5 Interesting Links for 02-23-2018

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Editing (Writing)

A curious experiment in statistical analysis to discover authors’ favorite words and phrases across all their works.

Trailers (Promotion)

If you’re thinking about making a book trailer, this article offers tips and templates to get you started.

Digital (Art)

A clear demonstration of the difference between vector images and raster or pixel-based images. This is the reason I use vectors in my eBooks tied to the font magnification. They look clean all the way through.

Dental (Cats)

Tips for getting your cat used to home dental care.

Systems (Economics)

While I quibble whether our current system is actually a form of capitalism when reinvestment in people and growth is discouraged compared to payouts, this article looks at how people are starting to see the flaws in the economic drivers, which opens the way for a discussion of better options.

Beneath the Mask (Uncommon Lords and Ladies, Book 1)

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Interesting Links, Kids and Cats, Promoting, Research, Writing | Leave a comment

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 32 Edited by Dave Wolverton

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 32 Edited by Dave WolvertonReviewing an anthology is a difficult task, and I’ll admit I dragged my feet on this one. I read it back in July of last year, but in some ways, this adds a weight to my comments based on which stories unfold before my eyes from a note here or there, and which didn’t have that staying power. As with all anthologies, some of the stories worked for me and some didn’t. I prefer to focus on the ones that did as people’s tastes vary, though I’ll mention a couple where they didn’t quite succeed with me but had some strengths…much like I do for book reviews.

Overall, I found some incredible stories and many that had merit.

I do want to state that while I have no notes on the artwork, a failing in my opinion, neither do I have the background to comment on art the way I do stories meaning whether I liked or disliked a piece would carry little weight.

Now on to the stories (with an essay or two slipped in).

Möbius written by Christoph Weber

This story had me engaged from the start. Genetic manipulation is a dicey topic that’s becoming all too present with recent advances. The seeds were well laid in the story so that the answers I posited while reading proved true, though there’s more to it still. My final comment was “Okay, mean on so many levels” but it was an appropriate resolution. This story ends in a cliffhanger, one that asks you the question and makes you own up to the results. On the one hand, I hate to be left hanging, but on the other, the story engaged me and triggered important questions that lingered enough for me to remember some of the story without prompting.

How to Drive a Writer Crazy by L. Ron Hubbard

This is an amusing list, but the scary part is how the first couple are spot on for the type of writer I am.

The Last Admiral written by L. Ron Hubbard

It took me a sec to envision this as steampunk rather than straight science fiction, but once that confusion cleared, I enjoyed the old salty. The admiral with his can-do attitude was a wonderful character, but ultimately the ending weakened the story for me. I’d already had issues with illogical sexism brought into space where everyone was at risk, but to convert a very much “in the now” story into a history lesson looking at it from the future offered no value. If this had stuck to the navy and their determination to make the point whatever it cost them, it probably would have been my favorite so far.

The Jack of Souls written by Stephen Merlino

I absolutely hated the ending of the story, but in the way you hate something that is so right but so much not what you wanted to happen. The story had character, strong world building, and a deeper meaning. It was well done, and while I don’t remember every detail, the sense of the story lingered.

Swords Like Lightning, Hooves Like Thunder written by K. D. Julicher

This story connected with me on so many levels I hesitated to put it down when my reading time ended. It was hands down my favorite of all I’d read so far in how honor and respect won the day over bullies. I’ll admit I didn’t remember it as well as I might have expected with the above reaction, but a quick skim brought the story with its shifting alliances, cultural conflict, and complexity back to me.

Squalor and Sympathy written by Matt Dovey

This story won the title of favorite and kept it even after so much time. I loved the look at how both sides in the conflict were missing the point and how the best result would come from finding a different answer. Speaking as to the strength of this story, I wanted to refer someone to it when we were in a discussion a short time ago. Sadly, I thought I’d read it as a standalone and so couldn’t find it, but I shared the concept of squalor and abuse of same so hope my friend was able to find it. This without prompting or even notes to help my memory.

Dinosaur Dreams in Infinite Measure written by Rachael K. Jones

I had mixed feelings about this story, though it also proved memorable. The story is a grand moment of connection between a mother and daughter, but the idea is wrong on so many levels. For the daughter to have gone along with it is a huge gimme for me, and I didn’t buy it.

Cry Havoc written by Julie Frost

This story had what I was looking for in the endings that didn’t work for me. Not just the twist, but a twist that takes the hoped for answer and does one better. The writing is evocative enough to have inspired my own creativity while the world seemed so real and the characters alive to share in it. I had no trouble remembering this story despite the title lacking an obvious memory prompt.

The Broad Sky Was Mine, And the Road written by Ryan Row

This was a weird story with illogical parts and inconsistencies, but at the same time, it was strong on voice and description. Not really my kind of thing, but an interesting enough variant on zombies to be worth a mention.

Between Cooks and Chefs by Brandon Sanderson

I enjoyed this essay for the neat analogy about writing and how it offers good advice filled with self-reflexive questioning and caveats. Too much advice is adamant when what works for one person’s creativity could crush another’s.

The Jade Woman of the Luminous Star written by Sean Williams

This was an odd story with what I found to be an obvious ending, but it had an interesting premise and some curious philosophy, too. I enjoyed it.

The Sun Falls Apart written by J. W. Alden

This was a powerful story. I still don’t understand the whole of what was happening, which is frustrating, but the ignorance was shared with the POV character, and I knew enough to understand his choice in the end and approve of it. As far as parenting methods go, the one demonstrated in the story was that of a bully. An educator might still discipline a child, but would tell why rather than expecting absolute obedience. I did have to skim the end to remember the story, but then it came back clearly.

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Focus on Characters: Trina of Seeds Among the Stars

I told you about the villain of the first book in Samuel, but skipped the main character, a decision I will now correct. If you haven’t delved into the Seeds Among the Stars, or even if you have, here’s a glimpse of the underpinnings of Trina.

When you look at my main characters in Seeds and The Steamship Chronicles, they have certain things in common, such as a focus on family and strong convictions/determination. In other ways, they are not the least bit alike. Sam is a sheltered Victorian girl despite her both terrifying and wondrous gift. In contrast, Trina is a street rat. She preys on the wealthy, sneaking into houses, picking pockets, and fighting for her life whenever she has to.

She is skilled both with her knives and cat burglary, but unlike Sam, the only special thing about Trina is her dreams.

Coming from a culture with strict social divisions, she refuses to accept her place as fixed. Her high-born father broke the lines when he fell in love with her shafter mother. The fairytale books he left behind raised Trina to a moral code from times before the colony founders left Earth. Even her very name sets her apart from her mother’s people. Shafters will have many names in their lifetimes, but never a meaningless one like Katrina. They are named for their skills, like her friend Piper who protects himself with a short length of steel pipe pulled from the walls. She never knew the name his mother gave him, and suspects he no longer remembers it either.

Before you get the sense of Trina as a noble thief with a heart of gold, though, understand she’s a product of her environment. She grew up in the shafts beneath the colony, and her people are considered less than vermin. She knows the value of what she steals and expects a less than fair price from the one man willing to traffic in the property of polits (catch a glimpse here). Trina understands everything comes at a cost. Nothing is free, and if you want something badly enough, it makes you vulnerable to exploitation so best never to want anything, or if you do, best to hide it.

There’s little that’s heroic about her actions, but the reasons behind her tough, “dare me” attitude reveal her soft heart. Whether it’s getting medicine for her mother or protecting two laborers from drunken polits, she has a strong sense of duty and honor. It’s the laws she scoffs. They exist to crush those like her, and she can find little respect for polits who preach the doctrine of “work of your hands” while benefiting from the labor of others. A shafter thief might not have been what the founders had in mind when they set down the doctrine, but Trina works hard for the necessary things in life and never expects anyone else to labor for her.

Like the story of Aladdin, she refuses to accept this life, but unlike him, she neither expects, nor believes in some magical solution to her situation. Her mother dreams of when their father will return and raise her family out of the shafts. Trina knows he would have come by now if he ever planned to. No, Trina will solve her own problem, even if she hasn’t quite figured out how.

Knowing the dangers of dreaming doesn’t stop her from risking too much and trusting where she shouldn’t. Some dreams are bigger than self-preservation. Sometimes, the risk is worth even a chance at the reward, especially when the alternative is staying trapped in the restrictions of Ceric colony where her mother was used in medical testing and her sister chances slavery or worse every time she goes to the underground market for food.

You can hear what you want to when it’s the only path you can follow. Sometimes, you don’t know enough to understand what questions to ask.

Trina takes a leap of faith when everything in her life has told her to doubt and be suspicious. She takes it because the only other choices left to her are worse. She’s not willing to give in to what everyone expects of her. She’s not willing to live a life on the edge with nothing better to look forward to than a careless polit leaving something valuable out for her to snatch.

In this, she and Sam are more like twins than Trina’s sister Katie. Sam dreams of a safe haven, a place where she can use her gift without fearing a misstep will bring the law down on her family. Trina’s dreams are different, but they’re equally pressing. She wants to escape both her shafter life and the colony of her birth.

In both cases, they are driven to take potentially fatal risks to bring their dreams about. Neither are the type to sit back and expect something to be given to them, nor are they willing to let the chance, no matter how slim, slip by them.

Posted in Excerpts, Inspirations, News, Writing Process | Tagged , | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 02-16-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Printing (Publishing)

This article offers a good comparison of CreateSpace and Ingram Spark for printing and distributing your book. The only issue I found was stating CS does not have a surcharge for shipping. It does, but the fee isn’t separated out.

Exercise (Health)

An interesting comparison of the value in terms of physical activity between a number of steps and short, vigorous exercise throughout the day.

Archaeopteryx (Paleontology)

I haven’t posted a dinosaur link in a while, and have a soft spot for the bird precursors, so here you go: an article about a fossil that appears to be the earliest known Archaeopteryx specimen.

Research (Animals)

A research team in France has taught a killer whale to mimic words. This article both looks at what they’re doing and the greater meaning of such communication.

Authors (Blogging)

Some suggested blog topics for authors. Not all of them will fit on every blog, but it’s an interesting collection to serve as a jumping off point.

Shafter (Seeds Among the Stars, Book 1)

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The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney MilanThis novella contains all that is good about historical romance. While many focus on the upper class and nobility, The Governess Affair stars a coal miner’s son turned pugilist who is using a frivolous duke’s penchant to gamble as a way to move into the ranks of the wealthy. All his plans threaten to collapse because the same duke can’t keep his hands to himself, which puts Hugo (named Wolf of Clermont for his ruthless ways) in direct opposition to a young woman determined to make Clermont pay for his actions.

Had Hugo been no more than he was painted in the newspapers, Serena might have been in real trouble. Instead, she captivates him with her determination and unnerves him with her fortitude in the face of what he comes to suspect is far from a simple seduction.

The repartee between Serena and Hugo, as well as Hugo and the duke, is lovely, while the letters Serena and Hugo exchange are full of double meanings and attitude. Serena, much like Hugo, is fighting the shadows of her past. She no longer has the option of bending with the weight, though. She has to think not just of herself, but of the baby Clermont set in her belly.

The characters are strong, determined, and delightful. The historical details blend well into the story, and though it stays true to the nature of standing and legal definitions where rape is concerned, Hugo’s reactions are well founded both morally and because of his own background. The duke is equally a product of his position, but where some used their position to good purpose, he is an irresponsible fool, dependent on others to keep his pockets lined and his name out of the papers.

The story is founded on violence, in Serena’s rape and Hugo’s abusive father, but little of this shows on the page. It is appropriately spoken of in sideways references and the worst confrontations are punishing fisticuffs.

True to the genre, the story ends with a marriage…or does it? Nothing quite so simple faces these two, though the special license is procured and their bond legalized. When they consummate their marriage, it is onscreen and detailed, but necessary as it shows Hugo’s true character as he gradually banishes her one experience, overlaying it with a wonderful one.

You may have the impression I greatly enjoyed the read, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Between the dialogue, the characters, and the story chosen, Courtney Milan had me hooked. Despite this being a novella rather than a full-length work, she even manages to play with perceptions in the relationship Serena has with her sister as well as a glimpse into their child’s future that is a beautiful thing. This epilogue changes a young gentleman’s view of himself and everything he’s known. She’s won another reader with this strong tale and snappy dialogue.

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