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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Guest Post by author Emlyn Chand -- belatedly posted with my apologies

[I'm terribly sorry that this failed to post back when I thought I'd posted it. I hope late is better than never.]

Let's face it - the publishing industry is changing. We can all pretty much agree on that, right?

What we've got on our hands is an oncoming era of enlightenment (I prefer that to the often-touted “revolution”). ‘T wasn’t long ago that being a self-published author was practically as shocking and horrific as being a witch in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1700.

“What damnation have you wrought upon yourself? Upon us all?” The traditional pub villagers would cry as they rushed for their pitch forks and torches. “Be gone with you, unnatural creatures!”

And those unkind words were enough to send us packing. They didn’t have to chase us out of the village, for we never had any real magic, we were never any real threat.

Until…

We opened our eyes. We saw the true powers we possessed, and we saw the villagers for what they lacked.

We are able to manipulate our circumstances. We have more control than any who’ve gone before us. Self-publishing truly is magic.

But we can’t just walk around all blasé, showing off our green skin and harry warts while levitating our way through the park. That would be a mistake. We need to put on a little bit of concealer and keep our feet on the ground. We wouldn’t want to scare them away.

Similarly, a self-published or indie author needs to put on a bit of a show. We need to know when to conform to the “village” way of life and when to do our own damn thang. If we can get them to come in for a closer look, they might understand our allure. Then they’ll stop being so afraid.

Our make-up isn’t Maybelline to cover that green skin (I ♥ you, Elphaba). No. We apply our foundation by writing a truly fetching and well-edited manuscript. We dab on the blush when we take the time and expense needed to don an attractive book cover. Our lipstick is a professional, personal, and functional web presence.

Don’t we look pretty? We do, I tell you. And we’re all the more beautiful for knowing that we possess something so much deeper within: creativity, stick-to-it-ness, bravery, and of course – magic.

If you really examine the state of the publishing industry, it’s not the traditional house execs that populate the villages. Oh, they’re definitely the mayors, the cryers, and a few other choice townspeople. But if you want to see who lives in the village, go and knock on a few doors.

It’s the readers, bibliophiles, book addicts. They’re the ones who built this town. The mayor would have no village to govern if ‘tweren’t for them.

And thank God for it!

We arrived on their doorsteps – beaten, bloody, in need of a hot meal and a bit of rest. They may have been put off by our bedraggled appearance, but they ultimately let us in and showed us the true nature of their hospitality.

I kind of like this town; I think I’ll move in ;-)

 

Blog Tour Notes 

[edited due to belated posting]



THE BOOK:  Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t.  When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback edition will be available on November 24 (for the author’s birthday).

THE AUTHOR:  Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit www.emlynchand.com for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!

MORE FUN: There's more fun below. Watch the live action Farsighted book trailer and take the quiz to find out which character is most like you!

 

 


Caroline Cooney and George Eliot

[I started this post in 2007 and never finished it, though I thought I had. I've tweaked the beginning and gone on from there.]

Some years ago, I discovered a writer for teens/young adults named Caroline Cooney. One of her better-known books, which my daughter picked up at a book sale, is The Face on the Milk Carton, about a girl who discovers she was abducted as a toddler and as a consequence, has to reexamine and reinterpret her life. I liked it enough to read the three sequels.

In that series, and even more explicitly in some of her other books, Cooney unflinchingly faces the terrifying fact that our actions can have irrevocable consequences. The only other author I can recall reading who does the same is George Eliot, the 19th century novelist most famous for Middlemarch. The novel featuring this theme most directly, however, is Adam Bede.

If you've read the work of either author, you might want to check out the other.

Wanted: pithy label for appeasers

(This is the first resurrected draft from the list of drafts I recently found on Blogger. I thought I'd published it in 2007.)

We need a pithy and evocative label for a sizable percentage of those in politics and the media. I mean the folks who preach and/or practice appeasement of those Muslims who insist on worldwide observance of Islamic prohibitions and preferences.

"Surrender monkeys" sounds too juvenile, and it's been used before. Besides, a single word would be best.

Ideas?

Release Day! for Book Three in the Twin-Bred series and the series boxed set

Today is Release Day times two: for a new book and a series collection!

Leaders, Book Three in the Twin-Bred series, is now available in paperback and ebook formats. Here’s the cover, designed by David Leek.



The ebook is available on Amazon, Kobobooks, the Apple store, Google Play, the Nook Store, and Smashwords. You can pick up the paperback online from Amazon or from Barnes and Noble. Various buy links are available on my website. (The website doesn't have the Nook Store link yet, since it's brand new -- but here it is.)

It’s a bit tricky to announce the latest book in a series without spoilers for the earlier books. If you’ve read Twin-Bred and Reach, then head on over to one of the above-mentioned retailers for a description. Here’s one.

If you’re new to the series (and vice-versa), here’s an introduction.
-------

Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? This is the question that launched the Twin-Bred series.

As the series begins, humans have lived on Tofarn, planet of creeks and rivers, for seventy years, but they still don't understand the Tofa. The Tofa are an enigma, from their featureless faces to the four arms that sometimes seem to be five. They take arbitrary umbrage at the simplest human activities, while annoying their human neighbors in seemingly pointless ways. The next infuriating, inexplicable incident may explode into war.

Scientist Mara Cadell's radical proposal: that host mothers carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara knows about the bond between twins: her own twin, Levi, died in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?

The saga continues in Reach, Book Two, and in the newly released Leaders, Book Three.

--------

I've also published two excerpts on this blog, both yesterday. They contain spoilers from the first two books -- but if you've read those, dive in!

To make it easier for people to start the series, I’ve put together a virtual “boxed set” of the three ebooks. I can’t get over this lovely cover! also by David Leek. (My very talented elder daughter Livali Wyle did the illustration.) 



This set is available on Amazon and Google Play, will be propagating elsewhere in the ebook marketplace over the next few days.


And now, a plea: if, in the past, you’ve read and reviewed Twin-Bred or Reach, please consider leaving that review, with or without tweaks, for the series collection as well. And of course, reviews for Leaders, on its page and/or the series page, will be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fourteen neglected drafts

As I pottered around this evening, tweaking the post I've scheduled for the morning, I stumbled upon a mysterious list on the left-hand margin. "Drafts"??

Somehow, I've apparently failed to publish fourteen posts over the years. Except for one duplication, all of them look like posts I intended to publish and thought I had published. Good grief!

I'll be revisiting these over the next few days, and will probably tweak and publish at least some of them. Stay tuned . . . and if you use Blogger, check the left margin. Who knows what you may have waiting?

Another excerpt from the new Twin-Bred book, again with spoilers for the earlier books

This is the second of two posts containing excerpts from the book I'm releasing tomorrow -- well, one of the books.

As I said in the previous post, Thursday, May 26th, is a dual release day: for Leaders, the third book in the Twin-Bred series, and for the series' virtual boxed set. I'd like bloggers to be able to include an excerpt from Leaders, but such an excerpt is almost guaranteed to include some spoilers for the first two books. Of course, if you've read those books, that's fine. So here's a short excerpt, a teaser of sorts, for those returning to the series. It comes at the end of Chapter 1.








[spoiler space]












Ton-lal-set, deposed Eminence of the Southern Region, leaned against the corner of his cell, draped in chains, and pondered his chances. He had survived many panel reviews, but had never been informed what considerations led the panel to keep him alive on any or all of those occasions. This might be the day his execution was finally decreed.

Had Jak-rad even known that his fate was being discussed, and his possible execution deferred, during his periods of imprisonment? Had he realized he was being evaluated, not simply interrogated? If only the panel had eliminated that mutated menace as they could and should have done, all the catastrophes that followed would have been prevented, and Ton-lal-set might by now be leading his own, purely Tofa expedition to the stars!

Ton-lal-set vaguely recalled, from his days as host mother at the Twin-Bred project, that the humans had quite a different penal system. When panels met periodically to consider the fate of a human prisoner, they were deciding whether to release the prisoner before a maximum sentence had expired. How typical of humans, with their vacillating and sentimentality! But where his own fate was concerned, he could wish that the human-loving Tofa now running things had adopted such a procedure.

What little gossip he had managed to hear suggested that executions had become less involved and less painful under the new regime. Rumor had it that one recently condemned prisoner, another former host mother, had been given a drug that put him to sleep as it killed him. Dying in one’s sleep! What sort of execution was that?


If Ton-lal-set did not follow his former colleague into slumber and death, was there in fact any purpose in continuing to live? Or were all the Tofa outside the prisons content to abandon their traditions and forego ambition, slurping up favors from the humans? Had the world changed so much?

An excerpt from Leaders, Book Three of the Twin-Bred series -- with spoilers

Caution! Here there be spoilers!

Thursday, May 26th, is a dual release day: for Leaders, the third book in the Twin-Bred series, and for the series' virtual boxed set. I'd like bloggers to be able to include an excerpt from Leaders, but such an excerpt is almost guaranteed to include some spoilers for the first two books. Of course, if you've read those books, that's fine. So here's a short excerpt, a teaser of sorts, for those returning to the series.








[spoiler space]











[In this scene, Mara and Fel-lar, on New Landing, are discussing the possibility of an expedition to Tofarn. (Why? That'd be a spoiler for this book.) Earlier in the discussion, Fel-lar has compared Mara to the biblical Moses, who led the Hebrews out of Egypt.)]

Fel-lar twitched away as if to start pacing again. Mara held his hand firmly, and he desisted. “Returning to Moses. He grew up a prince of Egypt. And in the end, his greatest victory was to run away, with all his people. They, unlike him, had been raised as slaves. But what if all of them had shared the same princely goals and expectations?” Fel-lar was humming now, with that uniquely Tofa ability to hum and speak at the same time. “How much pride could any of them take in leaving all those dreams behind—no matter how long or short their journey to some substitute promised land, some distant Canaan?” The humming grew louder, and she had to strain to understand his words. “Would he not wonder whether he should have stayed to fight? To strike at least one blow?”

Mara searched the cliff face and found uneven stone on which she could step. She climbed up, working to maintain her balance, and reached a cautious arm around Fel-lar’s neck. He stopped humming and grabbed her arm with an upper hand to steady her and draw her close. That left her other hand free to stroke his cheek. “So recent events have jarred all these feelings loose. And that’s why you’ve been—different lately. Less calm. Less patient.”

“Less patient, and easier to anger. Which is why you should allow me, after all, to apologize for directing that anger at you, when you were hurt.”

“All right, if it’ll make you feel better. Now enough of that. Fel-lar, are you really thinking of flying back across the galaxy because you’re spoiling for a fight?”

Fel-lar unwrapped Mara’s arm from around himself, grasped her carefully under the arms, and lifted her down from the ledge. Then he moved the picnic basket aside and picked up the blanket, folding it rapidly with all four hands. “I may not have mentioned that I have been studying military history and tactics from time to time.”

Mara reached for the blanket without looking Fel-lar in the face and put the blanket in the basket. “No, you didn’t.”


“I do not want a fight to be necessary. I would prefer that all this proves to be ‘much ado about nothing.’ But if anyone must fight to protect our friends on Tofarn: well, I am no longer too young, if I was then. I am a leader, by my people’s choice. And I am ready to do battle.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Systemic Reason Trump Won the Nomination -- Which Can Be Fixed (For the Future)

I am getting increasingly frustrated with all the postmortems that analyze, lament, and otherwise discuss Trump's triumph without addressing the basic problem that made it possible.

That problem: a voting system woefully inadequate, indeed counterproductive, for elections with multiple candidates. When voters may only cast a single vote, similar candidates end up splitting the vote. If what makes them similar also makes them more popular, this vote splitting ends up electing a less popular candidate.

My husband, Paul Hager, aka the Hoosier Gadfly, has written about this problem (not on his blog, but when he ran for Secretary of State):

"Let's imagine God and Satan have decided to run for Governor of Indiana. It being Indiana, God is at 60% in the polls and Satan at 40%. [Note: I believe God would do substantially better.] God will win. But wait. In Christian theology, God exists in multiple persons. What happens if God the Father is running and God the Son decides to run also? What if the whole Trinity runs? Satan wins, right? The anti-Satan vote gets split.

"Something is terribly wrong when voting for God gives you a Hell on Earth."

We see the same problem, though in (for most of us) a less crucial setting, in the Academy Awards when two actors in the same movie are nominated for Best Actor and split the vote of academy members who admired the movie.

In the case of the GOP primary, the candidates -- a group that included quite a few smart, up-and-coming public servants -- may be said to have split the vote in any or all of the following categories:
--experienced in government
--knowledgeable about foreign policy
--knowledgeable about political processes
--reasonably polite and mature

I'm not saying Trump doesn't have an affirmative appeal for many voters, based in part on how little he resembles politicians in general. But if any of several alternative voting systems had been in place, I seriously doubt he would have gained enough initial traction to prevail.

What alternative systems?

One, probably the simplest, is called "approval voting." With approval voting, voters vote for every candidate they find acceptable. The candidate deemed acceptable by the most voters would have the highest vote total and would be the winner. In Paul's example, most Hoosiers would vote for one or more persons of the Trinity. (Jewish Hoosiers would probably stick to God the Father, given our tribe's uncompromising version of monotheism.) Whoever won, it wouldn't be Satan.

The U.N. General Assembly uses a form of approval voting to select the Secretary General. Various organizations and professional associations also use approval voting, including (if my sources are accurate) the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and several others. Of particular note, perhaps: the Public Choice Society, "a society dedicated, in part, to the analysis of politics with the tools of economics and mathematics."

For a detailed write-up of the advantages of approval voting, see Paul's 2001 article (based on a talk he gave at an electoral forum).

Approval voting is easy to implement, because it involves nothing more complicated than tallying votes. There are just more votes to be tallied.

Various more sophisticated systems involve "ranked" voting, where the voters list candidates in order of preference. In this era of computers, the necessary tabulations are perfectly feasible. Paul, who has studied these systems extensively, states that the Condorcet voting system best determines which candidate would beat all the others in head-to-head matches. (Another ranked system, Instant Runoff Voting or IRV, has gained quite a few proponents lately, but it has some mathematical deficiencies, and it discards a fair amount of information about voter preferences.)

Any state could adopt one of these systems by legislative action. National party organizations could urge such action and make suggested statutory language available. Once the transition is over, that state would have a much more rational method of determining which candidate its citizens truly prefer.

There may be no such critter as "another Trump." But if there is, a change in the voting system might well prevent him from becoming president.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Very Knowledgeable Nonlawyer Discusses Who Gets to Interpret the Constitution

The nonlawyer of whom I speak: my husband, Paul Hager, aka The Hoosier Gadfly. If you follow that link, you'll see that the gadfly has not bitten since October 2013. The problem: he's unwilling to put up a post unless he's thoroughly researched every aspect. So once in a while, I summarize points he's made in conversation, or cut and paste sections from his emails. Today, I'm doing the latter.

Paul had the following to say in response to a post by law professor and author Randy Barnett, concerning whether Obama's recent executive orders violate a president's constitutional duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Paul is, to put it mildly, no fan of President Obama, but in his view, Barnett's argument ignores an important possibility. That possibility: that a president might, acting in good faith and exercising his/her judgment, conclude that a federal statute violates the Constitution, even if the Supreme Court has upheld that statute, and that the president's oath "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution" therefore requires that s/he refuse to act as Congress has dictated. The implications of this argument become more wide-ranging when we consider that state and local officials swear this same oath.

Enough introduction: here's Paul. (You can tell because he refuses to follow the American custom of putting punctuation inside quotation marks.)

--------

Inevitably, interpretation of the Constitution is almost always performed by lawyers.  Lawyers have been so inculcated to the idea that the judiciary is the final say that they are blind to the Constitution as a POLITICAL structure that is supposed to exhibit homeostasis.  Legal education does not admit of the possibility that anyone NOT a member of the priestly class can figure out for themselves what the Constitution means.

I maintain that to "take care", a President must fulfill the pledge to support the Constitution.  When a law is in conflict with the original meaning of the Constitution, the President cannot enforce it.  If the Supreme Court weighs in and is wrong in the view of the President, (s)he cannot act.  In order to justify defying both Congress and the Court, the President must explain the reason fully and said explanation must be tied directly to the original meaning of the Constitution.  The ultimate remedy for a President who defies Congress and the Court for an unconstitutional reason is impeachment and removal from office.

While it is true that the SC is constrained to deal with only the small number of cases that come before it, bad decisions accrete over time.  They are almost impossible to reverse.  The result is a sclerotic system that is rigid and unable to return to its original state.

Also missing is the fact that state officials are bound to the Constitution.  The SC conveniently decided that state officials must defer to federal authority even if federal authority is wrong based upon the plain meaning of the Constitution.

The federal government is like the pre-Reformation Catholic Church.  Where is the Martin Luther who will challenge the 9 (8 at the moment) black-robed Popes and the rest of the entrenched hierarchy?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Some of what I love about Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow

So I don't blog for months, even as the world lurches further towards chaos and we endure the most interesting and bizarre presidential election campaign in many decades, and now I finally take up keyboard to respond to a book review? And it isn't even a review of one of my books?

Yes, because Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is one of my very favorite books in any genre, and I cannot relax and digest my breakfast without addressing some points in the review that could discourage future readers.

The blog: Strange Charm, which "showcas[es] speculative fiction by women," and which has reviewed two of my own novels, an attention for which I'm grateful.

The review introduces the book very capably. The general reference to what happens "forty years later" is not a spoiler: the book follows two timelines throughout. However, the members of the mission are not, as the review indicates, "a bunch of people who happened to be at the same cocktail party." They are a well-established group of friends, already drawn together by various circumstances and connections. I do not agree that there is anything "madcap" about the deliberately discussed Jesuit mission to learn about the first sentient alien species discovered. And while I cannot rationally protest the reviewer's failure to like any of the characters other than the priest Emilio Sandoz, I protest nonetheless -- as I fell deeply in reader-love with them all upon first reading, and have remained in love with them for all the years since. I have never read more brilliant dialogue than much of the dialogue in this book (which I would never in a million years have thought of characterizing as "goofing around and telling dirty jokes," although upon reflection, I can see that the description has a certain unilluminating accuracy). And I firmly believe that many a reader who spends hundreds of pages with these complex, varied, fundamentally decent characters will emerge with some renewed hope for the human species.

For what it's worth, which I recognize isn't a great deal, I also had no problem with the pacing of the story or the revelation of what happened to the mission and its members. I will confess to a whisper of doubt as to the Father General's approach to psychology, but that is an unimportant quibble.

As for the strengths that Strange Charm identifies in the book, I agree heartily with all of them.

I have recommended The Sparrow many times, and do so again, with a caveat: terrible things happen. In fact, with a flippancy that neither the book nor its characters deserve, I have sometimes said that The Sparrow should bear the subtitle: When Terrible Things Happen to Good Jesuits and their Friends (a reference to this book).

The sequel, Children of God, is also very much worth reading. It is not quite as excellent as The Sparrow, but it is very good indeed (though its otherworldly politics are somewhat more intricate, which may be a challenge for those like me who can find intricacy a challenge). I recommend it to anyone who finishes The Sparrow with curiosity about Rakhat and its people, or about the intelligent, well-intentioned crew of humans who journeyed there.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Making It Easy: Links to All My Paperbacks on Amazon and B&N

In case any of you out there are looking for thought-provoking science fiction paperbacks to give as gifts, I thought I'd make it easy for you to find a few. And while I'm at it, I'll throw in my women's fiction/afterlife fantasy/family mystery novel and my nonfiction book about law and lawyers.

So here, in one convenient and easily shared post, are All The Links. (Well, all the U.S. links. For other countries, you can follow the link and then tweak it manually for your country.)



Twin-Bred (Book 1 of the Twin-Bred series, set in a human colony on the planet Tofarn)
--Amazon
--B&N



Reach, a Twin-Bred novel (Book 2)
--Amazon
--B&N

(Book 3 should be out in February or March of 2016.)


Division (near-future SF involving conjoined twins and a technology that could give them separate lives; winner of Readers Favorite's 5-star award)
--Amazon
--B&N



Playback Effect (near-future SF thriller; winner of Awesome Indie's Seal of Excellence and Reders Favorite's 5-star award)
--Amazon
--B&N


Wander Home (that mixed-genre novel I mentioned . . . .)
--Amazon
--B&N

And finally, my latest release and first nonfiction book:


Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers (useful not only to authors but to law and prelaw students, not to mention anyone who'd like to know more about the legal landscape surrounding us all)
--B&N

Happy shopping, and happy celebrating!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Overdue cartoon post re Donald Trump, courtesy of artist Livali Wyle

If I'd posted this cartoon back when I commissioned it from my talented artist daughter Livali Wyle, I'd have bragging rights vis-a-vis master blogger Instapundit, who used the same idea (though applied to the Democrats rather than the GOP primary electorate) in a much-publicized column this week.