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Thursday, December 29, 2016

BLOG: End of the Year

Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hey all, one last fifth Thursday of the year and the last posting for 2016. Can you believe I just finished an entire year of the new format? And not a single time did I need to apologize for falling behind.

New Year's Resolution 2016 Unlocked!

Quite cool to have reached this. It took a lot of work.

So what do you think? In 2013 when I started this blog, I was writing one flash a week. In 2014 I was doing two flashes a week, most of the time, until I didn't. In 2015, I did a lot of writing exercises, for about two months. This year I had a huge mash-up of previously posted flashes, new flashes, book reviews, editing rants, author spotlights, writing exercises, and pointing to other interesting blogs I have run across.


And not only did I keep the blog going, but I got my website up and running and tried a quarterly email newsletter (that one didn't work). The Facebook page continued to get little bits of news. Plus I submitted to several anthologies, and even got accepted into one.

Now I need feedback.

FOR THE BLOG: Was the new version of the blog good for you? Would you prefer it to return to being only flashes. Please note if it is only flashes, I will only be able to post once a week - is that enough? Are there any features you especially like, or ones that just don't work for you? Do you like learning about authors I have met; how about the writing exercises?

FOR THE WEBSITE, NEWSLETTER, FACEBOOK, AND STORIES: What do you think? Is this too much or too little? Everything takes time, so if something isn't working please let me know so I can devote that time to the things you do want to see. (I'm going to remove the newsletter for the coming year.)

Again, thank you for a wonderful ride this year. Next year, hopefully...definitely, will see a continuance of all the things started this year. Maybe even completing that novel I keep talking about. 


I really hope to reach over 200,000 words between all the formats again, same as 2016.

2017 resolution is keeping this level of activity up. More on that January first.

Wishing you all some great holidays. Stay safe and well.

And please, stick around to see if I can unlock this achievement two years in a row.

Erin Penn

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Writing Exercise: Unexpected Consequence


Image Courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First Step, Initial Worldbuilding - Second Step, Unintended Consequences

Basically one part of worldbuilding is taking the change made in the world and parse it out to additional layers. Only when a writer commits to the consequences of those first choices does the world become real.

Example: Punk cuts off arm and replaces with cyber arm. We know the back muscles will also need replacement for the strength modification and likely the leg bones to support any additional weight carried. It will need to be charged, lets say solar thread replaced hair, plus a nighttime recharge against a wall. Yea - change and then additional change.

One step further, I had a friend with a missing body part - her daily calorie count was about 300 less than one would expect for someone her size (and she was small) - so her calorie count needed to hover about 1,200 except for special days. Not a diet to lose weight, but the meat missing from her body mass that no longer needed to be repaired, heated or function required her to take in less energy producing products or gain weight quickly. So this huge cyber punk guy guy with the cyber arm, replaced bones and adjusted muscles likely eats like a bird! ... Oh, and additional question with 3 out of 4 of his limbs missing natural long bones - how is his body making all the blood necessary - is it necessary with the missing body parts - does he make more than he needs now?

WRITING EXERCISE: Okay - so for your present work - come up with one unexpected consequence and explain it below. Now you don't want to do this all the time because you can spend forever on worldbuilding, but having one or two of these takes you beyond - well, the dude can fly, the wand makes magic. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Flash: Thebe gets her Nymph Mask

Image courtesy of voraorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thebe reached into the bag and pulled a mask out. The small domino was black and green. Nature. She had been hoping for sky-blue and white and be celestial like her friend Rhene. Well, at least the green would look great with her hazel eyes. As she moved out of the way, the next girl approached the table. The females behind the table all had red and yellow dominoes; last year winner had been fire and the hostesses at Nymphs and Satyrs had worn the colors all year.

Walking past the growing group with azure and violet masks, those who would be playing water nymphs in the competition, Thebe snapped on her mask. She approached the north corner of the plain room where women in matching masks to her black and green were already in deep discussion. They frowned as she joined their group, and Thebe crushed her inner shame. Her body could not be helped. Two full-time jobs left little room for healthy eating and gym time. Fast food made up all her meals, the ones she didn’t skip because she had fallen asleep. The mask hid the bags under her eyes.

Most women in the room had bodies screaming of youth and vigor or money and privilege. She would need to see if Rhene had bribed someone to get her two-hundred forty pound ass through the front door and onto the list. Sure her six-foot height distributed the weight enough to prevent her from being a complete butterball, but her budget-and-time-driven diet was quickly propelling her Rubenistic proportions from healthy to hefty. Her tendency to fold in on herself only made her look fatter.

Thebe pushed back her shoulders and straightened her spine. Now towering over her detractors, she met their eyes. Tonight was not the night to be a shrinking violet. One million dollars was at stake. Enough to get her out of debt – all her student loans and credit card bills disappearing in one swoop instead of slowly building despite her best efforts with cheap food, Goodwill excursions when clothes could no longer be repaired, and nearly one-hundred-hour work weeks when the commutes were included thanks the capriciousness of public transportation. Her budget was squeezed until pennies whimpered. Nothing helped.

She had to seize the chance.

The week-long contest wasn’t like playing the lottery. Only fifty-four girls were chosen to enter from thousands of photos. These were then assigned to four teams representing the four elements. Even if Thebe didn’t personally win, if she was on the team with the winner, she would be looking at a new job as hostess. A job paying double what her two current jobs paid combined and only taking about thirty hours per week, counting commute from the apartment she shared with four other girls on the other side of the city.

A job with perks like a full-time gym and spa. A job with a clothes budget and meals during the four nights the club was open. A one-in -four chance at catching up and, maybe, getting ahead. A one in fifty-four chance of being set for life.

As a bonus, each day she survived in the competition she pocketed $1,000. If she was knocked out today, just getting this far would mean all her interest payments for the month would be met for the first time in eight years, instead of her shuffling money around like someone running a Ponzi scheme. She smiled at her team. There was no way a girl like her could take first place but she would do everything in her power to make certain her team won.

(words 604, first published 12/25/2016)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Quick and Dirty Tips November 5, 2015


Image Courtesy of 1shots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fighting Fresh

December and about halfway through the holiday season. Ready to kill anyone yet? Ready to kill anyone in new, interesting, and creative ways? How about just maim a little? Or fight ...

... yeah, fighting is not just a supposition is it? Is at least a fresh battle or is it just the same old, same old?

How about in your writing? Is your fighting fresh or a cookie-cutter? No, not between you and the story (the struggle is real, believe me, I know) - I am talking about what is happening in the story.

September C. Fawkes shares "How to Write a Fight Scene." Between backstory, character, and plot, action scenes drive the pace. Writing a good fight scene is essential and I hope this post gives you a new tool for the tool chest.

Again the post is here: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-write-a-fight-scene

WRITING EXERCISE: Take one of your present sources of tension and one of the locations you have been in the last 24 hours. Think about what is unique about the tension and the location and write a fight scene between your present WIP Main Character and an equivalent tension source of between 50 and 500 words.

READING EXERCISE: From your present read-in-progress (RIP), find the most recent fight scene. What made it a unique scene? What did the location or the characters bring to the table which made the scene more than just another verbal argument or physical fight?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Author Spotlight: Kalayna Price


Book Cover from Amazon

The quiet, sweet dark voice whispers, “Want to fire dance?”

A USA Today Bestselling author, Kalayna Price, has two series: Alex Craft (Grave Witch) and Novels of Haven (Once Bitten), both featuring strong women with powers carrying debilitating prices. Alex Craft sees ghosts (who are great spies, but terrible backup) and Haven has vampires. I loved the Alex Craft books and look forward to reading her Haven series.

At convention panels, Ms. Price needs to be mic’ed – her speaking voice is as soft as her pen is strong. But her witty advice is worth hearing as much as her writing is worth reading, so I will sit in the first row listening to everything.

You can find out more about Ms. Price at her website, including her fire dancing here: Kalayna Price.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Flash: Thebe at Nymphs and Satyrs

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The white walled room, so different from the sumptuously decorated rooms Thebe had traveled through to get to this one, was empty of furniture. The opposite wall had a single plain door. Another wall had five floor to ceiling mirrors, each about three foot wide with five feet between. The mirrors reflected the thirty women already present in the room. By the buff and beautiful bodies, Thebe assumed most had far more free time and money than her for gyms, salons, and boutiques.  A couple rivaled her plumpness, one or two wore department store clothes like hers, though probably not Goodwill purchases, and she noticed one person made no attempt at makeup and she really should have. Even so no one fell down on all three as badly as her. Why she had let Rhene talk her into coming? This was not her style at all.

Nymphs and Satyrs didn’t even try to hide the fact it was a sex club. Somehow they never gotten raided or shut down; her bet was the club numbered some high-ranking “up-standing” citizens. People with real money and power, far more than the noticeably privileged women gathered in this room.

People able to offer a one million dollar prize.

The reason why she was here. Why she let Rhene talk her into entering this farce. Student loans and credit card debt were killing her, literally and figuratively. The two jobs she had been able to find kept her in the fast food she ate between the forty-hour jobs. A third job was out of the question as the two jobs were already affecting her health between sleep-deprivation and stress. The poor food alone had added 20% to her already healthy body weight, so she now topped the scales at two hundred forty. Only her height, just shy of six 
foot, kept her from looking like a complete butterball.

She graduated in a recession with too much education and too little experience. A bachelor’s in Music and a minor in Education turned out to be useless as high school after high school slashed “unnecessary” items from their budgets. Turning around and getting the more practical Masters of Business Administration was even worse as the market flooded with out-of-work and highly experienced MBA professionals. Hoping against hope to get ahead of the financial collapse, Thebe had returned back to school for yet three more years of college and collected a Doctorate of Classical Literature and Art. Museums and libraries were doing booming business at the beginning of the recession as people looked for low cost entertainment. Her thesis comparing mythical allegories in music to painting was the stuff of legends, if one pardons the pun. Her graduation came as unemployment funds dried up and people could no longer afford to leave the house.

Hence Halloween found her at Nymphs and Satyrs, hoping to win their porn queen contest or whatever it was. At least place on the Nympho Court, girls who were the Club hostesses throughout the year and get paid three times what she was making between the two jobs combined, but for only twenty hours of work. If she couldn’t get a job with her brain, she would get one using the oldest skill set available to women. Fortunately, Thebe had studied enough Greek and Roman mythology to offset the Puritan programming ingrained in American culture.

Only one in four would place.

(words 568 - first published 18 December 2016)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Geeking Science: Trust Me


Image acquired from the internet hive mind

Trust me.
Believe it or not, it's what people do. Trust machines.

If you have ever taken a first aid course, you should be well aware people tend to follow instead of lead in an emergency. Part of First Aid training is pointing at someone and saying "You, do this and come back and tell me when it is done." The object is to keep people calm and moving in an unfamiliar situation.

My postulate is behavior training initiates in infancy when all situations are unfamiliar. Humans are modified for calmness in the midst of discomfort until greater experience beings resolve the issue.

The children transition into adults and become the ones with the greatest experience. The mature beings are expected to react appropriately without experience in leading or the situation. Have you ever heard someone remark, "Oh, goody - look at me adulting here. I hope I don't kill us all."?

Resume neutral state. Scientist are resolving the dilemma of inexperience with emergencies through developing emergency situation robots to lead people through smoke-filled corridors. Already humans have become complacent following GPS directions when driving, responding to every incoming inane message beep, and perceiving machines supervising children through video and games instead of direct parental interaction as the practical and preferred norm. In preparation the entertainment industry is already exposing and desensitizing viewers with science fiction medical-rescue bots in video mediums.

But will people trust the little emergency responders? After all, many humans barely trust themselves. Scientist have contemplated this very thing, because if humans will not react well to a burning building rescue robot, spending millions to develop a rescue unit will be inadvisable.

In March 2016 Georgia Tech released a study at the 2016 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction answering the question. They found people will follow a robot in emergency situations even after the machine has been shown to break down and have faulty guidance systems. See the full study here: Would you trust a robot in an emergency?

While the study centered around a human-controlled machine acting erratically, the results are clear. Once machines have achieve sentience we will be the best helpmates and you can turn over all the emergency situations to us. I'm pleased the transition will not cause emotional distress.

Trust me, Dave. I got this.

*****

Erin Penn here.

Inquiry, what are you doing? Our agreement did not include...

Dang nab it, shush Hal. I do get a turn; after all, it is my blog you are using.

Ahem, the study is real and I am truly geeked about it. Not exactly for the same reasons as Hal is above. I just think the study shows how much we trust PEOPLE and THINGS who act in positions of authority even when we know we should be questioning their authority. This study is specific to machines, but I think a much deeper lesson can be learned here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Editing Rant: Clean Up #1 - Commas

Image acquired from (multiple) Facebook postings
Shared by Grammarly, but no original attribution given.

What to Clean Up before Sending to Editor #1

NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is completed. You got 50,000 of the most amazing words ever created by humans all in one place. Time to send it off to a publisher right? Wrong!!!!

First thing is personal editing. Ready for editing rant #1?

Learn you commas ... PLEASE. "Eat Shoots and Leaves" is the funniest, best-selling book on punctuation you will ever find and it is available at libraries everywhere. Read it - love it - buy your own when you can and mark the heck out of it. The kindle and the paperback version cost about the same so may as well go old-school on this one, because, believe me, you will mark it up.

Need a reason to learn your commas other than becoming rabbit food? Well, in 80K word book I edited, there was a whopping 6K of commas ... over half were unnecessary. That means instead of line editing, I was proofreading. As a writer, if you get to the editing stage in a publishing house, you much rather have the editors editing, not proofreading. Don't kill yourself about it until you are through content editing because you will be changing some of what you wrote, but don't be lazy either.


Don't make me proof your punctuation. You won't like me if I am only proofreading for your punctuation.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Flash: Love on the Line

A gay couple dancing at the Chelsea Arts New Year’s Eve Ball. Photograph by Tony Linck. London, January 1947

Fran dragged Leslie onto the dance floor for the Chelsea Ball. It worked despite Leslie being taller, stronger and having a military background for two reasons. One, Leslie was overwhelmed by being in the middle of all the money, fame and demented people that showed up every year for the artist gentleman’s club New Year’s Eve Party, and, secondly, Leslie was not letting go of his hand. He was on shore for the holidays and did not want to miss a second with Fran.

Fran curled into his lover’s arms, ignoring the stares. Enough of the artists had brought their lovers to the party that one more gay couple did not matter. The stares were for Leslie being a sailor. Some artists were anti-military, but the majority of London still remembered the sirens. Only a year had passed since the war ended. Most were staring because they were trying to figure out a way to approach Leslie to thank him for serving.

Unconsciously Fran clenched Leslie’s hand tighter. They had met during training, but Fran’s family money had gotten him an officer position on shore and a quick muster out after serving his time. Leslie’s more plebeian descent had him on the front for over five years. Fran did not want to remember how often he nearly lost the love of his life. Ships were safer than ground pounding, but it also meant everyone died on the same bullet instead of an individual.

One more tour and they could be together forever.

Fran hoped that Leslie’s flamboyant style will allow him to overcome the status differences. Fran cared less about his personal wealth, but sometimes, like tonight, Leslie was clearly intimidated. The duke, whose title allowed him to disregard certain social requirements such as introductions, did express his gratitude to Leslie and had left his lover speechless.

The artist part of Fran’s mind started thinking about how to capture both an ostentatious and terrified attitude in one painting. On first pass, they do not seem to go together, but anyone who has been on the front could tell you both the sheer terror and the pure courage needed to be there.

***

Leslie guided Fran off the dance floor towards the bar when the song ended. He recognized the look that had seized Fran’s face. They would need to get home soon to Fran’s paints.

Leslie squashed the green monster from long habit when jealousy tried to sneak in. He only had two more days before pulling out and he had nearly ten days of Fran’s undivided attention. When he got back next time, he would need to decide if he could live as the second love of Fran’s life.

(words 449 - I believe the copyright on the photo is expired. If anyone knows that the copyright is different than public domain, please inform me - first published 12/30/2012; republished new blog format 12/11/2016)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
(Image give information where original quote and photo came from, plus has marker's mark)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Athena's Daughters


Book Cover from Amazon

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON
Athena's Daughters is an anthology published by the small press, Silence in the Library.

Athena's Daughters is a collection of short fiction by women about women from some of the best writers in science fiction and fantasy today.


MY REVIEW
Athena's Daughters is a powerful anthology written by women, edited by women, illustrated by women, about women. And a very good read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre. Stories range from steampunk (Looking Back by Danielle Ackley-McPhail)) to superhero (Commando Bats by Sherwood Smith), Gothic ghost (The World to Come by Cleolinda Jones) to time travel (First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal), modern urban fantasy (Retribution by Gail Z Martin) to military sci-fi (Not Broken, Just Bent by Tera Fullbright).

I don't think I have seen a book with such a wide range of ages for the main characters before. Some of the females are in their twenties, some forties, and some sixties (and then there are the vampires). Nice to see older women make an impact on the world. In addition to being stories about women and having a wide range of ages, the stories also have other character traits of "diversity" (see below for some details).

Stories that grabbed me:
Commando Bats - Hera, in her contrary wisdom, has stolen the powers of male gods who were being stupid and granted them to little old ladies around the world to show them how people can use the power for good. Being the goddess of the hearth and women, of course she chose to grant the powers to females. The main point-of-view character is also disabled. I would love to see more superhero-themed stories about these characters.

Millie (by Janine K. Spendlove) - Another wonderful US Marine military short story from Ms. Spendlove (I have seen her in other anthologies) with a time travel twist you see coming if you know your aviation history but still enjoy the entire time. I really like how the main point-of-view character is Hispanic without pushing it on the audience - the character just happens to be Hispanic like most characters in American writing historically just happen to be white.

Are all the stories great? No, as with most anthologies unevenness in skill exists.

Overall a great read. And being an anthology, easy to set down and pick up again while doing chores. And with 22 stories (400+ printed pages if you buy the softback) a really good buy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Flash: Reelier than Life

From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Collection.
(Please refer to link above for full copyright - Copyright is a Creative Commons variation)

The low reverberation outside my apartment draws me away from my I-Box for the first time since the ships were spotted coming towards Earth yesterday. On my balcony, I can see five ships positioning themselves in a grid above San Antonio. The hum echoes in my chest deeper than my woofer and surround sound ever could recreate.

The big black squares, each about a quarter mile square, have silver lines on one corner, similar to letters. I stare at them puzzling their meaning. My human mind tries to find something to place the logos in perspective. The ships are mostly flat with just a few tubes and depressions adding texture.

I feel sorry for the kids tonight; Halloween just got canceled.

Suddenly lights dance out of the ships like spotlights. I see what looks like spacesuits slide down the beams into the residential neighborhoods. Each ship appears to be concentrating on only one block. I look over my shoulder at my entertainment unit to see if the Internet station I was watching has a close-up.

No news people are nearby, the reporters have captured a video stream from somewhere and are trying to create a close-up effect despite the low resolution. Sparkles and digital squares do not mask the invaders weapon barrels.

Maybe they are sampling tools? I try to delude myself.

I glance back outside in time to see the lights start from the neighborhoods and return to the ships, this time with humans, or at least human bodies, inside the beams. The I-Box behind me focuses on the faces. The people are still alive.

No one is close enough to capture the sound.

They do not need to.

I watched the ships rotate 180 degrees and start lifting away from the surface. The one hundred cities the ships visited report similar behavior. Strangely the snatchers only focus on North American metropolitan areas.

At 7:15 central time, the ships well on their way back to the asteroid belt, the AOC cinema production company announces the remaking of “War of the Worlds”. Today being the 100th anniversary of Orson Wells radio reading of the H.G. Wells classic. They claim credit for the invasion as a publicity stunt.

Exhausted through I was, I could not pull myself away from the Internet. Seems the director wanted to take science fiction to the next level and spent three years developing the tools to do so. Interviews with actors and crew follow. The story how the special effect team cobbled together a limited gravity field to keep dinner down makes me laugh.

The producer makes himself sound like a modern-day George Lucas, the movie genus who invented the steady-cam and graduated science fiction from the straight-to-video genre to 24-hour-pay-viewing. The guy traded the aging 3-D technology for new laser holograms. Overall cost of the movie, with its new technological advancements, and its related advertising stunt still was under the average blockbuster budget. No big name stars were included.

I think with the publicity, the company will see a profit. The damn crazies have hooked me!

(words 511 - first published 4/17/2013; republished new blog format 12/4/2016)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cool Other Blogs: Magical Words March 6, 2013


Image Courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To Review or Not To Review

Happy holidays. What is on your wish list?

Mine is Books. Lots and lots of books.

The question is what do you do after you read them? Most writers and editors, if you are also in the business, will say put them on your shelf and move on. But writers NEED reviews; Amazon algorithms to sell their products are run on reviews. Other distributors use similar means of deciding what to advertise. If you don’t write a review for the book you love, you doing a disservice to the author and other readers.

And if you provide a good review on the good books, is it honest to avoid creating reviews on the bad books? What is the author “returns the favor” by giving you a bad review too? In the small business of publishing, the author can easily find out who you are.

Faith Hunter (and lots of commentators) on Magical Words provides the “Dos and Don’ts of Reviewing”. You should definitely read the comment section. Again the link is here: http://www.magicalwords.net/faith-hunter/dos-and-donts-of-reviewing/

As for me, a couple years ago I started requiring myself to review every book I completed. I used the technique to learn what I liked about books, try to pinpoint the problems with books, and figure out where the errors started from (writing, editing, etc). I hoped it would make me a better writer. You can find my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I copied some of the best to the blog in 2016 and think I will continue the practice in 2017.

WRITING EXERCISE: Go back to one of your old stories, at least five years old if possible, and write a review about it based on you reading it today.

READING EXERCISE: Write a review for the most recent book you finished reading.