Monday, December 8, 2014

Some recent movies, including Interstellar

I really liked the robot in the movie Interstellar. Its locomotion was tremendous. The cinematography, the acting, a lot of the plot were tremendous. The science, as in most Hollywood movies, check that, as in All Hollywood movies, was forehead slapping. My husband had to make me stop laughing in the theater when beautiful scientist's daughter gives an impassioned speech about how love is quantifiable (and what quanta does love come in?) and how love transcends space and time. Uh-huh. Then I suppose hate does too. How about indifference? Still, if you like to feel while bypassing thinking, this is one good movie. Oh, and yes, the parent-teacher conference scene alone was worth the price of admission. And that robot!

I was a kid when Robbie the robot would intone, "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!", wave his arms around, sparkle in his glass dome head, and have various gizmos twirl. And for some reason, every show and movie thereafter had to have vaguely humanoid robots. This robot was a marvelous slab with sections that pivoted in various places. I would have rounded the corners a little bit, to save wear and tear on both corner and environment, but other than that, I thought the machine was marvelous.

As long as they follow their internal logic, I give a pass on science to cartoons and superhero movies. We took some men with us to watch The Penguins of Madagascar. We laughed a lot. Really a lot. We love those guys. Smile and wave, boys.

Big Hero 6. Despite the hollow feeling of missing a great character throughout the entire movie, I loved the show. Great animation and art. Great plot. Fun Characters. I highly recommend the movie.

Mockingjay. Not a feel-good movie. I thought it was powerful and moving. For a movie, it followed the book amazingly well. If I reread The Hunger Games, the actors are who I will see as the characters. If you can handle lots of violence and emotional turmoil, and aren't offended when the character you love suffers from PTSD, this is a movie I can recommend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tin Swift by Devon Monk

I found a new favorite author. After hearing Devon Monk speak on a panel at Orycon, I decided to pick up one of her books to see what kind of writer she was. Oooh, my goodness! With her deft descriptions, fascinating characters, and an ear for dialogue that positively sings, I found myself thinking about the book for the rest of the night after I closed the cover, theoretically to go to sleep. What could have been a mess in someone else's hands was here a delightful melding of steam punk, western, alternate history, fantasy, horror, and science-fiction. I cannot figure out other reviewers who found the multiple POVs in the book distasteful. I thought the technique rounded the plot and gave the reader multiple people to root for. I am looking for more of her books. I enjoyed her clear, beautiful writing in this book, and want to experience more.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another one in the series

I think it took a little more than two months to write the first draft of A Little Magic, book seven in the Tales of Talifar series which is set in Josh Foreman's universe. This is fun.

Let's see, so far this summer I've spent two weeks in Pennsylvania with my brother Bob, a week in Cleveland with my daughter and two granddaughters (bringing along a grandson for the adventure, a week in Florida with a son and two grandchildren. I came back from Florida with bronchitis and sinusitis, and came home to a flooded basement. As I type this, someone is downstairs replacing some of the sheetrock. All you guys who had stuff stored in my basement might no longer have it. We've been tossing out a lot of ruined stuff.

The son in Florida loaned me a book for the night, and here is my quick review:
Level Zero Heroes:

I truly enjoyed reading Level Zero Heroes despite the occasional bouts of rage I felt during some of the episodes. The writing was excellent and vivid. If there were typos, I did not see them. I felt confident in the level of authenticity of what I was reading and rejoiced in the happy ending of the protagonist and dog. I generally like to know what ethical people who aren’t me are experiencing, and I felt submerged in an experience I will never be able to feel directly. I wish all the people who pontificate about matters military would read this. Everybody who enjoys true military stories will like this book.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Finished rough draft of a novel in TWO months

On 6-1-14 I finished the first rough draft of Finding Home. I started on 4-4-14. I finished a novel in two months. Can you believe it? Of course, the novel is short. And finished is a relative term. I’m not altogether satisfied with the escape through the woods part, but I decided to go ahead and stick a fork in it anyway. We can change things in the editing and rewrites.



Now to see if I can come up with anything like a plot for a wizard’s apprentice tale, possibly with Fencock starring as the wizard.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review of The Sands of Ethryn by C.S. Lakin

I love the poem "The Hound of Heaven" (one reason I so liked Doris Bett's Souls Raised From The Dead) and so I truly enjoyed The Sands of Ethryn. Lakin introduced us to some of the phrases of that poem on the first page, and like a good musician established a rhythm and repetition of those phrases throughout the book. Her use of phrases from the Bible and poetry and the constant circling of the two plot lines, reminded me of a concert.
One thing did bother me: since Lakin is a careful writer, I could not understand her using phrases that make one think she is endorsing the concept of reincarnation alongside all the Scripture she is quoting. Or maybe she was saying reincarnation is as real as this magician and magic. But I did not think she meant that, and indeed, when you reach the end of the book and see what she had to say about the inspiration for this story, she does not. In fact, I was thinking of the same Star Trek episode she was while I read some of the scenes.
I can recommend this book to anybody who enjoys fantasy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review of A Shadow on the Land by Krystine Kercher

A Shadow On The Land by Krystine Kercher:   I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book with a plot that strongly reminds you of when David was being chased around the country by King Saul. There is no particular one to one correspondence with the Old Testament story, other than the prophesied king, Bjorn Horsa, refuses to kill the evil king Olaf. Between King Olaf and his friends, the country is being rapidly depopulated by all manner of torture and slaughter. Bjorn and his men try to help the victims as they simultaneously avoid being captured by King Olaf. As I read this, I felt I had a better comprehension of what David and his men had to do to survive. I appreciated that the sorrows of the peasants are not ignored as they are in most medieval setting tales. I also enjoyed the lovely and appropriate use of Scripture throughout the book. Oh, I should mention that one is quickly and skillfully made aware that this takes place on a planet that is not Earth. The scholarly notes at the end of the book give a lot of clues as to how a medieval society came to be on a foreign planet. With elves. If you like high fantasy, or science-fiction that reads like high fantasy, I think you will like this book as much as I did.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cool story

Found this lovely story today:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cut and paste article about ministry to children with autism in church

Doc provided a fantastic handout that answers the following questions:
Why is training important? 
Who needs training?
What should we talk about in training?
Doc’s handout provides a detailed blueprint for special needs ministry training events. To access the handout, click here: OC14_ Autism_Hunsley_Handout
Doc then walked the participants through 10 scenarios a volunteer might face and coaching for how to respond:
Agitated Student 
Get on child’s level.
Stay calm, talk them through what is going on.
Use simple language.
Let them know what is expected using First, then language: “First we are going to listen to the story, then we are going to have a snack.”
Have student repeat back the statement if they are verbal.
Give the student a choice as part of the solution “You can choose the red chair or the black chair for story time.”
Overstimulated Student
Take note of factors when student is agitated.
Give the student warnings ahead of time: “2 minutes left for this activity”
Give student the chance to acclimate/cool down ahead of time (remove from activity ahead of others.)
Large Group Challenge
Student appears upset, hands over ears, squinting eyes = sensory overload
Look for the trigger(s):  overcrowded room, lights, noise, smell
Try moving student to another part of room.  E.g. Nearby volunteer might have on irritating perfume.
Provide a sensory toy such as a squish toy or fidget. This gives them something to focus their energy on.
Massage on shoulder, deep pressure for some students is relaxing. (Ask parents for guidance.)
Keep noise reduction earphones on hand and provide as needed.
Allow student to participate in a more controlled environment while still feeling part of what is going on. (For example, student may be in a nearby room where they can still see and hear, but they have some distance from the intensity. Also, going to a room that provides a livestream of what is happening in large group.)
Objects in Mouth
If you offer snacks, this might be good time to pull them one out for student.
Student may need a way to “fidget” even if with hands, provide box of fidget toys
Clean your toys regularly!
If continual problem, ask parents how they address it at home. Parents may have preferred chew toy that can come to church.
If the are in danger of hurting themselves or others, it needs to be addressed.
Meltdowns can happen at any age.
Create distance between individual having meltdown and everyone else.
Take the classroom or small group out of the environment (suggest bathroom break.)
It is often easier to remove everyone else and not the person with the meltdown.
Try to figure out what the trigger or core problem that caused the meltdown.
When possible, remove the problem.
Recognize that you might be the trigger for the meltdown.
Call for help as soon as serious meltdown starts.
You don’t want to immediately call parents if you think this can be handled. (You will tell parents at pick-up.)
If student is in danger of others, be mindful of your own safety.
Talk soft, talk soft, calm.
Find way to talk about something they can look forward to…snack, favorite activity, when parents will arrive.
Look for obstacles to remove, ex. diminish the lighting in the room, lower noise, offer a weighted blanket.
(Homemade weighted blankets are great.)
Doc recently used a 15 lb weighted blanket to help calm a teen in their ministry who was showing early signs of meltdown.
When nothing else is working, do get the parents.
Be prepared for fast kids who could be locksmiths.
Recognize that some “runners” see it as a game.
Don’t chase a kid who runs because it is a game, you won’t win the race.
If it isn’t a game, then they are probably trying to escape something…look for the trigger.
Create a code word for your church security team for “runner”.
Church security should have a plan to cover every “escape route” and door.
Common for runners to hide…don’t be surprised to find a student in an impossibly small cabinet (away from all stimulation).
This is more likely to happen during transitions.
For identified runners, have someone walk immediately beside them and hold hand.
Look for opportunities to reward student for good behavior to motivate for continued good choice.
Parent Conversations
Try hard to look for positives to share with parents.
Most parents have been told they are “horrible” parent at some point.
The church needs to be place of refuge where parents know their child with special needs is loved on.
Find way to communicate acceptance and non-judgment in parent convo’s.
Ministry coordinator needs to be involved, to help determine if convo is needed and how it should be communicated.
Some “bad” days aren’t worth mentioning to parents.
If there is a Sunday that is out of the ordinary, the parents DO need to know.
Talk to parents in private, not in hallway.
Talk in “sandwich”: Offer positive for what the child did that day, then state the FACTS (no emotion) about the negative, then follow with different and additional positive
Peer Interaction (Verbal child is struggling to interact with non-verbal peer)
Recognize that students usually ask the adult helpers the question, not their peers (true for typical and neuro-typical).
As the leader, include the child who does not communicate verbally in the response.
Encourage the peer to ask “Yes” or “No” questions so that student can answer with head nod.
Unengaged Student
A student may be doing his/her very best just to be calm.
Don’t push a student to be involved, they may still be learning.
A student walking or playing in back of room may be annoying to teacher…but he may be learning.
Ask the student a question from time to time. You may be surprised in what he learns.
Recognized that an unengaged student may still be “getting” the Bible story.
Sometimes, it is okay to invite student to participate. Offer hand (hand over hand) to help do motions.
Recognize opportunities to “help” student have fun, dance, etc.
If student does not respond positively, leave them alone.
Let the student dow hat is comfortable.
Most important thing is to look at the clock and time seizure.
The length of time for a seizure is the most important info for medical team.
(A five-minute seizure is an emergency.)
Help student to be safe, lay on ground.
Do not put anything in the child’s mouth.
Call for help. Call for parents after situation is secure.
Talk to parents ahead of time, always ask about seizure history.
Some kids have many seizures are not necessarily a “big deal”.
For other students, seizures are a huge deal.
Get coaching from parents on how to handle.
(Some parents will tell you they don’t need to be called out of service for minor seizures.)
After a seizure students will be lethargic.
Q: Do you ask parents about their child ahead of time?
A: Yes, every family of a child with identified special needs completes a “Plan of Care” before leaving their child in church care. In cases where child shows signs of special needs but they aren’t identified (family may not recognize or share issues), then Doc approaches parent with the idea to provide a buddy as a solution to help student experience success in church…and in this conversation Doc can interject questions that would be covered on the church’s Plan of Care (intake) forms.
Q: What age do you require buddies to be?
A: It is determined on an individual basis. We have one 8-year old peer buddy who is better than some of our teen volunteers. Teens are great, I just share it as an example to say that younger kids can be great.
Doc Quote: “The Church should be a refuge for families with special needs.”
You can connect with Doc on Twitter @DocHunsley or follow Grace Church’s special needs Ministry, SOAR, on Facebook.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Excited about the new book

At this particular snapshot of time, I am really happy about the new book I'm working on with the working title of Finding Home, the fourth (or possible fifth, depending on whether or not the division of The Scarred King into two books stands) book in The Scarred King series, set in my son's universe.
I think I told you before, but I'm going to tell you again, that we started this years ago when Joshua Foreman handed me a name, Bomar, a picture, and the situation set on another planet where the hero had to kill his best friend in a fight on a bronze disc set over hot lava. I asked, "Why would anyone DO such a thing?" He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know, I was the writer. Then he gave me the list of aliens and their pictures. And I tried to figure out a world in which such a thing was logical. Along the way, I invented an alien I am inordinately fond of, for in all my decades of reading science fiction I have never seen a similar alien. Joshua let him stay in the universe. And I changed the hero's name from Bomar to Bowmark. About halfway through The Scarred King, my son said, "Oh, and all through the book Bowmark needs to be chased by a Warrior Woman. Oh, beat my head against the wall! Well, Josh got half his order. The Warrior Woman chases Bowmark through half the book.

So here is our present procedure: I think about the world of Talifar and the peoples in it until somebody's story becomes urgent to me. I tell Josh my idea, he gives the okay, and I take forever to write the novel because I am a slooow writer. I get the story critiqued, and the first draft goes from dreck to something at least readable, and then I hand the book back to Josh. He goes through the book and corrects my depictions of aliens. ("What? Did you forget that (   ) is like this?" Yeah, I did forget.) We argue over names a bit. He checks for continuity errors and tries to fix my mess of directions people have gone off to. He even made me a map but I keep forgetting to look at it, and I still can't tell left from right. He lengthens and intensifies the fights. Sometimes he adds a scene. Sometimes he adds a character. He reads the novel to his teenage son who has the intelligence to recognize my genius. Sometimes the teenage son has a suggestion.

Now the new novel, Finding Home. And now I'm going to say something I hesitate to say because I fear greatly taking God's Name in vain, which is not so much cursing as it is saying that God said, (something made up) that He never said. But at this moment this feels like something God laid on my heart. This is a story I have to tell. I don't know that the story will be publishable. I feel like the other novels are publishable, thought they have not yet been picked up by a house looking for YA sf adventure. This one, I just don't know. I also don't care because this is the story I must write. When I finish Finding Home, I think perhaps the next novel with be a Wizard's Apprentice story. And after that, one about the Ice Sailors?

This world Josh made with a handwavium anomaly that makes a variety of species crashland on the planet is so interesting that a hundred novels could be set within it. I like that the little bits of technology dug up are treated like magic, so that although the stories read like high fantasy, they really are science fiction. Oh-oh, I may have given away something there I wasn't supposed to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rwandan business

Occasionally I see the Rwandan that is staying with us for a few weeks as he and my nephew buy supplies for finishing the Lighthouse, a student center/Bible school/mall for four local businesses/benevolences center/hotel/restaurant. The plan is that once the money makers are up and running, they will pay for all the nonmoney makers, and we will not need to support Come And See Rwanda other than in a fellowship and organize mission trips way. There is a website for Come And See Africa International that explains more about what we are doing there. Oh, and really cool, in the foyer a seven giant Rwandan baskets will hang with "Forgive" written in 490 languages on them.

After all the complaining I did after my cochlear implant a while back, I should announce that the last time I had my hearing checked, under ideal conditions, I now comprehend 85 percent of what I hear! Squeee! I still miss some phonemes, but this is so much better than the 11 percent I had before the implant.

Review of Through Many Dangers by Dana Rongione

If you are a fan of girl detective stories, you will probably like this book. One of the reasons that I enjoyed the book is that I learned something about pirate eye patches I had never heard before. And I discovered New Jersey has more geography than I expected. Several words were placed in a glossary at the back of the book to help readers that might not yet have an extensive vocabulary. I was a little puzzled by some of the choices of which words went into the glossary and which did not. 'Moderate' made the cut, but not meandering. Not a big deal. I also like the links at the end of the book for kids who just might want to look up more about things mentioned in the book. I think this would make a sweet gift for the middle grader girl in your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Way of Kings and Words of Radience by Brandon Sanderson

THIS is what I read science fiction and fantasy for.
Five stars for the world and the ecology (and architecture and social custom and technology) that all cohere in a marvelous way. Five stars for the study of different ways men arrange themselves in government. Five stars for the invention of an entirely new class of magic creatures: the spren. (which in the second book are actually a very old idea, BUT that pieces of this old idea can break off, be seen, and achieve sentience still seem like a new idea to me) Five stars for some of most appealing heroes in an epic fantasy, especially Kaladin. Five stars for raising questions about how we choose our actions. In the first book, Kaladin always chooses the hard but right thing to do. In the second book, what the right thing to do becomes murkier, and he ends up making a choice based on a morality everyone else seems to be ignoring. You want to cheer. And yet another young man makes a choice that is nearly the opposite of what Kaladin chooses, and you want to cheer for that also. So.... how do you decide? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson for giving us so much to think about.
The books are long. It took me over a week to read the first book, and over a week for the second one. And I still hated reaching the end of each book. I am not happy that I am going to need to wait for the third book. Ah, but I'll get to reread the first books when the third one comes out.

Review of Message Stick by Laine Cunningham

I save my five stars for books that books that make me think so hard I can't sleep at night. I'm a sucker for all stories set in Australia any way, and this book also clearly delineates the inner life of a broad cast of characters with beautiful writing and devastating rage and sorrow. I had not known the particular bit of history, and cannot come up with an adequate response to that outrage. A beautiful book about an ugly situation. It does end with a note of hope.
I should warn those that hate spirituality in books, that the land-based religion of Aborigines is treated as a physical thing rather as well as a mental construct.

Review of Alpha Revelation by P.A. Baines

In a previous book, P. A. Baines explores the question of what happens when a computer achieves sentience. He revisits the question in this YA dystopian set on MARS. Although I think I would have come up with a different answer, his answer is interesting on many levels.
We follow a really likable young adult on the cusp of graduation and taking on of adult life who feels like he doesn't really belong to this cramped society. And then he finds out he feels like he doesn't belong because he really doesn't belong during a shattering revelation. And he has to cope with one revelation after another while danger around him grows. How is he going to save the people he loves?
I should warn you that there are at least two political views expressed within the novel that will either have you shouting, "Preach it, Brother!" or will have you spitting in anger. I'm of the Preach it! variety. One of the questions the character asks is why doesn't the Martian colony expand instead of living like they're in a space ship with no resources beyond their walls? Good question, and one I spent some time thinking about. I'm of the camp that thinks that in a world of limited pie, we should bake more pies. Some people think they should fight over the slices of pie. And some people think they should control the pie. I think the leaders of the colony picked option number three, with devastating consequences.
There is one thing that annoyed me. I seem to spend a lot of time b-, uh, griping about this. I can't stand God as a character chatting up other characters in a book. There is likely an amusing hypocrisy here in that I allow C. S. Lewis to do it, but I won't let stand the practice in 'Merican, Aussie, or Kiwi writers.
The ending surprised me, which doesn't happen often. I totally expected a different ending. It's good when a writer can surprise me. And it's good when a book can raise questions that make me think. And it's good when I can follow the adventures of a character I can like as much as I did Shor. I'm looking forward to Baines' next book.

Review of The Hall of Doors by Janice Clark

This is a perfect book for the target audience.
This is an easy to handle trilogy for middle grade girls. When I was a gradeschooler, I could not read enough sentimental stuff. I have since lost my taste for sentimentality, but then, I'm not the target audience. I thought the art, though not great, was adequate for the task. There is some decent invention (I especially liked the humpties) though the invention is not stellar. If there were typos, I did not find them. And the writing is clear. Although for me, the reading experience was a two and half to three star "meh", I went ahead and gave the book four stars because this would make a perfect gift for a little girl, especially one who has lost a beloved pet. I lost my first pet at the age of the main character and I still remember the pain. In fact, I think I hurt more than I did as an adult when I lost beloved people. I don't think I'm an awful person for that. When you're a kid, the experience is new. You have not yet had the experience of knowing the pain lasts for some time less than infinite, and you don't have the internal resources you have as an adult. When you've only been sentient for a few years, you are a great deal less about thinking, and great deal more about feeling. The author is good a guiding little girls through the thickets of emotion. The next two books in the trilogy do a good job of demonstrating coping skills while telling a good story. This book would make a lovely gift for the little girl in your life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My book, Pilgrimage

My book, Pilgrimage, is the second book I wrote that does not deserve to be strangled in its cradle. Since I do not think the book is commercially viable, I have put it up myself on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Smashwords etc.
I wrote the book while we lived in Japan (which is when I also wrote and sold to Damon Knight the short story Hope) on Yokota AFB. That would be in the first years of the nineteen eighties. I remember my husband reading a draft of the book and telling me no one would believe it. "Believe what?" I asked, thinking how instantaneous travel through hoops was fairly outrageous. "That the Soviet Union would fall apart," he answered. "Of course, it will," I answered. "And after the next oil war, there will be a water war. And after that, a war with Islam." Heh, I got one of them right. I still haven't seen the water war, and what we did not understand was that Islam had already declared war with the West when Iran occupied the US Embassy and took all those Americans hostage. There were over the years more and more acts of terrorism, almost as if the Jihadists were screaming, "What do we have to do to get your attention?" Well, knocking down the Twin Towers got our attention . . . Back to the book.
This version is about 80,000 words shorter than the original version. I hope I'm learning not to let invention take over the story. Invention is Why I read SF, but maybe not the reason everyone else reads SF.
A warning to those who hate religion: there is Christianity in this book, as well as other religions. For people who like to play with ideas, even religious ones, this book might be a lot of fun for you.

My book, Streets of Gold

In a week or so, my book, Streets of Gold, will come out on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords etc. Streets of Gold is one of the two non-commercially viable books that I am self-publishing.
I wrote the novel in 1974, possible through to 77. I wrote the book on an old manual typewriter. Back then, Isaac Asimov was touting the new thing, a word processor. I wanted one badly, but the price started at $10, 000, which, at that time, was twice what my husband made a year. So I typed taking anywhere from twenty minutes to forty minutes a page, transcribing what I had written longhand in a notebook. I made anywhere from five to forty mistakes per page. Because correcting on a manual typewriter was too hard for me to accomplish, I would white-out the mistakes with a little brush and hand draw the correct letters. You can imagine how awful creating multiple drafts were. Whenever I typed, my toddler would run in and try to disrupt the process, and usually succeeded (I'm looking at you, Josh). We lived in the Ballard District of Seattle, in a church parsonage in exchange for doing janitor work inside the church and chasing away the men who thought our church was a urinal. Later on I got an electric typewriter, which made correcting mistakes marginally better as there was a white-out ribbon and one could roll the paper back and forth with less slippage than on the manual. That required me to recognize I had made a mistake before I took the paper out of the machine. When I got my first word processor for maybe two and a half thousand dollars installed on an Apple IIc, I nearly danced as I threw out my old typewriters. I think each storage document had a capacity of 54 kilobytes. At any rate, each chapter had to have its own document, and had to be short. Still, I could easily correct my mistypes (of which there were many and still are many because I have such a bad proprioreceptive memory) and typing sped up exponentially.
Streets of Gold is the first novel I wrote that did not deserve to be strangled in its cradle. Some may disagree with that assessment, but despite the faults of the novel, I still have a great fondness for the book because I did achieve one of the things I was striving for: the building of a wonderful world.
I should warn potential readers of the book that I grew up Baptist, an Evangelical, on the northwest coast of the United States, and in this book I was thinking out loud, as it were, about what the Faith as I understood it might look on another planet among aliens. I am able to read books written by Mormons, atheists, Hindus, etc., all expressing their worldviews and find interest in all of them, BUT, if you are one of the readers that throw a fit if you read a book that has a Christian in it, do yourself and me a favor and don't read Streets Of Gold. Life is too short to make yourself miserable. I think I can write from a little broader perspective now that I have visited and lived in different parts of the world, and have studied other branches of my Faith and made friends of those with other religions and no religion. But, as I said earlier, I am still fond of this novel, and hope you won't make too big a fuss about its birthmarks.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review of Bid The Gods Arise by Robert Mullin

Bid the Gods Arise is well-written for the most part, and competently for all of it. There were two reasons why I knocked a book I mostly enjoyed down to three stars: 1. I hate it when God is a character in a book and chats with the other characters. Most people aren't bothered by that, but this is my review, and the practice bugs the snot out of me. 2. I have no problem with fallen-to-primitive-levels cultures, but here we have cultures that use space ships, and they fight with swords???? I suppose Star Wars started it all with light sabers, but grumble, grumble, even the people who weren't Jedi used guns. Japan had guns and then was able to ban them for two hundred years so that fighters would only use samurai swords, until Commodore Perry sailed in with really big guns, and believe you me the Japanese grabbed trains and boats and guns as fast as they could so that would never happen to them again. I could not suspend my disbelief on that issue. Another thing that was not high enough to make a separate bullet point on the list of irritations was the inconsistency of the actions by the bad guys. That inconsistency brought to mind the words of Alan Dean Foster who said about movies: A good visual will always trump science.
On the other hand, there was some lovely metaphysical discussion that brought to mind the eldil in Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. I especially liked the finger in the fishbowl metaphor. And there are lovely other kinds of teaching in the book as well. I should warn you that if you are the type of person who finds that anybody anywhere believing in God makes you miserable or angry, this book is not for you.
Another thing I did like was the invention of some of the animals on the worlds. I'm a sucker for such things, and Mullin made me happy there, until we reached the flying monkeys. For some reason I would not accept that. Just, no. And I can't even tell you why. The Greylands bothered me until we were given an absolutely wonderful explanation for the phenomenon. Over all, a plus for his inventiveness as well as for interesting good characters, and understandable weak characters. The evil characters, well, this is space opera
I was dismayed at the end by the loose strings untied until I realized there is another book, which I would have known if I had been paying even a particle of attention, so that's all my fault.
All in all, if you like space opera and don't mind a few buckets of blood, you should really like this book.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A short interview about the writing process

Step 1: Acknowledge the person and the blog site that invited you to take part. [That's me:] Yes, it was Kat who invited me to join this blog hop. You ought to check out her fantasy YA. And check out her list of other writers who are participating.

Step 2: Answer four questions about your writing process.

1)      What am I working on?
Right now I'm between books as I have just finished the first draft of Killing The Siij.  Josh is reading the book to his son. When Josh is done with that he will go through the book and spice up the fight scenes. I have asked him to make sure Minerstown is spelled the same all the way through. He will check for other kinds of continuity before he hands it back to me for editing. I'm still editing The Scarred King II, and will likely continue until the book is sent to the printer. Even then I will want to recall the book and change things.

2)       How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In the case of The Scarred King series, I'm writing science-fiction that reads like fantasy (technology sufficiently advanced will look like magic) On this world, the peoples have only pieces of technology that withstood their spaceship crashes thousands of years before. Brandon Sanderson does something like that BRILLIANTLY in The Way of Kings. I am rather less brilliant as he does what I am trying to do. I bring a fact-based mindset to the stories. When my heroes get sick, they stay sick for a while. When they get hurt, they stay hurt for a while. Sometimes when firing arrows, they miss.

3)       Why do I write what I do?
In the case of The Scarred King series, I am trying to provide content for my son's media empire to come. For the previous books, I dunno. It seems like a stupid activity to me, this writing out of theology and physics questions and trying to see what different answers look like. This writing is much work with no reward and I write crap anyway and who am I to think I should add to the million books published a year? And then I meet someone who has read Shatterworld forty times. I tear up every time I think about that. Forty times. Because no matter what stage of life she was at, she found somebody in the book to identify with. Forty times. Excuse me while I go get a tissue.

4)       How does your writing process work?
I'm not sure it does.      Okay, somebody, editor or husband or son, will suggest something for me to write. My first reaction is always, "No, I can't." But some days later I will suddenly realize that "Yes, I can." And then I meditate on the issue until I have enough clarity to start.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Interview of Kat Heckenbach

Here is a short interview of Kat Heckenbach:
I think she's a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I am THIS close to finishing the third novel in my son's universe. However, I am not sure that finishing is the correct word. When I finish the first draft, there will be many drafts later along with editing. My son tends to add to or rewrite the fight scenes to make them longer or more exciting.
My first task when I finish Killing The Siij will be to go through the novel and make sure Minerstown is spelled the same everywhere. I have spelled it a number of ways: Miner's Town, Miners' Town, Miner'stown, Miner Town, Miners Town. And then there are the typos, so I have no idea how many variants of Minerstown there are.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Some publishing stuff

Last year, Kate Wolford ran a contest for fairy tales based on her book, Beyond The Glass Slipper. I enjoy her free, online magazine, Enchanted Conversation. If you go to this link you can read The Old Miller and the Cat, which was my offering. She paid me, too.

Last week, I answered some interview questions given me by the PR person at Written World Communications. Can I hope that Shatterworld is coming out soon?

I decided that some of my books are just not commercially viable. This week or next, Pilgrimage should be coming online on any electronic book store.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review of GHOST by Wayne Thomas Batson

I generally don't care for supernatural thrillers, but for some reason the story caught my interest and kept it to the end. John Spector was someone I wanted to spend time with.
At times the violence was overwhelming, and as with all supernatural thrillers for me, there were lots of unanswered questions about the interaction of spiritual and physical worlds. What does it mean for an angel to be killed? I still don't know.
If, like me, you don't care for supernatural thrillers, you might try this one and find that you like it for the same reason I did: John Spector is a great character. If you do like supernatural thrillers, I'll bet you will like this one, too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Some Writing Stuff

I wrote a novel in my early twenties, when we were living in Japan, called Streets Of Gold. In my later twenties, when we were living in San Antonio, I wrote Pilgrimage. Every five or ten years I would send the novels out to a publishing house, and the novels would be returned. I have decided this week that the books are simply not commercially viable because they're just too odd, and so I'll go through them one more time and then put them up on Amazon and some other ebook sites. The revised version of Shatterworld might come out this year. Every time I find a new author I really like, I look the author up to see what else they have written. I would like there to be something else for fans while we are waiting for the sequels to Shatterworld (Circumnavigation of Shatterworld, Pacifists' War) to come out. Even though the books are odd, there are people out there who will love them. How to reach those few people, I don't know.

As of this date, I am finishing up the third novel set in my oldest son's universe. I only have half a chapter left to go. I've even written the ending, which I'm pleased with. But this penultimate chapter with the final big boss battle is hard. I am grinding out one sentence at a time. Hmm, can I persuade my son to write that part?

I recently read an article that I think nailed why writers have such a hard time finishing their books. As long as the book is unfinished there is still a chance the book could be great. Every time I start a book, I have about fifty things I want to accomplish. But when I reach the end, the book has quantum collapsed into crap, drek that does not illuminate the human condition, drek that does not contain striking metaphors and incredibly lovely writing. John C. Wright has nothing to fear from me. The top ten percent of SF writers have no competition from me. The top twenty. Maybe the top fifty. That's when I need someone else to read the book who doesn't know about the forty-nine things that got left out.

The books set in my son's universe are The Scarred King, Sailing from Stoneshell, and Killing The Siij. And speaking of my son, you really ought to watch this:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review of To Save Two Worlds: (is twice as much fun) by A. J. Bakke

This gently humorous story about really little people is captivating on several levels. Kale, one of the really little people, has an anxiety disorder in a society that is surrounded by anxiety-provoking dangers. During a hunting trip, he runs into a brand new danger and ends up possessed by sparkles with an agenda, and they will do whatever they have to to Kale to make sure he fulfills it. Among the things they do is earn him exile, and that exile leads to many adventures.
I knocked a couple stars off the rating for this book for two reasons. One is my personal grumpiness about typos. They are not overwhelming, and I have a hunch most readers won't even notice the typos that aroused my ire, but they annoyed me. Two is one of the characters, a LARPer, who is charming, likable, and fun until she commits such a great evil that I was mentally spitting on her for the rest of the book. You could make the point that she goes on to make up for the evil by the many very good things she does. She also suffers some loss, but I did not see her repent of her evil anywhere. Still, at the end, she saves many lives.
The book has a satisfying ending with some wonderful thread wrap-ups.
If you are the type of reader who thinks description gets in the way of the story, or if you demand adrenaline-fueled thrillers, this is not your book. If, on the other hand, you like immersing yourself in fantasy worlds and enjoy stories written in complete sentences, this sweet book might be what you need for a rainy afternoon. If you are the type of person who posts pictures of cute kitties and frantic squirrels on FaceBook, then odds are high that you will enjoy To Save Two Worlds. This book will also make a lovely gift for the high school who doodles fairies and kitties in their notebooks.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review of my niece, A. J. Bakke's book

I liked what this reviewer had to say about my niece's book To Save Two Worlds (is twice as much fun).

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review of Sailing Out of Darkness by Normandie Fischer

If Eat, Pray, Love weren't a title already taken, that could have been the title of this book. There was lots of luscious eating in beautiful scenery in Italy, believable people trying to figure out where to go after being rejected by spouses, sailing, some drama, guilt and grace. Normandie has written another lovely story. If you like romance, you will like this story set in modern day New England and Italy.
For some reason, I wasn't even too ticked off by the romance trope of the rich, single guy willing to drop his life to follow a damsel in distress and shower her with gifts while being gentle and understanding at all times. Usually I hate that as I see it as much pornography for woman as the trope of a woman who wants sex with a man, right now! anywhere! and you don't even have to take a shower first! is pornography for a man. Wish fulfillment. Yeah, don't we all want a rich man who will take us on exotic trips and feed us chocolate and not care if we gain pounds and will not make demands on us? Well, this rich guy we could all feel sympathy for because he got rich by being in a accident that left him crippled and in pain. And he got dumped before the settlement came in. And Normandie made him seem like a real man with real issues.
Some people might be bothered by some of the spiritual or supernatural elements of the story. I hope not, because the prayers and experiences seemed the most real parts of the book to me. Having experienced some rare episodes of ESP or spiritual events and being the recipient of such (ie. my mother out hanging up clothes to dry suddenly knowing I was in danger ran into the house to find me in my crib turning blue with a rattle stuck in my throat), I firmly believe that while most such reports are delusional, some are real, and God sometimes lets us know things we can't know through our physical senses. I rather wish God would do that for us more often as I spend 99.99% of my time being totally clueless.