swan_tower: (natural history)

Are you impatient? I know I am. <g>

In preparation for the book’s release, I’ve spiffed up its page on my site. The opening chapter excerpt is now posted there (if you didn’t read it already on Tor.com), and there’s a page that will collect all the blog posts I make about the book, etc. And, for something entirely fresh, I’ve also posted the soundtrack — though that comes with the usual warning that, while I have done my best to minimize spoilers in the track titles, they do still provide some clues, however tiney, about the novel’s plot. For them as likes that kind of thing, go and see what you can divine? For them as prefers to come at the book entirely unspoiled, you may want to hold off on looking at that page, just in case.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Month two of the New Worlds Patreon kicks off with a look behind the scenes at my super-easy approach to making languages look real. Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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If you’re intending to bail from LJ due to the changes in the terms of service but want to go on reading my blog, your options are:

1) my website
2) its DW mirror

When it comes to commenting, my personal preference is for the original home, i.e. my website. That’s the place I control, and the home of my blog in the eyes of anyone who googles my name; it would honestly be nice to have more of the discussion happening over there. I recommend Feedly as a service for all your blog-following needs, mine or anyone else’s; all you have to do is click “add content” and paste in a URL to follow a WP blog, DW, LJ, whatever you like. (There are more bells and whistles, but that’s the core of it.) On the other hand, I know many of you like the LJ/DW style interface and would prefer to stick with that, so rest assured, I’ll continue to read and respond to comments on the mirrored posts.

. . . I’ll even fix my damn theme so the text around the comment box is readable instead of accidentally being white-on-white. Like I’ve meant to do for, um, years.

I am not at present intending to drop the cross-posting to LJ, but it sounds like many of you will be shifting to DW or elsewhere, so the comment threads are likely to get a lot quieter. For my own part, I suspect I’m going to be reading everything through Feedly from now on, regardless of where it’s hosted.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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In preparation for Within the Sanctuary of Wings coming out on the 25th, the Kindle edition of A Natural History of Dragons is on sale for 99 cents right now through Amazon UK.

Also, the first of several blog posts has just gone live: “Beyond the Concrete Jungle,” in which I talk about setting my story in a variety of non-generic-temperate environments (and my near-total ignorance of nature). Should be of particular interest to New Worlds readers!

Finally, last call for icons! An ARC of the book could be yours . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’m trying to pick a song to serve as the “soundtrack” to a certain aspect of one of the games I’m in, and I’m coming up empty. So I turn to you, o internets, for recommendations!

The thing I’m trying to set to music is a situation where two character who both have a crap-ton of secrets (including false identities) are going through kind of a fencing match/cat-and-mouse game of figuring each other out and maybe developing something resembling trust. In a perfect world, the song for this would be a male/female duet, but that’s icing on the cake if I can get it; mostly I just need a song that fits the concept. Or, if I can’t get suitable lyrics, something instrumental that is both lush and a little playful. (With a library of over 17000 songs, you’d think I would be able to find something that fits. But nothing has clicked: the closest I’ve come is “Qué Viyéra,” which still isn’t quite right.)

Any suggestions?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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(If you prefer to avoid discussions of weight and fitness, skip this post.)

According to the scale at my gym, I’ve lost 21 lbs since I decided that the slow, decade-long upward creep of my weight was not a good thing, and probably shouldn’t continue unchecked.

It’s taken me twenty-one months to achieve that result — nearly two years. This is not the kind of progress that will get anybody’s attention if you advertise it on TV. On the other hand, it’s sustainable. Not constant; Christmas always reverses the trend a bit, and so does Girl Scout cookie season. But my goal here was to change my life in ways that would allow me to still enjoy the things I like, instead of having to cut them out entirely. Because you know what? Short of me developing a sudden and deathly allergy to chocolate, there is no world in which I’m swearing off Thin Mints for life. Any plan for my body predicated on such a ban is doomed to fail.

Which is why nothing I’ve done in the last two years could be called a “diet.” We’ve got growing mountains of evidence that such an approach is often unsuccessful, or even counter-productive, and I know I couldn’t make it stick even if I wanted to. The closest I come is telling myself that I only get to eat two Tagalongs a day, not half a box in a sitting. (I still eat the whole box. I just take my time.) And as I’ve gotten more willing to cook, I’m finding tasty recipes that are also healthier — but when asked what comfort food I wanted after my wrist surgery, it was grilled cheese sandwiches, yo. I’m not completely denying myself the things I like.

What I have done is walk.

Lots and lots of walking. “Buy a Fitbit and make a daily goal on Habitica for ten thousand steps a day” walking. “Hmmm, it’s 11:30 and five more minutes will get me to fourteen thousand for today” walking. “Run those errands on foot if it isn’t raining” walking. “Put a treadmill under my desk and walk on it while I’m dealing with email and reading random things online” walking. There are some pretty unfortunate correlations between sitting on your butt all day and decreased life expectancy; spending more of my time in motion is a goal in its own right, quite apart from the effect it’s had on my weight. I also do karate, and I was doing some weight-lifting before the wrist problems made me swear off that for a bit, but mostly? I walk. Miles every day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once to have an effect. And while walking/running as a dedicated activity works for some people, I’m more likely to get it done if it’s integrated with other things I’m doing — hence the errands and the email and all the rest.

Like I said. Sustainable. It means my results are slower, but nearly two years on, they’re still going. And that makes me quite happy.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Another month begins; another tikkun olam post.

It may sound odd, but the above quote makes me think of something two friends of mine once said at the beginning of a LARP they were running. They pointed out that if you come into a game with your main goal being to have fun, then there’s one person working to make sure you enjoy yourself. But if everybody comes into game with their main goal being to help other players have fun, then you have a whole bunch of people workign to make sure you enjoy yourself. So it is with the world: if you only try to help yourself, that’s one person. If we all try to help each other . . . yeah.

Share that help with the world. Volunteer work, donations in money or kind, acts of kindness, anything you’ve done to repair the world. No act too small. Repeated and ongoing acts welcome. Any good is good.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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It’s the fifth Friday of the month and I only promised four New Worlds essays per, but since the first post was mostly just an introduction, you get five this month. For future months, I’ve added a funding goal to cover those months where there ought to be five. In the meanwhile — and on the topic of weeks and months — let’s talk about measuring time!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)

In the never-ending attempt to keep my stock of author copies under control, I’m offering up three copies apiece of Voyage of the Basilisk and In the Labyrinth of Drakes. You’ve got about three days left to enter!

Also, I’m still looking for icons! Renewing the call not because I haven’t been offered a good selection, but because I want to give more people a chance to win the two Advance Reader Copies of Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Get your image manipulating on and maybe get a book!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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My sister and I went to see the Power Rangers movie this past weekend.

You may think this was due to some nostalgia on my part. It’s not: I never watched the show, never had any of the toys, only vaguely knew it was a thing. My previous attachment to Power Rangers was nil. But the trailer looked fun and I’d done a whole lotta adulting over the previous couple of days, so off we went, even though my sister said that “everything Haim Saban touches is covered in a layer of Cheez Whiz.”

This led to us formulating the Cheese Theory of Adaptations.

At the low end you have something like the G.I. Joe movie. Was it cheesy? Yes — but it wasn’t good cheese. In fact, it was pre-sliced American cheese, and we’re not even sure the film-makers remembered to take off the plastic wrapper before offering it to us.

On the high end you have the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Which is also incredibly cheesey — but you find yourself saying, “dude, is this gruyere?” We’re talking high-quality cheese here, folks. The sort you can eat without feeling ill afterward, and even want to eat again.

The Power Rangers movie isn’t gruyere, but my sister and I agreed that it’s a good, decent cheddar. The weakest part of it was the obligatory Mecha Smash Fight at the end; by putting all the heroes into mecha, you restrict 90% of their opportunities to act, because the close-up shots of them mostly consist of them talking and then being shaken around their cockpits. But the good news is that the mecha part only comes at the very end of the movie, because the writers were far more interested in spending time on character development. These Power Rangers are a bunch of messed-up kids, and they aren’t able to “morph” (manifest their color-coded suits of armor) or control the mecha until they sort out some of their messes. That runs the risk of being pat — an After-School Special kind of story — but it isn’t, because “sort out” isn’t the same thing as “get over.” Nobody learns a Very Important Lesson and is thereafter rid of all their issues. Resolution comes in the form of honesty, of admitting they’ve got problems and trusting one another with their secrets. It lends weight to the idea that they have to work as a team; you can’t do that when you’re afraid to show your true self to your teammates, very real warts and all.

And there’s something to be said for throwing your entertainment dollars at a movie that shows a broad cross-section of the teenaged world. The Red Ranger and team leader appears to be your usual whitebread sports hero (and in the TV series that’s apparently what he was), but he’s got a history of sabotaging himself in disastrous ways; the introductory scene ends with him wearing a police-issued ankle monitor after a high-speed chase and subsequent wreck. He’s the only white member of the team. The actress playing the Pink Ranger (whose color palette has shifted closer to the purple end of the spectrum) is half-Gujarati, and her character is in trouble for having forwarded a sexually explicit photo of her friend to a guy at school. The movie shifts things around so that the black character is no longer also the Black Ranger; he’s the Blue Ranger instead, and on the autism spectrum, while the Black Ranger is Chinese-American and taking care of his seriously ill mother. Finally, there’s been a fair bit of press around the fact that the Yellow Ranger (played by a Latina actress) is the first LGBTQ superhero in a feature film.

So like I said: a good, decent cheddar. The characters are vivid and interesting, their problems feel very real, and the resolution on that front isn’t too tidy or simplistic. The villain and the throwdown with her are the least interesting parts of the whole shebang, but they don’t take up too much of it overall. It was a fun way to spend my Sunday afternoon.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I realized recently that not only do I not have an icon for Within the Sanctuary of Wings, I don’t have one for In the Labyrinth of Drakes, either.

So! I have two ARCs of Sanctuary to offer in exchange for people making me pretty icons out of the cover art for those books. You can find the full images for Labyrinth here and Sanctuary here. The icons need to be 100×100 pixels and contain the titles of the books; beyond that, arrange ’em however you like. I’ll pick two recips out of everyone who sends me an icon — so if you want the book early, fire up your mouse!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)

It isn’t nice to taunt . . . and you still have nearly five weeks to wait before the novel itself can be in your hands. But if you need your appetite whetted just that little bit more, Tor has posted the first chapter of Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

April 25th. If you think you’re chewing your fingernails off, know that mine went away months ago!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll keep this short and to the point.

The intended replacement for the Affordable Care Act is going to kill people.

It sounds melodramatic — but it’s true. It will leave an estimated 24 million Americans without insurance (compared to the ACA), which will make it extremely difficult for them to afford healthcare. It cripples Medicaid, because poor people don’t deserve to be healthy, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, because children only matter while they’re fetuses — oh wait, insurers wouldn’t be required to cover maternity care, either. Nor birth control. Nor gynecological exams. And we all know what the right wing wants to do to Roe v. Wade. So you’re having that baby whether you like it or not, but don’t expect any support from conception until after your kid has graduated. Guess you should have kept your legs closed, bitch.

Call your elected officials. Call them until you get through, because their lines are swamped, and it may take you a while. Especially if you’re represented by a Republican in either chamber, for the love of god, call them. A number of them are already wavering; they know this is bad. But this isn’t the kind of bad where it’s okay to let it happen and let them reap the consequences later, because for them, the consequences will be that maybe they get voted out of office two or four years down the road. For other people, the consequences will literally be death. They need to hear voices telling them not to do it, before we get that far.

For the sake of the millions of people who will be hurt by this, speak up. Make your voice heard. Make a difference.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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My second Patreon post — first if you don’t count the introductory riff — is now live at Book View Cafe! Comment there, or head over to my Patreon page to become a patron yourself.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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After a hiatus following the completion of Dice Tales, I’m back to blogging at Book View Cafe, this time with a series I’m calling New Worlds. I’m putting ten years of anthropology education to good use by writing about worldbuilding: different aspects of setting and society that can make for an interesting story, with copious examples drawn from the wide array of places and time periods I’ve studied. The introductory post is up now, and the series will continue every Friday until I run out of things to say.

But wait — there’s more!

Those of you who have already clicked through to that post will have seen that this is a Patreon-funded project. That’s right — I’m taking the plunge into the subscription model of crowdfunding. The Patreon page has details, but the short form is that by backing the project, you can get photos, ebooks, extra essays, or more personalized rewards: the opportunity to request that I cover topics of your choice, feedback on your own worldbuilding questions, or even story critiques. More complete details on the reward levels are posted here. The Patreon is set up so that the subscription is per month, not per creation, and you can change your backing level at any time.

If you have any questions, drop me a line!

Patreon banner saying "This post is brought to you by my imaginative backers at Patreon. To join their ranks, click here!"

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: a headshot of Clearbrook from the comic book series Elfquest (Clearbrook)

(This is part of my Elfquest re-read. There will be spoilers.)

It’s tempting to see Winnowill as an aberration, because in many ways she is. No character in this series, be they elven, human, troll, or Preserver, ever comes close to her level of persistent malice. But in focusing on her, it’s easy to lose sight of something else:

The Gliders as a whole are seriously messed up.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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During the event I went to at a local mosque a few months ago, one of the visiting religious leaders recited a poem that, upon googling, I find attributed to Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle to shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win
We made a circle that drew him in.

It’s a sentiment to keep in mind these days: solidarity, inclusiveness, answering condemnation with love.

This is our monthly tikkun olam post, a place to share your efforts to repair the world and take heart from the efforts of others. The usual principles apply: nothing is too small to share. Ongoing things are good, too; don’t feel like everything you say here has to be some new undertaking. If you’ve made donations of money or supplies, volunteered your time somewhere, helped out a neighbor, changed your life to be better for those around you, or otherwise done something to make the world a better place and counteract the forces pushing it in the other direction, share it here. It reminds you of the good you’ve done, gives you a chance to see the good of others, and may inspire you to new efforts you hadn’t thought of before.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: a headshot of Clearbrook from the comic book series Elfquest (Clearbrook)

(This is part of my Elfquest re-read. There will be spoilers.)

I can’t think of any character in this entire series who more strongly merits their own post, with the possible exception of Two-Edge.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Wanna know how Lady Trent’s story concludes — before the book hits the shelves?

This Wednesday, March 1st, I’ll be giving away an advance reader copy to one newsletter subscriber. If you’re already signed up, you’re set; if you aren’t, you can do that here.

And when I went on Twitter to post about the giveaway, I saw I’m quite close to having two thousand followers. When I hit the magical 2K, I’ll also pick one Twitter follower to receive an ARC. I’m @swan_tower over there, if you’re interested.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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