Friday, June 29, 2007

Spec Faith Friday Post Is Up: Bad Baddies

Sauron, Voldemort, Shadows and Satan: The Bad Baddies Who Are Bad Cause They Are

The New Sci-Fi

An article in the Guardian Unlimited looks at current SF. Pretty interesting. It mentions one of my fave recent TV SF offerings (LIFE ON MARS), Battlestar Galactica, and some upcoming BBC projects.

I nearly fell out of my chair with a bolt of expectant ecstasy when I hit this:

ITV1 - already home of Primeval, which is about a team of scientists tracking prehistoric creatures through rifts in time - is, apparently, planning a drama called Lost in Austen, in which a woman finds a gateway to the Regency era in her bathroom.


That could, indeed, be quite felicitous a diversion, could it not?<--I typed this with a Brit accent.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why Do We Still Have to Print Out 400 Fricken Pages of Novel Manuscript?

Or, for that matter, query letters and proposals? Or non-fiction, even?

Here we are, in a time when "green" concerns are bigger than ever, and yet we still have to submit paper queries, proposals, manuscripts, etc.

Is this a refusal to meet the reality of the E-Age?

I was delighted that ACFW and other writing organizations moved their contest to paperless submissions. We've been doing that at DEP magazines since, well, since they started. And now we have big names behind paperless magazines: Baen's, Orson Scott Card.

So, how many of you have agents and editors who still want paper?

And how backward is that?

Save trees, people. Go paperless.

With that said, I segue to The Rejector's 6/26 post and this comment:

Print magazines seemed to have discovered the internet about yesterday. Several editor-in-chiefs came to speak to us and showed us their websites, which were relatively new (1-2 years) and largely just the content of their magazine with some video clips, and man were they nervous about the fact that all of these other magazines seemed to be doing a better job than them. And yes, a successful magazine website has a major effect on the magazine's health, it turns out. How are these people genuinely surprised by that?


I was pretty much the lone voice at DKA saying, "Um, why do we need print copies? Can we get rid of the print copies? Why are we spending moolah on print copies?"

Even now we're brainstorming for the future--how to advance with limited resources, acquire more resources, think out of the magazine box, expand vision, etc, and there I am saying, "Um, let's nix the print issues."

Yes, I'm a naggy gadfly, sometimes. But despite the "authors get the warm fuzzies from print copies" mantra, I think we need to think FUTURE, and SAVE BUDGET EXPENSES, and focus on being an electronic entity of increasing quality. Paper is lovely. I love beautiful paper and fonts and gorgeous cover art. But magazies are, by nature, much more disposable than books. I'll toss out an old periodical--reluctantly since I have an aversion to getting rid of any written material, bibliophile that I am--but putting a quality bound book in the trash is....oh, my gosh, the horror! (I can do it if the book is damaged or so skanky reading it makes me sick.)

But magazines, yeah. Go electronic.

And anything that requires reams of paper and expensive ink cartridges: Rethink the waste, peops.

Note: The Rejecter in that post offers her theory about the Simon & Schuster brouhaha of a couple months back, and I think she bulls-eyed it.
~

Hobbits Are From Kentucky!

What? It says so right here.

So, metaphorically speaking, that means that, once again, the Brits and the Yanks teamed up to save the world from the big bad foreign baddies. And the Elves immigrated to the US (er, west) shortly thereafter.

Heh.

hat tip to Peter C of FilmChat

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Kid Coming To the Faith in Fiction Neighborhood: THIRD ORDER Mag

Thanks to the delightful E.H. for a link to a new publication accepting fiction dealing with faith (and not in an anti-religious way a la Pullman). A page is up with guidelines for THIRD ORDER MAGAZINE, but here's a taste:

Religion is personal and societal; it changes single souls and entire worlds. The ways of God are not always easy or explainable. The way faith tells us to go is not always the way we expected. At Third Order Magazine, we're interested in exploring those dynamics. We're less DaVinci Code and more Flannery O'Connor -- with, of course, the occasional extraterrestrial.


Payment is modest, but the vision sounds quite generous. The first edition is expected to roll out in September.

The editor is Karen Osborne, and you can visit her site here. I wish her great blessings and success with this project. Her guidelines sound tres cool.

If you're not familiar with the term "third order," then you probably aren't Catholic. My mom was a member of the third order of St. Francis. She had the scapular, cord, brown habit, and she sure prayed much, adored animals and flowering nature, and did many works of mercy, so her heart was always "Franciscan." So, to this day, I have a very soft spot for St. Francis and St. Clare, even though I no longer belong to the R.C. church. My mom was a very simple, very humble woman, and I'm sure if I were still R.C., I'd have followed her into some third order, probably the Franciscan. (I tried the Legion of Mary, and I can say that, no that wasn't for me. My eldest sister likes it.) The third order of St. Francis meshed with my mom's personality, and she certainly maintained an air of intercession, penitence, simplicity, egalitarianism, and service to the sick and needy all the days of her life.

So, hey, looky there, the title of a magazine just gave me a nice flashback to my mom in those events (I can't even remember which or why) when she wore her full third order habit.

~

HIS DARK MATERIALS:
Condensed and Criticized

Lawdy, this was funny, posted over at Asking the Wrong Questions. And it was sad, cause, hey, so true. Read the condensations of books one and two first, but here's three, which had me wheezing even worse:

Book III


Pullman: God, religion, and any person of faith are Evil.

Readers: Why?

Pullman: Sheesh, are you deaf? They kill babies!

Readers: Hang on, the leader of the fight against God also killed a baby. Why isn't he evil?

Pullman: No he didn't.

Readers: Yes he did, it's right here in the first book.

Pullman: Shut up! Look at Will and Lyra having sex!

Readers: Urg. Isn't Lyra ten?

Pullman: She's twelve now.

Readers: Well, that makes it all better, then.

Lyra: Even though I've never shown any interest in religion or the struggle against God, and I've never really been taught anything about the subject, I will now give a long stirring speech about establishing the Republic of Heaven, just in case there are still readers who aren't brainwa... I mean convinced. (Book ends.)

Pullman: Remember, God is Evil.


You might also enjoy the fabulous John C. Wright's post on why naming The Golden Compass the best children's book in 70 years is a crock, plus other suggestions.

And Peter Hitchens writes on the worship of Philip Pullman,who he dubs as the most dangerous author in Britain.

Interesting how so many non-believers criticize Christian fiction as preachy. But Pullman, as preachy as you can get, particularly in book three, it seems, gets lauded. The truth is that as long as you preach the message with good prose and in the current mode, the spirit (as it were) of the age, it's fine to preach. Always has been. And the message of hatred of the God and His church, well, that's an ancient style that's hotter than ever. Pullman is the new pied piper, and where he wants to leads his children readers is not to purity and goodness, it's to rebellion and degradation. Dark materials, indeed.

Hat tip Sci Fi Catholic

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Breathing Blues, Smooching Suggestions, & A Birthday Note To My Beautiful Babboo

Feels like someone is stepping on my upper chest and lower throat. There's probably a poem or story in this somewhere. Dark fantasy, most like, or horror.

More...tea...must...drink....more....tea...

Anyway, today is the hubby's birthday. We are now BOTH 47.

It's amazing to me that I met that gorgeous man when was a fresh-faed 22, one who got repeatedly carded on our dates and on our honeymoon, even though he never drinks alcohol, EVER, and I was the one ordering wine now and then. Do you know how annoying it is to have your date carded, but not YOU? heh.

Time doesn't fly. It rockets. Before you know it, you've zipped past Jupiter and your hair is turning gray.

And you're suddenly a candidate for regular colonoscopies. (Ack!)

So, enjoy today. Enjoy it a lot. Throw God a kiss, and then hug your nearest loved ones and smooch them, too. Heck, smooch EVERYBODY! (no slobbering)

It'll be tomorrow before you blink.


Happy Birthday, Snookybabe. You really do get better and better, and you still make me laugh more than anyone on the planet.

...from your wheezy snugglebunny.

What The Mir Is Listening To: June 26

Mer De Noms by A Perfect Circle (2000 release)

The song Thomas is perfect writing music for a couple of scenes. The lyrics work, too, almost absolutely perfectly suited to the theme/character:

Humble and helpless and learning to pray
Praying for visions to show me the way

Show me the way to forgive you
Allow me to let it go
Allow me to be forgiven
Show me the way to let go

Show me the way to forgive you
Allow me to let it go
Allow me to be forgiven
And show me the way to let go

Illuminate me
Illuminate me
Illuminate me

I'm just praying for you to show me where to begin
Hoping to, hoping to reconnect to you.



And "The Hollow" is a great running from (to?)danger tune, with this cool bit of lyric-ing:

'cause its time to bring the fire down
throttle all this indiscretion
long enough to edify
and permanently fill this hollow



Monday, June 25, 2007

Wee Prayer Request ::Wheeze:::

Summer is hard on the Mir's respiratory system.

Normally, I don't get really bad until August. (I dunno what blooms in August that gets to me, considering it's wet and hot and like something out of Aldiss' HOTHOUSE here in deep summer, meaning EVERYTHING IN SIGHT is spewing something or growing mold or mildew or, hey, mushrooms.) This year, the wheezing is getting an early start.

I sound like one of those pervs making nasty calls. Yeesh.

I'm pretty much as medicated as I can get--inhaled steroids, antihistamine, Singulair, Serevent, albuterol puffer--barring steroid injections or prednisone pills (which I spent years taking and they are hellish on my system, so I avoid them unless death by asphyxiation is closing in as a possibility).

So, um, prayers for my respiratory system to chill out would be appreciated.

Inspiration in Genesis

Well, today I started--yet again--the Bible in 90 Days program. (Not that I finished last time, mind you.)

So, there I am, reading my day's portion--the first 15 chapters of Genesis--and bam. Three ideas for deepening my WIP's worldbuilding. (And no, I don't mean I'm doing allegory or anything.)

Clearly, the Lord is not only my comfort and my shield, He's also a terrific muse.

Maybe I'll get a good idea for a horror story when I hit Judges. That's one creepy book.

Have your devotions inspired you in any way fictionally this month?

New Imprint--MARIMBA:
Spiritual, Multicultural, & For Kids

I know some of y'all write for the younger audiences. Maybe this is of interest to you:

"Kensington Inks Deal with Hudson for Kids Imprint":

NEW YORK, NY/6/20/07-­Kensington Publishing Corp., the last independent U.S. publisher of hardcover, trade and mass market paperback books, has joined forces with Hudson Publishing to launch a new African-American imprint for children, called Marimba Books. Hudson is a new company started by the founders of Just Us Books.

Marimba, to focus on spiritual themes, will be published under Kensington’s Dafina Books program beginning in 2008. Dafina is Kensington’s growing African-American publishing imprint for adults, and more recently for young adults. The line will be launched with six titles. Some of the titles will be written by Wade and Cheryl Hudson, founders of Just Us Books. Cheryl will serve as the imprint’s editorial director, and will focus on titles that strive to both educate and entertain. Kensington CEO and president Steve Zacharius sees the line as a “perfect fit” for the company’s growing African-American program.


For more, click the above link.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How Come They Need My Date of Birth?

I was ordering my copy of COACH'S MIDNIGHT DINER, which has stories by my pals Suz Robertson and Chris "I win DKA Fiction Contests" Mikesell, who also won the Jesus v. Cthulhu challenge at CMD, and Mikey "DeComposer" Duran; and which has a story with the amazingly hooking title of "The Gift of the Magi if the Magi Had Been Big Idiots," and how faboo is that?

I ended up postponing my order.

Why?

Well, aside from the very small irritation at having to click "Ms", when I am most definitely and happily a "Mrs.", they ask for my date of birth. Okay, not that it's any secret. I've said I'm 47 quite a lot on this blog. It's that I don't like giving any personal info on a form if I don't have to. After getting my purse stolen, I became insanely cautious about identity theft. Then I had someone use my credit card number for unauthorized purchases, the very week after I placed two telephone clothing orders. (I'm guessing one of those folks decided to go shopping.)

And, frankly, why do they need it to bill me? I order stuff from online vendors every week or two, just about, and they don't ask my date of birth. Phone number, yeah, sometimes, but not dob.

(Note: I also hate giving out my phone number, because I don't want anyone to call me who isn't my best pal, my critique partner, my spiritual advisor, or related to me by blood or marriage. Or a representative of an accentric millionaire telling me I'm being left a large fortune in liquid funds. Or an agent begging to represent me. Or an editor begging to throw a juicy advance check at me. Yes, I really hate solicitations, charitable or political or otherwise. And no, I don't want to answer that survey about tires. My phone messages tend to sit there for a week before I pick them up. I did mention that I'm a urban hermit, no?)

So, I guess I'm cranky today. This non-Ms just didn't feel like finishing the order. I'm going to be an annoyed twit for at least 24 hours.

Or until someone tells me why they need my dob to process an order for an anthology. Is this some "demographic survey" sort of thing?

(Actually, I was gonna order two and give one away. I might still. Depends on how ornery I feel Tuesday or Wednesday.)

(Yes, I will order it. I must, must, must read that Mikesell Jesus vs. Cthulhu tale and the Big Idiot Magis one, too, because I love weirdness and I love to laugh. I really, really do. Though maybe you can't tell that by my whining today.)

I better check the calendar. I'm really feeling prickly. Plus I'm overusing parentheses. That's gotta be a symptom along with bloating and carb cravings.

BTW, order your copy. I'm sure you're much more tranquil than I am today. And order now, cause it's a bit cheaper at pre-order prices.

~

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hey, PW Mentions Speculative Faith and the Fantasy 4 Fiction Tour: WooHoo!

Four Christian speculative fiction authors from four different publishers are teaming up for the Fantastic 4 Fantasy Fiction Tour. After a kickoff July 9 in Atlanta at the International Christian Retail Show, the writers will visit churches, bookstores, libraries and homeschool groups in a dozen cities July 10-18.

While mainstream fantasy and science fiction fill shelves in general-interest bookstores, the genre has yet to really take off in the Christian market industry insiders told RBL. Suspicion of the books as too dark or occult, combined with a primary demographic that isn't drawn to the edgy—white, evangelical American women of childbearing-to-empty-nest ages—make the books less than attractive to many Christian publishers and booksellers said freelance editor Jeff Gerke. According to the authors, the goal of the Fantastic 4 tour is to raise the profile of the genre and demonstrate the inspirational qualities of the novels.

~snip~

Not surprisingly given that young demographic, fans of Christian speculative fiction and aspiring novelists are busy on the Web, on sites like Wherethemapends.com, run by Jeff Gerke; and Speculative Faith, and A Christian Worldview of Fiction, run by Rebecca LuElla Miller.

--"Fantasy 4 Fiction Tour Highlights Nascent Genre" by Juli Cragg Hilliard, Religion BookLine -- Publishers Weekly, 6/20/2007


John Morehead of TheoFantastique had a reaction to the above article:

When I read this item I was struck that Christians seem to have many of the same fears of alleged darkness and occultism in science fiction as they do in the horror and fantasy genres. This was a little surprising in that science fiction makes a greater appeal to technology and rationalism, two elements that strong influence modern evangelicalism.


I was also struck by how curious it is that science fiction or speculative fiction is a genre that tries to imagine what alternative worlds and realities might be possible beyond this one. This is a form of utopian thinking that would seem to overlap with Christian concepts and desires for a New Jerusalem, and a New Heavens and Earth. Have Christians lost their baptized imaginations in the contemporary age?


Hey, that's what lots of us have been saying, and saying....and SAYING!

Remember to pray--start now!-- for the blessing and protection of the touring Fantasy 4 writers. It's never easy to be away from your loved ones, facing people asking, probably, the same questions over and over, and encountering (as happens) some who may be hostile or clueless or just plain annoying.

~

Tough Decision: The Rhysling Vote

Well, yesterday, I finally filled out my ballot for the Rhysling Awards, and this morning off it went in the mail.

Choosing short form poems was pretty much a cinch. There had been some I kept going back to reread--always with pleasure--so those were my top three.

Long form was harder. I really had five I loved, and choosing three, and putting those three in order was so hard. Still, there was one that, after multiple rereadings, kept yielding surprises and delight and made me feel things in that really deep place that poetry has a way of slipping into. So, that was number one. The others that didn't wear on me on rereading went to 2 and 3.

I did not vote for my own nominated poem, "Into the Heart." I like it. I think I did a very good job with it. I am proud of it. I like it better every time I read it. I done good.

But when it came down to it, I couldn't say with all honesty it was in MY top three. I suppose some poets will vote for themselves, and that's cool, but I'd have felt like a total dork.

So, best of luck to the nominees, and I hope my choices for number one win. Heh.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Editorial Quote: What This Writer
Really Needed To Hear Today

I had emailed a pal of mine yesterday about my frustration at the moment. It's like, one day, I think I've got something pretty darn good and I'm disgustingly pleased with myself. Then the next day, I think I'm a talentless hack and what in heaven's name am I doing attempting to tell a story?

Well, I caught up with my feed of Monstrous Musings, and while the following was posted last week, I needed to hear it TODAY, so, see, sometimes getting behind in blog reading serves a purpose.

This editor/writer calls this post "The Great Rule of Novel Writing." I call it a nice cup of tea with lemon creme cookies--a much needed refreshment:

Quite simply, when you're writing your novel, remind yourself that it's never as good as or as bad as you think it is. Writing your novel can prove to be a rather bipolar experience. One day you think you're brilliant and the next day you may think your writing is fit for nothing but the delete button. But keeping this rule in mind can help you find a precious middle ground, and in turn help you avoid the worst of these extremes. Both can be harmful in their own way, even if there are moments when both may end up being true. This rule helps me more when I think something is terrible, but I think it's always something worth keeping in mind for as big an undertaking as a novel (especially the epic ones!)

Get SciFiction While You Can

You may have heard that Scifi.Com has axed Scifiction.com, and no, I don't mean the way they axed it more than a year ago. I'm talking about they're not even going to keep the stories archived there.

Excuse me, but how thoughtless and miserly is that?

(Okay, maybe there's some authorial rights issue involved that I don't know about. Still, as a reader, I'm not happy.)

I thought SciFiction was a great service to the SF community. At a time when other ventures in the speculative--movies, films, video games, role playing games, etc--it was nice that they didn't neglect the short fiction form.

When Datlow took her bow, it was comforting that the stories were still there, for us to read at our leisure. And maybe reread.

But now, even that's going bye-bye. And I don't get it. It's so relatively inexpensive for them to just keep those up there. Honestly, given how much other content they have, how much of a budgetary dent could it be to keep a few dozen stories available to readers of SF?

I'm super unhappy at SciFi.Com.

So, go here and read them/save them while you can.

Some of what's there:

05.31.00
Malthusian's Zombieby Jeffrey Ford

06.22.00
2001 Nebula Award-winning StoryThe Cure for Everythingby Severna Park

06.28.00
Dune: Nighttime Shadows on Open Sandby Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

07.05.002000
Nebula Award-winning StoryGoddessesby Linda Nagata

05.21.03
The Book of Marthaby Octavia E. Butler

06.04.03
Jailwiseby Lucius Shepard

07.23.03
Daughter of the Monkey Godby M.K. Hobson


09.17.03
Caught in the Organ Draftby Robert Silverberg


10.01.03
2004 World Fantasy Award-nominated StoryAncestor Moneyby Maureen F. McHugh

07.13.05
Calypso In Berlinby Elizabeth Hand

10.12.05
Painwiseby James Tiptree, Jr.

12.07.05
Star Light, Star Brightby Alfred Bester

GRAVE PERIL: Smoking!



I've read three of the Dresden Files novel so far, and each one gets better. No kidding. One was kicking. Two was ripping. Three is burning down the house! I loved this book.

Yes, it's a page-turner deluxe! I like fast, crazy reads that don't aim to be "litrahchur", but solid, speculative entertainment. So sue me, as Harry would say. Things just get worse and worse and worse. But Butcher is a mad demon plotter, and how he fits it all together, if slightly predictable in spots, is also full of fun twists you may not see coming (I didn't) and just flat out socks-knocking-off fabulous fun.

One other really cool thing: This one has an honest-to-God Christian character who isn't a joke or a fool or a parody. He's a genuinely virtuous good guy champion. The Fist of God. (Okay, that still makes me chuckle.) A real knight in shining chain mail. And he loves his wife and trusts in God and has a nice relationship with his pal the priest and he won't bend his moral core to suit a situation. And he's likable. And he's nifty. And Harry likes and trusts him. Wow.

Good on you, Jim Butcher. I could smooch you.

Book one featured a seriously whacked sorcerer. Book two featured scary as heck werewolves. This one is chock full of tortured ghosts and vengeful vampires.

To the CSF crowd: Buy it. You may not see another Christian character portrayed with such heroism and sympathy in contemporary secular fantasy again for a long time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What The Mir Is Listening To: Silver Ship

Gorgeous. Relaxing. Dreamy.

Silver Ship by Suzanne Ciani, the "Diva of Electronic Music."

The track "Eclipse" is like having a truly wonderful dream where you're flying or sailing on a perfect sea. "Snow Crystal" is light, airy, floaty, and makes you want to breathe deeply. Ooooooh. Aaaaaaah.

This music makes me want to write seafaring high fantasy. I'll restrain myself.

But you go right ahead.

Morning Prayer & Greek Orthodox Readings

In the morning are we filled with Your mercy, O Lord, and we rejoice and delight in all of our days. Let us delight therefore even in the days that you make us lowly and for the years that we have seen evils. And look upon Your servants and upon Your works and lead their sons aright. And let the light of the Lord our God be upon us, and the works of our hands may You guide aright. Yea, the works of our hands may You guide aright.
--Orthros Prayer


The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America site has a nice listing of readings and saints lives. Here're the readings for today:

4th Thursday after Pentecost

The Reading is from Matthew 11:27-30

The Lord said to his disciples, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."


and

The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 11:13-24

BRETHREN, I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.


You can have the readings emailed to you. Sign up at the site.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: THE RESTORER



Oh, dear. The day got away with me. That's what happens when I'm writing and going, "Oh, okay, that stunk. Let's try that again." Seven pages later--I didn't say I was fast!--it's almost Thursday.

I wanted to be all sweetness and nice today, which is not what I've been feeling after reading a particular blog tourmate's review. I actually felt like chewing someone's nose off. But then, hey, that's me. I have an inner vicious beeyotch who comes to the fore at times.

She's calmer now, thanks.

I think it's best I say why this novel entertained and worked for me, because YOU might be a reader like ME who will connect to one or more things in the story  of THE RESTORER. But I don't always do what's best. Sometimes, I have to address some of the not so nice stuff.

I will add that I think having the freedom to give negative reviews is necessary. I'm not talking supersnarky or cruel, but critical. And the reviewer who ticked me off actually had some interesting and valid critique points. Too bad this person added some personally narrow and irrelevant points that could only serve to be offensive and be a sort of arrogant slapping down of the author and her work, not to mention her particular segment of Christendom.

Hey, if someone wants to do that, that's freedom of speech. I happen to think it's rather tacky, too.

Some reviews were quite fair in stating the novel wasn't the reviewer's cup of tea because X or Y or Z. And that's fine. I haven't always enjoyed the features of the blog tour. Happens.

Some reviews found plotholes, and while I agree with one or two, I think the others are just being uber-nitpickey and aren't plotholes so much as things the reviewer just didn't like. And one reviewer bashed a non-Catholic novel for, essentially, not being Catholic, which is just plain laughable to me and says something about the reviewer's prejudices. It's as if I picked up and read a feminist SF novel, knowing that's what it was, and then complained that it was, er, feminist and not traditionalist. Well, duh.

Let me talk to the readers who are or may be part of the target audience for this novel. Do chime in if  one or more of these represents you:

1. You have yet to read a fantasy with a middle class protagonist who is middle-aged, female, a stay at home wife and mom, who is a believing Christian of the more Evangelical sort (I don't think any denomination is named, could be wrong, my memory sucks, but let's say American-style reformed Protestant). In other words, a protagonist who is a mirror of your reality, because YOU are a not-so-spring-chickeny married Christian woman with kids, perhaps.

2. You don't favor high-tech sorts of SF. You are more interested in seeing characters deal with conflict in relationships and in their spiritual lives, accented by an external conflict with clear cut villains.

3.  You don't come at a novel with a fine-tooth comb seeking out the things that aren't absolutely perfect, but allow yourself to be swept away by a character's tale.

4.  You aren't at all put off by Scripture in fiction, because you live daily with Scripture in your life, for guidance, for comfort, for decision-making. Scripture is not decorative to you. It's integral to your daily walk.

5.  You don't want excess violence, you don't want graphic sexuality, etc.

6.  You can accept bad guys who are just bad, because they're bad baddies, and don't need a psychoanalysis of why they're baddies.

7. You don't have an anti-Evangelical agenda.


I, btw, don't mind graphic violence in novels, and I am not put off by some sexuality (as long as I don't feel jerked around, like someone is trying to hook me with, essentially, porn scenes).

I don't like casual and overuse of Scripture to prop up stories, but I value Scripture so much in my daily life, that it seems unnatural to me to have Christian characters who do NOT speak verses in times of duress or reflection. I speak with verses (even though I can't seem to memorize them anymore, unlike the days of my youth), so it's not freaky to me that characters do so, likewise. (Jesus, the apostles, they had no trouble speaking in verses, came quite naturally.) I do like to read some high-tech, hard sf, but I gravitate to fantasy and I like strong emotions, even romantic subplots.

And I can suspend disbelief enough to forgive a plothole or two, a flaw or two, if something else moves me long in the story.

Oh, yes, and I am middle-aged,  happily married, Christian (of the Evangelical variety),  stay at home wife, and sometimes wonder if I'm fulfilling my purpose in life. And I know I'm not as fully surrendered as I should be. I can't deny it. So, the theme of this novel spoke to ME.

And I love both motivated baddies and some unmotivated ones. The fact that I loved the Buffyverse is enough to say that some things are evil just cause they are works for me at times. Buffy didn't have to explain away why a vampire wanted to eat her up, she just killed it. Not a problem for me. Frodo and company didn't have to analyze why Sauron was such a nasty bit of icky badness, he was and he needed to be defeated. Works for me. I don't need a case analysis of the White Witch or the Wicked Witch of the West. I'm quite all right with the fact that, hey, there are bad baddies. As far as I know, we still aren't totally clear on why demons are demons, but they are.

The Gender Divide: It's evident here. If you're a guy, okay, this is probably not gonna do it for you.

But THE RESTORER, a first fantasy novel for its author, does seem ideally targeted for the CBA type of female reader. And when I look around at the reviews by women, I see a lot of happy readers giving enthusiastic thumbs up to this SAHM's journey into a land that has strong echoes of the Old Testament, specifically the time when God did equip certain men (and at least one woman) with gifts and graces necessary to fend off threats from without and within.

There is a taste of allegory here, though I know it's not intended to be such. Susan as Deborah, the enemies so like Israel's, the clans so like Israel, the Verses so like the holy writings, the Restorers so like the judges.

The accusation of Deus Ex MAchina: Um, excuse me, but when a world is built with the premise that there is a Deus and He does act, then it's not unrealistic to expect some divine intervention in some or many forms. Maybe someone should have told God he shouldn't have stopped the sun for Joshua, just too D.E.M., ya know?

No. If a world allows for the possibility of a god or God to act on behalf of his purposes and for his people (which McMaster Bujold used brilliantly in THE CURSE OF CHALION and PALADIN OF SOULS), then we shouldn't be surprised if He does just that. That is not a plothole. That is not a weakness. That is an outworking of a set-up. It can be done satisfactory or not for readers, but that's enough of a set-up for me.You got a god or gods or God, then, fine, I'll expect that these may play a part.

I also don't think "Because Tolkien didn't do that" is quite a valid critique element.

If the world in which Lyric is found is  world like the time of the prophets and judges, then expect miracles. To discount miracles is to betray the set-up. And to discount divine intervention altogether is to discount God. I can't do that as a Christian, sorry.

One thing I do agree was a mistake was the sword transformation. That made no sense in hindsight. But, hey, when I was reading, it didn't even register, because I allowed for the possibility that this was a dreamworld or a magic world. The criticism is valid about that. If the way to get into the alternate reality is justified via some weird science, then you can't have a fake sword turning into a real one. That's magic.

For me, as a reader, it was not even much of a blip because of where my mindset was at that point: I still didn't know how the world worked, so I just suspended disbelief until I got more world foundation under my reading feet.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD:

I would like to address one particularly critical remark, one that really set my teeth on edge, which took the villainous Rhusicans as a cautionary element saying, "Don't talk to non-Christians." How insulting. That sort of theory actually besmirches the author's character, and I find it ungracious and offensive, frankly. Shame on that reviewer.

My take on the Rhusicans is that they had a gift like Satan's, able to poison people with doubt, as the adversary purred doubt in Eve's ear, and tried to do the same with our Lord in the desert. I thought the idea of a mental poison of the Satanic sort was perfect for an alternate reality that is echoing  Biblical times. Instead of one adversary able to infect with doubt, there are several, they are a race. So, the parallel to me was of demons. And that's pretty cool to me.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is how the poisoning is done and how the healing is accomplished. Works for me as a reader, because it's worked very close to that way for me in my real life. I've had to deal with the deceiver by using God's Word, literally filling myself with it until the deceiver's lies are silenced.

Have you fought off dark thoughts, doubts, and temptations to despair with the Word? If you have, you'll want to read those Rhusican passages. Tell me if they ring at all true.

The Restorers, btw, are not Christs. I haven't asked the author if she intended for them to be "Christs", but from the context I took them to be "judges." The Deborah echoes being a big clue there.

SPOILER SECTION OVER

Another issue: Susan has been described as "whiny". Yes, she has moments of whininess. A bit more than I would like, but not unrealistically so. Fits the character, imo. What some see as whiny, others see as "my life, my reality" and "how I'd be put in her place." That's how some readers who loved the novel see it. One man's whiny is one woman's quotidian experience.

At least Susan bucks up and takes on her role, while a guy like, say, Jonah just stayed a whiny, resentful jerk of a reluctant prophet through his whole tale. And yet, we learn even from Jonah. This may also be a man/woman thing. Lots of novels, Chick Lit come to mind, and these aren't aimed at men. They have a characters who suffer angst over their relational and life obstacles, and yes, they whine and complains and feel dissatisfied, then go out and do something. Yes, eventually, they rise to the occasion. Susan rises to the occasion. And she doesn't do so instantly, which would be less realistic, perhpas, even if less annoying to some. I put myself in her "soccer mom" shoes, and I'd probably have been puking and crapping on myself. But I'd like to think I'd eventually get over myself and rise, too.

The techie stuff: Don't give a hoot. No, really, I'm just not the person to go to for those sorts of critiques. I can barely check my car engine's oil or install software and I stopped keeping up with Scientific American ages ago.

One more point: A character desiring a sense of the presence of God is not a hidden clue of a subsconsious desire to convert to Catholicism and routinely revel in the presence of transubstantiated materials. Puhlease. Have some respect for the author's own religious experience. That's not reading between the lines, that ripping up the lines and cutting up the letters and putting back on the page what one wants to see. It's pretty damn rude.

THE RESTORER kept me turning pages and ignoring the quibbles I had. Not all novels get me ignoring quibbles--sometimes, I will get quite vexed with a plothole. But sometimes, there's enough there to keep me going. A storyteller's job is to keep you reading. Sharon Hinck kept me reading and not overanalyzing. She took me away for some hours, and I had fun.

Yep, fun. Imagine that.

And I notice that among the women readers in my acquaintance, it's a hit. It works. Perhaps because many of us have felt like this heroine: nothing seriously wrong with our life--great hubby, nice house, healthy kids, etc--but there was this part of us that yearned for more, to be special, to be appreciated, to just be MORE.

If that's been you, get a copy. You are the person who may perk up and glow reading this story.

Amazon has it for less than twelve bucks. Come on. Try it.

And if you do like it, maybe drop by Sharon's blog or website and let her know you did. It would be balm to any author's heart to hear that, I bet.

Now, I need to go back to my own fictional battle, or would that be battle with my fiction?

And now, my tourmates:
Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Russell Griffith
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour: Sharon Hinck's THE RESTORER


Meet Susan, a modern-day soccer mom who is pulled through a portal into another world, where a nation grappling for its soul waits for a promised Restorer to save their people.

Susan has always longed to do something great for God, but can she fill this role?


That's one of the blurbs for THE RESTORER that you'll find on Sharon Hinck's website. And while I loathe the term "soccer mom", I think it's useful in its way to peg the character for prospective readers in the female-dominated CBA reading audience. This is a gal like us. She's married. She's a mom. She is busy. Too busy, maybe. Maybe she simply doesn't have enough time for herself. Yes, CBA's majority demographic can "get" this woman.

That's why, if you're someone who mostly reads romances or women's fiction, and you tend to glaze over in the eyeball region at the thought of reading, gasp, a speculative fiction novel. Gimme a few minutes:

What can I do to get you to try Sharon Hinck's alternate reality Christian fantasy THE RESTORER?

I aim this specifically at those of you who do read Women's Fiction in all its manifestations.

And I aim that specifically at those of you who enjoy fantasies with swordplay, battles, good heroes, menacing villains, and fish out of water.

This novel is a hybrid. Women's Fiction meets Alternate Reality.

Let's have a couple definitions for those of you who might be unclear.


Alternate Reality (aka Parallel Reality):


Parallel universe or alternate reality in science fiction and fantasy is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with our own.


Women's Fiction:


Women's fiction is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of literary sub-genres that are marketed to female readers, including many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, "chick lit," and other sub genres.
If you read either of those two genres, then I'm tellling you, try THE RESTORER. And even you guys who may have second thoughts--Women's Fiction? Ugh!--need to calm down and give this a chance. (Hey, we women have been reading your guy stories for ages, and if we can enjoy testosterone fueled fiction with hardly a female hero in sight, then I think you need to sit down and be big enough to try fiction with a mom hero.)

THE RESTORER opens in our world, our time, where a Christian housewife is smack in a bad emotional and spiritual place. This is good. A character with a big need, a void, a hurt, is a character that makes you want to follow them through their journey. In this case, up to an attic for a time of devotion.

(I know, you're thinking, yawn, a devotion. How Christian Fictiony cliched. And hey, I"m with you. I hate devotion and sitting-in-a-pew-listening-to-sermons scenes myself. They tend to be wholly static.)

Ah, but, we are given this solitary moment for a glimpse into our character's need, and we don't stay there long. This is the establishment of the real world and the real world woman, but the real world will be gone soon enough, and the woman's identity is about to take a marked 180.

The soccer mom in this world is a hero in that world. Or at least, chosen to be a hero. It's up to her to take up the mantle--and sword--and the calling's attendant special powers and become the hero that the One (ie God) has selected her to be. She is an alternate reality Deborah, but all along, we know she is still that mom. And she has no guarantees of getting out alive. That's the nature of the calling: death might be at the end of The Restorer's service.

Even so, our purposes may be bigger than we may know. Do we surrender to the calling and the Higher Power Who calls? Or do we seeks to escape and be safe?

(Safety versus danger in calling is the theme of my current WIP, so, hey, it's one I like to read.)

Let me give you a link to an excerpt which includes some of the opening above of THE RESTORER.

That opening novel is a perfect "easing into" point for Christian Women's Fiction aficionados. But rest assured, if you enjoy fantasy of the heroic alternate reality sort, then the novel morphs into that while retaining a significant percentage of the WF flavor. That doesn't mean this is only for women. This means that while women, especially Christian women, especially Christian women who read CBA romance and WF, should be thoroughly hooked by that beginning, readers of fantasy should find themselves shortly thereafter equally hooked by the events in the fantasy world.

On the plus side: The novel has a nice zippy pace, the action gets going fast (ie, I didn't have to sit through days of angst and devotions, yay!), and the dangers start multiplying in short order. The new world had a particularly cool set of villains whose particular weapon requires a cure that proves the power of worship. I liked the conflicted secondary character, Kieran. I really enjoyed the council scene, but then, I love when there's intrigue and political machinations. And, hey, some nice surprises/twists. I especially loved the penultimate one. Heh.

On the minus side: I found myself slightly losing interest in a part in the very latter portion of the novel, a couple scenes that felt padded. But that's minor. And I do have a thing for an alternate world seeming to be so utterly whitebread and Northern Euro. (Which I mentioned before, so won't beat the comatose horse here.)I also felt bombarded by names in certain part, names for characters that were decorative and never came to life. And I didn't really feel her missing her kids. It didn't come across vividly enough.

Ultimately, this is truly an entertaining read, a fast-paced one, that offers us a look at a reality that has echoes of our own--especially if you're familiar with your Old Testament--but is still its own world.It's not graphic in either the violence and certainly is subtle in the few areas that address conjugal matters, so nothing here should offend the typical CBA reader. It's kid-safe, without being dull.

So, have I tempted you at all to get a copy of THE RESTORER? Yes? No? Come one. Tell me.

I'll try again tomorrow to sway you...

Meanwhile, a snippet from an interview posted today at Galactic Overlord's Writing Blog:

Jason: What do you see as Susan’s major challenges in the story?

Sharon: Like many of us, Susan is ready to serve God in any way He calls her – as long as He explains Himself to her. LOL! She faces some extreme surprises and unusual battles—but I’d argue that many of us do, too. It may not involve a literal “other world” but we sometimes are hit with pain that we can’t find a good reason for – and we have a choice to pull away from God in disillusionment, or surrender more deeply and trust Him with the “not knowing.”

Visit my blog tourmates:
Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Russell Griffith
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver

Monday, June 18, 2007

Need Help Polishing Your Proposal?

Well, there's a new business to help you get your proposal all snappylicious before you hit the RWA and ACFW and other conferences later this year. You may recognize one of the partner's names:

PRESS RELEASE

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~specializes in polishing fiction book proposals~

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Double Crit is a unique freelance editing service that offers high-level critiques of fiction book proposals from two experienced editors. Whether a writer is preparing for a conference or getting ready to submit their manuscript to editors and agents, Double Crit can help.

Double Crit is here to help with book proposal formatting, query letters, synopses and story structure as well as the first thirty pages of the manuscript. They can assist with the opening hook, back-cover copy, active and passive voice, showing vs. telling, character development, spiritual threads, and point of view.

Double Crit sharpens proposals to double your edge in the publishing world.

Double Crit Editorial Services is the brain-child of Ronie Kendig and Sara Mills. Ronie and Sara were brought together as friends and critique partners because they are both represented by the same agent.

Through networking with other writers, Sara & Ronie saw a gaping need for high-level editing services for writers who want to attend writers conferences with proposals that are polished and ready to impress. Thus, Double Crit was born.

A great book proposal can open publishing house doors for a writer, and Double Crit can to help you to tighten your proposal to sharpen your edge in the publishing world.


Contact Double Crit: submissions@doublecrit.com

www.doublecrit.com

Follow-Up on the Angelica Magazine Rip-Off: James H. Pence's Experience & Offer


Back in January, I had posted an update on the shameful mess that was Angelica Magazine
, wherein promises were made by Lynnette Fuller--207 Grinders Pl,Vicksburg, MS 39180--some authors got paid (at amazingly high rates given periodicals today), and the subscribers got shafted by Lynette Fuller (no response to emails, no website explanation of situation, no sub monies refunded, just a wall of suspicious silence and ripped off consumers). A different entry relates my "Subscription Saga."

Only a few authors seemed to make out well. And hey, it's not like they knew any more than we who subscribed in good faith.

A recent comment was made to that January blog post, so I'm moving it here to a regular entry, since some of you out there who got ripped-off by Angelica Magazine might want to at least read ONE of the stories for which you paid and got bupkis.

Read what James H. Pence, author, had to say:

Hi Mir (and anyone else with an interest in Angelica Magazine):

I would be at least one of the authors who got paid by Angelica Magazine, and I thought it was about time that someone stepped forward and cleared the air (at least a little bit). I've been hesitant to speak about this publicly because I was holding out hope that Angelica might still become a reality and that there would be a happy ending to this "saga". However, I think the disappearance of the Web site is fairly solid evidence that it's not going to happen.

I am a relatively unknown suspense author with two novels to my credit. My first novel, "Blind Sight" was published by Tyndale in 2003, and my latest, "The Angel", was released by Kregel in 2006. A few years ago, Lynette Fuller contacted me and told me that she had read my novel "Blind Sight". She also told me that she was the editor of a start-up Christian fiction magazine and asked if I'd be willing to submit a short story. I don't write much short fiction, but she was offering 20 cents a word, and I was trying to make a living as a full time freelancer at that time. On top of that, she said that she would include a full page spread for my new novel as part of my compensation. It sounded like a great deal, particularly when one is trying to get his work in front of new readers. So I agreed to write a story for her.

As far as I know, I'm the first author that Lynette contacted about her concept for a quarterly Christian fiction magazine. I recommended another author (a friend of mine) to her, and she asked him to write a story as well. I believe that he also was paid.

In Feb. of 2006, I actually got to meet Lynette and her husband at Jerry Jenkins' "Writing for the Soul" conference. At that meeting she explained that she was an avid reader of Christian suspense fiction, and that she really felt there was a need for a good Christian fiction magazine that would feature name authors as well as up-and-coming authors. It sounded like a great idea, and with names like Jerry Jenkins and Randy Alcorn supplying stories, it also seemed like it was something that would take off.

I'll post more tomorrow, but I wanted to address Mir's frustration at paying to read someone's writing and never getting her money's worth. I have no ties to Angelica other than that I actually got paid for my story. Nevertheless, I can understand the frustration of subscribers who never received anything. Thus, as one of the few authors who was paid by Angelica, I'd like to make this offer:

If any Angelica subscriber will email me, (jhpence@yahoo.com), I will be happy to send you a .pdf file of "The Price of Empathy", the short story I wrote for Angelica.

Also, if you will send me a snail mail address, I will send you a complimentary copy of my novel "Blind Sight" (while supplies last). "Blind Sight has gone out of print, and I only have a limited number of copies left, but while I can, I'll send you one.

It's not much, but at least it will give you something for your money.

Monday, I'll give my opinion of what went wrong.


I, naturally, am interested in hearing what he thinks went wrong. I already know that regardless what went wrong on Lynnette Fuller's side, not posting an explanation to the website, not emailing back answers to subcriber (and some author) questions, and not trying to make right what went wrong (at minimum a "This is what happened" and a "I'm really sorry") is simply inexcusable.

Anyway, thanks James for offering his story to those who subbed, and even the book bonus. That's a cool thing to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Zombie Fun: John Wright, John Scalzi

I was so busy this week, that I didn't keep up with my blog feeds. How was I to know that I was missing the Great Zombiedemic? Here's a belated bit of the zombieliciousness, and don't miss the zombie photos:

Zombie John C. Wright, who is unliving proof that there aren't enough orthodontists in ZombieLand. A sampling:

SFS: Are you particular about the brains you eat and how you eat them?

ZJCW: Indeed. The main obstacle to zombification is a person's sense of self-identity, or ego. In order to pave the way for the coming zombie rule, it is necessary to destroy those science fiction authors whose egos are even more enormous than my own. So far, I have only found one, the venerable Harlan Ellison: his brain is large enough to provide grisly feasting for many days. Fortunately he is shorter and thinner than I am, so all I need do to crush him is to fall on him with my belly.

SFS: Which film do you feel best represents the zombie population?

ZJCW: Brain from the Planet Arous. While you lunchmeats (as we affectionately refer to the still-living) might think this is a horror show, we regard it as a cooking program. Those giant space brains look ever so much more tasty than the slim pickings we get here.


Zombie John Scalzi--oops, I mean Undead American John Scalzi--
SFS: Do you have any thoughts on how being a zombie will affect your future writing? Any hints you can give us on upcoming novels?

ZJS: Well, it's harder to type with rotting fingers, for one thing. I tried some voice recognition software, but for some reason everything comes out as "wwwwuuuuuuagggghnnnngghh." So my productivity is probably going to slip.

When I became an Undead-American, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my editor, made the obvious joke that my next book should be called "Dead Man's War." I had to eat his brain for that one. Also, clearly, I'm going to have to start writing about the prejudices the pre-dead have against us. Yes, we're rotting. Yes, we'll eat your brains. Yes, we slur our words. That doesn't mean we don't want your love. And your pancreas. and I suspect I'll make that a theme of future novels. Especially about the pancreas. Mmmm... sweetmeats.




Did anyone save me some brain and swiss on toast?

~

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Religion for Robots?

If that subject heading perks your interest, then drop by SIGHTINGS (a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School) to read Robert M. Geraci's article titled "Religion for Robots".

I certainly found it intriguing. More than one story idea lurks there.

Of course, it all hinges on a big "what if", that two-word lever that keeps the speculative cosmos in motion:

If robots become conscious, they may desire entrance into our society. This notion was championed by the well-known science fiction author Isaac Asimov, who named such a culture a C-Fe society because it would be made up of human beings (carbon life-forms) and robots (iron life-forms). Asimov held C-Fe society to be both a moral good and beneficial toward our long-term survival in the universe.

But will robots ever be religious? If you asked Richard Dawkins, the current champion of militant atheism, surely he would tell you that if robots get smart enough to hold a conversation, their very intelligence will preclude religious faith. But British AI researcher David Levy asserts exactly the opposite: he expects robots will be Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more. And Kurzweil — (in)famous for his faith that we will very soon be able to download our minds into machines and thereby live forever — holds a middle ground: robots will be "spiritual" because "being — experiencing, being conscious — is spiritual." However, he makes no mention of gods. Kurzweil's spiritual machines will practice a New Agey kind of Buddhism: they will meditate but they won't become Buddhas, they will have "transcendence" but it won't be Nirvana. Kurzweil's notion of robot spirituality is too whitewashed to count for much among "real" religious folks, who will only shake their heads at the thought that "experiencing" equals spirituality.

Is it possible that robots will practice an authentic form of religion?


~

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mystery Solved: DREADMIRE by Chui

Back in February, I had posted an image of SF art and asked if anyone knew the artist.

Well, an anonymous commenter gave me the book on which the art is found, and that made it simple for me to google and find the artist. It turns out the painting is on the back cover of DREADMIRE. Here's the image of the back cover at amazon.com.

The artist is the talented Janet J. E. Chui That link will take you to a larger, nicer image of the artwork in question, and other works with dragons. Head on over and look.

If you're into angels, she's got a small collection in her gallery just on the bewinged ones.

And I don't know what this is, but this little critter made me smile. And if there are book monsters, then I surely have some around.

Visit Strange Horizons to see how Chui's art illustrates a story there. Oh, man, that's a cool image.

So, thanks, Anonymous.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Two Ways To Get on an Editor's Poop List

If you know me (or read this blog with regularity), you know that there are a couple of spec fic magazines where I hope my fiction will featured one day. (That's in the five years or less plan.)

One of them is Realms of Fantasy, a magazine which I buy regularly at my local B&N or Borders. (I don't subscribe cause my mailman has lousy technique and my tiny mailbox combined with said brutal mail delivery modus operandi would leave me with a scrunched up and torn blob of once lovely, glossy pages, and that would cause me much dismay.)

So, if you've got "sub to pro-level SF magazines" in your list of writing goals, here's a little blog entry that you can add to your collection of Things That Tick Off Editors Big Time and Can Ruin Your Chances Cause You'll Have Burned a Bridge to Little Fleck of Useless Ash:

Best Editorial Tale

The post also solicits tales from other editors. I'm sure horror stories abound.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Two Dozen Years Zip By

Monday, June 11th: 24th Anniversary of The Mir and The Hunky Hubster.

Assessment: Blissful. I am unworthy.

Prognosis: Eternal...even if there's no nookie in Heaven.

You Know it's true love when just smelling his hair feels like winning the Nobel Prize, curing all known cancers, and looking like Angelina Jolie all rolled up together.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Evening Psalm for June 10

Thought I'd post the evening psalm designated by the Lectionary for this day:

Psalm 66:1-20



1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.”
~Selah
5Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
~Selah
8Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
10For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11You brought us into the net;
you laid burdens on our backs;
12you let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
13I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay you my vows,
14those that my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.
~Selah
16Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for me.
17I cried aloud to him,
and he was extolled with my tongue.
18If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19But truly God has listened;
he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
20Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Speculative Faith Friday: R.A. Lafferty

Okay, I haven't slept much (three hours), so don't expect brilliance or ,even, clarity. If it's readable, hurrah.

A Past Master of CSF: R.A. Lafferty's "And Now Walk Gently Through The Fire."

Drop by. Forgive typos.

(And did anyone catch the pun?)

Paris Hilton: Medical Condition...?

Color me skeptical, but I'm not buying the medical condition thing.

The gal's healthy enough to be zipping around assorted cities partying up a storm, drinking down gallons of booze, dancing into the wee hours in super high heels, and boinking like it's going out of style. That's pretty darn healthy chick in my book.

But she spends a couple days in jail and, suddenly, she's so sick she must be released to serve her "jail term" in a cushy four-bedroom, three-bath abode? (Rumored identity of "medical condition"? A bad rash. A nervous thing. Uh-huh. What? Like the other people in jail can't get nerves and hives, too? They don't get set free into the equivalent of a fancy resort hideaway.)

I don't think so.

Excuse me, but can we toss the snooty scofflaw back in the slammer for at least a week? Come on, people! Fake meting out justice equally to celebs as to the rest of us working class joes and janes? Just for the summer? You know, to sort of keep the flame of egalitarianism somewhat flickering in our collective bosom through another year?

Thanks. I'd appreciate that.

Oh, and next time, forget jail. Just fine her 20 million dollars and use it to help victims of drunk drivers or to pump up the budget of some free clinics for the poor. That loss of moolah might actually hurt her a bit more than not going shopping or to a party for four days cause she's behind bars. Then again...

Evening Update: She's been ordered back. The judge has lifted his egalitarian flag.

I love this blogger's commentary:

Paris Hilton has been ordered back to jail in Lynwood and will serve out her original 45 day sentence with a credit for the 5 days she's already served. Reporters say she was crying through the entire process and, when Judge Michael Sauer gave his decision, she let out a huge cry and said, "This isn't right." She was then physically dragged out of the courtroom by a female deputy, in tears, screaming, "Mom, Mom, Mom."

Some witnesses say they saw a rainbow above the courtroom. And others say they saw a giant man in the clouds with a white beard nodding his head approvingly. And me? Well I saw Judge Michael Sauer grow to be twelve feet tall, with muscles the size of tree trunks. And when he smiled, little cartoon hearts appeared above my head and there was a strange tingling sensation in my pants.


Cute.

I will say that the overdramatic blubbering and wailing just goes to show how really, really spoiled this gal is. I've worked in the jail system, full-time, locked in with the guards, occasionally--and scarily--in a room alone with a murderer who had trustee privileges. (I tried to keep that from happening often.) I've been locked in with inmates and staff during power-outtages. I ate jail food more than once. Hey, free perk of the job, if perk is the right word. (ie. food sucks.) It's not a happy place. I wouldn't want to be kept in there 24/7.

But I've seen more dignity and self-control from hookers and junkies. Paris behaved like a baby. Apparently, the real world is scary when your feet never touch the ground cause everyone's throwing soft pillows at them.

Seriously. I've sat in courtrooms and heard sentencing. I simply have never ever heard someone pitch that kind of hysterical display over less than a month in jail. I've seen people take sentences of a decade or more with greater self-control.

Dang, Paris. Being hairy for 4 weeks is bad, but it's not the end of the world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

So, Rachel Was Wrong?

Rachel Was Wrong.

Global Warming of Yore. Now & Yet to Be

Greenland was warmer in the tenth century than it is now. There were many islands teeming with birds off its western coast; the sea was excellent for fishing; and the coast of Greenland itself had many fjords where anchorage was good. At the head of the fjords there were enormous meadows full of grass, willows, junipers, birch, and wild berries. Thus Greenland actually deserved its name.


hat tip The Corner

For a word from the paleoclimatological perspective, you can visit them here. An excerpt from the "final word" section:

There are, however, questions remaining concerning global warming. For instance, what caused the warming and what are the implications for the future? The answers to these questions are not simple.

There is considerable debate centered on the cause of 20th century climate change. Few people contest the idea that some of the recent climate changes are likely due to natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions, changes in solar luminosity, and variations generated by natural interactions between parts of the climate system (for example, oceans and the atmosphere). There were significant climate changes before humans were around and there will be non-human causes of climate change in the future.

Nevertheless, with each year, more and more climate scientists are coming to the conclusion that human activity is also causing the climate to change. First on the list of likely human influences is warming due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Other human activities are thought to drive climate as well. As the ice-core data show, the increase in carbon dioxide is unprecedented and well outside the range of natural variations. The recent increase matches the increase calculated from the fossil fuel emissions. There is little doubt that these gases will contribute to global warming, and here too the paleo record provides invaluable evidence regarding how much temperature change accompanied changes in carbon dioxide over the past several hundred thousand years. However, there is uncertainty about some issues.


Plus, hey, that whole Solar Systemic Climate changes thing. I know we didn't cause those, at least.

Now, if only those nifty "green" houses were more ubiquitous and affordable and the censoring tyrants would shut the F up. This is not the time to demonize properly raised questions or marginalize skeptics with scientific credentials and legitimate concerns. I do worry about the ones who just want everyone to shut up and join the celebrity bandwagon. Because I dont' trust celebrities to know where their butts are (except when they get em liposucked.) I do want to know what can be done that is REALISTIC and EFFECTIVE, or even if we cannot do anything realistically effective, and we're just blowing smoke in assorted eyes.

I like the idea of governments aiding the citizenship in more green activities. I like the idea of more parks, healthier building materials (ie, non-toxic like PVC), and learning to not waste (water, food, fuel, etc), of efficient cars and efficient homes. But doing it because it's right and beneficial (good stewardship of the resources God has given us and caring for our neighbors) is one thing. Doing it because a group has fastened to it like rabid leeches to bash other countries or political foes with it, well, that's spooky.

And I fear that a sort of zealot's single-minded approach--we did it, it's those evil gas-guzzlers (which, hey, it might be to a certain extent)--will endanger finding out the other causes that may, in fact, be more threatening (even if less contollable). We want to be able to control the climate. I don't know if we really can.

(Though, hey, I live in fricken hurricane alley. I WANT to control the weather! I want to be the Sorceress of the Storm! Really!)

Hey, I suppose someone could come up with a way to set off every volcano on the planet. That'll cool things off. I'm guessing some folks around the volcanoes would balk.

Oh, and please, can we stop with the Kyoto crap. If we're gonna get a green thing going, it's gotta be better than THAT.

Vampire Bunny: BUNNICULA

Okay, I like to browse books, this is no secret. And sometimes, I browse a lot and a long time.

I've occasionally come across some really strange, strange things. Some obscene things. Some clearly insane things.

This one is just, well, weird, but not necessarily demented. Not that I've read it or anything:

Bunnicula: A Rabit-Tale of Mystery

It's sales rank is very nice at amazon. Here's the blurb posted there:

This immensely popular children's story is told from the point of view of a dog named Harold. It all starts when Harold's human family, the Monroes, goes to see the movie Dracula, and young Toby accidentally sits on a baby rabbit wrapped in a bundle on his seat. How could the family help but take the rabbit home and name it Bunnicula? Chester, the literate, sensitive, and keenly observant family cat, soon decides there is something weird about this rabbit. Pointy fangs, the appearance of a cape, black-and-white coloring, nocturnal habits … it sure seemed like he was a vampire bunny. When the family finds a white tomato in the kitchen, sucked dry and colorless, well … Chester becomes distraught and fears for the safety of the family. "Today, vegetables. Tomorrow … the world!" he warns Harold. But when Chester tries to make his fears known to the Monroes, he is completely misunderstood, and the results are truly hilarious. Is Bunnicula really a vampire bunny? We can't say. But any child who has ever let his or her imagination run a little wild will love Deborah and James Howe's funny, fast-paced "rabbit-tale of mystery."


The tomato sucked white is hilarious.

And apparently, Bunnicula may be implicated in the parsnip's pallor. Or so speculates the Pasta Queen.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SF Authors & Homeland Security

I had begun a draft post of this some days ago, but, hey, I forgot to finish writing it. So, I'll just quote from the current ANSIBLE, which does it more succintly than I had planned:

Greg Bear and other sf authors -- Arlan Andrews, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Sage Walker -- were asked to a US Homeland Security conference to provide anti-terrorism advice as `deviant thinkers'. According to Andrews, they `need people to think of crazy ideas.' (USA Today, May) Once again sf proves eerily prophetic: wasn't there just such an ego-boosting think tank in the Niven/Pournelle Footfall?


A longer bit of coverage is here, including a group photo. From the article:

This is not the first time science fiction authors have been consulted by the government. In 1980, group of science-fiction writers including Pournelle, Bear, Poul Anderson and Robert Heinlein, astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad and Philip K. Chapman, space scientists and engineers, aerospace industry executives, computer scientists, military officers and others, met at Larry Niven's house in California. They formed an ad hoc group called Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy. They provided most of the background for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), presented by Reagan in 1983. In later meetings, Heinlein's friend Arthur C. Clarke had a falling out with Heinlein over his support of SDI; Clarke was adamantly opposed to the system, which he regarded as doomed to failure and potentially destabilizing.

SF Signal Speculates on Last LOST Episode

Well, maybe the last episode will include a Marcel Marceau quote. Who knows?

Listen here: "SF Signal Podcast"

Retro Swimwear: Back to Modesty

Ladies, if you're tired of only being given hootchie mama options for beachwear, well, here ya go:

Retro Swimwear

The one-piece halter and retro halter are pretty interesting. I can imagine a classic cinema beauty in those styles. Definitely need some cooler prints, though. And they need more specific sizing, and maybe a wider selection of sizing. But, hey, it's one option for those who prefer to keep their butts and breasts modestly out of sight.

After seeing those styles, I went googling...and...

More Modest Swimwear! These gave me an Asian vibe (or maybe an 80's groove) with the snug knee-length pants (like capris) and the overdress. Cuter than my description. Seems more like feminine active-wear (it carries through canoeing and such right into diving in). So, hey, one way to go if you need to cover up for religious or other reasons.

Here's another modest option for the beach (for gals and guys): Swim Modest This one comes in a lot of really fun Hawaiian prints--love Oahu and Surfer Girl--and the sarong style is cute.

And there's also this: Ohana Swimwear These are definitely for swimming, not sunning. Modest, but with a surfer-cool vibe.

Well, if even those above aren't modest enough for you, and you're more concerned with covering-up fully than looking sharp, you can tap into your inner Amish gal at this place:

WholesomeWear


Hat tip to Reformed Chicks Babbling

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Writing Craft: Top Ten Plotting Problmes

Okay, so you've entered a few contests by now, or maybe you've sent partials or fulls to agents or editors. Do they fault your plot?

Well, take a gander at Alicia Rasley's list of Top 10 Plotting Problems. Which are you guilty of?

Number one according to Rasley:

1. Whose Story Is This, Anyway? The Plight of the Protagonist: The biggest single plot problem I see in my judging, editing, and critiquing is actually a character problem: the passive or undermotivated protagonist-- that is, a protagonist who is not truly involved in causing the plot to unfold. Beware of the victim-protagonist (bad things happen to him, and he suffers a lot), the passive protagonist (he witnesses the plot events, but he doesn't participate), the bumbling protagonist (he acts, but stupidly, without learning from his mistakes). The central character doesn't have to be likeable (though it helps) or (god forbid) without faults, but he does have to be motivated enough to act and encounter obstacles and change in response to plot events. Ideally, the protagonist should be involved in nearly every event, and his decisions and actions should drive the plot.

Still One of the Funniest Scenes Ever

This particular bit from MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (itself counted by me as one of the funniest films EVER):

And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Amen.

Update on the Simon & Schuster Thing

Hmm. Is S&S moving to a more author-considerate position?

From Author's Guild:

Simon & Schuster executives yesterday apologized for "any early miscommunication" regarding reversion of rights, according to the Association of Authors' Representatives (the literary agents' organization). S&S is willing to negotiate a "revenue-based threshold" to determine whether a book is in-print, says the AAR. The AAR's alert follows.

Simon & Schuster's new position reflects substantial movement from their initial stance, but it raises many questions, including (1) whether revenues would be measured by income to the publisher or the author, (2) what level of revenues would meet the threshold, and (3) how unagented authors (particularly children's book authors) would fare under this policy.

Monday, June 04, 2007

What's Up With Fantasy Magazine?

I really enjoyed my Winter 06-07 issue of FANTASY magazine. I subscribed back in early January for 4 issues (one year). I figured that it would be an issue per season (winter, spring, etc). The announcement did say "quarterly." Every 3 months, right?

Well, spring is over in a couple weeks, and summer is icumen in, and I still don't have my second issue of my sub, which would be issue #6.

The winter issue came out at the end of December. So, this is just over five months later from that release. If this is supposed to be a quarterly magazine, they are a couple months plus behind schedule. Shouldn't the spring issue have come out end of March or early April?

Hmmm.

Anyone know what's up?

I left a comment at their magazine blog, and maybe I'll hear what's up. If I do, I'll let you know.

Any of you also subbed up for FANTASY?

Rhapsody.com Getting on my Nerves

Remember how I was touting Rhapsody.com just a month or so ago.

Well, it's on my Grrrr List this week.

I don't know what they're problem is, but sometimes I can listen to music without problem, and sometimes I can't. One minute it plays. The next it won't load. Big pain in the tuchis. I click on the song link, and it just does the "stopped" or keeps loading without really loading.

I clicked on the "help" topics, for troubleshooting, and nothing seems to relate to this problem I'm having. Big fat lot of help that was. And damned if I'm gonna wait on the phone for who-knows-how-long for a techie, who'll probably talk in uber-tech talk that I won't understand at all.

I can't be the only one with this problem. If you solved it, drop me a comment.

I'll give the service another week or so. If the problem persists, I'll assume they have more traffic than they can handle and cancel.

It was a really nice service when it deigned to work. Sigh.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

When I first laid eyes upon my true love...

Yep. Twenty-five years ago today, at around 7:15 pm, I first saw my beloved.

I noticed his ears first. And his height. After that, after I got a chance to see the smile and the way he looked at me, after he blushingly walked me and my best pal to her car(it was at a movie premiere), it was pretty much a done deal. The stars invaded my eyes. The world shifted.

The Mir had begun to fall.

Fortunately, The Mir's beloved had fallen, too.

So, really, you never know where you'll first see your true love. Could be in line at a movie theater. And he--or she--might have interesting ears.

We're off to celebrate now. Later...

Sunday Quote: Calvin Miller on God

When you look through these telescopes you see a pinpoint of light, and you call it a star. We can chart big maps of where the stars are, but the truth is they're nowhere. They're moving horribly fast, but at these great distances at which we live they appear to be stationary. This book said something like, if you could just move close enough to them they would no longer be pinpoints of light. They're raging hydrogen explosions that would engulf you in flame and destroy everything. They're immense in size. But at a great distance they seem stolid.

I think the same thing is true of God. A lot of Protestants see Him through a Sunday school quarterly at a safe distance. He seems to be locatable and knowable in these little logical terms and theologies that we throw at him, but up close He is indeed a raging fire. When we're near Him we understand what humility is.
--Calvin Miller in a Wittenburg Door Interview