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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Monday, December 31, 2012

This Year and Books

2012 wasn’t a bad year for me.  I put in much time editing and writing and as a result have taken a novel farther than I have ever done before.  I took a real vacation for the first time in nearly a decade to a place that has fascinated me since I was a kid = awesome with awesome sauce. 

I didn’t read as much as I’d like; time spent writing is time not reading.  Looking over the list, it was a year of mostly favorite authors, their new stuff as well as re-reading older works.  Here it is, with ocasional notes: 

(1)  David Jauss, On Writing Fiction, Rethinking Conventional Wisdom About the Craft.  Essays on point of view, flow, epiphanies, and more. 
(2)  Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.  Beautiful writing.


(3) Seanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon.  Marvelous fun!  A monster-protecting competition-level ballroom dancer protagonist who is seriously awesome!  This book made the Grande Finale of the Cover Battle of 2012 at Ranting Dragon.  Up against Blackbirds, as of now (12/31/12) the count is 52%/48% in favor of Blackbirds
(4) Elizabeth Bear, By the Mountain Bound.  Prequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Good fantasy, spun from a Norse foundation

(5) Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress.  Sequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Now I’ve finally read all three books that make up the Edda of Burdens series. 

(6) N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods.  Book three in The Inheritance Trilogy.  Marvelous and satisfying.
(7) Ellen Datlow, ed, Naked City.  Anthology of urban fantasy stories by Jim Butcher, Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, and others.  Loved it! 

(8) Carol King, A Natural Woman.  A memoir that brought back memories of events we all lived through and how important her music, and the music of others, was in defining and solidifying those times.
(9) Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).  Hilarious and sad and fascinating.  At times like watching a train wreck.  But in a good way.

None.  :-( 

(10) Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth.  New SF book, not Discworld.  I enjoyed it. 

None.  :-( 

(11) Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia’s Honor.  Re-read of a loved book.

(12) Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens.  Another re-read of a favorite.  Yes, I took time off from writing during NaNoWriMo to read!  If you look at my stats [Kat's NaNo Stats] you can probably tell when it was, too.  {Oops.  Maybe not!  It was the first slump; the second slump was work-induced.}

(13) Elizabeth Bear, shoggoths in bloom.  Collection of many good short stories
(14) Terry Pratchett, Hogfather.  Traditional to read this at Christmastime.  Starting back when my daughter was around 14, we would read this out loud to each other, doing voices.  She does Death’s voice very well. 
(15) Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time.  The book that follows Hogfather.
In Progress:  Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts.  Thought I might get it finished today, but didn’t.

Well, I managed more than one book per month.  Perhaps I will do better next year.

OMG, my cup of New Year's Egg Nog is nearly gone!  I blame that for any typos.

I know 2012 could not end soon enough for many.  I feel fortunate that I was not in that group this time.

May 2013 be kind to all. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

"Bob the hamster was pleased with his new Christmas tree. It didn't drop needles, it wasn't a fire hazard, and it didn't look fake like all those cheap plastic ones.

"It did wander off occasionally, but it always came back when he filled the food dish."

by Ursula Vernon

And on a more scientific note:

From xkcd

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of The World

In my SPAMmers writing group we have "homework" based on a predecided prompt with a limit of 500 words.  Those who do it read their work at the meeting.  For our meeting last night the prompt (decided months ago) was "end of the world."  Vic posted his effort here .  I decided to post mine, too, partly because someone said I needed to write more stuff like it. 

Working title: "Bike"  

Deidra and I were strolling down the sidewalk.  A matte black motorcycle was parked in front of the drug store.  I stopped.

"What?  Coffee, remember?"

I rarely paused for anything on my way for coffee.  "It's beautiful."  I held out my arm.  "Look at those sleek lines." 

"Crazy woman.  It's a motorcycle!"

"A Ducati. Work of art."

"Black ugliness.  The coffee shop?" 

I waved her on.  "I've never seen one live before."  I moved closer.  "See how the curves make it look like it's already going fast?"

She stood there, hands on hips, rolling her eyes.  "No."

"Look at that Harley over there.  See how clunky it is?" 

"They're machines, Vonda."

I resigned myself to never getting her to understand.

Deidra was tapping her foot.  "That's it.  I'm going."

"I'll be there soon."  My breathing had slowed, my back muscles relaxed; physical reactions to such a pretty thing.

A dark haired man stepped up next to me.  His clothes matched the bike; matte black jacket and pants.  His unzipped jacket showed a pale green shirt underneath with the top four buttons undone, revealing significant chest hair.  I had a vague sense he was clean shaven with a nicely shaped chin, laughing eyes.  Chest hair.  I felt like I'd won the lotto.  Bike and man.

"Like what you see?"

"Yes."  Simple answers are sometimes the best.

"Would you like a ride?"

"I love to look at them, but I'm terrified of riding."

He looked me over.  Slowly.  Grinned.  "Bikes?  Men?"

"Bikes."  I smiled, one corner of my mouth higher than the other.  "It takes a long time for me to be comfortable enough to ride a man."

"I've never backed off from a challenge."

I raised an expensively plucked eyebrow.  "Oh?"

"Interested in some iced coffee?  There's a shop just up the street."  He pointed in the opposite direction Deidra had gone.

I was attracted to this man.  Dangerously so.  I should say no thanks and go; I wasn't always sensible when viewing beauty.  "I'd love to.  I'm Vonda."

"BJ.  Let's ride there."

"Hold on."

"Backing off from the challenge already?  We've barely begun."

I took several deep breaths.  Looked into BJ's inviting brown eyes.  I really wanted to have my fingers entwined in his chest hair.  "Not the bike."

"Shame."  He tipped an imaginary hat, strode over and mounted.  I felt the motion of his hips as he settled on the seat.  Felt my hips wanting to respond.

He looked hard at me.  "Sure you don't want to come?"

Oh, I wanted to come all right.  Just not out here in public.

He winked as if he knew what I'd just thought.  "You did say bikes terrified you.  Shouldn't push you."  He twisted a bit, patted the seat behind him.  "Join me.  Get the feel."

I hesitated.

"I won't start the engine."

Oh, honey, the engine's already revving.

"Come on, sweetheart.  It's not the end of the world."

I stepped forward. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading on 12/12/12

Over at shouldbereading , today's meme is:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you'll read next?

I am currently reading Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear:   
Ms Bear's imagery and sensory details, along with a ripping great yarn, are why I love her work.  This is book one of a trilogy; she has used a Mongul base rather than the standard fantasy medieval European base.  I'm only on Chapter 5.  So far it's wonderful. 

I most recently finished Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear:
This is a collection of short stories.  I started it back in October; took a break for NaNoWriMo in November, and finished it early in December.  It includes her two stories that won Hugo Awards.

I will next read Hogfather by Terry Pratchett:
because it is a family tradition to read this book at Christmastime.  I may read it before finishing Range of Ghosts.  Or I may watch the movie, which is well done but lacks one of my favorite scenes, one that involves a teddy bear. 

Please share your recent and future reading list!  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

City Lights - Black Marble

NASA and NOAA jointly manage the Suomi satellite, which takes high resolution images.  The first video is about 2 minutes long and gives an explanation of what the satellite images show.   

The second video is about 30 seconds of Black Marble animated images. 

 I've already lost track of how many times I watched it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


When I was first introduced to formal outlining, whatever elementary grade that was, I found the process fascinating.  Indenting the lines brought a step-like appearance to the page.  Orderly.  Step in, step down, step in, step down, step down, step out ... like a path, a road.  And of course that's what it was supposed to be:  the path to guide you as you wrote.

I. Heading
__A. Topic
____1. Some words
______a. abashed, objurgate
______b. beguile, proliferate
____2. More words
______a. ineffable
______b. maunder
__B. Another topic
____1. Moar wrdz
____2. Must have a two
____3. I want a tab key that works, dammit!
______a. Rant rant rant
______b. Still moar rant
II. Another heading
__A. Another topic
____1. Some things
______a.  ^)^ 
______b.  >^.^<
____2. Some more things
______a. ( '}{' )
______b. *\ 0 /*
__B.  Beheading
____1. Because of
______a. Reasons
________i. Good ones
________ii. Bad ones
______b. Because
____2. Methods
______a. Details
______b. Don't look here

I really didn't care what was written on each line.  I worked at creating indentation patterns that pleased me.  Teachers had us hand in our outlines before we wrote our essay or paper or whatever.  Eventually - probably after some rather low grades on my outlines; I really don't remember - I did them properly.

Once I'd absorbed the organization lesson, I resented the extra step of writing an outline before I actually, you know, wrote!  When teachers stopped making us do outlines first, I stopped working from outlines.  They still wanted to see the bloody things, so I wrote them after I'd finished the paper.

Fast forward.

I don't plan my novels.  I just write.  Pantser is the technical term.  I follow my characters around, try to entice them (sometimes) to go in certain directions.  Usually they do quite well on their own and I just stay out of their way.

In 2010, the initial conflict of my NaNo novel suggested a logical ending.  It was really nice having that target to write toward.  It felt like I had a plan!

In 2011, I had a rough idea of what an ending for my NaNo novel might look like.  I even had a few events that "should" happen along the way.  I briefly wondered if I still qualified as a pantser. 

At this point I can't see me creating an outline for a novel before it's written.  Maybe a Six Point Plan, or perhaps a Ten Point Plan.

But no outline. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Wrap Up

I've participated in National Novel Writing Month eight times.  I've made 50,000 words seven of those times.  It boggles my mind, it does.  Here's how NaNo has gone for me over the years.  I put this together back in October, when several other people were posting their NaNo histories.

2002:  Signed up 10/31, daughter talked me into it.  Managed about 12K of fantasy but it was horrid.
2003:  Another attempt at previous year's story.  Made 50K but basic conflict didn't hold up.
2007:  Third try on same story, pushed time line back about ten years.  Best effort to that point, but was an editing nightmare.
2008:  Rebel year.  Total rewrite of 2007 novel from the beginning.  It's decent now, and as soon as I figure out the ending I'll pull it all together. 
2009:  Rebel year.  Three pieces of various lengths; all MCs (Main Characters) telepathic
2010:  High fantasy with dragon, dwarf and wizard
2011:  Urban science fiction adventure/romance
2012:  Rebel year.  Sixteen short stories (SF/F, lit fic).  Theme - the human condition (yes, anything can fit under that umbrella) 

The first four NaNo's were basically me floundering around learning how to write a novel. 

My rebellion this year encompassed writing a new ending for last year's novel (over 19K right there) and the beginnings of a bunch of short stories.  Four of those are currently around 3K to 5K each.  Only one has an ending.  The shortest "story" is 120 words - didn't get that one off the ground. 

First I think I'll edit the short piece that is the December homework for one of the writing groups I attend.  It's currently 670 words.  I need to get it down to 500 or less. 

After that I  just don't know.  Maybe I'll take a break from the writing and spend December reading.  Oooh, books!