Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallow's Eve: Remembering The Dead

You might get some oddly attired wee folk pounding on your door and shouting at your face this day, so a bit of context for those who shrink away from anything smacking of the occult:

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.


As a Protestant sort of Christian, I don't pray for the dead. I figure they've gone where they're going (up or down, metaphorically speaking) and are beyond succor in one case and beyond sorrow in the other.

But I do like to remember the dear who are no longer near, especially my parents. It seems fitting we deluge this day with candy, because I have many sweet memories of being loved and laughing and eating and dozing off on dad's shoulder or mom's lap. I have sugary thoughts of the one aunt I truly loved, who is with Jesus now. I haven't lost many loved ones, but the ones I've lost have mattered, and losing them changed me and my life in permanent ways.

Must focus on sweet thoughts. Sweet thoughts...

My dad, toward the end of his life, developed a thing for Hershey's kisses. He was blind, essentially deaf, paralyzed, and perhaps his taste buds had worn out and only this chocolatey treat still sent signals to his brain. Mom also got into chocolate in a big way as she neared life's end.

(You know...maybe God invented chocolate to make our passing easier. That's worth pondering, thinks The Mir. Pass the Valrhona.)

Remember a loved one today. Indulge in the sweetest memories.

And eat a kiss.


~~

Edited to Add: Stephen of Y Safle blog (a marvelously red-drenched blog, and a good read, drop by and sample) has an entry on this topic (Halloween) that you may want to check out. He disagrees with the dating in the article I quoted above. Thanks for the feedback, S.

Any Other SF ACFW-ers Having Forum Woes?

I haven't been able to post (or modify posts) in the forum since yesterday. I keep getting "session verification" failed. I log out and log in as instructed, and, nothing. Same issue.

Anyone else?

The Beautifying Power of Jesus' Love

Carmen of In the Open takes the "beautiful" topic of my post a week ago and takes it to the next level, a higher one: Jesus' love.

You 'll want to read it: HERE.

You know, that Carmen, don't you get a sense she's really, really, quite beautiful?

DKA Magazine: Day Two of the CSFF Blog Tour

The Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour continues with its focus on DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS MAGAZINE.

Today, I want to mention the DKA staff, its community, and the wider DEP family.

What is she talking about, some out there may wonder, and what's with the acronyms?

DKA you already know--or should. (Hint, see first paragraph or previous post). DEP stands for Double-Edged Publishing. This is a non-profit organization run by Bill Snodgrass (ie, donations are tax-deductible) that supports severeal online publishing ventures: DKA, The Sword Review, Ray Gun Revial, and Haruah.

All these webzines have some other things in common. They're run by volunteers, for one. Secondly, they try to offer quality stories and poetry and (in some cases) essays/columns for those interested in SF (the first three zines) and mainstream/literary fiction and poetry (Haruah). All depend on donations. All encourage community. All are labors of literary love.

Some pay, some don't. DKA does...but not much, not much at all. You might get one or two venti lattes out of it, depending on what you submit.

Our currently active DKA staff--and, oh, lawdy, I hope I don't forget anyone!--includes:

Selena Thomason (managing editor)
Keesa Renee Dupre
R.V. Saunders
Rosemary McMillen
(but you can call her "Rose")
And moi--Mirtika Schultz

(I'd like to send a cyber sisterly-smooch to Cameron Walker, TSR staffer, who has been helping us lately, when he can.)

So, how does the DKA staff function?

Like this: When you submit electronically, we editors get notified by email. We come to the DKA editorial section of the forum to read, discuss, and grade the submissions. If we're slow, we generally require three editors to give a submission the thumbs up or thumbs down or give feedback for revisions. When we're uber-busy, we may will accept, request revision, or decline on the agreement of two editors. Selena then gets back to the submitting writers with the outcome. If we asked for revisions, it's then up to the writer to send them (at their pace) or not.

Sometimes, we decline something because it's not a right fit--not because it's poorly executed. Most times, yeah, we think the craft is not up to the other offerings we can choose from, so we say, "Sorry, not for us." Other times we work through one or more revisions to get a work with promise to a better place.

But it's never easy to say no.

Conversely, we all get a kick out of a unanimous "YES!"

As far as our DKA community, the forum area has threads for all manner of things--general topics (which houses The Coffee House place for chatter), SF news, discussion threads for each new story or poem, reviews--all are mine or Elliot's, so far, but if you register for the forum, you may post your reviews. I encourage you to post, in fact, reviews of Christian SF that you've loved, or of secular (but not Anti-Christian) SF you recommend.

It's not hard to register. Consider it.

If you have friends who might enjoy what DKA has to offer--to read or in terms of a hang-out--refer them. We have one thread for introductions. Say hi!

Visit our FAQ
if you need info on how to get around.

Update on Crit Contest: As of right now, I have two names in the drawing for a free five-page editorial critique (or short poem crit)-- Valerie Comer and Jason Joyner.

If you'd like a chance to win this crit from ME, post a comment saying you'd like to be entered in the contest.

Now, visit my tourmates, and see what they have to say today about DKA:


Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
John Otte
Jason Joyner
Karen's MySpace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russell
Mir's Here
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Chris Walley
Lost Genre Guild
Speculative Faith

Monday, October 30, 2006

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy
Blog Tour, October 2006: DKA Magazine



As anyone semi-well acquainted with this blog already knows, I am an assitant editor over at DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS MAGAZINE. We're a webzine. We publish online. No hard copies. And the magazine has traversed a rocky road since Rebecca Shelley founded it in 1999.

I know. I remember when it almost vanished from E-Land.

In 2005, a knight-in-shining internet armor, Bill Snodgrass, rode in with his merry band of SF aficionados and kept DKA from merging with the mist. And now, more than a year after Johne Cooke (editor, writer, generally cool dude) wrote a vision statement for the resuscitated DKA, we're still chugging along, trying to give you better stories, finer poems, and an all around good CSF experience... and, hey, a hang-out!

If you've wondered about the title of the magazine, well, this bit from the Vision Statement should help explain:

{T}hese elements are merely representative. Please don't feel that you /have/ to write about dragons, or knights, or angels to be published in DKA. That would be silly.

As separate elements, DKA represents different aspects of speculative fiction that range from the horizontal, to the mystical, to the vertical. Together, Dragons, Knights, and Angels represent truth, danger, and that moment of epiphany when your pre-conceptions are changed forever.


If you've never visited or read any of the offerings at DKA, I encourage you to do so. Browse. Look at back issues. I'm sure you'll find something that will please you. Or, at least, I hope. And if you have a story that fits our vision statement and is 1. NOT merely a novel chapter or 2. NOT longer than 7K words (and I prefer even shorter, personally), please submit. (Please proof your work carefully before submitting.) Submissions are done online and we try to respond within a month. (We are pretty good about that, too.)

DKA, by the way, stays afloat on donations, several from the volunteer staff. If you believe in promoting and supporting Christian SF, I will make this appeal: Donate to DKA and keep the CSF coming. Or, the magazine may end up dissolving into the mist as it once almost did.

We've kicked off the campaign to fund the 2007 budget. Read about it. Help out.

Finally, I'm very happy to report that the results of our first poetry contest are officially announced:

First place, $75.00 prize: "Statuary" by John Kuhn
Second place, $40.00 prize: "Two Cathedrals" by Malcolm Deeley
Third place, $20.00 prize: "Transport: The Revelatory Love Song of Arthur J. MacArthur Prufrock" by Chris Mikesell (clearly, a madman, that Chris)

Honorable Mentions:
"Black Hole Relationships" by R. L. Copple
"Open" by Patricia Kelly
"On the Crest of Victoria Crater" by Deborah P Kolodji
"How Angels Fledge" by Jane Lebak

Do go by John's blog and congratulate him on his win.

Here are the blog tourmates for October 2006. Visit. Comment. Enjoy:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Elliot Hanowski
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
John Otte
Jason Joyner
Karen's MySpace
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Cheryl Russell
Mir's Here
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Chris Walley
Lost Genre Guild
Speculative Faith


As mentioned before, I'm offering a five-page story/one-page poem critique to one contest winner for this blog tour. If you have a novel or a short story or a short poem that you'd like critted by The Mir--make sure you can TAKE criticism before entering--then just leave a comment here or at one of the contest-participating blogs (such as Speculative Faith, see above) with a simple, "I want to enter the crit contest."

I will pick a name at random from the entries from this and the other contest-participating tour blogs. If the blog doesn't mention the contest in any of its posts, consider them NON-PARTICIPATORY. Be prepared to submit your email information, so that I may notify you and arrange for the critique.

Happy blog touring!

An SF Story Told In Six Words? Yep!

Meant to post this sooner: Forgot.

Chris posted it before me. Drats.

It's tough keeping to six words!

Josh Whedon's may be my fave.

Speculative stories in just SIX WORDS:

Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?
- Eileen Gunn

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
- Joss Whedon

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

We kissed. She melted. Mop please!
- James Patrick Kelly

1940: Young Hitler! Such a cantor!
- Michael Moorcock

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
- Richard Powers

I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss … ?
- Neil Gaiman

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

Husband, transgenic mistress; wife: “You cow!”
- Paul Di Filippo

Tick tock tick tock tick tick.
- Neal Stephenson

Rapture postponed. Ark demanded! Which one?
- David Brin

Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
- David Brin

(And one just for Valerie Comer)

Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.
- Margaret Atwood

Find the whole wacky gallery here.


Here's one of mine, a fantasy:

She loved trees. One married her.

Here's another, a science fiction:

Aliens abducted Dee. Finally, a date!

What's your story in six words?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Angelica Magazine: My Subscription Saga

A buzz passed around in 2005 about a new magazine that would contain Christian fiction by name authors. Angelica Magazine. Sounded very cool. I subscribed in early December of 2005 via amazon.com, because I wanted to support this new Christian fiction venture. I'm big on supporting Christian writers, as you know.

Note: I don't like to sub to mags on amazon.com, and don't recommend it, but that was the only way back then to do it.

Months passed. More months. The time period for expecting the first issue (12-16 weeks) passed without any notification, no reason for the delay.No first issue.

Discussion began regarding Angelica Magazine in the Faith in Fiction forum, where some writers had submitted and one had, seemingly, been accepted (ie, she worked with the editor on a piece that was to be published). Everyone was having a hard time getting in touch. The link on the web page was to a non-working email address. (Think: Mailer Daemon). Someone found a new email address for Lynette Fuller, the editor, and I tried that one. A couple times.

Finally, I got a reply via email (after many attempts) in the spring of 2006. The editor stated that the first issue would come out in July. I said, fine. I would look forward to getting it.

July went on. August, too. Whoops, there went September.

At no time did Ms. Fuller send word to writers or subscribers to say: "We're delayed again. Please bear with us. You will get your first issue before Christmas." Or whatever. Just silence.

Yes, I was vexed.

October 9th, I emailed one more time with an ultimatum: Gimme my first issue or gimme a refund. I waited a week and a half: no response. I emailed again: "I want a refund, period."

It's now October 29th. I sent another email today. Refund request, again.

Now, what's the point of relating this boring saga of a subscription gone bad?

I want to make sure the information is on the net for the other poor suckers who subscribed and got bupkis. I want anyone googling "Angelica Magazine" or Lynette Fuller or Lynn Fuller to beware. I want no one else to subscribe to this magazine until they have their act together and can actually offer merchandise for money.

Putting together a magazine has got to be maddening. New ventures fail all the time. Granted. That's why I've been very patient. willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

But when emails are ignored--legitimate emails from a customer who's prepaid--that's a lack of basic professionalism. That's bad Christian business witness. When writers are told to submit and told "I'll be back to you by January", and then January whizzes past without even a brief, "Sorry, I know I was supposed to get in touch. I'm swamped. I promise to have word by X date," it's rude. It also hints at some serious disorganization. Yes, it does. That business that doesn't keep its word, and doesn't offer updates when given dates of release or contact are breached, needs to have a warning attached to it. Sort of an BBB-blog complaint.

This is that warning.

Don't subscribe to Angelica Magazine.

If you subscribed, poor dear, swamp the inbox of Angelica Magazine with weekly requests for a refund. If you don't get a reply within a couple of days, complain. Blog about it. Warn others. Post on writing forums.

If you hang with Eric Wilson or Randy Alcorn or Jerry Jenkins or Sharon Dunn, let them know that their work is excerpted at Angelica Magazine along with their very good names, but that the magazine has not dealt professionally with subscribers or submitting authors.

For example, Linda Gilmore's work is included in the excerpts, but last I heard, Linda has not been paid, and her attempts to get some updates from the editor have failed. Eric, Randy, Jerry, Sharon, et al: Demand that the publisher/editor give some public update on the status of the magazine and if/when it will be releaesed. Request she honor demands for refunds.

Even Absolute Write has a bit of "stay away and wait" advice for writers regarding this publication.

Know what's the kicker? The smallest bit of notification would have done a good job of taking the edge off and letting us all hang on and wish them well. Just a newsletter with updates. A clear post on the entry page to the website with an explanation. A subscriber email (BCCing all subbers) apologizing and giving the reason for the delay. (Major illness? Hurricane? Tornado? Family emergency? Bankruptcy? Computer meltdown? Vandalism? SOMETHING!)

I have a web page (other than this blog.) I'm a design and web page idiot, but I know that I can update in ten minutes or fewer. That tells me that it would have been very easy to update the Angelica Site with a "What's Happening: News From Angelica's Editor" type of page to keep subscribers and writers informed of reasons for delays and progress on the venture.

I and the writers waiting for word just needed to be shown the consideration of not being left in the dark.

It's the rudeness of silence that galls.

Don't let someone else lose their time or money on this venture. Speak up if you've been in the same boat as I, because we can keep someone from having to lose their hard-earned bucks.

And, if the editor of Angelica Magazine is out there: Could I, please, have my refund?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You:
The October Edition of the CSFF Blog Tour

Come Monday, the CSFF Blog Tour--Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy, for those not familiar with the acronym--is headed your way.

As part of the focus on Dragons, Knights & Angels, I'm offering up a contest with a prize of a critique by yours truly (no, really, I'm pretty good) of the first five pages of your story or of a short (one page) poem.

Anyone who posts a comment under one of the blog tour posts here at Mirathon from Mon thru Wed just has to say, "Enter me into the critique contest," and that's enough to get your name in the hat. I will accept names from other blog tour blogsites. Those blog owners will have to email me the names.

Critiques will be via email, so be prepared to divulge your info. Also, I'll need the poem in the body of the email, and the five double-spaced pages may go in the body of the email, be posted at one of your sites, be in a Word document, any of those. Just make sure you have regular virus scans. Do not submit an attachment unless you have Norton or McAfee or a reputable equivalent regularly checking you for that crap.

If five pages seems measly to you, know that some editors will reject you slam-and-bam on the basis of one or two pages. Sometimes, one or two paragraphs. And THIS GUY will tell you the first five pages matter a lot.

If it's a very short short story and you go over a bit (say it's six or seven double-spaced pages), I'll cut you some slack and read it all.

I'll also let you know if it's the kind of thing you may confidently submit to DKA.

Nah! Couldn't Fool the Turks (Again), But...

...look how many people clearly didn't learn from their Homer:

THE TROJAN HORSE

Very silly. Quite amusing. And a rather chilling thought that so many folks just let in a big, hollow critter in an age of terror.

Thanks, Claw-Man.

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA: The Trailer

View it here.

Not the greatest trailer, but it has some visual goodies. That's not the main proble, though, according to Peter Chattaway of FILMCHAT:

Walking trees? Sword-wielding insects? An evil Dark Master? Suffice to say that if you search for any of these words inside the book at Amazon.com, you will turn up nothing -- nothing -- of this sort. So where does all this crap come from? Well, the walking tree looks like a rip-off of the Ents in The Lord of the Rings, for starters.

What a shame. Once again, Walden Media has a lot to answer for.


If you read the book and you saw the trailer, what's your opinion?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Feast on Beauty: Artist Kinuko Y. Craft

Go here. Behold. Become spellbound. (Oh, and read the article by Windling.)

This is why I've said if I ever have a book with one of Craft's covers, I will die a woman double-dipped in bliss.

Speculative Faith Friday:
How To Bring Myths and Fairy Tales Back From The Dead And Into The Light

My Friday Femme post at Speculative Faith is now up. It took me nearly 3 hours to post that baby. For some reason, the format kept going screwy on me.

I hope you enjoy it. It actually took some work!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Que Es Amor? (What is Love?)

Go read Chris and Erica Well's brief, but fun, offering of a comics story.

QUE ES AMOR?

Mir's Contest Reality Check and Prep Tips
For The Unpubbed Fiction Scribblers

Most contest entries are crap, they say. Sturgeons's Revelation, they claim.

Who are they?

I hear the indignation in your tone. Okay, get ready for the Mir rant and ramble. But I think some of this will be useful to you.

They. This is who they are: Assorted authors who've had to weed through sample chapters to 1. select writers for prestigious fiction workshops or to choose the finalists in a writing contest. Agents and editors who will, now and then, let it slip in an interview or on a forum that they had to wade through totally unacceptable, ungrammatical, uninteresting dreck to find something readable or with a glimmer of talent to which they could attach the blue ribbon.

A few submissions or contest entries rise above crapdom to acceptable and readable levels, they go on to say. The rest...feh.

Sometimes, nothing, NOTHING, is sparkly or exquisite. That's the truth.

Ah, but sometimes they get good or really good or blow-the mind great stuff that suits the imprint or line or category the judges edit. That's when they request a manuscript or accept the author into a select fiction workshop or refer the writer to an agent pal. That's when first place has real force behind it, real meaning.

Make a note: If you place in a contest, but the judge didn't ask to see the full manuscript, that's kinda equivalent to saying one of two things:

1. It's not good enough to request. Or, more bluntly, it's a REJECTION.
2. It's good enough for someone to request, but it doesn't suit that judge's fiction line, so they don't request it for that reason. Good enough, not right.

Being number one is not joyful. Being number two is disappointing, but promising. However, you never know which one you actually are unless the judge makes that particular note on a score sheet: "Very good. I'd read more. Too bad it's not right for HeartThrob Cozy Mysteries because of the grim tone."

In which case, you know it's good enough for one editor to get perky about it, so send it off to a line that's similar but darker. Good luck with that.

Oh, where was I? Yes, I remember...

Trust me. If your contest entry chapters are 1. wowing the editor or agent final judge and 2. the material is right for their publishing house's needs, they will request you send more.

(They are judging contests to find the next Secretariat for their stable, dontcha think? Trust me. It's not just about giving back to the writing community. It's not just about P.R. It's also about finding the next Nora Roberts or Dee Henderson or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling or Diana Gabaldon or C.S. Lewis or Janet Evanovitch or Helen Fielding or Jeffrey Deaver.)

Now, if the final judge is an agent, and if your sample chapters don't move them to seek you out for a full submission on which to decide whether you'll be their next fresh face-- they're not interested. Yes, that's right. That too is a rejection. You didn't wow that agent with that contest entry. If you had, they'd have made sure to get word to you that you should send them a full proposal. If they think you'll sell and make them beaucoup bucks, you will be pursued.

Here's the hard fact:

What I call the shiny ones--those contest entries that just gleam and dazzle-- are rare. Yet most contests are set up so winners must be chosen. Tell me: What happens if no shiny ones have entered a particular contest category, and a final judge still has to choose first and second and third place winners?

Well, the winner is the best of a not-very-shiny lot.

Here's the danger to the human ego: A winner assumes the writing is fabulous because, yep, it won.

This is not a wise assumption to make. Nor a logical one. All that says is the particular work that won was the subjectively judged "best" of the lot. But the lot could have been a collective pile of manure. Conversely, it might have been a pile of staggeringly proficient submissions, and by golly, the winner is a dazzler.

The latter case is not, however, typical. I've judged contests. I know.

Poetry Note: One exception is our latest poetry contest at DKA, where we're in the final stages of picking a winner. We actually got quite a few "shiny" poems and picking a winner is tough. What a deliciuos problem to have: an abundance of versey riches.)

Personal Note: I re-read my Genesis Contest SF winning chapters and, while not thinking "utter Sturgeonian crapola," I did see flaws. Several flaws. I did cringe in spots. Typos, too, made me go hissssss. No, not crap, but not a diamond, either. A raw diamond. I still saw good ideas. Some good characterization. Some good conflict and dialogue. Some good, even very good prose. It's got some luster, but it's not blindingly bright. It has to become shinier. I have to work harder at getting it to reflect light.

I want to produce diamonds of the first water, as my Regency reading pals might say.

So, take your contest wins and placements with a grain of salt. Then consume the nutrients they offer and get more writing muscle.

Contests are tools. I've seen some lovely fellow Christian writers (and some non-Christian ones) use them as tools. Some for feedback. Some to get in front of a desirable agent or targeted editor. Some enter to learn the discipline of deadlines and formats and what-not. Some have gotten contracts from the exposure in a contest.

Know why you enter. Be humble enough to accept the possibility that you may be submitting non-shiny crap and don't know it. Listen to feedback. Listen really hard to feedback that meshes with other feedback, ie. many judges saying you have no conflict, or poor dialogue, or stilted prose, or jarring transitions, or horrible grammar.

Then, take action as needed: Buy craft books. Take classes. Analyze talented writers. Read more. Write more. Join a critique group. Listen more. Learn to take criticism well. (You'll have to do that when you sell, anyway, and your editor sends you a two- or five- or ten-page revision request sheet.) Use every hammer and nail and wrench and roll of duct tape in the writer's toolbox.

I'm a better writer today than I was 15 years ago. I'm a better writer today than I was five years ago. That's not nothing. That's progress. I've learned and I'm learning still.

And contests are useful if you're realistic about them.

As long as you keep perspective. As long as you grow a tough skin. As long as you grasp tightly to a good measure of humility. As long as you don't think, "Stupid judges. What do they know?" As long as you don't think, "I'm horrible and I'll never learn to write." As long as you don't think, "I've won. My manuscript is perfect!"

As long as you stay focused on the why and what of contests, they'll serve you well.

Anyway, all that because soon it will be a new year, and you will be able to submit to lots of contests with the advent of 2007. And even sooner if you follow RWA romance-related contests. Come January, you'll be able to enter the Genesis contest of the ACFW, which has stringent and as-objective-as-possible judging guidelines and judging criteria. This is a helpful contest for someone who really wants to see where her strengths and weaknesses are as a writer. You may unknowingly submit crap, but at least you'll be told why and where it's stinky to help you in the cleaning up process, the diamondification of poop process.

And you may submit shiny, and you'll be able to see how to make it shinier.

Now...to someone less ranty than I:

To add to the cache of agent/editor/publisher/author anecdotes of crap contest entries, I give you this from agent Jennifer Jackson's livejournal blog, and ask you note the final paragraph with special attention if you're gearing up to enter the contest circuit come 2007:

So, I was judging the romantic suspense category. One of the things that struck me was that in five entries only one of them did not feature a member of law enforcement as one of the protagonists. Perhaps it's an obvious thing to do in order to set up a suspense plot. If either the hero or heroine (or both) are assigned to the case then it gives them an easy motivation to be there. But it did make me want to give that one other person points for originality. Plus, easy motivations don't always make for complex and compelling characters. Also, I've read many other proposals for this subgenre and keep finding a lot of projects in which the research, or rather the lack thereof, is going to contribute to making it an easy rejection. I went through a big forensic interest phase a couple years ago which included reading a book on the history of fingerprinting as well as textbooks regularly assigned in forensic courses. I know less about actual department procedures and I haven't yet taken one of those citizen police academy tours. But one tends to notice when L&O or CSI have more realism and internal consistency.

Nearly every time I sit down to read for a contest, I remember this one time when I got a set of finalists and was just stunned that this was the best they could offer. I actually wanted to not give an award in that case because I didn't think any of the entries were even close to publishable. People sometimes use contest wins as credits in queries. This experience made me feel a bit dubious about that prospect.


Ms. Jackson works at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is a real, authentic, good agent. She represents SF, which endears her to me right off the proverbial bat. If you're into female-focused SF, you'll recognize many names on her client list: Anne Bishop, Elizabeth Bear, Laura Anne Gilman, and C.E. Murphy. And if you're in ACFW or read Christian Women's Fiction, you'll recognize award-winner Shelley Bates. Romance readers will recognize Patricia Rosemoor, Donna Ball (who I used to read faithfully when she wrote as Rebecca Flanders), and Brenda Hiatt (yes, that Brenda, Show Me the Money girl.)

Finally...

Mir's Contest Prep Tips for the Coming Year of Contest-ing:

~Don't be lazy. By that I mean: Don't enter rough drafts. You can't really learn much from entering what you dashed off with little sweat and sacrifice.

~Before entering, get some feedback from knowledgeable folks who'll speak honestly to you about your weaknesses, which is always more important than folks yapping on endlessly about your strengths. (I did say grow a tough skin, no?)

~Make your story different from what is expected, but in a good way, not a whack-job way. Although, some contests need whack-job ways of storytelling, yes. If you're entering in a genre with some well-worn plots, try to be the special one.

~ Don't make your hero or heroine seem like every other hero or heroine in your genre, especially if it's a genre known for having stock characters. Learn to write full, well-motivated, strongly conflicted, deep characters who can surprise us.

~Do your research.

~Do the work it takes to infuse your story with your own, special, original voice and attitude. Don't offer the judges flat prose. Zap it with your own brand of electricity. That may mean talking your story cold into a tape or digital recorder in as natural a voice as you can. (This is a good method for folks who are told they write with too much formality or in a stilted manner.) This may mean reading aloud as you type to see if you're coming across flat and droney.

~Unless your sister or spouse or best pal are editors, agents, or writers, don't assume that when they say, "It's terrific," it actually is terrific. People we love may not have a discerning bone in their bodies. And they usually want to support us and not hurt our feelings. Find the person who will lovingly hurt your feelings for the good of your craft.

~Get a Chicago Manual of Style. (Costly, awkward to use at times, but worth it) Read up on dashes and commas and compound sentences and lay/lie and who/whom and dangling participles. If you don't have some grammar and style manuals by your computer or your writing pad or on your desk, then you aren't yet really serious about fine-tuning your prose, are you?

(Confession: I get lazy with blog posts and go hog wild with dashes and parentheses and sentence fragments. I breathe a freer air here in the Queendom of Mirathon. When I submit something to a contest, though, I keep my style manuals nearby.)

~If you're broke and can't afford the Chicago Manual of Style, then get a cheap used copy of Strunk and White's for a buck or less. They're everywhere. It's also free online. Use it. Google up usage issues. I've always (almost) speedily found an answer to some vexing question by just using a search engine. USE THE SEARCH ENGINE BEFORE YOU ASK ON A WRITING LOOP. Don't fill up the inboxes of your fellow writers when you can get the answer yourself. That's kinda rude.

Or you can simply marry an English major, since we always have grammar texts handy and a tottering pile of style manuals at the ready. Or make best friends with a proofreader/copy editor. Talk the fine points of grammar over a latte and biscotti every Thursday evening. Make it fun.

~If you have a few minutes, read Mir's Non-Comprehensive Tour of Trouble Spot Tip-Offs. Even the very schmart Jon Mark Bertrand thought this was worth recommending. It's the single Mirathon post that's gotten the most feedback and thank yous and Lawdy-I-needed-thats. Just another tool for your shed.

~Choose your contests with care. Know before you enter how it will serve you. Is the editor or agent one on your short-list of desirables? Does the contest offer solid, detailed feedback? Does winning allow you to get a full critique from a bona fide editor or agent? Is it pretigious? Don't just enter blithely and blindly. Strategize.

~~After the contest is done, send THANK YOU NOTES.

I'm a bit of a doofus about remembering to go out and buy the things, but I finally bought ones for the final round of the GENESIS (I got my scores back a week or so ago.) See, I'm a reclusive sort, and I'll go a week or more without leaving the house. I pile up errands for one massive to-do day about once every 10 days. (Yes, I'm a freak, I know.)

I will be mailing them out tomorrow. I mailed out the first round ones ages ago. It's not necessary, no, but it's a courtesy.

If you haven't judged a contest with a detailed score sheet and rules, then you have no idea how hard it is. How tough to be as fair as possible and as honest as you can. I actually wept with pain that I had to score some contest entries very low. I even asked the regional coordinator of that particular contest if the kind of score I felt was warranted was out of whack and I was being too hard. She, to her and the contest's credit, said no. She'd judged lower herself. She said: Be honest. Judge genuinely. I have to admire any contest that encourages tough fairness of that sort. Even if it has to be heart-and ego-lacerating for the person getting the low scores. Trust me, that's why I pray over and read entries over and over. Some as many as six times. To do justice according to the rules. To be honest for their benefit.

So, appreciate your judges. Even the brutal-scoring ones. They may have wept for you.

And send those thank yous off.

I've received two thank yous. Two. In toto. Ever. And to my shame, I didn't know in my first contests that I was supposed to send thank yous. I figured it was anonymous, so who the heck would I send thank yous to?

Ask your contest coordinator what to do about the notes. But send them. It shows you're not an ingrate for the time and trouble of many, many volunteers.

Personal Anecdote To Keep You From Screwing Up As I Did: I placed third in one particular contest with a coveted editor. Third. But the editor requested the full. On a third placer. No other category had that happen. Made me feel, "Okay, I am not a total loser." Of course, I then went on to prove I was a total loser by not finishing the novel and sending it off. I might have been published 4 years ago. (I am vast and full of flaws. Sometimes, I'm just a damned, lazy idiot.)

Go ye and conquer. And may the writing force be with you.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ORPHANS OF CHAOS: Two Mir Thumbs Up!

Now that it's a mere matter of weeks to the release of book two in the Chaos series, I'd like to post a review to encourage y'all to buy the first and pre-order the second, FUGITIVES OF CHAOS. You can then spend a year yanking your hair out wondering what happens next and what wonders will unfold.

We can go bald together.

My review will have some slight (not dire) spoilers. Just a kind caveat:

ORPHANS OF CHAOS
by John C. Wright


Homer got reincarnated as a hot chick, who then met up with a younger Roger Zelazny (say, round the freaky seventies) and got down and dirty. Their love child is John C. Wright. Oh, and John Norman sent them a naughty and metallic baby shower gift, which was made up for by C. S. Lewis' British humor and Anglican prayers during the christening.

That's the gene pool and environment, I speculate, that nurtured this exciting "Boarding School Kids with Super Powers" story. Only this school ain't no Hogwarts. And these kids are much smarter and sexier than Harry and Hermione and Ron. This headmaster makes girls swoon, which I doubt Dumbledore ever managed. And these kids don't want to be at school. They want to escape.

But if they do, all hell (and heaven and Olympus and Elysium and Tartarus and multi-dimensions) will break loose. Havoc, folks, havoc.

If you like Greek mythology, smart writing, gorgeous prose, engrossing dialogue, science, and math (I pretty much blanked out at those equational bits, though my husband, the engineer, asked I read them aloud to him) all bound up with exciting plot turns and some boisterous fun--and quite a bit of dread and danger and adventure--you must get this book. But only if you are grown up enough to handle a bit of bawdiness. Oh, please, what teenagers didn't heave of bosom or become enamored of said bosoms, depending on sex or sexual orientation. Well, other than Jesus.

And maybe Jesus had a crush on that cute, wide-eyed girl next door whose Papa was a blacksmith. Ya never know.

Anyway, here's a bare bones synopsis~

Five kids who have forgotten where they came from and what their real names are, and who got to choose their own names (a source of some humor and characterizational insight ensues from this), start to push against the bounds of their imprisonment. Boundaries, actually. (And keep in mind, that these boundaries ain't simple ones like fences and landmarks. Magic plays a part. Perception and powers, too.) They've reached a point in their maturation where their abilities are manifesting. Teenage curiosity is no small thing, and rebellion is natural when one's life is so regimented.

The gifted five begin to learn bits and pieces, and then more, and then a lot more, about the nature of their captivity and of their captors. This is where knowing your Greek mythology pays off in spades (the hints during the early chapters). But take heart, eventually, Amelia (the narrator) tells you outright what's up (from her POV and discoveries) and you'll be caught up nicely.

The scenes where the kids use their gifts are exhilirating. Especially Quentin and Amelia. Most notably, Amelia, whose ability strengthens and expands and is marvelous to read.

I don't want to give away plot points. I don't want to dilute the absolute pleasure you will have turning the pages of the exciting tale. But do know that you will be breathless by the last paragraph and want to bribe someone close to the author to get your hands on a draft of the next installments. And one more than one scene has a reverberating spiritual beauty, notably the one where the Compline recitation is used as a marker for passing seconds and another where a prayer is heard, and not just heard, but SEEN being heard. It's...stunning!

It's a pity both 2 and 3 don't come out before Christmas. Just as waiting for Potter 7 is an ordeal of sorts, waiting for Chaos 2 has been tough. and waiting for Chaos 3 will surely be nearly unbearable.

John C. Wright is a terrible, horrible, dreadful, awful man for ending on a cliffhanger. Shame on him for hooking me so utterly and leaving me flapping and hyperventilating in mid-air. But then, what does one expect from such creative parentage as Mama Homer and Papa Zelazny. (We try not to speak of Uncle "Gor". He scares the other children.)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

I have placed both ORPHANS and FUGITIVES in my sidebar. If you buy 'em, kindly use my portal, so I get some amazon points. THANKY.

What NOT To Name Your Fantasy Novel

Today, from The Rejecter, addressing the "multi-book story":

Multi-book stories are fairly normal in certain genres, mainly fantasy, particularly high fantasy. If you book is not fantasy, you're in trouble, and you may just want to make it into one long book. (It's the same story, isn't it? Why isn't it one book?) If it's some kind of historical epic, it's allowed to be excessively long. If it's a mystery, it's supposed to be relatively short. It all depends on your genre.

(If it is high fantasy, do not name the first book "The Prophecy." We've seen that a million times and it's honestly getting annoying. Trust me)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Undeniable, Beautifying Power of Love

I remember having a friend in grade school by the name of Melba Ferrer. Now, I thought Melba was the prettiest of girls, second only perhaps to Sarah Bosch, who I really thought was the prettiest girl in our Catholic School.

Many years later, when I was past schooling, I saw in a family photo album a pic of myself with a bucktoothed girl with droopy hair of a mousy brown shade and a dorky expression. Skinny, too (though that was the rage..and sorta still is.) And it took me a while to realize: Oh, that's Melba.

You see, Melba was so kind and so sweet, that I loved her, and so I always looked at her and saw: oooh, pretty, pretty girl.

Perhaps that's part of why my husband is the handsomest man on earth. He's so sweet and so gentle and so kind of heart. It makes a good-looking man uncategorizably magnificent (imo).

This can happen even when one is acting, I notice.

I was watching one of my favorite romantic films--NOTTING HILL--and it got to one of my fave parts of that fave film, the one where the friends are sitting around the dining table and giving reasons why they deserve the last brownie, cataloging their sorrows for pity points.

At one point, Tim McInnerny, a man with a boyish smile that most (if not all) would hesitate to call handsome (long, scrawny neck, unremarkable features, balding, and the image of Lord Percy from BlackAdder is persistent) looks over at Gina McKee (who plays his paraplegic wife) as she's recounting how they will never have children. He's looking at her with such complete love and adoration, comforting her with his unguarded gaze...that he transforms into an attractive man. A spell-binding fella, even. Just like that.

It happens again, briefly, and less potently, when he scoops her into his arms and refuses to drive off without her in the car. Lovely.

There's something powerful in someone being loving, being kind, being tender, being comforting, being good. It makes a dorky, skinny girl lovely and it makes a funny looking actor handsome. If only to the subject moved the by the powerful emotions displayed.

I've always said that I'll know if (God forbid!) my husband ever ceases to love me. He will no longer look at me with that look that say, "Gosh, I'd rather look at you than anything in the universe. You are gorgeous!"

I am not gorgeous. I'm fat, out-of-shape, unphotogenic, zit-laden, cellulite-riddled, saggy, and middle-aged. But he looks at me and speaks to me as if I were Angelina Jolie, but with better legs. That is love changing his eyeballs. That's love, altering perception.

It's a phenomenon to which I am quite indebted. And grateful.

So, there's a good reason to be kind, good, comforting, sweet, tender. There's a good reason to let yourself beam out the wonderful things you feel about others. It makes you look BETTER. To someone. Especially, I'd think, to the one who causes the fine feelings to grow and flow out of you.

If you're courting a girl (or a guy), just gush the love at her (or him) with everything you've got in your face, in your lips, in your forehead, in your voice. She (or he) may be swept off her (his) metaphorical feet by your sudden glory. Worth a shot.

And if you watch NOTTING HILL anytime soon, drop me a line and tell me if Tim McInnerney as "Max" didn't seem suddenly, unexpectedly, wonderfully attractive in that dinner table scene where he's just loving the heck outta "Bella".

Monday, October 23, 2006

How To Address A Query by The Rejecter

I can't remember if I posted on the terrific blog I happened upon recently called THE REJECTER. If you are a writer and haven't visited yet, you should.

Anyway, today, The Rejector focuses on how to address a query, as a follow-up to her suggestion that you never put "ATTN: X Agent" (or similar variable) on the envelope or on the query letter. (They're not dumb, she says. It will go to the person you address it to.)

In clear language, here you go, the simple, rational how-to:


Mr. Agent
Mr. Agent Agency
1000 Broadway Avenue
New York, NY 10002

TA-DA!

Remember to bookmark The Rejecter, along with your bookmarks for Miss Snark and Evil Editor.

Chucklesome Post of the Day:
Re: Martydom

Yes, I know. Chuckles do not seem to go with martyrdom. Of course, it does when it's this particular post. (Or Monty Python's Life of Brian)

The blog itself is a delight. Browse it. It's called Orthonormal Basis, which the adorably apple-cheeked blogger defines thusly:

...an orthonormal basis is a set of vectors that gives you a simple way to describe your location in a vector space.


I would have so had a crush on him in high school.

He has a link to a very cool article. If you're Catholic, it's a must read. If you're not Catholic...aw, come on, read it anyway! Make appropriate substitutions for "magisterium" and "pope" and so on. You'll find out what the Darth Vader Axiom is, which suits the speculative spirit of The Mir.

You can thank me later.

hat tip to the Claw Man.

Become State Poet Laureate (Sort of)!

Matt Mikalatos is having fun in his own parallel universe where he gets to declare poets laureate for states that have shamefully neglected to have one of their own.

Wanna be a sorta-kinda poet laureate?

Well...go here. Read the instructions. Skim the hilarious FAQ. Choose a state. Put your best state-ly verse forward.

I'm doing New Mexico . If my muse cooperates, that is. Naturally, it will be speculative. I've teased Matt with including a talking saguaro and a multi-dimensional Pueblo mission.

Mir's Off to the Museum...in December.

'Cradle of Christianity: Jewish and Christian Treasures from the Holy Land'

Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, Dec. 7-April 15

Featuring more than 100 Biblical-era artifacts, the exhibition reflects the history of the two religions from the first century B.C. through the fifth century A.D. Objects include a Temple Scroll found in the caves of Qumran, a full-scale reconstruction of a Byzantine church apse and altar platform, and a limestone inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate. The artifacts are from the Israel Museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
~~Gary Schwan



Back in April, I saw the King Tut exhibit at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale. I loved it. (Wasn't crazy about the crowds or some bit of family stress that went with it--don't ask!--but loved the artifacts. LOVED LOVED LOVED them. Magic!) So, I'm looking forward to this apparently less dazzling, but more up-my-alley sort of exhibit.

Here are some of the other items that will be on display:



Burial ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas the High Priest.
According to the New Testament, it was Caiaphas who delivered Jesus to the Romans for trial and eventual crucifixion.

A commemorative inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate.
This inscription and the ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas represent the only known surviving physical testimonies of these two important figures from the story of the trial of Jesus.

Heel bone of Yehohanan, son of Hagkol, punctured by an iron nail (replication), is the only tangible evidence of the practice of crucifixion to have been discovered in archaeological excavations.

A graffito of the menorah, found in excavations of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem and dating to the first century BCE (the Second Temple Period), is the oldest representation of the menorah that stood in the Temple of Jerusalem.

A stone inscription from the Temple Mount reading "To the place of trumpeting ..."

The remains of excavated churches, monasteries, and other religious sites, including furnishings, dedicatory inscriptions, reliquaries, and liturgical objects.

Souvenirs and mementos from early Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, including vessels for oil and water from holy sites and tokens bearing religious motifs.

The remains of excavated synagogues, including capitals, mosaics, and marble furnishings, all adorned with Jewish symbols.


If you're gonna be down in South Florida this winter, hey, maybe you should drop by and see the goodies. More info here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

DKA Story: "Damage"

A new story just been added to the DKA October issue. Whether you will hate it, like it, or love it...well, that's subjective.

I don't normally post on our webzine's stories. (Maybe I should.) But I thought I'd mention this one, an angel story, because it's the only story I've seen, in my less-than-a-year tenure at DKA, make all of the reviewing editors weep. (Granted, we're all gals, and women may be particularly touched by the theme, but I suspect some men may get teary-eyed, too.)

Please drop by and read "Damage" by Jane LeBak.

Jane was the runner-up in our first annual fiction contest with another angel story, "Even A Stone." You may have read that one. She had another, shorter piece pubbed at DKA called "Rent-an-Angel." If you want to read a gently amusing story, you should click over to that one.

But first, please, consider reading "Damage."

Here's the opening, which may seem confusing, but stick with it. Ambiguities clear up:

I'd been a guardian angel for all of ten seconds, and already I hated it.

This thing was only four cells big, and I was supposed to stay nearby for the next what, eighty years? So yeah, I could do my job on it--my real job--and make sure its soul dropped like a concrete balloon into Hell. But I'd rather see one of the wretches end up in Heaven than be shackled to a prison of flesh. It had to die.

A thousand years ago, another demon claimed God had muddled up which angels were which, and as a result he'd been enchained to the human he'd have guarded if we hadn't escaped Heaven. He thought he was important because Origen documented it; and ooh, the condition even had a big name, "apokatastasis."

He recounted the tale with relish. No one tells campfire stories like we do around the big campfire ("Most demons yoked this way are never heard from again!" Boo.) Scariest was that when it got older, he could feel its emotions, sometimes even heard it praying. He urged his revolted audience just to kill it while it's small.

In a way it was a fascinating entity, and I found myself staring at the viscous soul as if it were a carcass in the woods. It would have been mine if things had worked out differently.

The Mir Family: A Few Pics from the Feast

Note: These are camera cell phone pics, so not the best quality. Sorry. But try to enjoy, anyway. And assume we're cuter in person. I like delusions. :)


Didn't blog yesterday 'cause I wasn't home. It was a double birthday party for my nephew, Kiko, and his daughter, Catie, who is my grandniece. See Catie and my grandnephew Xavi in the above pic, posing with the colorful, home-made cake.

I did my part to add healthful comestibles to the feasting: I took over a mozarrella caprese salad (fresh organic basil on top) over a bed of fresh watercress. Some chips with authentic salsa from the Mexican place (I won't eat the jar stuff. All of them suck.) Some crown roast of pork made by a gourmet shop nearby. Some very nice chianti, out of which I made the best sangria I ever tasted, if I do say so myself. My sisters loved it, and I am under orders to make more for the holidays. I also brought some amazingly tasty organic grapes, fresh pineapple, cantaloupe chunks, and mango slices. (Gotta get those fruits!) Oh, and a bottle of Riesling, cause I hadn't had white wine in ages. It was quite pleasant.

My sister-in-law, Miggie, made scrumptious alcapurrias (a Puerto Rican yummy.) My eldest sister, Chencha, made congri (the black bean version, though you can make it with red kidney beans, which is how I prefer it, personally) and churrasco and boiled yuca. We had two cakes, a fancy one made by my niece, Susy, decorated with little animal figures that my niece Catie collects. And a simple square double-chocolate for my chocoholic nephew, who turned 40.

Now, that makes me feel real old. My nephew is 40. Halloween of 1966, I dressed up as the Virgin Mary and he, only 10 days old, was Baby Jesus. Sigh.

Pics time:

First, from my sister's backyard in Miami, Baby "Lucky" (aka Ashley) with her godmother-to-be, Susy, my niece, daughter of my eldest sis. Susy has alopecia universalis, ergo the lack of hair. But she's got a great heart and a good soul and I'm hoping God sends her this Christmas the present of a godly and dang sexy suitor. We want more babies in the family!


Another pic of the star of the Saturday show, the popular Miz Lucky:




Now, for the Teutonic Hunkorama, aka, my hubby Carlito (aka Charles aka the pink-n-white Snowbunny of Love):



And the Mir, herself, a bit too much in the sun, which was quite bright and warm for a late October day:



Except for some moments when I got sad and teary in the small bedroom where my mom lived the last years of her life, and where she died--and where Ashley got her breast-made supper Saturday--I had a mighty fine time.

Just wish mom and pop (aka Mami y Papi) had been there to see Lucky glow and Catie turn 8.

Friday, October 20, 2006

See The Trailer For Ted Dekker's THR3E

The unofficial trailer for THR3E: Watch it here.

Marc Blucas ("Riley" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). A chick who looks like Justine Waddell? Seems like it may be a decent version. I wasn't blown away by the trailer, but I wasn't utterly bored, either.

Hat tip to Dineen.

Five Friday Word Associations: SF Version

Thanks to Carmen of In the Open, I'm enjoying playing along with the RevGal's Friday Five: Word Association. You can play, too. Leave a comment if you do, so I can go read your associations.

Here are my five:

Whirlwind-- "I am the whirlwind." (Paul in the miniseries of DUNE.) I still think that's one of the most alpha male sexy lines ever. Whoo. Whirl, babycakes, whirl! :::cough, cough::: Dratted sand gets in everything.

Foundation--Future empire, psychohistorians, Hari Seldon, The Mule, Trantor. I'm predicting, using the law of mass blog action, that my answers will all be SF-related, thereby insuring my high score on the Geek-o-meter for at least a year to come.

Lightning--Zeus. Yeah, just got a big old honking image of a muscular, randy, bearded deity in a skimpy tunic hurling a zapper at some inconvenient mortal husband of some ancient Grecian hot chickadee.

Den--Of iniquity. Er...I have no idea why that's what first popped into my head. Maybe I should go meditate on something pure and innocent like white doves and newborns and artesian spring water or my husband's smile. SCREECH! BACKTRACK: I mean, Of Thieves. DEN OF TIHEVES. Ali Baba, "Open, Sesame," and ill-gotten loot. Yeah, we're back on speculative ground and keeping to the Seldonian plan. That's better.

Prey--Bird of.
And I don't mean hawks and eagles. I mean Star Trek, Romulan. You know, the ones with cloaking devices and maybe a female captain with the hots for Spock. Looky here:

It's kind of worrisome when all but one of my associations were, actually, SF-related. Or...just very Mir-ish.

Distorting Beauty: Dove Evolution Video

This video is making the blog rounds. Just in case you're one of the four people left in blogdom who haven't viewed it, iFilm has it, but I think it looks better on YouTube HERE.

I would imbed it, but I refuse to give them my Blogger password. I got hackophobia.

Note: I tried imbedding the iFilm version, and it came up fine, but it's so wide, it threw off my blog lay-out. Too bad.

Hat tip to Elliot.

If I Was A Man, I'd Sign Up For This Today

Black is the foundational and main color in my wardrobe. Whether panties, bras, socks, shoes, shirts, shawls, jackets, sweaters, or pants...black is there in mass quantities, dwarfing any other color.

Once, I went four years wearing it day in and day out, with only the occasional lapse into a crisp white or red top, or the accent of pearls.

Everyone thought I was a witch or in mourning.

I still feel really happy in total black with lots of silver and or gold jewelry, maybe some color accent stones like amber or blue topaz or amethyst or turquoise.

So, if i were a guy, I'd be signing up for Black Socks. They sound like top quality, and they simply deliver according to a pre-set timetable. You never run out of black socks. How cool is that?

Too bad they don't have Women's Black Trouser and Athletic Ankle Socks dot Com. I'm always running out of those.

hat tip to Neil "I only wear black" Gaiman.

Note to Mr. G: All blacks don't match. There are blue-blacks, brown-blacks, purple-blacks, green-blacks, charcoal-gray blacks, etc. So, you still have to go out in the sunlight and match them.

(Personal Revelation: I tend to do a quick "open the door and put the pants next to the top and see if they got together" with my blacks. Only sunlight tells the truth. Oh, and I prefer midnight blue-blacks. I used to dye my hair raven wing black...but I'm too old for that starkness now. It just points out that your skin has been pounded by gravity. Pity. I love blue-black hair.)

Another Blog Find: Cerulean Sanctum

You should drop by there just to feel restful from the gorgeous, simple, very cerulean blog design.

I want to have a blog that looks this cool and fresh. Yes, I do.

Then read the smart blogging within.

Plus, isn't Cerulean Sanctum a nifty blog name? Say it out loud a few times. Sounds like wind in the mountains.

Speculative Faith: Friday Femme Strikes Again

This time, I'm asking a lot of questions. And I'm hoping you can provide some insightful answers.

Well, can you?

If you're game, head on over to Speculative Faith where I am on THE QUEST TO WRITE SOUL-OPENING SPECULATIVE FICTION FOR A BROADER AUDIENCE.

What? You don't think I can quest alone, do you?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Speculative Quote for a Friday

There would still be true love. Even if we redesigned our minds and bodies to serve other purposes, we would not change this, as this is what makes us human. So, while we remain human, I conclude that there cannot and will not be a total victory of Venus over her more dignified older sister Vesta. Despite the best efforts of our modern entertainment industry, selfish lust will not entirely displace selfless devotion. We humans are not nymphs and satyrs, not after 35, in any case. The human heart desires permanence; even the most fickle lover vows eternal fidelity, and, in the moment of his passion, believes his vow.

~John C. Wright in his SF Site interview, as part of his answer to the question of what constitutes an authentic Golden Age

Emerging Soon from the Chrysalis:
Metamorpha



If the butterfly and name interest you, check this out:



Their MySpace page is at here. A forthcoming book will tie in to the site. You might want to head to their web site and sign up for an alert come the day of first flight.

Something to look forward to. Even if the logo and ads make me think, just a wee bit, that I'll be getting a sample for some menopausal medication.

Dr. Curry and His Wee One Have A Dream

And when I say wee one, I don't mean as in Dr. Curry Junior or little Mary Beth Curry. No, not kids. His other wee one.

From BBC NEWS:

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.

Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.


Bigger penises for super-atheltic boys and pert breasts for naturally depilated girls. Uh-huh. Someone please take Dr. Curry's copies of Playboy away from him. They're affecting his scientific hypothesizing.

hat tip to Samantha H.

Cell Phone Pic of Baby Ashley AKA Lucky



Ah, she's cranky like GrandAuntie Mir when she's hungry.

God is Good and so Is REAL Art:
Support Your Christian SF Artists!

The Mir is smiling. Ask me why.

Nice of you to ask.

Cause hubby is giving me art for Christmas. REAL art. Not a print. Honest to goodness, original, from a human hand, just for me REAL art.

Normally, around November, I might drop a hint for X book or Y cd or Z other book or ABC computer-related thingie. We tend to give most of our holiday gift-money to World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, Habitat for Humanity, and Voice of the Martyrs. (It is, after all, Jesus' birthday, not ours. I wrote about this last year HERE and HERE. I guess this entry today would be Gift-Giving Suggestion Part Tres.)

This year, I wanted something unique and something beautiful and I wanted to support a Christian fantasy artist.

I like art. When I was just barely into puberty, I'd catch the train and bus and go to the museum and...breathe the glory of it. Sometimes, I felt on the verge of emotions so strong that I felt close to passing out from them. I can still sit for hours, enraptured, staring at the pages of one of my art books. Museums are a kind of sacred space, because it all reminds me of the Ultimate Creator: God. No one can do what God does--create worlds in grand scope, and then create a creature as small and charming as a ladybug or a sea horse.

But we should create. We're His image. And all of us have worlds inside. Mine take shape with words.

Cause I can't draw.

Or paint. Or cut paper prettily. Or even push clay together in a remotely pleasing shape. I have trouble matching clothes, which explains my fondness for monochromatic dressing.

In fact, if art-ingesting aliens from the Planet Ruuuk dropped down on Earh and proclaimed that all human life's survival depended on my ability to create a stick portrait of the King of Ruuuk that tasted good to them...we're all dead, folks. Cause even a stick figure of King Bububu would be stupid looking and unpleasant to the palate. And crooked.

I've been supporting Christian SF for the last few years via book buying--even if I didn't WANT to read the books--and by donating to CSF webzines and by, hey, using up my time to be part of a volunteer editorial staff at a CSF webzine. Plus I've given time to the promotional and profile-raising vehicles of the CSFF Blog Tour and Speculative Faith.

Now, I wanna support Christian SF art.

With hubby's generous and kind and very sweet permission, I've commissioned a piece of fantasy art. Because I edit at a magazine with the title DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS, I've asked the artist to create something with a dragon, a knight, and an angel. I also requested that the angel have black hair and golden toned skin. Like me.

(This has less to do with egoism, than with the fact that I love black hair and golden-toned skin. Asian and Hispanic coloring of this sort appeals to me, aesthetically. Plus, I admit, when you're a minority--and look like one-and grew up having to play with blond dolls, seeing cards with blond angels, and seeing magazines with a host of pale-skinned, fair-haired models on the covers, it starts to make you think the society doesn't value your coloring. And it leads to a measure of self-loathing that takes years or a lifetime to outgrow. I've seen it in people near and dear to me who think that the only good skin is fair and the only good hair is straight and light. I've seen Hispanic women basically mutilate themselves to have Anglo features and use chemicals to lighten their skin and more chemicals to straighten their hair and liposuction to rid themselves of Latino backsides. I was fortunate to have a pretty middle-sister who valued her coloring and wide nose, and a mother and father who didn't have complexes about their looks. But you don't grow up "unfashionable" and not have it wound something inside along the way. So, I'm doing my part to say, Hey, angels can look like me! Rant over.)

Back to the subject at hand: real art for Mir.

The cute-as-pie artist is named Sara M. Butcher. You can see her very colorful and super-pretty stuff at her online studio: DreamflierStudios.Com.

If looking at her lovely online portfolio gives you an urge to support artists who do fantasy work, she's having a really cool sale right now on commissioned, original work: $100.00 for a 5 x 7 piece.

She's also got holiday greeting cards that feature her art for sale. Holiday Angel might be just right for that wonderful aunt or sister who's always baking sweet treats for the family. And Angel Rays has a sweet youthful air--maybe for one of the adolescents in the family.

Order any two items from her site right now, and you get a gorgeous mermaid print... FREE!

If you get something from Sara, let her know Mirtika sent you, ok?

I hope you will go out there and support a Christian artist for Christmas, via ACEO's or greeting cards or real art or just a donation to keep their studios online. And if you're a Christian fantasy artist and wouldn't mind allowing DKA to feature images of your art (to grace a story or poem or, since we're searching for a suitable image, our masthead) for free or a very, very modest fee (our budget is like...anorexic), drop me a comment and we'll talk.

And pray that more artists who love Jesus will prosper in ALL the art forms. For His glory. Amen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Blog Find: Adventures in Aberdeen

I was wandering around the blogs of online acquaintances, and I found a comment by someone named Kelli, which sidetracked me to a blog called ADVENTURES IN ABERDEEN.

I am quite charmed by the voice of the blogger. I'm also digging the pics.

Here's an excerpt, where the blogger recounts a visit to a church turned cafe:

While I understand the appeal to use an old building, with all of its beauty and depth as a place for people to hang out - that is not what bothers me. What struck me as especially sad was knowing the hearts of the people who first built it, and what they wanted this building to say to the people who saw it. I couldn't help but look at the stories being told in everything from the stain glass to the details in the architecture that pointed to something much more than the sum of its parts. There is something to be said for a space that was built as sacred space, as someone recently said to me - and I find this to be true. Interestingly enough, the pub hasn't ceased to be sacred space, but it has ceased to be a certain kind of sacred space. The people here have not ceased to be religious, they have just developed a different kind of religion. Worship happens everywhere, and this place does not differ from any other - the difference is that it was designed for the worship of God, and now it is used for the worship of man.


And this one that cracked me up and that highlights one of the city's quirks:

For those of you who have never been to Aberdeen, and I assume that is most, let me explain something about the city. Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland boasting about 200,000 people. For the benefit of those people, there has to be at least 10,000 hair-dressers in town.

It is truly one of the oddest things I have ever seen. At one corner we were less than 100 feet from 6 hair places....6! It seems that there is something in the water that effects people who want to open new stores - and they feel an uncontainable urge that it must be a hair-salon of some kind.



I think you should drop by. Maybe say hello. Enjoy the funky, fairy tale mushroom pic. Read some of the entries. It's a fun little place with a good soul.

Nope. I Do Not Believe There's Another Mir


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
2
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?




Call me skeptical. I'm highly doubting there's another gal with my first AND last name. It's not impossible: Some cutiepie Germanic type sidles up to a fetching Latina type and, bam, chemistry!

But that she'd have my first name (which ain't all that common, and which has another spelling variant) and hubby's last name (which is one of several spelling variations of the particular Germanic surname)....nah. I think they counted me twice. I think they're statistical doohickey hicccupped.

No, really.

Here's what happens when I put in my maiden name:


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
0
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?




My middle and eldest sister get ZERO persons with their names (married). Obviously, my parents weren't big on common female Latina names like Elena or Maria or Juana or Carmen or Rosa. My brother's name shows up as 3 people having it in the U.S.

My beloved and utterly unique hubby has, nonetheless, a commonish name, cause 803 people in the US have it. This explains why I get calls every year from someone looking for some lost pal or relative by that name.

Rebecca Miller, she of Speculative Faith Mondays and A Christian Worldview of Fiction every day, has an even more common name. The U.S. has 2, 735 Rebecca Millers. Whereas Shannon McNear is in the same boat as I: Two of us in the US.

4,500 women share my first name in the U.S. That testifies to a whole lotta Latinas round here. In contrast, there are 322, 466 Shannons. The Irish are mighty in this land. Rebecca's number 644,932. The Old Testament is mightier than the Irish or the Hispanics!

More fun with blogger pals and names. How many of "them" in the U.S.:

David Meigs= 21
Chris Mikesell= 4
Jon Bertrand= 6 (Of course, we know there's only one, and will only ever be one, Jon Mark Bertrand, the eurythrophile.)
Bonnie Calhoun= 67
Matt Mikalatos= 0 (Matt, sorry, but you don't exist, snooky.)
Camy Tang= 0 (Camy must be living next door to Matt.)
Valerie Comer= 13
Carmen Andres= 10
Chris Miller= 1,405 (Even though Chris is in Canada, there are a lot of him in the U.s. apparently. Maybe clones. God help us.)
Jane LeBak= 0 (Hmmm...I see a gated community for the invisible people shaping up. The walls of the community cannot be penetrated by census takers.)
Jim Black= 111
Stuart Stockton= 4 (Though two of them are just visiting from another planet.)

How about some authors?~~~

Kathy Tyers= 0 (Okay, so it's a BIG gated community.)
Karen Hancock= 210 (Which means if Karen is too tired to attend a con, she can send one of the others!)
Gene Wolfe= 46
Connie Willis= 169 (I wonder if 168 of them are voting for the Hugo?)
Jane Yolen= 0 (She's the official folk tale-teller of the gated community.)
Ted Dekker= 1 (Okay, now that's just weird.)
Chris Well= 2 (And I will not make a joke about head size here.)
Bryan Davis= 1,368 (No one knows how many of those are actually dragons.)

I still think I'm the only one with my name.

One more shot. I put in the name I think of myself as--Mirtika Schultz:

There are 0 people in the U.S. with the first name Mirtika.


Ahhhhh. Zero. ZERO! Wait a minute. That means I can go live in a nice two-story chalet in the gated community with Camy and Kathy and Jane and Jane and Matt and write happily ever after.

I promise. You can come visit Zeroland. But you gotta check your name at the door.

LIGHT OF EIDON On Its Way to PA

Our contest winner, Jim Black, requested LIGHT OF EIDON as his prize.

Jim, I just ordered it up for you. You should get it by Monday next. Keep an eye open for that amazon.com box. Hey, maybe you can print out a Whelan creation and tape it to the front of the book for a more contest-suitable reading experience?

I hope you enjoy the story and review it over at your blog. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hancock Artist Contest: And The Winner Is...

Okay, I promised I'd pick the winner of the Name a Fantasy Cover Artist to Re-do Karen Hancock's LotGK Series Contest.

First off, I'd like to thank Shannon, Becky, Val, Jim, and Matt. Each suggestion was so different in style, and each artist has their own visual voice. This is cool.

Before I announce the winner, it's time for me to reveal who I'd have liked to have done the covers. This is the dude. I actually bought another set of the Tolkien's (I had a set from the 70's), because the covers were so beeeeeyooooootiful.

No one picked Alan Lee, and no one had an artist that I could say--this is close, very Alan-ish. Which is good. That means we had diversity.

So, who'd I pick?

I chose the winner who chose an artist I had on my "Hancock Short List." Along with the artist suggested by the winner, my short list included Justin Sweet, Darrell Sweet, Jim Burns, and Kinuko Y. Craft--all wonderfully gifted. I'd die if Kinuko Craft did MY book cover. Die. Of joy. Of pleasure. DIE!!!

So, Jim, you win with Michael Whelan. Add aol dotsy com to the end of this blog name, and you'll reach me via email.

You get to tell me, JB, if you want one of the Hancock books or, if you have all those, which equally or lesser-priced tome from my sidebar you desire. Or, suggest a title in that price range and we'll work it out. Or I could donate to one of your fave charities. Look, I'm really flexible today. It's that anniversary celebration going to my head!

Thank you again to all participants.

Mirathon Is A Year Old Today. YAY!

Happy anniversary to ME.
Happy anniversary to ME.
Happy anniversary to MIRATHON!
Happy anniversary to ME.

That's right. I've been yapping here for 12 months straight. Egads. Here's a link to my earliest posts.

When I checked my site meter (the one that only registers unique visitors, not multiple page views), it ws at 10, 331 this morning. Wow. I didn't figure I'd get 1000, unless they were all me.

Thank you for stopping by. Once, twice, daily. Muah!

Interestingly, this is the only "journal" I've been consistent with. Go figure. The power of the blog is great, my children. Of course, it's not like a real, paper, leather-bound, maybe key-locked journal where you can say the rottenest stuff you think and feel with a sense of privacy. But I still spill my guts here from time to time. So, I consider this therapy.

And it keeps me cogitating. Good anti-Alzheimer's maneuver that.

It also makes me connect, somewhat, to the world. Good for that stubborn hermit streak of mine, that genetic reclusive trait.

As a new bloggy year starts, I continue to covet prayers, comments, questions, and friendship.

Thank you for hanging with The Mir, even when I'm cranky and a dolt. I'll try to be pleasanter this year to come.

But...um...you wouldn't want me too pleasant, right?

To quote from my first blog entry ever back on October 17, 2005, altering only the very last word to suit THIS occasion, I say this:

So, as the music plays, the earth turns, the sun burns, the books are printed, the internet buzzes, and the living God moves in the hearts of his people...let the Mirathon continue...