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Posted by Sara Stamey

Last time (May 13 blog post), Thor, Bear dog, and I hiked above our nearby Lake Whatcom to an overlook. This time, taking advantage of another sunny day, we loaded up our bikes and took to the Hertz Trail that runs along an old railway track along the east shore of the lake. The former Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad (established in 1902) was used to transport logs as well as coal from the Blue Canyon Mine at the south end of the lake. Bear loves a chance to really run as we zip along the dirt track shimmering with sunshine through the fresh spring leaves.

The trail, which runs about 3 miles along the lake, starts among old cedars in a shady stretch.

We love the green tunnels opening up to views of the lake.

All the plants (here bracken ferns) are bursting this time of year with fresh energy. It feels as if we’re soaking up that spring zing!

Bear dog loves to munch on the fresh grasses.

Almost to the end of the trail:

Ready for a picnic. Bear lets us know that grass is not enough. “I’ll be happy to help out with that leftover chicken salad.”

Bear, normally a rather dignified beast, suddenly gets very excited about the waves stirred up by the wind, and plunges in to snap at the water. He doesn’t like to swim, though, so quickly scrambles out.

Steep cliffs border the trail, with rocky outcrops.

Runoff creeks tumble down from the slopes.

Now that it’s an official park, there are two fancy new bridges crossing the creeks. We used to just hop over the rocks in the creek beds.

I still experience surreal moments after moving back to my home town of Bellingham, WA, after many years as a nomad in far-flung parts of the globe. When I was growing up, our “far corner” of the Pacific Northwest was pretty much off the radar, and much of the surrounding area was undeveloped. The old trail along the lake was mostly overgrown and involved a tricky “secret” access and some bushwacking, but offered serenity and privacy for skinny-dipping. These days, our county population is growing quickly, and we’re an outdoors-adventure destination, so it’s almost impossible to find solitude on hikes. We avoid outings on the crowded weekends.

The trail head now features an informational kiosk with local history, some dating from the late 1800s when my great-grandparents on my mother’s side settled here. The years have brought good changes, including a reduction of clear-cut logging and no more coal mining that involved abusive labor practices, lynchings, and riddling underground Bellingham with miles of unstable tunnels.

All things considered, I feel blessed to live in this beautiful place with sea and mountains and forests (and plenty of rain to keep it all green). What kinds of surreal moments have you experienced on a return to your own home town?

***

You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has just received a second Cygnus Award, for Science Fiction. To celebrate, for the month of May it’s on special discount here on our online bookstore at just 99 cents!

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Posted by Marie Brennan

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

This week’s post is brought to you by a patron request! The topic suggestion had to do with conveying historical complexity, which is itself complex enough that it can’t be answered in a single post. When I cast about for a specific angle to hit first, I landed on . . . architectural history, of all things. (I blame my research reading.)

How can buildings convey a sense of history, politics, and change over time?

Let’s start with ancient ruins. As any reader of the Memoirs of Lady Trent knows, I have a soft spot for these, and certainly they lend themselves well to fantasy or certain kinds of space-faring science fiction. Whether it’s Stonehenge in England or Karnak in Egypt or Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the remnants of ancient civilizations are a clear sign of time’s passage. Is the ethnic group that created them still around, or have they “vanished” through migration, conquest by an outside power, or simply changing so much they’re no longer meaningfully the same people? (Roman and Islamic influence radically altered Egypt, but contrary to the way it’s usually described, the Maya didn’t disappear; they’re just not living in those cities anymore.) Do the local people know what purpose the site originally served, or is it a mystery now, the subject of folkloric invention or scientific investigation?

And what state is the site in, anyway? Some kinds of architecture (stone) survive reasonably well even without maintenance; others (wood) will vanish pretty quickly, leaving behind only traces. The environment will affect this, of course, through erosion and moisture-based decay. But people affect it, too, by stealing away building materials for re-use at other sites. Why go cut new stone from a distant quarry when you could take already-dressed blocks from a nearby abandoned building? Ditto for fired bricks and even large timber beams. If you’ve ever seen an old ruin in Europe and wondered why it was built out of mortared rubble, you may be seeing the infill of the wall, left behind after the nice facing stones were removed. Which means you can wind up with fragments in the oddest places: I read an article some time ago about a Norse runestone found serving as the threshold of a farmhouse, and the Rosetta Stone was used as fill when a Mamluk sultan built the site known as Fort Julien or the Fort of Qaitbey. Decorations or inscriptions can signal that components of a structure have been moved from their original location.

This kind of repurposing can happen to whole buildings, too. These days the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) in Istanbul is a museum; before that it was a mosque; before that it was a Greek Orthodox basilica. The Pantheon in Rome once honored all the gods, as the name suggests, but in the seventh century it became a Western Christian church instead. Over in Japan, many Buddhist temple properties were once manor houses, donated by some pious aristocrat hoping to better their karma for their next life. And during the English Civil War, Parliamentary forces stabled their horses in the nave of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Sometimes repurposing happens because the original use has been forgotten, but more often it occurs because that original use is no longer necessary or desired. It can even be a form of ideological warfare, the victor deliberately overwriting the loser’s history and habits with their own.

Speaking of victors, buildings can also be a way of commemorating history. Triumphal arches, columns, stelae, and so forth are a really blatant example of this: structures that often serve no practical purpose apart from putting a giant sign on the landscape saying THE DUDE WHO COMMISSIONED THIS WAS AWESOME. Memorials do the same thing, but in a less self-aggrandizing direction. Nothing says you can’t combine advertising with use, though, which is how you get temples, palaces, hospitals, and even smaller things like fountains that bear the name or statue of the wealthy person who arranged for their construction. (And if you don’t think a fountain is an important public service, you’ve never thought about the effort required to obtain water when it isn’t piped into your house.) A building may not be just a building; it can also be a reminder of historical figures or grand events, keeping the memory of those things alive in daily life.

Even on a more modest scale, architecture can communicate history, just through changes in fashion. When I was researching the Onyx Court series, architecture was an inescapable part of how London changed over time. I started with Tudor half-timbered buildings; then, after most of those burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, civil codes mandated the use of much less flammable brick; then the classical inspirations of Palladianism overran the place.

a triptych depicting a half-timbered house, a brick house, and a Palladian house

Can you tell the difference between these?

 

More recently I’ve been reading about the history of Japanese architecture, with shifts from the early shinden style to the later shoin style and then the influx of Western materials and methods after the Meiji Restoration. None of which is the kind of thing I’m likely to lecture the reader about in the story — but that doesn’t mean it won’t show up at the edges. A book on minkan (folk) architecture comments on how those buildings came to be seen as dark and lacking in privacy; similar complaints were directed at Tudor buildings. A passing line in a description can convey the sense that such things are old-fashioned by the time of the story. Meanwhile, newfangled styles might be admired as au courant or decried as silly fads.

And the driving forces behind those changes? Those convey history. Conquest from the outside, which brings the invader’s styles in, or conquest of the outside, which inspires a hunger for “exotic” innovations. Increased trade can bring new materials like marble or fine wood, while the loss of external trade during the Tokugawa period influenced Japanese architecture to be frugal in its use of resources. Country A admiring Country B often means that A begins aping the fashions of B, like the popular kid at school creating a trend for certain articles of clothing. You don’t need a historical lecture to imply these things happened; you just need a throwaway line about Lord Sycophant tearing down his unfashionable Old Dynasty manor to build something in the popular new Usurper style, or a nouveau riche merchant flaunting her wealth with cypress imported from the colonies. Your streetside flower-seller might ply her trade at the base of a column from imperial days, and have one-sided conversations with the conquered people carved into its exterior.

Take a look at the world around you. How many buildings commemorate the past in some way? How many retain traces of their previous purpose, through an overlayer of more recent adaptation? Unless you live in a brand-new development (which, to be fair, you may), there’s more of it than you might think.

The Patreon logo and the text "This post is brought to you by my imaginative backers at Patreon. To join their ranks, click here!"

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Posted by Fred Clark

It is only after our heroes confess this particular sin and embrace the "Bible-prophecy" teachings of Tim LaHaye that they become Real, True Christians and receive divine forgiveness and salvation. In Left Behind, the refusal to acknowledge LaHaye’s teaching as supreme truth is the equivalent of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin that condemns one to Hell along with the preterists, the a-Millennialists and the Jews.
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Posted by Fred Clark

Every day of the "Trump Era" it's something new -- something completely new that you've never seen before and can't quite process because you never expected such a thing and have no experience responding to it. And before you can manage to wrap your head around this strange and unbelievable thing, you're forced to consider something else -- some other horror or astonishment you've never seen before either.

Help me finish a book

25 May 2017 04:07 pm
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Posted by Phyllis Irene Radford

I can’t believe I just did that! I started a Patreon account. I’m posting 1 chapter a week of a new novel. This is 2nd draft that has beta reader comments intact. Along with the chapters will be essays on how I developed and researched the work. And since the account is for vet bills, medication, and special food for Mr. Chessie, the Emperor of the Universe, I’ll post pictures of him and the critters on the deck that drive him nuts.

Please join me: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=5806073 as I show the crumbling of Utopia in a post apocalypse world where a trance dancer becomes shaman of a struggling community when she’s much too young and inexperienced. There will be essays on my own dance journey as well.

I’m welcoming comments on the book as we move along as well as suggestions for the sequel.

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Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

newspapersI went to the Oakland Book Festival last weekend. While I thought the panels and talks I went to were very good, the name is misleading. This event is really the Oakland Ideas Festival.

Very few of the program items focused on books, authors, or literature. There was a poetry reading, but otherwise the only readings were for children. Even the programs that featured fiction writers – there were a couple of them – didn’t include readings.

As a writer, I was disappointed that the festival doesn’t do more to promote books and authors, especially local authors. But since I’m also an idea junkie, I had a good time.

A panel called “Free Press and Fake News,” with Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery, The Nation senior editor Sarah Leonard, The Intercept deputy editor Roger Hodge, and East Bay Express editor Nick Miller, left me chewing over a lot of ideas.

Two things in particular caught my attention. The first was that there has been a forty percent drop in the number of journalists in recent years. That’s mostly because there’s been a drop in the number of newspapers as well as a tendency by the ones that remain to reduce the size of their staffs and “do more with less” – that absurd idea of modern management.

What this has meant is that there are many fewer reporters covering state government – not just state legislatures, but also the many agencies of state government, some of which are very powerful. Worse than that, there are many fewer people covering city councils, school boards, and other local government entities, especially in smaller towns.

The Washington Post’s current motto is “Democracy dies in the dark.” That’s true on the local level as well as on the national one.

As I may have said before, I was practically born on a copy desk. My mother always said she wasn’t the first woman copy editor on the Houston Chronicle, but she was the first pregnant woman on the copy desk. When I worked on the Chronicle as a copy girl one summer, I worked with people who had known me before I was born.

My parents started each day by reading the paper and commenting on it in detail. I grew up learning not just to read the news, but to parse it, to analyze the editorial decisions that went into making up the paper, to question things. That means I grew up understanding journalism with all its flaws, while still believing in the absolute importance of thorough reporting as part of our democratic system.

I still believe in that.

It occurred to me while listening to this panel that the most important thing someone who is interested in journalism could do right now is to move to place with no serious newspaper and start one. If done as an online venture it could be done on the cheap. And I have noticed that there are a number of non-profit news outlets doing great work these days. There’s no reason you couldn’t fund local news that same way; some people already do this. Of course, it would be a hell of a lot of work and there wouldn’t be much money in it even if you did get some grants.

People who’ve retired from bigger papers and have a little pension or a severance package are in a position to do this, but it would also be good if some younger people would create their own jobs this way.

Of course, for those without much experience, there aren’t enough small papers out there where aspiring journalists can build their skills before starting their own pubs. I mean, it takes the guidance of a good editor to learn how to cover a city council or police station. The only answer I have to that is that folks should study journalism at a good school that also publishes a good student newspaper.

My alma mater, the University of Texas, and its superb student paper, The Daily Texan (where I worked when I was in school), come to mind, but I’m sure there are others. Obviously, the best choices are state schools with modest tuition (if there are any left), since you’re not going to make a lot of money doing real journalism. Also it would probably be good to pick up some tech skills while you’re at it.

My parents started their own paper forty-five years ago – with a print pub, since that was pre-internet. They each had twenty-five to thirty years of experience when they did it, and they were fed up with working for the Houston newspapers. They started a weekly in our small town (which was fast becoming a suburb) and then did two more companion papers in nearby communities.

They were hell on wheels when it came to covering city councils, school boards, and water districts, and smart enough to make sure they also got lots of photos of high school sports. They were also stony-cold broke – so broke that my father made most of his drinking money by doing a bit of low key pool sharking at a local bar. (Old guy wearing trifocals, how good could he be?)

Fortunately, my father also figured out how to run a newspaper business office and got some good ad clients, because they sold the paper for a nice chunk of change and were able to retire. Unfortunately, without their passion behind it, the news coverage went to hell after it was sold. But at least I didn’t have to support them in their old age.

The financial side of all this brings me to the second thing the panelists said that stuck with me. They all said, “Subscribe.” The advertising model doesn’t work well any more. They need the money.

I see this repeated everywhere: pay for the news or we won’t get any. And while I think that’s a good idea, it’s also true that most of us can’t afford to pay for all the different publications we’d like to have access to. So it’s still a difficult situation.

It reminded me a lot of the Patreon program that many fiction writers and other artists (and probably some freelance journalists) are using to bring in income these days. The changing landscape of publishing, just like the changing landscape of journalism, is making people come up with creative ways to getting paid.

Of course, there are only so many artists one can afford to support. But clearly it’s a time for creating new ways of paying people to bring us news and insights, whether they’re reporters or scholars or artists.

Thinking about the similarities between journalists and fiction writers when it comes to making a living made the Festival resonate with me. It was a good event.

But it still wasn’t about books.

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Some questions about DE and AiG

24 May 2017 09:48 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

What do our friends the young-Earth creationists make of diatomaceous earth? Here, after all, is a tangible, fluffy-white embodiment of deep time. It's one more thing that such illiteralist fundamentalists cannot allow themselves to look at or think about. So I wonder what kind of filter system Ken Ham uses for his hot tub. Or if Al Mohler allows himself to use D.E. in his garden.
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Posted by Steven Harper Piziks

Steven Harper PiziksCBS released an actual trailer (instead of a stupid teaser trailer) for Star Trek: Discovery. And the Internet is losing its head

As of this writing, the trailer has over four million views on YouTube and zillions of negative comments.  Why, you ask?  Well…

1. It only shows one white man in the trailer.  Instead, the show revolves around two minority women and various aliens.
2. The Klingons are different.
3. The uniforms and Star Fleet insignia are different.
4. Although the show is set ten years before the original series, the technology seems to be more advanced than in the original series.  It’s different!
5. We have to pay CBS’s streaming service to watch it.

So what’s happening here?

Well, for #1, the Internet is full of white snowflakes who, even after centuries of stories about straight white males, can’t handle it when a story isn’t all about them.  Sorry, boys.  The world is moving on.  You can either move with it and enjoy it with the rest of us, or watch BIRTH OF A NATION again with your hands down your pants.  The choice is yours.

As for 2-4, people forget that Star Trek ISN’T REAL.  Wake up, peeps!  It’s all fake.  Hand-waving.  A story.  We can have anything we want, whenever we want it.  Besides, times change, and our stories change with them.  No one talked to a computer in the original show because no one back then even thought the idea was possible.  We talk to computers NOW, though, and our stories must reflect that.  The Klingons have always changed radically from series to series.  They’re changing again.  So what?  It’s fun to see how a new team of people (with a bigger budget and updated effects) envision Klingons.  It’s nice to see them look more alien, too boot.  Pull the tri-corder out of your sphincter and enjoy the show on its own terms, dudes.

And as for #5 . . . know what?  I’m ready for this!  Let me choose the channels I want and pay a lower fee to get them. It’s way cheaper than a cable service that forces me to pay top dollar for channels I’ll never see!  And I’ll bet the streaming customer service is better.

Know what else?  All the complainers will bitch and moan and wail . . . and they’ll watch the show.  Every episode.  Four, five, and six times.  Then they’ll buy the DVD, and the Blu-Ray, and the digital when they come out.  Then they’ll log back into CBS and watch the episodes there again.

So just shut up, hand CBS the money, and watch the show, sweet little snowflakes.  You know it’s going to happen.

–Steven Harper Piziks

DANNY on sale now at Book View Cafe.

Danny Large

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Posted by Fred Clark

That reads like a caricature -- a fantasy stereotype concocted by someone who has recently been told about the existence of white evangelical colleges, but who has never actually seen one. What do you suppose students learn at such a school? Who knows? Ronald Reagan, probably. And maybe C.S. Lewis? Oh, and the Bible, of course. This isn't what students are really studying at these schools, but it's what their nervous evangelical parents want to hear.
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Posted by Tobias Buckell

There’s a review of Xenowealth: A Collection floating around that’s nice to the stories, but starts off being saddened about the fact that many authors have to ‘resort’ to using crowdfunding, or Kickstarter, to get their work into print.

Of course I instinctively flinched that this was the framing around the review from the start. I felt it decentered the focus on the stories, the art around the book, or the quality of the book itself, and might have put off some readers by focusing on the nature of crowdfunding. But that was mostly my ego worrying about whether I was being perceived as ‘as good as’ and also I don’t think the reviewer meant to do that maliciously. I think they may have felt a collection of stories they enjoyed should have had more backing by the publishers they were used to buying from. The review said nice things about them, so I have to assume it’s my own ego getting a little defensive.

But once I let go of my ego I stopped to think about it, because this has been my most successful collection of short stories and I think that’s why I was a little defensive.

The collection’s backers and readers gave me $7,105 via that Kickstarter. It’s sold more via my website and Amazon, B&N Nook, and iTunes since then. A year later, it’s tailed off quite considerably. But I think I cleared a little over $7,000 in the first year. I still get a trickle of money off that collection each month. Usually I have charts and spreadsheets, but the last year was so busy, so deadline-filled, that I have barely been able to keep track.

In the general world of publishing no one was offering me over $7,000 for a short story collection. Generally short story collections (from what I hear) are getting advances more like $500 to $2,000. Larger amounts for super stars, or bundled in with exciting novels.

I’m not going over 100% to crowdfunding. I’m really enjoying writing a short short story a month for my Patreon, I may do Kickstarters again. But, I am trying to make a living as a writer, so that means I go where I can demonstrably prove the money flows to me.

If someone wants to pay me more than $7,000 for my next short story collection (with almost 70 in print short stories, I’d love to see a Best of Tobias S. Buckell some day), my agent’s name is Barry Goldblatt of the Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency.

Until then, it’s not something I resort to, it’s something I pivot to because I make way more money this way and I have two kids to feed.

I know it’s dirty to talk about pivoting towards money. It’s not the only consideration. I wouldn’t be a writer if it was only about the money. I’d be a financial type, doing something with stocks. I knew becoming an artist meant money would be in short supply, that I was doing it for the art. I didn’t get into this for the money, or fame, but because I loved writing stories and reading so much that I could hardly imagine any other way to be.

But that being said, I live in a world where the mortgage is due, food comes when I pay for it, and I’m a father. Money is important. When I can do the same art, experience the same love for it, and get more money for the same art, you have my attention.

A New BVC Anthology

23 May 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Mindy Klasky

One of the wonderful things about working with Book View Cafe is that the co-op gives each of us a chance to explore new aspects of our creative lives as authors. With the support of our fellow members, we can venture into new-to-us waters — sometimes trying new genres, sometimes trying new markets, sometimes… Well, with more than fifty professional authors, there’s almost always someone who can offer good advice on any aspect of the writing and publishing fields.

I’ve never been more grateful for that support than when I recently decided to don a new hat: anthology editor.

Of course, I’ve read short stories for decades. My first published work was a short story — way back in 1999. (“Cat and Mouse” in the ‘zine Not One of Us.)

But until February 8, 2017, I’d never considered editing an anthology.  What happened on February 8? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked an obscure rule to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren as she attempted to read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Jeff Sessions (who was then being considered for the post of Attorney General, which he now holds.)

Responding to outrage over Senator Warren’s being silenced, Majority Leader McConnell said: ““She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Thousands of tweets erupted. Memes were created. T-shirts were printed.

And an anthology was born.

Nineteen stories of persistence — in the past, present, future, and new worlds. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, these stories illustrate the power of women overcoming the challenges of other people, of society, and of their own fears.

Book View Cafe’s anthology Nevertheless, She Persisted will be available as an ebook and a print book on August 8, 2017 (six months to the day after Senator McConnell’s statement.) I’ll have a cover to share with you soon.

Until then, you can read the Table of Contents (and anticipate some truly extraordinary stories by my incredible Book View Cafe colleagues!)

“Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan

“Sisters” by Leah Cutter

“Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross

“Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle

“How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle

“After Eden” by Gillian Polack

“Reset” by Sara Stamey

“A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

“Making Love” by Brenda Clough

“Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford

“Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil

“Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky

“The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson

“If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

“Chataqua” by Nancy Jane Moore

“Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds

“In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin

“Tax Season” by Judith Tarr

“Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

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Posted by Madeleine E. Robins

So you have screwed your courage to the sticking place, and chosen the thing you want to read. Do you just walk in to your reading with the manuscript in your hand, stand up at the mic (if there’s a mic to be had) and start to declaim?

Maybe not.

Okay, then: should you plan to memorize the story and walk in without copy to read from?

Not that, either.

Obviously, you want to practice some, but not to the point where your own words give you a dreary feeling of familiarity. And you want to set yourself up so that reading is as easy as possible. For me, that means printing out a copy of whatever I’m reading in larger than usual type (or, if you’re reading from your laptop or tablet or, ebook, blow the image up a little larger than usual). This is simply good sense: who knows what the light is going to be like where you’re reading? What if you find yourself squinting or bending over your story trying to read it? Why make life more difficult than it needs to be. If I’m doing a reading I generally try to keep the type at 14-16 points.

Then there’s timing. It is pretty much certain that when you’re reading you’re going to speed up. Adrenaline will do that to you. Fear that you won’t be able to read everything you’d meant to read in the time you have can be a factor too. But trust me: no good comes from speeding up. So you read your work aloud to get a sense of how long it takes to read… and then add 10%. Practice reading at what will feel like a glacial pace: if you record and play it back you’ll note that you don’t sound slow–you sound pretty normal. So rehearsing will get you comfortable with the pacing that works for you and your listeners.

Another thing–which may be peculiar to me, but I doubt it–is that in reading your piece aloud you may find infelicities, places where another word would work better, things you might want to change. Reading the text aloud before you have to do it in front of an audience means that you can catch those things, and be less prone to whip out a pencil in the middle of your reading and annotate.

You rehearse your reading for your own sake. You rehearse your reading for the sake of your audience. Cause you want your audience to love your work and want more of it.

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Posted by News Editor

The Dwarven Wars by Leah CutterThe Dwarven Wars
Book Three of the Clockwork Fairy Kingdom Trilogy
by Leah Cutter

The Old One will not rest until he destroys the Greater Oregon Fairy Kingdom. Warrior, servant, and royal alike face death.

Old world dwarves threaten as well, plotting a genocidal invasion to steal all the magic in the new land.

Nora’s revenge against the Old One will not be stayed, even as her twin brother, Dale, makes peace with the ancient being.

Double-crosses and twisted plans abound in the last book of the Clockwork Fairy Kingdom Trilogy, The Dwarven Wars. A fast-paced New Adult fantasy story that always leaves you guessing!

Be sure to read the first two books in the trilogy, The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom and The Maker, the Teacher, and the Monster.

Download an Ebook Sample:

EPUB MOBI

Buy The Dwarven Wars at BVC Ebookstore

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Posted by News Editor

Skin Deep by Marissa Doyle

BVC congratulates Marissa Doyle for her Write Touch Readers Award for Paranormal/Time Travel/Fantasy

First Place
Marissa Doyle: Skin Deep

About the book:

After a painful divorce, Garland Durrell looks forward to settling into her home on Cape Cod to make the quilts that are her passion. On the first morning of her new life she finds a man and a small boy washed up on the beach, both badly wounded. Since the town chief of police is strangely reluctant to help, Garland takes on the care of the mysterious pair who don’t seem to remember what happened to them–and feels her own heart begin to heal.

Alasdair does remember. He and his son Conn are the last of the ruling family of selkies from the waters around the Cape, locked in a decades-long struggle with an evil that threatens all, selkie and human. He’s not sure if he can trust the lovely, blue-eyed woman who takes them in until he touches one of her quilts and feels the magic she’s sewn into it…and the emotions that he never thought he’d feel again.

But the evil entity that stole Alasdair’s sealskin and left him for dead quickly senses both his presence and Garland’s magic, and is determined to destroy one and possess the other. Only Garland and her quilts, made with a power she barely believes she has, can save them all from destruction—if she can avoid being destroyed first.

Read an excerpt

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‘Fighting for our children’

22 May 2017 10:59 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

Today’s protest anthem and Monday morning open thread comes courtesy of Mavis Staples. If necessary, you can invent and add an infinite number of verses to this song, and sing it forever. I mention this because that may soon, again, be necessary. So this is a good one to learn, just in case.
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Posted by Julianne Lee

Today I rerun an essay from my Facebook page, originally published about three years ago, when I was still a Methodist, attending a church undergoing severe upheaval. Our music minister, Bill White, was fired suddenly, for no apparent reason. Below the original essay, I present an update.

Most people understand there is a difference between people who are creative and those who are not. Those who are not often wish they were able to think up wonderfully entertaining things so they might be lauded as geniuses and artists. Those of us who do think creatively know it’s not really like that. I look at people who have stable lives and who are able to keep the imagination from wandering all over where the boogeyman lurks, and wish for that sort of peace. I would trade all my so-called talents for just one marketable skill.

But I’m not here to whine about my ADD. I want to talk about our church’s music minister, who was let go this week for reasons unknown to me. Bill worked for us for nearly twenty years, hired originally as our organist, then as our music minister when the woman in that job left. He is a local professional musician, which in Nashville means quite a lot. The day in 1994 he first played for the choir at practice, he gave us an improvisational rendition of Amazing Grace that was so sublime it made that tired old tune seem fresh. When he was done, I knelt, genuflected, and cried like Wayne and Garth, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” And it was true. He had a special talent none of us had ever seen in that church, and I believe we will never see again.

Bill thinks in music. He sometimes has difficulty with the spoken word, but in his writing and playing of music he is able to express things that the rest of us can only feel. He’s the epitome of the sort of person who thinks creatively, and for those of us who receive spiritual message best through the medium of music, he was, literally, a Godsend.

I am a Christian not because my parents made me go to church when I was a child (they didn’t). I am one because when I was in high school I was given a little, red New Testament, and that made me curious. I then borrowed a copy of the rock opera Jesus Christ, Superstar, and played the music until I had every word and every note memorized. Internalized. To this day, whenever a bit of that Gospel story is mentioned in church, my mind brings up the relevant phrases of that music. This is how I access my religion. Without music, I would not have had a clue. When I joined this church nearly thirty years ago, the first thing I did was to join the handbell choir, and the second thing was to join the Chancel Choir. For some of us, the sermon is secondary to the music, and I truly believe church music exists for the sake of reaching people like me.

Having Bill for a music minister was special enough for me, and for many other members of the choir, to stay at this church during the past several years while other church members were unhappy enough with the new minister to leave for other churches. Our church musicians, especially, were under attack for being “too traditional.”

And yet the Chancel Choir hung on, rather than find other churches as did 400 other church families. To hear the offertory, which Bill always executed without sheet music, letting the music simply flow from brain to fingers and on out through the piano, was by itself worth getting up at dawn to serve in the choir of a church that made us increasingly uncomfortable. We hung on because most of us had been members for decades and we at least had Bill to guide us through this rough patch.

But we no longer have Bill. His last choir practice was on Wednesday, and instead of practicing that night most of us cleared out our folders. I estimate about half the choir won’t ever be back, and those who would stay won’t have a choir in which to serve. The church administration has made it clear that they don’t want a traditional choir. There may never again be a Chancel Choir in that church, or a handbell choir.

I was in the handbell choir for nearly thirty years. My children grew up in that church. It was the first church in my life I attended more than twice. It was the first place I ever had that gave me any stability in my life, and it was the only sanctuary I had from the difficulties of culture shock when I first moved to Tennessee. I’d intended to die a member of that church. What has been done to it is unconscionable. What was done to Bill was unimaginable, even by someone with an imagination like mine.

UPDATE

About three years have passed since that dark Wednesday when my spiritual world crumbled. When I said I thought half the choir would return the following week, I was wrong. Only four of the nearly fifty remained. The rest of us left and stayed gone. The handbell choir finished up our season and went on our usual hiatus, but the following fall only one third of us returned. The new music director, who knew nothing about handbells (or reading music, for that matter), wasn’t expecting any of us to return. It was an uphill struggle to play at all.

Now, three years later, many of the choir members are singing in the community chorus directed by Bill White. He’s now a published music arranger. Our group, The Hendersonville Community Singers, will be performing some of his arrangements in our Spring Concert this coming Tuesday. (PM me for information.) While we miss the old days, there is once again the deep sense of continuity that had suddenly gone missing when he was fired from the church. Most of the folks who left the choir have found other churches. Some have passed away. For myself, I’ve gone to another denomination and am now an Episcopalian. At my new church, “traditional” is not a pejorative. It’s a tiny church, where the choir has only eight voices and I feel deeply appreciated for my strong alto voice. I’ve also formed a handbell choir there, with borrowed bells and borrowed music, and have reassembled the old carillon the Methodist Church didn’t want. We friends have played together for thirty years, and look forward to many more.

Our priest is intelligent, educated, and kind. The atmosphere in that small congregation is welcoming and non-judgmental. They’ve given us creative types a safe place where we can worship musically, the way some people are intended.

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Dramatic License

22 May 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Julianne Lee

Today I offer the Author’s Note from the first book I wrote as Anne Rutherford, “The Opening Night Murder, ” where I address the issue of dramatic license in historical fiction.

In my associations with other authors, often I’m drawn into debate about the moral obligation of historical fiction writers to be true to historical fact. Other authors I know claim their stories never deviate from history by so much as a single word or thought. Anything less, they say, is Untruth and perpetuates Confusion among the uneducated and ill-read masses.

They lie.

I agree that unless one is deliberately and openly writing what is called “alternate history” one should stick as close to the known facts as humanly possible. Hollywood often makes us groan and fidget to see, for instance, William Wallace in a kilt or Jane Grey dewy-eyed and in love with the husband foisted on her by her father. Or Mary I fat and ugly. Or a svelte Henry VIII with a buzz cut and bedroom eyes. I could go on, but I’m sure Gentle Reader gets the picture. Hollywood often gets it wrong, and we expect better from literature.

However, in any work of historical fiction there is a point at which known fact fails us and the drama must be served. It is impossible to know exactly what was said or done in private chambers, and even more difficult to know the inner thoughts of the people whose stories the author is trying to tell. At some point one must start making things up. Storytelling is the glue that makes sense out of random facts. One does one’s best to keep the conjecture to a minimum, and to stay within reasonable limits of plausibility, but there is no getting away from the fact that one’s job is to fill in blanks left by historical documents that tell only a fraction of what went on.

In The Opening Night Murder, to avoid being chained to the history of either the King’s Company or the Duke’s Men, ordinarily I would have invented a fictional theatre to house my fictional troupe and characters for my story. But then I still would have had to place it on an actual London street where no theatre existed. No matter how hard one tries, there’s always the line where fact butts up against fiction.

So why not use Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, located near what is now Porter Street in the Southwark district of London? Unfortunately, that theatre was torn down in 1644, sixteen years before our story opens.

Dang.

However, this is fiction. If I can invent a theatre and place it on a spot where no theatre actually stood in 1660, then why not resurrect the Old Globe and put it where it was originally?

Further, with a little hand-waving, why not let this fictional troupe of actors perform Shakespeare’s plays even though only two theatres were allowed a monopoly on “serious” dramas? It’s true that the King’s Company and the Duke’s Men were given patents and Shakespeare’s works divided between them, lesser companies were allowed to perform older forms of comedy, mummeries and mime. But it is also true that one reason for the patents given to the King’s and the Duke’s companies was to control new playwrights who might satirize the king. So my fictional troupe has been given fictional permission to perform the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which could not ever be about the current regime.

Although it is my sincere wish not to annoy my Gentle Reader, who might cry, “But no! That didn’t happen!” I reply, “Of course it didn’t happen. In the words of another great playwright, Oscar Wilde, That’s what fiction means.

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Flowers in Spring

22 May 2017 05:51 am
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Posted by Diana Pharaoh Francis

It’s iris season. I used to not be that fond of them. Nor of Gladiolas. But last year we went to an iris festival and wandered through huge gardens of irises and I fell in love. Just the range of colors was stunning. And then they are planted among other cool flowering plants like varieties of lupin, clematis, peonies, and other things. I bought a few bulbs last year (they aren’t cheap) and this year have some beautiful flowers. The blossoms are really huge and I am delighting in all the color.

I’m thinking that I also now need to figure out where to put some peonies and some of that lupine. The latter was so large and had a broader variety of color than I knew was possible. So I’m going to see if I can get some going. And California poppies. I love those and they grow well here once they get going.

I planted some lovely roses last year and am looking forward to seeing those bloom. I have to get out and spray some neem oil, though, in order to protect against fungus. That’s important. I’ve also planted tomatoes and I’m really hoping my peas produce before it gets so hot nothing happens. they are lush and covered in blossoms, but only a few pods have started. This happened last year where it was cool and then shot to freaking hot and the peas just gave up. Tomorrow it’s going to be 90. So I’m looking down the barrel of the same gun.

My carrots have been refusing to come up. I do not know why. The first year we were here, they grew perfectly and now . . . not so much. My loganberry bush is going like crazy, and so is the black raspberry. My roses need to be sprayed with neem oil though. They have some black spot. If I can find the damned stuff. I put it away . . . somewhere. Probably about two weeks ago and yet I can’t remember where I put it. Just goes to show that I shouldn’t put anything away at all.

I meant to start sweet peppers but I didn’t, so now I’m going to have to buy them. Sigh. And hot peppers. I still have time to put cucumbers in from seed, though. I probably have time for the peppers, too, but I want to make sure I get some sooner rather than later.

The blueberries are also going nuts. This is their 4th year, which means they are getting mature enough to produce reasonably. But I have to get after the weeds. I’m going to hoe and then spray with a bunch of vinegar. A bunch. My rhodies are blooming like mad and my dogwood is starting. I just want more flowers. More more more.

Are you out gardening this spring?

 

 

 

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Posted by News Editor

SFWA's Nebula Awards

Arabella of Mars by David D. LevineCongratulations to all the Nebula Award Winners, as well as the Bradbury, Grand Master, and Solstice winners, and especially to our own David D. Levine for winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Award: Arabella of Mars (Tor).

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Corporal Violet

21 May 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Marissa Doyle

Violets. Aren’t they pretty? Such a charming picture to print—or rather, re-print in Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts. The original image was a hugely popular one around France in 1814 and early 1815, so much so that it was quickly banned by the French government and continued to be so on and off for the next sixty years. What could be so controversial about an innocent bunch of spring violets?

Look closely at the image, in particular the upper right hand side of it. Do you by chance see a face in profile there, with a distinctive (and familiar) hat formed by the folded leaf? Directly opposite it on the left side, do you see another one facing it? And between and below them, hard by the stems, is there a third, smaller one? They are Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, his wife Marie Louise of Austria, and their three-year-old son. So what does Napoleon have to do with violets?

The story goes that after Napoleon’s defeat in early spring 1814, while he wrestled with whether or not to accept his banishment to Elba quietly, he was walking in the gardens at Fontainebleau and was given a bunch of violets by a child there. The emperor took it as a sign and declared that he would henceforth take the violets as his emblem and accept his exile meekly, like the shy and retiring violet. But the following day, while again walking in the gardens, he went to pick more of the flowers. According to an account in the Pall Mall Gazette:

The violets were rather scarce on the spot, and the grenadier Choudieu, who was on guard, said to him, “Sire, in a year’s time it will be easier to pick them; they will then be more plentiful.” Bonaparte, greatly astonished, looked at him. “You think, then, that next year 1 shall be back?” “Perhaps sooner; at least we hope so.” “Soldier, do you not know that after to-morrow I start for Elba?” “Your Majesty will wait till the clouds roll by.” “Do your comrades think like you?” “Almost all.” “They may think it, but may not say it.”  “After you are relieved go to Bertrand and let him give you 20 Napoleons d’or, but keep silence.” Choudieu returned to the barracks, and drew the attention of his comrades to the fact that for the last two days the Emperor had been walking about with a bunch of violets. “We will call him among ourselves Pere la Violette.” From that day forth Napoleon was only called by that name in the barracks.

And as he prepared to set sail for Elba a few days later, he addressed the Imperial Guard: “I would embrace every one of you to display my affection, but I will kiss this flag, for it represents all of you. But know that I shall return to France when the violets will bloom.” After that, violets were all the rage. Not only did Frenchman carry little posies of them around: asking someone if they liked violets became shorthand for asking what their political alignment was. A “yes” meant you were for the return of the emperor; a “no” meant you supported the reinstated Bourbon monarchy. Copies of this image, with its hidden-in-plain-sight portraits, were all the rage as well, especially as more and more Frenchman became disillusioned with the reactionary and repressive regime of the new King Louis XVIII.

True to his word, Napoleon returned with the violets, slipping away from Elba under the noses of the British and landing in the south of France on March 20, 1815. Corporal Violet had returned, along with his namesake, though not for long…by June, both the flowers and the emperor were gone.

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