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Some advance praise, then

I just finished reading and reviewing The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. [My full review at the Amazon page. Umm, "Laurel" if you couldn't figure it out. :D ]

I was going to put off mentioning the book, since it's not available yet, but when I tweeted something to that effect, jaylake mentioned the value of advance praise, so here we go.

It's fabulous, both informative and fun to read. Even if you don't have an eating problem, its just downright fascinating. Chris was interested in the parts which explain how food industry insiders make food irresistible... probably for cooking tips. :) (And we wonder why I have trouble losing weight...?)

I kept thinking cathshaffer would (ahem) eat this book up. If you're at all interested in how food is turned from simple nutrition to irresistible addiction, and what to do about it, take a look.


In other news, my song "The Orange" won Benjamin Rosenbaum's derivative works contest.

That was fun. I must find some other authors who will let me compose music based on their stories!
I have been in Chattanooga all week for maryrobinette's birthday and writing retreat (plus an Iron Chef style cooking contest.)

There has been (among other things) writing, chatting, critiquing, walking in the woods, eating lots of good food, dog snuggling, pervasive silliness, fire building, and completely excessive use of online networking with people who are in the same dang room. Poor davidlevine finally joined Twitter so he could find out when lunch is ready.

This has been all over many LiveJournals (and Twitter, and Facebook, and I wouldn't be surprised if the news trucks showed up in a few hours) but just in case, Iron Chef PEAR BATTLE.


Just That Cool

Every Day is Day One

But sometimes the calendar says so, too. :)

2008 was... bad. Bad in an insidious way that I didn't realize until the damage was done. (And the economy sure was annoying too.) So, 2009 is a nice delineation where I can say that phase is done, I now declare things to be Officially Better, and move on.

Let's all have a good year, hm?


Just a quick post while I can.

Last night's ice storm knocked out our power. Fortunately our next-door-neighbor still has his, so we've been able to run an extension cord to operate the furnace. (And, occasionally, the router.)

My 60 foot tall elm tree looks like a giant foot from heaven stomped on it. The other trees are only marginally better. :(

Windycon Saturday

This is a rather boring entry, I'm afraid, because everything I did today is not especially discussible. Either it was personal to me, gossip I'm not going to share, or panels that were fun but not really educational.

Got out early to head for my workshop session. It was, of course, not in the boardroom as claimed. I suspected as much when I saw the computer gaming network being set up in there the day before. A sign directed me to the ISFiC suite.

Guys? If you'd like great critiques from lots of nice professional writers (along with some nice aspiring writers!) Windycon is a good place to go.

We spent a little over three hours. There were four professional writers, an experienced moderator, and two other participants. (Afterwards I got a paper with comments from the quite-accomplished organizer, as well.) It was all very, very good. I kind of wanted to corner each participant for some personal one-on-one brain-picking afterward, but really, I probably learned all needed to. Now to find the mental space to implement it.

SOMEDAY, I will have a proper opening. (I'm trying to remember how many drafts I took to discover D&B's opening. 6-10? Getting there...)

Found Chris, then he went off to do some stuff, while I had lunch with these guys in the con suite:

michaeldthomas and jimhines

Afterwards I finally managed to meet people I'd been looking for, and hang out a bit. I won't turn this into a name dropping post. Be assured they were all brilliant, charming, attractive, occasionally famous, and you totally envy me.

We headed home early because the drivers in the western suburbs are dangerous enough without waiting until they are tired and/or drunk. And we decided that while the Westin is very nice (everyone seems to agree) it's way too far, and we'll just have to get a room next time.

Windycon Day One

Posting mainly because due to a schedule hiccup, it's 2 AM and I can't sleep.

For me this is a bad con to commute to, this year. The hotel is in the western suburbs, which means 40+ minutes (not rush hour) of driving among complete idiots, through the unending chaotic construction zone that is the Illinois Tollway. Bleh. Had I really understood where this hotel was, I probably wouldn't have gone. Have to go tomorrow for the workshop. We'll see about Sunday.

So far the convention itself is running fairly well. Registration was easy, the con suite was very nice (with buckets of candy on the tables! and brownies! and, of course, bheer. Yay!)

Unfortunately, the hotel wasn't quite up-to-speed with the convention itself. One room was slated to have the first panel in it, but the ballroom was locked while it was supposedly being set up. We all stood out in the hall for 20 minutes. Finally we got a staff member to open it up, to find it dark and empty except for stacks of chairs. Oops. Started setting up the chairs only to be informed that our panel was actually in the other end of the hotel. Except nobody knew that.

After that things ran more smoothly, or at least there was a sign up when the program no longer matched reality.

The theme for this year's Windycon is military SF... which is not really my thing, but in a way that's just as well, because I will learn things I'd normally skip for programming more to my taste. Also, the con workers in their camouflage running back and forth with ice and soda and snacks are very cute.

First panel was on child soldiers. Picked up a couple points, though with being delayed and moved the discussion itself was a bit scattered. Also... John Ringo is, ah... something. So much something that I will probably avoid panels with his name on them in the future. Though he was quite inadvertently amusing. :)

Second panel was on whether the human tendency to warfare is an innate or learned behavior. Lots of good discussion and polite-but-spirited disagreement on this one. (Ringo left after a few minutes. :p )

After that, we explored a bit and I ran into a hallway where the lights were flickering, which triggered a migraine. Sigh. Headed back to the house at that point (through more idiotic traffic...) and stuck my head under a pillow for a few hours. That's why I'm up now.

My workshop session is at 9am tomorrow, so I hope to get back to sleep soon. Didn't run into any of my peeps today. Will have to stalk them after panels, I suppose. Saw kelly_swails briefly, but we were headed in opposite directions.

My NaNo is falling woefully behind. Here's hoping I find some inspiration in the critiques!

Voting! But not that kind!

A friend of mine is a school teacher in CA, trying to win some funding for his classroom. He and his students made this music video showing what they can do if they win.

It's really, really cute, and they've made it to the finals, but they're a bit behind in the votes now. If you like the video, would you consider voting?

Here's his message:
Please help us, it is easy and will only take less than 5 minutes!

I am a 6th grade teacher in Corona, California and our class is one of the 5 video finalists from all of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia in the 6-8 category for the eInstruction $25,000 technology video competition. We are not only the only finalist from California; we are the only finalist from the western ½ of the United States.

Voting is 30% of our final score, so we need to rack up points big time! Voting begins today and ends in 2 weeks on Friday, November 14th.

Please vote for us and help spread the word. You can vote from HERE (if you need help voting, scroll down for directions).

Please tell everyone you know, please hype this up and send everyone here, we really need the help and it only takes about 5 minutes.

Thank you very much,
Michael Grothem
Corona Ranch Elementary School

Here are step by step instructions to vote:
Go to www.eimakeover.com
Click on the yellow button that says “Click Here to Vote for the Finalists”
Click on our video titled “Technology” in the 6-8 category.
Click the button that says “Vote For This” Click the “Join” button if you have not previously signed up on this page before.
Follow the directions on the page (you must click “I am 18 years old or older” to vote)
**you will have to check your email and activate your account to vote, if you don’t see the email it may have gone to your junk folder, check there**
After you register, it will take you back to the menu.
Then of course you have to: click on our video titled "Technology" in the 6-8 category.
click the button "Vote for This" After you vote, a box will pop up that says “Success. Thanx for voting”.

Nanowrimo '08

After not doing so well last year, I'd decided I wasn't going to do nano anymore unless I had a novel planned and in need of writing whenever a particular November rolled around.

In the future, remind me not to hang around pushy, optimistic teenagers... :P

Would be nice if I had some kind of, you know, plan... ah well, one week to go!

The Orange


Review: The Gone-Away World

This is one of the products I got through the Vine program at Amazon. I like the Vine program (I mean, free books, who wouldn't?) but it's a little hard for a geek like me, since there is very little SF/F offered. The genre specialist publishers don't participate, so, for my SF/F reading I am limited to YA, or like The Gone Away World, SF marketed as mainstream/literary.

You can't tell from the picture, but the dust jacket is flocked. The fluorescent pink parts are fuzzy, while the neon-green parts are shiny. Clearly, this is a book with a lot of promotion behind it.

My Review:
"I have known heaven, and now I am in hell, and there are mimes."

The Gone Away World opens with a post-apocalyptic science-fictional future. It's a little wittier and wordier than typical science fiction, but plenty comfortable if you're at all familiar with the genre. A pipeline which keeps the world safe (at least, as much of the world as can cozy up to it) has caught fire. Our protagonist and his buddies are an elite hazmat squad, and they're going to deal with it.

The next chapter abandons all pretense of plot, for a flashback to the narrator's childhood. The next couple hundred pages are filled with his wittily-observed, strange, and rather improbable youth with his buddy Gonzo, through adulthood and the Gone Away war and its aftermath, until reaching the present-day disaster. A few geopolitical hints indicate that this is not exactly our world, but it's very close.

The style is clever and chatty. Everything is observed in lengthy, sardonic detail. The book is packed with bizarre characters, absurd coincidences, and ridiculous props, including ninjas, mimes, pirates, and crazy Frenchmen. The tone changes from post-apocalpytic science fiction, to wish-fullfillment memoir, to satire along the lines of Douglas Adams, and finally surrealism so bizarre you wonder if the book has any logic to it at all.

And then, it turns out that Harkaway has been building a carefully-planned story all along. Everything matters, even the mimes. All the nonsense makes sense.

It's not a particularly easy book to read, especially if you're impatient. I was annoyed with the first few chapters of flashback. Had it not been for the opening chapter and it's implied peril and mystery, I might not have continued. The non-linear format is essential.

The Gone Away World is a lot of fun and very rewarding. Just trust the author, take your time, read and enjoy and prepare to be amazed.

One interesting detail: Nick Harkaway's father is John LeCarre. Which explains how something as unusual (yet brilliant) as this could ever get published. I don't think someone without connections could even have got it read, it's so strange. I'm glad Harkaway was able to, though!



When I began writing it was very deliberate. I studied how-to-write books, I planned everything in advance, and I wrote X-amount of words, to schedule. None of that reliance on cool ideas or inspiration that people talk about. I was, frankly, rather smug about my deliberation and reliability.

Kind of like I was pleased with my short stories because they were a good length. Not that they were good stories but at least I didn't go on for 20,000 words like some people.

Note to self: NEVER BE SMUG ABOUT ANYTHING. (Gah, do I never learn??)

A dialogue in the spirit of kalquessa:

ME: Yay, time to write!


ME: Er, what? I've got this scene all planned out! I made notes! Here, have a look.

MYSELF: Don't bother me with notes. Play some solitaire instead.

ME: Huh? That doesn't seem very useful. If now isn't a good time, maybe we could just edit a bit?

MYSELF: I said solitaire. And put on some music. These three songs. Loop them.

ME: But, I don't like solitaire and those songs have nothing to do with what we're working on. Maybe if I just reread what we worked on last, we'll get back into it.

MYSELF: If you so much as read a sentence, I'll give you a headache.

ME: Geez. Fine. I'll do something else. How about Oblivion?

MYSELF: No. Solitaire.

ME: If you insist... *plays solitaire* *listens to the same three songs over and over*

MYSELF: -DING!- Thank you for your patience. The scene is now ready. Please commence typing.

ME: But it's bedti--


ME: *whimper* Fine... *types*

Up next: 20,000 word short stories. :-/


If you hear the sound of teeth...

Inky has taken to attacking my cell phone.

Grabbing it, biting it, kicking it, the whole silly cat thing.

I know he's too much of a wuss to do any harm to it, and I'm pretty sure he can't unlock it, but if you get a strange nomming sort of phone call from me, that's what happened.

Just say "foodie" really loud, and he'll dash off to the kitchen and leave you alone.


On the wort again

My brain has been spazzing out with increasing frequency and intensity, to the point where it's getting alarming (when I can manage to think straight). By "spaz" I mean overwhelming, irrational depression. Each episode comes on pretty suddenly, without any particular trigger. It peaks after about two days, then starts to ease up over a week, if I can distract myself out of the thought patterns. It was happening every few months, then monthly, and lately every couple weeks!

I suspect this is perimenopause (despite the fact that I've not yet grown a single grey hair!) since hypothyroid women get into that stage earlier, and this feels an awful lot like being a moody teenager.

One interesting effect to share with the writers out there, is how severe depression drastically alters my abilities -- and not wholly for the bad. I don't know if this is common for other people, but when I'm in full-doom-mode I don't feel hungry, thirsty, or tired. Extremes of cold and heat make no conscious impact. Pain is barely noticeable. I'm not afraid of anything. It was a little startling to come out the far side of adolescence, feeling happy, and have to deal with things like winter. Cold? I feel cold!?! What is this??

So, I've started taking St. John's Wort again, for the first time in a decade. I know it works well, though it takes over a month to really kick in.

In the meantime I'll be going to bed really early. Like 8 pm. Darn serotonin. Even though the anti-depressant effect doesn't start working for a while, the irresistible sleepiness does lead to not being sleep-deprived all the time, and that helps right away.

Speaking of which, my inability to get back to sleep after Inky wakes me up at 4-5 am should have been a clue of the imbalance, now that I think about it.

We will see what this does with writing. I have no idea. I wasn't writing last time I took St. John's Wort!

There are other places! [*]

Since a bunch of you abandoned me for Worldcon, I was bored and in need of supplemental web-based socializing.

I had signed up for MySpace a while ago (just to claim the name, really). Over time, I've also used various bands' MySpace pages to preview their songs. I finally got around to putting the two together, and discovered the appeal of MySpace, despite the horrendous interface and all the obnoxious ads.

You can't be "friends" with someone who isn't friends with you. So, you send a request, and if the other party responds positively, you're mutual friends. If you request "friendship" with famous groups/people/entities, and if they're around and feeling friendly (they're there for promotion after all), they'll be friends with you too!

Thus, I totally did the fangirly squeal several times over the weekend. :P (It helps that I like indie artists.) I'm sure that many of the bigger groups' pages are handled by administrators, but I'm also sure that some of the smaller ones are not! So someone I very much admire actually clicked "OK" next to my name! *swoon*

After that, I set up Twitter too. I'd heard about it for years, but didn't have enough interest to sign up. Coincidentally (I think) I started watching tweets just as JJA was reporting live from the Hugo ceremony. I was instantly hooked. It's really a fun system. The perfect amount of quasi-social, no pressure, non-interaction. Now I just need a better client to handle it (though the web page is fine).

Still haven't figured out Facebook. Not sure I want to. Maybe next time you all abandon me!

* Title is a quote from The League of Gentlemen, when Tubbs finds a map, and realizes that her husband has been lying to her about the nonexistence of any world outside their town.

New Workplace

As mentioned previously, I spent much of the first half of this year being ill, while still forcing myself to write. Unfortunately, this coincided with both starting a new project and moving my desk.

So now, even when I feel better, I've conditioned myself to think I can't write while sitting here. (Of course, it's possible I'm still sick... some symptoms still cropping up now and then. Visiting the doctor soon!)

But! In any case, to try to get SOME work done, on my clever husband's advice I'm spending some time writing elsewhere.

However, there are some distractions...Collapse )


FYI: new inhalers

I was going to post a happy thing about writing at the park, with included pictures, but that will have to come later. While researching decongestants, to see if the new stuff I can buy unregulated actually is any good, I came across rather disturbing news which some of you might need to know, and be unaware of.

The rescue inhalers which have saved the lives of millions of asthmatics will be entirely banned at the end of the year, replaced with products which do not work nearly as well (or, for some, at all).

The justification is that the propellant used in inhalers is a CFC: a chemical which in large quantity contributes to depletion of the ozone layer. (Not global warming; that's a separate issue.) However, with the ban on every other use of CFCs, and the miniscule quantity used by inhalers, banning their use in medicine makes no environmental difference at all. Ironically, the replacement propellant has been determined to be harmful to the environment, while also not working very well.

Now, for me this is only a minor annoyance, but when I was young that medicine was quite often the only thing that kept me alive. I know this is the case for a lot of people, particularly the young and old -- and there's no big campaign to let people know that their medicine is going to be yanked soon.

I've tried the current "HPA" offering. I did find it notably less effective (and the mechanism stopped functioning entirely before it was half used) but I don't need it much anyway.

There's still a few months to stock up before the ban kicks in. I suspect the ban will be revoked after thousands of people suffocate to death and the pharmaceutical companies get sued to oblivion. But... best to try to avoid being part of that. :(

Please inform anyone you know who might be affected.

The Side Effects of Writing

Last night I slept for eleven hours and had a long series of very vivid dreams.

This always happens when I start drafting new material at a good clip (+2k/day or so.)

Fortunately, I'm not stuck, or I do the same thing, but with nightmares.

Eventually I'll develop the staring-off-into-space-for-hours side-effect as well, but that usually only starts happening when I'm 3/4 through a draft.

Oh, and I start posting a lot more on LJ. You may notice. :)

How about the rest of you? Anything weird happen when you start writing (or stop?)


DJ Amberdine

A few weeks ago, while looking for music, I came across an offer from Son of Rust to remix a couple of their songs. It occurred to me that I do have GarageBand 4, and a MIDI keyboard... this could be fun. So I ordered a new USB/MIDI cable, downloaded the tracks, and... got distracted with workshop stuff.

Eventually though, I started playing around with it, came up with something I thought was moderately neat, and sent it to the artist. I doubt very highly it will make it into a promotional CD release (really, total newbie here -- I know there were some beginners' mistakes in there) but who knows. Unfortunately, I don't really own the rights to that one, so I can't share it, though I will let you all know if it becomes available.

But! While looking into remixing details, I learned what everyone else probably already knows: Nine Inch Nails gives away remix packs as well. So I played around with Head Down my favorite track from NIN's recent release The Slip.

It's here if you're curious. (I know there are other beginner issues with this one too, but I'm getting better...)

I'd start playing with Echoplex but I need a bigger hard drive first. Dang. Garageband files are MASSIVE.


More music, at last.

It has been too long since I posted a list of my musical discoveries... and by "too long" I mean that if I tried to cover everything the post would be so huge no one would read it all. (Well, except asakiyume, but I don't want to wear her out.) So, I will just share some highlights.

First, the reason I haven't posted for a while is...I stopped buying iTunes.

(Gasp. I know. As much as I love Apple, too.) But, one of my favorite groups, Iris, came out with a new album. iTunes didn't have it. Amazon did, and thus I discovered that, in general, Amazon's for-download songs are cheaper and better quality, and none have any DRM. Since I stopped using iTunes cards, and could just buy songs whenever I wanted, I didn't have my once-a-month list anymore.

However, Amazon does provide me with a nice little widget to share some samples with you!
Read more...Collapse )


CoWW Pictures

I've already shown these to the people involved, but in case the rest of you were curious.

click for the flickr set:

front (crouching): princessalethea, me, lucreid, ellen_datlow
middle: Jenny Rappaport , Rachel Ann Dryden, (Moodusa), maryrobinette, Danielle Friedman, vylar_kaftan
back: Don Mead, Garrett Winn, James Maxey, Michael Livingston.


What I learned at the CoWW...

...all of which will be of no use to anyone else.

But nevertheless, I will tell you.

(CoWW = Codex Writers Workshop)

It went like this. Anyone who was a Codex member (for which there are already requirements) could go. The fabulous parents of the fabulous maryrobinette (I see where she gets some of her fabulousness from) hosted us at their estate in Chattanooga, TN. There were a few scheduled workshop events, some sessions where we exchanged novel critiques, and many hours of short story critiques with ellen_datlow. Pictures will be posted soon.

I went to the workshop fully intending to give up writing afterwards. I'd even lined up a new pastime! So much for that...
Things learned:Collapse )
Those were the big insights. I also learned how to read a story aloud, that The Height of Sky is pretty neat (but still needs some fixing), that Rick Fisher is a cheap date (but lonfiction isn't), and that I really like sweetgum trees (even if nobody else likes them) because their leaves all look like stars.


On Retreat

Yes, haven't posted for a while. Was sick for a few months, and now I'm at the Codex writers retreat, following the workshop. Here's the view tonight:

Sitting on a lovely porch in Chattanooga, TN, revising The Height of Sky with my pink iPod, a glass of port, beside Don Mead, maryrobinette, and Rachel Ann Dryden. (On the other side were Rick Fisher and princessalethea.

Of course, no name-dropping would be complete without mentioning that ellen_datlow was here for several days help us. It has been wonderful. And all the Codex peeps are fabulous as well.


Secrets, revealed

(It's been a while since I did one of these...) via nightwolfwriter

LiveJournal Username
Your Primary Super Power
Location of Head Quarters
Primary Costume/Uniform Colors
Why are you a Superhero?
Your Superheroic Codename
The veteran grim member of the teameveryonesakitty
The sexist and crass but annoyingly effective onefloatingtide
The bright-eyed novice or sidekickgregvaneekhout
The teammate that will eventually go evil or insanthunderchikin
The inept yet determined/reoccurring supervillainlenasawyer
The sinister Arch-Villain and team's greatest foetherinth
The perky civilian that keeps getting kidnappedmorewineplease
How often does your team actually 'save the day'?
This Fun Quiz created by Shannon at BlogQuiz.Net
Weight Loss Tips and Diet Advice from WeightLossTips.TV


Because Greg told me to

(You see how this is totally missing a cup of coffee? Next time I will be better prepared!)


Today at the Park

Wildlife on the path:
  • a fairly large turtle

  • a very small snake

  • the season's first batch of goslings, yellow and fluffy and egg-sized :)

  • a dragonfly which zipped in front of us to nab a gnat (FINALLY. Stupid gnats.)

  • a pair of blue birds


You know there has been a lot of rain recently when you can look out the window on a clear evening and see a lovely reflection of the moon...

...off the lawn.



Since this has come up in three separate venues now, I feel like I should come out and my my prediction official.

Within the next few years, I think there will be a significant shift to e-books.

By "significant" I mean all the novels you or I might be interested in reading will be easily and reasonably available as e-books, and a considerable number of consumers will choose to get their material that way.

My main reason for this prediction is not the Kindle (despite it selling like crazy), it's not the ongoing double-digit growth in the e-book industry, and it's not even Tor's recent giveaway of free pdf copies of some of their most popular novels.
It is...Collapse )
If bookstores and publishers start going under in a big way... it will be sad, but I'm sure the e-book publishers will take up the slack. I hope, and dare to predict, that the established publishers will soon give it an honest try. Whenever, and however it comes around, once novels are once again convenient and reasonably priced, I predict a huge resurgence in fiction reading.

And you thought your connection was slow...

Last night jmeadows sent me a silly song... and I got this progress box:

Lessee, that's nearly forty million years to wait for the rest of the download. Dang! (Fortunately the prediction was a bit off.)


Your chance to be bossy!

My pfriend jmeadows is running a poll to see what book she should work on next.

Sure, maybe you don't know her or have any idea what would be good to advise, but THAT DOESN'T MATTER.

Go boss her around anyway! Thanks!


The Inky Season

Well, it's officially summer in this house, despite being in the mid-30s and overcast outside.


Something seasonal flips in Inky's little pea-brain, every "summer." At that point he stops sleeping on my legs like a proper cat. (I am considering replacing him with a sack of flour. It would be cheaper and less trouble.) And for some strange reason he insists that I must be awake at the crack of dawn.

If not slightly earlier.

Which is would be fine, if I didn't go to bed at 2AM. :(

Yes, I know it's a little after 8 now, but I've been attempting to simultaneously kill Inky and go back to sleep for almost three hours. I finally gave up and have made coffee.

Time to do some writing, I suppose.


Music Writing

(As opposed to writing music, that being music to listen to while writing.)

I'm now working on a story (actually, I've been working on it off and on for years, ugh -- but I intend to finish it this time!) which was entirely inspired by two songs.

Both are by Celldweller.

Own Little World (Remorse Code Remix)
Time does not exist here.
We will never die.

combined with,

I've made a choice that I regret.
Now what I see is what I get.
It's too late to look back,
I've got no way to switch back.

Many of Celldweller's songs deal with science fiction concepts: immortality, virtual reality, symbiosis, shape-shifting... so they're easy material. :)

I know jmeadows has written stories to match songs... or at least she was strongly influenced. And asakiyume, surely? Any of the rest of you get story ideas or inspiration from the stuff you're listening to? Do tell!


Vampire Duck

Here I am working and reading and petting Inky, interspersed with a common pastime of Mac users: staring at the screen because it's just that pretty when I noticed something odd.

I'm using Leopard, so the dock is now kind of a... glass table, which the icons hover over, with their images reflecting off the shiny surface.

Except, one of the icons doesn't have a reflection: the Adium duck. I'm using the black duck; I don't know if it matters.



Lookit me, still alive for another year!

Okay, that doesn't sound quite as festive when typed out as it had in my head.

ANYWAY. Thank you for the good wishes and the birfday emails (and kitties), and the FANCY DIAMOND LJ gift! (Yay, Meg! How ever did you know my weakness for spiffy graphics? :) )

No thank you for the birfday rejection, but the rejector would surely have waited a day had she known.


Book Addiction

[mumble] Tor and their [mumblety-mumble] free e-book offer. Aaargh. *twitch*

I was fine. I was almost totally (pretty much) recovered from falling off the wagon with Robin Hobb and all her ginormous trilogies.

In an intellectual way I understand people who resolve to read more books. It's a mentally worthwhile activity, it takes time, and maybe people have to push other, easier things, aside for it. Personally, though? It's like seeing someone resolve to drink more booze. Or eat more junk food. Boggle.

Neither do I have any comprehension of people with TBR piles. If there's a novel on hand, I'm reading it. A few times I've held off reading something until a sequel comes out, or for a special occasion, but that's rare. If it's in my possession (or the possession of someone who won't mind if I just borrow that for a couple days...) I'm not going to be able to resist reading for long.

I do not consider this remotely virtuous or admirable. I am simply addicted. I read to the neglect of all else until I'm out of pages. And then... I want another book! Bad! With a good long series I will abandon everything I ought to be doing for days. I have no sense of time and I can't even hear people talk to me when I'm reading. I've screwed up some serious obligations through getting absorbed in a book.

The only thing that helps me is to not have books around. Pretty sad, huh? Still, I was fine, coping with just reading people's manuscripts. (Which is tons of fun but not quite as addictive as zipping through finished books I don't have to think about while reading.) But then Tor HAD to go and offer free e-books, and send me a pdf of Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN.

Dangitall! *twitch* (Awesome book, BTW. Highly recommend it.) One little trip to the library wouldn't hurt, would it...?

ABNA thoughts

The second, "semi-finalist" stage of the Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest started yesterday.

Amazon limited the entries to 5,000. Blurbs and openings of those 5,000 novels were sent to Amazon top reviewers for rating. The contest allowed for 1,000 entrants to move on to the next round, but only 836 were selected. (Yes, yes, I entered. We'll get to that in a moment.)

Now, this is the second big, public, novel contest that I've paid attention to. The first was Gather.com's, and that was... a debacle. Moving on to the second round at Gather was based on ratings from any random reviewer. What happened was exactly what you would expect. Anyone whose rating popped up above mediocre was sniped in the middle of the night with 1's (out of 10).

The Gather administration reserved the right to disqualify certain ratings without disclosure or explanation. After I saw a lot of quality works down in the 2's I stopped watching. I'm sure they did disqualify certain ratings... but many targeted submissions were left with their low scores.

So, can Amazon top reviewers do better? I've lurked occasionally on the related forum on Amazon, where all the neurotic, sociable entrants have been hanging out. Last night, when the winnowing came, those entrants were split into winners and losers, in a proportion that seems to approximately match the percentage of entries to semifinalists. The writers themselves are dismayed about the choices, and calling into question the discernment of the Amazon reviewers.

I have a different view, though. In Codex, my writing group -- entry into which is already selective -- every member who entered moved on to the semi-finals. It seems to me that the Amazon reviewers do recognize quality.

The next stage will be interesting. This part more closely resembles Gather's first part. From now until March 2, ordinary Amazon customers can download excerpts of the 836 novels, read, rate, and comment on them. Since reading slush for free is always a thankless job, Amazon has offered some prizes for the reviewers who do the best work.

They say that the ratings will guide the Penguin editors, who will make the next cut to 100 entrants. Amazon is also paying Publishers Weekly to review every entrant, and I'm sure those reviews will be considered highly. Then the final round is entirely up to Amazon readers.

My entry was The Dragon and the Butterfly, which some of you may recall from its action-packed but not-quite-successful agent hunt last year. Here it is if you would like to read the opening. This experience so far has been fun. Like I told jmeadows last night, now I can be like a real writer and obsessively watch my Amazon rating. :p

Tee hee

Via various people:

In 2008, amberdine resolves to...
Overcome my secret fear of robotics.
Start a music fund.
Find a new catholicism.
Connect with my inner japan.
Buy new cats.
Get back in contact with some old mangoes.
Get your own New Year's Resolutions:

  1. No comment. I deny everything. :-|

  2. Already on it!

  3. No, no, no. The point of Catholicism is to be not new. Sheesh.

  4. Huh. I kind of liked connecting with my outer Japan, actually, though it was a mite spendy.

  5. Buy cats? What kind of a scam is this? Who pays for cats?! But, on the other hand... yay, kitties!

  6. Oh, shoot. Where did I leave those mangoes? Better find them before they mutate and contact me...



I now have a share of the world's most powerful supercomputer in my living room.

Yes, we have just set up our new Playstation 3, running Folding@Home.

The protein we are working on has 333 atoms. The graphical simulation shows this big hairy-looking molecule all jittery and bouncy. Inky thinks it's fascinating... enough so that we have to leave the monitor off. :) Our first work unit will be completed this evening.

Chris is having so much fun with the technology involved in the PS3 and IBM's Cell processor, and F@H. Who needs games? (Good thing, actually. The games are still en route...)

It's neat to see a bit of the future happening, where the future is hopeful, and generous, and just plain cool. I'd attempt to dazzle you with the processing power involved, both from an individual PS3 and the F@H cluster as a whole, but if you'd know what I mean, you undoubtedly already are aware of the details, and if you don't it's just going to be a jumble of numbers and acronyms.

Way cool.


The practical, organized, part of my brain is looking for something to do, besides this silly writing stuff.

I keep telling it that this is a bad idea. But... I don't know how long I'm going to be able to resist. Next time a 'zine needs some help, or a charity is asking for volunteers, I'm afraid I might be in. Even though, I mean really, is it so bad to have some free time? What is wrong with me?

I don't need anything in particular to write, but the optimal setup seems to be that I get up, do some work-like activity for several hours until I've accomplished whatever I'm supposed to for the day. Write for a bunch of hours in the afternoon and evening, then (or interspersed with that) interact with people through text. This tricks my brain into thinking that I'm (1) accomplishing something and (2) communicating with people... even though the actual writing bit in the middle may not be doing either 1 or 2 at this moment.

I'm full up on (2), no problem. (Though LJ posts will definitely scale up as I keep writing. You must all interact with me! Please? :) ) As for practical work... not so much. I do have steady "work" but it's so totally brainless I can do it while writing. I'm just sticking stuff in a machine. Every 10 min, swap the stuff.

Once the amount of time spent writing in a day gets into double-digit hours, I start feeling antsy for something more concrete to do, too.

Up until a couple weeks ago I was studying Java/Programming structures along with a iTunes U course at Stanford... but when I upgraded to Leopard, Apple took all my Java away. I guess there's something in here I can use, but X Code scares me. :p

I'll figure something out, I'm sure. What a dumb problem to have!
Edit: A nice overworked friend has offered to provide me with something to do. Yay!

More iTunes

Bought a $15 iTunes card a while ago, and then a $50 card as my inspiration to do NaNoWriMo. If I wrote 1,000 words, I could buy a new iTune.

Alas, then I remembered why I never did NaNo all the other years. I really, really, need to plot first. After 15k of nonsensical drivel, I gave up. And bought a bunch of iTunes. :) (Last year I used NaNo to get myself to write something I'd been planning for 5 years. So that was fine.)

In order to get the "complete my album" deal on Thousand Foot Krutch's new release The Flame in All of Us I had to upgrade to iTunes plus. Previously, the iTunes plus releases were more expensive... but now they're the same 99¢ as regular iTunes. I guess it's up to the label. Still, I had to pay to upgrade all the songs which had been initially released at a higher cost... whatever. ~$16.

My big discovery on this foray into the iTunes store: Iris

I LOVE IRIS. Sooooo good. It doesn't seem like they're well known. Very unfortunate! They do synthpop, similar to Echoing Green but... maybe even better. Little bit of Texan to their sound, which... well, I don't know what that exactly means but I can tell when I hear it. The singer has a fabulous voice and the lyrics are poetic bordering on nonsensical, much like Bush/Institute. Myspace page (with sample tracks) here I bought their Wrath album, along with several singles from other albums.

And, along with those two albums -- so much for my never buying albums -- Angels and Airwaves came out with I-Empire. Just in time for me to revise The Height of Sky. How nice of them!

The remaining singles:

  • I Believe You - Celldweller

  • No Place Like Home - Mesh (UK)
    This whole album is really good, to be honest. I should probably break down and get the whole thing... grumble

  • Sophia - The Cruxshadows
    I think I might adopt this as my new theme song, replacing Fluke's Atom Bomb. Even if it is sort of ostensibly pagan... it's the sentiment that counts!

  • X-Amount of Words - Blue October
    Bought for NaNoWriMo... about a crazy person :)

  • Your Guardian Angel - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
    Wouldn't normally be the kind of song I'd buy, but it suited what I was working on

  • Become Who You Are - Mainstay

  • Supernova - The Echoing Green
    Speaking of albums I should just buy... I now have two songs off The Evergreen Collection and iTunes isn't offering me any discount. Darnit.

  • Damage - Yasuo Yamanaka & Kumi Tanioka

  • Electric de Chocobo - Nobuo Uematsu
    Yay, Chocobo music!

  • Energy - Skillet

  • Murexa - Falling Up

  • Parallel Universe - Leiahdorus

  • The Riddle - Gigi d'Agostino
    Alas, not the version which asakiyume directed me to back when. No lyrics. Bah.

  • Sorrow Expert - Iris

  • Standing Still in Time - Neuropa

  • This Dark Day - 12 Stones

  • Endless (The Echoing Green Mix) - Iris
    All too appropriate for most of my writing: "Another place without an ending..."

  • Waves Crash In (Midnight Sky Mix) - Iris

  • Halfway Till Bliss - Atlas Plug

  • Float - Bush



Laurel Amberdine

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