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Showing posts from 2011

How to be a Real Native

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Smoke Signals, written by Sherman Alexie, brilliantly demonstrates a major challenge for modern Native youth.  Who are they, as a people?  Not even they know.  Things are changing too quickly.

During the Christmas season, many of us remember to think of others.  We often worry about the future of people thousands of miles away, but forget to reach out to our neighbors.

Please pray for the Apsaalooke (Crow.)  This last year has brought them massive flooding and unconscionable acts of violence.   I fervently pray that they, and all Native people, can reach stability and prosperity, and buck both positive and negative stereotypes.  They are people, first and foremost, people that have always treated me generosity and warmth.

Closed to Review Submissions

Greetings, scifi and fantasy nerds.  Due to an overwhelming number of book review requests and the insanity of the Christmas season, I am closed temporarily for new book review submissions.  I'm barely keeping up with the ones I've already agreed to do.

Wishing you Happy Holidays, and don't overdo it on the eggnog.

Puttin' on the Big Girl Panties

So, over the past month and a half I've been dealing with crippling back pain that I couldn't explain.  I have fibromyalgia, so that was on the top of the short list of suspects, but it turned out to be a combination of fibro, pleurisy, and a singing technique I was overusing.  In short, a perfect storm of bad juju that was comparable to off-and-on labor pains, only it was in my upper back.  Over six weeks.  Wasn't fun.

Pain's an old friend, but one that I like to keep in the closet when company's over.  I learned two things very quickly after being diagnosed.  The first rule of fibro is not to talk about fibro.  It's muscle pain that doesn't result from compromised spinal structure, and therefore doesn't behave the same way as more typical back pain.  It's not limited to the back, but that's where it's always been the worst for me.  If I talk about it to the average Joe, Joe/Josephine automatically assumes I'm a lazy ass wipe that doesn…

Naughty Minds

No matter how hard I try, I have a filthy mind.  In fact, a group of high school kids figured it out.  They'd tell naughty jokes and speak in double entendres just to see what I'd do.  Usually, I'd choke back a snicker and reply, "That's not school appropriate!"  Chortle, chortle.


My brain works against me, too.  Whenever I misread or misunderstand, my brain automatically slips dirty words into song lyrics and books.  For example:

Oh, it doesn't show signs of stopping,
and I brought some corn for popping...


Turned into:

Oh, it doesn't show signs of stopping,
and I brought some porn for copping.... (A feel?)


I accidentally did that into a microphone at our elementary school's Christmas sing-along.  It was a good thing many of them were dyslexic because no one noticed.

So, yesterday I watched the Conan: The Musical video and got a pretty bad case of the giggles.  Shortly after, my husband and I read bedtime stories to our song.  My little boy chose a L…

Da Lamentations of Da Women....

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I came across this YouTube video.  It elicited the rare chortle/cackle/snort that annoys anyone within a 10-mile radius.




After viewing the video, my husband mentioned that he'd never seen it, though I'd watched it a lot as a kid. We pulled it up on Netflix, and I soon came to two conclusions.

First, I shouldn't have watched it as a kid. I suspect a few of the scenes were censored by my brother.  The servile, naked women made me want to gag, though that hadn't bothered me when I was younger.  Second, I hadn't realized how old school the filmography had been.  It felt more like a movie from the 50's or 60's. I'll be interested to see how the new movie turns out.

Write for The Author's Resource Pool

We've all had it happen before.  You're watching a movie, a TV show, or reading a book, and you see something very, very wrong.  A non-flammable chemical explodes.  A doctor uses a goofy term.  Arnold Schwarzenegger fires nineteen rounds from a five-round shotgun without reloading.

Everyone's always telling us to write what we know, but the truth is that writers often have write what they don't know.  Getting the details right creates a sense of realism, but slugging through the mounds of research that doesn't apply can be time consuming.

I'm putting together a section of my blog aimed specifically at helping authors cut to the chase, get the information they need, and get it right.  Maybe you know guns.  Maybe you're a master chef.  Perhaps you tinker with software programming.  Let's pool our resources to make it easier for authors everywhere.

Guidelines:
Focus on helping others understand the system behind the details.Show ways that writers can apply y…

Authors! Want to Impress Book Bloggers? Don't Do This.

Most self-pubbed authors realize that platform is important and therefore establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and their own website.  Though I want to be a published author myself, I'm writing this post from the perspective of a book blogger.  I often visit authors' websites to gather information to include in my reviews, and I'm starting so see problems in their websites that make my job much harder.

Do:
Have clear contact information on your website.Have a clean, uncluttered appearance.Have good graphics.  Our culture is moving more and more toward the visual sense.  Consequently, my toddler can operate an iPad with a considerable degree of skill.Use professional and ethical language.  It's nearly impossible to rebuild burned bridges.  Include a professional headshot, not a cutsie pose in front of your webcam.Invest in decent cover art.Spend time writing a good pitch line.  You're pitching directly to the public, but the rules are about the same as pitching…

Review: "Grace Awakening," by Shawn Bird

Most teens would find Grace's dilemma enviable.  She's got a smokin' band geek and a sexy rebel without a cause hot on her tail.  Too bad she can't enjoy it.  Attempts on her life, random fainting spells, and the furtive skulking of those she trusts have a way of putting a damper on things.

Grace Awakening is Shawn Bird's first book, published by Lintusen Press in July of 2011.  She has scheduled the next book in the series, Awakening Power, for release in November.  Bird's book is the first for the new publisher.  ***

I have to say that Grace Awakening has been the best self-pubbed title I've reviewed.  The others I reviewed were in such poor shape that I returned them to the authors with comments.  Enough of the good showed through the problems to make it a fairly easy read.  Several romantic scenes were compelling.  It was quite refreshing to read something without major sentence structure issues.  The prose was clear, with one or two exceptions, and had …

How Not to Make Internet Comments

Internet Trolls Beware:  If you see yourself in the people in the sketch, perhaps you can see why people hate you. 

Side Note:  This made me laugh.  Hard.

Saturday Night Live - Internet Comments Talk Show - Video - http://www.nbc.com

More Clarkesworld

My latest review for The Portal is up:  Clarkesworld, July through September.  It includes comments on a great dystopian steampunk story.  Never thought those two words would go together.

The Oxford Comma

JFK and Stalin...strippers, or not?  You decide.

Unacknowledged Victims of Domestic Violence

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Not long ago, someone I dearly love was tormented, degraded, and beaten by a spouse.   Nobody stepped in to stop it.  Including me.  Those of you that know I'm from a small town may chalk it up to a small town mentality, to backward people that haven't caught up to the modern world, people that have no problem leaving a woman in her place.  There's one small problem.

I never said the victim was a woman.

I was one of them that laughed when I heard about what Lorena Bobitt did.  I think a lot of us did.  More recently, co-hosts on CBS's daytime show The Talk ridiculed a man who had been poisoned or drugged and then tied up by his ex-wife, who proceeded to cut off his penis and put it down the garbage disposal.*  I realize this is a departure from my usual content, but this issue has greatly affected both my personal and professional life and the anger I feel, as a woman and a mother, urges me to speak.




Many of you may not know that domestic violence in which the female…

Punctuation Really is Important

And this, my friends, is why punctuation is so important.

Quote from a Great Story Keeper

I recently heard one of my heros give a speech.  Chief Joseph Medicine Crow is the story keeper, or storyteller, of his family in the Crow tribe.  He was the first of his people to go to college, and the last war chief, having counted coup on the Germans in WWII.  He's well into his nineties, and I was thrilled to hear him speak again.

A self-deprecating man, he began by saying, "The wind has whistled and stolen my memory, but I have many more stories to tell."

Boy, did he ever.

Review: Clarkesworld, January-June

My latest review for The Portal is up.  Check out what I had to say about Clarkesworld.  

God Bless Her Pea-Pickin' Heart

My sister had to have a very unexpected gall bladder surgery this week.  Good thing she had it out.  Apparently it had welded to her small intestine, which I thought was pretty gross, yet cool.  My mom has been watching my sister's two girls so she can recover.  I'm going to head down and spell my mom so she can recover from my nieces.

The day of the surgery, the oldest girl had been smarting off pretty much from the moment she got up.  My mom, exasperated, threatened to do something about her smart mouth, to which my niece replied, "Grandma, God made me in his image, and if he didn't want me to have a smart mouth, He wouldn't have given me one."

Somewhere in Glendive, her future kindergarten teacher sleeps soundly, completely unaware of the mayhem in store for the fall of 2012.

UPDATE:  Not long after the little darling popped off to Grandma, she said the following:

My Niece: Mom, I can't stay at home by myself, can I?


Her Mom: No, but when you are twelve …

Book Review: Midnight at Spanish Gardens, by Alma Alexander

Just before Christmas in 1947, my grandfather boarded a small private plane bound for Seward, Alaska.  He had finished treating the ailments of the Natives on the Aleutian Islands, and he radioed my grandmother to pick him up from the tiny airport.  His plane was last seen banking over Resurrection Bay, but it never landed.  Alone with four children, my grandmother later remarried a rancher in eastern Montana, a brilliant, but troubled man that struggled with severe depression.

What would our lives be like had Daddy B. not disappeared? Grandma would not have needed to come back down to the lower 48, nor would she have needed to marry Art.  My parents wouldn't have met in Glendive, Montana.  I would never have been born, much less raised on my step-grandfather's ranch.  Daddy B. was a warm and gregarious man, Art very stern and critical.  Would my dad and his siblings turned out differently?  Would Grandma have still refused to come down to the big ranch house for Christmas, pre…

Tents and Psychopaths

I owe y'all an apology.  As I sit here on a picnic bench, using WiFi outside my tent, which has to be a crime in somewhere, I realize that I have not yet finished my series on psychopaths.

I should explain.  The last segment, one that discusses good and bad fictional psychopaths, requires my reference materials.  After my house flooded in May, all of my books were boxed up and in storage.  I just got them back last week.  I'm right in the middle of preparing two reviews, one I hope to post tomorrow, and another that will go up at The Portal any day now.

I will finish the series as soon as possible, as it is one of my most popular, except for How I Lost a Chunk of Hair to my Grandma's Vibrator.  Copious apologies.

This One Time, When Mom was Bouncing at the Shamrock....

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A little while ago, I blogged on the cliches about small towns that writers seem to enjoy.  There's something I couldn't believe I left out of the post.  The other day I noticed that Netflix made the movie Knockaround Guys available for streaming, a movie that takes place in my hometown, though little, if any of it was filmed there.



With a cast that includes names like Vin Diesel, John Malkovich, Seth Green, and Dennis Hopper, it's hard to imagine what could go wrong with it.  Plenty.  The cliches were so thick I needed a shovel.  I actually liked the way the mobsters spoke and behaved.  The portrayal of my hometown is what pissed me off.

Check out this bar scene.



My mom used to bounce in the bar in which this scene takes place.  So did my brother, occasionally, when he wasn't being the D.J.   A kid a little older than my sister and I once came up to her and said, "You know, I've seen a lot of scary stuff in my life, but when I saw your mom coming at me with a…

The Uber-Awesomest Pun I've Ever Heard

My husband is a pretty punny guy, and even though I'm a writer, puns tend to fly over my oblivious head for a few seconds.  He was rolling them off in the car the other day, and the puns were smacking me on the forehead so hard that I was pretty sure I had a puncussion.  (A-thank you!)

I wanted to share with you the best pun I've ever heard.  I do not know what twisted mind managed to come up with it, but it was told to me by my good friend, Cathy, who is another punster of the finest order.

Are you ready?

Soooo, Ghandi was a spiritual leader that walked a lot, so his feet grew very tough.  He was extremely thin, and his poor diet gave him a pretty rank case of bad breath and a frail body.

He was a....

Super callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Do you have a good pun?  Please share!

Review of "The Secret History of Moscow"

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Sometimes logic isn't about A + B = C.  Sometimes it's * + % = platypus, or in the case of Russian folklore, maiden + drowning = rusalki.  Russian folktales are wonderfully unpredictable to a cowpoke like me, and I love the twisty concepts of justice embedded in tales.  Consequently, The Secret History of Moscow completely rocked my world.  Ekaterina Sedia, born in Russia, weaves Russian folktales together and integrates them with a modern urban fantasy plot.

The protagonist, Galina, has spent most of her adult life bouncing in and out of asylums, and subsequently does not expect anyone to believe her when her pregnant sister turns into a bird, leaving the baby behind on the bathroom floor.  Driven by love and the guilt that the healthy, whole sister was the one taken, Galina joins a homeless artist and one of Moscow's finest in the search for Masha beneath Moscow's ancient streets.

Her prose was as smooth as rich as a whiskey on the rocks...actually, a vodka on the ro…

Aaaaand, We're Back!

Finally, I'm able to reach my computer again.  The flooding in my basement made moving my bedroom into the office a necessity.  My darling husband reorganized everything today and made it possible to get online.

Yay!  Go husbands!

Montana's Flooding, By The Way

Up here, we tend to say "crick" instead of "creek."  Well, there are cricks where there have never been cricks before.

The school at which I teach is comprised of four different communities.  One of those communities flooded badly on Sunday, and I thought, "Wow.  I guess it doesn't get much worse."  Shut the #)%* up, Scooter.

Today, the biggest city in Montana was hit with torrential rainfall like nothing ever seen.  The manhole covers were blown clean off of the sewers.  My house on the outskirts of town is flooded with water from my septic field, as is most of my block in one way or another.  We managed to get my son to his grandparents' house out of town just before the irrigation canal burst and flooded everything a block north of us.  Both routes out of my dead-end street are now blocked by high volumes of water.

I was devastated by the water in my basement at first, but now I'm feeling fortunate after I saw happen to those around me. …

Update: Speculative Fiction is Science's Medicine Man

Two weeks ago I wrote a post regarding the relationship between speculative fiction and science.  In it I used Gene Rodenberry as a prime example of "boldly going where no man has gone before."

Today I ran into a letter written by Gene Rodenberry regarding the very same subject.  He says, "The links between science fiction and science are well established and I am very pleased to associate myself with the Planetary Society."

Click on the link and read the letter in its entirety.  Not all of his scientific predictions came true, but he was a visionary, that's for sure.

FIRE-Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

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I follow FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, very closely.  FIRE is a private foundation dedicated to ensuring the rights of all higher education students, regardless of a student's ideological mindset.  They tackle colleges and universities that do away with the right to due process or the right of free speech.

I believe it's important for writers to support such organizations because student writers are often the targets of censorship.  Check out their website and learn about the battles being waged in higher education.

Hey There, Sulu!

So, I lucked out and got a personal message from George Takei on Twitter.  Wooo hooo!  My inner Trekkie is enormously pleased.

*Ridiculously Happy Dancing*

The Author's Guide to Psychopaths-Behavior



It's been a while since the last psychopathy post, so let's review some facts.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder.  It is characterized by very predictable personality traits that can be  measured by a trained professional.  Psychopaths are born, not made, though environmental factors shape how the disorder is expressed.  Psychopaths are perennially popular characters in all sorts of fiction, but authors often incorporate common myths about psychopaths.

Today, we're looking at psychopathic behavior.  Let me make something very clear.  Finding these characteristics in yourself or others does not a psychopath make, young Padawan.  It is incredibly tempting to want to diagnose those around you as a psychopath, probably because everyone has some of these qualities to some degree.  The psychopath has most or all of these characteristics to such an extent that it has to be seen to be believed.
Think of it this way.  One of the characteristics of a psychopath is the inab…

Speculative Fiction Is Science's Medicine Man



When I was taking my upper level sociology courses, I remember a story my professor told about a Native American divination practice.***  When game was scarce, the medicine man would throw a deer's scapula in the fire until it cracked.  The medicine man would then read the cracks, interpret them, and then tell the hunters where to find game.

The funny thing about this method of divination is that it actually worked, and not because the medicine man was a charlatan that already knew where the game had gone.  Humans are creatures of habit, mostly due to operant conditioning.  If we find a great little fishing hole and catch a large number of fish, we tend to return to the same area over and over, even if the fishing's never that good again.

When the medicine man read the cracks and sent the hunters to different areas, it introduced variety into the hunters' search patterns and thus broke the hold operant conditioning had on them.  Did they always find new game?  No, b…

The Versatile Blogger Award

Tonight, I was completely thrilled to receive the Versatile Blogger award from a blogging buddy, Anassa.  Here are the rules, which I lifted from her post to make sure I did it correctly.


The rules for this award are:

Thank and link to the person who nominated me.  (You rock, Anassa!)Share seven random facts about myself.Pass the award along to 15 new-found blogging buddies.Contact those buddies to congratulate them.Okay, so here's the seven random facts: I have a mirror image identical twin.  Our crooked teeth are on opposite sides, as are our cowlicks, she's left-brained, I'm right-brained, and some of her internal organs are actually flip-flopped on the wrong side.I love burned cheese.I'm terrified of the ocean, mascots (also Mickey Mouse), heights, and handsome men.I once shaved a shower curtain.  Don't ask.  It made sense at the time.My great uncle was suspected of being part of the plot to assassinate JFK.  He also was in on the capture of Bonnie and Clyde, the …

Tension: Too High, Too Long



I spent my evening cursing vociferously after my enthusiastic, but ham-fisted, attempt to finish two choral compositions.  When the tirade faded, I had a thought about plot tension.

I loved watching Lost.  Between smoke monsters, fantastic characters, and the altered laws of physics, trying to figure out what the hell was going on was half the fun.  Just when one question was answered, three more popped up, making for some serious, drawn-out tension.  Alas, the shrieks of outrage on Twitter after the last episode showed how many people were disappointed by the ending.

Because I'm cheap as hell and a huge fan of many shows that aren't on cable or network TV, I don't have live TV, just Netflix.  I just got into Bones.  The sexual tension between Booth and Brennan is fantastic.  Two great characters, an interesting premise, and many, many layers of plot make for an engaging, addictive show.  I've been devouring episodes whenever I haven't been writing or wiping…

The Flare That Won't Go Away

I've been diligently working on new blog posts, but my fibromyalgia is flaring and the symptoms are not passing.  I'm having a very hard time working and concentrating, so I apologize for the delay.

My goal is to have the next installment of the "Author's Guide to Psychopaths" up this week, but if something doesn't change soon, I'm not sure when I'll be able to post again.

Thank you for understanding.

Thank You, Russian and U.K. Readers!

I keep a close eye on my blog's stats.  I've noticed that I have a large number of readers in Russia, and readers from the U.K. are a very close second.

Thank you for stopping by.  I do appreciate it!

He Got Pain Right

As I lay sleepless due to the throbbing in my joints, I had a very long night to reflect.  My screeching nerves decided that Brandon Sanderson got something very right in his novel, Elantris.

Pain.

Sanderson's protagonist, Prince Raoden, is stricken by the Shaod, a terrible affliction that renders its victims immortal, freakish, and hungry.  He is thrown into Elantris, a decaying city whose wonder can no longer gleam through the filth.  The Shaod leaves them without a heartbeat.  No injury will heal, and the pain of each injury never fades.  Eventually, the cumulative agony from hundreds of small injuries, coupled with an unrelenting hunger, drives them mad.

For me, it started with low back pain, then constant headaches.  Soon my hands were always cold.  Then, I broke a bone in my foot from walking crookedly.  Most of the time I could ignore it, or at least put it to the back of my mind, but even if I wasn't consciously thinking about the pain, its weight was always there.  …

The Idiom Exchange

I wrote a review last month for the Portal, and one of the stories had slang that really bothered me.  It wasn't because the language was foul.  It bothered me because the author had an American Southerner calling a television a "telly."  Much of the slang and nicknames he used just didn't ring true, and it almost ruined the story for me.

Most of my stories are through the eyes of a Montana rancher, and all of the slang I use is derived from my family.  I really like dialogue to sound authentic.  Below, I've written examples of idioms and slang that my family uses, especially the older members.  In the comments below, please offer up slang, accents, and idioms from the places you've been, but be sure to tell where you've heard them.
Grandma's Idioms
"I feel like I've been rode hard and put up wet."  (People always gave me funny looks when I said this at college, for some reason.)
"I burnt the hair right off my tongue."  (Coffee was…

Lutherans of the Pagan Synod

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This is a local sign that has always made me smile.  Both of my husband's parents are Lutheran Pastors in the ELCA Synod.


I think this church may be from the Pagan Synod.

Writers and Small Town Cliches



I grew up in a town so small that traffic lights were, and still are, completely unnecessary.  There were seven bars, but to balance things out, there were also seven churches.  Main street was only a couple of blocks long.  There were only about 80 kids grade 7-12 when I was in school, and that number has since dropped to around forty or so.  I started shooting a rifle when I was four, just like all of the other country kids, and I started driving about the same time.  (No lie.)


According to the latest census, seventy-nine percent of the U.S. population lives in urban/suburban areas.  I don't know if seventy-nine percent of U.S. authors live in urban areas, but I think it's safe to say that the majority of America's authors do. 


To me, the disparity shows.  If a small town is used in a setting in a story, it's nearly inevitable that one of the following negative stereotypes will be included. Nosy gossips.Ignorant yokels.Inbred, ignorant yokels.Homophobic, inbred, an…