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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Scribbler’s Scoreboard, Oct ’10

Technology robs us of some great entertainment.

October was a little more eventful than I expected. Two sales, and about 20000 words written on my sequel to The Muse, tentatively titled, The Seer, which I will finish in November.

I heard that. Stop laughing! I will finish it! Or die trying!

The two story sales are “Promises,” a superhero romance scheduled to appear in the March issue of Big Pulp,  and “The Transfer,” a science-fiction flash that went to Every Day Fiction, publication date TBD.

The October Scoreboard

12 Oct: “The Transfer” submitted to Every Day Fiction

29 Oct: 17-day acceptance from Every Day Fiction for “The Transfer”

30 Oct: 57-day acceptance from Big Pulp for “Promises”

Still waiting on a response from Digital Dragon for “One”

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Writing

 

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Weekly Weimaraner, #5

When Josie naps, she naps hard. She’s found a cozy spot in our laundry basket, which won’t fit her much longer.

Why my clothes smell like puppy breath.

 

I’ve also noticed a haunting resemblance to a certain famous canine. Coincidence? I think not!

Perhaps this celebrity is lurking in her family tree.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Family

 

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I Found a Cool Story the Other Day, #14

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, looking like it’s far too few fish…

If you’re one of those folks who sits in the back pew at church and texts during the sermon (that’s right, buddy, I’m looking at you, because I would never do that), give a listen to this fresh and cool series of homilies podcast by Lutheran pastor, spec-fic writer, and all-around cultural raconteur, John W. Otte.

Homiletics can be fun, but you have to know how.

Rev. Otte uses the works of that understated literary genius Theodore Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss, as a springboard, and the result is both entertaining and profound. From Green Eggs and Ham to Ten Apples Up on Top, we’re challenged to examine our assumptions about life a little more closely.

As Jesus demonstrated, all great sermons begin with a story, and all great stories provide a window into truth that is both timely and timeless. It’s a match made in heaven.

Here’s a link that will pull up all the podcasts in the series. Start with 26 September, and scroll your way up through the end of October.

And here’s a link to John’s always-worth-reading blog.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Faith, Podcasts, Writing

 

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What’s Going On, 10/25/2010

Burning the Midnight Oil at Both Ends of the Candle: One week to go on my last work trip of the year. I am very, very tired of being away from my family, and manning the night shift doesn’t help my frame of mind. On the plus side, I’ve had quiet time to write, and cool evenings to run.

I’m making steady, if slow, progress on The Seer, my sequel to The Muse Though I don’t expect to finish the first draft by month’s end, I’ll be past the halfway point, with the finish line visible in the distance. I have to keep reminding myself that novel writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s also all-consuming. I’ve been absent from my regular online writing forums, and mostly marking time on my blog. I’ll have to bow out again on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour, too. It seems I always have to drop a ball or two to keep the rest of them in the air.

I Have Seen the Future, and It’s 1984: For a country that enshrines freedom of speech in the First Amendment to its Constitution, we sure do spend a lot of time censoring ourselves.  The recent brouhaha involving some blog comments from sci-fi writer Elizabeth Moon about the proposed Islamic Center near the 9/11 Ground Zero in New York resulted in her ouster as Guest of Honor at next year’s WisCon feminist SF convention. I hate to see this sort of thing happen, particularly in the speculative fiction community. If the people writing about our future think suppressing controversial speech (or at least, speech they don’t agree with) is a good thing, that’s worrisome. George Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a cultural guidebook.

Ms. Moon is a writer of some note, so I’m sure she’ll survive this, and as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Some folks are already counter-protesting by purchasing as many of her books as they can find.

As for myself, I’ll continue to keep my private political opinions mostly private, not that they’re awfully coherent anyhow.

On a related note, at Rebecca Miller’s A Christian Worldview of Fiction, there was a back-and-forth about “adult content” such as coarse language, explicit sex, immoral behavior, etc, and its appropriate use, if any, in Christian fiction. I elected not to weigh in, but I blogged my position on the language piece of this issue here a while ago, and I think it applies to the broader issue of portraying “warts and all” humanity as a Christian writer.

Is tailoring your writing to the needs of your audience the same as censorship? Beats me. I do think there’s a big difference between self-censorship and a suppression of language and ideas which is imposed by external agencies. It’s the difference between freedom and tyranny.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Writing

 

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Book Review: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

In the seedy lobby of an old hotel in the Sierra Madre, an American journalist finds the legendary Caballo Blanco, and it will change his life forever.

No, this isn’t a tale of the old west, a spy thriller, or an advertisement for Mexican distilled spirits. It’s not fiction, genre or otherwise, though many of the characters are larger-than-life and their exploits are, by any measure, superhuman.

Born to Run is a story about running. Surprise.

Christopher MacDougall is a former Associated Press reporter, sometime freelance writer, and past-his-prime athlete who is launched on a remarkable odyssey by a rather mundane problem. He’s out of shape and trying to get himself back into condition, but he invariably injures himself just as he’s beginning to make progress. After a few less-than-helpful trips to the doctor, he begins to wonder how anybody can run without hurting themselves, and why anybody would want to run if it’s the fast track to crippling injury.

These questions lead him into the world of extreme long-distance running, where races of 50 to 100 miles or more across torturous terrain are the norm. He encounters some incredible athletes and unique personalities, discovers a few odd things about human performance in situations where endurance trumps speed, and begins to hear whispers of a tribe of extraordinary running savants in the mountains of Mexico–the Tarahumara, the “Running People.” They eat 100-mile runs for breakfast, continue running well into their geriatric years, and are almost supernaturally immune to both injury and illness. Some say they hunt deer by running them to death.

Before long, McDougall is trekking through the Copper Canyons, pondering his motives and chances of survival in a desert maze of  sheer, rocky precipices–the lair of historical outlaws Geronimo and Pancho Villa, and the home turf of modern drug runners. In his search for the Tarahumara, he hears rumors of the ghostly Caballo Blanco, the White Horse, a crazy gringo with a connection to the reclusive Running People. It turns out Caballo Blanco is much more than a campfire story, and he becomes the link between the Tarahumara and an assortment of American ultradistance runners who long to know their secrets and test their skills against the legendary tribe.

Along the way from the U.S. to Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to Death Valley, McDougall learns a lot about the physiology of running, why humans are better adapted for long distance running than any other creature on Earth, what the Tarahumara do right that we do wrong, and the compelling stories of a host of people who run ridiculously long distances under ridiculous conditions for the sheer joy of it. He also discovers a connection between running and community, and why, for the long-distance runner, compassion might be just as important as conditioning.

The story wraps up with a dream-team throwdown race through the Copper Canyons between the Tarahumara and the Americans, and a bittersweet ending that acknowledges the twilight of a culture slowly eroding beneath the advance of civilization and the encroachment of Mexican drug gangs–a world in which the Tarahumara may no longer be fast enough to outrun their enemies.

This was a good read. A colleague tossed this in front of me during a work trip in the middle of the night shift, and I chewed through it in about three hours of nonstop racing, er, reading. It kept me awake and alert at 3 am, and that’s no small achievement.

McDougall tells an engaging story with plenty of humor and heart, leavened with enough science and investigative journalism to make this much more than a love letter to mountain trails and the people who run them. If you’ve got a runner or any other flavor of athlete on your Christmas list, get them a copy of this book. You won’t be sorry.

There are a few bits of coarse language sprinkled through the narrative, and these extreme athletes also enjoy extreme partying, giving some passages a sort of college frat vibe. So, I don’t recommend this book for kids. They’re not the target audience anyhow. Mid 20’s and up will probably like it just fine.

There’s some advocacy of minimalist running footwear and a variety of vegan-ish performance diet recommendations that are controversial at least and faddish at worst. The scientific court is out on much of this stuff, so though a lot of the incidental advice in Born to Run makes sense, I wouldn’t use it as a model for any sudden adjustments to your workout patterns, running stride, or daily menu without professional advice. Just sayin’.

Mr. McDougall has a tres cool website with lots of bonus info related to the book, photos of the people and places within, and much more. Check it out.

Chris McDougall’s blog. Also tres cool.

There’s also a fan club site where you can discuss the merits of barefoot running and parched corn with other like-minded individuals.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

Disgraced archaeologist Mitch Rafelson follows a pair of relic hunters across a glacier to a cave in the Alps that contains an impossible secret.

Biologist Kaye Lang investigates a mass grave near Geordi, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and makes a startling discovery.

Officials at the CDC struggle to comprehend a strange new disease killing expectant mothers and their babies.

Three events more intimately related than anyone might imagine. Something is rewriting our genetic blueprint, and time is running out for the human race.

In his Nebula Award-winning novel, Darwin’s Radio, Greg Bear spins a globe-spanning tale that is one part apocalyptic thriller, one part near-future speculation, and one part meditation on the nature of humanity and the forces that drive us to adapt and thrive in a constantly-changing world.

How might coping with changes in our environment change us? What adaptations might be necessary? While the evolutionary mantra is “adapt or die,” Bear draws our attention to the fact that it’s easier said than done. Human beings don’t take kindly to change, and when, in Darwin’s Radio, evolution gets up-close and personal,  society begins to crumble.

Perhaps more terrifying than the relentless progress of a genetic disease is the response of the federal health authorities and the scientific establishment. For the government bureaucrats, the first priority is protecting their own interests. Science takes a back seat to political expediency, even as the crisis spirals out of control. As for the scientists, the idea that our future as a species might be determined by something more sophisticated and intentional than random chance or brute-force competition gives them a collective case of the vapors. Even as the evidence stacks up for something disturbingly intelligent behind the new epidemic, they cling to the comfort of timeworn paradigms about how biological change happens.

The story shines in its well-researched speculations about human genetics, but follows the familiar formulas of the scientific thriller until Kaye Lang decides to become her own research subject. As she applies her intellect and skills to make sense of what exactly is going on, she finds herself swept along in the tide of forces physical and emotional that defy rational analysis. She begins to realize that nothing can stop the change that is coming, and fighting it may be precisely the wrong answer. At this point, the story really starts to wrestle not only with what might happen, but with what it could mean to us as individuals.

It’s a gripping and very emotional story. A few characters border on cliche’, like the self-interested government bureaucrats, corrupt scientists scrambling for research funding, and those eternal bogeymen of scientific “progress,” fundamentalist Christian demagogues.

National governments promote abortion as a solution to the impact of the disease on the unborn, presumptively condemning an entire generation of children to death, but a groundswell of opposition to this policy arises and is sympathetically depicted. The ultimate message of the story is unambiguously pro-life.

Despite the caricatures, I found it striking that it was the idea of a design behind human creation and development that gave the scientific community their most profound shivers. It didn’t seem to matter whether the source was God, some unfathomable intelligence, or an emergent process of our own genetic hardware, the scientists to a man (or woman) fought the idea of anything beyond aimless random chance guiding the biological fate of humanity, to their last tooth and nail. I don’t think Bear is far off the mark in depicting that reaction. When science stops searching for truth and chooses instead to defend conventional thought and the status quo against all challenges, it stops being science and becomes something quite irrational, a religion without a moral compass, particularly dangerous in the kind of crisis described in Darwin’s Radio.

The ending screams for a sequel, and there is one: Darwin’s Children. Perhaps I’ll get to it sooner than I did Darwin’s Radio. Hey, it could happen.

I’d rate this at an R for adult situations, some explicit sexuality, and some rough language. Not for kids.

Darwin’s Radio (barnesandnoble.com link)

Greg Bear’s website

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

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Weekly Weimaraner, #4

Glamor shot! Josie’s sitting pretty, but check out the eyes. It’s the old Weimar Mind Trick. “You will surrender all your Milk Bones to me…”

Mind-bendingly cute.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Family

 

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