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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blog: Achievement unlocked - website!

I now have a fully armed and operational website. All pages are functional, and the blog has been completely migrated!

What a task! I hope you enjoy it.

- Erin Penn

PS Please let me know if there is anything else you would like to see on the website through the comment section on the "Contact" page.

Art Projects: Embroidery

Photo: Embroidered Canvaswork FishI know in March I promised to post about my present art projects for the Fifth Tuesday. Well, between working on Gardening (yes, still) and this website I haven't really completed anything cool recently to show off. So I thought I would share a bit about my embroidery ... you will be seeing a lot of it in the coming years.
Embroidery is in my top three passions. I love it in all of its forms: canvas work, blackwork, hardanger, drawn thread, lacis, smocking, goldwork, beadwork... The list goes on forever. I am a lifetime member of the Embroiderer's Guild of America (EGA), though I do not participate in a local chapter at this time.
The fish above is a canvaswork pillow I worked in a variety of stitches in an attempt to qualify for Master within the guild. To get the shading, I started with six different threads on a needle and changed one of the six to the next color in line every time I needed to rethread. I failed my first attempt at the master submissions, but I have not put away my needles just yet. Failure just means I had a learning opportunity (with a really nice pillow as a result). 
Photo of Gold and beadworkAfter I get my writing together and in a production line, I plan to return to my embroidery full-force. In the meantime, I play. Like when I got this wonderful green fabric just begging to have the pattern enhanced with gold thread and red beads. 
Photo: Ring PillowAnd sometimes I go all out when something special comes up, like my sister's wedding. She requested to have an embroidered ring bearer's pillow to be carried by my very young nephew (hence the thread to tie the rings down). German whitework inspired this hardanger and drawn thread design done on linen. I then assembled it with some satin fabric.
It's cool to developed a skill, in my case embroidery, to the point one is capable of making family heirlooms like the ring pillow. Don't know if it will survive until the next round of marriages in the family - white satin is not a friend of time - but for the moment I can point at it and say "I made this".
Photo closeup of embroidery

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Removal of Flash

I have removed the 2000 word flash, The Telling of the Myth of Hariti, to submit for an anthology.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blog: ConCarolina Schedule is Available

ConCarolinas (concarolinas.org) has scheduled my panels! It's real - I mean, really real! I'm going and I have things I am going to be doing!
Going to need to pack, and get the panels together, and talk to people, and post and ....squeal - I should absolutely squeal!

FRIDAY June 3rd

7:00 pm The Year in Science - Moderator: Stephen Euin Cobb; Speakers: JT the Enginerd, James Maxey & Erin Penn

Scientific Discoveries made during the last 12 months. (oooh, I need to get on that research ASAP.)

SATURDAY June 4th

10:00 am Women in Science and Technology - Moderator: JT the Enginerd; Speakers: James McDonald & Erin Penn

Why don't more women go into science? What can we do to promote women to go into science? Why do we even need more women in science in the first place?

2:30 pm The Tech of Living for Centuries - Moderator: Stephen Euin Cobb; Speakers: JT the Enginerd, James McDonald & Erin Penn

Discussion of recent medical research aimed at extending human lifespan. Not if it's appropriate, just what has been done.

5:30 pm 50 Years of SETI, Where is Everyone? - Moderator: Stephen Euin Cobb; Speakers: Dr. Ben Davis, DL Leonine, James McDonald & Erin Penn

A formal search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been in place for 50 years without meaningful result. Are we alone in the universe? And if we aren't alone, then why haven't we heard from anyone else?

10:00 pm Welcome to the Anthropocene - Moderator: James Maxey; Speakers: Dr. Ben Davis & Erin Penn

This year, the International Commission on Stratigraphy is set to decide whether or not the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: The Anthropocene. This is an age when human activity is a geological force writing itself into the very stones of the planet. What is the evidence that a new age has dawned? Do the geological footprints we've already left on the planet give us any guidance on how to move forward in the future? (This one is going to be great! - oh, wow, did my day start at 10 am?)

Other Cool Blogs: Wired August 8, 2014

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I see you editing and going nuts. How many times was "throughly...thoroughly" wrong? How could "hte" be missed... ten times? Gird and grid are both real words, who knew? And how many times did the character fire cannons from the brig instead of the bridge. Sigh. Guess it is time for proofreading round number six.

What's Up with That: Why It's So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos is a blog posting on Wired from August 2014 written by Nick Stockton which give some insights on proofreading your own work is so hard. (Hint: It is because you are TOO smart.) Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writing Exercise: Sharpen the Beginning

Image courtesy of sirikul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[Writing Exercise - Sharpen the Beginning]

Sharpen the beginning.

So the problem with editing, I've been told, is over time you start having problems reading for enjoyment. Today was my first powerful example. Reading a (free) book from Kindle. The first three sentences are:

The great beast slid through tall, dead grass. The wind had led him here. It wanted to show him something.

And in my head is my inner-editor screams "a major editor of anthologies told me he often doesn't make it past the first sentence." Where did the first question begin - not, "what is the great beast" but "what did the wind want to show him." That was the hook to encourage a reader to read the next sentence - and it is the third sentence. For the anthology editor and others, this manuscript has already been tossed aside.

So remember, make the first question which draws the person to the next sentence be immediate. Or at least make the first sentence interesting. Do you want your work tossed aside after just a sentence is read? An anthology editor has 14 slots and gets 400 submissions; s/he doesn't have time to read everything to the end.

For the writer's challenge, how would you change these first three sentences to bring more punch?

My example:

Sliding through the dead grass, the great beast followed the wind. It wanted to show him something.

What is yours?

An alternative challenge is take your present work in progress and rewrite the first sentence or paragraph so the reader has an immediate question to answer - Who is this person, what are they doing, what are they running from, etc.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Flash: The Girl by the Window

Painting entitled: Woman at the Window
Shared under the Creative Commons attribution

“I would like to go outside.”

Eleonora startled but managed to control her movement to complete stowing the dried dinner china on the shelves. After taking a moment to control herself so she would not overreact to the miracle of words, she turned around to face her emancipated daughter. Years of sitting by the window watching other children play had taken their toll.

“Are you sure Merritt?” Eleonora hated to discourage the first sign of life her daughter displayed in years. “It’s dark out.”

A beatific smile molded the young woman’s normally blank expression into something exalted, melting Eleonora’s heart with terrifying hope while her daughter responded. “The world is smaller at night.”

A shudder at the unnatural way the child interpreted everything was quickly suppressed. Grasping at straws to untangle the broken paths of her daughter’s mind, Eleonora searched the painted silk wallpaper just above the child’s blonde head rather than meet her expressionless blue eyes. “And being smaller is important?”

“Of course, mama.”

Sagging against the stays in corset, Eleonora surrendered another battle in a war she lost when her daughter was four. Fifteen words would have to be miracle enough for the day. “Very well. Please keep to the backyard and don’t go beyond the creek.”

Her youngest child blinked once; her face reformed into the nothing mask. Carefully placing each foot in directly front of the other, heel to toe, Merritt walked to the door, stopped, considered the knob, lifted a hand slowly, grasped the doorknob firmly, and tried turning. The doors between her bed room and the piano room and the bath room were always left open. After failing to rotate the knob far enough one-handed, she raised her left hand and added it to the twist, releasing the door slightly. Stepping back, pulling the door with her, she opened it enough to take three heel-toe sideways steps to go outside, meticulously closing the door behind her.

Eleonora released her breath. Merritt hadn’t been outside since their one attempt to attend primary school. After a day of screaming and crying ending with a rocking fit lasting until the next morning, the teachers accused her of coddling the youngster with unnatural and unhealthy affection and demanded she leave the child in their care for the rest of the week. Merritt didn’t even respond to her name when Eleonora fetched the child over Clement’s and the school objections. Bruises from canings and small burns covered her body.

She didn’t play the piano or any other musical instrument for another year because she wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Instead she sat by the front window, wrapped in a blanket day and night…watching.

A cough took Eleonora, choking her throat. Shoulders and legs shaking, she sunk to the wooden floor, skirt floating around her, tears coating her face instantly. Sobs heavy enough to sink a steamship erupted. Exhaustion ceased the outburst long before the emotions had ran their course. Standing up by grasping the counter, Eleonora made her way to the sink. She leveraged the pump, priming it, until water flowed and washed her face before taking the stairs to the master bedroom where Clement was already asleep, careful not to wake her husband.

(words 534)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words Posting Feb 24, 2016

Image acquired from www.cafepress.com
"store" owner is James Macdonald, originator of Yog's Law
If interested in the T-shirt of like products go here:

Yog's Law - Money flows towards the author.

A mantra I have heard long and often as I have dipped my toes in the publishing industry, ran away, came back, researched the industry, had life, came back, attended cons, moved, came back ... Well, nigh on twenty or more years now.

It made sense, back before Amazon and eBooks, when the publishers ruled. At that time they paid for the marketing, covers, editing, everything. If a writer was paying an agent to "proofread" or a publisher "for marketing costs", a scam was occurring. James Macdonald became "radicalized" (his word) after talking to one poor new writer who fell for the scammers and likely lost everything. The story is here: https://www.sff.net/people/yog/. At the time Mr. Macdonald Message-board (yes, it is that old - when only message boards were the primary communication) name was Yog. Thus Yog's Law was born.

But publishing has changed in the last twenty, last ten, heck ... it changed from yesterday. A writer is often self-published until an agent or publisher gets interested. During this time the author is writer, marketing, and publisher. And while the writer should never pay, when the publisher's hat goes on money flows out for the cover art, editing, and marketing just like in the old days under big presses. An author may be able to cut corners if they know art, or website production, or any of a number of skills. But each time the author is working under a hat other than writing, they are not writing. 

Having a press take 35-70% of the income from writing isn't bad when adding up the actual expenses of wearing the publisher's hat. In fact after the first successful publish, if an author continues to self-publish,  I would recommend putting 75% aside from each royalty check until the next book and then use that portion as the "publisher expenses". That should cover all the overt expenses; there are still a lot of passive expenses, such as time not spent writing.

Excellent blogs to better understand the law can be found below:
Gail Z Martin - Magical Words - "Yog's Law---It's More of a Guideline" - 2/24/2016
John G. Hartness - Magical Words - "Making Money Mondays - Yog's Law" - 5/2/2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blog: Website coming up

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Readers, I am getting my website up. You can see it at erinpenn.com. Question for everyone - I am working on duplicating the blog within in the website. Long-term, as a reader, would you like to have the blog continue here - or should it just appear within the website? Thanks for the Feedback! - Erin

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Author Spotlight: Vera Nazarine

Book Cover from Amazon

Vera Nazarian is a Russian immigrant, now American citizen, presently living in Vermont after leaving Los Angles, which she obviously remembers fondly (or maybe not) considering some of the things which happen in Qualify, the first book of The Atlantis Grail series. Compete is the second book of the series and Ms. Nazarian's most recent publication. The third in the series, Win, is due out shortly.

She has previously published the Cobweb Bride series, several stand-alone novels, a couple novelette, and a myriad of short stories. Ms. Nazarian runs the small press of Norilana Books.

Bobbing along, minding my own business, trying to find some fictional romance stories based on Hades and Persephone after coming out of my own private six months the dark underworld of Taxes, I discovered the Cobweb Bride and was blown away. The layers of world building, the unique characters, the lyrical language - it's like Ms. Nazarian is specifically writing for all my "love" buttons. 

I had to find more.

Since then, I have gobbled two more short stories and both of the published books of her Atlantis Grail series. All her books contain the wonderful love of language; some readers claim she dips into "purple prose" - but I do not find this to be the case. Purple prose is page after page of description; Ms. Nazarian balances description with action and dialogue. Anytime my inner editor starts speaking up saying "this type of writing - narrative or dialogue - has been going on too long", the very next sentence switches the mix up.

If you want non-stop action, then she is not the writer for you. But if you rub against books for the texture of the velvet described (right before the knife is slid through the silk doublet), then you will enjoy her writing.

The novels I have read have a lot of characters, casts of dozens to hundreds. Somehow Ms. Nazarian makes each a unique character. Often when you first meet them, it is like in real life; you instantly categorize the person by the environment and situation you meet them in. But as time goes on, and you get to know them, the characters don't stay in their nice little categories. No one does exactly what you expect, but everyone does what is within their character.

I hope you take a moment to explore this incredible storyteller. She has a few free items available on Amazon.

Her website can be found here: http://www.veranazarian.com/

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Flash: My Seat


Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[My Seat - Flash Story]

Someone was sitting in my seat. Every year, upon returning from the family reunion, I would immediately make a reservation for the next year, choosing the middle seat on the row with the emergency wing exit. One of my many plans. I didn't want the responsibility of opening the door; I wanted to be the first one through in case the plane was on fire. Always safe and always careful.

Until the accident. My gently used Volvo and a run-away truck had an argument. I lost.

My family returned the seat for the refund months ago. I'm just hanging around following my plans. I attended the last of my college classes. Went to all the job interviews I planned during spring break so I would have a job as soon as I graduate. Attended graduation and the three June weddings of friends. The list goes on. All my beautiful plans.

I haven't seen any other ghosts. I am not sure I am a ghost. Or what the rules are. I like rules and plans. Everything has a structure.

Everything SHOULD have a structure.


I've been very annoyed Saint Peter isn't available as a gate guard or guide.

My best guess, since I seem to be drawn to everywhere I had made commitments and plans, is I am stuck here until my last plan deadline is past. I hope my hypothesis is wrong, since I had everything worked out including retiring to Florida like my grandparents did and had even given thought to which part of the Diocese's cemetery plots I would be buried in.

My family cremated me.

I am looking forward to what would have been my 30th birthday. My plan was to go to New Zealand if I didn't marry before then and use it as the honeymoon. In fact, I had been returning from coming back from getting my passport when the truck hit me.

The stewardess finished showing everyone how to work a seatbelt. Can't believe that is still part of the take-off spiel, but I guess it calms nerves. It's a full plane so there are a lot of nerves to calm, especially at the start of a three-hour flight.

Someone was sitting in my seat. … I wonder what would happen if I sat in his lap?

(words 383 - first published 5/15/2016)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
(but does have the virg-nelson.com in the image)

ConCarolinas is right around the corner for June 3-5, 2016. I will be a guest. Lots of other people will be guests too. Please drop by and say hi! Shake hands ... and don't lick.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Editing Rant: Mechanical Means

Image courtesy of Matt Lee of Unsplash, cropped by Erin Penn

Never substitute human eyes for mechanical help.

Not that the mechanical help isn't helpful, because it is. I use two different editing programs as part of my editing process. But I use them very, very carefully. They cut out a lot of easy stuff, allowing me (when I am editing) and my human editor (when I am writing) to concentrate on fixing the real issues.

But mechanical suggestions are just that, suggestions. Just don't take them as gospel.

Example:
He nodded and patted his horse’s neck in an affectionate way.

Machine recommend changing "in an affectionate way" to "affectionately" - true, normally this would get rid of extra words and help clarity, but for verbal nuances, this changes the sentence to something a little creepy.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Flash: Beware the Fingers of Gods


freedigitalphotos.net
[Beware the Fingers of Gods - flash story]

Lightening flashed overhead, like the finger of one god reaching out to touch the finger of another. If lightening were fingers of gods, did humans arc between them like static arcs between two human who reached towards each other without quite touching? Were gods forever separated, not quite touching, imprisoned in their starry constellations, like Lester and her?

Why could her parents not see how much they loved each other? Lester was perfect ever since they met online. Skylar was forced to sneak out of the house to meet him. She had envisioned them meeting face-to-face for the first time at sunset, her perfect in her Junior prom gown and Lester in a tuxedo like Jace wore. Kissing, him offering her flowers, and then dining in candlelight at Olson’s Steakhouse private room.

Her dream was far from reality. Wind tried to tear her winter coat from her shivering body. The booming thunder hurt the ears, while the flashing lights rendered her effectively blind against the night’s darkness. Skylar could hear the approaching rain, including popping hail. She dashed for the bus shelter at Second and Oak, where Lester had told her to meet earlier today. She had texted him on a friend’s phone at school, letting him know her parents had grounded her computer time and taken away her phone. She didn’t want to lose him and begged him to wait; her parents always changed their minds, so she didn’t expect the month-long grounding to last a week.

He responded with his own request, one chance to meet her before her parents locked her away in an ivory tower. Lester offered to climb a thorny rose lattice to ascend into the tower her parents were building, if only for a second to gaze upon the beauty he so far had only witnessed through the inadequate photos she furnished. How could a girl resist such poetry?

“Maybe I should ask Lester the question about the fingers of gods when he gets here.” Skylar mused. The bus shelter started to rattle as hail hit. The Plexiglas walls kept the wind shear down; her feet remained freezing as rain driven by wind snuck under the raised plastic. Hail bounced in through the front opening, but the driving wind came from behind so the ice pellets carried no sting.

Her hair lifted from the rear and a voice whispered, “What do you want the fingers of a god to do?”

She jumped, nearly outside the shelter. Behind her was a man she had never seen before. Gray touched his temple, his cheekbones were harshly cut, his eyebrows shaded black eyes. “Lester?” Skylar whispered. Her voice drowned in the winter thunderstorm.

“If that is what you will delight in calling me, I will accept to be called such.” The man twitched his black wool coat like a cape and made a stately bow.

Skylar shook her head in confusion. “No, no. Lester is in school like me. A freshman at the University.”

“I was such once.” The man’s voice soothed, and Skylar found herself relaxing despite her underlying fear. “Time is such an imperfect master. Does one cease to be what one was when one develops into other things, or does that original being still remain within, a part of one’s past, present and future?”

“I…I don’t know.” The man spoke like Lester wrote. In her heart-of-hearts, Skylar was assured this was her forever love. She needed to let him know she understood. The two days past her eighteenth birthday girl reached to the older man.

Clasping her hand with his own, he brought her hand up to touch his cheek like it was the most precious action in his existence. The man who agreed to be called Lester then kissed her palm with reverence. “Yes, for the soul remains as young as it feels.” Skylar’s coat sleeve slipped down, exposing her wrist to his questing lips. “And the soul shall be as old as it thinks.” A flash of lighting caught a hint of teeth before Lester bit down.

(words 675 – first published 11/27/2013; republished in new blog format on 5/8/2016)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words Posting April 29, 2016

Image acquired from the Internet Hive Mind, in particular "We Know Memes"

Ever heard of a Copula Spider? ... yeah, neither had I under I read Melissa Gilbert's April 29, 2016 post on Magical Words. A copula is a linking verb - with the worse offender being "to be" ... or in editing the dreaded "was". 

Read about them in the blog (link below) and then burn them from your writing!

Side note, Melissa Gilbert's publishes under the name Melissa McArthur.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book Review: Ghost Story (The Dresden Files #13) and Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14)


Book Cover from Amazon

Book Blurb on Amazon
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...

Book Cover from Amazon

Book Blurb on Amazon
Cold Days by Jim Butcher
After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…His soul.

***

A Quick Aside
So I decide to publish book reviews about a couple recent Harry Dresden books and while looking up the links I discover a Kickstarter campaign for a Dresden Cooperative Card Game. If this is something you might be interested in, please pop on over to the Kickstarter site and see what it is all about. A happy coincidence which I hope brings some great fun to people.

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR A DRESDEN CARD GAME - HAPPENING UNTIL MAY 19, 2016 AT 5:00 EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/evilhat/the-dresden-files-cooperative-card-game

***

My Review - Ghost Story (Book #13)

Life got busy and I stopped reading Harry Dresden for a while, partially because the stories felt repetitive.

AND THEN HE DIED. OMG!

"Ghost Story" was amazing to come back to after my hiatus from the series, and I may need to go back and reread some of my Dresden and pick up the novels I have missed. All my favorite characters, but changed because the connecting tissue of Dresden was expunged with his death.

But ... wizards are bad at staying dead - Dresden never knew when to shut up and stop interfering and a little thing like no longer breathing is not going to keep a lifetime of habits, including saving the world, from continuing.

***

My Review - Cold Days (Book #14)

Happy Birthday Dresden, welcome back from the Dead, by the way you need to save the world today.

Another Harry Dresden knock-down, drag-out roller coaster ride. Cold Days start in the Winter court and you *might* think you can figure out the good guys form the bad, but attributing good and bad to fairies is never advisable and by the end of the book the reveals totally change the perspective on what, why, and whom does stuff in the fairy portion of the Dresden universe.

This book is a game-changer in the Harry Dresden world, and I am interested to see how the new knowledge about why fairies do the things they do will affect Dresden in his role as Winter Knight - but also in his role as a human being. Because even though good and bad don't matter to soulless fairies, Dresden has meet angels and demons and his very-human soul is on-the-line while he saves the world in future books.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Flash: Inside Voice

Inside Voice has been temporarily removed in order to submit it to an anthology.