Tuesday, April 30, 2013

UV, W, X, Y, and Z -- Mysteries of Science Explained by Electricity

UV, W, X, Y, and Z, the last days of the A to Z April Challenge.

Yes, obviously, I failed a little at the challenge, but at least I failed with flare! This last installment includes fascinating links from around the web! Since I'm a huge fan of speculative fiction, specifically science fiction, I thought I'd share some of my research links with y'all. These articles/videos are a great way to kickstart your imagination if it's been dormant (like while line-editing) for a while.

From the sun to water vapor to ancient artifacts to futuristic bandaids, electricity rules the world

Electric Currents Create Magnetic Fields in the Sun 
(okay, this doesn't start with u or v, but UV rays... from the sun... get it? 

Let it Rain - how electricity governs our Weather

Robot finds mysterious spheres in ancient temple in MeXico < See what I did there? (This discovery is beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which is connected with electric plasma theory/unified theory of myth/ancient cosmology)

ElectricitY Can Help Heal Wounds (Dnews video) 

The Mysterious NaZca Lines video (More photos here) These are also possibly lightning-related

Hope you enjoyed the science and archaeology tour! Be sure to head over to Operation Awesome tomorrow morning bright and early for our Mystery Agent one-sentence pitch contest.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Q, R, S, T: Quasing, Roen, Sonya, and Tao

Spies and aliens: a match made in heaven.

Go read The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (Couple's Review)

It's my first couple's review with my husband after we used THE LIVES OF TAO for our date book over the course of the past month. A chapter or two each date night kept us laughing and intrigued. But last night we couldn't put it down after our usual few chapters. There was too much at stake! We read for a couple hours and both very much loved the ending.

Quasing from Quasar

The Quasing are an alien life force that relies on a host for survival. They feed off enzymes in carbon-based life forms and also get protection from wind, cold, and heat within our relatively harder casings. Without a host, their thin membranes can be shattered by a strong gust of wind, scattered to the Eternal Seas. What's intriguing about these aliens? They've been here on Earth since before mankind, and have been instrumental in mankind's evolution. Once mankind reached an evolutionary stage where they could be equal partners, the Quasing split into two political factions: The Genjix and The Prophus. The Prophus tend to consider humans as partners worth protecting. The Genjix consider humans a means to an end. They are supremacists at the core. Author Wesley Chu did a thorough job creating this alien race. Hardcore sci-fi fans will find plenty to love in The Lives of Tao.

Roen Tan

One reviewer compared our protagonist Roen Tan to Brendan Fraser, such is the quirky lovable nature of his character. Much of the humor in the first half of the book is drawn from alien Tao's attempts at getting couch-potato Roen out on a running trail, or out of an attempted assassination alive. With all his faults, Roen is lovable because he is humble, compassionate, and loyal to friends. Also, the man can't lie to save his life... literally. Not exactly the type of person you'd cast in the role of international man of mystery. And yet it works so well in The Lives of Tao.

Sonya Lyte

Sonya shows up at Roen's door to train him in hand-to-hand combat and fire arms. Well matched to his goofy sense of humor, she also knows when to get deadly serious. Unlike Roen, she is not an accidental host, but the daughter of her quasing's former host. She was raised for this, and it's intensely personal for her. Like Roen comments at one point in the book, she would never be a Bond girl, but she'd be the one kicking James Bond's butt.


Formerly known as Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and the creator of Tai Chi, Tao has been influencing human politics since before human politics existed. He has millennia-old enemies who hold millennia-old grudges, and his chubby, uninitiated host Roen Tan gets to deal with all of it. Tao has a few things in common with Roen. He's fiercely loyal to his hosts and his friends, even to a fault. He's compassionate, too, seeing his host as an equal partner and allowing Roen to choose whether or not he takes a wise, ancient alien's advice. Their relationship is mostly humorous at first, but deeply bound by shared loyalties and mutual appreciation in the end.

(Letters and concept of A to Z April challenge here)

Buy on Amazon: The Lives of Tao

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Friday, April 19, 2013


The Blogging From A to Z April Challenge is more than halfway through. Time marches forward. While I'm not officially linked up, I'm participating for the fun of it.
Due to the Boston Marathon massacre, I've been unable to blog, or do much of anything besides fix meals for my kids, answer their questions, tweet, facebook, and obsessively watch the news. 

Now that they've got the last suspect on the run, and everyone has been identified, I feel it's time to move forward with business as usual, though I know for many of us life will never, ever be the same. 

If you are struggling to cope with this unspeakable tragedy, I strongly suggest reading author Carrie Jones' recounting, "I have a bad feeling," reprinted with permission by Huffington Post. 

Now to the alphabet letters. I figured I'd do N-O-P together and then Q-R tomorrow, which will catch me up officially. Instead of three individual topics to make this post truly dizzying, I'm combining them into a phrase:


This is a phenomenon found in all art (and computer science, too), wherein some "ghost in the machine" or Providence puts a meaningful or mystical element into something otherwise completely man-made. 

Most artists purposely work symbols, spiritual or political statements into their art, whether with brush or pen. But often, through no device of their own, the thing that most resonates with people is the thing they did not intend. 

A bunching of paint that resembles an angel in the corner, or the unwitting symbolism that meant nothing during the author's time but means everything to us today. 

You may have experienced this when a reader said of your short story, "Wow, the way you drew your villain is so deep. I've never seen anyone do that before."

"What?" you say, with interest. 

"Oh, you know, making him mute, as if to say we're all incapable of expressing our true inner selves."

"Oh that," you say. "Right, that's... what I meant to do. Exactly."

Maybe you did. Maybe you didn't. 

But it's there. Not On Purpose is why art is art. It's the magic that allows every single viewer or reader to see in your art something intensely personal, just for them. Or sometimes it's the magic that unites us all, striking every human being on a higher level, something basic to all of humanity. 

Either way, it's usually quite a shock to the artist, if he or she is still alive to ruminate on patron response.

In pre-published writing, this type of reader feedback may spur a new direction in the story or a sequel or a complete rewrite. Post-publication, it's simply something to celebrate. 

Not On Purpose makes art transcendent. If you find it has happened to you, don't argue. Embrace it. Maybe the universe isn't whispering,

Or maybe she's talking specifically to you.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

BLOG CHAIN: Thick Skin is Scar Tissue

Alyson asks: Have you developed thick skin as a writer? How do you handle having your work critiqued? Do you love revising? Hate it?


I think I've developed a pretty thick skin (a nice way of saying scar tissue), but there's still a sting when I'm criticized, especially if a reader didn't get my character at all. 

My favorite critique partners mix the praise with the critique, and that goes a long way toward soothing the sting. When I receive scathing reviews someday (still unpublished), it'll probably be really hard for me to take. I plan not to read them whenever possible.

As far as revising to critiques, I love it, especially when the suggestion jives with me. Like a, "Why didn't I think of that before?" sort of thing. If it doesn't make sense like that, I'll generally skip the advice or else try to solve the lump in the road in some other fashion.

Revising by myself is the bane of my existence. I think creativity is a cooperative process that needs to involve at least one other person. I'm cognizant that not all writers feel this way. But then again, most solitary writers drank heavily and/or killed themselves.

How about you? Thick skin? What types of critiques sting the most?

Catch up with Christine Fonseca to see yesterday's blog chain post,

and check out Demitria Lunetta's tomorrow.

Afterglow Book Reviews: Jessica raves about SNARK AND CIRCUMSTANCE by Stephanie Wardrop
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Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Marlowe: THE OTHER MARLOWE GIRL by Beth Fred

M is for Marlowe Girl.

Want to combat real-life pirates

Me, too! 

Today I'm sharing Beth Fred's sequel to THE FATE OF A MARLOWE GIRL. 

Add it on Goodreads

Book Two, titled THE OTHER MARLOWE GIRL, is about an ex-ballerina-turned-stripper-turned-ballerina-again.

The blurb:

When twenty-four-year-old dance school drop out Kammy Marlowe is evicted by her mother, she goes to her favorite bar. She finds an unlikely friend in the blunt eye candy, Enrique. But Kammy knows there is no way she and Enrique have a shot because he's her brother-in-law’s brother and has been privy to her wild past. 

Enrique swears he’s only interested in the person she is today, but their relationship is tested when her ex-husband's drug dealer attacks her, looking for money. With no options and a money hungry drug dealer on her back, Kammy accepts a position as a dancer at a strip club. But when Enrique shows up at the club, their relationship is over. With no reason to stay in Texas anymore, Kammy auditions for the Bolshevik Ballet and gets the opportunity to go to Russia. Only Enrique is determined to stop her. 

Will she give up the chance of a lifetime to stay with the man she still loves?

A little bit about Beth:

You know she's sweet because she used the A to Z challenge to promote OTHER writers! I caught wind of her beautiful book and pirate trouble while reading this post featuring Afterglow's own Jen Daiker.

From her darling blog:

Meet Beth Fred! That's me! I'm a full time ELF keeper and part time writer/blogger/writing instructor. I'm represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyons Literary Agency. I like my tea hot, my romance sweet, and my guys chivalrous. Real men hold open doors, refer to you as ma'am, make promises they keep, and aren't afraid to profess their undying love. It's not breakfast if there aren't carbs(at least, not in the South). Fajitas, carnitas, and churros are just few of my favorite things. Bet you can't guess where I'm from ;)

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Letting Go

the challenge

L is for Letting Go

This is a tender topic for me, something that's hard for me to do personally, and I'm sure was hard for my mother before me. When you've done the best that you can, when you've given something or someone your all, there comes a time when you have to let it/them go. 

For mothers all over the world, this is a terrible balancing act. When and how do they let go? Baby birds learn to fly at great personal risk, and mothers must watch helplessly. But the truth behind the questions of how and when is that it isn't up to us. There comes a time when children stand up and say, "I am me. You are you. I'm going now. This is my next step into the world." 

Whether we let go or not, the time comes when our white-knuckled grasp is only holding air

It's this way with art, too. Like children, art comes from a very tender, private place inside us. It is cultivated by our love and attention. It is shaped by us, as much as it is within our talents and power, to resemble what we think it ought to be. And when we've done our best, given our all, it's time to let go. 

For authors lucky and determined enough to have publishing contracts or self-publishing release dates, that time is a specific date. For them, letting go is a fixed affair. "On this day I will send my book baby into the world, come what may." You see a lot of posts to this effect on twitter and facebook. Authors say, "I've done it. It's release day. I'm sending it out into the world. I hope you love it." 

But you can't make them love it. You can't even make them understand it. People will misunderstand your art, just as they will insist on misunderstanding you. People will chop up your work, quote it or paraphrase it out of context, make you look silly (sparkly vampires). People will snark about what is sacred to you, make themselves seem clever while tearing you down. It's what people do sometimes. 

People may review the earliest edition of your self-published book (as happened to a very vocal disgruntled writer a few years back). They may reprint your typos and call them stupidity. 

And they will do all of this without asking for your permission. 

Let it go.

Then there are artists like me. I'm not published, and I haven't published myself. I've talked about it. I've thought about it, but I'm just not ready. Some of my closest friends and family say, "Let it go." Just put your art out into the world and let it be read, even when it's not perfect. I resist. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be without flaws. I want to "avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule" (Darcy).

Some painters swipe and brush away at their favorite pieces in the lamp-lit corners of their houses, never portraying their art to the community because all they can see are the flaws. I don't want to be that. But I also want my "debut" to be auspicious and what they call promising. I want to be read and appreciated and most of all understood. 

So I can understand if even a traditionally published author has trouble, because I feel it, too, the resistance, as tight as a rubber band, to the notion, the pull against gravity, telling me to

Let it go.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kids (and what they want to read)

the challenge

K is for Kids

I write MG and YA mostly (though I am writing a NA contemp romance at the moment). Plus, I have three boys at home, so it's only natural that K made me think of them. When it comes to writing for kids, I can't help but think of my own children... a lot.

What do they like?
(Dragons, pirates, legos, marbles, pizza, pizza, pizza, messes, races, cars, My Little Pony- hey, don't judge.)
Classic: Legos

What would they relate to?
(kids with helicopter parents, kids with siblings, kids who go to church on Sundays, kids who spend holidays out of state with extended family, kids who have special talents, kids who struggle in a certain subject, kids who like to read, kids who like to play video games on Kinect, kids who are hilarious and always telling jokes, playing pranks)

He cut his own hair and is inexplicably wet.

What makes them sad?
(a lot of the same things that make adults sad: death, illness, trying really hard and failing, wanting to be good at something that doesn't come easily, being second best (my boys are really competitive), getting a lesser toy for Christmas or a birthday, running out of ice cream, no seconds of their favorite dinner, being yelled at, being disciplined or corrected in any way, breaking a favorite toy or tool)

Focusing really hard on a lacing project

What makes them jump up and down?
(exciting movies with scary bad guys, a chase/race, high stakes, something really funny, a reunion after being apart for so long, daddy coming home, sleepovers, birthday parties, new games, new anything)
Clowning around

Since I have all boys, you may will have different experiences with your own kids or kids you know personally. 

Just like adults, kids have varying tastes, interests, and personalities. What makes one kid hug the book might make another kid throw it at the wall. I mean, I hope you're teaching your kid not to throw books. That's terrible! Why is your kid throwing a book? Get that kid under control before you bring him back to my blog.

Ahem, for all you good parents whose kids would never dream of throwing a book at a wall...

Darn. Lost my train of thought. Trains! Kids like trains. 

It's 1:30am, y'all, and I have to get up early in the morning. 

I have kids, you know. :)

Hope you found something thought-provoking in my kid lists. If not, you can't go wrong basing your character off a real person. C.S. Lewis did it all the time. Happy Weekend!

Don't miss my post at Operation Awesome today. (And in case you were sleeping yesterday, here are the results of April's Mystery Agent contest!)

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jester (comic relief in your novel)

the challenge

J is for Jester (comic relief in your novel)

In middle grade, it's the stinky guy. In YA, it can be anything from a cowardly best friend to a snarky main character

No matter where it comes from, comic relief is essential to an enjoyable read. 

Yep, even if you've written something dark. ESPECIALLY if you've written something dark. 

The Hunger Games, which I think we can all agree has a fair degree of darkness (kids forced to kill each other to survive), is pocked with comic relief. I said pocked, not packed. It only takes a teaspoon of sugar to help the medicine go down.

As many of you know, I was afraid to read Hunger Games. It took about a dozen recommendations before I decided to jump in. And that was only after I was able to confirm that there is some comic relief in it. If not, well that would have been a deal breaker. 

A few pages into The Hunger Games, I laughed. 

In the midst of some tragic scene-setting, Katniss has an exchange with a cat she once tried to drown so she wouldn't have another mouth to feed. This doesn't sound funny at all, but the banter-like relationship really is. 

Then there are the names, especially the names of people from the Capitol and people from the fancier districts, like Glimmer from District 1 (even though the character herself is horrible). 

And my favorite bits of comic relief...

Haymitch Abernathy and Effie Trinket. 


Haymitch has a tragic story, and you wouldn't think he'd be funny at all, but between his drinking, his uninhibited language, and his obvious intelligence, he's a bright spot in the series. When he chides Katniss in Book 3 for trying to take down the Capitol with a syringe, I fell even more deeply in love with his character, as well as hers. (Brilliant, really, creating a reluctant mentor rather than a reluctant hero - or rather in addition to a reluctant heroine.)


Effie Trinket. The name speaks for itself, right? This is a comic relief character, but she's also a symbol of the ridiculousness of the Capitol, the apathy, the image-obsession, the cluelessness. In a tense moment when Katniss puts a knife into a table right next to Haymitch's hand, Effie cries, "That is mahogany!"

Already we've got an acceptable amount of comic relief to go with our dark and twisted premise. And I haven't even gotten to the beauticians at the Capitol, but you get the idea.

A book without comic relief (or without enough comic relief) is called horror. It seems to be rising in popularity, even in the YA genre. *shudders* As you can see I have no love for this genre.

Comic relief is a theme all by itself. It says that even in the darkest times, light can be found if one only remembers to turn on the light. I think Dumbledore said that. 

For a quick study in comic relief, watch Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Imagination and Inspiration #amwriting

the challenge
I is for Imagination and Inspiration.

Since I was a junior high school malcontent, I've been reading to escape my reality. Granted, I actually choose and like my life now, so I'm not escaping much. But I still love the adventure of a new reality. I still love to read.

It is the only way to get into another person's head so thoroughly. A movie can transport you to their world, or at least a first impression of that world. But only the written word can give you every sensation and its consequence in a way that feels truly vicarious. 

"New Gift Book of Nursery Rhymes"  Illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Dutch Lullaby)
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
   Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
   Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
   The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
   That live in this beautiful sea;
   Nets of silver and gold have we!"
                     Said Wynken,
                     And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
   As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
   Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
   That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
   Never afeard are we";
   So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
                     And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
   To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
   Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
   As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
   Of sailing that beautiful sea---
   But I shall name you the fishermen three:
                     And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
   And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
   Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
   Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
   As you rock in the misty sea,
   Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
                     And Nod.

Imagination is what separates mankind from the rest of the animal kingdom. 

The stories we create are a connecting fabric like the nets of silver and gold in the poem, drawing us together across time and longitude. 

I LOVE imagination. Last night the hubz and I watched 'Til There Was You:

I love it because it's about two people who don't meet until the end, yet affect each other's lives in so many ways. It's about stories and how they intertwine. It's about a hopeless romantic who is obsessed with finding her "story," meaning the love story she'll tell her children one day, and a broken architect who eschews all things old and sentimental, and the relationships that prepare them to meet at last. 

One of the reviews on amazon says it best:

"I love movies that complete a circle, those are rare and this is one of those." -ILoveGadgets

Imagination is stirred by the simplest things: a poetic phrase, a lullaby, the wait at a red traffic light. 

Last night my husband inspired me without even knowing it. I sneaked downstairs past midnight to add a few thousand words to my WIP, Could Be Worse. 

The words just rolled off my fingers onto the keyboard, landing on the page like that's where they've wanted to be all along and they were only waiting for my fingers to obey my brain and write them.

Imagination can be intrusive, demanding a story be told or an image be created. But it can also be tender, healing, weaving poetry out of a broken heart, out of loss and into integrity.

It's less a master and more a companion, and yet we are happiest when we're letting it take the lead.

Where will yours lead you today?

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PAS DE DEATH by Amanda Brice: 4 stars

add on goodreads

Amanda Brice's latest Dani Spevak mystery was released recently, and it is adorable!

That might seem like a strange way to describe a murder mystery, but you'll understand it in a minute. PAS DE DEATH is part of a series, but it works as a standalone because all previous relevant events are referenced in a way that keeps the reader in the loop. It is YA (young adult) and done in the first person humorous/light style a la Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls). In fact, there's even a funny part in the book when Dani says it's not like she's a Gallagher Girl. Yay for bookish pop culture references! Pop culture references abound in this book, from "binders full of women" to actresses I've never heard of and wondered if they were made up. The love interest (an 18-year-old ex-boyfriend for our 15-year-old protagonist) is basically Robert Pattinson but more charming. He's even an actor playing a certain broody vampire in the Midnight movies based on books by... Bethany Beyer. Yeah.

So that's the kind of cuteness you're buying when you buy PAS DE DEATH. Since I am a huge Ally Carter fan, I also appreciated the light, humorous tone of Amanda Brice. I'd definitely read the others in her series, and not just because there's a ballerina inside me dying to get out (although yes, that is part of it). Girls who liked I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU, will also enjoy PAS DE DEATH.

A little explanation of the title from the blurb:

pas de deux: (NOUN: pl. pas de deux)
1. A dance for two, especially a dance in ballet consisting of an entrée and adagio, a variation for each dancer, and a coda.
2. A close relationship between two people or things, as during an activity.

pas de death (NOUN: yeah ... totally made up)
1. A dance of death.
2. When Dani Spevak stumbles over a dead body and gets into another crazy situation.
Aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak is back home for the summer, recovering from an injury. What was supposed to be a simple day trip into New York City to visit her friends at the Manhattan Ballet Conservatory turns deadly when Dani discovers that the world of professional ballet can be cutthroat — literally.
I really love the title. And the blurb. Clearly, this is a clever author.
Now to the stars... I would put this somewhere between three and four stars (probably round up to 4), which is why this isn't featured on Afterglow. While I enjoyed it and would read more from the author, I felt it got a little too thin at parts, especially the ending, which happened way too fast. I'd have liked a little more showing vs. telling in that part, especially the parting scene between the boy and girl.

I loved the characters, particularly the eccentric grandmother. Dani was fun to spend time with, and I think she acted the way you expect a fifteen-year-old to act, even though she is angry with herself for being TSTL (too stupid to live) at times, wandering into situations she could have avoided with a little forethought. I think that's just life at that age. You sort of know better, but you have to test the limits anyway. You have to fight for your independence even if it puts you in danger. So the characters felt real, Robert Pattinson look-a-like notwithstanding. :)
The mystery was pretty good. I had it figured out way before Dani, but that could be because I'm twice her age. *shrugs* I think teenagers who like light, humorous books would eat this one up. I mean, come on! It's got ballerinas!

Bottom line: It's a great introduction to the mystery genre for younger readers (Read: clean, not overly gory or sexual).

My next NetGalley read is ROTTEN by Michael Northrop, re-releasing in April 2013 from Scholastic.


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