, Frankie" cause the acting is good and there's a lovely depiction of mother-love and all sorts of normal pains and longings. Emily Mortimer as the mom has a waif quality that is endearing. And Gerard Butler carries secrets in his face and posture, and we can only wonder at the stuff the screenplay doesn't fill in. And Sharon Small shines in the small moments we see her as Marie.

Yes, the pace is far from brisk, and the boy who plays Frankie seems to have a constricted range of facial expressions, but it's still a sweet tale and the ending is full of hope of new life.

Plus, hey, GERARD BUTLER. In a leather coat. Mmm.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

(Maybe) Last Chance To Get Your Copy
of A Marvelous SF Story Collection

James Tiptree, Jr., appeared on the science fiction scene in the late 1960s, writing fast-paced, action-filled stories about rocket ships, alien sex, and intergalactic bureaucratic anxiety. He was a brilliant and original talent, with a voice like no one else's: knowing, intense, utterly convinced of its authority and the urgency of its message...

And her performance as Tiptree, with its reversal of everything we expect about men and women writers, may be her greatest achievement, her greatest influence of all.
Julie Phillips, The NY Times

Since I own the hardcover, hard-to-find, out-of-print version of this collection that came out years ago, I didn't much pay attention to it when the paperback version came out.

Well, now the paperback is becoming scarce. So, I'm giving you a heads up on HER SMOKE ROSE UP FOREVER, a collection of stories by the late James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon).

Tiptree/Sheldon was a master of the science fiction short story form and won two Hugos and three Nebulas. Her obsession with certain themes (death, notably, and the relationship between the sexes) is as evident as her talent. Robert Silverberg tagged the writing "ineluctably male" in an introduction to one of Tiptree's books, and he's been chided for it thoroughly. Still amusing, though, in light of "The Women Men Don't See." I forget who--Karen Joy Fowler--said that story was or should have been the tip-off that Tiptree was no man.

I'll add that she has some of the best titles ever. I appreciate this gift, as I am a total goof at coming up with titles. I just stink at it.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction by Michael Swanwick

•The Last Flight of Doctor Ain
•The Screwfly Solution
•And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side
•The Girl Who Was Plugged In
•The Man Who Walked Home
•And I Have Come Upon This Place By Lost Ways
•The Women Men Don't See
•Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light
•Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
•With Delicate Mad Hands
•A Momentary Taste of Being
•We Who Stole the Dream
•Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
•Love Is the Plan and the Plan Is Death
•On the Last Afternoon
•She Waits for All Men Born
•Slow Music
•And So On, and So On

SF Site reviewed the anthology. A snippet:

It's a tribute to the author's artistry that these stories still read not as shrill polemics, but as emotional dramas with characters who are confronted by uncomfortable truths. It's that ability, to place harsh truths in stories of artistic beauty, that places Tiptree among the great SF short story writers of all time.

If you haven't picked up your copy, time is probably short. Hop to it.

Another Video For Ya: Forty Days

Thanks to Carmen of In the Open for the link to this gently moving bit of video (actually, bits of sequential comic-y art telling a familiar bit of history):

Forty Days

"For my thirtieth birthday, I gave myself some time away from it all."

I loved the stone target panel and the looking up at the moon one. I suppose I don't often think of him just being a person enjoying life and nature. It's not a bad thing to ponder.

Two minutes and forty-six seconds. You've got that to spare, eh?


Friday, August 25, 2006

A Ragged, Angry Prayer: Deadwood's Doc

Rebecca of Of Making Many Books has posted a link to a one-actor scene from DEADWOOD. It's a powerful prayer moment on film. I recommend you view it. Rebecca prefaces the scene thusly:

Let me set the stage: Doc Cochran survived the horror of the Civil War and has now come to the lawless frontier town of Deadwood. In episodes leading up to this moment the Doctor has nursed an ailing minister, a good man who suffers from a terminal brain ailment. This clip shows the Doc struggling with God in the face of this misery.

I also can admit that I've had these moments--just as tear-filled and just as perplexed and just as angry--with God. And I do believe he understands that we need these moments. Like Job, we may not get answers, but we need to ask the questions.

In the end, it does come down to this: Will we or won't we submit after the emotional storm subsides, and say, "Thy will be done."

Speculative Poets At World Con

Poet and writer, Samantha Henderson, is reporting on the World Con over at her live journal blog.

These are the first pics I've seen of the con so far, and you should drop by. Samantha has posted some of the spontaneous magnetic poetry wackiness that is afoot.

I so chuckled at sad Bohr happy Schrodinger

Friday Femme at Speculative Faith: "Queen"

I'm examining Gene Wolfe's very short story "Queen" over at Speculative Faith.

Drop by and comment.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Oh, Yeah! I'm So Digging This Quiz Result.

Which Endless are you?

Dream, the third of The Endless, you are in charge of the Dreaming, all imagination and creativity, everyone knows your beautiful realm, but none truly understand it. You are dark and brooding, creative, and spend a lot of time by yourself, just thinking. You are almost as serious as Destiny, but not quite. Everyone is enchanted by you, but you keep them all at a distance, even when you shouldn't.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

The Mir's Flummoxed: Please, Clue Me In

Okay, so I get this package in the mail today. Two books. I didn't recognize the sender, so I thought, "Oh, maybe an seller." I order so many books that I forget what, when, and who, ya know? (I get at least one package and sometimes two a week.)

I open it up and there are two very attractive novels, thickish and trade sized: DARK HOUR by Ginger Garrett and COLDWATER REVIVAL by Nancy Jo Jenkins.

And I have no idea why I have these lovely books of Christian fiction. Glass Road PR sent them to me, and they're a lovely group working on behalf of Christian fiction authors. I do know THAT much. (I get their email alerts.)

Um...I feel so dumb.

I don't remember ordering them. I do remember planning to buy DARK HOUR from my Family Bookstore nearby, cause I have a nice 25% off coupon and planned to hit the books there soon. I remember reading excerpts of both novels (prologue of one, first chapter of the other) last month or two months ago. Whatever.

But I have no idea why I have these books.

So, someone, tell me why I have these books, please?

I know FIRST TAKE blog tour is supposed to feature DARK HOUR in October, and I was advised we might get copies of it. But, um, I have two books. Am I supposed to have two books?

This is why I must write everything I commit to in my calendars and appointment books. I forget unless I jot it down!

Okay, smarties, one of y'all has got to know what I forgot. MC? Bonnie? Rebecca?

Clue me in.

Cultural Engagement:
Jerusalem Has To Do With Everything:

The delightfully brainy Mr. Bertrand has added a new and terrific post which I think you need to go read right now.

Who most needs to read it? Those who only read Christian books, who are wary of non-Christian--Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or Secular Humanist or Wiccan--literature. Those who wall themselves off in a coccoon of literary safety and dare not venture out for fear of contamination.

Yeah, if that's you, read the post. Read it anyway.

Paul set the example, not some apostate egghead. Well, okay, Paul was an egghead. I don't doubt that's a big reason why he was chosen--and dramatically so--to be Christ's theologian, the teacher of meaty doctrine. Paul on Mars Hill didn't simply rely on some tidy Old Testament quotes to do the trick. He spoke the language of the Greeks in order to speak the message of the true God, and as the apostolic "Christian thinker", he showed us how it can be done--taking a religious and literary heritage and finding the truth that shows the greater truth. But to do that, he had to know the poetry of the Greeks:

A Christian thinker should have no problem reading the work of non-Christian authors, finding the truth there, and putting it in the context of a larger truth. "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" It's a first century question that's still rattling around. To answer, you have to flip the question over. What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? From a Christian perspective, Jerusalem has everything to do with everywhere -- there is nowhere in the world with which Jerusalem has nothing to do. What Paul understood, and what we too often forget, is that the God of Jerusalem is the God of Athens, too. The idols of gold and silver signify nothing. The truth is suppressed everywhere but the truth has a weedy tenacity. It breaks through Achaean marble as easily as it does Judean sand.

Next time you or I wish to open dialogue and witness to one of our foreign neighbors and acquaintances, will we be able to quote Rabindranath Tagore to a Hindi and seque from religious to religious? Will we have the right snippet of poetry by Rumi to engage a Sufi? The American Indian chant to connect with a Navajo? How about a Zulu folk tale? A story from the Talmud? A haiku of Basho's? A saying from Confucius? A Russian fairy tale? A quote from Sartre or Camus? Some lyrics from a Woodstock performer?

And how about art, music, dance, film, theater?

God doesn't require we know all this, for God can use anyone at any time. But... down how many roads can you guide questing travelers toward Jerusalem?

Video Goody: Christian Talk on Charlie Rose

Two servants of Christ on Charlie Rose. Worth a look and listen.

Thanks to Elliot for the link.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Love The T-Shirt,
Even If I Lean Patriarchally

Okay, so I'm not rah-rah about women-as-pastors, but that doesn't mean I don't dig smart, Bible-trained, godly women who are out serving God according to their gifts. We follow our paths and all. And I do believe many areas of service in the church are permitted to women, not to mention directed by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who led Miriam to prophesy and Deborah to judge, and Phoebe to serve as deaconess.

But I do dig the RevGals who blog, and I especially dig this t-shirt they're plugging. You can buy it, if you've got the nerve and the bod for it.

Me, well, no pulpit on earth is gonna make my butt look dainty. Not even a full-out baroque, super-duper-extra large pulpit.

Ah, well.

CSFF Blog Tour, Day Three: Kathy Tyers

So, you know about the novels now.

But did you know that Kathy also contributed a story to an anthology aimed at younger readers. The story, "Their New Masters," is found in Eat My Martian Dust: Finding God Among Aliens, Droids, And Mega Moons, edited by Michael Carroll and Robert Elmer

Kevin Miller at Design Watch Blog reviewed it last year:
While each story is indeed "sci-fi" there are many well established scientific facts about astronomy that your young reader will be exposed to in this book. And as an added bonus, nicely woven within each story is a spiritual lesson.

Although this is a book for young readers (ages 9 and up), I found that I really enjoyed reading the stories and in some sense this book has cultivated my imagination with regards to the ubiquity of God's laws in the universe.

For those still on the verge of buying the Firebird trilogy, here's a review of the first novel in the series from SF Site, one that I hope will convince you:
In Firebird, Tyers weaves a wondrous science fiction tale filled with romance, music, and intense action. Each character becomes vividly alive in the mind of the reader. Tyers uses musical notation as addenda to her chapter titles to set the tone for each chapter, much as a composer uses this notation to set the tone in the various movements of a symphony. The reader thus journeys with Firebird towards the story's crescendo as she longs for death and discovers life.

SF Site also praised Tyer's ONE MIND'S EYE:
Kathy Tyers has a rare gift. She combines true science fiction with tender romance, edge-of-your-seat action, and spiritual insight. As in all of her books, she also weaves her own love of music in and through her science fiction story. The result is a truly unique experience for the reader. In this universe created by Tyers, humanity left Earth and migrated to a hidden star cluster that shelters the home planets of the Concord group. Among the intriguing mysteries that tantalize readers is this: Who built the Gates that provide convenient access from one Concord planet to another?

To leave you with cheery news: Fans of the FIREBIRD novels will be happy to hear that Kathy is working on a new novel set in the Firebird universe.

More nice news: Thanks to all the blog tourmates, whose participation raised FIREBIRD to #2 on the Technorati list of most talked about books yesterday. Hoorah!

Tour note: Beth Goddard at Writing With Fire concludes her interview with Kathy today.

Once again, I present the CSFF Blog Tour Guides for this month's excursion:

Jim Black
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
John aka TK
Jason Joyner
Tina Kulesa
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith

If you are a Christian, own a blog, and would like to promote Christian SF authors and sites and events, please contact me (leave a comment here) or Becky Miller (leave a comment at her site, see link above), so that we can put you on next month's list. Next month's focus will be a website (Edenstar). We'd be happy to add you to our roster. All you have to do (at minimum) is mention the focus subject and add the links of participants to you blog tour posts for the tour. Beyond that, you may write anything you'd like regarding the subject--as long as it's not mean or snarky, we are a support tour. You may do reviews of the sites and books, or you may interview persons on your own time, or you may give away books, or you may just post minimally with links to raise awareness and visibility. It's up to you how little or how much beyond the minimum.

Thanks for dropping by.

UPDATE: In the comments section, Kathy left the following comment, which I add to the CSFF Blog Tour Post for those who read via bloglines:
Since you alone mentioned the short story, this is the place I'll mention ... oh so casually ... that I'm drawing upon it for one plot thread of the new book, which doesn't even have a working title yet. I am really flying by the seat of my pants!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Worth a 2nd Look: Ok Go Treading Away

Sure, everyone and their great-grandma has seen it by now. I first saw it a couple weeks ago plus, but I went to watch it again today, and, yep, it still makes me smile.

So, on the off chance one of y'all out there missed it when it was the talk of the ' are the boys at it again at the video gym:

Ok Go "Here It Goes Again"

And the song's fun, too.

The Big Moan? Um, No, Don't Think So!

Science aside, I don't really like the sound of any of the following:

The Big Hiss
The Big Moan
The Big Roar
The Big No Sound At All At First

Renaming is such a pain. Can we just stick with The Big Bang, with its alliterative quality, its double-entendre, and its snappy ring?

~Hat Tip to Hassenpfeffer.

CSFF Blog Tour, Day Two: Kathy Tyers

Most of the blog tour-ists are focusing on the praised FIREBIRD trilogy.

Today, I'm gonna take you down a different spacing lane, one that leads to a SHIVERING WORLD.

Shivering World made the preliminary list of Nebula best novel nominees in 1992. Connie Willis won that year for her DOOMSDAY BOOK. Kathy, nonetheless, joined a distinguished fellowship on the list of preliminary nominees who didn't make the final ballot, a list that included Ben Bova, Kathe Koja, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, Lucius Shepherd, Robert Sawyer, and--pay attention, Elliot--Tim Powers, among others.

If you want to read an excerpt, drop by CBD. Their blurb says:

"Dr. Graysha Brady-Phillips is suffering from a disease that causes weakness and early death. When she's offered a position on planet Goddard, where the average life span exceeds 150 years, she leaps at the chance. The colonists' radical---and illegal---science might be her only hope for a cure. Can Graysha convince the rebels to trust her, even though her mother is their worst enemy?"

I bought this book a while ago and promptly misplaced it in my chaos. I have found it and plan to read it soon. I am persuaded to do so VERY soon by reviews such as the following:

At Edenstar:

"Author Kathy Tyers has done an outstanding job of attending to the details of world-building in this novel. In a world where wood is scarce, desks and beds are made of concrete. Though the science involved in terraforming and in the cooling trend does get a bit heavy, Tyers handles it well by providing Graysha with a student in her lab, the troubled teenage stowaway who arrived on the shuttle with her. For those who enjoy hard science fiction, Shivering World is an excellent addition to the literature.

But be warned: If you're the sort who abhors mixing hard science fiction with a romantic subplot, this is not the novel for you. I'm not, and I loved it."

At Book Loons:

Kathy Tyers is in her element, combining world building, expertise in microbiology and suspenseful tension in another splendid read. I enjoyed her uniquely named creatures - in a world where wood is scarce, desks and beds are made of concrete and animals are known as 'halfers', 'yabuts', 'gribiens', and 'Dutchers' (weasel-crossed lynxes). Readers will find themselves so immersed in the action that they will attempt to finish this book in one sitting - and everyone should have a pet gribien named Emmer, and at least one yabut or two! The conclusion is open-ended with indications for a sequel. I hope so!

At Rambles:

Shivering World has a LOT to offer. There's a murder-mystery (along with several murder attempts), a planet-wide scientific conspiracy, two parent-child relationship dramas, gender-role reversal, bio-religious ethical dilemmas, corporate bureaucratic commentary AND a love story. What else do you need?

After those recommendations, perhaps you want to join me in soon hitting the pages of SHIVERING WORLD?

Please visit the blogs and sites of the following Blog Tourmates and gleefully, fearlessly, wackily, or agreeably comment on the tour's topic:

Jim Black
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Jason Joyner
Tina Kulesa
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith

Brandilyn Collins and the Mir
on Author Endorsements

If you haven't visted Forensics & Faith in a week or more, you will have missed Brandilyn's very good, quite sensible, and possibly discouraging-to-newbie-wannabe-authors remarks on author endorsements of manuscripts/novels.

The posts run through several days, but begin here.

I remember when I didn't know squat about publishing. I assumed that if a name and blurb by an author I admired was on a novel that the famous author was whiz-bang wild about the work and had no connection to the author other than as reader.

Oh, the naivete.

I've since seen that there are author groups--critique-and-support or friendship based ones--and that they recommend each other's work. It's not a bad idea. I wish I had such a group pushing me on to greatness and standing by me with blurby support.


Knowing this means if I see an endorsement from an author that I know to be a pal or critique partner of the book's author, the blurb has zero selling value to me as buyer-reader.

Granted, the general audience isn't aware of these things, so the blurbs still hold value for them.

Which probably means this: Don't publicize that you have X and Y bestselling authors as your support group or bosom pals since childhood, cause that diminishes X and Y's blurb's value to some degree.

I think, anyway. I could be wrong. That might just add to personal mystique.

I recall when I first heard of a major group of writer-pals in the secular arena, writers who met and jammed and encouraged and critiqued one another, and who had several best-selling authors in their clique. After that, if one praised the other on book or in interviews, while nice, meant much less to me. I figured, "Well, shoot, of course they're gonna praise their bosom pal. Who's gonna diss the novel of a bosom pal?"

Of course, I'll want endorsements when I have a book to push. I just hope it's endorsed by someone who really, really, really loves it. I wonder what Neil Gaiman or J.K. Rowling will be doing 'round then. : : grin: :

Anyway, do drop by and read what Brandilyn has to say. She knows the business a zillion times better than I do (and from the inside), and it's interesting stuff she has to say.

Monday, August 21, 2006

August CSFF Blog Tour: Kathy Tyers

Welcome to the August 2006 edition of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

This month, we focus not on a website or a new novel release, but rather on an author who has published in both the ABA and CBA, one who has the respect of many, many in Christian Fandom for her stories of faith and speculative fiction: KATHY TYERS.

Kathy is best known for her FIREBIRD trilogy, although she's published other novels in speculative fiction, notably SHIVERING WORLD and two Star Wars novels: THE TRUCE AT BAKURAand BALANCE POINT.

As part of the blog tour, you'll be able to enjoy Elliot's review of the trilogy and Beth's interview with Kathy, which will be posted tomorrow. I also recommend this interview over at Christian Fandom, where I particularly appreciated having Kathy explain how SHE pronounces her own name and some of the names in her work:

buh-COOR-uh (from a Korean term for "outside" that I picked up in Tae Kwon Do)

BOSH-um (from the name of my Polish friend, Basia, pronounced BOSH-uh) (I have also been known to pronounce this one BOSS-yum, though)

CARE-uh-dee (from "chickadee", I suppose)

si-TANJ-uh-low (from "city" and "Angelo")

KRISS-tuss (from "crystal")

AIR-ut (a surname – this world was "Auria" in a previous version, and Steve asked me to change it, to avoid all implication of "Aryan" as the "superior race" – which had not occurred to me)

GEH-ree-ul (Derivation: You figure it out. Substitute "lad" for the first "e.")



FEE-nuh (Steve, who lies in Phoenix, still calls her foe-EE-nuh... I suspect he does that to bug me)

si-WAN (from "swan")

THEAR-i-kuh (maybe subliminally from "Syria")

TIE-rrs, not "TEARS" (and I am fairly certain it is English)

vr-OH (originally VeeRon, a pulp-sf planet name if I ever heard one)

Some months ago, I gave away the all-in-one volume of her FIREBIRD trilogy, which includes the novels FIREBIRD, FUSION FIRE, and CROWN OF FIRE. Jason, I hope you enjoyed them.

Below are the links to the other fine blogs participating in this month's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. Drop by and say hello to:

Bryan Davis
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Jason Joyner
Tina Kulesa
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russel
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith

A link to (that puts some dough in my book-buying fund) may be found at right in my sidebar. Just scroll down. The FIREBIRD trilogy is the second book listed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Song for a Sunday's Meditation

If you don't own the Jesus Record (the last by the late Rich Mullins), and you haven't heard Ashley Cleveland do Rich's "Jesus," you're missing out on a moving aural and spiritual experience. The piano work and string arrangement is haunting and melancholic and full of yearning, and it pairs wonderfully with Ashley's rough-edged voice. Lovely.

~For your Lord's Day consideration, the lyrics:

They say You walked upon the water once
When you lived as all men do
Please teach me how to walk the way You did
Because I want to walk with You

They say you taught a lame man how to dance
When he had never stood without a crutch
Well here am I Lord holding out my withered hands
And I'm just waiting to be touched

Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I'm Yours

They say You spoke and calmed an angry wave
That was tossed across a stormy sea
Please teach me how to listen how to obey
'Cause there's a storm inside of me

Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I'm Yours

They drove the cold nails through Your tired hands
And rolled a stone to seal Your grave
Feels like the devil's rolled a stone onto my heart
Can You roll that stone away?

by Mullins/McVicker/Dana Waddel

If you're not familiar with Ashley Cleveland, check out her website or her My Space page, and listen to some of her music. Check out her terrific cover of "Gimme Shelter" (my fave Rolling Stones song.) I actually prefer Ashley's version.

At Ashley's website, she offers free downloads from her debut album, Big Town, which was listed as one of the top 100 Christian albums of all time by CCM magazine when they made the list some years back. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Summer of the Meme Plague

Hey, as long as there are no hurricanes, tag away.

Carmen the Openly Spacey said "Heh, I'd love to see what Mirtika would do with this one," with regard to words and phrases that a blogger named Songbird heard while holidaying in Britain. (Oh, how I'd love to holiday in Britain!) They call it the BRILLIANTLY BRITISH FRIDAY FIVE.

Okay, sure. I'll have at it, and hope UK Steve understands it's all in the spirit of Mirtian fun. I am, after all, a longtime anglophile and thoroughly addicted to BBC America, and, well, there's that whole Neil Gaiman and Sean Bean thing. Also--confession time!--I have something of a bizarre compulsive must-watch-even-when-I-don't-want-to thing on Robson Green that defies rational comprehension or definition.(I think I just go for the accents and pasty complexions, maybe.) I might as well define something else just as bizarrely:

Adverse Camber: Once the ravages of the 17th century bubonic plague in England has passed, widespread royal and merchant class celebrations lured foreign suppliers into rushing shipments of delicacies to London. An outbreak of the lesser known, but quite vexing Great Intestinal Disorder followed the lush and gluttonous revelries of noble and monied classes. (This is one of the few recorded plagues not to affect the poor.) The Archbishop of Canterbury, being called upon by the King to bless great vats of refreshing fluids that were to be ingested by the stricken, termed the agent of the terrible illness "adverse camber" in the Easter sermon of the affected year, 1667. This phrase puzzled medical historians for two and a half centuries, until it was discovered within the secret diaries of a famed courtesan of the then Lord Mayor that the Archbishop's pronunciation of French was the object of general derision, and what he'd meant to say was "adverse camembert."

Butts Wynd: The main symptom, as noted by the royal physicians, of the Great Intestinal Disorder (GID).

Plague Church: The church, the only one of its kind in the world, was renamed as Plague Church--formerly The Church of St. Imelda the Stout--when it was hastily renovated the spring of 1667, when the GID was at its peak. The long wooden pews had large round holes carved into them at discreet intervals referred to as "the gaps." Each hole was fitted with a pipe that ran down into its own deep, lime-strewn poop pit. The church was ordered thusly altered by His Majesty so that none of the plague stricken royals and advisors need neglect their spiritual duties while afflicted. Today, it's a popular spiritual gathering place for the National Irritable Bowel Syndrome Society's members.

Free House: In typical British humorous fashion, it's the most expensive hotel in England. During the year of the GID, only the residents of this luxurious inn were spared among all the upper classes. This good fortune is attributed to the owner, Mrs. Viola Vickham, an avowed Francophobe who refused to buy or serve any French imports, including the infamous "adverse cam(em)ber(t)." Hence it was, according to the poet John Dryden in his obscure poem on the GID, "Song From A Privy," a house

free of foul disease and cheese
and by God's grace of foulest breeze.

It is widely accpeted by literary critics that the term "foulest breeze" is a reference to the symptom known at the time as "butts wynd."

Mind the Gap: A frequent, outraged cry heard in the Plague Church during the GID.

(Confession, I actually do know what "mind the gap" refers to--has to do with the underground-- because I've read NEVERWHERE. If you haven't read NEVERWHERE, well, you should. Then you'd know about "mind the gap" and have scary, fantasy-reading fun, too.)

Carmen, I hope I did not disappoint. Songbird, I hope I did your holiday proud.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bestselling Author's Advice To Writers

Jennifer Weiner, author of much spoken of novels such as GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES (the latter made into a rather nice flick with Toni Colette and Cameron Diaz), has some interesting advice for writers.

Check it out here at her website.

What does she say?

Hint: If you had a miserable childhood, own a dog, have seen the world, and took a job in journalism instead of pursuing an MFA, she'll say you've got some good training already.

Sans Constraints:
What Demented Novel Would I Write?

I'm the blog-by tagging victim of Michelle at Edgy Inspirational Author.

If you'd like to read the result--and the bare bones of the novel I would like to write (if I were as talented and insane as P.K. Dick), head to Once Upon A Novel.

Would You Baptize An Orangutan?

Over at Speculative Faith, I'm examining "Samaritan," a story by Connie Willis from FIRE WATCH. The minister protagonist has to deal with the issue: Should he baptize an orangutan who claims to love God?

Join the discussion. (And read the story!)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mirathon Miscellany: Blog Browsing Goodies

Thanks to J. Mark Bertrand for the link to an excellent post by Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs blog on GBA (guilt by association) and how ridiculous folks can get about that kind of watch-dogging:

Let's not forget that Jesus' critics' chief complaint against Him was a GBA accusation (Mark 2:16-17; Luke 15:2; 19:7). By the standards of some of today's self-styled discernment "experts," that might have seemed a credible charge against Him. It was, in fact, an ungodly accusation.

Over at moreover the dog went with them a call is out for those interested in becoming members of the Catholic Writers Group.

If you are a Catholic writer of fiction or nonfiction, or if you are an enthusiastic reader who dreams of being a writer someday, join up!

Wittenburg Gate has posted the August Christian Carnival. Find links to nifty blog entries on various subjects, such as apologetics, family, humor, Christian living, Bible study and theology, news and culture, and reading. One of the links leads to a post at Semi-colon blog on the five best conversion in literature. One is in The Brothers Karamazov. Can you guess at the other four?

John C. Wright's blog links to a delightful post at HolyOffice called "How To Give A Bad Homily." Any post that starts off mentioning St. Fracis of A. and St. John Chrysostom (the great preacher who lent his name to my elementary parochial school way back when) and knows what Chrysostom means gets my attention:

The days of John Goldenmouth are long behind us, though. Currently, Catholic preaching in general is about as robust as the St. John's University basketball program, although we don't have the luxury of blaming Mike Jarvis for the bad homilies.

Many Catholics have lamented this state of affairs, but I adopt a wait-and-see approach. As Karl Rahner wrote in Foundations of Christian Faith, the relationship of ordinary believers to the clergy is like that of the rest of the A-Team to Hannibal: we trust the plan will come together, even when that crazy fool Murdock does something that lands us in hot water

The heading "Inflection is aTool of the Devil" was worth a good guffaw.

And speaking of HolyOffice and guffaws in the same post, you need to read HO's "The Internet Theologian Explains the Da Vinci Code", which goes beyond mere guffaw into "Oh, look, I just wet myself laughing" territory. I kid you not. (HT to Elliot) The Mir wishes she had written this months ago.

Shannon McNear offers a few mini-reviews of Christian SF titles over at SPECULATIVE FAITH. If you been meaning to try some CSF, but didn't want to trudge through my lengthy rambles, Shannon's appetizers might do it for ya.

Speaking of CSF, Karen Hancock at Writing From The Edge posts on the "Hypocrisy of SF Writers." She links to Unreal Science, and so do I:

I think most science fiction writers want their books to be as scientifically accurate as possible right up to the point where the story demands otherwise. And then they’ll fudge away, breaking or at least seriously bending the laws of physics (usually providing some sort of plausible-sounding explanation to assuage their guilt) because ultimately, for a writer, the story comes first.

And still on the whole CSF thing: Kevin at Bookshelf Reviews gives 5 out of 5 stars to RAISING DRAGONS by Bryan Davis.

Carmen is ruminating in her usual intelligent way on t-shirt theology, specifically one that says: Don't Go To Church. Be The Church.

In bizarre urban legendy sort of news: No, the kid didn't get AIDS from eating a bled on pineapple. So says this debunking post at Snopes. (Note: ALWAYS, always, always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS check Snopes or a similar hoax-ferreting-out site before forwarding the scads of idiotic mail that gets sent saying, "Beware this!" Consider it your civic duty to check before forwarding.


I was whooping so loud a couple hours ago that I probably scared every cat in the neighborhood. Hubby and I were watching the finale of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and my personal fave competitor won: Benji.

Yay, Benji, you Osmond-toothed, long-legged sweetiepie!!!

To give the runner-up his props, I'll admit it: Travis was great. His pirouettes and leaps were fabulous. I actually held my breath in stunned delight at some of his gorgeous moves.

But Benji won my heart from day one. Such adorable goofy boyishness combined with some very fun moves and energy to spare. Adorable! And when he had to do a romantic move in a paired dance, he threw me for a loop with his convincing sexiness. Goofball Gus exited the building and Smoldering Sam slid on in. Wow. That caught me by surprise! The guy can perform.

He and Donyelle were my two faves at the start of competition. I had to root for the big gal, me being a super-big gal. The big gal with the cocoa skin, cause I got cafe au lait skin. Well, all right, and I loved her personality and sass and her emotion-filled eyes. But Donyelle lost steam as the competition went on. One bad review threw her off stride. A broken toe didn't help. She lost some of her dazzle, and only started recouping it in the last week. I think she stayed in through to the end because of lingering loyalty--loyalty she earned with her early charm and excellence. I don't think she outdanced the competition in the last three weeks, but I think she grabbed our hearts and that got her through to the finale.

Heidi actually surpassed Danyelle in the later weeks of competition. I thought she did a great job of stretching to fit the routines. Good on Heidi! Her big, big, and bigger smile helped, I'm sure, and her lithe and flexible body, and her gumption. That girl has grit to spare.

Travis: Will he take Mia up on her offer and go dance for that contemporary style choreographer? I loved, loved Mia's work on the show. She and the Latin guy (his name eludes me at the moment) were my fave choreographers. At least talented Travis has options after he's done dancing the SYTYCD tour. Hurray, Travis!

But this girl is howling happy for Benji-boy. He's da man! I would pay to watch that long drink of joyful water dance!

Take Care Under That Palm Tree!

Thanks to Elliot for this hilarious bit, that proves that the Summer of the Shark was just the beginning. Now, even landlubbers are not safe:

The Summer of...the Coconut.

But coconuts are just the beginning...danger lies everywhere!

Five Minute Star Trek: Parodies

I did nicely on the Spock Market today buying Federation low and selling at five times its buy-price. And I did very nicely on Robots, Androids, and Clones. (Episode: What Are Little Girls Made Of? You know, the one with Nurse Chapel finding her fiance, Roger Korby, who has been up to adroidy tomfoolery.)

In celebration, I share with you:

Five Minute Star Trek

Have fun.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Top-Notch Writer's Handwritten Pages

File this under "not very useful, but rather fun"--fun, that is, if, like me, you have something of a schoolgirl crush on disheveled and dark-haired Mr. Gaiman.

Here you'll find uploaded examples of some of Mr. G's handwritten pages. I like the one with the doodled face. An example at left.

I dunno about y'all, but it comforts me that his pages are as messy and vulnerable-looking as mine. If only I could get my writing to kick butt like Neil's, then I'd be cooking! Of course, I'd first have to be as disciplined as the man. And as well-read.

If you want to read what a day in the life of an assistant to a best-selling writer is like, check out Gaiman's blog. His assistant wrote up an amusing look into her life and her boss's. It's the August 12th entry, and here's a tidbit from the opening:

A Day in the Life of a Personal Assistant

Wake up. Drive to Boss's House. Think to myself "way way too early". Make tea. Get ready to wake Boss for an early morning conference call with foreign editor. Attempt to wake Boss. Find what looks like a corpse. Remember Boss promised to have an "Early Night" and wake upon the dawn like a lark, refreshed and ready for the day. Realize Boss has only been asleep for an hour or so.

Shake corpse. Corpse attempts speech. Corpse fails. Tea, I say, over and over, in conversational tones. Boss makes it to tea, which is beside the bed, not a far leap for many, but a large one for Boss. Asks me to find the Last Big Contract for the Last Big Project but I am too smart for that trick. Wait until Boss is actually working thru morning e-mail until I leave the room.

~Read it all. It's quite nifty.

One Pic & The Tendrils of RoP Tyranny

John Wright illustrates the story much more eloquently than I could.


Monday, August 14, 2006

ACK! The Mir Has Been Tagged:
Ten Qs with More than Ten As

I am not overly keen on being tagged, because, well, I like answering my own questions more than someone else's. ::grin:: But from time to time, I cooperate.(Which means that from time to time, I ignore tags. Hah.)

In case you're curious, an early Mirathon post had my answers to the tag-challenge to make fifteen comments on books. I answered with my usual Mirness, which means there is a strong SF element, a literary tone, a skewed vision, a God element, and, yes, I go on quite at length. I also offer more than 15 comments with creative numbering to boot. I did it cause it was fun and on one of my fave topics--books! Of course, when I was tagged again, I gave the proper Blog Queen response: "I am standing in a tag-free zone in the Kingdom of Mirathon."

But Shannon is a cool gal-who-writes and I like her and I'm well-rested. Answering tag questions of a personal nature means I get to fully wallow in egomania, moreso than blogging normally allows. So, without apologies for the me-me-me-ness that is to follow, and continuing with the precedent of giving more answers than necessary, here goes...

Q1. A friend who has blessed me?

A1. Every one who has ever been a friend, ya know? But yeah, I know, cop-out. So, to pick one that has done or said something that was a special blessing to me recently--and since this is an online tag thing, I'd have to choose an online pal: Keesa Renee Dupre. Her creative and optimistic and encouraging spirit really cheer me up whenever I cross her electronic path. Plus she likes my poetry. That's one way to bless me, just like what I write!

Q2. An unexpected gift?

A2. The very talented Samantha Henderson calling my contest-winning poem "gorgeous" without my having to bribe her or kidnap a pet. She is light years more talented than I am, so I really consider that a present.

And you should immediately go buy Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2006 and read her excellent story titled "Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died." But if you must, read it for free online.

Also, my sister gave me two books by Latino authors yesterday (Isabel Allendeand Oscar Hijuelos). Not too shabby.

Q3. A kind word shared with me recently?

A3a. Someone said I had a fabulous sense of humor. This was good to hear when I'd been feeling grumpy and not-at-all laughalicious.

A3b. And these words from the eloquent Mr. J.M. Bertrand back in May had me peacocking for a month plus: "This has got to be one of the best, most comprehensive (yet concise) diagnostics for 'troubled' manuscripts that I've come across. Mir focuses on all the little things that make my inner editor groan. If you're trying to perfect your craft, this is a good place to begin.

Q4. Something that makes me stop and praise God?

A4. My husband's miraculous face.

I've told my sweetums many a time that he's walking, talking, breathing, dazzling proof that a benevolent and eternal Wise Creator exists, and that He has impeccable taste in design.

Q5. Something I'm looking forward to?

Q5a: The True but Shallow Answer: My first letter from some person who buys my first published novel and says, "This is the most delightful thing I've ever read."

Q5b: The True but Shallower Answer: And the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Adapted From Her Own Novel "The World Ends Tomorrow," goes to Mirta Ana Schultz.

Q5c: The True but Shallowest Answer: Winning the Florida Lottery when the jackpot is 50 million.

Q5d: The True but Profound Answer: Hearing, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Q6. A particular part of me I'm pleased with?

A6. My big, juicy brain that is covered by my naturally curly hair. (Oh, is that two?)

Q7. Something in my life that I wanted but never expected?

A7. A man who loves me body, heart, mind and soul, and even when I have stinky armpits, morning breath, dirty hair and raging PMS, and who means it when he leans in close an says, "Sweetheart, you're so beautiful." (Which goes to show love is not blind, but just very, very, very farsighted.)

Q8. A place that moved/moves me?

A8. The steps of the Supreme Court of the US of A. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.Both just about sent me to my knees with the whirlwinds of emotion. And I really have strong feelings about my bed.

Q9. One thing/person that always makes me smile?

A9. Hearing my husband laugh, really laugh, loud and unconstrained. And the winter night sky. If my husband were to laugh wildly into the winter night sky, I'd probably just die right there of sheer pleasure. (Honey, be careful about that this coming winter, okay?)

Q10. Most recent "love note" from God?

A10. The wild, mystical, down-pouring moonlight on Saturday.

It was something-- a big "I love you" from the Creator. I'm sure of it. The kind of moonlight that's like one of those late night whispers from His mouth, the ones you get when you are still in bed, awake but ready to fall away into dreams, when He lullabyes you from Heaven with that special, transcendent peace? Yeah, that's how Saturday's moonlight was in the humid, deep part of night: a wordless lullabye from the soundless Voice. His love note written on black air with silver moon-ink.

Abba is ever cool.

I have no idea who has or has not been tagged in this circuit of questions, but if you will forgive me, I tag:

1. Elliot of Claw
2. Stuart the Suarian
3. Carmen of the Open Space

And I won't be offended if you claim blogplomatic immunity.

Blog Service Announcement--

I'll blog later more about this, but please head over now to Carmen's "In the Open Space: God & Culture" blog and give her some book recommendations. I know you've got loads!

Going to ACFW Conference?
Read These Dos and Don'ts!

While ACFW membership has many benefits, one of their key events is their annual conference. Among some of the discussions I’ve had with other fiction editors and literary agents, they have modified their first choice for a conference. It seems to be shifting toward the Annual Conference for the ACFW. If you want to get some insight, just check out their buzz page. While I will not be attending this year’s conference ( it simply didn’t fit my plans this year), if you write or want to write Christian fiction, I’d encourage you to consider attending this Dallas conference.

Terry Whalin, writer and acquisitions editor at Howard Books (an imprint of Simon & Shuster)

The ACFW conference is a major event for Christian writers. As such, lots of cool peops are blogging on conference dos & don'ts in order to help their fellow writers get the most out of the conference that takes place in Texas in September.

I won't be going. The Mir doesn't travel, sadly. One day, God willing, may it be.

I googled up ACFW Conference Tips, Conference Dos and Don'ts ,and assorted variations, and it seems to me that the by far most helpful collection of tips and links is Deborah Gyapong's post over at Master's Artist. Wow. Most of what I wanted to link to, she's got, and more. So, go read hers. If you can only read one, skip mine, read hers. She rounds up a lot of tips and adds ten of her own. Good, good stuff.

(And I'm sorry she's got the blahs. Let's all pray for a massive tsunami of joy to wash her away to the spiritual equivalent of a windy beach on Fiji with a fruity drink or something and Sean Bean in his Sharpe's outfit serving it to her while Colin Firth in his Mr. Darcy outfit fans her with ostrich feathers.)

I'm gonna borrow liberally from D.G.'s links, and add some I found. Those of you blessed with the health and resources to attend, these tips are for you:

Editor Mick Silva's advice is a must-read, including this one, oft said by editors:

Do get an agent to sit on a panel and use you as an example of a fresh, and engaging voice. It was at this same conference that a respected agent used Siri Mitchell as his example of what’s most important in evaluating fiction proposals: a distinctive, individual voice. I’ve known Siri for going on 5 years now and having that confirmed by an agent/editor (okay, it was Chip MacGregor) was absolutely a factor in getting her published. Don’t be coniving and crafty, but do be a crafter of unmistakably unique fiction.

And this, which just seems like a variation of "don't be droolingly obnoxious":

Don’t be a sycophant. If you don’t have the definition memorized, please go do so now.

And this one, upon which many of us who write Christian SF will surely throw ourselves with many a hopeful prayer:

So pay attention and don’t be afraid to consider repackaging / reshaping your positioning of that story to target a new or cutting-edge genre. Sci-fi, vampire, space opera, adult fantasy, chick-lit-thriller (“chiller?”)—these things are all available in ABA and it’s only a matter of time before CBA houses are pubbing them. Editors are flirting with all of them now. Know your genre tags and be willing to adjust to fit.

And this, which will horrify introverts such as I:

Don’t tell me your entire story. Just stick to the P’s: Pitch, Package, Platform. PITCH: Give me the essence in as few words as possible. (caveat: “Aliens meets Blue Like Jazz” is not helpful. “Philip K. Dick meets Don Miller” is better, but explain that genre with a more specific comparison like, “Kathy Tyers meets Siri Mitchell.” Now I’m getting the picture.) PACKAGE: Tell me about series potential, any foreword or endorsements you’ve got, good-sized* publicity and promo opportunities, which leads right into PLATFORM: How big and how wide is your network? Are you bringing any guaranteed pre-sales through your contacts in ministry, media, or miscellany (schools, churches, professional organizations, etc.) *target groups of 1000 or more

Mick's post has loads more I haven't included here, and I suggest you drop by and print out that baby. Take it with you to conference.

Next... The Lovely Gina Holmes:

At her blog, Novel Journey, she offers this advice:

I had two scheduled editor appointments last year but ended up getting six or seven requests for manuscripts because I pitched everyone who might publish in my genre.

TIP: be courteous and ask if you can pitch before you accost the poor
unsuspecting publishing folks. Otherwise you’re just being rude.

The first key to successful and confident pitching is to know your story. You will be asked who your protagonist is. Know the answer. What genre is it? Is it finished? If not, when do you expect it to be? Do you have writing credits? Who do you see your story appealing to? Anticipate the questions and be prepared to look like you know what you’re talking about.

Like Mick Silva, she urges you to quell your Inner Sycophant:

Don’t suck up. People see through it and no one respects that. Again, be kind, be courteous. That’s enough.

And Gina knows, as anyone with an internet connection, that there is NO excuse for igorance:

Another good idea is to find out what editors are going to be at the conference. Google them. Find out all you can about them, especially what they look like so when you see them alone, you can introduce yourself and ask if you can tell them about your book.

If you want some tips Gina shared last year (and are pertinent to this year, and next year, etc), go here. This may apply to some of you (and me):

When I see writers who are starting out, trying to sell manuscripts that aren't finished, not even close, and that have major mechanics to learn, I want to shake them with a warning. 'Don't rush, you're going to blow your shot!'

I too was once in a hurry with unready work. I blew a shot or two.

Martha Rogers offers her tips for making the most of an editor appointment.

Heather Diane Tipton tells you why this is a great conference to attend, and not just for pitching and workshopping.

The Tangylicious Camy also has lots of great things to say about the ACFW event.

Seatbelt suspense author, Brandilyn Collins, is gushing about what you can get out of this conference.

It must be terribly exciting to be at such a writer-encouraging, book-loving, Jesus-praising event. I'm a tad jealous.

Remember, though, that even if this conference doesn't get you five agents tossing roses at your feet, or three editors in a bidding war, or even just one saying, "Wow, can you send that to me. It sounds just like what we want!"--it's still got something to offer your writer's heart and soul. Look for that, too.

Lisa Samson says on her blog:--and I had copy and pasted this before I saw it on Deborah's post, ergo it's freaking me out how much we both zeroed in on the EXACT QUOTE, so it must be important:

Writers Conferences sometimes get a bad rap: How much can you really learn? There's no magic potion. Do many people really get contracts out of this? And honestly if you're going to a conference to just learn the "how-tos" and to increase your contact-getting potentional or swallow a mystical pill that will make you a great writer, any conference will disappoint for writing, at its core, is a solitary endeavor where we learn by doing, by failing, but trying again. People like to pooh-pooh conferences on the basis of material outcome, buying into the consumeristic notion our society falls prey to much too often. But for me, I look on it as a big rap session, a stopping-place to make friends for the journey, a filling-station for inspiration, a respite to know you're not alone.

I hope the above tips help you make the most of this special experience.