Thursday, November 30, 2006

Self-Published Authors: Reality & A Rant

Over at best-selling author Tess Gerritsen's blog, this:

A local self-published author had requested that the store arrange a booksigning for him, and she had turned him down flat. Enraged, he’d thrown the book on the floor and asked: “When the hell am I ever going to get a signing in this store?”

“When pigs fly,” she’d snapped at him. The man couldn’t accept the fact that their store almost never hosted signings by self-published authors — even if the author was local.

“Why not?” I asked. “Is it because of the quality of the books?”

“That’s only part of it,” she said. “The real reason is that we can’t return them.”

This was a revelation to me. She explained that when they order books from a subsidy (self-publishing) press, the books are non-returnable. If the store can’t sell them, then they’re stuck with them. And they lose money.



Now, back to the quality. I have yet to browse a vanity press novel that wasn't mediocre to awful. Pretty lousy is how I'd categorize the bulk. One, in all the time I've browsed these babies at author meetings and assorted signings or online, ONE was okay. I actually read-skimmed all the way to the end. But the subject matter was of intense interest to me, and that always helps.

So, expensive and usually crappy, that covers my experience with self-published novels.

Time for a personal snapshot of The Mir and The Vanity Novel: I was browsing amazon back in September. I'm a Beauty and the Beast fanatic, and once a year or so, I'll browse for new titles that might be related, so I do searches with key terms. This time, "beast." I came across this novel and read the reviews.

I got suspicious.

Look, I've been dealing with amazon.com since 1997 or '98, and I've ordered thousands and thousands of bucks worth of books from there, and browsed thousands more. After a while, you start noticing this thing where the reviews are just a bit overly gushy and often vague. Being cynical, I'll check into it, and sometimes find that the reviews are by friends and family (and churchmates or writer's-groupmates. You figure this out because a quick google gives you an author's site or MySpace, and you'll notice who posts and what they say. Connections. I don't take those reviews as worth a dime above spit. It's all family/friends/fellow-writers promo. (Disclaimer: Fellow writers CAN really love your book and write fine, genuine reviews--hey, I have--but the gush-factor and, excuse me for bluntness, some networking sort of hiney-kissing does go on.)

I don't blame the author for wanting to publicize and sell books. I do blame this sort of manipulation (where I've seen it clear-cut) that basically perpetrates a fraud. That is, you ask a bunch of family, friends, or even use mutiple amazon names to post glowing reviews for yourself. It makes it hard to get a real sense of a book's value to readers. Come on, none of us are gonna diss a sister's or brother's or aunt's or spouse's or best pal's book, even if it's pretty dismal.

One giveaway: The reviewer doesn't review any other book. Just the one they're wildly gushing over.

So, back to the novel linked above: Lots of over-the-top, wildly unrealistic seeming, gushy reviews on a book that's self-published and the reviews are mostly from one-time reviewers? Comparisons to Stephen King (as in "better than", Koontz, and Tolkien. "Piece of art." Yeah. And four reviews posted the same day (April 29). (Things that make you go hmmmm.)

My cynical button got pushed.

Concerted promo effort, mebbe?

PollyAnna Intrusion: Those MAY have been real reviews from strangers unknown to the author who just happened to buy an over-priced, vanity novel and thought it was deliriously wonderful.

Back to the tale: So, I searched for an excerpt of this wonder of prose (according to reviewers). View it here.

Keep going. That's just prologue. There's more.

You tell me. Better than King? Up there with Koontz? Rival to Tolkien? Prose art?

I got ragged on by one of the reviewers because I wrote a negative review without actually reading the book cover to cover. Um, tell me. Does that excerpt make you want to read the whole thing? Can you tell something of what's coming from the featured chapters? Isn't it fair to say, "Well, I read the sample chapters and this is not really well-written. Sample it yourself, readers, before believing the hype of these reviews."

My encounter with this novel only cemented my opinion of vanity published fiction. And, honestly, any self-published author who crowns herself the queen of pysch suspense and tells Stephen King to move over, better deliver--and how! That sort of hyperbolic marketing raises expectations. Meet 'em or get a negative review.

And trust me: Had the novel sample chapters lived up to the hype, I'd have bought it myself.

My advice to self-published authors:

Don't claim the throne of any genre on the basis of a vanity novel. That's just so lame.

Let others crown you queen or king of a genre: editors, agents, reviewers, a vast audience throwing money to read whatever you pen. That makes you publishing royalty. When you're the queen, you'll know it, everyone will know it, cause you'll be rich and your name will be on the top of the lists and every publisher will come a-courting with multi-book deals sweeter than tupelo honey.

Get someone with a solid grasp of grammar, usage, and fiction technique to edit your work, even if at the most minimal level. It's worth it to pay some struggling student out to get their M.A. in English to go over your opus. If you can pay to self-publish, then pay to get editorial feedback.

Have your relatives and friends be a bit more moderate in their praise. Or at least SANE in their praise. Comparisons to the top living writer in a particular genre is a bit much. Really, it is.

Consider writing three or four or seven more novels and nailing your craft before putting something out there. Tess Gerritsen had something to say on that as well.

Here’s the truth. I wrote three books that didn’t sell. And then I sold my fourth — to Harlequin. I have a good friend who wrote seven — SEVEN! — manuscripts that didn’t sell. Think of her desperation, her hunger, to be published. It had to be there, driving her, or she would have just given up. But she just kept going and wrote manuscript #8.

And it sold.

Think about that — writing seven books that don’t sell. Would you have the persistence to start writing #8? Do you accept the fact that, yes, there’s an apprenticeship involved in being a writer, a period of training that you will be forced to undergo before you finally understand what the craft is all about?

Superman Returns: Plusses & Minuses

I finally got SUPERMAN RETURNS from NetFlix. Hubby and I watched it last night, right before I zonked out on the couch. (Energy levels have been pretty pathetic.)

Some +'s and -'s :


Minuses:

~ Just me? Or was Lois really annoying, as in wanted to slap her annoying, during most of the first parts of the film?

~ The dog-eat-dog metaphor played out early on, while clever, grossed the Mir out.

~ Why, if he was affected by the kryptonite the first time, he bled and got bruised and nearly drowned, but recovered snap, just like that, in the seaplane? Why, if he was affected by kryptonite the second time, was he able to burn up and fall and not even get his hair mussed? Why did he not recover in a snap this time? I'm so confused.

~ Oh. Since when is Lois a lying, deceiving, ho-momma? (Don't get in my face. If a woman deceives one man into thinking a kid is his when it's another man's, she's a fricken ho.) This is what happens when one doesn't keep up with superhero gossip, I guess.

~ If Lois gets smacked around in that plane getting a series of concussion-worthy whacks on the head and full body slams against the cabin walls and floors and ceiling, and still manages to walk and see straight, why does a bang on the head render her unconscious for quite a spell?

~ Is someone really gonna get pro-camera, publishable ready results with a camera phone from a distance in the half-light of city streets at night? Come on!

~ I guess "and the American Way" is just too un-pc and so had to be severed from "truth and justice". (Women deceiving men and playing with their emotions and progeny, though, is now cool.)

~ Cops portrayed as idiots--once again, how cliche--who haven't the sense to run or duck or jump away from massive machine gun that's slowly aimed at them. Not cool.

~ With all the really serious injustice and untruthfulness going on in the world (other than a lying ho with the initials LL), why is Superman rescuing some woman in a runaway car and foiling a bank robbery? Why not break a white slave ring or rescue some children abducted by pervs and toss some third world dictator to Venus? (Okay, I know, I know, it's comic book world.)

Plusses:

~ Just me? Or was Superman really a cutiepie? (I never found any of the other non-Smallville Supermen all that appealing, and yeah, that includes Dean Cain.)

~ The rescue of the plane/shuttle combo? Righteous!

~ So, that's where Cyclops went after disappearing in X--Men: The Last Stand. Except for the hair, still cute and still playing second fiddle to a different superhero.

~ The flying effects: better than ever!

~ Gorgeous, romantic flying-with-Lois scene. Ahhhhh. (Even if she be a ho.)

~ Some rather nice musical moments.

~ Kevin Spacey.

~ I want the library in that yacht. I want it now.

~ I don't care if it's "red state-y". I liked the Christological allusions.

~ I admit it: I liked hearing Langella say, "Great Caesar's ghost!"

~ Bullet off the eye. Ubercool.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Been Busy Here Breaking Tradition

Well, missed y'all yesterday. :)

Actually, since Monday afternoon, we've been running around. Car buying makes me tired. And we had to fit in a hair upkeep session (we were way overdue for cuts, and me for a color refresh.)

Yeah. We got hubby a new car.

Today, we pick up his silver ext/black int Honda Accord EX sedan. It's having LoJack installed and they got done putting some special stuff on it so we don't have to wax for 5 years or so. Very nice.

It's hard to imagine my superhunky engineer being even sexier, but yes, he is, in his new, shiny ride. Whoa, Sweetcheeks!

And it was something of a milestone: our first foreign brand vehicle.

Here's the deal. My immigrant-refugee parents believed in buying American whenever possible. Nothing more patriotic than someone grateful to be allowed to live here (even when they'd have preferred to stay home sans a jerkwad, murdering thug dictator). So, my ma and pa always had American appliances, clothing...and cars: Ford, Chevy. My husband's parents, same deal: Ford, Chevy.

Since I've been with hubby (ie 24 1/2 years, if you count our year of dating), this has been our car history:

Hubby~Chevy, Buick, Ford, Chevy
Me~~~~Ford, Ford, Plymouth, Chevy, Chevy

My 8.5 year old Lumina has been pretty trouble-free. Hubby's Impala has not, and it's got 3.5 fewer years than mine. (Many more miles, though.) It's been irritating since months after purchase. A semi-lemon? When he'd take it in to the dealer, they weren't as understanding as the Mir would like. And that's when I started to wobble on "Buy American." And when we took it to another Chevy dealer for some repairs, and they actually left too little coolant in the car after a radiator flush, well, I started getting really ticked.

So, I told the apple of my eye to, this time, consider Japanese. I had researched the Consumer Reports and most reliable, etc, and kept coming up with two contenders: Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Hubby had originally set his heart on a Passat, but I said that German has gone down, not up, in terms of German auto perfectionism. He researched the VW Passat and realized he needed to take a pass on it. The numbers and customer satisfaction rationgs=not that great.

So, here we are, feeling weird, maybe a scosh unpatriotic. It's hard to shake one's upbringing. Hey, I'm the one who pays extra for work-out clothes made in the USA (more expensive than foreign-made), and who complained to a Sports Authority manager that I couldn't find a fricken non-Chinese-made athletic shoe! (I got a couple pairs of New Balance.) And why, if they pay Chinese workers crap, are the shoes seventy-five bucks and up, anyway? (I guess to pay those celebrity endorsers and free-wheeling execs?)

Yeah, there ya go. The gal who used to "look for the union label" has a Honda in the garage. I hope the reports are true and it's reliable and keeps my beloved safe for at least 8 years to come, if not more. (We don't like turning cars over quickly. Hubby kept one of his until it was 11 years old. I'm hoping my Chevy keeps running smoothly at least to 9.5 years or more.)

On the plus side, he got a really, really good deal on a better package than we had settled on. He got a better-rated car than the Impala, with more sweet extras, at less than he paid for the Impala in 2001. So, the hubster is muchly pleased.

And that makes ME happy. The 10K down hurt, but the small monthly financing bill won't. :)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Samantha Henderson Wows Me Again!

Triptych: Three Views of the Capture of the City of Bisanthe

Not a pleasant subject, but beautifully done, and the last lines, really unexpected and meaningful.

Very fast becoming one of my fave poets, Samantha is.

Martin's Giving Thanks for Cell Division

I've read several Thanksgiving related posts in blogs in the past week. Holidays make us do that sort of related-to-theme thing, after all. And most posts are thankful for the usual stuff: family, good food, health, love, good books, church, salvation, new experiences, new friends, old friends, a new home, an old home, children, grandchildren, etc.

But Martin at Sun & Shield blog gets the Mir Innovative Blog Entry Award in the topic of gratitude. In all the "thankful for" lists I've seen in my years of blog-reading, I hadn't come across, not once, a gracias for CELL DIVISION.

He's really into it, too:

As a male, I have had a group of cells, in my testes, where meiosis is happening all the time. I'm constantly producing new sperm. Each of these, because of the variety produced by meiosis, may be unique. Let's imagine that we have one of the little creatures by the tail, and can check on its chromosomes. Let's see. Chromosome 1 came from my dad. Chromosome 2 did, too. But chromosomes 3, 4, and 5 came from my mother, and 6 from my father. Over eight million possible combinations (2 to the 23rd power) are possible. And, it's more that that, much more than that. If I could really look at the chromosomes in a sperm, chromosome 2 might be seen to be mostly from my father, but with a little group of genes which came to me from my mother's chromosome 2. It seems possible that I never have, and never will, produce two sperm which are exactly alike.


Well, one of the numerous combinations that produced my husband was clearly one of the best in the history of cell division. That is some yummy variable-ing that mas has.

If it's been a while since you cracked a science book or took a biology class, read his entry. It's unintimidating and a "refresher." And he's right: Thank God for cell division!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Commenting on Comments: Dee, Valerie

Dee, I'm only entering (maybe) if they accept speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, magical realism). I don't do non-spec fic right now. Do you know if SF is acceptable to them?

Valerie, I've only heard about trouble posting from Karen. And if there are folks ou there who aren't able to post a comment, I wouldn't know cause, well, they can't comment. :) Unless they email me, I have no way of knowing. So, if any of you regular Blogger people can't post on my Beta Blogger Mirathon, drop me an email. My email is the name of this blog at aol dotsy com. If you CAN post and you're original Blogger, post here to say, "I can post and I'm not beta. See?"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Speculative Faith: TILL WE HAVE FACES

I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.
I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom
they can hurt me. My body, this lean carrion that still has to
be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so
many changes, they may kill as soon as they please. The succession
is provided for. My crown passes to my nephew.

Being, for all these reasons free from fear, I will write in this
book what no one who has happiness would dare to write. I will
accuse the gods, especially the god who live son the Grey Mountain.
That is, I will tell all he has done to me from the very beginning,
as if I were making my complaint of him before a judge. But there
is no judge between gods and men, and the god of the mountain will
not answer me.


I've started looking at a myth retold over at Speculative Faith. C.S. Lewis' TILL WE HAVE FACES, the opening paragraphs of which I've posted above.

Read it at: How To Bring Myths & Fairty Tales Back From the Dead and Into the Light: Lewis' TILL WE HAVE FACES

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Bring on the Order!

The brief Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix trailer.

Oh, boy!

(Oh, if only Sirius survived. Sniff.)

Dia De Accion de Gracias: Thanksgiving Day

Oh, the glory of it. For some reason, everything came out JUST right this year, and I had seconds, and of some items, thirds. I was, basically, immobile for hours. The day was a gorgeous, sunny, blue-sky, Miami November day. Cool, breezy, and full of light. Oh, joys.

Thank you, Lord, for every beautiful and wonderful and delightful thing you have made and given.

Amen.

I hope you were all able to share and enjoy and eat plentifully and relax.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sooner or Later God's Gonna Cut You Down...

Thanks to Elliot for the link to the World According to Paul blog where you can play the youtube.com video of the Man in Black (aka Johnny Cash) singing in a video crammed with celebrities. The blogger wonders if the celebs actually LISTENED to the lyrics of "God's Gonna Cut You Down."

The dialogue intro explains that Johnny identified with the "poor and downtrodden." Then the video parades a bunch of pampered, ridiculously rich celebs. Is this supposed to be ironic? A social statement? Do the celebrities understand the sort of judgment that is implied by the juxtaposition of lyrics and imagery?

Oh, and does someone know who the woman in tears is? I found that a touching moment. She seems genuinely grieved. Wasn't sure if it was one of Johnny's kids...

View it here.

And here are the lyrics so you can sing along with the Johnster:

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.

Go and tell that long tongue liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.

Well, my goodness gracious,
Let me tell you the news.
My heads been wet with the midnight dew.
I've been down on bended knee,
Talkin to the man from Galilee.
He spoke to me in a voice so sweet,
I thought I heard the shuffle of angel's feet.
He called my name and my heart stood still,
When He said "John, go do my will"

Go and tell that long tongue liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.

You may throw your rock, hide your hand,
Working in the dark against your fellow man.
But as sure as God made black and white,
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light.

You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.
Sooner, or later, gotta cut you down.

Go tell that long tongue liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter,
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.

DKA Poetry Contest First Prize: "Statuary"

John Kuhn's winning poem is up at DKA for your reading pleasure.

Here's the first stanza:


Shrouded, wound about in mists as ancient
as Leviathan, hidden as his yawning lair
Atlantis in clouded absinthian waters,
they lie, awaiting splendor’s blade to lay them bare.

To CSF Writers: Current Needs at DKA

Selena Thomason, managing editor of Dragons, Knights & Angels has posted an update on editorial needs at the DKA FORUM:

...we are currently overstocked on poetry. We have poems scheduled through May.

That doesn't mean you can't submit poems. It just means that right now we have the luxury of being extra picky, and that any poems accepted now would not be published until June at the earliest.

We are currently scheduling fiction for February.


Remember, we are open to short stories of either science fiction or fantasy. Please be aware that the magazine's title is evocative of genre and is not the binding guideline for story parameters (ie. we don't particularly seek stories with those three elements.)

Read the DKA Vision Statement to see if your story fits our needs. Please do not submit anything longer than 7K words.

(Mini-Rant: I prefer stories much shorter stories. I've noticed that the longer ones always need revision for padded writing--redundancy, awkward and rambling sentences, useless scenes, etc.) The length should be used for pertinent content. A story should be longer because it is more complex and needs space, and not because one has sloppy prose and can't get a grip on one's clauses. Rant off.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Nancy Grace Sued By Melinda Duckett's Kin

Transcript of Nancy Grace interviewing the mother, father, and great-grandma of missing child Trenton Duckett.

I didn't see the show. I don't watch cable news channels and haven't for, whew, nearly a year. But I do remember seeing Miss Grace on tv in the past, and she has the cross-examination style of an aggressive attorney. Everyone knows it. Her guests surely don't go in blind.

(As you read it, you'll see the progression of the questions is very like a cross-examination of someone on the stand.)

Given that she has a reputation for being, ahem, a bulldog on her programs, anyone agreeing to come on her show must have a clue that things won't be a barrage of plesantries.

Right off the bat confession: I don't believe she's responsible for Melinda Duckett's tragic suicide. I think the lawsuit is an exercise in lawyerly greed and a family feeling a bit too much strain...and maybe wanting bucks, too. I never underestimate the human desire for filthy lucre, or even clean lucre. I am cynical enough about lots of similar lawsuits to factor in greed all around.

I think Duckett was just a woman stressed to the max and, well, probably ready to do something extreme even prior to coming on the show. Prior behavior that backs this up includes these events as documented in this article from the ORLANDO SENTINEL:

~"She would eventually tell a psychologist that an older cousin molested her when she was 4. Melinda threw temper tantrums and during her first year of high school started cutting herself with razor blades to 'fit in with the skater crowd,' one psychologist's evaluation noted."

~"So outraged by Massero washing her son on his first Halloween, Melinda slapped the woman and bit her arm so hard it bled, an Okeechobee Sheriff's Office report stated.

'She said that something overcame her,' the report said. 'She said that she hated people and she did not know why.'"

~"Josh said Melinda later told him that she had oral sex with the investigating officer that night in front of the baby.

Furious, Josh told Bushnell's police chief, Joyce Wells, a family friend. He called Melinda in front of Wells and put their conversation on speaker phone.

Hearing Melinda say she 'was going to end it all,' Wells placed Melinda into custody for psychiatric observation. DCF removed Trenton from Melinda and placed him with Josh."


~"One psychologist in July 2005 invalidated Melinda's personality-profile-test results because of 'an attempt by Ms. Duckett to appear better than she may be,' the DCF case file said. But it added that nothing would stop Melinda 'from being a capable and loving parent to her son.'"

~"The boy eventually was removed from both parents and placed in foster care for four days after police learned about the couple's domestic violence."

~"Ultimately, though, the couple's pettiness pervaded their decisions, creating serious concerns among DCF workers months before Trenton disappeared.

One caseworker said she 'would not be surprised if he ended up getting hurt someday because of their [his parents'] constant verbal fighting,' according to a January DCF case log of telephone calls."

~"In the weeks before Trenton's disappearance, Melinda filed for divorce and got a temporary restraining order against Josh. But it was based on a false, threatening e-mail that investigators later proved Melinda wrote. It was part of the evidence that led police to label her the prime suspect in her son's reported abduction."



Too bad the family that is eager (mayhaps) to profit financially NOW didn't take better care and watch over her THEN, when Melinda obviously needed a vigilant and loving family around her. Even their lawyer declares that the woman was terribly distraught. Well, where the hell were they? What actions did they take to make sure the highly distraught woman didn't do something tragic, as she did? (Okay, that might not be fair, but it is what comes to my mind. The whole lot of em are irritating me--tactless interviewers, money-seeking relatives, money-grubbing lawyers, and whoever took the boy and made this whole situation happen. THAT's who the parents should save their legal actions for.)

I find the lawsuit a tad ghoulish. Period.

(I'd feel differently if the family swore they would give every penny to some charity that helps kids and the lawyers were doing it totally pro-bono.)

I would add this: Authorities, who said last week they believe the boy is alive, have named Melinda Duckett as the prime suspect in his disappearance.


It wasn't just a host of DCF folks, mental health personnel, the legal authorities, and Nancy Grace herself who noted some oddity in Melinda's reactions or behavior. The psychologist on the CNN program under the spotlight is quoted in the transcript, stating the following:

{DR LILLIAN} GLASS: This doesn`t make any sense to me. And the fact that she`s skirting around the issue and can`t get to the point concerns me a lot. Her reaction is not the typical reaction of a mother who has a missing child, whose child was taken from the bed when she says I don`t cry my eyes out. Most people would be emotional about it and the fact that she`s been skirting the issue through this entire interview concerns me.


(And for a history of this woman's messed up life and behavior, including an earlier diagnosis of depression and violence read THIS. She was a very unstable person.)

Well, I read the transcript and what's interesting is how Melinda and her husband differ in two major areas. 1. He says the boy was a very light sleeper, easily roused. She says he was a heavy sleeper. They can't both be right there. 2. He says he took a polygraph when asked by authorities and has cooperated with all levels of law enforcement. She is oddly evasive in answering questions about whether she submitted to a polygraph and says she only cooperates with the FBI.

I will add that Josh Duckett has his own credibility issues, which you'll note in the article I referenced before from the ORLANDO SENTINEL.

Melinda Duckett also says in the CNN interview that one of her friends with her that night (one of two guys present) has "disappeared." Nancy corrects that with the police saying they know exactly where both men are.

What really left me scratching my head waas her refusing to name a store after claiming to have driven around shopping for a long time. Well, that was weird. How hard is it to say, "Yeah, I dropped by WalMart for shampoo and diapers," or "I got some batteries at Home Depot."

Here, tell me if this doesn't seem odd:

GRACE: Melinda, where had you been with him that day?

MELINDA DUCKETT: All we had basically been out is driving around. There is something about a convenience store. I don`t know where that came into play because whenever I go out somewhere, you know, I always have gas. I`m not shorthanded with anything. And I`m always prepared for it all.

GRACE: So where had you been that day?

MELINDA DUCKETT: We had been all through Lake county and up into Orange.

GRACE: Doing what?

MELINDA DUCKETT: Basically just shopping, going around driving.

GRACE: Shopping where?

MELINDA DUCKETT: Well we didn`t go anywhere specific.

GRACE: Well I mean if you went shopping you had to go into a store. What store did you go into on Sunday?

MELINDA DUCKETT: We went throughout the county.

GRACE: Any store? I`m thinking of video cameras Melinda. I mean maybe they have a picture of someone watching you, following you back out to your car. I mean what store did you go to, Wal-Mart, JCPenney`s, what?

MELINDA DUCKETT: I`m not going to get in any specifics.

GRACE: Why?

MELINDA DUCKETT: Because I`m not dealing with media very well.




You know, after reading it, I can understand why Nancy Grace got bulldoggy. I probably would have, too, though in a gentler way (hey, it is the kid's mom, after all). I'm not a lawyer, though. I'm not someone used to seeing parents be the actual abusers or killers of their kids, the way criminal justice folks are.

What it comes down to: The woman "reads" somewhat suspicious on the transcript. :::shrug:::

Doesn't mean she did anything remotely wrong. Well, other than the amateur porn stuff, which, hey, I think is seriously skanky, and more, abusive if the husband's verification that a porn image of an act of fellatio is, indeed, Melinda doing said act while the child had a high-chair view of the disgusting goings-on. I cannot tell you how much THAT grosses me out and makes her way less sympathetic, if true...IF true. But some is true (if not the horror I just described):

Nude photographs of Melinda Duckett, including one image where she is straddling a child's crib and another explicit video where the sound of a crying baby can be heard in the background surfaced in the missing boy investigation and caused concerns for detectives, the report said.


If you read the transcript, tell me: Can you see there why a blazing, "hang the criminals" kind of lawyer-interviewer would dig into someone who comes across as vague or evasive in this serious type of case where a boy's life may hang in the balance?

I suspect the folks calling for Nancy's head just can't stand Nancy Grace. Period. It's not about the suicide, it's about not liking Nancy's hardcore, anti-crime, "lock em up and throw away the key" stance.

Well, I'm not liking the "Something bad happened, so let's find someone to blame and make moolah" stance.

I wish Melinda Duckett was alive to defend herself, help the authorities, and have suppers with her family.

And I pray the boy is found, soon, and that he's alive and well and be able to heal from the incident and the loss of his mom.

Not Pleased with Beta Blogger

Since I switched over, I'm not automatically updating with Technorati. When I pink them manually, nada. It doesn't update.

Oh, and the RSS feed is wonky.

AND...some weird, Swedish-looking capital A's have appeared next to some links on my sidebar.

AND...it doesn't seem to keep me logged in even when I click "remember me."

On this blog, I don't use the customization features of Beta Blogger. (I have a custom lay-out, not a Blogger one) I guess I should have just stayed with the old Blogger.

Think before you switch. Maybe wait until they take the "beta" out of it and fix the glitches.

I'm really bristling over the ping thing, though.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lisa Samson Interviewed at Novel Journey

Let me say up front, I love Lisa Samson's "look". I love her face. When I see pics of her, I want to approach that face and talk right to it. I love her perky hair, her smart-but-cool gal glasses. Plus, she can write. That always scores points with me. And she admits to being undisciplined--which I don't totally believe, given she's completed several novels. That belies that whole "undisciplined" thing. Maybe she's just not AS disciplined as, say, a really anal kind of person.

*I* am undisciplined. In fact, I should have a pin or badge of some kind that says, "Stand Back. Chaotic Chick in the Vicinity"

Anyway, all that to say that you should run over to Novel Journey and read the Interview with the wonderful Lisa "Love her Face" Samson.

Here's a snippet:

Most of what I find discouraging about Christian fiction lies more in the lap of the industry itself. And I'll just leave it there, except to say, should Christian “anything” ever have become an industry? It’s a tension, me being a part of that industry, that I live with every day.


I suppose my answer would be that at one time, no, you wouldn't have had "Christian" separated as a literary grouping/industry, because the culture was Christian-friendly. But once the culture became hostile to Christianity, and many editors in the secular publishing houses not welcoming of fiction that Christians wanted to read that had overtly Evangelical and conservative themes and characters, that, yeah, the division sort of presented itself. I understand why it's there. Even so, I also grapple with the same sort of frustration Lisa does about it's being there, with the limitations it imposes.

Anyway, go and read. Look for pics of her. Maybe you'll love her face, too.

FUGITIVES OF CHAOS, A Review: WOW!

I am hard to please. Every year, I leave dozens and dozens of books unfinished, merely partially read. I've left some, bored, in the middle of the first chapter. If the story doesn't grab me and hold me fast, I'm gone. Buh-bye. I'm too old to waste my time on books that don't zap my brain or soul into the pleasure zone pretty dang fast.

All that to say that even being sick and gaspy and sleepy and a mess this weekend, I could not put down Fugitives of Chaos except by actual force of necessity. (ie, I needed to visit my nephew for his pirate birthday party or I needed to sleep.)

Did not want to put it down. Wanted to tuck it inside my shirt and read it surreptitiously between offering clues to the buried treasure. (I was the Hermit of Skull Rock, my brother was the Ancient Fisherman, my sister was the Beauteous Mermaid then the Giant Squid then the Dread Barracuda, and my husband was the Handsome Captain of the Ship Called Shed, meaning he sat by the utility shed to hand out the clue.) Arrrr, mateys. Now, go away. The Hermit wants to pillage this here novel, ARRRrrrrr.

SPOILERS FOR ORPHANS OF CHAOS AHEAD:

If you read part one, Orphans of Chaos, then you already have an idea of what mythy delights, brainy goings on, teenage angst, sea monster & Colin sex-on-the-brain subplots, super suspense, life-and-death battling awaits you in part two of the Chaos Trilogy: Fugitives of Chaos...

When last we left our intrepid orphans-who-are-not-orphans, or even human, for that matter, they had been foiled in their daring and delicious attempt to escape from the British boarding school-that-is-no-mere-school and the menacing staff-who-are-also-not-made-up-of-humans. We got to follow the youth-who-are-but-are-not-really-young through the sometimes humorous, sometimes scary, always fascinating discovery of their identities and powers.

But, having been foiled, they have had their memories of the previous weeks erased.

Fortunately, our plucky and fast-thinking narrator, Amelia, who is really Phaethusa (daughter of Helios and Neaera), and who can see and pass into the fourth dimension--and see such things that will blow your reading wee mind--well, Amelia is not long for the land of amnesia. And good thing, too. Because it wouldn't do to have her forget all the amazing stuff she found out in part one.

To catch you up to speed: The headmaster Boggins is really Boreas, the North Wind, who, when he spreads his wings in his pirate pants is something of a sexy bad boy. The staff includes a siren, a witch, a Cyclopes, an Atlantean, and Grendel (yeah, that Grendel, as in BEOWULF). And they are all keeping the "orphans" as hostages, pawns in a Cold War of sorts between Olympians and Titans. As long as the Olympians hold the kids hostage, the Titans do not make a move on Earth or Olympus.

But the kids are sick of being hostages. They want to go home.

If they go home, all heavens and hells and dimensions break loose.

Oh, isn't your mouth just watering?

Note: A review of the Greek mythological stuff you learned in school--or that I hope you learned in school--would not be amiss, particularly the stories relating to the Titanomachy, the war of the Titans. The names comes fast and furious in part one, and if you have forgotten your Hesiod or Homer or Bullfinch's or Hamilton or etc, you may have to read slowly to get your bearings. But once you do, part two is a snap. John C. Wright's prose is clean and brisk and brimming with pertinent dialogue, so you'll be oriented soon enough.

So, our brave and gifted would-be-aviatrix Amelia, at the close of book one, manipulates the chemical with which she's about to be injected so that it has free will. Yes, the chemical intended to blank her memory of knowledge and escape and capture is now able to decide what it will do within Amelia's body.

ENTER BOOK TWO, wihch for some reason doesn't have the glossy cover like book one. What up with that?

"I was dead for about half a day."

Amelia reawakens, memory gone, so much that it's quite suspicious.

Then, "Her arm liked her. Her arm was friendly. A warm, tail-wagging, puppy-like, unabashed friendliness radiated from one motionless spot above her elbow."

The chemical doesn't act against Amelia and the memories return.

The orphans now proceed, in their usual ingenious and fun-to-follow fashion (with all attendant subterfuge and danger), to find ways to break the blocks one each of them, one by one, so that they can recapture their knowledge and powers. It's not a simple process. As the story unwinds, Amelia finds herself once more at the mercy of Grendel, who is in some serious me-wanna-her-for-missus groove and carries Amelia to his lair. You get to find out more than you may want to about the life of a man-eating, sea-dwelling groom. Heroic feats gain them freedom. As fugitives, on the run across Britain, then across the world, they must grow in their skills, and fast. They must also make tough decisions while evading eavesdropping winds and spirits. And they must survive the deadly fury of a terrifying sea monster, because if they don't survive, if they are killed, the whole Earth is doomed.

War is coming, again. Titans vs. Olympians. And five kids-who-are-not kids are smack in the middle of the power plays. Good thing they are formidable kids.

I was actually breathless during one part of their daring escape scene--whree they attempt to recover the items of power relating to each which are kept in a special safe--and would just start reading aloud to my husband. And the discussions about who trumps whose powers, the dialogues about paradigms--superb!

I found only one scene uncomfortable. And those of you who've read it can probably guess which one. (Hint: Sappho might have approved.) Seemed a tad on the gratuitous side. But, that's my only quibble. I thought the evolution of the five in part two was terrifcally well done, and the cliffhanger ending is making me totally nuts.

Which is good. Means I want more. And I don't always want more.

Gosh, do I really have to wait five months for the conclusion? :::biting nails:::



Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rickshaw Run:
Daughter & Dad & 2000 Miles


2 weeks, 3 wheels, 2000 miles and more adventure than you could shake curry at!

What better way to enjoy the Christmas holidays than two weeks of mountains, mud tracks, tropical heat, gin & tonics, cricket and that most noble of vehicular genius, the three wheeled motorised rickshaw.
--from the official site of the Rickshaw Run

My pal in Seattle, Dave Taylor, mentioned this adventure he was about to set off on about a month or so ago. I promptly forgot.

I just got an email that he's ready to fly off Monday, first Italy, ahhhhhhh, with wife; then India, with daughter. Since they're raising funds for a good cause (ie, help a poor Indian family), I'm sharing their soon-to-come adventure in the hope that 1. you'll follow their progress and pray for their safety, 2. enjoy the humor as they blog about it (or I think they'll be blogging about it), and 3. support their cause.

Writing-related sidenote:
Dave's brother is Jim Taylor, whose name you may have heard during assorted Oscar broadcasts as he's been involved in writing screenplays in La-La-Land for many well-known films: Election, About Schmidt, Sideways (for which he earned an Oscar with writing partner Alexander Payne).


Dave is one of the good guys. He's helped folks around the globe out of a brimming love of God and for people. I met him a bit before he was off to a medical missionary trip to Kenya (ie, the environs you saw when you watched parts of OUT OF AFRICA). This trip, they aim to raise funds to purchase, outright, a working auto-rickshaw that a poor family can use to provide a decent income. See right for a pic of what the vehicle looks like. (Hey, I saw those in AMAZING RACE!)

Dave's also a hoot. Really funny. I remember our gatherings with mutual pals in private chat rooms on AOL in the 90's, when he kept me in stitches. And, happily, he found my sense of humor equally chucklesome.

Visit their dad-daughter blog--he's flathead, she's fastener--To Be Sorted.

If you want to support the purchase of the auto-rickshaw for an Indian family, go here to DONATE. All trip expenses are paid by Dave and family, so every bit of the donation goes to purchase the auto-rickshaw that some family will receive gratis.

Dave, get lots of smooches from the dear missus during the Italy phase, and God protect you and Susan during the Indian phase. May you make many fine new pals and never have a single day's woe.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Winner of the Three Landon Snow Books!

The name I picked out of the sack was Karen (Val's niece). Congrats to you!

Karen, I need your name and snail mail addy to get those out to you. Email me at Mirathon atsy aol dotsy com

And thanks to all who entered.

Part Four of Fairy Tales & Myths
Series at Speculative Faith is Posted

Okay, I'm tired and sleepy, but the post is up. (Still could use prayers for the breathing and energy, thanks.)


Part Four of How To Bring Myths & Fairy Tales Back From the Dead and Into the Light: From Wolves to Lewis' "Soul"

And speaking of fairy tales retold, I posted a rambly review of THE GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale over at the DKA forum. Scroll down to "Reviews."

Yawn. Nite-nite.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

If You've Been Meaning To Buy ARENA. . .

...Then you better hurry. If you want it new, that is.

ARENA, Karen Hancock's first novel is now a member of the out-of-print set. So, get your new copy while you can.


Karen blogged on it here.

If you want to get a copy, use my portal, why don't ya?

"Daily Sacrament" Short Story Contest

Relief Journal and Faith in Fiction blog are sponsoring the "Daily Sacrament" Short Story Contest. Here are the particulars:

Andre Dubus writes of cooking an omelet and it becomes a holy moment. Marilynne Robinson takes the acts of baptism and communion out of their churchly garb and gives them new resonance and depth. Inspired by examples like these, the "Daily Sacrament" short story contest will challenge you to explore the everyday in light of the eternal--or the sacred in the surroundings of the commonplace.

Reading Period: January 1 - March 15, 2007
Prize: Winner will receive $250 and publication in Relief Journal.
Runners-up: Published on the faith*in*fiction blog.
Word Limit: 10,000


To find out more about the kind of fiction Relief Journal publishes, we encourage writers to visit our site at www.reliefjournal.com and order a copy of the publication.

Relief will accept submissions online at a new contest site that will be unveiled when the reading period begins.

To read an interview with Relief fiction editor, Jon Mark Bertrand, then go here.

Mick Silva Channeling C.S. Lewis? Oh, yeah!

If you are in the mood for a Screwtapian bit of a rant, visit Mick at his blog.

A sample:

Dearest Wormwood,

I smiled for the first time in a long while today. Can you guess what I was thinking? Of the impressive work you’ve done in removing that horrible stain of “good reason and common sense” from the torpid minds of our feeble enemies. That there are no longer any categories with which to define a discussion of high-quality Christian books is certainly cause for celebration, and your accomplishment of highest pride to me. And yet, not only have you convinced them there are no categories, you’ve conclusively proven that there is no one capable of interpreting even basic definitions of good and bad literature, the very thought of which has become ridiculous!

Landon Snow 3-Book Set Giveaway:
Last Chance To Be Entered To Win

Here are the names I have listed for the giveaway. If I in a moment of brainlessness somehow overlooked you, just post a comment to this entry and I'll add you.

I'll announce the winner Friday. :)

The names so far:

Valerie Comer
Deborah
Beth Goddard
Chris Mikesell
Todd Michael Greene
jesterhawk
Jane Lebak
Janey DeMeo
Kimberly M.
Karen (Val's niece)
Matt Mikalatos

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Decline of My Local Post Office Branch

Maybe I should say decline, improvement, and decline of my P.O.

When we first moved here in 1997, the mail was okay. Then the mail carrier who'd been working here steadily moved routes, and we ended up in mail hell. Packages rightly addressed sent back to vendors. Mail missing. Bills arriving, but one or two weeks, or one or two months late. I made two contacts to the manager of the P.O. to find out what the heck was up.

Then it got better. For years, just trifling things.

Now, this has been the year of calling the P.O. to find out why the heck the neighbors are getting my mail and I'm getting theirs. (Most cases, I got theirs, they DIDN'T get mine, so where's mine?) Then, in the past 6 weeks, one cd lost, one hardcover novel lost--and I'm being generous, when my inclination is to say STOLEN-- bills arriving weeks lates, meaning one or two days before "due dates".

I even got attitude from the USPS person who took my call about the missing book. You know, that tone of voice that says, "Why are you bothering me? I really don't give a damn."

Before I moved to this house, I had one incident with the P.O. in 37 years. I used to shake my head at P.O. jokes, because I'd had no trouble getting or sending my stuff, no more than usual, ya know?

But I've moved into the United States Post Office route run by the aliens from Planet Doofus, apparently.

Sigh.

Next time we move, I may check out the neighbors of our intended mail route to see if they have Doofusians overseeing their mail, cause, really, that would be a deal-killer for me.

Flags of Our Fathers,Whines of Their Whelps?

For the Watergate generation, however, unmasking dirty politicians is always what it is about. "See, if we can unmask corruption in the establishment, maybe nobody will see the rot and inconsistency and meaninglessness of our own disastrous sexual revolution racked lives. If we can say that "The Greatest Generation" wasn't really that great, maybe we can drown out the voices of our kids who hate us for our selfishness? If we can say that there are no heros, even on a place like Iwo Jima, then maybe we can rid ourselves of the uneasiness we feel for our own pampered narcissitic lives?"
--Barbara Nicolosi on the film FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

Read the entire ranty review here.

Hat tip to Carmencita.

A BAD IDEA:
The Mir Interviews The Hafer Brothers


Todd and Jedd Hafer, who clearly have a deep connection to the letter D, have written a new novel titled BAD IDEA: A Novel With Coyotes. Since "bad ideas" are always a good idea for fiction--can't get enough trouble, anyone?--I'm featuring an interview with the deltaphilic siblings about their road-trip novel with a Christian spirit.

Since we featured a youth-oriented book earlier this week (CSFF Blog tour), we move to a bit older youth audience in this book. If you have teenagers, pay attention.

I should add, this is a Mir-Style interview. I've only done one other one so far on Miration. (See last year's with M-Nog Griffith, done in Chick Lit style cause she writes in that genre). This time, I was clearly unmedicated when I concocted my questions. Or overmedicated. Or supercaffeinated. Take your pick.

Before we get to the Q&A, a bit about BAD IDEA:

1. Excerpt is up and ready for you to peruse at CBD's website. Read it now.

2. Christian fiction author of over 100 books, Melody Carlson, has this to say about it: ""Wow! What a story! Written with aching reality and irreverent humor, this gut-wrenchingly honest novel takes the reader on an unforgettable road trip to the land of Growing Up and Getting Real."

3. Christian Fiction Review gushed this: "Bad Idea is written in a very easygoing style, reminiscent of Brad Whittington or Lisa Samson. Griffin's rambling narrative is great fun to read. In between his sardonic snipes and self-deprecating rants, Griffin comes across as someone who would be fun to know... but someone who is genuinely hurting.

The Hafer brothers know what they're talking about when it comes to working with teenagers, and it shows. Griffin's struggles are realistic and painful to read about. At the same time, there's plenty of humor to lighten things up and keep it from being too depressing."


4. Key Life Lesson #1 according to BAD IDEA: "If you're going to grab an ostensibly dead coyote by the paws and attempt to drag him someplace, you sould confirm the death first."

All righty, then. With all that set-up, it's on to the interview and assorted indirect references to Gerard Butler, because, well, Mir thinks he's a superdupertastyilicious bit of haggis:



Mir: Hi, Todd and Jedd. My blog audience is mostly interested in speculative fiction, graphic novels, women's fiction (romance, chick lit), poetry, Christianity, science-fiction and fantasy movies and television programs, the craft of writing, and one particularly photogenic celebrity from Scotland.

On top of that, not since W. Dale Cramer's really fabulous BAD GROUND have I bought and read a novel that focused on the older male/younger male relationship. (Which, hey, do novels featuring young male protagonists tend to have BAD in the title?) So, brothers Hafer, what about BAD IDEA is a good idea for my blog audience and for me. Why should we hop over to amazon.com or CBD to buy and then read it?

T&J: BAD IDEA is hilarious. It will make you laugh, think and possibly weep. There is nothing cliche, nothing formula about it. It's fresh and honest. Just read it.

Mir: Would there happen to be a particularly photogenic Scot on the back or inside cover? If not, what's gonna keep us mesmerized?

T&J: Afraid not, but there is a coyote on the cover. Within the book, there is a very attractive young man (the main character's best friend). There are no pictures, so you'll have to imagine. You'll be mesmerized by Griffin's (the main charcter) voice. He's incredibly witty, insightful and messed up all at the same time.

Mir: What is the central message of this novel, and why did that message connect with you strongly enough that you committed to a lot of time writing, since we know writing can be horrendously, insanely difficult work?

T&J: We just tried to write an authentic story. We didn't set out to preach. The most powerful messages seem to be about grace and forgiveness - and hidden pain. Griffin looks like a healthy, together young man. Below the surface, he's got more issues than National Geographic.

Mir: What was your writing experience as you wrote BAD IDEA--your writing schedule, inspiring snacks, favorite references, spiritual upkeep, key verses from Scripture?

T&J: We live in separate cities, so we talk on the phone almost every day. We also email snippets back and forth constantly. Interestingly, we both listen to a lot of the same music: Third Day, Danny Oertli, Sixpence, Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, Rich Mullins, DC Talk - these could make up the sound track for Bad Idea as well as our other books. Krispy Kreme donuts are essential to writing. Todd has a location much closer to his house, which is why he's the more productive writer of the two. We both write late at night after our enormous families have finally passed out. While we're writing, we're also reading - The Bible (another great book you just have to check out), Max Lucado, CS Lewis and many others.

T&J: Did you, in fact, manage not to go insane during the process of revision(s)? If so, what advice can you give to writers currently walking that tightrope between sanity and madness as they shape a novel of faith?

T&J: It's tough. Rest assured, the journey to insanity for either of us would be a short commute. We were blessed top have a wonderful editor and creative team from Navpress/Th!nk for this novel. If they weren't so brave, or if they didn't get us, it would've been so painful. We feel like we write pretty clean, so, hopefully editors and the like are less tempted to butcher. That's the advice: submit stuff that's already in good shape. If you hand in a mess, it's going to get seriously reworked and some of your intended meaning will be lost, no matter how skillful the editor.

Mir: What about your protagonist(s) really stands out, since he's not an alien or a half-elf assasin or even a brooding superhero with a Scottish brogue and roguish good looks?

T&J: We're regretting not making him Scottish - although we never specify that he ISN'T. As we said earlier, his voice is uniquely witty, tortured, self-deprecating and brutally honest (even about his own lack of honesty). Some have compared him to Holden Caulfield, but he's smarter, funnier and not quite as depraved and self-absorbed. He's real.

Mir: (Note: I detest Holden Caulfield and will never reread CATCHER IN THE RYE unless someone holds a very sharp ax to my neck.) When I saw the subtitle of BAD IDEA--"a novel with coyotes--I was wondering if you meant coyotes that howl and have fur or coyotes that smuggle aliens into the country, or even if you, by chance, meant both. So, which kind of coyote, and is this a really clever sort of metaphor we should be paying special attention to?

T&J: The coyote is both real and metaphoric. Griffin encounters an all-too-real coyote and that sets the stage for much of the story. Griffin feels that the coyote is his "brother" - that they are kindred spirits. You'll have to read to find out why.

Mir: If I gave BAD IDEA as a gift to some teenaged person of my acquaintance, what graphic novel or comic book would go nicely with it as a packaged gift deal?

T&J: Tough question. If the teenager is a girl, you could select one of Melody Carlson's True Colors series (depending on the issues the young lady may face - each color in the series speaks about a certain issue). For the boy, we'd recommend Donald Miller's To Own a Dragon (not a novel, but great nonetheless). Griffin is a fan of Robin from Batman, so we'd go with an old Batman & Robin comic book.

Mir: If Jesus was scheduled to read an excerpt from BAD IDEA at a writer's conference--something prestigious, of course, such as the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing--what chapter do you think he'd read from, so we know when to pay really close attention. Can you give us a brief excerpt--a couple paragraphs, say--of the passage Jesus would read out loud?

T&J: Wow. Hopefully He could find something better to read than our nonsense. Jesus probably wouldn't need to resort to quoting anything other than scripture, but... and this is just a guess {quote to come, I don't have the book w/ me right now}.

(Mir Note: Never got a quote, so if you read the novel, why don't you drop me a comment with what passage YOU think Jesus would read at the Festival of Faith.)

Mir: Is this a novel which may result in a sequel? Will the sequel have any aliens, superheroes, hunky Scottish actors, or were-coyotes rampaging through a national park? If no sequel is planned, what will be your next fictional project?

T&J: Yes, there is a sequel. It will be called FROM BAD TO WORSE: A Novel With Girls. The super hero Robin may make a return (he's not really very 'super' though). We're finishing it now and are very excited for Griffin's return.

Mir: If you had to describe BAD IDEA in 10 words or fewer during the last five seconds of the David Letterman show, because David ran late, and you were the final guests, how would you plug it so that the audience would murmur, "Ooooooooooh, I want that book"?

T&J: "A hilarious journey to grace and understanding (with coyotes) - nice tie, Dave"
ps: Everybody in the audience who buys Bad Idea gets a free canned ham!

Mir: If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you pose that you've always wanted to be asked, and what answer would you or your doppelganger give?

T&J: Can we say "doppelganger" on the internet? I'd ask how we can be so brilliant and so ingratiatingly humble at the same time? Then, the other one of me would answer, "I just don't know. It boggles the mind, doesn't it?"

Mir: Thanks for answering my whack questions, gentlemen. Feel free to add any other interesting tidbits about BAD IDEA or your own experiences writing this novel that you'd like to have prospective readers know.

T&J: We appreciate the opportunity. We love to hear from readers via our website: haferbros.com. Thanks and keep reading!



If you'd like to feature or interview the Hafer brothers on your site and have saner questions than mine (which, let's face it, would hardly rank as a major journalistic feat), contact Rebeca Seitz at Glass Road PR. Rebeca's a doll, and the Hafer's are very patient. Notice how they didn't tell me to buzz off, crazy lady.

Add'l Info:

Todd is editorial director for the inspirational book division at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri.

Jedd is director at The Children's Ark in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a home for troubled teens, and travels the country as a standup comedian.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mir and NaNoWriMo: Well, The Flash I'm Not

I'm strolling along. In the 10 days of my NaNoWriMo experience (I take Sundays off), I've written 9392 words. I've got 37 and a bit pages done.

If I were on pace, I'd be up to 22,100 words.

I need some brilliant idea for how to fashion the escape-before-torture scene. Bleh.

So...No, I haven't shot that internal editor in the head; yes, I still fiddle with passages more than I should. And I've written more pages on that novel in 13 days than I had in the previous 4 months.

Yeah, NaNoWriMo has been a good idea.

I haven't sat down to do today's pages yet. I hope to crack 10K. If I'm lucky, 11K. Well, okay, not lucky. Just not so damn fiddly and edity.

Onward to the end...

John C. Wright's Gut Check on Abortion

If you haven't been following the various post on the subject of abortion over at John C. Wright's livejournal.com blog, and if this is an issue that matters to you(and it should if you really do champion the most basic human rights), then head over there.

I am aware that a science fiction writer addressing any hotly-contested great issue of the day runs the risk of alienating the friendship and loyalty of otherwise kindhearted readers. While I would like nothing better than not to offend my dear patrons, certain debates are worth following to the end, without fear or favor, going only where the truth leads. I was a philosopher long before I was an entertainer, and so it is with an apology that I must continue to discuss an awkward topic. I will lose some readers, for which I am sorry. But most science fiction fans are made of sterner stuff, and do not fear ideas, even unpopular ideas. Indeed, the ability to see both sides of any issue, or to think the future might hold a different opinion than the current consensus, is one thing that makes speculative fiction speculative. Other genres cannot make this boast.


If you are not interested, or if you want to retain a good opinion of me, read no further.


His position, both righteous (but not self-righteous) and merciful only increases my good opinion of him.

CSFF Blog Tour:
R.K. Mortenson and Landon Snow

When Landon Snow's old Bible flips its pages to the story of Noah's ark, he and his sister Holly know that they're about to set off on another adventure in magical lands. Or waters, in this case, as Landon and his two sisters find themselves trapped in the rapidly flooding library of Button-Up, Minnesota!
--Dru Pagliassotti, The Harrow

LANDON SNOW AND THE ISLAND OF ARCANUM starts off with sports stuff. Now, anyone who knows The Mir knows I loathe watching most sports (I cut the Olympic track and swim events some slack), and, above all, I can't stand football. So, while that may count against it for me, that may be a PLUS on your "stuff I like in books" scale.

The Harrow review continues:

Publicized as a non-sorcerous alternative to the Harry Potter series, the Landon Snow novels use Biblical passages as the vehicle through which the Auctor — God — provides Landon with hints about his next adventure, and it is hope and faith, rather than magic, that the characters rely on for their success. While the Landon Snow novels don't offer the complexity and depth of Potter's world of wizards and Muggles, they are prosocial fantasy adventures that emphasize faith and family and avoid the moral shades of gray that have disturbed some Christians about the Potter novels.



In Bonnie Williams' article titled "R.K. Mortenson: The Author, The Father, And The Navy Chaplain,"
Landon's creator gets to explain his motivations:
In each book, Landon gets out an ancient Bible and the passage he reads determines what the fantasy will be. The distinct biblical theme is prevalent throughout the books.

"I'm not writing to teach and preach, but to inspire and entertain. In the same way that 'Alice in Wonderland' sparked my imagination, is the same way I want these books to inspire kids. I want it to more than inspire, but also open their bibles and look to God's Word for the ultimate answers," said Mortenson.


If you want a taste of Mortenson's style before buying the series, you should check out an upcoming Landon Snow short story, "Landon Snow & the Mysterious Gift," which will be featured in the December issue of Clubhouse magazine for kids, published by Focus on the Family.

Thanks for visiting. Check out my terrific tourmates:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen's MYSPACE
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
John Otte
Cheryl Russell
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver
Lost Genre Guild
Speculative Faith

And remember, if you have a boy or girl in your family who would be delighted to follow Landon in his magical adventures, I have a three-book set of the harcovers in quite pleasing, youthful-hands-friendly dimensions. Post a comment asking to be entered in the drawing, and you might just win this series for your household or to give as a Christmas gift. Or, hey, for your church library.

Entries will be accepted all three days of the blog tour.

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy
Blog Tour: LANDON SNOW &
THE ISLAND OF ARCANUM


Meet Landon Snow he is a small town boy just like you! He fights with his younger sisters, he is confused by adults, filled with doubts about God, and disillusioned with life, but a magic journey through the Book of Meaning will lead him into a realm where new friends are discovered and answers unearthed.

So was the world's initial introduction to Landon Snow in the first book of R.K. (aka Randy) Mortenson's fantasy series for young folks. (Think ages 9 through 12 and up.) These are stories written with the multi-layered intent to be entertaining, magical, and, just as importantly, meaningful. Here is Randy, in his own words:

As I was writing Landon Snow I kept wondering, "Is it okay to do this? Can I use the Bible in the story and include fantasy?" My fears, I realized, were over what other people would think. When I looked to God and asked the same questions, the questions fairly evaporated. I felt reassured by a sense of God telling me: I gave you my Word; I gave you a vivid imagination; I gave you the talent to write. Use them.

I think the Bible today has lost its "magic." I'm not talking about spells and such. I'm talking about its appearing special and unique as the Word of God: as a means-or window-into another world beyond our own. There is power in the Word of God and it does transport us to another place. It also ignites the imagination. I thought, if kids open their Bibles to find some of this "magic," then that's a very good thing. (If kids-and adults-open their Bibles at all, that's a good thing.) I also thought, even if they don't open their Bibles, at least they've read a few lines of Scripture in the novel itself.


His publisher, Barbour, is known for publishing safe Christian reads, that is to say, no Barbour book will have content that any Christian parent would find patently offensive. (Witness their HeartSong romances, squeaky as clean can be in the romance world.) If you have doubts about Harry Potter or other secular fantasy books out there aimed at the young, you need have no fear with the LANDON SNOW AND THE ISLAND OF ARCANUM, the third in the series, or any of the two previous stories with the eponymous protagonist.

Kevin Lucia, over at Bookshelf Reviews, has this to say about LANDON SNOW AND THE ISLAND OF ARCANUM:
There are many writers emerging who’ve recognized the need to return the mystery and magic to youth fiction, but with the exception of a few notables, (Raising Dragons, by Bryan Davis; Never Ceese, by Sue Dent), few approach the solid literary chops of Mortenson. In my long years of reading, I’ve encountered many YA novels that I believe were written either as direct propaganda, or the author mistakenly assumed YA novels were easier to write because of the younger aged readers. The Landon Snow series is clearly written by someone who’s been gifted with the talent of storytelling.

Visit the official site for the series and find out more.

And after you've done that, visit our terrific tourmates:

Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Christina Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Rebecca Grabill
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Karen Hancock
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Karen's MYSPACE
Oliver King
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
John Otte
Cheryl Russell
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Chris Walley
Daniel I. Weaver
Lost Genre Guild
Speculative Faith

And remember, if you have a boy or girl in your family who would be delighted to follow Landon in his magical adventures, I have a three-book set of the harcovers in quite pleasing, youthful-hands-friendly dimensions. Post a comment asking to be entered in the drawing, and you might just win this series for your household or to give as a Christmas gift. Or, hey, for your church library.

Entries will be accepted all three days of the blog tour.

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Got Youthful Readers In Your Family?

Do they like fantasy stories?

Well, this is a heads-up. Monday, the CSFF Blog Tour will feature R.K. Mortenson's third novel in his "Landon Snow" stories. I will be giving away a three-book set, all three Landon Snow books currently in print.

If you have a son or daughter that likes to read tales of wonder, come by and visit during the blog tour. Anyone who posts a comment that includes a request to be entered in the drawing will have a chance to win the three books.

Or hey, try to win them for yourself!

Honoring Those Who Fought Our Battles


Veteran's Day is a day set aside to honor the veterans of America's wars. It was originally known as Armistice Day to commemorate the official ending of hostilities in World War I - which occurred at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.



As you pray for a resolution to the conflicts in our own day, remember and pray for those who still live with memories of conflicts past. It can't ever be easy, no matter how just the cause. War never is.

Thank you, American Veterans.

Friday, November 10, 2006

My Painting by Carmen Keys, Fantasy Artist

I just this week purchased a piece of art on eBay from fantasy artist Carmen Keys. It's called "Dream of Lilies" and it makes me feel peaceful and cool.

I hope to use it as a color scheme inspiration in redoing my office. I want cool, relaxing, inspiring colors. That's an image of the painting at left, all swirly and pretty. To see it bigger and better, go here.

I actually love a lot of the pieces by this artist. Go browse her website if you like this style. She has several pages of online galleries, and lots of her artwork is available in print form. If you buy something (as a holiday gift for a friend who loves elves and fairies and fairy tales and wonder), let her know "Mirty" from eBay sent ya.

Look at this one. Doesn't it belong in a storybook? What warm colors, what questions arise, begging for the tale. And doesn't this proud faery seem as if she's part of the tale of the red-headed girl and her owlet buddy?

And here's one where a thin, long red bit of ribboning is a perfect, a magnificent, accent to the cooler colors of the work. And dig that hair!

One of my very favorite ones is fairy tale related and titled "Poisoned Apple." (The link takes you to a much nicer image.)

Given the topic of my Speculative Faith entries in the last few weeks, it surely seems appropriate as a visual complement. But then, I'm wild about fantasy art, and I also dig science fiction art, though it seems harder to find, other than the digital type. Surrealistic art, too, make me happy (ergo my blog header).

You've already read how I commissioned art by Sara Butcher (my hubby's Christmas gift to me). She sells her lovely stuff out of Dreamflier Studios. Visit her as well.

Coincidentally, Sara and Carmen are buddies and part of a fantasy art community online: The Fellowship of Aslan. Rachel Marks, one of our CSFF Blog tourmates, the same who got an honorable mention in the DKA fiction contest earlier this year, hangs out there as well. Small world. I think that's delightful. Christian gals doing the speculative thing with color and shapes, the way I do (and maybe you) with words and rhythms. Imagery of different sorts, but still fantastical. Tres cool.

I wonder what colors my stories would be, if they were translated to imagery?

So, in your holiday buying, don't forget you can support speculative artists with relatively inexpensive (but greatly gorgeous) purchases of holiday cards (Sara makes some) and prints (that you can frame and wrap up nicely).

And for you creative story types, buy small prints or ACEO's and use them a part of hand-made storybooks. You make new stories to go with the fantasy artwork. Isn't that the perfect gift for a young reader among your loved ones? A part of you, a part of another artist, a whole new joyful experience of the speculative and wonderful.

Friday Femme at Speculative Faith: Up Now!

I told you I'd have it up today at Speculative Faith.

I fortified myself with roast turkey breast and stuffing and mashies and veggies and a salad and a cola. I'm only partially revived. Maybe, instead of fairy tales, someone needs to resurrect The Mir over here.

Anyway, Part Three of "How To Bring Myths & Fairy Tales Back From The Dead & Into The Light" is done,posted, and ready for you to comment to your hearts' delights.

Today's installment visits ravens in myth and fairy tales, and how to add Biblical realities to the fantasy of the stories. I offer questions to help you write your retold myth or wonder tale. And, I answer the question about what myth inspired one of C.S. Lewis' novels. That myth (and the novel) will be part of future Friday posts at Speculative Faith.

Now, I mean it. Go comment. It might perk me up.

Yes, the Friday Post is coming...

I have been unwell since yesterday. Really huge wave of terrible fatigue. Slept 16 hours straight. Still feel like poopoo.

I apologize for those who like reading my Friday Speculative Faith posts, but I'm dragging around and the brain is, too.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Transport": 3rd Place, DKA Poetry Contest

The poem is now up at DKA and you can head over and read it.

In the forum, I commented on why I ranked this poem third, over so many strong contenders, a poem about which some will say, "But wait, it has cliches."

Look again. It's familiar, romantic terms made new by context. And done so cleverly. It's romantic and sweet. And it won over the judges.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Believe in Yourself. Keep Writing."
Plus, Neil Gaiman's Revision Regimen

For those out there struggling with the prose-ache, NanoWriMo-induced or otherwise, some words from Neil Gaiman:


On the whole, anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing. Anything that stops you writing is a bad thing. If you find your writers group stopping you from writing, then drop it.

Believe in yourself. Keep writing.


Lemme see...:::believe, write; believe, write; believe, write::: Hmmmm.

Okay, next:

A NaNoWriMo-er back in 2004 asked Gaiman's advice on revisions. NaNo-ers won't have to worry about this until after November 30th, but some of you may be in revision hell right now, so this simple list, which is probably what y'all do already, is just common sense and a bit of fun.

Well, except 6, which, you know, makes me think there's a whole new speculative story in there, "The Rascally Boy Who Moved Paris To Belgium and Wouldn't Put It Back.":

What I try and do is:

1) Finish it.

2) Put it away. Drawers are good. Don’t look at it for a week or so.

3) Read the whole thing, doing my best to pretend that I’ve never read it before.

4) Fix the big things. (These tend to be things that pop out at you when you read it, like noticing that you’ve led up to the prison escape, and then meeting the prisoners after they’ve escaped, and realising that it might really have been a good idea to write the escape. Or that the first chapter would really work better as chapter 5.)

5) Read it through page by page and fix the line by line things. Notice that Omar mysteriously becomes Mustapha on page 50 and stays Mustapha until page 90 when he becomes Mustafa. Pick one and make it consistent. Wonder whether anyone will notice that you’ve put Paris in Belgium. Decide to leave it there, on the basis that no-one will notice.

6) Get up in the middle of the night and move Paris back to France.

How to Become the Best Kind of Collector

Camen of In The Open has a wonderful post today. She and her kinder are ill and watching children's fare to pass the time. She happens upon a wise--and truly Christian message--in a British animated kid's series called Charlie and Lola.

A teaser:
“But yours isn’t a proper collection!” Charlie whines. “A proper collection is to find all the same kind of things. And you have to know ALL about them. Like I know all about dinosaurs!”

Lola sees how much Charlie wants the dinosaur and tells him he can have it if he can guess what her collection is.

“But all your things are completely different! Nothing goes together,” he counters.

“But they do all go together because I’ve collected them for all the same reason,” Lola explains. All Charlie sees, however, is a collection of things no one needs. When he can’t guess, Lola finally tells him:


Visit Carmen for the beautiful conclusion...and lesson for kids and adults.

Psst, Carmencita. I hope you and yours are healing up nicely.

NaNoWriMo Count at End of Day 7

6779

Yesterday's efforts are mostly dialogue. Lots of dialogue. My people are yapping up a storm. (Okay, it's an interrogation, so dialogue is the name of that game.)

Only a couple of passages I thought were uber-cool. Mostly just heroine interrogating hero-prisoner, so she's all over the place emotionally and he's a cool, attractive, and helplessly bound cucumber. It sounds way kinkier than it is.

I'm behind, how much? Um...:::getting calculator::: a total of 5121 words.

But, ya know, it sounds better when I say that I've got 6779 words more than I did a week ago. :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Q & A: Mick Silva, No Tip-Toeing Around

If you're easily offended by editors who say it as they see it (a la former publisher Chip MacGregor in his Novel Journey interview couple months back), then skip the link and the quote I'm about to offer you. Really, don't get your B.P. up.

If, however, you like it when editors strip away the diplomacy and say what's on their minds, read, read, read...THIS at Into the Fire blog. It's a 4 question interview with Mick Silva, acquisitions editor with Waterbrook Press, whose blog I get fed over at bloglines cause The Mir likes it. A lot. I like him, a lot. He might say what I write is crap (oh, dear), but I like people with a little bit of razor in the tongue. Keeps me alert. Keeps me wanting to push up higher.

There were four questions asked, paraphrased as follows:

1. What's the most difficult part of his job?
2. What kind of writing does he prefer to read?
3. What would he change about Christian fiction?
4. What's his most important piece of advice for unpubbed writers?

I offer a snippet of the answer from Q #4, because, well, it's sure to tick some folks off, and a bowlful of pasta followed by fresh watermelon clearly puts me in a mischievous sort of mood. So, here ya go:

I think that if Christian writers (e.g. "Writers for God") really had faith in God's call, they would get day jobs and stop writing what's easy to sell. Seriously, it mocks God's authority to write much of what sells in Christian stores today. No one's saying it--or at least not loudly enough--and our silence only undermines our disobedience. We need writers willing to submit to the yoke of poverty in order to say what needs to be said. We need to turn from the idea that we can have it all, and that God wants us happy, and that it's okay to compromise and make excuses about being good stewards and the greater good of having wealth. Commit to your calling, study God's true nature and his work in the world, and craft works that don't give readers the easy solutions, easy ways out, formula faith. Too many books offer a warped (modified) version of reality and it's time to stop selling out.


His answer to Q#3 will also make teeth grind. Hee.