Book Release Day

betrayal-cover150Today’s the day!  My fantasy novel, The Betrayal, is officially released for sale today by Del Rey Books.  Ask for it at your favorite bookstore.

To celebrate, I’ve uploaded another excerpt to Book View Cafe.   The BVC crew is cooking up a contest, too, with a free copy of The Betrayal as a prize.  Stay tuned for more about that in the next few days.  We’ll announce it in the blog.  (Hint:   it’ll be tweet!)

About the novel:

Centuries ago the ælven vanquished their enemies, the alben, and drove them across the Ebon Mountains. Now the leader of the blood-hungry alben, Shalár, is determined to win back her people’s home in the ælven lands.

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Jerboas and Other Small Endangered Rodents

Meredith got a new pet a couple of months ago. He’s a Russian hamster and his name is Mr. Hammy. He’s extremely gentle. When she first brought him home, I was stunned by the size of his “nads” in comparison to the rest of his small body. Apparently, this is a common physical trait of male hamsters. All that aside, he is an extremely sweet, affectionate little fellow, and only in slight danger from being eaten by Badger while recreating on the floor. Hammy is descended from a small tribe of hamsters discovered in the Syrian desert 70 years ago, and all of his positive traits as a pet have led to the adoption of hamsters as one of the most popular small pets worldwide.

Hamsters aren’t in any type of danger, but many other small rodents are. This is a cute video of a Jerboa. Jerboas are nocturnal rodents distributed throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Some people say they resemble miniature kangaroos. Their long tasselled tail helps to balance them when they jump — they can jump pretty high and cover distances quickly. Jerboas are regarded as endangered. The animal was known of, but not much-studied until 2007. The BBC has an excellent report from December 2007 on Jerboas, thanks to an expedition to the Gobi Desert funded by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Dr. Jonathan Baillie, who led the trip, said that jerboas were “the Mickey Mouse of the desert,” extremely cute and comical. As a nocturnal animal, the jerboa is endangered as a result of habitat destruction more than anything else – they were only recently studied because they were as a rule, not often seen. Utah_prairie_dog1

But here is another animal that everyone knows in America: the prairie dog. A number of prairie dog species are endangered, and efforts to protect these animals (which are regarded as lower than gophers – which is like, how low can you go? – by many ranchers) are on the increase. Prairie dogs, which entertain children endlessly in zoo environments and on television, are social animals that live in towns – laid out with neighborhoods, various rooms, and they have an elaborate system of protection. The warning barks of “lookouts” earned them the nickname prairie “dog” upon encountering English-speaking people settling the wide-open spaces of the American prairie. Continue reading

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The Centipede’s Dilemma

Everyone probably has heard some version of this one. It’s the old story about the centipede that’s doing fine until someone asks him which foot moves first. At that point, according to one rhyme, he winds up distracted in a ditch, considering how to walk. You don’t even need more than two feet to experience this. Try walking slowly some time while you consider each and every tiny movement of your body. It’s amazing how clumsy and awkward it can make you feel! I had a dance instructor who used this exercise to make students aware of how much of their movement is done on autopilot.

Rehearsing a dance step over and over, or ballet positions, or yoga or Tai Chi postures, programs the autopilot, so it can take over while allowing the creative mind to focus on something else. Practicing a musical instrument does the same thing, naturally. Even all those endless scales and Hannon exercises in my childhood were designed to program my fingers to move nimbly between keys, while arm and wrist remained quiet and the mind was free to concentrate on the music.

Back when I was a piano major in college, my autopilot was highly programmed and engaged as soon as I sat down and raised my hands to the keys. During my decade of near-silence, when I thought my music gone forever, I lost a lot of that programming. At first I was almost as clumsy on the organ keys (even without the pedals!) as someone who is regaining the ability to walk after a serious injury. Accident victims and wounded veterans relearning motor control face a much more serious situation than I did, but I can relate to their difficulties. It’s a bitch when you lose that autopilot.

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R.E.B.E.L.S #2: A Very Short Review

Remember the Legion of Super-Heroes, the comic as undying as Dracula?   Their popularity of course did not escape the notice of the  powers at DC.  The goal : to clone it in some way, and thus sell more issues and make more money.  rebels This has been tried several ways, never with great success.

The simplest is to just start a second Legion title set in the 30th or 31st  century, with either some members of the original Legion or heroes as similar as possible.  All this served to do was divide the readership.  Another concept, to get around tedious continuity issues and to allow for many more guest stars, is to transplant some part of the team to our time.  This has been tried with several of the more popular individual Legionnaires.  Karate Kid got his own title for a while, and now I see that Mon-El is going to take over Superman’s title for a bit.  This is usually achieved with fast footwork in a time machine, but Mon-El is peculiarly suited for this kind of spin-off because he is actually a 20th century hero, trapped in the Twilight Zone until the Legion sprung him in the far future.  Continue reading

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My Life in Comics or: The Kids’ll Love It!

 

Cover, Armed and Dangerous #, by Bob Hall

Cover, Armed and Dangerous #1, by Bob Hall

Okay: first, I have to apologize.  This should have gone up this morning, but I my day was utterly consumed by the last gasp of Girl Scout Cookie sales.  So let’s talk about something other than cookies, okay?  Like comic books.

For almost four years I was comic-book editor. What was that like? Short answer: it was great.  I got to play with superheroes!  I met talented people and worked hard and made a few actual contributions to an artform I really love.

I have been a comic book reader (to my mother’s dismay) since I was seven and was bought a copy of World’s Finest (then a team-up magazine featuring Batman and Superman) to keep me quiet on a train trip.  Within a couple of years, a friend of my mother gave my brother and me her son’s comic collection which “he had outgrown” (I suspect that meant, in Mom-speak, that she wanted them out of her house).  Suddenly we had over a thousand comic books in the house, and as soon as we’d read those, we started adding to the collection.  We wrote letters to the editor (my first taste of textual analysis!), argued over plot points, had our favorite artists and writers.  And in the fullness of time, we grew up.

And found ourselves working in comics.  My brother got there first: he has been a letterer for something like 30 years.  I came in much later (at age 40) when I was hired as an editor at Acclaim (formerly Valiant) comics.  Unlike most of my co-workers, I was 1) a girl; 2) old; and 3) from a prose-writing background, editorially speaking.  Comics were part of my vocabulary, but by the time I started working at Acclaim I’d published five novels, a bunch of short stories, gone to Clarion, participated in other writing workshops, done some freelance editing.  I was one of two people (my friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden was the other) hired because they wanted someone who brought something more than comics to the table. Continue reading

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P=NP

You can tell I’m way behind in my reading because I’m just now getting to November’s Lady Churchill’s, that fine little zine of literary spec fic. You may remember the November issue: regional stories with down-homey feel oddly lacking in postmodern irony. Good stuff.

There’s one weird story in this zine full of weird stories that struck me: Ted Chiang’s Problem of the Traveling Salesman. Not really a story or even an opinion piece, it reads like a Trade Journal for Mathematicians Lite paper. In other words, the subject matter is equations, but even I can follow the arguments.
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Feedback Saturday — Reader Reviews

Working on the site is something we do on a regular basis, and naturally the question comes up about which features we should add in to make things better/more ineresting/easier for our readers.

This time, the question of allowing user comments and reviews has come up.  So, here’s this week’s question; do you like being able to have access to reader comments or reviews for a story?  Do you want them for a story you’re thinking about buying?  Has a review ever made you not read or not buy a story?

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Evennight

Today is the equinox, literally “even night.”  I like the English better than the Latin so I used it in my new fantasy novel, The Betrayal.

Evennight is when night and day are of equal length.  A time of balance.  A time of change from mostly dark to mostly light (or vice versa).  A time to pause and take a breath before moving ahead. In spring, it’s also a time of new beginnings, of planting seeds.  Continue reading

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Things I Didn’t Say on the SF Signal Mind Meld

The wonderful people at SF Signal invited me to meld minds again, this time on the topic of taboos in science fiction.

Now that my essay — a brief speculation on whether or not feminism and a tendency to write stories that deal with gender are a value or a detriment to my publishing career — is in cyberprint, I find myself thinking of other things I could, or should, have said.

I find this often happens when I write essays, perhaps because I keep thinking about the subject after I’ve sent off the so-called finished piece. Since essays are usually opinion pieces of one sort or another, and since most of my opinions are not fixed in concrete, but rather constantly growing and developing, any nonfiction I write is — at best — a snapshot of what I thought the day I wrote the essay.

This does not happen to me with fiction. When I finally decide a story is done, it’s done. If the ideas that underlie it progress, I write another story; I don’t go back and change the old one.

In this particular case, I blame my new thoughts on modern taboos in science fiction on Ursula Le Guin!
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