February: Spread Love – Picture a Day (6)

My February Project is Picture a Day. Something inspiring, something cool, something to make you smile or think.

Day 6

Today’s picture of the day is of Anne Spencer (born February 6, 1882), American poet, in her wedding dress. Anne was the first African American poet to be featured in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry. She was valedictorian of the class of 1899 at Virginia Seminary, despite not starting formal schooling until age 11. Besides writing poetry, she was a gardener and activist and hosted many dignitaries at her home in Virginia including Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, and W.E.B. DuBois.

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Translation

– Anne Spencer (1882 – 1975)

He trekked into a far country,
My friend and I.
Our deeper content was never spoken,
But each knew all the other said.
He told me how calm his soul was laid
By the lack of anvil and strife.
“The wooing kestrel," I said, “mutes his mating-note
To please the harmony of this sweet silence.”
And when at the day’s end
We laid tired bodies ‘gainst
The loose warm sands,
And the air fleeced its particles for a coverlet;
When star after star came out
To guard their lovers in oblivion —
My soul so leapt that my evening prayer
Stole my morning song!

 

February: Spread Love – Picture a Day (5)

My February Project is Picture a Day. Something inspiring, something cool, something to make you smile or think.

Day 5 (yes I skipped Day 4)

The lava lamp was invented in the 1960s by a British accountant and works due to the Rayleigh-Taylor Instability (which sounds like a Big Bang Theory episode). RT instability happens when two liquids of differing densities mingle, in this case, wax (the “lava”) and the surrounding water-based liquid, but do not dissolve. In the simplest terms, waxy blobs and water are heated by a light bulb in the base of the lamp. The wax heats up, rises to the top, then cool and drops down. Lava lamps went on to become one of the defining images of the 60s, and are still sold today.

Fun Fact: The Doctor Who episode The Wheel in Space (1968) was the first television show to feature lava lamps.

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Other sites for more information:

How Stuff Works

The Original Lava Lamp

 

February: Spread Love – Picture a Day (3)

My February Project is Picture a Day. Something inspiring, something cool, something to make you smile or think.

Day 3

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Ben Franklin with son William Franklin (inset).

A little sad one today and something to reflect on. Despite all his accomplishments, Ben did not have the best family life. Some say the loss of his four-year-old son, Francis to smallpox (vaccinations save lives!) may have caused Ben to disengage from his family.

However, in later years, Ben and his illegitimate son William were friends and business partners until the American Revolution when father (patriot/revolutionary) and son (loyalist) parted ways. William was the last colonial governor of New Jersey.and vehemently disagreed with the revolution. Ben and William only partially reconciled before Ben’s death and Ben left little in his will to William, preferring his grandson, Temple, William’s illegitimate son (oh my!).

 

 

 

 

 

February: Spread Love – Picture a Day (2)

My February Project is Picture a Day. Something inspiring, something cool, something to make you smile or think.

Day 2

What says sanctuary more than a cozy cafe? One of my favorite things to do at lunch is take a short walk to the locally owned cafe, Nook Bakery and Coffee Bar and get some writing done. Mike and Edna, the owners, specialize in small-batch baking and ethically sourced coffee. The muffins and scones are warm in the mornings and did I mention the lavender madelines?

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February: Spread Love – Picture a Day (1)

My February Project is Picture a Day. Something inspiring, something cool, something to make you smile or think.

Day 1

Love yourself. Nourish your body, eat good foods and don’t be afraid of new foods.  I’m trying 5 Grain hot cereal from Bob’s Red Mill as an alternative to oatmeal (which I adore!). I’ll be adding chopped dates and a touch of brown sugar.

Eat Well

Eat Well

Poconos Writers’ Conference 2017

I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Poconos Writers Conference over the weekend. I love conferences because no matter what your level of writing, you can never (and should never) stop learning. Sponsored by writer and attorney Michael Ventrella and the Poconos Liars Club, this one-day writing event featured three writers and one agent who gave excellent talks on craft and publication.

Michael Ventrella kicked off the conference with his talk “The Biggest Mistakes Made by New Authors.” Some great advice included treating your writing like a job in terms of dedicating your time and learning the business, finishing your work, and his secret to success (exclusive to attendees only, I’m afraid). I jest, but he did emphasize the importance of talent, hard work, and networking.

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Michael Ventrella

Next up was agent Alia Hanna Habib from McCormick Literary who presented on query letters and knowing your genre (with examples of what works and what doesn’t). Every time I go to a talk on query letters I learn something new and this was no exception. Alia’s experience was invaluable (and funny). Highlights included ensuring your query reads something like jacket copy, know to whom you are submitting and, of course, read the submissions guidelines.

After lunch, romance writer Megan Hart spoke on Point of View. She provided clear instruction on each type of point of view. I think my greatest takeaway here was the emphasis on how point of view not only controls what we the readers know, it gives the reader information as the character sees it. Each character is the hero of her or his own story, which affects how they tell the story.

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Romance Author Megan Hart

Dark fantasy author Rob E. Boley wrapped up the speaker line up with his presentation on Worldbuilding, which, as he points out, is integral for all genres, not just speculative fiction. Rob asked members of the audience what they thought worldbuilding included and the responses were phenomenal. Many volunteered answers but then made connections with how that aspect (say, currency) would affect the world and the way characters interact. Rob emphasized that your world must serve the story. Coincidences that screw the characters are acceptable. Those that help are not. There are no silos – different aspects of the world affect other aspects (just like the real world!). Do not cast brushstrokes and don’t see everything in black and white.

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Dark Fantasy Author Rob E. Boley

The audience participation really energized the crowd for the final session – a Q&A panel with the authors where we discussed marketing, networking, and being yourself on social media (please, no non-stop promo tweets!) and at writing events. In the end, sell yourself as much as your work, but be real.

Highly recommended conference, especially if you’ve never attended one and might be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a large, multi-day event.

PS Huge shout out to the Eastern Monroe Public Library for hosting the event. Support your local library!

PPS I might have bought some books…

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Be Brave in 2017

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

2016 wasn’t a bad year. It was a challenging year, for sure.

We lost many beloved celebrities, some very unexpectedly, as well as several scientist pioneers. The war in Syria broke our hearts and underscored the powerlessness we feel when governments decide that war is the only solution and the civilians suffer. We all felt the shocks from a contentious presidential election, whose aftershocks will still be felt for many years I expect. Many of us are living with problems wrought because corporations have been allowed to overrule common decency (how many people lost their pensions this year? How many people work over 40 hours and still do not make a livable wage?) and environmental safeguards (Flint, MI; Standing Rock). And yet, there were many positive things.

Quartz posted an article listing the best 99 things that happened in 2016, a list which contains cute pandas and eradication of ebola. Progress on environmental issues has been made in several countries around the world, despite the climate change deniers (for the record, climate change is more than global warning and is not a linear progression of events!).

Life is about the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. Not to sound sophomoric, but it’s good to remember:

  • Nothing good or bad lasts forever.
  • It’s okay to mourn a celebrity. That means that something in their body of work touched you. Don’t let anyone shame you because you shed a tear or two.
  • But…death comes for all of us (unless you’re Keith Richards. There can only be one, after all). Remember to celebrate the life and the joy as well
  • …and, cherish the time you have with the people you love
  • Go out into the world and be brave. Be brave in big ways (speak out against injustice even when people call you the special snowflake), be brave in little ways (treat the homeless person with respect and dignity even when someone says your change will only go to drugs or alcohol)
  • judge less, love more
  • love your body and nourish it with good food and exercise

Above all, keep hope in your heart. Hope that bigotry, hatred, and ignorance will not win the day, not in our politics, not for the earth, and not for the people struggling each day in whatever country. And with hope the courage to take a stand and work for a better future.

Peace my friends.

 

 

 

 

Nanowrimo 2016: Are You Ready for an Adventure?

We are exactly one month out from November 1, which marks the start of the annual writing frenzy known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Like Bilbo, I will probably be running out the door without my literary handkerchief (i.e. no novel plan whatsoever) at 12:01.

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Started in 1999, Nanowrimo challenges participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Local chapters from around the world bring writers together regionally, both in real life and online, to assist them, motivate them, and inspire them.

This year I am Municipal Liaison along with Ema Timar for the South Jersey region. It’s always a lot of fun to plan events and help fellow writers. 50,000 words can seem daunting and overwhelming, but the goal of Nano isn’t to write a perfect novel. It’s to get the words down, establish a steady writing habit (1,667 words a day will get you there!), let you write with abandon and turn off the internal, nagging editor that will tell you that you suck, your writing is worthless, and how dare you end a sentence with a preposition?

I have been doing Nano since 2002 or 2003. I have only “won” once, in 2014. But I am okay with that. I always have more words on November 30 than I did on November 1 and isn’t that really the goal?

Nano is free (remember to sign up at the website when signups start shortly!) but there are cool items for sale to show your support. As a non-profit, Nano does depend on donations to help fund its writing programs. Not only can you chalk up some good karma, you can get cool swag if you do give!

So, join us! Get that novel out of your brain and onto paper (or screen).

Let go of your fears.

Create.

Let it flow through you into the world (and beyond)!

 

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Book Review: This Alien Shore, by C.S. Friedman

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Stay with me here for a moment. The first modern science fiction book I read, many moons ago, was Frank Herbert’s Dune. I believe I read it after having an ex-boyfriend insist I watch the 1984 movie. Despite the movie’s flaws, I was hooked. The reason I bring up Dune is because of how well it has aged, perhaps becoming even more relevant now than it was when it released. The technology doesn’t date the book and its themes are eternal (at least within the scope of human existence).

C.S. Friedman’s This Alien Shore is another book that has aged well. It was originally released in 1998. Almost 20 years in a time when technology is exponentially advancing. I’ve read books written at the same time or even after, where the technology has dated the book (there’s nothing like reading a book about the future, especially the near future, that refers to ‘data tapes’).

I’m not 100% sure of this, but Friedman seems almost prophetic in This Alien Shore. Humans live among the stars, but the earliest who went into space “suffer” from genetic mutations, as do their descendants, and are known as Variants. However, these variants have discovered the ability to travel through space via Ainniqs, portions of space that function like wormholes. But therein lies the danger as other living things reside in Ainniqs – creatures that feed on human souls and only special inpilots can navigate them safely – at a price.

This timely and almost prophetic theme of prejudice the Variants experience by Earth and its “untainted” humans is woved throughout the book. Some Variants hate all Terrans because of the way their ancestors were treated once they mutated (due to the spaceship drive used during the first space age, where travel was slow and dangerous). Others, like the Guerans, have traveled back to Earth to invite the Terrans to join their fellow humans in the expanding galaxy now available to them. Terrans have followed but many are not happy and cannot stand the Variants, looking at them as less than human, as monsters.

Also, humans are wired into the datasphere. Most have implants surgically provided at birth. At one point, the hacker Phoenix is walking through one of the stations, reminiscing about teenagers using programs that overlay what they see in real life with fantasy images, everything from dragons to porn. Humans love data, love the datasphere which provides “viddie” entertainment. Also, the hardware also helps regulate bodily functions, providing warnings when the body is distressed and dispensing medication for everything from headaches to more severe illnesses and emergencies. How close are we to this? How many companies are working to get us there?

Technology aside, This Alien Shore tells a great story, which involves a young girl Jamisia on the run after her space station is attacked and destroyed. Jamisia hears voices – but is she crazy? Have these other personalities invaded her head in order to take over her body, or are they parts of her own fragmented psyche? These voices do not just speak to her. Different personalities have different skills and knowledge. Jamisia is being pursued – by Earth Corporations, by the Guild (run by the Variants, who have a monopoly on space ainniq travel) and who knows who else. They want what is in her head. The problem is Jamisia has no clue what is in her head.

She meets up with the hacker, also known as a moddie, Phoenix, who is trying to track down the source of a dangerous virus known as Lucifer that has killed several of his hacker friends, as well as inpilots who travel the dangerous ainniqs. Jamisia and Phoenix join forces with Dr. Kio Masada, a Gueran hired by the Guild Prima to find out who unleashed the Lucifer on the Guild pilots and why.

Intrigue, adventure, danger as well as a satisfying but by no means predictable, ending.

My one writerly nitpick – a lot of passive voice and filtering. Characters do a lot of telling and filtering (“she felt fear”). This can break the fiction spell slightly especially when something exciting is happening, but I feel like there’s a veil between the action and me. A small nitpick and as writing expectations have certainly tightened over the past 18 years, one I am not going to count against the book. I recently read a Hugo-winning book from the late 80s or early 90s, where this was a major problem; however, the storytelling was still fantastic. A good story with relatable characters makes up for a lot!