Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Final Nebula Award Ballot is UP

See it here.

Some of the nominees are available online for the public to read.

I was delighted to see a few of my fave tv and movie stories get nods for scripts: BATMAN BEGINS, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, and a Doctor Who episode, "The Girl in the Fireplace."

Let me know if you read any of the nominated novels/novellas/stories, and what you thought, and who you opine should win.

Still Waiting to Hear from Gerke Giveaway Winners

The two Johns--Otter and Otte--have not contacted me, although I've posted twice on the results. Guys, I need to hear from you at Mirathon atsy AOL dots com. You have until Friday, and then I pick new winners.

Edited at 4:05 pm to Add: I've heard back from John Otte (of Least Read Blog), and last week I heard from Valerie. So, only "Otter" is missing.

A Garden of Girls is Missing From Earth


Early this year, the British medical journal Lancet estimated the male-female gap at 43 million. Worldwide, Lancet said, there are 100 million "missing girls" who should have been born but were not. Fifty million of them would have been Chinese and 43 million would have been Indian. The rest would have been born in Afghanistan, South Korea, Pakistan and Nepal.
China gave an even bleaker assessment last month, with the government saying that its men will outnumber women in the year 2020 by 300 million.

--from "India's Imbalance of Sexes"

This disturbing article on a subject that's been talked about for a while now--it's not news, is it, that girls are disposed of via abortion and other means just cause the fetuses are female?--gives another look into the harvest that's coming from what has been sown via abortions/feticide and infanticide. Even the wild economic growth in India hasn't stamped out the practice. Girls are still not valued equally as boys, period. And technology makes it easier to dispose of the unwanted.

"Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor's garden." -- Punjabi saying

But it's not just in Punjab, this problem. It's across India. It's in China, in Pakistan, in other places.

And the attitude of the disposability of preborn living human beings is global.

I know personally, not by anecdote, a woman--white, American, affluent--who aborted a fetus because it was...a boy. No other reason. She simply wanted a girl, and she already had sons at home. So, bye-bye superfluous boy baby.

It's the sort of thing that chills you right to the marrow.

Sci-fi stories can speculate on things that may come about because suddenly men will not have enough women in their own countries to marry and beget the next generation with. I suspect that once the farcical stories are out of the way, most speculations will be on the dark and troubling side. The dark stuff is already showing:

One Geneva-based research center, in a 2005 update on the phenomenon, termed it "the slaughter of Eve."
"What we're seeing now is genocide," says Sabu George, a New Delhi-based activist. "We will soon exceed China in losing 1 million girls a year."
The date may already be here. In a report released Dec. 12, UNICEF said India is "missing" 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year.
Although India has passed laws forbidding sex-specific abortions, legions of compliant doctors and lax government officials involved in India's $100 million sex-selection industry have made sure they are rarely enforced.
Several companies, notably General Electric Corp., have profited hugely from India's love affair with the ultrasound machine.
As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country.


The women pay the price. They get aborted in higher numbers. Then they get kidnapped and raped or sold into sex slavery when there aren't enough women to satisfy the menfolks cause, well, the women were ABORTED to begin with.

We need to learn, and learn very soon and quite profoundly, that watering a neighbor's garden is a benevolent and praiseworthy act, a good deed, and not a foolish waste of resources.

hat tip to Elliot the Conciliator.

Mystery Fantasy Art Piece:
Can You Gimme Title and Artist?

I was browsing the BabelCon site and saw this:



It looks familiar. Can't place it. Didn't see an attribution at the site.

I think it's pretty darn cool.

Anyone know who painted it and what it's titled or what book cover (RPG game card, magazine, etc) it might be on?

Update on 6/13/07: An anonymous poster informed in a comment posted to this blog entry that the painting is used on the back of DREADMIRE. Here's the image of the back cover at amazon.com.

Once I had that, I just googled until I found the artist: Janet J. E. Chui

Wow, that's some gorgeous bit of dragon art.

So, thanks, Anonymous.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

American Idol Girl Gone Wild:
Antonella Barba Takes it Off

I'll be up front: Since that Hollywood episode where Antonella and her lesser-in-looks-and-voice, flirtaholic sidekick Amanda were unbelievably snotty and derisive and cruel to that blond gal from Texas who kept forgetting her lyrics--oh, yeah-, Baylie Brown--I have wanted both the Jersey girls kicked off A.I.

Hubby and I were delighted when Amanda got booted early. Don't put my God in your nasty little fame-hungry machinations!

In case you missed it, a rambly recap:

Antonella, Amanda, and Baylie were part of the group performance. Amanda and Antonella spent so much time bickering about what song to do, that they wasted valuable practice time. Then, they were really uncooperative with Baylie who was begging for more time to learn the song SHE DID NOT PICK (can we say "sabotage"?). After Baylie got thrown out of the competition (rightly so) for forgetting the lyrics, though the Jersey Flirtsies had something to do with that, they got all pompous on Baylie. Then Amanda, who needs to go back to Sunday School and get some theology refresher, had the fricken nerve to say that Baylie got kicked off cause God let the good people through.

Excuse me? What great evil thing did Baylie do? All I saw was a young gal who looked a bit lost in the bickering and power plays between the Diva Duo.

:::growl:::

You don't mock a downed opponent that way. Very bad sportsmanship, even in Jersey, I would assume.

And then, a week later, Antonella delivered that awful, pitchy performance without any evidence that a human soul or personality resided in that well-shaped physique. Bootworthy performance.

She's definitely not a vocal contender. If she keeps getting saved by America, it will be cause she's got looks...and legs.

I suspect she's nailed the Girls-Gone-Wild vote, too. You have heard about the photos that have surfaced of Miss Barba in various states of non-dress and come-do-me expressions, right?

Yeah, thought you'd caught of whiff of the gossip.

But, tell me:

What is the deal with young, attractive American females and displays of slutty vulgarity?


The poses that were once the domain of the seedy underworld, and later of hush-hush men's magazines, are now, what?, the thing every girl with a fetching figure aspires to do?

Miss Barba doesn't need to slut it up to be alluring. God stacked up her up nicely enough that even in ordinary sportswear, the girl will get male attention. Why then strip down, vamp it up, and, if the rumors and pictures are true, take pictures of herself on the potty and during fellatio? What series of thoughts in a woman's mind sayys, "Yeah, this is what I should do!"

This from a gal who was studying architecture and was good enough to make it to the Hollywood portion of A.I.

It still makes me shake my head how easy it is to find nubile young things to flip up their shirts and pull down their undies and lick up their girlfriends assorted parts for the delectation of some degenerates who make millions of dollars selling their pics to a pathetic audience getting a thrill from girls flashing it up and getting down and dirty.

But then, look at the pop music machine. Guys can be tubby and ugly and sells tons of records. Girls have to diet and get fitness trainers and emerge as new Beyonces and prettier Britneys and more underdressed Aguileras and hip-twitching Shakira's in order to get the contract. (We do remember the C&C Music Factory scandal, do we not? And Simon telling the fat gals they just aren't Idol material in the earlier seasons. Never mind that it didn't hurt Ruben Studdard to be obese.)

For a less than stellar looking gal to get the pay-off, she's gotta have a voice way, way beyond the norm. Or fat has to help. Jennifer Hudson gained weight for DREAMGIRLS, cause the part called for a zaftig chick. And right now, of the girls in competition in season six, three of the most talented gals are...yes...of the more abundant fleshiness, ie. not sex bombs.

Guys can just have talent. Women have to have cleavage and tight butts and come hither moves in their videos. Look at Fergie. Look at Nelly Furtado. Look at Britney (before she went wacko), Madonna, Pink, Christina, Mariah. And Jennifer Lopez, whose vocals are limited, to say the least, got a boatload of assistance from that photogeneic face and sex appeal. And the famous backside. Can you imagine an actor being most famous or talked about for having an abundant behind? But an actress/singer, yeah. (Notice her hubby does fine looking bony, sickly, and bloodless. Could we see Jennifer doing fine if she gained 100 pounds and her hair thinned out to near baldness?)

So, Antonella Barba has pretty much done what it is that is expected of her as an aspiring female pop singer: be an object of desire. It worked for Madonna and a string of singers who started out with some clothes on and attired themselves progressively skimpier, along with nastier posturing. Pull that skirt higher, yank that bustier lower, and pose au naturel for some cover (Rolling Stones, GQ, FHM) or for your own cd pics or sex book.

Although, depending on how dirty you get, it could get you booted off A.I.

How schizo is that?

What's sad is that the only reason Antonella Barba might regret posing half-nude, nude, or in flagrante delicto is the lost chance to make big bucks as a pop music princess.

Ultimately, though, I wouldn't have voted for her. The voice is just not impressive. And her behavior towards Baylie left me furious.

Me, I'm rooting for the ladies who can sing up a whirlwind and still keep their knickers on in front of cameras.

My Short Story is Up at Sword Review

Yay!

Hey, you may now read my contest-winning story on the subject of hope: "Waiting for Appa."

Here's the opening:

"He has promised to return, and he is not a man to let his family down," Adda told us, my little brother and me, in answer to Malhyn's question.

Appa will come back to us, won't he, Adda?

It had become a ritual for the three of us—the question posed, the answer given—as comforting as the sight of her nails raking one of our last remaining popla stalks, freeing the hard grains, those brown teardrops that were now our only remaining source of nourishment after three years without crops.

Our storehouse, once full of stalks and their earthy scent, was now empty.

The night before we had feasted on the last of our offworld supplies, those tins of food left from the great exodus, processed food we only ate out of necessity: five forkfuls each of fermented vegetables and three spoonfuls of sweet fruit from a can. A final treat. We spoke Appa's name together while the honeyed juices still coated our tongues.

He had been gone so long. And he had left us behind to be pronounced outcasts.

His sin, our punishment.

My Museum Visit and the New Jesus Tomb Film

Last Tuesday, I got to see firsthand some ossuaries from 1st century Holy Land, ossuaries with "Jesus son of Joseph" and "Mary" on them. The point? How very common these names were.

Note: Anyone who reads the New Testament will get a clue as to how common Maryam/Mary was as a name. Seems every woman around Jesus was a Mary of some sort, his mom, Magdalene, Lazarus' sister. Martha was there for slight contrast. :)

Judas and Joseph and Jesus were not unique or special names, anymore than having a host of folks named Jose or Jesus or Maria in Latin America is surprising. Shoot, you have to give them middle names to differentiate between Maria Antonia, Maria Elena, Maria Teresa, and Maria Luisa.

So, it's nice to see the Jerusalem District archeologist say pretty much the same.

From the Jerusalem Post:
But Bar-Ilan University Prof. Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem District archeologist who officially oversaw the work at the tomb in 1980 and has published detailed findings on its contents, on Saturday night dismissed the claims. "It makes a great story for a TV film," he told The Jerusalem Post. "But it's impossible. It's nonsense."

Kloner, who said he was interviewed for the new film but has not seen it, said the names found on the ossuaries were common, and the fact that such apparently resonant names had been found together was of no significance. He added that "Jesus son of Joseph" inscriptions had been found on several other ossuaries over the years.

"There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner said. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century CE."


Making claims about Jesus makes for press, makes for dollars. So, Jacobovici and Cameron will do all right off this, no doubt. (And I like plenty of Cameron's movies and find Jacobovici a fun and sometimes silly watch on television.) We won't put out a fatwa for unjustified claims and overbroad theorizing sure to offend a couple billion folks of a certain religion. We're used to having folks make up lies about Christ. Been that way since the beginning. Ho-hum.

Jesus is used to it, too.

I hope their next project is a wildly theorizing expose on Mohammed, the Islamic prophet. If they're out to casually offend for the fun of it and for publicity, there's a good way to do it...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Chris Miller versus T. Coraghessan Boyle

Chris has what we Cubans call cojones. (translations: chutzpah, balls)

If you've read his blog
, you already know that speaking his mind comes easily and quite, quite baldly. (Chris, do you even have hair, man?)

But now he's comparing his short story collection to that of a named author of literary fiction, whose work you know actually is LITERARY cause they make you read it in college. That's generally a sign. Unless it's a course entitled, "All the Pop and Genre Trash Fiction You Shouldn't Waste Your Time Reading or Writing." That would be a giveaway that they weren't gonna assign Cheever or Carver or that Canadian gal whose always in The New Yorker and whose name eludes me at the moment, oh, yeah, Alice Munro, or, you know, real living writers like T. Coraghessan Boyle. He of THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE.

Sorry, I got a mite sarcastic. I'll blame it on Chris.

Anyhow, Chris writes:

Read T. C. Boyle’s latest collection, The Human Fly, last week. Also self-published my own first one, The Inevitable Roundness of Everything. I’m pretty sure Boyle’s cover story’s based on Frenchman, Alain Roberts, who’s scaled over seventy skyscrapers—all the world’s tallest buildings—without the aid of any equipment whatsoever, most of them after he broke both his forearms (and a lot of other stuff too) in a fifteen-meter head-first fall and spent five days in a coma and was told he’d never walk again. Boyle’s Human Fly spends a couple weeks hanging off the side of a tall building, takes a short flight strapped to the wing of a DC-10, and then dies in a Knievel-esque motorcycle jump after riding cross-country beneath a big-rig. He wants to be famous. I’d considered How Shit Gets Handed Down for my collection’s title, but then, in deference to the reality that most copies will go to immediate family members as Christmas presents, changed it to the aforementioned one about a guy who drinks green tea and takes leaks at work but can’t remember if he’s used the washroom for his last trip and so kind of retraces his steps to see if he’s maybe pissed somewhere else like on the floor or in a mop pail. He’s afraid of the future. I guess a lot of my stories have “me” in them.


Clearly, Chris needs to take fewer breaths than I do. And, that last bit about the guy tracking his "path of piss" cracked me up. I like absurdity.

Anyway, head on over and take a look at his collection's artsy cover. It's a nice cover, yes, but Chris, it's not the best ever. Deal with it, snarky.

The RC Baptism Liturgy for Baby Lucky

I haven't been Roman Catholic since my conversion in 1975. But, my parents and most of my family is still solidly Catholic by tradition and practice, even if not everyone is devout about it. So, Little Lucky's baptism yesterday was my first attendance at a baptism in about three decades.

They done changed it, huh?

I like the change.

My family grumbled about it. They didn't like the priest, who was on the bossy side, and a bit disorganized. The family didn't know the songs or responses--let's just say most of them don't get to mass except for special occasions.

Here's how it went, this new thing (new to me since the 70's):

1. The baby is received at the entrace to the sanctuary, there's some singing
2. A procession to the Altar of the Word.
3. There are readings from Scripture by the family members.
4. There's a homily.
5. During the message, the priest quizzed the group about the readings.
6. After this there was some stuff over at a table near the baptismal pool/fonts, with two different oils. One now, the other later.
7. Lucky, looking very sweet and well-behaved and adorable, got disrobed and anointed.
8. She got taken over to the baptismal font, where she got dunked three times.
9 Back to the table to get another anointing. The renunciation of the devil and all the traditional Q & A takes place at the table, not before the font as in the old days.
10. Priest, baby, and family gather around the pulpit for another bit of the ritual


Now, backtrack to the Bible pop quiz: I was the only one from my family who was able to answer the priest. That bummed me out.

I have to admit, I've been hearing a lot--on radio this week, the sermon last week--on Biblical illiteracy in the US. I happen to be quite Biblically literate, but then, I've been a believer reading the Word since 1975. If I were illiterate, then, well, that would say something pretty huge about how little I valued Holy Writ.

I'm gonna be honest. I don't understand why folks who don't go to mass/church, don't read the Bible, and don't much give a fig what the Pope or Martin Luther or their local evangelical pastors have to say, well, why do they go through a key church ritual? I know that in this case the father, who is atheist, didn't want to do the ritual of baptism. He submitted to it because the mom and family wanted it done.

Me, I would be embarassed to request of a priest participation in a ritual when I'm not active in the church. In fact, I think I'd be pretty strict if I were the Pope. I'd demand that parents showed up faithfully to church months prior to the baptism and undergo classes to show they knew the basics of the faith that they intended to teach their child, that the baptism was actually the start of a faith journey, and not a social event.

I said to the godfather, "You really should start going to mass. You promise to be a spiritual guide by being the godparent, you know?"

The response was non-committal, flip.

I'm not gonna hold my breath.

I find it odd that one can ignore God for years, yet show up to a sanctuary for a ritual that represents the acceptance of a person into an ancient faith, a ritual in which you promise to live for God, within the Church, and in adherence to apostolic teaching. How can one do this and never crack open a Bible or offer up worship and praise or seek the face of God?

It made me sad.

But it also made me pray. I hope Little Lucky grows up to be crazy about Jesus. I hope her godparents give her good moral guidance. I hope her parents have a life-changing, soul-zapping, fire-igniting encounter with God that will shake up their universe.

I hope the moments in church yesterday have a lingering good effect for all who were there. I really do.

So, there you go. I, a non-Roman Catholic, a gal who doesn't believe in infant baptism as necessary or even correct, and certainly not Biblically mandated or justified, I enjoyed the service and prayed that the acts and words will come to mean more than custom.

Know what else? I think hope is my word for the year. I'd prayed to get my year's spiritual theme. I notice that I've been using this one word a lot in posts and emails and in my conversation. The subject has come up in my thoughts and interactions quite a bit.

Last year, my word was courage.

This year hope. (At least, I'm sensing this strongly so far.)

I'm gonna hope big for Little Lucky and all my family. And that means my church family, too.

Send a latter rain, Father. Clothe us with your goodness, Jesus. Baptize us with fire, Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Katie Hart Wins Birthday Giveaway

Katie, I'll get your crit and the name of the book I chose to you by next Monday.

I need to to hear by both Johns by Friday ...

...or I pick two other names from the list of entries to the Gerke Giveaway.

Y'all are warned.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Winners in the Gerke Giveaway

Apparently, it was a lucky night for those named John O!


First Prize: John O (who goes by "Otter")

Second Prize: Valerie C.

Third Prize: John Otte (of Least Read Blog)



(I'm still astounded at the similarities, John "Otter" and John Otte. Huh.)

Kindly email me, you three, at Mirathon atsy AOL dotsy com with your names in the email, please, and Gerke Giveaway in the subject header so I don't delete you as spam.

I will forward your names and email addies to Jeff G, and let him get your prizes to you. I'm just the middleMir. :::grin:::

My thanks to all who entered. Sorry you couldn't all get a crit from Jeff. I know that I would have loved to enter this giveaway myself, but, hey, no dice.


(Originally published Friday night, 2/23, but time stamp changed to bring it back to the fore on Saturday, since I haven't heard from the winners yet.)

Expect Fewer Post This Weekend

I'm getting ready to go to my birthday party over at my eldest sis's place. Will likely be there through evening.

Tomorrow, we've got a baptism for my grandniece "Lucky" (aka Ashley), and then lunch out with the family.

So, I hope the weather is particularly fine for us this weekend and a good time may be had by all.

Happy Weekending!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Children Need Protection...from Doofus Librarians with Scrotophobia!

Did you hear about THIS?

Since when is scrotum a bad word? Last time I checked, it was a part of the human body, like, you know, tongue, ear, hair follicle, toe, navel, frenulum, cheek, thigh, foot, breast, vulva, penis, and finger.

Know what, loony librarians? Even Jesus had a scrotum. Yep. And he wouldn't have something that was bad or shameful on him. Trust me. The guy was, you know, perfect and superholy.

None of those anatomical bits in my list are bad words. It's just not possible for a scrotum to be bad, anymore than the word apple or sunbeam or Saturn or limestone is bad. It simply states the name of the thing as is generally accepted, without any particular cuss word association. It's not vulgar. It simply IS.

None of those listed identifiers are words kids need to be shielded from. They are just body parts, and no body part is dirty. God gave me my vagina. God gave you your scrotum. Those are what we call those parts. These are terms that shouldn't be thought of as dangerous. A child shouldn't be made to think a scrotum is a nasty thing or that the word is taboo.

I suppose part of the problem is that some (many) parents tiptoe around body parts, so teachers then have to tiptoe around them, so therefore, librarians have to tiptoe around what they stock for the young set.

Let's just stop tiptoeing, maybe? If a kid's got a pet dog of the male sort, then there's no reason not to teach them what a pooch scrotum and penis is. If it's a bitch, then teach them the terms for teats and vagina (I'm not up on doggie anatomy, so correct me if they call it something else.) Since various kids have seen cats and dogs give birth to kitties and puppies, it's not so tough to say, "Look, the puppy just came out of its mommy's vagina. And now it's looking for mommy's teat so it can have milk."

Not really a major undertaking. Use a friend's or relative's pet, if necessary. Or there's always Animal Planet.

Since the banned book was not referring to grandpa's scrotum, but rather a dog's, it seems to me that a teacher could use a dog photograph or illustration to explain to any child ignorant of the term what it meant. Or simply say, "Ask your dad when you get home."

What's the big deal?

So, I'll leave with this quote from Neil Gaiman, which includes a quote from one of the censoring librarians:

Ms. Nilsson, reached at Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango, Colo., said she had heard from dozens of librarians who agreed with her stance. “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”

leaving me wondering what tmen's genitalia have to do with a dog's bollocks, and whether the lady in question has actually read the book she's trying to stamp out.

I've decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don't like the word scrotum are probably not real librarians (whom I still love unconditionally). I think they're rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side.

Still, I'm glad that there's finally a solid rule of thumb guide to what's quality literature and what isn't.


:::snicker::::

Speculative Faith: New Topic Starts Today

I'm beginning a series on speculative poetry.

Please visit Speculative Faith and read: "Speculative Poetry: Why You, CSF-er, Should Read, Support, and... Write it?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rhysling Nominees for Your Enjoyment

I'm not the only Rhysling nominee from The Sword Review.

Go read the very talented Marsheila Rockwell's "Pilates Wife." Marsheila and I also share the honor of having short stories in the upcoming DISTANT PASSAGES 2, a compilation of editorial picks for best of 2006 at TSR and DKA. Her first novel publishes this year from Wizards of the Coast.

A while back, I recommended a particularly captivating (pun intended) Samantha Henderson poem. I'm happy to say it is a nominee, along with three other of her poems, including "First Festival," which I thought was fabulous as well.

If you didn't read "Triptych" when I linked you up to it, read it now:

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

While you're at Lone Star Stories, check out these other two nominees:

~ Bruce Boston has won more Rhyslings Awards than anyone else. I am the happy possessor of several of his chapbooks, and one of the happiest days I've had at DKA was the one where a Bruce Boston poem appeared in our ezine.

Read "I Build Engines."

~ Jo Walton, World Fantasy Award winner for her novel TOOTH AND CLAW, is a nominee for "A Candlemass Poem"

Those are all the ones I could find online for you to read, so far. If you are nominated and have a poem online, please comment and give the url, so I and others can read your verse. Really. That would be cool.

My congratulations to the above, and to Mikal Trimm, Deborah Kolodji, Jamie Lee Moyer, and all the other nominees!

Poetry is NOT dead!

(And especially not speculative poetry populated by, you know, zombies and vampires and angels and other things that death just can't seem to lock onto. Heh.)

~

Birthday Giveaway Closes 2/24 Midnight

Just a heads-up for anyone who wants to get their entry in. When my birthday week ends, I take no more entries. So, I need to get it by 11:59 pm Eastern time Saturday.

What the winner gets:

1. I'll crit two of your double-spaced pages (You must cut/paste them into the body of the email, not as an attachment. Mir has virusphobia.) You may let it be single spaced in the email, that's fine. Just make sure the form remains, ie, the paragraphs, scene changes. Mark those with extra spaces or scene changes with an * or a ~ or #. Anything you want.

Note: This is not strictly limited to SF. I also read, enjoy, and have judged/critted romance and suspense and Chick Lit.

2. I'll try to zero in on what your weakness is as evident in those two pages from which an editor or contest judge would get their first impression. Using that as a guide, I'll choose a book from amazon.com that addresses what needs strengthening and send that to you. (I will check with you to make sure it's not one your already have.)


How to Enter:

If you wish to enter, EMAIL ME. (I won't take entries from the comments.) Send your two pages within the body of the email to Mirathon at AOL dotsy com. Include your name and address somewhere, so I know where to send the book if you win.

I will only open the email of the winning name. I won't share your info with anyone else.

And I'm so ridiculously happy this week, I may even choose more than one winner.

Can you see me looking like a crazy-grinning woman from all the way over there?

Okay, I'm done babbling. Email me.

Call for Prayer: Stephen Lawhead

I don't know if you've heard out there--I only found out cause I was alerted to it a couple days ago on the Christian Fandom listserv--but Stephen Lawhead, multi-published author of Christian fantasy, is very ill.

He has cancer. He is not doing well. His family is heartsick.

Please remember Stephen in your prayers. Let's believe for a miracle. The God who hears is still Yahweh Rapha: The LORD who heals.

I plead with my fellow bloggers to post and pass the word, so that we may have many prayer warriors battling for Stephen's good.

Unmoderated for Now

As per Solshine's suggestion, and having heard from more than one regular commentee here that the moderation thing is annoying, I'm trying unmoderated comments.

For now.

I've had problems with spammers in the past. That's why I enabled it.

So, let's see how it goes. If I get the spam attack, I'll put it back on.

However, I figure my blog is worth having to verify twice. Hee.

DKA Annual Fiction Contest IS OPEN!

Visit Dragons, Knights & Angels and check out the contest announcement, which has all the details.

I'll excerpt a big chunk, but go read all the particulars in the announcement, please:

ENTRY FEE: $5.00

(This is a fund-raiser! Your entry fee will help support DKA!)


PRIZES:

First Prize: $60.00 and publication in DKA
Bonus Software prize: "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist" complete bundle (includes system and CharPick, Windows only), writing resources created by former NavPress and Realms editor Jeff Gerke of WhereTheMapEnds.Com


Second Prize: $30.00 and publication in DKA
Bonus software prize: "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist" (system only)

Two Honorable Mentions: $20.00 each and publication in DKA
Bonus Software Prize: CharPick

The prize monies constitute the full and complete cash payout for the contest and subsequent publication in the ezine.

THEME:

We have a double theme this year. Choose whichever of these themes inspires you to write innovatively in synch with our magazine's vision statement:

1. Secrets
2. New Life


Or choose both themes and enter twice.

Don't give us predictable or stale applications of these themes. We want fresh. We want surprising. We want deep. We want moving. We want eye-opening.

You can be funny or intensely sober or even somewhat dark, though never lacking in hope. You can do space opera or psychological science fiction or urban fantasy or steampunk or anything that is legitimately SF. There must, must, must be a genuinely speculative element.

Make your prose strong and beautiful and clear, whether it's sparse and transparent or rich and bountiful or ethereal and lyrical or formal and high fantasy or slang and cyberpunky.

Think about style; make it yours. Think about structure; make it balanced. Revise ruthlessly to eliminate filler and add sparkle.

Give us your best. Make us sigh.


DEADLINE: Tuesday, April 10th, midnight EST.

Entries must be received between February 20th and April 10th (inclusive).

We suggest you enter at least a few days prior to the deadline, in case issues come up with the electronic submission from your end or ours. Tech problems will not be an out. So, please give yourself time.

No exceptions to the deadline.


RULES:

1. All entries must fit the DKA Magazine vision and guidelines.
2. All entries must be speculative fiction.
3. All entries must be no fewer than 1,500 words and no more than 4,000 words.
4. Each entry must be an original work(s) by the submitting author and must not be a reprint(s) (ie. cannot have been published elsewhere). The entries must not be currently posted on any website.
5. All entries must be submitted electronically via the special contest submission process set up to allow for blind judging. The cover letter must indicate that the story is for the contest. Do not add your name anywhere on the cover letter or body of the story.
6. Because we have two themes this year, we will accept a maximum of two entries per person. If you choose to submit two stories, one must be on the theme of "secrets" and the other on that of "new life." We will not accept two stories on the same theme from the same writer.
7. Each entry must be submitted on its own, and each must be accompanied by its own entry fee. Two stories = $10.00 total entry fee.

Gerke Giveaway: The Names Entered

If by some brain blip I left you off (even though your comment is actually THERE), post here and I'll check again.

Otherwise, this is it. I'll print out the names in a nice juicy font, cut them up in equal sized strips, drop them in a sack, and have hubby blind pick three. (Or four, given Becky's waiver):

Chris D
Kari C
Rachel M
John O
Daniel W
James D
Sherie H
Cheryl R.
Michelle P.
Nate K.
John O
Mark G
Shannon McN
Jackie C
Eve N
Dan E

Josh V (two entries)
Jason J (two entries)
Valerie C (two entries)

John O of Least Read Blog (three entries)
Rebecca M. (three entries) (waives 2 & 3 prizes)
Alice L (three entries)
Katie H. (three entries)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Mir is Dropping Tears on the Keyboard

But it's for a good reason. I got good news a few minutes ago:

I'm nominated for a RHYSLING AWARD!

Now, to understand why this would bring me to tears, when you're probably going, "What the heck is a Rhysling award?" you have to understand how much I love poetry, and how much I admire so many speculative poets, such as Joe Haldeman, Samantha Henderson, Mikal Trimm, Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, Deborah P. Kolodji, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Mike Allen, Karen Romanko, Bruce Boston, and a host of others who, in comparison to me, are glorious unicorns to my little mushroom gnat self.

At least, that's how I see it.

So, to have one of MY poems in the Rhysling Anthology for 2007, for short form poem published in 2006, well...

I cry. That's what I do.

Thanks to the person (or persons) who nominated me. I'm just utterly astonished.

If You Don't Get the Security Code and Can't Comment here on Mirathon...

Just keep hitting refresh (Cntrl + F5)

Blogger gets oogly like that, sometimes. Just refresh (Control + F5) until the letters show up. Sometimes, you need to clear your cache, then refresh.

If you still have trouble, let me know at Mirathon atsy AOL dotsy com. You can email me with your request for giveaway entry. I don't want anyone to miss out.

Day Three of the February CSFF Blog Tour:
Jeff Gerke's Where The Map Ends website



I conclude this edition of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour by pointing out some areas I especially enjoy over at Jeff Gerke's Christian speculative fiction site, WhereTheMapEnds.com.

(Please read down to the end for instructions on your last chance to enter two giveaways, one graciously provided by Jeff and one I'm doing for my birthday week celebration.)


I'd like to focus on three sections of Jeff's super site:

1. Interviews
2. Fantastic Visions
3. Tip of the Week

Interviews


Prior to the establishment of the CSFF Blog Tour and Speculative Faith and Lost Genre Guild, I can tell you--from much experience of blogging and searching for it--that interviews with Christian speculative fiction authors, editors, and agents were a rare find.

The best repository was (and still is)the one at Christian Fandom. Shannon even has one with Gene Wolfe--yes, GENE WOLFE!--coming up in March.

Jeff is giving them a run for their denarius, accumulating some good stuff at Where the Map Ends. And, for all of us, that's good news. We'll have more information out there that's useful to us from pros in the field. And, natch, we can learn more about some of our favorite writers.

Agent Jan Dennis is currently interviewed at the site. Here's a taste:

WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?

Jan Dennis: I think some Christian publishers are intrigued by the possibilities. I mean, who wouldn’t be with the success of Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker (and Left Behind, if that counts)? But there are many obstacles to be overcome.

Obstacles like a lack of commitment in some places. That is, I think there’s a lot of dabbling by publishers, but unfortunately not a lot of money and long-term planning going into many fiction programs.

Another obstacle for aspiring authors and agents is what you’ll find in most fields when new people are brought into the mix: that is, a lack of editorial knowledge and expertise. There are several editors who would like to publish in this area, but haven’t extensively read speculative fiction and/or don’t really know how it works (again, with a few exceptions).

I’d also say that there are pretty extensive marketing and distribution difficulties to be overcome.

It’s not an entirely bleak picture, though, and I think a lot of publishers have a strong and healthy desire to impact the Christian and hopefully secular markets with fiction works that glorify God while telling a good story. That’s where I come in.


Other nifty interviews are in the archives, including: Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, Ted Dekker, Kathryn Mackel, and Karen Hancock.


FANTASTIC VISIONS


I love speculative art. I own several tomes on SF art that I delve into with regularity. I also collect old paperbacks that have Richard Powers covers. (If I have a secret rich uncle who leaves me buckets of bearer bonds, I'd buy me an original Powers!) As you may know, I requested fantasy art for Christmas, and commissioned an original work. Pricey, but worth it for the sheer joy it brings. And its intrinsic beauty.

I've been inspired to write by just seeing a grand bit of magical art. Art sometimes gets me thinking along associational lines until, there it is, I have a premise for a story or an image for a poem.

Most of the sites that have banded together in Christian SFandom focus on literature, short or long. Poetry is a stepchild, less cosseted. Art is also, sometimes, discussed in afterthought. Oh, I've written something. I wonder who might have a pic to go with it?

But it's all part of the same whole: Speculative Arts. And tell me, writer, how would you like it if your book was just a plain brown wrapper edition? (Okay, that might work for some odd reason for some particular work.) I've always thought one of the great delights of buying a fantasy or science fiction novel or collection or anthology is the NON-VERBAL creative part of it: the cover, the illustrations.

Please, can you even think of a Conan cover without seeing a flash of a particular art piece in your brain? (Maybe Frazetta?) I will forever connect Harlan Ellison to this or that Leo & Diane Dillon work. I will always see Kinuko Y. Craft's work when someone says Patricia McKillip's name. (And that's a lovely association, is it not?) I bought the LOTR books AGAIN, so I could have them with those Alan Lee covers that are just so dreamy.

A work of art can make people pick up your novel. It can make someone kindly disposed to BUYING your novel. (I know I bought my first McKillip cause it had a Craft cover. No question.)

Be honest. You would pass out cold or scream until your whole family came running, if you landed a Canty or a Whelan or a Palencar or a Burns or a Lee or a Vess or, me personally, a Craft cover. (Just bury me with a hardcover edition clutched in my cold embrace after I die of sheer joy!)

So, I'm thrilled that Jeff features Christian speculative artists. (I hope he plans to add some of the fabulous ladies doing fantasy art, such as my much-admired Sara Butcher, or Carmen Keys, or our own CSFF blog tourmate Pixy (aka Rachel Marks). I don't know if the talented Hanna, who is a member of our tour, does specifically Christian work, but you should go and enjoy her stuff JUST FOR ART'S SAKE. That's right.)

I think The Call of Aslan is a very good link for WTME.com to feature! I am lucky to have some original pieces by both Sara B. and Carmen K. of that artistic association, and I hope I can continue to acquire bit by bit in the future. Art makes the world that much more fabulous.

So, thanks, Jeff. Keep expanding those art links.


TIP OF THE WEEK


The last spotlight on this tour falls on Jeff's writing "Tip of the Week."

As someone who is obsessive about continually improving my prose and storytelling skills, I value tips. Gimme tips!

Jeff's most recent entry is Tip #19: Keep a Character's Dialogue and Actions in the Same Paragraph

I'll let you go and read that tip and the preceding 18. Enjoy. Write better!

~ ~ ~

Special Bonus with hat tip to John O: If you've ever wondered if Jeff is actually an alien, like, you know, VENUSIAN or somesuch, there might be something to that rumor.



LAST CHANCE TO ENTER TWO GIVEAWAYS:
The Gerke Giveaway and the Mir Birthday Giveaway


THE GERKE GIVEAWAY: If you want a chance to win a 5 page crit or two software (Windows) prizes from Jeff, add a comment with "Enter me in the Gerke Giveway" and your first name plus surname initial (and a blog or site addy). See Monday's or Tuesday's CSFF Blog tour post this week for the details. I will not repost them here.


The Mir Birthday Giveway: I'm offering one person a two-page crit and a book of my choosing that will address what I see as the main craft weakness(es) that need fixing. See the Tuesday (2/20) blog tour post for details on the how, since it requires you email your pages in the text of an email, rather than commenting under this post. Good luck.

Check the very bottom of this post for names that I receive as entries for TODAY, Wednesday. (If you want to see if I got your entry noted for Monday and Tuesday, check those CSFFBT posts for the corresponding days.)

I hope you enjoyed the Mirathon segment of our February 2007 edition of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. Come back in March for yet another fun time with CSF!

Please drop by several (or all!) of the blogs below, my tourmates:

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D.G.D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nicole
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Timothy Wise


NAMES ENTERED IN THE GERKE GIVEAWAY FOR WEDNESDAY:

Eve N.
John O (Least Read blog)
Becky M.
Alice L.
Valerie C.
Katie H
Dan E
Josh V

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Editorial-Authorial Partnership That Meshed

I am disgustingly pleased with myself at the moment. You'll allow this, surely, as it is, ahem, still my birthday.

A story came into DKA some weeks ago. We liked parts of it, but it had weaknesses. We asked for revision. The revision--I liked even less, and all but one of the editors liked it less.

I said that I believed in the story enough to really do an in-depth scene by scene crit of what worked and what didn't. But I'd only do it if the author was amenable to go through and revise. Author was. I took a couple of hours and commented on every paragraph, discussed structure, etc.

We got the revision. It's a WOW.

There is something about an author who is willing to cut here and here and here, and change here and here, and add there and there, and then RUN with it, inspired to do even more. It awes me, because I know, as a writer myself, how very personal our creative work is. How attached to it we become.

When an author has THIS sort of humility and can stand back and say, "You know, they're right. If I make these changes, my story will be better. Still mine, but better."

I am delighted with this new revision. I've already voted to publish it. Every hour spent on it was worth it. This author has moved me. I read it and felt power. I am eager to see what this person comes up with next.

My wee editorial heart is made glad.

And DKA will acquire a very cool story.

Faboo Birthday for The Mir--WOOHOO!

God sent me glorious birthday weather. Few clouds. Blue, blue sky. Breezy. Cool for Miami (ie, low seventies).

The CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY exhibit was a lot of fun. I got so excited seeing the ossuary of Caiphas, the only inscription found with Pontius Pilates' name, and the temple boundary balustrade that Jesus HAD TO WALK PAST to enter the temple court. (I almost plotzed!)

Very cool reconstruction of a Byzantine apse, complete with baptism font, table, altar, assorted capitals and chancel screens, etc.

Got to see an actual part of a Dead Sea Scroll, and some mosaics from the Byzantine era. I especially liked the small flasks that pilgrims filled with church oil. One had the annunciation carved on it (Gabriel, Mary) and another very small one was a sort of charcoal color with lighter markings and a nice cross design. I'd wear that one as jewelry, a pendant on a black velvet cord.

Quite enjoyable.

We then lunched at an outdoor restaurant by the riverfront in Ft. Lauderdale, and the food was superb. We pigged out.

Then, on our way home, via the scenic route (as per my request), my sister says to us that she used to love to go to the Hollywood boardwalk. So, I said, "Yeah, let's go."

We turned into one street where public parking was, and it was JAMMED. Parking was up to 10 bucks. MARDI GRAS!

We found metered parking about 15 blocks away, but it was right at the beachfront, and we just walked on the boardwalk, enjoying the ocean air, the breeze, the sights, and browsing the jewelry stalls and food vendors and wares.

We got to enjoy some Zydeco music (the Mir danced all the way through!) and then we left about 7pm (the long walk back to the car in the lovely night, with Sirius and Canopus bright in the sky). Charles had to do something at work before midnight, so he dropped me home and took sis on his way to the office. (He said it wouldn't take more than maybe an hour.)

I'd like to plug the Brooks athletic shoes. I wouldn't have ventured on such a long walk without them. I'm a serious overpronator with plantar fasciitis that flares up if I'm on my feet too long. But I'd heard these recommended by physical therapists. I got a pair two weeks ago. Amazing. My feet feel fine after a whole day just about standing and walking. My bad knee feels fine, too. The Brooks Addiction walking shoe may not be the prettiest on the block, but man, they put my feet in the right position, so my knee isn't taking the hits it normally would. Amazing shoes. Highly recommended.

I also bought the Brooks Ariel (blue and white, instead of my black walking shoes), and I need to road test those babies, too.

So, I'm home, with Turkish food take-out for supper (red lentil soup, Turkish salad, cucumber-yogurt salad), and I'm a happy Mir. Had a grand, grand day full of antiquities and music and great food and love. I felt 27, instead of 47. That's a good thing.

Now, all I need is my hunkosnookies to come home and it will be a perfect day's ending.

Hope y'all had a lovely Mardi Gras...

Christian SF & F Blog Tour, Day Two:
Jeff Gerke of Where the Map Ends

This is a gargantuan blog post, since it includes various sections: an interview, some notable entries from yesterday's blogs that I refer you to, the Gerke Giveaway instructions, the links, and at the very end, my own Birthday Giveaway instructions. So, hang with me.

First: As promised, I submit for your enjoyment a few Q's and A's as The Mir Interviews Jeff Gerke:

Mir: What factors do you think keep SF from having success in the "CBA," when speculative sells in the ABA, and on tv, and in Hollywood, and in comics, etc?

Jeff: Good question. I think the primary factor is that the fiction readership most successfully reached by CBA publishers doesn't like speculative fiction. I cover this in detail in a three-part series on my site: see Tips 16-18.

In brief, the audience who buys CBA fiction is mainly white, American, Evangelical women of child-bearing to empty nest ages. As a group, these women do not like "weird" fiction. Therefore we see Christian fiction titles in genres that this demographic does typically like: romance, chick-lit, women's fiction, etc.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's just the way the marketplace is right now. Publishers give their market what the market wants. That's good business.



Mir: There's been a certain amount of chatter about how if a single Christian SF novel breaks out, sells big, and garners major buzz going, that will be the key to getting CBA editors to notice this as a viable genre for their houses. What do you, with your editorial and publishing experience, think of that theory?

Jeff: I think it's a nice theory but I suspect it won't hold true.

Frank Peretti wrote speculative Christian fiction in the 80s and 90s. Those were undeniably breakout novels that garnered major buzz. But do we have a whole section of spiritual warfare novels in our bookstores now? Is spiritual warfare fiction considered a viable genre now? No.

Then Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote the Left Behind novels. Clearly speculative and clearly breakout novels that sold well and garnered major buzz. Do we now have a whole section of end times novels in our bookstores? Are end times novels considered a viable genre now? No.

Same with Ted Dekker. His books sell like crazy, but is supernatural fiction now considered a viable genre? No.

For some reason, a few individual authors get a pass and are allowed by the marketplace to write their speculative fiction. But that doesn't mean the marketplace is willing to say, "Okay, from now on we want lots more like that, no matter who they're written by." No. While this demographic is wide open to new or unknown authors of romance, chick-lit, female-oriented historicals, etc., the same can't be said for new or unknown authors of speculative fiction.

We can each have hope that we'll be the next speculative novelist who gets a pass. May it be so. But my conviction is that the core CBA fiction demographic is not going to change for the foreseeable future, and therefore speculative genres will not find a ready welcome.

However, I think we're on the verge of a revolution. You'll have to read Tip #18 on my site to see why I think a new way is coming for fans of Christian speculative fiction to get the stories they crave, and what that new way will be.

Incidentally, it's not always the editors at CBA houses who think speculative fiction isn't viable. Many of them love it. But getting it published is another matter.



Mir: If you could tell our Christian SF unpubbed authors five things that will help them most in becoming top-notch writers, what would those five bits of advice be--whether it's a recommendation of a craft book, a specific fiction course or workshop, a technique, a habit to develop, etc?

Jeff: I'll compact all five into one: master the techniques in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King.

See Tip #10 to see why I think this is what you should do.

Most of the major craft errors I see in unpublished fiction would be fixed simply by applying the teachings of this one slim book.



Mir: How would you describe the ideal Christian SF novel you'd love to read TODAY? What elements would it have that are guaranteed to thrill you?

Jeff: I don't think you can boil it down into a formula like that. The ideal Christian speculative novel, to me, is the one that sends my imagination soaring, that takes me to a place I've never imagined and makes me believe in it. When something I've read fires my imagination, I'm hooked.

Now, there are lots of craft things you must do to maintain that hook into me as a reader, so mastery of your craft is another element that would be sure to thrill me.

The cool thing about speculative fiction is that you're basically not limited by anything. The stranger or more creative or more unexpected the world and premise you present, the more I'll like it.

I once read a proposal that included little subcreatures who held the world together with strings. That was cool. I once read a fantasy in which spiritual warriors entered another dimension to do battle with demonic creatures. That was cool. I once read a SF in which the lead character had a great game time with a friend, then switched off his power button. That was cool.

So...do something cool and unexpected, set my imagination to soaring, and master your craft. Three easy steps!



Mir: What two novels, one fantasy and one science fiction, are your favorite speculative works, and what about them, do you think, connected so strongly with you?

Jeff: I'll cheat and choose one novel (series) and one movie. It would definitely have to be The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Those two stories showed me the power of fiction and made me want to become a storyteller.

Honestly, the common denominator between them was that they were both "hero's journey" stories. The hero's journey was mythologist Joseph Campbell's name for the "monomyth," the one archetypal story that is found in every human culture and civilization throughout time. I personally believe it's the story of God and man.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is Campbell's famous book on the monomyth. The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler is one attempt at harnessing the power of this master story in terms of writing fiction.

My current project is an epic fantasy based on the hero's journey. Hopefully it will have the impact on others that those two stories had on me.



Mir: I encourage Mirathon readers to click on the above link and read an excerpt. Now, Jeff, if you had to name the the most overused and cliched elements in the Christian SF unpubbed manuscripts you've perused, what would they be?

Jeff: Probably the story in which lots of mysterious things are happening and then we find out that behind it all is a demon! I can't tell you how many times I've seen that one.

That doesn't mean you should ditch your story if that's the pattern you're using. Just make it different and original somehow.

Same with the idea of cloning Jesus from the Shroud of Turin .

However, a more common element I've seen in the unpublished fiction mss. I've seen (speculative and otherwise) is a lack of good craftsmanship. That'll get your proposal rejected even faster than using an idea that's been done before.

In fantasy, I see way too much use of Tolkien's elements: elves, dwarves, halflings/hobbits, wizards, rangers, dragons, etc. It's true that Tolkien basically invented modern fantasy, but that doesn't mean we should be restricted to the elements he pioneered. I think we should be looking for original elements to use in our fantasies. Or else delve into folklore and mythology for ideas.

I recently watched The Lady in the Water. What a great modern fantasy that movie is. I suspect the creatures displayed there are from Chinese or other ancient folklore, but they sure felt fresh to me. Compare that to, say, Eragon, and its use of stock characters and usual suspects. It might be a great story but the elements were pretty common.



Mir: I did a series of posts over at Speculative Faith on voice and style. Since I have you here, could you kindly define or explain what an editor means when he or she says they're looking for "a fresh voice." What exactly is "voice" and what makes it fresh?

Jeff: I can't speak for another editor.

However, I will say that many CBA editors truly desire to publish fiction in genres besides the five "accepted" ones I list in Tip #17. These editors like different genres and often actively bring them to the various publishing committees at their respective houses. But they usually fail, mainly because these off-genre novels are not what the market has said it wants. You can't offer a market something it doesn't want--not for very long and not if you want to stay in business. So we have a number of moderately frustrated fiction editors at some CBA houses.

If an editor says she's looking for a fresh voice, she might be signaling her desire to find that exceptional off-genre novel that will be able to make it through to the committees and all the way to publication.

"Voice" is your style. It's how you sound when you write. It's not really that mysterious. Your manner of verbal speaking is distinct from someone else's. Same with your manner of expressing yourself in writing.



Mir: Now that you offer your editorial services as a "free agent," you'll be getting lots of clients, surely. What would you say are your greatest strengths as an editor?

Jeff: Thank you for that permission to advertise myself [grin]. Well, one of my assets is that I love working with aspiring novelists, especially aspiring Christian speculative novelists. I remember well what it's like being on that side of the equation. I think I'm a good encourager as well as someone who can help with craftsmanship.

I also find I'm good at seeing the big picture of what's working or what's wrong with a novel. I look at every manuscript as a puzzle or a mystery, or possibly as a sick patient whose condition has thus far defied diagnosis. God has given me the ability to see through to the essence of the thing and put my finger on what's really going on. My clients have said they've found this very helpful.

I also like to teach the novelist how to be a better writer instead of just taking the book myself and "fixing" it. It sounds like that would be counterproductive, that I would teach myself out of clients because they'd no longer need me. But I've found the opposite to be true. Writers who want to learn (and teachability is so important if you want to succeed in this business) tend to come back for more. Gluttons for punishment, I guess!

Okay, I think my own horn is sufficiently tooted. Thank you. My editorial services page is here.



Mir: You get to spend a month in any estabished speculative world--Ringworld, Discworld, Arrakis, Wonderland, Middle Earth, Narnia, Fairy Tale Land, The Dreaming, Amber, Babylon 5, Marvel Comics world, Star Wars world, Star Trek world, Foundation world, ANY world you'd like. Which world would you visit and who would you be in it?

Jeff: Ack! You're making me choose? Please, no! I want to be in all of them!

Okay, I'll pick, but not just one. [wink]

I'd definitely be in the Battlestar Galactica universe as a fighter pilot. Something about space carriers just does the magic for me.

Then I'd be in Middle-Earth serving as a ranger with Faramir or defending the walls of Helm's Deep.

I'd be on Serenity piloting my own cargo ship.

And I'd be in Aliens as a space marine.

I'd also be in my own epic fantasy as a paladin. In my story the paladins are an elite special forces unit like Army Rangers. But they're Christian holy warriors somewhat like samurai or Jedi. Yeah, that's where I'd be.


Mir: Is there a question you've always wished an interviewer would ask you? Please ask yourself the question and share the answer.

Jeff: How about this: What's new and exciting about WhereTheMapEnds.com?

To which I would answer:

Glad you asked! I've decided to try a grand experiment at the site. We're going to be doing a collaborative fiction project together. Woohoo! Anyone who wants to can come join our group as we create the worlds, characters, species, and plot for our Christian speculative story, and then write it. The premise: a fantasy world is invaded by high-tech SF outworlders. Both worlds have good guys and bad guys. It's swords and sorcery against lasers and technology. The fun begins March 1 at www.wherethemapends.com.

Thanks, Mir!


Mir: My thanks to you, Jeff. It's great getting to toss Q's at you.

Rachel (aka Pixy) has a terrific interview that she posted over at her site. Be sure to drop by. And check yesterday's post by Sharon Hinck, where the interview focuses more deeply on Jeff's project and upcoming projects that he's had a hand in editing.


Also, in case you missed Gene Curtis' excellent blog tour post yesterday, just drop by and check it out. Here's a sample on the subject of that glint in Jeff's eye, Lord Marcher Press:

Yeah Baby! I for one would love to see it come to fruition. Imagine a publishing house devoted to Christian speculative fiction and run by someone that loves the genre.

If you want to encourage Jeff to take the plung and go ahead and start Marcher Lord Press, there are 3 things he tells me he needs.

§ Seed money
§ Great talent
§ Sound advice on structuring a business model that suits him

You can help Jeff in many ways. First and formost, prayer. If God wants it to happen, it will happen.


And now is the time on Mirathon when we give the Gerke Giveaway details, for those who missed it yesterday:


HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Jeff has donated prizes for a Mirathon/CSFF Blog Tour giveaway as follows:

3rd Prize: "CharPick" minor character creation software program (Windows only) ($12)
2nd Prize: "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist" (Windows only) ($28)

and

1st Prize: A five-page crit from Jeff ($38.00 value)

All you have to do is comment under this post or tomorrow's blog tour post with your first name and surname initial (in case there are two with the first name) is fine. If you have a website, post that, too. I might wanna visit you. But really, just a comment that says, "Enter me in the Gerke giveaway" with your name.

You'll have to stay tuned here to find out who wins, because I will not be emailing the winners. The winners will need to EMAIL ME, as soon as you see I've posted YOUR name as winner.

I will post the names of the three winners on this blog by Friday and that post will include my email information.

BONUS ENTRIES: You will receive one entry chance per day for the Jeff Gerke donated prizes. So, if you post all three days with "enter me in the Gerke giveaway," then you get three entries for that drawing. Post an entry request one day, one entry. Post two days, two entries.

I've already taken down and posted all the names for Monday's giveaway. Monday's entries are closed. Feel free to post today and tomorrow for a total of two chances.

After the blog tour concludes, I'll just put names in a sack and let my gorgeous husband stick his hand in and pick the winners.

Please drop by several (or all!) of the blogs below, my tourmates this month:

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D.G.D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Timothy Wise

Now, for the special MIRATHON BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY:

Since we have an author/editor on board this tour with that 5-page crit, I'm going to do a complementary Mir Giveaway.

Send me your first two pages of your Christian SF work-in-progress. Just two pages. And send them in the BODY OF AN EMAIL, not in an attachment. In the SUBJECT LINE, put this: Entry for the Mirathon Birthday Giveaway.

I will jot down all the email names and select one in a random drawing. The winner's email will get read, and I will send the writing craft book I feel will best help the writer get that work in shape.

That means if I notice you have a problem with nailing a voice, I'll send a book on voice. If I note you have a problem with POV, I'll send a book no POV. If I note you have a weakness in dialogue, I'll send a book on dialogue. If you have absolutely no hint of conflict, you'll be getting a book on conflict. If I feel as if I'm in a colorless, featureless void while reading, I'll get a book on setting to you. Or if I note multiple soft spots, I'll send a more general purpose book that I've used and judge to be superbly useful.

I crit your two pages, and then I send you a craft book to strengthen your writing.

If that interests you, email me the two pages (equivalent of two double-spaced manuscript pages) to Mirathon who's at AOL dotsydotsy com. (Stop snickering.) Please make sure that in the email, I can see the form, that is, I can tell when new paragraphs start and where scenes change (if they do).

Please be aware that, should you win, I will need your mailing address to get your craft book to you via amazon.com. Well, okay, yeah, duh. Just like to mention that.

I'll also check with you to make sure I don't send you what you already have. (If you own every well-known writing reference and craft book, you may wanna skip this.)


NAMES FROM TODAY'S COMMENTS FOR GERKE GIVEAWAY:

John O (Otter)
Jason J.
John O (Least Read Blog)
Mark Goodyear (taken from yesterday's comments today)
Becky Miller
Alice L
Valieric C
Shannon McN
Katie H
Jackie C


(That means two chances so far for John O (Least Read), Jason J, Becky Miller, Alice L.)

MY BIRTHDAY: Turn back the clock!!!!!!

Birthdays are a little depressing after, oh, 40. Gray hairs. Creases. Bleh.

47. Not my fave number.

Eh. I gotta remember I'll live forever, and then it doesn't seem so old, huh?

Even if I am officially a hag or crone or whatever they throw at women past a certain bloom, I'm gonna have fun. Hubby took the day off. Middle Sis is coming with us to lunch and the museum for CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY, and maybe I'll have enough energy to do something else. Maybe we'll just come home and nap. Heh.

I'm gonna go sleep. We old biddies need rest. :::creak, yawn, creak:::

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mir's Business Cards Preview

I love my original, commissioned bit of fantasy art by Sara Butcher so so so much that I asked Sara to make me some business cards with a detail from the painting. You can see a tiny image and text that will be imprinted on golden card stock, just to get an idea of the lay-out and see that the biggest text part is "Mirtika" in a cool and girly font.

(Too bad I don't have an image of the final product. It's really interesting on the buff cards, which gives the painting a whole different aspect, more goldeny, softer than on stark white. Whereas the white makes it more luminous and pure, the buff has an seasoned look. Love them both. It's interesting to see the differing effects that a change in background color gives.)

It makes me so giddy with delight just looking at it, I can only aver that the small batch of cards are worth every cent. Now, all I need is to get healthy enough to go to a conference, where I can have a chance to hand out some of my gorgeious biz cards. Speculative and Christian--just like me.

Sara Butcher rocks my visual world!

Now, tell me how beeeeeeeeeeeeyoooootiful my card is.

Okay, What is the Deal with Wordpress

I tried four times to leave a comment at Kameron Franklin's blog. Wordpress kept telling me I had to be signed in. I signed in. Still wouldn't take.

Really tenacious at this point: I created a blog. I signed in again. I attempted to post. And, no, it didn't recognize me as signed in.

I give up. Clearly, the cosmos does not want me to post at Kameron's blog. Grrr.

Spiritual Honesty is a Potent Thing

Exhibit A

~

Oort Cloud: Get Feedback on your SF

I'll just link you up. You go look around. Decide if Oort Cloud is the place for you to get critical feedback and support.

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour: J. Gerke's WHERE THE MAP ENDS

This month's focus for the CSFF Blog Tour is Jeff Gerke and his Christian SF site, WhereTheMapEnds.com. Read this entire post. There's something valuable ahead.

Before I introduce you to the site, let me orient you to what Mirathon will feature today and the coming two days. Some items may be of keen interest to you.

Tomorrow, I'll post an interview with Jeff Gerke published author and former editor at Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress, and current freelancing editor. I'll also have a surprise element, because tomorrow is MY BIRTHDAY! (I'm getting so old it's not funny. Cheer me up!)

Wednesday, I'll highlight things I especially like at Where the Map Ends.

TODAY: An overview of Where the Map Ends and the announcement of a very special giveaway with prizes kindly donated by Jeff Gerke. Read on to find out what these prizes are. If you write Christian fiction, you really wanna stay tuned.

OVERVIEW:

Where the Map Ends opened its portals last year to the collective cheer of CSF folks on The Mir's blogging circuit.(I cheered.) We've accrued authors and unpubbed writers and readers and artists in the last year to form a broadening community of CSF supporters and enthusiasts. This, however, was a known editor creating a place that would cover CSF comprehensively--interviews, writing tips, bibliography, links to sites of CSF interest, etc.

Cool.

Not all areas of the site are activated. The forums is a "maybe" sort of place right now. If Jeff sees a need for it, it will be activated.

Since I'm a writer, I want to focus on the TOOLS FOR WRITERS section. Jeff has arranged this is five subsection:

~Books and Conferences for Improving Your Writing
~Getting Your Novel Published
~Tip of the Week
~Idea Starters and World Builders
~Editorial Services

NOW FOR THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Jeff has donated prizes for a Mirathon/CSFF Blog Tour giveaway as follows:

3rd Prize: "CharPick" minor character creation software program (Windows only) ($12)
2nd Prize: "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist" (Windows only) ($28)

and

1st Prize: A five-page crit from Jeff ($38.00 value)

Remember that Jeff has worked for years as a professional editor at established publishing houses in the CBA. He's also a published author. His feedback will surely be valuable and keen and, yeah, we need it, don't we?

In case you need a reference, here's one:

I worked with Jeff on my first published novel The Personifid Project. He helped me to increase the manuscript from what was essentially an over-long novella to a full length novel, in part by throwing ideas at me that helped my creativity. He was great at pointing out the weaknesses in my writing (while also giving plenty of encouragement for the good stuff!) with straightforward communication that enabled me to better myself as a writer. Jeff’s sense of humor and professionalism made him a pleasure to work with.

—R. E. Bartlett, Christian Speculative Novelist


HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

All you have to do is comment under this post or tomorrow's blog tour post or Wednesday's blog tour post with your name--first name and surname initial (in case there are two with the first name) is fine. If you have a website, post that, too. I might wanna visit you. But really, just a comment that says, "Enter me in the Gerke giveaway" with your name.

You'll have to stay tuned here to find out who wins, because I will not be emailing the winners. The winners will need to EMAIL ME, as soon as you see I've posted YOUR name as winner.

I will post the names of the three winners on this blog by Friday and that post will include my email information.

Tomorrow, I will have another giveaway--my birthday giveaway--and you'll need to post under tomorrow's post to specifically enter that one. Just say, "enter me in Birthday Giveaway" and that will do. (Specify birthday, cause if it just says "giveaway," I'll assume it's for the Jeff Gerke prizes.)

The mystery birthday prize will be announced TOMORROW.

BONUS ENTRIES: You will received one entry chance per day for the Jeff Gerke donated prizes. So, if you post all three days with "enter me in the giveaway," then you get three entries for that drawing. Post an entry request one day, one entry. Post two days, two entries.

And I'll just put names in a sack and let my gorgeous husband stick his hand in and pick the winners.

Get with the commenting!

Oh, and visit my tourmates:

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D.G.D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Timothy Wise

Here is a running list of the entries as I get them for THIS day. I will update the list throughout the day, so don't despair if you don't see yours here right away:

Josh V
Chris D
Kari C
Rachel M (Pixy)
John O of Least Read Blog
Daniel W
Rebecca M.
Alice (?)
James D
Sherie H
Jason J
Cheryl R.
Michelle P.
Nate K.
Katie H.



~

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Get off the floor and go door-to-door!"

I laughed out loud! The Evangelism Linebacker rocks!

See the video at "A New Way To Form Evangelizers"

I spent a couple of years (from age 15 to 17) doing on the beach or in a park or door-to-door gospel spreading. You have no idea, NONE, unless you are as reclusive as I am, how tough that is. When I saw Saturday approaching, I'd start getting the shakes and knots in my gut and cold sweats. The works. I think the few folks who let me in to do my gospel spiel did so out of sheer pity at this teen gal with the wobbly lower lip.

In contrast, there were those in my wee church who couldn't wait to get to the bus stop and beach and mall or head to a neighborhood and start knocking. They loved it. Thrived on it. Glowed at the mere thought of handing out tracts or asking someone if they knew where they'd go if they died that very day.

Those people had the gift of evangelism. It made their day. It filled them with joy. It energized them. It made grey days golden.

It just made me sick from stress.

But most important of all, those with the gift were EFFECTIVE. We'd all be saying about the same thing. I, personally, had memorized hundreds of verses on salvation and other pertinent topics, and was never at a loss for an answer back then. I even got a priest at the beach (didn't realize he was a priest, him being in a bathing suit and all), and still didn't back down. (I was young and tenacious, if terrified.) We debated for a good hour on works vs. grace and parted amicably.

But the most simple youth with a grasp of maybe a dozen verses WITH the gift, with that special blessing of the Spirit for gathering in souls, would come Sundays to church trailing behind them all their fruit, those new people who'd made decisions for Christ that week before.

That was the life-changing observation for me. When I evangelized, no one showed up at church. They might have been softened up for another to reap (I noticed this twice in high school), but I didn't deliver the effective call.

I'm betting someone with the evangelistic gift DID.

However, I noticed this: When I taught, people went out of the room all full of strength and energized and would come and hug me and tell me how gifted I was and could I teach on this or that subject. I'd get calls from people asking me to explicate a passage that stumped them. I'd sit with my Bible open and we'd go through it and what seemed obvious to me, I realized, was not obvious to all. And when I used my words to explain it, they got it.

Somewhere between me and them, some gift was operant. And that was MY gift.

I couldn't evangelize effectively to save my life--or anyone else's soul. But I could teach on the most difficult Scriptural passages and make it easy to grasp for many. And when someone felt down and doubtful, I had the right thing to say to keep up their faith. And if a new venture was getting going, I was the wordsmith who could do the newsletteers, do the initial organizing, take superb minutes, plot organizational charts and create procedural handbooks. As long as I didn't have to be the one doing the glad-handing, I was fine. Only in teaching did I feel perfectly at ease being in front, yapping away. Otherwise, I wanted to be anonymous and behind-the-scenes and quiet. I dont' even like praying out loud in groups.

After several years, I came to a decision: No more cold evangelism for me. I was not touched with that particular fire.

My fire was of a different sort, and exercising it gave me the joy and pleasure and glow that I'd see in those evangelists with that gift. My place was not on a soapbox in the park or at a busstop or at your door.

Mine was in a class or at a desk or one-on-one with someone already in the Body.

Now, obviously, anyone who spends time talking with me will hear about Jesus. It's almost inevitable, because we all speak most persistently about what we love most. So, chat with me and something theological or hubby-related or book-related will emerge. I love Jesus, my husband, and literature above just about everything else. So, there ya go.

And on this blog, I have been pretty open about God and the Bible and how salvation is through Christ. I suppose we each find the ways to evangelize that suit our temperaments and talents.

But whether you're an evangelizing fool or a reclusive prayer warrior, check out the video. It's a hoot.


Hat tip to the Claw Man.