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Means that you believe there's no age limit for getting an Avengers sticker as a reward for a good dental checkup.
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I tweeted the other day that I feel like a badly written timeslice algorithm--there's never enough cycles to go around. Whatever I choose to do, there are multiple other things that aren't getting done, and I never seem to catch up.

Of late my writing has been the thing shortchanged. I don't have a deadline I'm working to, and thus it's easy to focus on the other parts of my life that do come with pressing deadlines.

A while back I was invited to attend a writers retreat, and at first I was enthusiastic. Then the realities of trying to schedule this around the day job started creeping in. But in the end, I realized this was something I needed to do, for myself and for my sanity. With a little schedule juggling, I crossed my fingers and said yes. Then I went ahead and booked the plane tickets, so I'm committed.

So now I have a deadline. Three months from now I'll be hanging out with other writers, discussing our works. So I damn well better have something that I'm enthusiastic about working on and sharing.

And cross my fingers that the day job doesn't get any more insane.
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Putting together an anthology is like building one of those fiendishly complicated jigsaw puzzles where they throw in extra pieces that don't quite fit. For CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS, we received far more stories than we could possibly use, and thus this past weekend Joshua drove up from Binghamton so we could work on making our (almost) final selections.

We were in agreement on which stories were our favorites, and which ones had missed the mark. The arguments were all over the stories that fell into the middle, and we agonized over the selections.

After narrowing down the list of candidates, we started thinking about the structure of the anthology. We cut out strips of paper with the titles of each story, then arranged and rearranged them until we were satisfied. We need to start and end on our strongest stories, which are generally from our anchors. In the middle we try to separate stories by theme, tone, setting, etc. A humorous story will be followed by one with a darker tone, a story set in Europe may be followed by one set in North America, a longer piece will be offset by two shorter stories. As we starting building the table of contents, stories that had been on our list of potentials started to fall off, because they didn't fit with our other selections.

Here's a picture from when we were pondering. .

So are we ready to tell the submitting authors if they've made it in? Not quite yet. We're still waiting on one of the anchor stories. Once we have it, we'll make one more pass through the proposed lineup to make sure that everything works together, and then we'll start sending out the notifications. Then it's revisions, formatting, and finally the best part--releasing the book into the wild.

I can't wait.
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You'd think this would be obvious, but recent evidence suggests not.

First, never assume that your cover letter is going to stay attached to your manuscript. This is especially true for electronic submissions, where your attached file may be downloaded and stored separately from the email. Always include your contact info on page 1 of the submission.

Second, always include page headers with the page number and either your name or the story title, preferably both. I received multiple submissions without page headers of any kind, and it was a freaking pain in the butt when the printer spit pages on the floor and two of those stories got mixed up. Not to mention that later I'll wind up adding page numbers to make it easier to discuss the story with my co-editor, e.g. "The scene that starts on page 4 is..." What makes it even more inexplicable is that these stories were submitted in Microsoft Word where adding page headers is a basic function.

Even stranger was the story where the author had forgotten to put their name anywhere in the manuscript. Just a bare title, no name, no contact info, presumably they assumed that I'd be happy to hunt back thru the emails to figure out who had sent it in.

Finally spell check is your friend. Proofreading is your friend. Take that extra hour for one last pass before you send your story in. And if you know you're terrible at catching your own mistakes, have someone else take a look at your work.

Remember, first impressions count. A poorly formatted story sends the signal that you can't be bothered with the details, and will be difficult to work with. Don't give the editor a reason to be cranky before she reads a single line of your story. Because if it comes down to a choice between two stories that are equally good, the editor is going to pick the one that didn't make her sigh with annoyance. Trust me on this one.
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Back in 2012 when my beloved ASUS netbook died right before I was leaving on vacation, I replaced it with an ASUS Transformer, a tablet with optional keyboard attachment. The tablet works fine for websurfing and typing short bits of text. But it's always been a pain to use when you have the keyboard attached. The cursor has a habit of jumping unexpectedly as you type, and it's incredibly easy to hit the send key by accident. All my friends know that any email from me that unexpectedly ends in the middle of a sentence will be followed by another with the missing text and a string of curses directed at the ASUS. Googling revealed that I'm not the only one who has these issues--it's apparently a design problem.

And the Android operating system can be a pain--many websites assume that I'm on a mobile phone and don't give me the option to click thru to a full featured version of their website.

I've put up with this for about a year and a half, but I've finally lost my patience. So I'm looking at possible replacements, and the Microsoft Surface is at the top of the list. I don't want to join the church of Apple so an iPad is out, and I've heard good things about the Surface from friends. Though I can't help feeling guilty at the idea of replacing a tablet that is still perfectly functional--normally I only replace electronics after they have catastrophically failed.

Think tomorrow I'll head over to the store and take a look at what's available in the post-Xmas sales.
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Turns out the Yellowstone supervolcano is 2.5 times larger than previously thought (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25312674). mizkit and I agree this calls for a new Syfy movie, in the tradition of Supervolcano, Super Eruption, etc. All we need is to file the serial numbers off an old script, throw in a handful of sharks a la Sharknado, and we're good to go. We could probably write the whole thing in an afternoon.

This post started as a joke, but now I'm halfway convinced that we could do this, and get Syfy to buy the movie rights.
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What is the collective noun for a group of stories? Forest came to mind, because of all the trees represented here. Cacophony also seems appropriate, or perhaps riot, since they are currently in competition with one another for space in the CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS anthology.

Whatever we decide to call it, jpsorrow and I are keeping ourselves busy reading the stories that have come in so far, including a tall stack from my Odyssey students. The hard part will be making our final selections in January. That will require copious amounts of chocolate. And alcohol. And paintball guns at high noon in case of disagreements.
pbray: (crime)
Chemist Pleads Guilty in Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal.

Annie Dookhan pursued renown along a path of lies in depth background piece.

Estimates are forty thousand criminal cases were potentially compromised. Over one thousand cases have been dismissed or failed to be prosecuted since August 2012.

Between 2009 and 2010, the time it took Dookhan to conduct a test went down by more than half. At most work places this is the time when your boss would ask you to share your best practices with the team, so everyone could achieve the same rates of efficiency. Instead she remained the lone outlier, over twice as productive as the next best employee. By 2010 she was five times more productive than the average lab employee.

If she had kept her test numbers merely high rather than inflating them astronomically, it's likely she would never have been caught. And we'd be naive to believe she's the only bad apple in the system, and that this is the only crime lab that had inadequate supervision and a complete lack of checks & balances.
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Their best conclusion is that Gareth Williams managed to padlock himself inside a duffle bag that was placed in a bathtub, without leaving a single handprint on the bathtub, or any traces of DNA on padlock, both of which have been described elsewhere as wiped clean. Wow. I thought David Copperfield had mad skills.

Perfect crime and MI6 agent not killed.

I'd never get away with this in a book.
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This summer I was a guest lecturer at the annual Odyssey Writing Workshop. My talk was on writing a series, spanning everything from why you might want to write a series, the pros and cons of doing so, the various types of series, to plotting techniques for both individual book arcs and series arcs. Along the way I shared bits of wisdom from my own experiences and those of fellow writers on how to (and how not to) write a successful series.

The lecture has now been distilled into a two-part podcast at the Odyssey Podcasts website here. Look for podcast 67 (Part 1) and podcast 68 (Part 2).

And my thanks again to Jeanne Cavelos for inviting me back to Odyssey, and to the students who made it such a great experience.

Stay safe

Oct. 27th, 2013 07:01 pm
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Sending good thoughts to all my friends traveling to WFC, hoping the weather doesn't ruin any plans. Stay safe and have a great time.
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A friend is working with a new house publicist on their 2014 book release. For obvious reasons I will not name either friend or publisher, but the marketing plan seems to have missed the point that this essay was meant in jest Our Marketing Plan by Ellis Weiner.
pbray: (TFB_Cover)
And now for your listening enjoyment, THE CHRONICLES OF JOSAN trilogy available from Audible.

I remember when the idea for the story first came to me--it was a rainy day on the Outer Banks, and as I looked over the dunes I had this image of a windswept island, and a man standing beside a lighthouse. For days I kept turning the idea over and over in my head. Who was this man? Why was he there? And where did those goats come from?

The result was the story of Josan, a scholar who is unwillingly swept into international intrigue and discovers his soul is, perhaps literally, not his own.

More about the series )

I know many people who listen to audio books during long commutes, or while working out, and I'm thrilled that they'll now have a chance to listen to my stories.
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I've skimmed some of the diversity in SFF conversations over the last week, as they unfolded on blogs and over Twitter. I can't possibly react to everything that has been said, but I've come to realize something about my own reactions to the topic.

If you're doing it, it must not be important )

The discussions going on are useful, and they've raised a host of issues that I was only peripherally aware of. But at the same time, they are draining. Every time someone makes what I think is a reasonable statement only to then be jumped on by yahoos, it makes me angry and depressed. There's something to be said for the good old days, pre-interwebs, when you only ran into these jerks at conventions and booksignings, and they weren't invited into your (virtual) home 24x7.

I applaud those who are carrying the dialogue forward, and who are giving thought into how to craft solutions. But don't be surprised if I'm a bit scarce. I've run out of spoons.
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The town I live in has experienced two 100 year rain events this summer. I'm pretty sure they need a new scale, or perhaps they meant mayfly years. The amount of rain recorded between June 1st and August 31st was over three times the previous record for that period. Not three times average, three times the wettest summer ever recorded.

Oddly this is a fairly localized problem. The region as a whole has not experienced record breaking rains, and even the severe flooding in July was pretty much limited to within the town borders. Storms have basically parked themselves overhead and just let go. Those of my Binghamton friends who believe there is a giant bulls' eye on my dwelling may be on to something.... I'm consulting my usual sources on how to propitiate the angry rain gods.

It's been a busy weekend including painting projects and other home improvements, a luau Saturday night (indoors because of rain although it dried up enough that we were able to sit around the firepit later in the evening.) And last night was the Ghost Shark viewing party, done MST3K style, with a variety of shark inspired cocktails and food stuffs--Jen and Chris outdid themselves with the shark-watermelon.

This morning I woke up to heavy rain and flash flood alerts--not surprising given how much rain has fallen in the last week. Trying to decide what I'll do today-- a morning bike ride is out, obviously, and even if the rain stops, the trails will be too muddy for hiking. It may be a day for the movies, or visiting a brewpub.
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Really thoughtful post on the "Strong Female Characters" trope. I hate Strong Female Characters by Sophia McDougall. Thanks to Juliet for sharing the link.
pbray: (znb)
Team humans or Team Aliens? Team Patricia or Team Joshua? You have until Friday morning at 11:56 EDT to join our army of supporters by backing Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens edited by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier. The anthology will include stories by Bradley Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Scott Lynch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, Ian Tregillis, and others.

We've already reached the minimum funding level so the project is a go. Now we're on the bonus jeopardy rounds, with cool extra awards being unlocked. Make your pledge and reserve your copy now, and we'll add your name to the list of those who will be under our protection when the zombie hordes begin their rampage.
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My sister called me to share her most recent tale of woe-- her daughter has decided that it's simply not cool to have her mom enjoy the same books that she does, so she wants my sister to immediately stop reading anything that comes from the YA side of the bookstore. Which is a problem since they're mid-series on a few of these and have been passing volumes back and forth. And my sister refuses to buy duplicate copies of books she's already paid for, simply because her daughter has taken to hiding the originals.

They've now entered the stage where threats of reduced book buying allowances have been met with counterthreats to borrow books from the library and friends instead and hide those as well. I spent most of the phone call making sympathetic noises while trying not to burst out laughing. Honestly, I understand the pain of someone who has just finished volume three and desperately needs to read volume four to discover how everything turns out. But at the same time, if a teenager is going to pick a fight with her mom, having it be about books is a pretty good problem to have.
pbray: (writer)
Isn't it shiny? The proposed cover for CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs. ALIENS featuring the gorgeous artwork by Alex Broeckel.

Preliminary cover for Clockwork Universe anthology

This is preliminary because we're still tweaking the backcover copy. And, of course, the list of authors won't be final until we've selected the remaining seven authors whose stories will round out the anthology.

And in case you've somehow missed hearing this, there are only 9 days left before the Kickstarter closes. Visit the kickstarter webpage to learn how you can preorder your copy.
pbray: (Default)
Isn't it shiny? The proposed cover for CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs. ALIENS featuring the gorgeous artwork by Alex Broeckel.

Preliminary cover for Clockwork Universe anthology

This is preliminary because we're still tweaking the backcover copy. And, of course, the list of authors won't be final until we've selected the remaining seven authors whose stories will round out the anthology.

And in case you've somehow missed hearing this, there are only 9 days left before the Kickstarter closes. Visit the kickstarter webpage to learn how you can preorder your copy.

August 2017



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