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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Education-Just Say No!

It's rare that I enter into political discussion on my blog or post political viewpoints on my social media sites, but this has been bugging me every day when I drive around my neighborhood so I have to say something. I'm sure most of you have seen them: "Vote Yes for our Schools," "Vote Yes for Education," and "Vote Yes on Prop XXX."

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a HUGE proponent of education. My mother worked in the school system as a registrar for over twenty years, my in-laws (all of them) are in education as teachers, principals, or counselors. Public education is one of the most important programs we have for our children, our communities, and our future as a country. It's not perfect, but it presents opportunities for children of all socio-economic structures, and with charter schools, those opportunities are multiplied. So, why am I saying NO? Because government got involved and they've become too involved.

I don't think government is bad, and I think a lot of inconsistencies have been addressed through government involvement, but when we become too dependent on their funding we put ourselves in a tough spot. We have to have their money to run our schools, though, right? Eh...yes and no. I think there are programs that might get cut, and problems that might have to be solved, but we could manage without the full funding we receive from the federal gov't and it might be worth the autonomy. And the thing is, all of these propositions are like playing a shell game.

When you play a shell game, you see the shell go under the cup and you know where it is, but as the experienced magician moves the cups then the shell seems to disappear. It still exists, but not where we thought it would be. That's what these propositions and bonds do. The schools say they need money, and they do, so we pass an extra tax and here's what happens. That money is earmarked for education in that district, but then the legislators can look at the money in the school system and say "they have this earmarked money we can't touch, but we need more money for program XXX, so we'll take the money that isn't earmarked." And the cycle goes on and on. What happens in the end, we give the government more money to play with and our schools have less money to work with. I think it's time to say NO.

But then what will our kids do until the legislators wake up? It's called parent involvement. I know there are single parents out there, working parents, and illiterate parents for whom this is especially difficult, but studies have shown that the kids who learn the best are those with parent involvement. But what about the kids whose parents aren't involved? This is the hard part; we need to all get involved. Instead of letting the government take more of our money, we can (whether we have kids in school or not) get involved in our communities and in surrounding lower-income communities. Right now, my hands are full with my own kids and helping in their education, but helping in schools is something I look forward to when my kids are no longer at home. And one of the most rewarding experiences I've had was serving as the performing arts booster club president at our local high school. This might seem a simplistic solution, and I'm sure there will still be kids left behind, but I think we'll do a much better job than if we keep throwing money at a wall and seeing if it sticks or watching as the government picks up all the scattered bills on the floor.

So, my appeal is this: if you're not involved in education in some way, please get involved. Even if it's only a couple of hours a week, we can make a difference. And as for those propositions, consider just saying NO.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

SLC Comicon in 22,000 words (more or less)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's what I have to say about SLC Comicon:
Our first encounter of the cool kind
 as we were leaving the parking lot.

Most awesome guitar EVER!
We found Middle-Earth...

where Smaug opened and closed his menacing eyes

Hobbits roamed the land,
And great orcs terrorized the populace.

In the upcoming theme park, Evermore...

Morbid ladies towered above
 the participants.
We fell into the clutches of Osiris...

Someone wouldn't stop thinking of the
Stay-puff marshmallow man. 

Cthulhu wandered in our midst.

Minions overran the walkways.
Studio C made us laugh.
And gods rained down with thunder...or just some flickering lights.

Iron Man was there to save the day...

...from the mass numbers of purple
unicorns in person...

...and in print.
(We sold enough copies to fund a scholarship to
Superstars Writing Seminars. If you're interested,
applications will be accepted soon at:
Even Wonder Woman and Batman were there to save the day.
Friday evening, my daughter and I enjoyed an interesting dinner
with James A. Owen, Heidi Berthiaume, Brian Scott.
Helping in the Coppervale booth, and Wordfire Press satellite
booth was a fantastic experience.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What if We Watched in Wonder?

There's a song that I love, by Julie de Azevedo, called "What If?" Part of the lyrics read,
What if I let my children be
Who they are, not what I need?
What if I watched in wonder as their tender wings unfold.

Sometimes people ask me how I got started as a writer. I've mentioned this on the About Me page of my website, but I wanted to do a more in-depth thank you to my children in today's post. I have watched my children's tender wings unfold over the years, and I became a writer because they returned the favor.

When my oldest daughter was fourteen, she discovered my fiction ramblings on my computer. Between her and her sixteen-year-old brother, they forced me to admit that I loved writing. My son loaded "Writing Excuses" onto my mp3 and the rest is fiction. What isn't in the blog is that I wrote my daughter her own story to thank her for opening up this world for me. I hadn't believed in myself, and it wasn't until I started seriously writing that I felt completely free and, as corny as it sounds, like I'd found myself. So I wrote her a story about a woman living in a gilded cage of her own making, her daughter finding a key, her son finding the lock, and the woman discovering she has wings to fly.

But that's only the beginning of the story. Two of my published horror stories have come through the morbid horror scenarios my middle daughter and I like to throw back and forth. The twist ending to my recently accepted story, "Menagerie Violette," came through a conversation we had after she read the original story. It was good to begin with, but she helped me make it worthy of publication in what is going to be an amazing anthology.

My youngest boy used to take up guard duty at my office door. During my writing time he would tell his sisters that they couldn't bother me, which also meant I didn't have him coming in every five minutes to ask me a question. Win-win. Recently, he reached a reading level so he could read Noble Ark. He's now one of my biggest fans and keeps asking when the next book will come out. He's adorable.

And, of course, there's my husband. He's shouldered not only the financial strain of conventions and workshops and publishing ventures, but he's also bolstered me through my times of discouragement and self-doubt. I couldn't have made it this far without him.

So, this is a little long-winded, and probably of little interest to those who don't know me personally, but how I became a writer is the same as how I manage to continue as a writer. As Buddy says in a program my youngest daughter and I have recently become addicted to, Cake Boss: "It's all about family."


Monday, July 21, 2014

Space Opera OR Galactic Fantasy

There's a debate in the science-fiction/fantasy world about the terms "space opera" and "galactic fantasy" as genre descriptions. Okay, so it's not much of a debate. Space opera has been around for forever, and though I don't even know how the name was generated, it's a widely accepted term for the type of science-fiction which is focused more on character and story, and less on any actual scientific elements. The other main categories are military sci-fi, and hard sci-fi (the science heavy stuff). But I think space opera is obsolete and the genre description, in order to garner more fans, should be changed to galactic fantasy. Here are my reasons why:

1) Growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with science fiction. Like most fans, I didn't recognize different sub-genres within the genre. I didn't know about epic fantasy versus traditional fantasy. I just knew some books were longer than others. I also didn't know the differences in science fiction. I'd pick up a sci-fi book and love it then pick up another and hate it. I had no clue how to distinguish from one to the next until I'd gotten into it, so reading sci-fi felt like a gamble. I eventually figured out that I enjoy space opera much more than the other sci-fi subgenres, but if they'd called it galactic fantasy, I would have gravitated toward it naturally, because I already loved fantasy.

2) Space opera sucks as a name. It makes people think of soap operas and there are few distinguishing readers who are going to want to associate themselves with something that has that connotation.

3) The storytelling style of space operas is more similar to fantasy, in my opinion, than it is to science fiction. The entire tone of the story lends itself toward fantasy readers. So why not call it fantasy!

4) My series, "Mankind's Redemption," is galactic fantasy. Sci-fi fans tend to like it alright, and fantasy fans tend to love it. I wish, wish, WISH that the term, galactic fantasy, could take off as a sub-genre. I have no idea how to make it happen, but if I had the power....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When You Have Food Allergies

I love it when we make friends through fb, and I love it even more when those friends and I share a passion. Lea Carter is a fellow writer and when she saw my post on mental health she asked if she could share her experiences with food allergies. So, without further ado, Lea Carter:
When you have food allergies, a dinner date starts with research.  A lot of information can be found online, but when you’re already in the car the direct approach can be faster. 
My sister and I went out to dinner last night.  She is highly sensitive to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), but was craving Italian food.  Does Italian food have MSG in it?  We weren’t sure.  A phone call later, we had learned that Johnny Carino’s, the restaurant we were considering, had an allergy menu!
Armed with that information, we braved the restaurant.  As we entered, two smiling women greeted us.  Neither of them was the woman with whom my sister had spoken, but she had left instructions for them to have a copy of the allergy menu ready and they handed it to us promptly.  There were no pictures, but across the top of the printout was a list of ingredients (eggs, milk, MSG, and wheat) and whether or not the dishes, listed down the left side of the page, contained those ingredients.
A short way inside the restaurant we were seated at a table for four, nestled in a corner with privacy walls on either side.  From where we sat we could see two rows of booths and the open kitchen.  The music was what I would call “soft,” and played just loud enough to be heard over all of the conversations simultaneously taking place.
We were still inspecting the menus when our waiter approached and introduced himself.  One of my primary reasons for suggesting the restaurant had been the wide range of Italian sodas that they carry—ten flavors!  After deliberating between orange and cherry, I decided to try black cherry, just for the fun of it.  The first sip was like ordinary black cherry soda.  Then I remembered that I hadn’t stirred the cream in; it was still floating lazily in the top two-thirds of the glass.  Ah, much better!  A creamy black cherry soda is an experience I recommend enthusiastically!
After a delicious soup and salad (hearty minestrone for my sister, house salad for me), our main dishes arrived.  I had selected chicken fettuccini, a dish I had tried before and liked.  My sister, this being her first meal at Johnny Carino’s, selected the spicy shrimp and chicken pasta and carefully cross-checked it against the allergy menu.  Beware the spicy shrimp and chicken!  It’s loaded with garlic and so good that my sister had to force herself to stop eating it.  She was full, but was enjoying it so much that it was just hard to put her fork down.
The bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The minestrone was *; the chicken fettuccini was rich and creamy; the spicy chicken was unbelievably tasty.  The black cherry Italian soda sparkled.  Then we ordered dessert.  A lemon cream cake with gorgonzola cheese.  I suppose it was my high expectations that made it fall flat for me.  I was expecting a burst of lemon flavor, not tart, but (almost) overwhelming.  The cake itself tasted liked a medium-quality cake mix, a tad dry and given to large crumbs.  The lemon flavor was there, but the faint—worse yet, the flavor was overshadowed by the powdered sugar that the cake top had been dusted with.  Being a practical person, I tipped the cake over and tapped the top with the handle of a utensil until most of the powdered sugar had been knocked off.  Then I tried it again.  I finished it, but I can’t say it was $6 worth of good.

That was the only disappointment, though.  The waiter was pleasant; the allergy menu was above and beyond the efforts I have seen other restaurants make; and 98% of the meal was rave-worthy.  In fact, to quote my sister as we left, “Oh, that was good.”

New Release from Lea Carter:
"Prince Cambrian is on a boringly routine assignment at Fort Bakarti when a much more interesting mystery finds him.  A Sky Fairy Fleet windship—lost and presumed crashed during the pirate offensive—is discovered intact on the beach near the remote Port Herio. 
How did the Talon get there?  Where has she been for the last two months?  Where is her crew now?  To answer these and other questions, Cambrian sets off with the lovely Captain Kimberlite to investigate a small nearby volcanic island, which is the only thing the meager clues have in common. 

Sabotage, betrayal, and escape all play a part in the unraveling of the mystery.  But when they finally begin their return voyage, they find themselves bringing home more questions than answers.  Not the least of which is how will the rest of the Sky Fairy Tribe react to what they have discovered?"

Contact Lea: 


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is She Your Youngest?

When my daughter was young, her extreme sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, smells, and sudden movements led me to shield her from situations I knew would set her off. In doing so, I often heard the question, always with an accompanying all-knowing smile, "Is she your youngest?"
My answer? "No," but you're an idiot.
Of course, I didn't say that last part, but it was hard not to think it. My daughter deals with anxiety, she has since very small, and she had her first full-blown anxiety attack at barely six years of age. The hospital diagnosed her with an upset stomach and told me I shouldn't bring my child to the ER unless there was really something wrong. I'd never seen an anxiety attack. I'd always assumed her sensitivities were a more acute version of the common ones held by her gifted siblings. With some research and the help of a psychologist, we we helped her learn to cope with the anxiety, and we've prescribed medications at appropriate times. 
But even the professional medical staff of a hospital presumed my child pampered rather than recognizing her difficulties!
Between the recent indiegogo project, Altered Perceptions, a fb post I read from James A. Owen about chemical imbalance, and a meeting I had with one of my daughter's school administrators, mental health has been on my mind lately. Mental health awareness has improved over the years, but there are still so many people out there who tend to judge rather than understand. As someone who struggles with depression, and has needed medications at certain points in my life, I find this personally frustrating as well as narrow-minded.
I had someone say to me once, "If people had more faith then they wouldn't get depressed." 
I was going to go on my own rant/explanation on this, but I found James A. Owen's experience and explanation via fb says everything I wanted to say, and probably better, with less ranting. He focuses on a chemical imbalance, but that's essentially what mental health problems such as ADD, anxiety, and many others are...a genetically inherited chemical imbalance. With his permission, here it is: 
I'm a pretty big proponent of both individual free will and individual accountability, and yesterday I had a discussion with a mentor about how both of those things relate to someone dealing with a chemical imbalance. Not a mental disorder or illness - but a chemical imbalance, specifically speaking, some of the mental and emotional cloudiness I have dealt with over most of the last year, due in large part to a big thyroid problem.
With proper treatment, I've been doing significantly better in every way the last couple of months - but the problem I've been grappling with now, and the question I posed to him, involves the fact that I still remember every choice I made, and I wondered how I could have made some of them, which seem impossible to countenance now. I told him I know that when my thinking is clear, I definitely make better choices - but that I also remember making some really lousy ones. Choices I would not make now, six months later.
How, I asked, could I take accountability for those choices that I made, when I don't recall my own reasons for making them? Because I want to be accountable - which is the only way to learn and improve - but I also don't want to beat myself up over choices I made because my damaged thyroid was having a negative impact on my judgment. How could I reconcile the fact that my thinking was affected, but that I still want to take responsibility for the choices I made at the same time?
He said that first, sincere understanding of and regret for the lousy choices I knew I'd made, along with a sincere effort to change, and do better, was all the accountability needed for those choices, full stop.
And as to the choices I made that were the result of the thyroid imbalance, he repeated one of my own stories about when I first realized I needed glasses. I was sitting on a balcony in San Diego and I pointed to a Nike sign atop one of the buildings, and made several shoe jokes that no one else laughed at. And they were GREAT shoe jokes. The reason no one got them is that it wasn't a Nike sign - it was a Coca-Cola sign.
Once that was pointed out to me, I switched to cola jokes, and made an appointment for an eye exam. His point being, it was the clarity of my vision that was the main problem, not my joke-telling judgment. I didn't regret telling jokes that fell flat - I simply switched behavior when I understood why.
On that same line, he said, I shouldn't regret the choices I don't understand making, because my thyroid clouded my vision, so to speak. Those choices were not errors in judgment as much as they were an inability to see clearly, and now that I can, I'm simply making better choices. The benefit of having clearer vision is that there is also - hopefully - an improvement in the quality of the choices that were all mine, too. And the reason I am sharing all this personal information is so you understand the end of the discussion:
"Have you taken the steps you needed to clarify your vision? Have you taken responsibility for all of the choices you made, no matter the cause? Are you trying to be better today than you were yesterday? If your answer to all of these is yes, then that's all the accountability you need."

If someone needs counseling or medication for their illness, please understand that it's not much different than someone needing an optometrist and a pair of glasses, and be understanding of their "near-sightedness" while they're trying to find the right pair. 

I'd like to put in one more plug for the short story collection, Altered Perceptions. It looks to be a fabulous book, with some of the best and most famous writers in the business, and it could really make a difference in one family's life, and possibly help many more. It's 55% funded and only has 11 days left to meet the goal. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blog Hop-The Writing Process

My good friend, Scott Eder, tagged me as part of The Writing Process blog tour. He's a fabulous author with his debut novel, Knight of Flame, receiving rave reviews on amazon and other formats. So, here are the questions, and here are my answers:

Q1: What are you working on? 
I'm usually working on more than one thing at a time. Right now:
*I'm nearly finished with the third book in the Mankind's Redemption series, titled Mwalgi Justice.
*I'm writing a Sojourner Tales module in the Mankind's Redemption universe (or five systems) titled Hologames.
*I'm preparing for my Noble Ark launch party next week, which takes more time and preparation than I ever imagined.

Q2: How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I enjoy YA fantasy and it shows in my New Adult science fiction. My books have less techno-babble, less military strategy, and less time focused on ships moving through space than many similar sci-fi books. I focus on the interpersonal relationships and personal struggles of my characters, while they not only struggle to survive the physical challenges surrounding them, but struggle to resolve deep personal conflict. Most good stories do that, but I tend to spend less time on the technical accouterments.

Q3: Why do you write what you do?
I think this answer has come up before on other blogs in this series. Because I'm strange. But really, I enjoy exploring the fantastical and how ordinary people might respond to it. When young, I used to have dreams of flying. It was so realistic, my stomach would drop and I would wake out of breath. Now, my dreams are of magic--whether supernatural or technological. Many people call my version of sci-fi space opera, but I call it galactic fantasy, because I delve into worlds that are fantastical. And imagining people moving through those worlds, with challenges that hold parallels to what we face in our contemporary world, is what I love most about writing. 

Q4: How does your writing process work?
That's a loaded question, and definitely subject to interpretation. My brain is constantly playing with stories, and scenes within stories. Aprilynne Pike said something similar to this once, "The stories that stick,are the ones I bring to life." That's how it is for me. 

I usually outline my stories, especially novels, though I'm still playing with the degree of outline I engage in. There's a lot of research that has to take place, some of it before the outline, some during, and some in the process of writing. That research process seems to work best for me. I write during the day while my kids are at school, so usually mornings are "writing time," and early afternoons--when I'm drowsy and trying not to fall out of my chair--is when I handle other aspects of the writing business. If I'm lucky, I get some time to write in the evenings, which is usually when I'm the most creative. With a family, that doesn't always happen, but we work it out so everyone gets the time they need. 

Participating in this tour has been a lot of fun. Thanks you, Scott. I now pass the baton to three supremely talented writers: 

1. Brad R. Torgersen is a multi-Hugo award nominee, is a Writers of the Future award winner, and has also won the Analog magazine AnLab readers’ choice award.  A regular in the pages of several magazines, Brad’s first novel, THE CHAPLAIN’S WAR, comes out from Baen Books in October 2014.

Discover Brad's Writing Process next week at:

2. Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of the Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Weird Tales, Historical Lovecraft, and Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online. He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

For interviews about the Writing Life, and for his Writing Process blog next week, check out his Author Interview Series at the Ronin Writer:

3.D.T. Read is the author of The Sergey Chronicles, a military science fiction trilogy. The Sergey Chronicles is the story of a military family caught at the center of politics during an interstellar war.

Diann is currently working on Running from the Gods, the first book in a new young adult space fantasy series, The Seventh Shaman.

Diann served for 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, a career that included tours of duty in South Korea, Bosnia, and Iraq, and that indelibly influenced the stories she tells. She learned her craft from such mentors as Orson Scott Card, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, and David Farland, and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Diann is married to NASA scientist and martial artist Jon Read. They live in Houston, Texas.
You may reach her at: