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ABNA Contest

Egyptian hieroglyphics
Well, it's only a small step but I entered a novel in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and it made the first round cut. The book is called Turnabout, and I tried entering it in the YA category last year and didn't make the cut. I honed the blurb (the first round is judged solely on the 300-word blurb) and switched to the science fiction category, and I made the cut this time. The contest accepts approximately 2,000 entries per category, and the first round cuts that down to about 400 or so. The next round will be announced in mid-April and will be judged based on an except consisting of the first 3,000 to 5,000 words, depending on what the author submits.

We celebrate the small victories. 


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The Big Apple

Statue of Liberty
Last week I was in New York city on business, and I managed to take time out for a sunset cruise of New York harbor, including (of course) a swing by Ellis Island and its most famous landmark.  My phone doesn't take great photos, but here is my best shot of Lady Liberty.  I had never sen her in person before. She looks darn good for her age!

Statue of Liberty

The bridges were pretty cool, too, and the skyline itself is beautiful. Because the streets are laid out in a much more uniform grid than cities like DC, there are places where there is a gap in skyline, almost like a canyon, and you can see all the way through the city. I didn't get any photos of that because my camera was too slow, but it was a neat effect.  So was the view of sailboats against the skyscrapers, which I did capture.

IMG_20130807_202705_166


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I'm on Fire (so to speak)

flames
I now have a Kindle Fire. I bought it more as a tablet than as an ereader, as I prefer reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. It's funny how we get used to convenience. I own a laptop that doesn't weigh more than a few pounds, but when I travel, lugging it around seems like a lot of work. I bought the Fire mostly for travelling, so I can browse the web, read and send email, and keep up on FaceBook and other social media without replying only on my smart phone.

On the other hand, I do like the appearance of the Fire's Kindle app in that the screen is enough bigger that justification works much better. Amazon also puts the book title as a header all the time, not just when you have the menu up, which is nice.  And for nonfiction books with illustrations, a color LCD screen is a plus. It's too big to carry all the time in my purse, though, so I will definitely keep the Paperwhite. The Fire can do the read-aloud thing, but sadly, you can't email Word files to it, so I will still hold on to the Kindle Keyboard (aka Kindle 3) for proofing my own manuscripts.


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Balticon 2013

Dealers' room
With my husband still recovering from surgery, we did a very abbreviated Balticon this year, only one day. In fact, I went to exactly one panel, which was on self-publishing. The panel was pretty good as it talked about very specific things like tools to use for conversion and how much artists get paid for covers (very little to lots, depnding on the artist and the type of cover). I would have liked more on page layout, as all anyone seemed to use was MS Word, which sucks swamp water at book layout.

It seemed to me that there were a lot more hall costumes this year, with a heavy emphasis on steampunk (see below) and also there were quite a few small children in costumes (mostly fairies and such).  We had a very nice day and got to see some of our con-going friends, and we did sign up for memberships in Capclave, which we plan to attend.

Balticon_costume


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Our WFC 2013 memberships are sold!

CB
Well, as soon as the membership rolls closed, our two memberships to the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, UK went like hotcakes. Why do we say that? Did hotcakes always sell well? I don't see why. I can't recall the last time I bought any.

In other news, my husband is recovering nicely from his latest spinal column surgery, our driveway is being replaced and widened, and the cat (see above) turned out to be not missing after all, as he was merely asleep in the basement on top of some shelving where he had figured out how to climb up but not down.


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Tower Bridge London
No, that's not the Taj Mahal. It's the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (UK), which it looks like I will not be seeing this year. Is anyone planning to attend the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton? Our plans have changed, and we now have two memberships that we would like to sell for what we paid for them. Since we signed on at WFC San Diego, we only paid $120 USD each, which is much cheaper than they're going for now (£125, which is almost $190, USD).

Brighton_Royal_Pavilion

There's a really nice guest line-up this year, including Richard Matheson, Richard Christian Matheson, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Alan Lee, Brian Aldiss , and Tessa Farmer, with China Miéville as the MC. And since it's in Britain, they're not just "Guests of Honor," they're "Guests of Honour"!

Anyone who is interested, message me or post a comment. Sigh.



 


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Handling rejection

CB
I got a rejection letter from DAW Books today. DAW is unusual in that they will accept manuscripts directly from authors, without an agent sending them—or at least they used to; I'm not positive that's still the case, because I haven't sent them a book in at least six years. That's because I got an agent about six years ago, and while she has not yet sold any of my books, she has shopped a lot of them around, and so she is the one who has been getting the rejection letters. 

DAW_Rejection_Jan2013

The letter is very nicely worded but it's clearly a form letter and doesn't even list the title of the book, so I don't know which book it is they finally  got around to reading and decided they could live without. 

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I'm back and I'm in print!

Darwin
Gosh, it has been ages since I posted here. The  LJ interface looks radically different, and I hope I can remember/figure out what to do.  

Anyway, I decided my first short story sale finally seeing the light of day was too big for me not to post about it,  My short story "Cold Comfort: (it's about a woman who gets emotionally involved with her refrigerator) appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of SPACE AND TIME agazine. I was tinkled pink to see it come out (a year or so after I sold it).

It's the last story in the issue, and it even got an illustration! Sorry, I took the pic with my cell phone so it's not great art, but what the hey!

Space_And_Time_Story 


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Book review: The Hare with Amber Eyes

books in a stack
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden InheritanceThe Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Hare with Amber Eyes
by Edmund de Waal

I don’t read much nonfiction. I like books that are stories, with a plot and a climax, and characters I can empathize with. Nonfiction often drags for me, with its insistence on sticking with real events and real people. I do read historical fiction because I like to read stories in distant places and long ago times. The Hare with Amber Eyes is the rare nonfiction book that worked for me.

Edmund de Waal is an English potter with a Dutch last name, but his grandmother was born into a fabulously wealthy family of Jewish bankers and grain merchants. The Ephrussi were contemporaries and equals of the Rothschilds, related by marriage. Originally from Odessa, they moved to Vienna and then some of the younger sons moved to Paris. Through this family, de Waal inherited a collection of 264 netsuke, small carved figures that Japanese gentlemen used to wear on their obis, rather in the manner of a watch fob. The collection included the eponymous hare with amber eyes. De Waal decided to tell the history of the various Ephrussi who had owned the netsuke, starting with his great-great-uncle Charles Ephrussi, who was, among other things, a patron of the arts and a critic in late 19th Century Paris. If you are familiar with the famous painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Charles is the man in the background, looking slightly overdressed in a top hat and black frock coat. He was a friend and patron of Renoir and other Impressionists, right at the peak of that movement in art.

In fact, as it turns out, the history of de Waal's netsuke is largely the history of the 20th Century. Charles eventually gave them as a wedding gift to a nephew who lived in Vienna, and they made the journey across Europe to take up residence in the incredibly grand Palais Ephrussi where eventually they became the playthings of de Waal’s grandmother and her siblings. From post-war Vienna they eventually made their way to England and then, amazingly, back to Japan.

Obviously, netsuke cannot speak, but de Waal has researched his well-documented family, and he describes their lives and times beautifully. When a visual and tactile artist tells a story, you would expect a level of detail that makes you feel like you are there, and de Waal does not disappoint. He clearly sees more than many of us; he never says “tree” but always linden, or elm, or oak, or whatever kind of tree it was. His history immersed me into first Paris, and then Vienna, and then Tokyo. I even forgave him his extensive use of present tense, a thing I do not forgive easily.

I should mention that I read the Kindle version, which was very clean and had only two tiny formatting errors (an excess hyphen and a space in the middle of a word). The photographs of people and places came through very well; I suspect they were all (or almost all) taken in black and white. The only thing missing from the Kindle version was the book cover! Oh, and the netsuke themselves, which do not appear in the book (not even the printed version; I know because Michael Dirda mentioned it in his review). Luckily, you can see some of them online, as well as Mr. de Waal’s pots. One thing he never mentions is that he is not just any potter, but a world-class potter with gallery showings.

All that and he wrote this fabulous book, too! I am so happy he did.



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Lego in ultraviolet
To heck with industrial robots, or dancing robots or any other kind of robots! What we need is something that will take care of all those chores around the house that no one want to do.  As a first start, a Spanish furniture company called OHEA has created a "smart bed," a bed that can make itself. If the embed code (pun!) works, here's the video from the article. 




It looks like the bed is in the video has no top sheet, not unusual in Europe, and that is requires special duvet covers to work as shown. Not as good as an actual all-purpose household robot, but it's a start!


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