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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A few of the great artists at the Fourth Street Art Festival this year

I just made my annual visit to Bloomington's Fourth Street Art Festival. It rained yesterday and this morning, but the weather let up this afternoon, and the sun even came out at times.

I'm full of the Fire Department's roast chicken (part of their fundraiser, which makes it possible for the department to buy Xmas presents for poor kids in Monroe County), and I even had a poem written especially for me by a member of the Writer's Guild. (You can see it at my campaign website.)

Here are website for three of the wonderful artists whose work I saw:

--Leo Charette

--Jim Copeland

--Cathy Hillegas

Go feast your eyes and refresh your souls!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why I'm Publishing a Revised Edition of Twin-Bred

My first novel -- not counting a bizarre childhood effort -- was the science fiction novel Twin-Bred. It got quite a few good reviews, though a few noted an overabundance of named minor characters and some initial organizational flaws. I was and am proud of it -- but I agreed with those criticisms.

So I've done some tweaking.

There are still named characters who appear only once or a few times. For me, that's part of creating the feel of an institution with dozens of inhabitants, and/or of giving a realistic tone to certain conversations. But I've eliminated quite a few of what I decided were unnecessary character names -- starting with the little girl in the Prologue, for whom readers might search the rest of the story in vain.

I've also moved a few scenes to what now seem like more logical places, and broken up some chapters that lacked internal cohesion.

I'll be publishing this revised edition as soon as (a) I have time, and (b) I figure out the logistics. I've updated all my novels to correct typos or to add previews of upcoming books -- but this edition needs to stand on its own, while also replacing the original. Another wrinkle: Twin-Bred has been in Amazon's KDP Select program for some time, but I'm not sure the revised edition should start there. I've yet to ascertain whether I may publish the revised edition separately and outside KDP Select without waiting for the original edition's Select term to elapse.

I'm also not sure whether a revised edition counts as an "update" which I can make available to previous purchasers. If not, I'll supply the revised edition to any previous purchaser who asks for it.

Stay tuned! :-)

Friday, July 04, 2014

An Independence Day excerpt from Wander Home

Enjoying myself at the lovely Independence Day party we attend annually, it occurred to me that the following excerpt from Wander Home was particularly appropriate for the holiday.

[The setting: an afterlife where memories may be relived and shared, and where one may be any age that the situation and its emotions require. The personae: Cassidy and her mother Eleanor.]

"Ready, mom?"
Cassidy, age thirteen, looked up at her mother, somewhere in her twenties. Mom asked one more time, "You really won't tell me where we're going?"
Cassidy shook her head, grinning. Mom had been almost everywhere with Grandpa and Grandma, but here was somewhere she couldn't have been. "Nope! It's a surprise. Here we go!" . . .

They stood on an unpaved street. There was little traffic: a horse-drawn cart loaded with grain sacks, a fancier carriage pulled by better-groomed horses. Cassidy could smell the dust of the road and the tangy odor of horse dung.
Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, they saw no one in shorts or showing bare arms, let alone midriffs. In fact, the men wore ruffled shirts, vests and waistcoats, with velvety leggings that stopped just below the knee, and then stockings. The buckles on their shoes might have been shiny, if not for the dust from the road. The women swished along in gathered blouses and long skirts, or else in low-cut dresses with tight bodices, skirts puffed out to the side and multiple petticoats beneath. Some of the men and women wore neutral colors, but there was a good deal of red, yellow, and blue. The adult women and older girls wore caps concealing their hair, and hats tied on top of the caps. From the elaborate costumes came an incongruous smell of stale sweat.
Young children ran after their mothers wearing loose white gowns. Cassidy tapped Mom's arm and pointed to a baby toddling along, pillows strapped all around its middle and a quilted velvet cap on its head. "Bet you wish I'd had that get-up when I was learning to walk!"
Mom shook her head, smiling a little sadly. "You didn't need it. You didn't fall much. You were graceful, right from the start." She let out a short breath of laughter. "You must have got that from Grandpa and Great-Grandma. Not from me, at any rate."
Now Mom was looking at their surroundings. They stood near a typical New England courthouse; up and down the street, they could see houses built with logs, and other structures that might have been stores. One building looked like a one-room schoolhouse. Mom looked around, her forehead furrowed, eyes squinting. "This isn't — I thought we were in Old Sturbridge Village, but we aren't, are we? Is this some other reconstruction of colonial times?"
Cassidy' burst out laughing. "Uh-uh! Try again."
All the while, she was listening. Finally she heard the sound she had been expecting: hoof beats. A man in a dusty uniform came riding down the street, thick saddlebags bouncing against the horse's sweaty flanks. Cassidy and Mom scurried aside, but the rider reined the horse in, just a few yards away. A tall man in a vest and shirt sleeves came running out of a doorway, toward the horse and rider. He turned their way for a moment to swat at a horsefly, and they could see his face: narrow, ruddy in complexion, with a long nose and a high forehead from which dark hair was already receding. One eyebrow had a crooked tilt that gave him a skeptical air.
Mom frowned as if concentrating. "I could swear I've seen that face before — but older, with a white wig on . . . . What was his name?"
Cassidy felt her face would split with grinning. "Would it be Isaiah Thomas?"
Mom's jaw dropped. She sputtered, "What? How?"
Cassidy knew she was looking smug. She didn't care. "I have a friend from WorcesterMassachusetts, that is — and she took me pub-crawling one evening. The oldest pub she knew was Moynihan's. This man was sitting at the bar telling a girl how this was nice enough for a new place, but she should try his favorite, the Hancock Arms. My friend grabbed my elbow and jabbered at me about how that was the great patriot, Isaiah Thomas. She's a history buff. She dragged me over and introduced us, and we bought him a couple of glasses of ale, and he ended up showing us — well, wait and see!"
Mr. Thomas and the rider were engaged in animated conversation. In a moment the rider reached into one of the saddlebags and with some difficulty extracted a folded sheet of stiff heavy paper. He handed it to Thomas, who unfolded it and whooped with excitement. Thomas handed the man a coin and pointed toward a nearby public house. A crowd had begun to gather around; Thomas brandished the paper and shouted, "Listen, all of you!" (Cassidy had heard all this once already, but the way Thomas spoke, something in the vowels, still sounded strange to her.) "Here's news, the most important news you may ever hear! They've done it, they've done it at last!"
Murmurs, questions, cheers. As the crowd buzzed with reaction, Thomas ducked into the building from which he had come. He emerged a moment later wearing a blue frock coat, and addressed the crowd again. "Come, all of you, come and hear!" He turned and half strode, half ran down the street.
Cassidy tugged Mom to follow. They joined the gathering crowd, whose excitement seemed to grow with its size. People streamed out of houses, stores, taverns, forming an impromptu parade, with ever growing clamor as the newcomers tried to find out what was going on.
Wherever Thomas was heading, it was a good long walk. Finally he turned toward a narrow building with a tall spire. The townspeople clustered around, blocking the street in front of the building. Leaping up the front steps to the porch, Thomas turned to face the crowd, held up the paper he was carrying and pointed to the words written large at the top. From those in front, who could read the writing, came exclamations that traveled like a wave toward the spot near the back where Cassidy and her mother were standing. Cassidy caught the words "Unanimous!" and "States!"
Thomas turned the document back toward himself, stood up straight, threw out his chest, and began to read, almost shouting the words.
"In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them . . . ."
Cheers erupted from the listening crowd. Thomas held up a hand for silence and went on, but the cheers, the calls of "Independence!" and "Liberty!", kept interrupting his reading. Mom gripped Cassidy's hand tightly and murmured in her ear: "Certain unalienable rights . . . that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . . that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men  . . . ." When Thomas came to the long "train of abuses and usurpations," Mom fell silent, and the two of them strained their ears to follow every word.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Tot Finders and Moving On

Last night, belatedly, I did something both practical and symbolic.

Many years ago, at some community function or other, I picked up some "Tot Finder" stickers: fluorescent orange, with a drawing of a firefighter carrying a toddler (a girl). These stickers go on interior doors and/or exterior windows, and are meant to alert firefighters that there may be a young child within.

Well, Daughter #1 is graduating college at the end of May, and Daughter #2 just finished high school two weeks early in order to join the Phantom Regiment Drum Corps as they begin spring training. My toddlers, my little girls, my tots, are long gone, and the two wonderful young women who have replaced them are fairly well prepared to rescue themselves when danger threatens. It had probably been a decade or more since I noticed those stickers: they became part of the scenery, part of the decor, along with that decade's worth of other stickers and drawings, taped or glued to the wood. But last night, I saw them and registered what I was seeing. Those stickers weren't just obsolete -- they posed a potential danger to any firefighter who might enter our home and take unnecessary risks to rescue the ghosts of my daughters' pasts.

So last night, while my younger daughter packed an enormous suitcase full of a summers' worth of tank tops and t-shirts and workout shorts and other necessities, I sat on the floor in the hallway and peeled off the stickers: first from my elder daughter's door, and then from my younger's. Sometime soon, I'll need to traipse around outside, through the edge of the woods, to peel the stickers off the windows as well.

My daughters have -- more or less, by some meaningful definitions -- grown up. I am a bit disoriented, and weepy, and also proud: proud of them, and proud of myself and my husband (and my extremely supportive parents) who have helped them reach their respective milestones.

I'm an agnostic, but there are feelings for which agnostics lack the proper words. Godspeed, my daughters. Godspeed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Which I Wade Unnecessarily Into the Fray (GoT SPOILER ALERT)

WARNING: this post is all about a spoiler re the April 20th episode of Game of Thrones.

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I really should stay out of it, instead of offering my face to be (metaphorically, I hope) punched. But I'm startled and disturbed by how many viewers seem to find Jaime's rape of Cersei substantially more offensive, despite its context, than the innumerable slaughters of innocents in preceding episodes.

The week before, for example, not for the first time, we had people burned alive. All the various burnings and throat-slicings and torturings apparently pale by comparison to Jaime raping Cersei beside her son's body.

Don't (PLEASE) get me wrong. I am not saying that in a court of law, or in any moral judgment, Jaime isn't guilty of rape. That's so in spite of Cersei having, moments before, kissed Jaime as part of her attempt to get Jaime to kill their brother Tyrion. It's rape despite the fact that we all know Cersei is capable of a much more emphatic and angry resistance than what she offers. It's rape, and it occurs when Cersei is at her most emotionally vulnerable. But is it really more shocking and culpable than murder by fire, or murder of children, or murder of a pregnant woman?

Not by me.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Division paperback release day!

Taa-da-da-taa-taa-taa-taa-taaaah! (That's my attempt to write out the sound of a trumpet fanfare.)



It's Release Day for the paperback edition of my near-future novel, Division! So of course, I'm providing a link (Amazon -- B&N will follow) and a short blurb.

Here's the link. And here's the blurb (complete with third-person reference to yours truly):

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Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Now, new technology gives them a previously unimagined choice: to live in "normal," separate bodies. But who gets to choose? And what if one twin considers their conjoined life a blessing, not to be abandoned without a fight?

Division, like Wyle's earlier novels, uses original settings and situations to explore universal themes: the complexity and intensity of family relationships, the nature of individual identity, and the far-reaching effects of the choices we make.

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At the moment (I don't know for how long), the paperback is available at a 10% discount.


Thanks for listening!. This is my fourth novel, and it's still exciting. :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cosmos, Fox, and Cognitive Dissonance

I'm guessing that the revived series Cosmos on Fox, and especially tonight's (March 16th) episode, has some folks scratching their heads, or even writhing in the throes of cognitive dissonance.

"This show touts the scientific method and the glories of science! Why, the latest episode even made a point of attacking Intelligent Design, using ID's pet example, the eye, for good measure! Isn't the Fox network made up of knuckle-dragging anti-science conservatives? What's going on here?!?"

Well, when a new piece of evidence appears inconsistent with one's prior assumption, it seems to me that the properly scientific thing to do is to examine the evidence underlying that prior assumption, to see if it can be interpreted in a way consistent with the new data.

Doing some more guessing, I'd wager that for many people, the assumption of Fox's anti-science attitude springs from the frequency with which they air the views of climate change skeptics (deemed climate change/global warming "deniers" by some of the zealous). If all climate change skeptics are either ignorant of or willfully ignoring well-settled science, then why would any network with any respect for science give them that much air time?

I'll toss out some hypotheses to explain how Fox can find room both for Cosmos and for these opponents of the allegedly settled predictions of anthropogenic, catastrophic global climate change.

(A)  Fox treats different branches of science differently. There's some corporate tie, some financial or personal interest, leading whoever runs Fox to make climate change an exception from either a balanced or a pro-science attitude.

(B) The exception isn't global climate change -- it's Cosmos. Someone owes someone a favor, or has some other lever, to make Fox hold its collective nose and air this pro-science program.

And finally --

(C) Skepticism toward climate change is not, in fact, a sign of either ignorance or disdain for science, but rather, true science in action, with skeptics refusing to be stampeded or bullied into accepting a politically pervasive message. The facts are more complex, and/or point at least in part in a different direction.

I haven't examined (A) or (B). As my husband (aka The Hoosier Gadfly) would say, "I'll leave that as an exercise for the student." As the reader will probably have guessed, I currently incline toward Option (C). For some of the data that's led me in that direction, you can take a look at this post from 2010. (I'd suggest ignoring the comments, as they somehow veered off into areas utterly unrelated to anything on my blog ever.)

Meanwhile, I hope you're enjoying the reboot of Cosmos as much as I am.

Coming attractions -- and a freebie in anticipation thereof

It looks like the paperback of my near-future novel Division will be available on Amazon on schedule -- which means March 20th. Whether it'll have all features (e.g. "Look Inside") by then isn't clear, but if not, they won't be far behind.

The paperback, if you buy it on Amazon, will come with a free Kindle version. But if you'd like to pick up the ebook for free, and then decide whether you want the paperback on your shelf, pop on over to Division's Smashwords page and use coupon code UP22R by March 19th.

Here's what the whole paperback cover looks like -- complete with some excerpts from early reviews (which you may be able to read here, if you have really good vision).