Monday, April 13, 2015

Guest Post with M. Darusha Wehm

I'd like to welcome another guest to the blog this week. M. Darusha Wehm's novel Children of Arkadia will be available this month. Read on to find out more about the novel and for a bread recipe. I tried out the recipe and am happy to report that it is absolutely delicious, and it made the house smell great. The only downside? You might find yourself drooling while it bakes, which could be awkward if you have guests.

Children of Arkadia follows three generations of humans and AIs participating in an audacious experiment — to create a just and free society in an orbital space colony. The book is, in many ways, utopian science fiction. The Arkadians are literally trying to build a better world. Of course, it’s not that simple, and this story revolves around how people can (or can’t) resolve the inherent conflict between competing views of what doing the right thing actually entails. And, of course, how they are going to feed themselves.

Arkadia is a mix of high-tech and rural living. Farming is the chief concern of most of the people — human and AI — and even those not directly participating in growing food are, to some extent or another, foodies. Among the human population, at least, everyone needs to eat.

Isabel Hernández isn't like the other residents of Arkadia and she finds herself at a loss to navigate her new surroundings. Baker Chen Wu helps her figure out how some parts of this society works and keeps her coming back to his market stall with both his knowledge and the savoury smell of this bread.

Chen Wu’s Herb Bread

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp table salt
5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp mixed herbs(basil, oregano, marjoram)
1 tbsp rosemary leaves
sea salt

Instructions

1. Mix together the flours, salt, yeast and mixed herbs.
Delicious bread
2. Add 3 tbsp of the olive oil and the warm water. Stir together until it's too hard to work with a spoon, then knead with your hands until it's all elastic. The dough will be moist.
3. Let it rise an hour or more, then punch it down and shape it into a rectangle. Place it on a baking sheet with about a teaspoon of oil rubbed over it. Let it rest about half an hour.
4. Stretch the dough out to the edges. Let it rest another half hour. Preheat oven to 425F/220C.
5. Poke some divots into the top of the loaf, then drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F/200C and bake for about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack and cut into squares.

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M. Darusha Wehm is the three-time Parsec Award shortlisted author of the novels Beautiful Red, Self Made, Act of Will andThe Beauty of Our Weapons. Her next novel, Children of Arkadia (Bundoran Press), will be released April 28, 2015. She is the editor of the crime and mystery magazine Plan B.

She is from Canada, but currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after spending the past several years traveling at sea on her sailboat. For more information, visit http://darusha.ca.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guest Post with David Walton

I'd like to welcome author David Walton to the blog today. David's latest novel, Superposition, comes out tomorrow. Superposition is a quantum physics murder mystery, which sounds absolutely fascinating. David has been on the blog before, and I'm pleased to have him return so I can find out how he fits writing into a life already full with work and seven kids. That's right, seven. Without further ado, here's David:

No matter what your life looks like, I bet it's full.  You have more things that you want to do than you have time to fit in.  Parts of your life threaten to crowd out the other parts, and sometimes it seems like you spend all your time doing what you have to do, and not enough doing what you want to do.  How do you find a balance?

I have seven children, ages 1 to 14.  I have a full time job as an engineer.  And in my "free time", I write and publish science fiction novels.  I often hear people say, "I don't know how you do it" and "Where do you find the time?"  They think that my wife and I must be super-organized, running our house like a well-oiled machine.  They think we must have it all together.  (They also think we're crazy.)

In truth, my wife and I are pretty flexible.  We don't plan very much, we take things as they come, and we're willing to let some things slide for the sake of what we care about.  We're not superhuman.  So how do I balance family and work and writing?  Most of all, by being clear about my priorities.

My first priority is my family.  I spend a lot of time at home.  I make dinner, help with homework, change diapers, engage with my kids' lives.  This can mean saying no to other things.  I don't work overtime very much, even though some of my colleagues do.  I don't spend much time with friends.  I don't write as much as I'd like.  Sometimes those choices cause pressure or stress, but I know what's most important to me.

But... seven children?  How do you have time for *anything* else, never mind writing novels?

I have time by letting lesser things slide.  I don't exercise as much as I should.  I don't always wash the dishes before bed.  I stay up too late.  I clean up the clothes and toys strewn on the floor only when it reaches avalanche proportions.  I don't fix things around the house.  Sometimes, this causes stress and aggravation, but most of the time, it's okay.  I know what is most important to me.  I spend time with my family, and I write.

I also don't write all that much.  I've written two dozen short stories and five novels, but that's over the course of 17 years.  Writing fits in the corners of my life.  I just never stop doing it.

Staying healthy is important to a lot of people, and Becky asked if I could talk about that, too.  I'm not an ideal example in this regard: my weight is more than it should be, and my eating habits aren't the best.  However, I have been running with my daughter, and we've done a few 5K races.  Also, we take long walks as a whole family, often as much as five miles (when the weather is nice).  My approach to exercise is pretty much the same as with everything else: I do it to the extent that it fits with my other priorities.  I don't go to a gym, which would require time away from my family.  Instead, I choose exercise I can do while spending time with them.

Everyone's life is different.  I'm not saying my priorities should be your priorities.  But if you know what your priorities are, you'll be able to accomplish what's most important to you.

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David Walton is the author of the newly released novel SUPERPOSITION, a quantum physics murder mystery with the same mind-bending, breathless action as films like INCEPTION and MINORITY REPORT.  His other works include the Philip K. Dick Award-winning TERMINAL MIND, the historical fantasy QUINTESSENCE (Tor, 2013) and its sequel, QUINTESSENCE SKY.  You can read about his books and life at http://www.davidwaltonfiction.com/.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Lesson in Spontaneity, or, Go With the Flow

I'm a creature of habit. If something disrupts my long-standing plans, I typically get out of sorts. I know this stems from my anxiety, and I've tried to address it over the years. But the phrase 'go with the flow' certainly doesn't apply to me. Typically.

This morning I packed my son and myself and our things in the car. The plan: drop him off at school, then hit the gym for an easy run and some core exercises, shower, run errands, write. My first 10K is this Saturday, so this week is all about the easy runs. Then after the 10K it'll be all about the breakfast burritos and taking a nap. Sorry, I digress.

The car made a funny sound, and the engine didn't even turn over. I tried again. There was a sputter, the lights came on, and then nothing. My first thought was, "Thank goodness I don't have to go to work today." Every other time the car has crapped out on me, it's been a work day. So I got my son and his stuff out of the car, handed them over to his dad, and went back to my car. I coaxed it into turning on, then called my mechanic and asked if I could head over there. They wouldn't be able to look at it until Friday. Well, boo. But he kindly gave me the name of someone near me. They could get me in, so I drove over there telling the car, "Please keep going. Please keep going. Please keep going."

I also kept thinking about my plans and how they were most likely not going to happen. However, I was already dressed for the gym. The mechanic was only 3 miles from home. Maybe I could get that much done.

These feet (mine in blue) are ready to take me anywhere
Turns out my car's battery problems most likely stem from a drain on the system. So I told them to go ahead and find the problem and fix it (otherwise I'd be replacing the stupid battery every year or so). The mechanic offered me a ride home, and I said, "No thanks, I'll just run home." And out the door I went.

Two point nine miles later, I was home. The weather was perfect for a run. Sunny, mid-fifties. Did I mention it was uphill? I'm pretty sure my breathing sounded like an old transmission by the time I got near home. Fortunately, I wasn't passing anyone at that point, so I don't think I alarmed anyone.

When the car wouldn't start, I felt my anxiety kick in. Moments like that, I always picture my brain as the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, rushing around and saying he's going to be late. But this time, the anxiety ticked up and then... subsided. By the time I finished my run home, it was gone.

So my gym time turning into a run outdoors in perfect weather, and a hill workout to boot. Instead of spending the time worrying about the car and how much this is going to cost, I spent the time enjoying the sunshine, saying hi to people running or walking, contemplating a side trip to Einstein's for a bagel and coffee (the only reason it didn't happen was that I didn't have cash with me), thinking about my upcoming race, and feeling fortunate that I was able-bodied and in such good shape that I could run home like it's no big deal. It's a much better use of brain energy than worrying.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Fever

The first day of spring has come and gone. The grass in the backyard and in the park is greening. The trees are putting out buds and flowers. The weeds are sprouting. Have I mentioned I'm one of those crazy people who enjoys pulling weeds? I find it cathartic, and I like seeing the progress I make in cleaning up the yard. Seriously, I go pull weeds when I'm feeling stabby. You're welcome, world.

Snow at the beginning of March
The weather makes me feel like I'm coming out of a long sleep. To enhance the feeling, I just finished the last book in my Necromancer's Inheritance series. This is the first time I've completed a huge project like that. Finishing the last book also makes me feel like I'm coming out of a long sleep, like I've been in this dreamworld for a long time and am waking up to a bright world and blinking my eyes.

While I enjoyed working on the series, I'm also glad to have the bulk of it done (with the exception of final edits and, ya know, actually publishing it). There are so many other things I want to write. I still probably have another good forty years ahead of me (pardon me while I go knock on wood), and yet I'm scared I won't have enough time to tell all the stories inside me.

Soon it'll be sunning weather
Things are also moving ahead on my fantasy novel Fractured Days, which is the follow-up to Shards of History. It sort of hit me this week that I have two books coming out soon, which means I get to start working on a brand new one. Eep! I've been in edit mode for so long that I need to shift gears hard to get back into rough draft mode. I love it when I get to dream about the story and imagine all the shapes it can take. So I guess I'm going right back into dreamland while the rest of the world wakes up around me. With breaks now and then to tend the garden and take care of weeds when I feel stabby.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cover Reveal for The Necromancer's Book of Magic

Things are super busy these days. I'm working on edits for Fractured Days, which is the sequel to Shards of History, coming out later this year from World Weaver Press. I've got several short stories coming and going, trying to find the perfect home. And I'm wrapping up edits on the final book in The Necromancer's Inheritance series, which will be out as soon as I can make it happen. But until then, I thought you'd enjoy a peek at the cover, and a teaser about what to expect from the novel.


Rose has finally got her life in order with a great job managing her brother's restaurants, a promising future with her boyfriend, a niece on the way, and regular talks with her dead mother's spirit.

Things start to go wrong when the centuries-old book of magic, a guide to necromancy for her and her family, becomes ill. Rose wonders if her frequent visits with her mother's spirit is harming the book, or if something more sinister might be happening. She enlists her cousin Josh's help since he's the only other necromancer around, but he has his own problems trying to fit in as the newest cook in her brother's restaurant.

As the book's condition grows worse, Rose, Josh, and the rest of her family hurry to find a cure before they discover whether it's possible for a magic book to die.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Plateaus and Breakthroughs

The last few times I ran, I felt like I was slogging through molasses. I whined silently to myself the whole time. It didn't feel as good as it usually does, and I finished those runs feeling disappointed.

Frankie finds new skills tiring
The last few short stories I wrote, it felt like pulling teeth to get the words down. I kept thinking, "This isn't right. This sucks." I whined silently to myself the whole time. It didn't feel as good as it usually does, and although I finished the stories, I was disappointed in them.

See any similarities? Usually I struggled with one or the other (or best of all, neither), but both running and writing have been tough recently. I have to keep reminding myself that this usually happens before some sort of breakthrough: an insight about story telling, or the ability to run a little faster or a little farther. It's the mandatory suckiness before new synapses finally make their connection. It's the darkness before an AHA! moment. It's the reason I consider drinking more often.

It's nice to feel like I'm writing well or running well. I like feeling competent. So these plateaus leave me frustrated and grumbling and crotchety. And even though I've been around long enough to realize it's a temporary state that means I'm mastering a new skill, I still dislike feeling mediocre. But I run anyway and just do my best, waiting for my body to catch up with my brain. I still write anyway and try to make the story the best I can, knowing that I'm digging deeper and making progress on my craft.

One of these days, the light bulb will go off while I'm writing, and something gorgeous will come out on paper. And another light bulb will go off while I'm running, and I'll go farther and faster than I have before. I just have to be patient and embrace the plateau.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grit

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It was a gripping story, and I found myself irked by things like having to go to work and eat and take showers because all of those things took away from the time I could spend reading the book. Louie Zamperini was an resilient person who went through some horrendous experiences, from days on a life raft after his plane crashed into the ocean, to months as a POW, subject to malnutrition, disease, physical and emotional abuse, and squalid living conditions. It's amazing that he survived.
WWII Memorial

There's nothing in my life that can ever come close to comparing. I can't say that I've ever been challenged that way. I've been fortunate to live a comfortable life, and I'm grateful for that. And yet, I have faced challenges and continue to do so. Here's a little secret... I like challenges. Not the surviving-shark-infested-waters-after-a-plane-crash type of challenges, but the kind that make me push myself in a relatively safe and healthy way.

I read through this list and recognized a lot of Louie's POW experience in there, although there was a deeper layer to what he and the other POW's went through because their captors were actively trying to dehumanize them. But Louie's experiences as a kid, as an Olympian, and stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean certainly fit on that list.

Some of the items on the list reminded me of what I need more of. For instance, I've racked up 290 rejections for my short stories, and that's only the ones I've recorded on this app that I use. I had more rejections before I started using it. I've made 13 sales. That's a huge difference, right? That's a lot of "no's" in order to get to a few "yes's." I manage rejection fairly well, most of the time, but sometimes I do despair and gnash my teeth and rend my garments. I think I could manage rejections better, and so I started a little game where I rack up points for rejections, and when I reach a certain level, I treat myself to something nice. It's already working. I don't put off resubmitting a story when it comes back. Instead, I mark down the points I earned and send it back out.