A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zenith

In general terms, the zenith is the direction pointing directly "above" a particular location; that is, it is one of two vertical directions at the location, orthogonal to a horizontal flat surface there. The concept of "above" is more specifically defined in astronomy, geophysics and related sciences (e.g., meteorology) as the vertical direction opposite to the net gravitational force at a given location. The opposite direction, i.e. the direction of the gravitational force is called the nadir. The term zenith also refers to the highest point reached by a celestial body during its apparent orbit around a given point of observation. This sense of the word is often used to describe the location of the Sun, but it is only technically accurate for one latitude at a time and only possible at the low latitudes.

Strictly speaking, the zenith is only approximately contained in the local meridian plane because the latter is defined in terms of the rotational characteristics of the celestial body, not in terms of its gravitational field. The two coincide only for a perfectly rotationally symmetric body. On Earth, the axis of rotation is not fixed with respect to the planet (for example due to constant displacements of its fluid components) so that the local vertical direction, as defined by the gravity field, is itself changing direction in time (for instance due to lunar and solar tides).
Okay, so in plain terms (and this definition came from that fountain of all internet knowledge...WIKIPEDIA), if something is at its zenith it's straight overhead.  So I suppose that's a good choice of name for the two flagships of one of my fleets in one of my sci fi series.  The Zenith and the Zenith II are Captain Jaspen's "babies".  They are his whole reason for existing - or so he tells everyone.  When the Zenith gets destroyed, Jaspen refuses to be relegated to a small battle cruiser.  He wants his big ass ship back.  So he contracts with his father - the whole family is into R&D and engineering - to make him a better fleet flagship.

He does, and Jaspen gets the Zenith II.  Jaspen is thrilled with his new toy and immediately goes out into the war zone to break it in.  Well, he needed to get back out there because he was the commander of the entire group of naval forces in the system.  Not everyone is as pleased with the Zenith II as Jaspen is.  But that's because they can only see the bugs in the systems, the glitches that you get when you've got something new and shiny that's never been used before.  Jaspen, on the other hand, knows that if they just work at it they'll learn to love the ship as much as he does.  He sees the potential.

Many times, as writers, we love our "babies" to death.  We can see the potential.  We know what's there.  But we don't always see the nitpicky little details that could completely derail our stories and send them into the pile of rejection worthy material.  This is what our beta readers and our editors are for.  Beta readers, editors, and writing groups are going to help push you in a better direction.

Notice I didn't say "the right direction".  Only you can decide what the "right direction" for your writing is.  But don't ignore suggestions either.  Sometimes that glitch can kill a story as quickly as losing oxygen will kill my space naval officers and crew.  Focus on the big picture only and you miss out on the little details.  Don't obsess over the details to the point where you lose sight of the big picture either.  Find your balance and stick with it.

And never stop dreaming.  Dreaming big is what writers are here to do.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for X Marks the Spot!!!

Look!  A treasure map!  X marks the spot!  (And if we were pirates this would make more sense.)

Of course, one of our favorite pirates deserves his own pirate flag.  It's Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate flag.

Data piracy, on the other hand, is wrong.  Downloading music, books, movies, etc. illegally from websites that provide them with no recompense for the creators of the work steals from those artists/writers/etc.  You're not stealing from some big, nameless company.  You're stealing from those people whose work you admire and like.

Think before you download.  Did you purchase the item?  Go for it.  Are you stealing from someone?  You should be ashamed of yourself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for World Building

I've done a series of my own on world building.  You can find them hereherehere, and here.  I introduced you to Ashe Steinburg and her world.  Ashe's story is on hold while I finish Only A Name, Birth of the Silver Lady, and Cracked World.  Ashe's world also needs a much more in depth work over than I gave it.

That's where this link comes in: Very cool link.  This link was provided to me by @KDSarge when she started doing the world building exercises on her own blog.  I intend, eventually, to use these exercises to do Ashe's world and probably Aislinn's as well.  I may use portions of it to adjust the Aleran world building notes as well.

The point is world building - especially for science fiction and fantasy writers - is vital if you're going to create a rich tapestry of stories.  You can keep it simple, limiting yourself to a handful of facts about your world.  Or you can do what I've done with Aleran, what Tolkien did with Middle Earth, and what many other authors have done with their own worlds.  You'll draw maps, write snippets of creation myths, describe all of the cultures and countries in your world, etc.

Don't shrink from building the best world possible.  Even if most of those facts never see print in your books, they'll still show through in your writing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Very, Very Lucky

Yesterday I went into the ER with what I thought was yet another kidney stone.  They'd dope me up, flood me with saline, and I'd go home a few hours later.  That was what I expected to have happen.  What did happen was a lot more frightening.

They did a pelvic CT scan, like they usually do when someone comes in complaining about kidney stones.  The doctor - a very polite and caring man that I wish I could get every time I go in there - told me with sincere confusion that there were no kidney stones on the left side of my body - which is where my pain was.  But there WAS something concerning on the right side.  There was a dark spot on the CT scan that may or may not have been a scar.  He wanted to check it out by doing another CT scan, this time with the contrast dye.

I figured there wasn't anything wrong with letting him go ahead and do it.  So I went through the scan.  He came back to me with the news that they were admitting me to the hospital.  I wasn't suffering from a kidney stone.  I had a blood clot in the vein that leads to my right ovary.

I think I kind of went into shock.  I just stared at him for a minute.  Then it clicked in my head what he'd been saying.  At that point I started panicking a little.  The doctor noticed my distress and told me they were just going to run some routine tests and that I'd be able to leave the next day (today) as long as the other two doctors working on my case cleared me.

Needless to say that didn't comfort me much, although it was enough to know that it wasn't something completely life threatening - yet.  It was that "yet" part that bothered me.  The nursing staff was right there, helpful and cheerful in spite of delayed medication orders and conflicting directions.  They got everything sorted out and got me taken care of.

I have a great deal of respect for the men and women at that hospital.  The ones I dealt with were compassionate, helpful, and infinitely cheerful.  They made sure I had all of the information I needed.  They made sure I was educated properly on the types of medication I'm going to have to take.  They hounded the doctor until he finally signed the clearance for me to leave.  They went to bat for me, and for all of their patients, just like they're asked to do.

I don't know what triggered the pain so reminiscent of a kidney stone, but I do know that it was vital for me to get to the ER when I did.  If the clot had broken up, or moved up into my lung, there could have been even more trouble.  I am truly grateful for the fact that something inspired me to go into the ER so I could get this taken care of.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Unanimous

Unanimous...it's such an amazing word.  To have something be unanimous it means that everyone has agreed to agree to the same thing.  It's a word we all want to have associated with our books - that people unanimously love our writing and want more.

Sadly, that's unlikely to happen.  Different people have different tastes and you are going to run into those that just don't like the book.  It may be because of a style variation they don't care for.  Your cover art isn't what they expected.  The story didn't end the way they wanted it to.  Your characters don't speak to them.  Whatever it is, there are going to be people out there who don't like your books.

What you don't need to do is get all bent out of shape about it.  You've read books you couldn't get into, or you didn't like what the author did.  Heck, some of us started writing out of a fit of pique because we thought we could tell the story better than the author.  (Please tell me I'm not the only one who's done this?)  So we know that there's the possibility someone won't like our book.

Just accept it and move on.  If everyone agrees unanimously your book sucks, there may be a problem.  But if not everyone agrees that your book is the most awesome and amazing thing ever, thank them for their opinion and go on with your life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni's got a face full of cat

Yeah, writing this with Reidar sitting on my chest so he's blocking my face with his body is a little difficult but he's being a clingy little fluff ball tonight.  So I guess I'll work around him.

This week hasn't been overly exciting.  I missed a couple of days because I was taking care of Himself, who's having a rough time right now.  I got stuck with my boss and HIS boss listening in to me while I took a call.  Talk about nerve wracking experiences.  It's the third time they've done this to me...mostly because I'm a pretty decent collector but also because I was gone the first half of this month so two of my calls have to be with my boss sitting next to me as I take them.  I've got one down and one to go.

I finished my shawl/afghan thingy this week.  You can see it in the vlog.  I've started Himself's afghan as well now.  That one's going to take me a while because it's a lot bigger than my little shawl thingy.  But I intend to have some fun with it.

I've decided that for my title screen on the vlog I'm going to showcase places in Idaho.  I'm rather fond of my home state and I'd like to show it off a little.  There's a good chance, if I run out of pretty pictures, I'll probably head over to Washington (where I also lived) and find pictures from there too.  But Idaho's got a lot of nice places so we'll have to see what I can find.

On the writing front, I FINALLY got one of my scenes rewritten that's been bothering me.  Two scenes, actually.  Now I'm planning on spending most of today working on the third scene that I need to fix now that I've changed things up a bit.  I'm hoping that this batch of edits will be done soon.

Vlog is up as usual.  As are some music videos for you to enjoy if you wish.

T is for Time Management

Time management is something I'm not very good at.  I tend to procrastinate to the last second and then rush through everything.  I'm slowly teaching myself to be better at it, but it's still a struggle to do what I know I need to in a specifically alloted time.

I've got something of a schedule and I'm training myself how to follow it.  Get up at 8.  Take my shower.  Check FB/Twitter/email/blog.  Start writing at 9.  Write until 11:30.  Take care of whatever other little things I need to.  Go to work.  Come home.  Write from 11 to 12.  Go to bed.  Rinse. Repeat, except on the days where I have to be to work earlier.  Then my schedule changes.

I'm not making much progress on my schedule.  Then again, I was one of those kids who hated schedules.  I wanted to do things in my own time and my own way.  I hated having to follow the class schedule.  I didn't want to abide by my mom's rules of scheduling homework right after school.  Okay, so I never wanted to do most of my homework anyhow.  But that's beside the point.

I'm also a poor judge of what would constitute a good use of time.  Watching cartoons all day?  Hey, that's a GREAT use of my time.  Never mind the dozens of things I have to do at any given moment.  Sleep all day?  Sounds good to me.  Except then nothing gets accomplished.  Sleep in?  Sure, I can do that.  I throw off my entire schedule and feel rushed all day but I can do it.

Time management, especially for a writer, is vitally important.  Often we have only a limited amount of time to dedicate to our writing.  We have to be able to manage that time well.  We can't let ourselves get drawn into any kind of distraction (unless you're a parent & have kids...kids always take priority) if we want to get our books written, revised, edited, polished, and published.

How about you?  What are your time management skills like?  What are some of your tricks for maximizing what time you do have for writing?

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Spring

Spring is one of my favorite seasons.  It's neither too hot or too cold.  Everything starts blooming.  You have all the little baby animals running around.  It's a beautiful season.

I'm not too fond of summer here.  I don't like temperatures much above the mid 70's and we can see temperatures in the 100s here in the summer.  It's also usually fairly dry.  Very few summer storms that actually have rain.  We have a lot of dry lightning, which has led to some pretty devastating fires.

Fall is my other favorite season.  Again, the temperatures are moderate.  All of the deciduous trees are changing colors.  Frost decorates everything.  Harvests are being brought in.

Winter...winter sucks as far as I'm concerned.  I don't like the extreme cold either.  Snow is pretty.  But not in my front yard.  I like looking at it on mountains.  And realistically it does us more good in the mountains since that's where the bulk of the water for our river comes from.

But spring...spring is my main favorite.  I love getting out into the garden (when I have one) and digging and prepping the ground.  I love planting.  I love seeing flowers bloom and other plants start growing.  I enjoy watching the lambs as they bounce around in the pastures with their parents.  I even like seeing the calves and foals, although the smells from the horse and cow pastures are kind of gross.

I like the rain too.  Our springs don't tend to be too rainy but when it does rain I love it.  Spring is just full of a lot of my favorite things.  That's why it's my favorite time of year.

Now if only spring would start here...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Rejection

I feel almost special these days.  I can officially say I'm a would-be author.  I have, to date, received 43 rejections for my short stories.

Rejection hurts.  Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't.  No matter how hard your skin gets you're still going to be slightly injured by the rejection of one of your babies.  But you have to keep going forward.

Many of my rejection notes have been the generic "Sorry but you don't fit what we're looking for" letters.  I had one that told me my writing was amateurish (uh...DUH), childish (what?), and not worth their time.  I've had several that told me I had a real talent but that because they were too long (D'OH) my stories couldn't be published.  And I've had three editors tell me that my writing lends itself more to novels.

Fantasy is a much harder genre to get short stories published in anyhow, so to me it makes more sense these days to work hard on my novels and try to get them published than it does to continue to pursue getting my short stories published.  Okay, okay, so they're technically in the novella range rather than the short story range.  Probably why I can't get them published. *grins*

I expect dozens, maybe hundreds, of rejections over the next several years as I struggle along the road to publication.  It's a part of being an author.  When you read Stephen King's On Writing he discusses the rejection letters he got.  I'm sure that Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, and many of my other favorites have scores of rejection letters too.

So hold your rejection letters high.  It means someone cared enough to let you know that they didn't think your writing was right for them.  Someone somewhere will.  It just takes time and patience.

(And a whole lot of tissues and chocolate...)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quitting

I'm a quitter.

That's right, you heard me.  I'm a quitter.

I've quit writing.  No, not today.  Definitely not today.  Today I'm closer than I've ever been to the point of actually submitting my work for publication than I've been for a little over ten years.  But in the past, more than once, I quit writing.

That was a mistake.  I'm a natural born writer.  What that means is I've had some kind of crayon/pencil/pen/word processor in my hand since the day I learned how to read.  My writing is crap most of the time.  But without my writing, I go nuts.  I have to write.  If I can't express myself with the written word then I have a serious build up of random bits of things floating around in my head that escape into my dreams and make sleeping rather annoying and sometimes uncomfortable or terrifying.

Some people draw.  Some people (like almost all of you) write.  Others sing.  Some dance.  Or sew.  Or make jewelry.  Or work with clay.  The list goes on and on.  We're each a natural SOMETHING, and I'm sure at some point in our lives we've all quit thinking we'd never take it up again.

But there it is, on a shelf in the back of our minds - or our closets, or in our garage - and it's taking up space.  It's a reminder of what we swore we'd never get back into.  It's like a dirty little secret lurking there, gathering dust, and expanding until one day it breaks free and we dive back into it.

I did that, and ONLY A NAME is closer to being a publishable manuscript (I hope) than I ever expected it to be.  I've got a dozen or more projects either needing to be edited, waiting to be written, or needing some love to  get them to the point of my writing them (world building and character development).  I LOVE writing and regret ever quitting.

Do I think I'll quit writing again?  Probably.  When the rejections pile up and I feel discouraged.  I may quit for a while.  But writing will always be there and I'll always come back to it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aww...I have awesome friends. A new blog award...and me passing it along.

I got another award! Yay!

The rules for this award are 

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
  • Share seven random facts about myself.
  • Pass the award along to 15 new-found blogging buddies.
  • Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
Thank you Angela Perry for this beautiful (and Springy) award!

Seven Random Facts:
  1. I got a tattoo as the results of a bet.  My rent was paid for two months by friends for me paying out $50 for a pair of crossed stem roses.
  2. I'm making plans on getting more tattoos in the future, when I have the extra money to be able to afford them.
  3. Lavender and hydrangea are my favorite flowers.
  4. I have a bad temper but do my best to keep it under control.
  5. When I was little, I wanted to be a ballerina.  I'm still irritated with my parents for not letting me pursue that.
  6. I learned to read by identifying pictures in the Sunday ads from the paper and "reading" their names to my parents.
  7. My mom used to give me lists of spelling words I had to memorize based on some worksheets that we had in the front of our A-K World Book dictionary.  (The L-Z was just a normal dictionary.)
Fifteen Terrific and Versatile Blogs:
  1. Living the Dream - This blog belongs to a very outspoken and wonderfully free-spirited woman.  Rachel has become an awesome friend and while her life has been very rough, she's determined to rise to the top.
  2. SHARK! - The Query Shark is familiar to many writers.  I think the Query Shark has a very versatile blog in the fact that she's teaching writers how to write a killer query.  She's very fond of the snark and I wouldn't have gotten the courage to write my first query letter if not for reading her entire archive.
  3. Specnology - Anassa has a fun and informative blog.  She's always talking about technology and speculative fiction.  She's got some interesting opinions and some fun ideas.  I love reading her posts.
  4. About Writing - Diane is an amazing woman.  She's started her own business doing something she enjoys - social media marketing.  She also started Thursday's Novelists (where I was the first interview) and she always has something interesting to say.
  5. Dancing With Dragons - Miriam just recently got herself an agent.  She's always had a fun, lively blog where she talks about writing, life, and posts some of the cutest pictures of animals ever.
  6. Dirty Birdies - NSFW - A group of erotica romance writers got together and put this blog together.  They talk about life and about what they find interesting in romance writing.  They also offer some great tips on writing erotica and offer suggestions for making your erotica more realistic.
  7. Escapism - KD Sarge is one of my dearest Twitter friends.  She's totally fun and her book KNIGHT ERRANT is great fun.  So are many of her other stories.  I've been privileged to get a sneak peek at a few of her things.  She's fun, opinionated, and has a lot to say.
  8. Heather's Odyssey - Heather McCorkle is an amazingly talented YA author.  She shares advice, talks about her own experiences, and posts flash fiction.
  9. Liana Brooks - Liana is a sci fi writer who's always got something interesting on her mind.  She comes up with some of the most awesome ideas and is sometimes willing to share.  She's also good for word sprints on Twitter from time to time.
  10. Nathan Bransford, Author - Nathan used to be an agent.  Now he's moved onto a different career.  But he's still a writer and he's still got a lot of good information.  He still talks to us about what's going on in the industry and poses some interesting questions for discussion on his blog.
  11. The Character Therapist - Jeannie is an amazing woman.  She's a psychologist and uses that degree to help us understand the motivations of our characters.  Her "Treatment Tuesdays" are times when authors can send in information about their characters and ask for the psychological motivations behind what they're doing.
  12. Adventures in Agentland - Natalie Fischer is an agent at the Bradford Literary Agency.  She talks about life as an agent and gives us a sneak peek at her world.  Her blog has given me several good bits of advice.
  13. Midnight Fire - What I love most about Amos' blog is the fact that he is completely unrepentant and unapologetic about his political and religious views.  I love reading his opinions on things, and the research he does before he posts his information is very thorough.  I love reading his opinions on everything in general and he's a very gifted writer.
  14. SFWA - If you're a writer of fantasy and science fiction, this blog is a must.  This is the blog from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America - an organization that once you're published and meet the requirements, you really should give a thought to joining.
  15. Just Writing - J.E. Fritz is a fascinating blogger.  She gives writers advice.  She talks about her writing adventures.  She offers distracting websites and helpful insights.  She's got a very versatile blog and I always enjoy her posts.

P is for prejudice

To go with my O post yesterday, I want to take a minute to talk about prejudice.


noun, verb, -diced, -dic·ing.
an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand orwithout knowledge, thought, or reason.
any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable orunfavorable.
unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of ahostile natureregarding a racial, religious, or national group.
such attitudes considered collectively: The war againstprejudice is never-ending.
damage or injury; detriment: a law that operated tothe prejudice of the majority.
–verb (used with object)
to affect with a prejudice, either favorable or unfavorable:His honesty and sincerity prejudiced us in his favor.
without prejudice, Law without dismissing, damaging, orotherwise affecting a legal interest or demand.

I've talked about this before.  This is one of the facets of human nature that I find most distasteful.  In fact, this is one of the main themes behind a lot of my stories because of how deeply it's affected me.

I've spent my life dealing with prejudice on a personal level and through the stories of my friends.  I used to cower and try to hide when people attacked me verbally with their prejudicial thoughts.  I cried a lot as a child and teenager as I was bullied because of the differences between me and my peers.  Because of my dad's job, I was also treated badly since he worked for a company no one liked.  I've had friends from all over the world and many of them have come back with stories of being treated as second class citizens because of their nationality, their gender, their beliefs.

Prejudice is a main source of conflict.  I've only dealt with minor instances of it.  The ultimate prejudicial actions are taken by those who would wipe out an entire group of people simply because they're different.  Genocide is the ultimate expression of prejudice.