Jul 29, 2011

Display Driver Stopped Responding and Has Recovered.

The above tech message is one I've been getting everyday lately. Siigh. Yes, brand new computer. I know enough to understand it's pointing at a software issue. Sometimes I really hate technology, it plagues me like space debris orbiting the Earth. Nonetheless, it's something that is always present, a part of life. Whether that tech is a rock driving a stake into the earth, or hands converting plant fibers into rope, or dark wizards conjuring up an army of golems, or a curious society launching a spaceship, technology is part of our lives and the world.

This week, Friday Fantastic Writers are buzzing about technology. Both science fiction and fantasy use technology. In fantasy it might be crystals and spells and cauldrons, but it's still technology.

In both, there is something that works outside the norm, whether Hogwarts or Stargates, some bit hovers outside our present understanding and technological advancement to drive the story in some way. So, how does the writer deal with this?

I consider technology one of the cores to world-building. Technology should mesh with the culture and status of the society. It should make sense with who they are. A true peace-loving people should not have developed weapons of mass destruction without a solid, logical reason.

As to tech making sense, I go beg the husband unit for help. He loves gadgets and that sort of thing, knows how to build them and fix them. I imagine what I want, he designs it. Usually.

Technology is something that needs as much care and attention by the writer as the main character, the mc's arc and plot. If you don't make a plausible argument or world for what you create, you could very well lose your audience.

In reality, technology often drives me crazy. In writing, I find inventing it to be another creative outlet. Do you ever invent tech for your stories?

See what other Fantastic Friday Wrtiers have to say: Alex J. Cavanaugh, Elizabeth Mueller, Anastasia V. Pergakis, J.D. Brown, Deirdre Eden Coppel and Jeffrey Beesler.

Jul 27, 2011

To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis was a very enjoyable read with history, time travel, romance, dogs, cats, jumble sales, butlers, a row boat trip down the Thames and a lot of humor.

It's the story of Ned Henry who is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940's searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi raid over a hundred years earlier. But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right -- not only to save the project, but to prevent altering history itself.

Connie Willis is a multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards winner, and I felt as if I got some Jane Austen mixed into my sci-fi. As a Jane Austen fan [big time, bet you'd not guess that], this book was a winner for me. I'll definitely give Connie's other books a read.

Currently, I'm reading Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, which I'm getting much pleasure from. I like the complicated story he's weaving with a very large cast. His characters are interesting and so are all the plots. I've heard folks rave about George, so I bought this book to see what all he's about. So far, so good.


Novel Films Blogfest, hosted by Madeleine of Scribble and Edit, August 1-3. Listing of novels, comics and plays that you have BOTH read and seen the film/ TV adaptations. Madeleine provides a link on her site to help you pick out what you've seen and read.

The Spark Blogfest, hosted by Christine Tyler of The Writer Coaster, August 22-26. What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? What author was the spark of inspiration for your first ms?

My free reads have been accepted into the premium catalog, so soon they'll be available for download from B&N, Apple, Sony and more. Currently available in all ereader formats from Smashwords:

Other recommended reads:

Burning Love by Nomar Knight. I first read this story as a serial on Nomar's blog. Raw, original, dark and creative, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nomar kept surprising me, which kept me wanting more. I now thrill in owning a copy of it to read through again. Available from Amazon.

Twist and Burn by Libby Heily. A collection of flash fiction. Having read several pieces by Libby on her blog, I look forward to delving into this collection. She's always original and usually quirky and surprising. I love quirky and odd.

Jul 25, 2011

Building Great Sentences

I've been taking a dvd course, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft, taught by Professor Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa, which I borrowed from my crit partner, Dennis Strachota -- a talented and interesting guy, Tendrak Theatre.

 For awhile, I've sometimes felt something was missing from my writing, felt it was stilted and flat. This series of 24 lectures is solving this problem for me.

"Most of the sentences we write can be improved by adding propositions which help explain the sentence, or by adding details which clarify information it advances"

The additions, however, must be helpful, logical and easy to follow. Doesn't mean we add on tangents or phrases that distract the reader from the purpose of our sentence and scene.

"Cumulative sentences have the ability to add information that actually makes the sentence easier to read and make it more satisfying, flying in the face of the received idea that cutting words rather than adding them is the most effective way to improve writing."

Prof. Landon says, sometimes less is not more, more is more and in many cases, more is what our writing needs.

My natural inclination has always been toward this kind of writing, so I feel set free and more confident about unleashing my preferred style, voice and expression, especially now that I have the tools to execute what's in my head onto the page. It was a very 'aha' moment for me.

Therefore, it's a series I'd recommend. It's currently on sale. From The Teaching Company. I'm glad Dennis was kind enough to lend it to me.

Have you had any 'aha' moments lately?

Jul 22, 2011

Full Moon and Hanging at the Observatory

Last weekend was full Moon. Worse than that, it was rainy and damp. So, we had clouds to deal with, too. The rain went off, but the Moon made even the Owl star cluster a figment of the imagination. For a larger view of any photo, click on the photo.

Can see the rain on the mountain just left of center. Right of center, too.

Moody skies over the high desert.

Skies started to clear and the sunlight hit this fluffy cloud.

The rain did have the high desert blooming. Not only were there flowers everywhere, they smelled fantastic.

Wildflowers everywhere

We only got one telescope out, because we didn't have many guests plus there wouldn't be much to show. Here we are bundled up in our winter gear on a mid July night.

I'm the left most person.

The moon rose with an orange flourish over the 32" telescope's dome. It was really beautiful. Lightning kept flashing over the southwest, but it never came closer. The dampness had dew on the telescope quick, however, and had me feeling cold and damp quick. Packed it up early. But only after I got a few shots of the Moon. Just for you guys.


Full Moon

Saturn through the 24". Four of its moons were visible, but
they don't show up in the photo
The color comes from the moon filter.

Saturday was worse. Clouds roared in with a vengeance swallowing up the sky. Then it started to rain. Packed up quick. Really don't want the mirrors on the telescopes getting wet.

I think these are called alpine lupins, but don't take my word for it. The mountain was covered with them everywhere. One benefit to some rain. The second being the lessening of allergy symptoms.

A few shots of the moody sky.

And a movie of the Moon being swallowed by clouds.

Jul 21, 2011

Meet Alien McGee

Posting on getting to know characters over at Wicked Writers today. I'd be happy to see your smiling self. HERE.

Jul 20, 2011

Summer Sci-Fi

Syfy started it's summer lineup on Monday nights: Eureka, Warehouse 13 and the new series, Alphas.

Eureka -- I'm not as well versed on this series as the husband unit. Mostly because it used to air on Friday nights. I'm rarely home on a Friday night in the summer [working at the observatory]. So the switch to Mondays is welcome. It's as fun and quirky as I remembered. A good lead-in to Warehouse 13.

Warehouse 13 -- I loved this show from episode one. This season, their third, started with a bang. Love the new guy. Love its homage to steampunk with the contemporary / urban fantasy. Fun mix of subgenres with good characters and good chemistry among the cast. Good story telling.

Alphas -- I'm lukewarm about this series so far. Maybe it'll get better. It'll have to, to get me to watch any TV past 10 p.m. It's sort of like Heroes, but not as comic booky.

Falling Skies -- started on TNT in June. Airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Love the Skidders. Love that they may not be what they seem. Lots of action and some decent character building. So far, I'm liking it. At first I thought, gees another alien invasion show, but some subtle twists here and there show some promise.

I know that Haven and Torchwood 4 have started, too. I'm never home on Friday nights, so won't get to see Haven. And I don't get Starz, so have to wait for the dvds to come out for Torchwood. Hex on anyone who tells me anything about it. I'm covering my ears ... and eyes.

Missing -- space opera. Where's the space opera? I hope something is coming down the pike soon. Still have one episode plus the movies of Babylon5 to tide me over and have Odyssey 5 waiting. Also am most of the way through Life on Mars. Good show. Quite excellent, actually. Started rewatching Firefly. Fabulous as ever, even the 100th time over.

Watching any of these shows? What are your thoughts? Anything have you hooked at the moment? Do share. :)

Jul 18, 2011

Inspiration Lurks Everywhere

This helped inspire part of my new WIP:

Sometimes you come to know something you don't want to know, then have to do something about it you don't want to do.

This blogfest hosted by Summer Ross of My Inner Fairy.

There's a nugget for ya to chew on. :)

Jul 15, 2011

Dealing With the R

Festing friends, you'll find my Poetry Schmoetry post HERE.

R=Rejection. This week's Fantastic Friday Writers topic. Yay. Yay? Yes, yay for you for submitting.

You're not alone. Every writer gets what I call rejection-love. Rejection is part of the journey and nothing to be ashamed of. I consider it a badge of honor. Stephen King got so many he almost gave up. The key word is "almost". He didn't give up.

Many other published writers I've spoken to, some award-winning, told me they wrote any where from 4-9 novels before getting a yes.

Hold your head up and be proud. You finished writing something. You had the guts to submit it. You've got the courage to submit again. That's nothing to hang your head about. You're in the game. You're where thousands dream to be. If you're serious about being a writer, it's something we have to get used to.

Whether it's outright rejection or a bad review, somewhere along the line we're going to run into someone who doesn't care for what we do. Don't let it stop you. Keep writing. Find the passion inside and keep going.

There are levels of rejection. Did you know that? You can gage how you're progressing by what kind you get. There's the no reply, the form letter [dear writer], there's the using your name, there's actually commenting on something in your story, there's revise and resubmit, asking you to submit something else,  actual feedback, etc ... Any time they add something besides 'no', you're doing OK. It means you somehow stood out.

I learned about levels of rejection from Diane Hammond. She lives in my town. Her author journey is inspiring. I've met many other well-known authors in Oregon. Most of them talk about how many rejections they dealt with. So, yeah, you're far from alone.

I caught a brief segment of American Idol where Jennifer Lopez and Stephen Tyler talked about how many no's they heard before getting yes. It's part of our business, the business of being a writer. Part of the business of being in the arts: writer, musician, singer, actor, model, artist, photographer, film maker, etc ...

You can't ever let no stop you. Here's what I do: 1) review all the golden moments - my first fan, praise from published writers in my town [there are a lot around here -- Oregon grows writers like sage and fir trees -- my first fan just won a prestigious writing award]; 2) look at it as a rite of passage and part of the road to authordom, wear it proudly; and 3) figure out how to do better.

Number three is where critique partners come in, craft books, workshops, etc ... We must strike a balance between believing in ourselves and keeping an open mind. Sometimes we do know best. Sometimes we don't. We have to figure out which is which.

Practice better writing. I do this with short stories, and it's through submitting short stories I've been able to gage how I'm doing. Last year I got critique from Brenda C. Cooper through Orycon, [Oregon's sci-fi convention] who said I was writing at a professional level and it was only a matter of time. She was nominated for Hugo or Nebula this year. So, yay.

The hardest ones are when you're in the running then get the no. Siiigh. Recently, I got my 'revise & resubmit' released back to me as the publication folded. Siiigh. Feels like I can't catch a break sometimes. But I keep going. Stopping is not an option. Writing is breathing. I must do it and I will. No matter the outcome.

Keep in mind, not everyone is going to love you. What one person loves, another hates. Keep in mind your audience and write what you love. Keep at it. Don't take no for an answer and eventually we'll all be meeting at conventions and book signings and say "I knew you when ..."

The key is: Never give up, never surrender. My favorite motto from Galaxy Quest.

How do you deal with rejection?

See what other Fantastic Friday Wrtiers have to say: Alex J. Cavanaugh, Elizabeth Mueller, Anastasia V. Pergakis, J.D. Brown, Deirdre Eden Coppel and Jeffrey Beesler.

Jul 13, 2011

Ripple Dapple

My entry in the Poetry Schmoetry Blogfest hosted by Small Town Shelly Brown of Writing with Shelly

I don't write much poetry any more, but it still influences how I put sentences and paragraphs together and how I think of language and use it.

Ripple Dapple

Ripple dapple
rays skip away
Pink melodies dance
they steal away

Crests break onto
while pennies sail on
Colors swirl vital
ignition now void

Splash, soar, desire
refresh the beat



an opal moon dives
Soul love soul
in sapphire mist

Starry, starry night
spinning in my head
burn my dreams
you leave me cold

Do you write poetry? If not now, have you ever? Does it influence your prose at all?

Believe it or not, this was orignially composed on a typewriter. The way the words were laid out on the paper was very different. Something that can't be duplicated digitally. Pity.

Jul 11, 2011

Super Nova and Clear Skies

July 4th weekend was warm and clear. Not a cloud in sight and I got to leave my thermals in my bag. Yay.

Got the first viewing of Andromeda that weekend as it rose over the summit. I love looking at our nearest neighbor in the smaller scopes. In mine, I can get Andromeda and the two companion galaxies with it. Can only see the smaller galaxies on a dark night [= no moon].

Setting sun through a yeti house

Sun going down

Sunset and the dome for the 24" telescope

My camera isn't the right kind to take photos of anything beyond the Moon and the brighter planets. There is a camera mounted to the 24" telescope, however. So, I can share some of those with you.

Composite of photos made by Eric Holcomb, a fellow star
guide, showing M51 / the Whirlpool galaxy and its super nova.
It's actually 2 galaxies. 35 million light years away.
In the progression of photos, you can see no super nova, it very bright
in June then dimming by July 1st. Soon it will be too dim to see at all.

Andromeda Galaxy. The closest galaxy to our own at
2.6 million light years away. On a dark night, you can
make out its fuzzy patch with the unaided eye.

I spent this past weekend quite sick with a stomach bug and fever, so did not go out to PMO Friday and Saturday nights to freeze my ass off under the stars. Stayed home reading, which was nice. Better if I weren't sick. Finished To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, and started Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Was kind enough to pass my germs onto the husband unit. Hope he doesn't pass them back. I really don't want them back. Also explains my quiet self end of last week.

Be sure to visit version 2.0 of my website. http://www.mpaxauthor.com/ Launched at the end of last week. Thanks to Bill for the fabulous new look and hard work. New poll - which spaceship would you most like to travel on. Serenity and Moya are winning so far. The original Star Trek won the last poll - which was your favorite space opera series - Firefly was a close second. The discussion is now under 'News' / Spacedock 19. Talking about Syfy original movies. This blog also appears on the website now. Can read it either place and comment either place.

How was your weekend?

Jul 8, 2011

Balancing Rocks

The July 4th weekend was picture perfect, so we went out to Cove Pallisades State Park to see the balancing rocks. I always say, "There's not a whole lot of ugly in Oregon," because one vista after another, most of Oregon is breathtaking. Every region is different: the coast, the Valley, the Gorge, the Cascades, Central Oregon and Eastern Oregon. With that said, Cove Pallisades and the balancing rocks is one of the best views yet. Just awesome. Clicking on any photo will give you a larger view

Along the Metolius River. The forest fire revealed the
balancing rocks standing sentry over the awesome landscape in
the lower right corner of the photo

Lizard. Aww, cute.

Snow-capped Cascades in the distance made the view even
more stunning than it already was.

The tops are separate rocks balancing on their columns

A wider shot of the beautiful vistas

Balancing rocks

Visitors left their own creations of balancing rocks everywhere.
Here was my contribution.

Husband unit's contribution.
Touted as one of Oregon's hidden jewels, it most certainly is. Have you discovered any hidden gems lately?

Version 2.0 of my website is up and running. Go check it out. http://www.mpaxauthor.com/ New poll up: Which spaceship would you most like to travel on? Can learn more about me. Discussing Syfy original movies at Spacedock 19 under the 'News' menu. No longer a character limit and set up like comments.

My web genius had the great idea to use a wordpress engine with the website. This way, I have more control and can change things around without bugging him about it. I really like it. You can also read this blog there. Thanks to Bill for all the hard work and the brilliant ideas for version 2.0. He has a brilliant history site: http://williampax.com/

Enjoy the weekend. Thanks to Lauracea (Sue R), Melissa Bradley, Angelina Rain, Alex J. Cavanaugh [Congrats on the sequel to CassaStar being accepted for publication, Alex], Libby Heily, L. Diane Wolfe, L.G. Smith, Tara Tyler, Rachel Brooks, Lindsay Buroker, Lynda R. Young -- for visiting me at Wicked Writers on July 7. And thanks to Summer RossNancy Thompson and Christine Rains for the support.

Jul 7, 2011

I Chose Both

Blogging at Wicked Writers today. Topic: traditional publishing vs. other. My take: I choose both. Hop on over for a visit.

Jul 6, 2011

Dark Jenny Boneshaker

I won an ARC copy of Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe off the twitter from Tor a few months back.

I ended up really enjoying this book. Alex Bledsoe blends a detective story with fantasy. Instead of pistols and trench coats, we have cloaks and swords. The mystery became quite intriguing and Bledsoe surprised me. That doesn't always happen. So, he's won me over as a fan. I ended up buying The Sword-Edged Blonde, the first in the Eddie LaCrosse series. It's sitting in my TBR pile waiting its turn. So, I'm glad I won the book, otherwise I would have missed out on some good, fun reading. Hope Alex keeps writing. I'll keep reading.

You can find out more about Alex and his work on his website: http://alexbledsoe.com/ He also suffers blogger like the rest of us. His blog: http://downinluckytown.blogspot.com/

Since I have an upcoming WIP [someday, someday] in the steampunk genre, I've been researching other works. That's how I stumbled across Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. I have to say, I hate zombies. Loathe them. It's one of those irrational phobia things. However, I loved Boneshaker and Cherie Priest's writing. If I don't have to look at zombies, it's OK. And if the zombies got too intense, I'd just skip ahead. The atmosphere in this novel is a treasure. I'm a big atmosphere sucker. To me, it's as big of a star as the main character. This was a very imaginative work, dripping with atmosphere. I hope Cherie has a long, prolific career. You can find out more about her and her writing at: http://www.cheriepriest.com/

Currently I'm reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

Upcoming blogfests:

July 15 / Poetry Schmoetry Blogfest hosted by Small Town Shelly Brown at Writing With Shelly.

July 18 / Inspiration Blogfest hosted by Summer Ross of My Inner Fairy

August 1 / Novels/Films Blogfest hosted by Madeleine Maddocks of Scribble and Edit. More forthcoming on her blog post on July 7th.

How about you? Run into any good books lately?

Jul 4, 2011

Sky Rockets and Jumping Off a Cliff

For best viewing, enlarge the video.

Happy 4th to those in the US. Hope you're having a great
and safe holiday.

The jumping off a cliff part I don't mean literally. Recently, Lindsay Buroker of E-book Endeavors, suggested free reads be put up for distribution on Smashwords. Like most, I had them up on my website. But here is a place distributing books and stories to 'the audience' where they don't have to work so hard to find you. So, I made up some book covers, edited the stories, formatted them and went for it.

It was an exhilerating thing to do, and gets me better distribution than leaving them on website did. Plus, I can now get reviewed, which is a new thing. Something else we have to get used to as writers. Crit groups is one thing,a review from someone who doesn't know you is something entirely different. Another step down the writer road.

At any rate, it's a great idea for continuing to build our platforms -- to put our free reads up on Smashwords. Amazon doesn't let you put something to free. It might match over time, but there's no guarantee. So, I'm going to stick to Smashwords for free reads. Good practice in formatting, too.

You'll see my three stories in my sidebar -- Translations, Small Graces and Plantgirl. They're three stories I read at the library. Got good reactions from all three. Plantgirl got me my first fan. So, read and enjoy. Here's my Smashwords page: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mpaxauthor

What about you? Learn any new tricks for platform-building?

Jul 1, 2011

E=MC Squared

The science in science fiction is the Fantastic Friday Writers topic for today.

There's soft science -- society, culture, psychology, etc ... Which counts. Then there's the hard stuff -- astrophysics, physics, engineering, technology, chemistry, biology, mathematics, etc ...

How far does an author in the genre have to go? It depends on the subgenre of science fiction. Hard Sci-Fi is a subgenre and usually goes into depth about science. It's most popular in the UK and is usually written by Phds, engineers and the like.

Science sometimes inspires whole stories for me. Ie, The Tumbas, to be published in the Wandering Weeds anthology. I read an article on synthetic biology that sparked my imagination.

In a lot of my stories, however, as much as I know doesn't make it onto the page -- if you ever get to read my first novel, you'd have no idea how much time I put into researching a plausible solar system killing scenario that fit the time constraints I needed [thank goodness I found the observatory -- thanks fellow astronomizers]. It depends on the story. If science is central to the plot at some point, more of it will show up. However, I don't see the point of dumping it in just to show I did my homework if it doesn't fit.

Sci-fi fans usually like some sort of nod to science and tech somewhere in the manuscript. It doesn't need to be dwelled on if that's not your thing or the focus of the story, but a sci-fi writer does need to keep in mind his / her audience. Like every other genre. If you screw up the plausibility, you will lose your core audience. If you don't know or don't understand something, find someone to talk to about it who does know.

Books and other types of research are all well and good, but nothing beats speaking to an expert in the field.

When I was researching some ancient history, I randomly emailed a professer at a university. He was so helpful and put me in touch with a better expert. So, don't be afraid to reach out. Most professors and other experts love talking about their pet subject and will happily answer your questions.

Why? So, I can speak to my audience. I think it's a key ingredient in any work. Along with my pile of fiction, I read astrophysics books and other nonfiction on topics relating to my stories. For instance, I've done substantial research on DNA and anthropology, stealth technology, nanotubes and other strange molecular sciences, propulsion -- proposed and existing -- and more subjects than I remember.

Stephanie Meyer, whether you love or hate Twilight, wrote to her audience. Wrote to it like she's a 15 year old girl. That's how we find a market and success as writers. Know your audience and write for them and to them without apology.

See what other Fantastic Friday Wrtiers have to say: Alex J. Cavanaugh, Elizabeth Mueller, Anastasia V. Pergakis, J.D. Brown, Deirdre Eden Coppel and Jeffrey Beesler.

Love science or hate it, how do you cater to your audience in your writing?