Talk Nerdy to Me: I Am Not a Mathematical Genius

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One of my favorite female characters in all of science fiction is Aelliana Caylon from the Liaden series. She’s a brilliant mathematician who can do complex hyperspace equations in her head faster than a navigational computer. She also wins a spaceship at cards, because math. She has her flaws–she’s anxious and unconfident, like me sometimes–but her strengths far, far outweigh those flaws. There are days I totally want to be Aelliana.

Sadly, I am not a mathematical genius. No, really; I’ve been tested. I was in the advanced math classes all through high school because that’s how it happened. My senior year, they took us all into a huge auditorium and gave us a ridiculously hard math test. Ridiculously hard, on purpose. They were screening for math geniuses, you see. Rumors were the NSA was recruiting.

The key to this particular test is to know what you didn’t know. If you could solve the problem, you should solve it and you’d get points. If you didn’t know how to solve the problem, well, you’d leave it blank. Supposedly. For every incorrect answer you filled it, you’d get points deducted.

Several of my classmates got scores of 40 or 60 on this ridiculously hard test. They filled in the blanks for the ones they knew, turned in the mostly blank answer sheet, and went on with their lives. One guy got a score of over 200. He was one of the math geniuses they were looking for–though by his affectation of a poor suburban rap accent, you’d never know. Rumors were that he was later offered a job with the NSA.

But me? I got a negative 120. That’s right, negative. I couldn’t stand to let the questions go. I’d had through Calculus 2, and some of the ideas made an elegant sort of pattern to them. It was work. I had to stretch my mind, a lot. But I could almost–almost–see the pattern emerging. And then it would slip out of reach; I’d get dashed back to the earth, frustrated. The pattern wouldn’t gel. I could see it was there, but not find it. So I covered the entire booklet with scribbled notes. I worked on the answers from angle after angle. I scribbled in that damn book all the way up to the three hour mark. I would rule out an answer or two… but then utterly fail. So I’d start over.

They called the time, and I bubbled in my best guesses, and walked away. Then, a month later, I got my answers back. The absolute lowest score in the entire school. By 100 points. Best guesses don’t do it, not when it comes to the real math.

The real math, the navigational tables, the quantum theory, the theorems, the cutting edge math, the real stuff–that I can’t do. I can learn someone else’s math. I sweated through Calc 3. I cried my way through learning Taylor Polynomials, thanks. And got an A. Because reasons. I can learn whatever the hell I need to, if I’m willing to put in the work. But when it comes to the real stuff, the real math, I’m a woman wandering in a forest with a sheet over my eyes. I can see the vague outlines of the world, but no detail. And I keep running into things.

This makes me deeply sad.

Because, you see, I am not a mathematical genius, and I understand enough to know the difference.


 

And now comes the part where we commiserate. What were YOUR academic strengths? Did any of you struggle with the patterns like I did?

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Getting To Know You: Author Kerry Schafer

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Today’s guest is celebrating the release of the final book in her Between Trilogy, THE NOTHING. Kerry Schafer joins us to talk about finishing up this series, and what’s coming up for her. (And… check the end of the interview for info about an amazing “real world fantasy location”!)

kerry_for_kschaferwebsiteThe third book in the Between trilogy, THE NOTHING, just released yesterday, congratulations! Are you able to relax and enjoy a little down time? Do you have some kind of “release day” celebration?

Relax? What is this word? What does it mean? I don’t think it’s in the Glossary of Kerry’s Life, to tell you the truth. Nope. I’m still busy working on getting rewards out to my lovely Kickstarter backers. Plus, I have a new series coming out with Diversion Books and I’m hard at work on another novel in a whole new genre for me.  Plus the day job. I did have a little Facebook Party to celebrate the release.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the series, can you give us a little introduction to the story and the characters?

Sure. The Main Character is a woman named Vivian, who wants to live a quiet life as an ER doctor, but destiny has other plans. She is gifted (or afflicted) with three special qualities. She is a Dreamshifter, which allows her to travel through Dreamworlds and also into the place Between dreaming and waking. She has dragon blood and can shift into a dragon. And she is a descendent of the Sorcieri and needs to come to terms with what that means. Her lover is Zee, a bookstore owner who is a dragon slayer in the Dreamworlds and Between. Her companion animal is a dream penguin named Poe.almostfinalnothing2

In the Nothing, the third and final book of the trilogy, Vivian and Zee travel through the Between trying to stop the evil Dragon Queen Aidan from her plan to destroy all of the Dreamworlds – and all of the dreamers along with them.

I hear we’ll be getting some paranormal mystery from you!! What should we expect from DEAD BEFORE DYING?

DEAD BEFORE DYING features Maureen, who is hands down my favorite of any character I’ve written. She’s tough, stubborn, and turning sixty. Her husband wants a divorce, she’s been wounded in action, and the Special Events unit she’s been working for wants to put her out to pasture. So she’s forced to take on an undercover assignment in a retirement home where she expects monotony and old people. What she gets are dead bodies, a blood chilling paranormal creature, and the greatest challenge of her career so far.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered while researching your most recent book?

While writing DEAD BEFORE DYING, I’m pretty sure Homeland Security started watching me. I was fascinated by secret government installations and activities. There are some pretty hair raising experiments out there –  things like deliberately exposing citizens to diseases, radiation, and other hazardous conditions without their knowledge or consent. I also spent time researching homes for unwed mothers. Well into the twentieth century, young women were coerced into adopting out their babies. There were a lot of deaths of both babies and mothers.

Have you ever written yourself “into a corner” where the circumstances necessary to continue your current path violate the rules of your world building? How do you handle that situation?

I am always and forever writing myself into corners. I’m not so good with the planning. Even when I do sit down and create an outline of sorts and try to plot ahead, I always stray away from the plan to follow some sort of wild thought creature. So far, I’ve always managed to find a way out. And I think this actually makes for better surprise moments in my books. For example in Dead Before Dying I didn’t really know for sure who some of the bad people were until the end. I figure, if I’m surprised, readers will be surprised as well.

Is anyone is your story “safe”? Are “beloved” characters guaranteed to make it through the end of the book/series?

I love happy endings. So the answer is that I will try to keep characters safe. But if  the story calls for a death, then I will acknowledge that reality. There was one death in The Nothing that I didn’t plan or see coming. I got to the point in the story and said, “Oh. Dear. I’m so sorry.” So I guess I’m saying there are no guarantees.

What’s one thing you know about your main character(s) that would surprise your readers to know about them?

Poe sees the future. But since he can’t talk, he can’t tell anybody what he sees.

Many of the same driving forces motivate both “heroes” and “villains” in a story. Is there any circumstance in your story where the tables could turn and the lines blur? How many “degrees of separation” do your antagonist and protagonist really have?

Well, I’ve tried to give Aidan a few redeeming qualities, but honestly – she’s pretty much just evil. I do blur the lines a little with my protagonists. Vivian and Zee are faced with some harsh decisions in The Nothing. Both have to commit acts that go against their conscience and their will, because the alternative is something even worse.

Do you have a personal “work rider”? Do you need M&M’s handy? Certain music playing? A favorite cushion? What do you HAVE to have in order to write?

Coffee. Seriously. Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. My favorite writing music is anything by Mark Knopfler or Nora Jones. But there’s nothing that I really HAVE to have in order to write. Some days, these things are not available. Writing has to happen anyway.

Quick answer:

  1. Facebook or Twitter – These days, Facebook. Used to be Twitter
  2. Cake or Ice Cream – Both. But not together.
  3. Marvel or DC – Marvel
  4. Summer or Winter – Spring. I’m contrary that way.
  5. Beatles or Rolling Stones – Beatles

What song do you sing like a rockstar when you’re alone in your car?

Anything that comes on that I like and know some of the words to. Love to sing in the car

Have you ever been to any of the Natural or Man-Made Wonders of the World? If so, which ones? If not, which would you like to visit?

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon. I want to visit all of them, but what I really want to see is this huge underground cave I read an article about. There are places where light shines through and trees and plants grown down there. It’s like this incredible real world fantasy location. I really want to go there.

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HUGE thanks to Kerry for taking time during her busy release week to chat with us. I’ve done a little digging, and I think I’ve found the cave she mentioned. It’s called Son Doong Cave in Vietnam, and it’s truly amazing… check it out, here. (Image below via DarianCulbert.com.)

hang-son-doong-cave

You can find all the info about Kerry’s Between series at her website, or you can follow her on her social media (Facebook and Twitter). And you can purchase THE NOTHING at online retailers including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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Taxes & Experimental Ballet

So this past week was Taxes week for me. The downside of being self-employed is that my taxes are much, much more complicated than were back when I had a regular 9 to 5 marketing job. I have to track royalties, self pub sales from Rabbit Trick, audio and other rights sales, and freelance gigs along with all my expenses (like travel to San Diego ComicCon to speak, poor me) in one large database and double-check my numbers every year at tax time. This inevitably takes days, as I’m a bit detail oriented at this time of year.

At the end of the several-day push, I went to hit “print” and found… my printer was broken. Like, really, intensely, cannot be resurrected broken. Even Sam couldn’t get the poor thing to work. So it was time to go to Target and buy a new effing printer to print my tax info on to take to the accountant. But then, of course, it took another 3 hours to figure out the software drivers and more Sam time to get the new effing thing to work. Sigh. And then more spreadsheets. But it finally got done.

And then we went to the accountant. Don’t get me wrong, I love my accountant–he used to be a financial advisor as well, and he answers all sorts of difficult and cool self-employed business questions–but I don’t like going to his office at tax time. Because, you know, taxes. But Sam and I got a refund, so that was okay. We came home and watched a marathon House of Cards session to cleanse the mental pallet afterwards, so that was fun.

And then Sunday. Have I mentioned I love Facebook? An old friend from high school contacted me out of the blue this week to say she’d gotten a pair of free tickets to the ballet and did I want to go. Did I want to go? Hell, yeah I wanted to go. I danced ballet from age 4 to age 13, and for two brief seconds thought I’d become a pro (delusion, but it was far more realistic than my hyperspace pilot thing, just saying). So I jumped into the car and went to meet her, thrilled.

Not only was this ballet, it was amazing experimental ballet as a retelling of Tennessee Williams’s play Camino Real. Astonishing set design. Gorgeous, well-thought-out music. And beautiful, haunting, sad choreography that really touched me. The play, as near as I could tell, was set around a washed up old town and a brothel run by a very bad guy. One of the prostitutes dances this incredibly complex number on pointe lurching like she’s drunk–it was astonishingly difficult and cool. I was blown away.

And I got to see an old friend, now 15 years older. She and I were much the same, and much different. We both still love ballet, and we both still have parents in the same town.

And I did taxes.

All in all, a good week.

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Talk Nerdy To Me: Google Doodles

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Hello all!!

My name is Jennifer and I’ve been assisting Alex with things for the last couple of months. Today, I’m popping in here, while Alex is tied up with authorly things, to tell you about one of MY nerdy obsessions…

GOOGLE DOODLES!!

If you use Google as your search browser, then you have certainly seen the special graphics they create to celebrate a holiday, remember a birthday, or recognize some other important accomplishment in history. I get a little happy in my heart whenever I open my search page and see one of these waiting for me. (Even more so when it’s my birthday — there’s a birthday design, and the scroll-over text says “Happy Birthday, Jennifer”!!)

Sometimes, they’re beautiful pieces of art:

StPatricksDay2012St Patrick’s Day 2012

 

RobertLouisStevensonBirthday2010Robert Louis Stevenson’s Birthday 2010

EarthDay2010Earth Day 2010

CharlesDickensBirthday2012Charles Dickens’ Birthday 2012

Sometimes they have fun animations:

SeokJoo-myungsBirthday204
Seok Joo-myung’s Birthday 2014

 PhilaeRoboticLanderLandsOnComet67P2014

Philae robotic lander lands on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko 2014


WorldCup262014World Cup #26 2014

And sometimes (much to my delight and the detriment of my time management abilities), they’re interactive!! I can’t post those here because of the coding involved, but here are a few links to some of my favorites. Trust me when I tell you, you’ll get hooked on them, lol!

These are nowhere NEAR all of the Google Doodles to see. You can access the Google Doodles collection HERE. And for something really cool… check out the Doodles 4 Google site HERE. These are graphics designed and submitted by regular people, in countries around the world. There are some really talented people out there, sharing their imagination.

Big thank you to Alex for letting me steal a bit of her blog space today. I’ll leave you all with the lovely doodle from Google today, the first day of spring…

FirstDayOfSpring2015

I’d love to hear what YOU think about these!! Have you noticed them? Given them much thought? Do you have a favorite from the Google Doodles archive? (How much time did you spend wandering through it?? I’ve visited the site many times, and still don’t think I’ve seen them all.)

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Getting To Know You: Forensics Investigator Geoff Symon

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Today’s guest is someone you probably haven’t heard of, but he has information ESSENTIAL to the stories we love. He helps authors “get it right”.

From his website:

For more than 20 years as a federal law enforcement special agent, Geoff Symon has been using his expertise and experience to put away the bad guys. Now he’s begun lecturing and consulting with authors in genre fiction communities to help bring verisimilitude and meaningful detail to the depiction of crime and investigation.

Agent Symon has conducted numerous classes (both in person, and online) for authors in multiple genres who write mysteries into their stories. He’s a forensics investigator, expert legal witness, and today… he’s here to give us tips on how to avoid the one thing that makes him the craziest when authors “get it wrong”.

Forensics For Fiction Flubs – Logic Leaps
By Geoff Symon

 Logic leaps rank as my number one pet peeve when reading fiction. They are far too prevalent and only serve to take me out of the story. Logic leaps mean using scarce evidence or information to jump to conclusions that always end up being correct. Crime in any genre generally involves some sort of police procedural or detective work to identify the culprit. The evidence which helps the protagonist (and reader) reach the correct conclusion often involves forensic techniques. If forensics is the pathway the writer chooses to use, then it must follow internal logic. A conclusion cannot be arrived upon without the appropriate evidence to support it. Think of it like this: The shortest road trip from North Dakota to Texas must pass through South Dakota; and you cannot stop in Nebraska and declare you’ve arrived at your destination. We don’t need to see all the steps on the page, but they must occur to make the conclusion believable.

For example, let’s say in a particular book a neighbor’s house was robbed. The sole witness didn’t observe the actual crime but reports seeing a brown dog running past her window at some time on the evening in question. “A-Ha!” thinks the detective, “Jack has a brown dog. Jack must be the thief!” This type of irresponsible conclusion happens all of the time in fiction.

As a reader I’m left wondering, how many other homes in the area have brown dogs? What if the dog was a stray? What if the witness is mistaken and she didn’t see a brown dog at all but a coyote? And even if it was Jack’s dog, how does that suggest Jack robbed the house? An illogical leap has somehow become obvious fact.

There are many reasons writers use logic leaps. Often they want to keep the initial evidence vague so the reader does not spot the bad guy too quickly. However, the vaguer the evidence, forensically speaking, the less likely it will point an investigator in any direction at all.

Logic leaps also provide an easy way out for writers who haven’t done their research. They pepper pages with the little investigative jargon they know and feature the investigative techniques culled from their favorite serialized crime scene show. They get stuck with questions and loose ends, so they wrap it up as quickly as possible.

Some authors use logic leaps in the belief that they make the protagonist seem smarter or more intuitive than the other characters. In practice, the opposite occurs. Any conclusion resembling a lucky guess leaves the reader doubting the reality and the intelligence of the character. Even if you want your hero to arrive at the conclusion because he or she is just that brilliant, you still have to establish that intellect in action and show it. My best example will always be Sherlock Holmes, constantly arriving at conclusions five steps ahead of everyone else. The genius of this character was that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always backed up the dazzling insights with Holmes explaining the logic route that brought him there. Rather than a logic leap, Holmes exercised superhuman logic which honored the forensic process.

As an author, the best way to guard against logic leaps is preparation: research and planning specific to your project. Explore the crimes and types of evidence you’re writing about so you know what they can tell the reader and how they can further your story. Also, map out your crime and the path of evidence the investigator will take prior to writing the chapters. Know that the hotel key left at the scene will lead to the interview at the front desk, that leads to the alias used to check-in, bringing us to the rental car at the airport, which provides a possible fingerprint. If you know the route you’re going to take, you can reveal each step as quickly or explicitly as your story requires.

Remember, if the reader is ever given the opportunity to say “Wait….what?” they’ve been taken out of the story. Map your route before you start writing so that their response instead is “Oh…wow!”

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Geoff Symon is a Federal Forensic Investigator, Polygraph Examiner, teacher and consultant. He has taken his 20 years as a Federal Agent and applied his knowledge and experience to become a sought-after consultant for authors writing forensics in fiction.

For more information about Geoff, his work, and his class schedule, check out his website www.geoffsymon.com. And you can find Geoff on twitter at @GeoffSymon.

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So… how about all of YOU?? Do you notice these “logic leaps” in stories? Do you have other pet peeves in mysteries and crime novels? (No book/author bashing, please, just general occurrences.) Do you have favorite authors who “get it right”?

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Return of the Sun

So today I’m sitting outside in the Atlanta spring sunshine on a bright orange lounge chair, soaking up the (surprisingly hot) sun and feeling the breeze. The trees outside my back porch are still bare from the winter, and just a few days ago it was 40 degrees out. Now it’s 77, and I’ve got bare feet and a ridiculous hat. My back is even behaving today, no pain and just a little stiffness down the side and leg. Stiffness and discomfort is *worlds* better than pain, especially when one has a ridiculous hat.

I’m having a ball, with my writing music on and the smell of spring in my face. I may end up with a sunburn. This is a real worry–those of us with too much Swedish and Irish blood in the mix tend to burn at the mere threat of sun. But for someone (i.e., me) who spent the entire winter at least half-cold, to have the bones all the way warm and the sun shining is a glorious thing.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to coworking. Tomorrow I’ll be a real adult again, at least for a few brief hours. But today I’m playing hooky with the laptop and the sun and All Things Beautiful.

Today, I may even get some great words on the page for Adam and Mindspace. That would be a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Talk Nerdy To Me: Featuring Allison Pang

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Former marine biologist Allison Pang is the author of the urban fantasy Abby Sinclair series, the weekly Fox & Willow web-comic, and other short stories in various anthologies. She’s joining us today to talk about one of her passions…

LEGO GEEKERY!

AllisonPangIf you follow me at all on social media, you probably know I’m a fairly into LEGOs. Case in point, the afternoon I was asked to write this post, I had just received my newest collection of ELVES LEGOs in the mail. (But more about that later.)

So, why LEGOs?Lego1

Let’s go way, way back to the early 80’s. In those days, LEGOS were pretty much considered to be a “boy” toy, at least by my family. Sure, I could play with them if I wanted (we had a large barrel of pieces my brother and I would drag out fairly often and build with) but when it came to the kits? Not something I ever got, no matter how much I asked for them.

To be fair, LEGO kits were somewhat limited in theme – you had the LEGO town blocks, which were sort of every day scenes – cars, roads, gas stations, etc., Castle LEGOs and Space. (The late 80’s gave us Pirates, but I was in high school by then and LEGOs were…not cool.)  My brother mostly had the space sorts, so that’s what I ended up using.

And that was fun, but as much as I enjoyed building space ships and having epic battles with my brother and his friends, there sometimes felt like there was something missing. Looking back on it now, it’s easy to point out that there weren’t any girl mini-figs and that probably had something to do with it, but also that the LEGOs at that time had a fairly limited color palette.

Lego2So fast forward a few years. I hadn’t paid attention to LEGOs in quite some time – except for the gifts I bought for family members. And even then most of what I noticed was the price. LEGOs can be rather steep, unfortunately, especially the larger, more complicated sets. (There is a Star Wars Death Star. It’s almost 4000 pieces and runs about $400 – I haven’t quite mustered the stomach to buy it yet, but one of these days…)

And then I had my son…and people started buying *him* LEGOS. And I started helping him put them together and realized how much they’d changed in the last 15 years. Namely, LEGO was producing licensed sets from 3rd parties – Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter. And not only the sets, but the games for PC and Console – LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batmat, LEGO Indiana Jones…suddenly I was completely enamored with them.

Lego3Instead of primary color blocks filled with generic space men, I had wizard towers to build. And in truth, I didn’t start buying LEGOs for myself until the Avengers came out and I just had to have LEGO Loki. Had to. And so I bought all the sets I could find, because I also really needed LEGO Black Widow and Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye and Captain America. (And clever LEGO – so many of the characters are only available with certain sets, so if you want minifig X, well, you’re stuck buying set Y. It’s a racket, but what can you do?)

So that was fun – and the LEGO Lord of the Rings and LEGO The Hobbit came out. And yes, I have all those sets as well, from the little Frodo barbecue set I snagged off of eBay to the $200 Orthanc with Wormtongue and Sauroman.  And LEGO Legolas. And Gollum. Gandalf. All the dwarves. Smaug. Galadriel. Bilbo. Thranduil. (And the list keeps going on and on…)

Lego4So why this obsession? (And I should note, that yes, I like LEGOs and I have fun putting them together, but I tend to stick to the kits. I don’t have the time or energy to do the really crazy stuff, like the to-scale models of the Serenity, or massive buildings. (Check out my post here on my blog for a gallery of awesome stuff I saw at a local LEGO con last year…)

I don’t know why exactly, but something about building soothes me. I don’t build LEGOs all the time – I buy up the sets as I can afford them and pull a few out when I’m in a period of high stress. Could be writing related, could be something else, but there’s a rhythm in sorting the bricks by type or color before I start that lets me clear my mind. I pick sets from my favorite fandoms or that appeal to me in some other way and allocate some time to work on them.

Lego5I suspect part of my inherent satisfaction is that after a few hours or a couple of days, I’ve got a finished set. I think that when I’m struggling against an issue – let’s say I’ve having problems with a plot, for example, working with the bricks gives my fingers and brain something to focus on, but still allows me to think things through. Plus if I’m struggling to feel like I’m accomplishing anything, a small set can at least make me feel like I’ve managed to do *something.* I tend to keep the small sets for stress, and the big sets for rewards. (LEGO Orthanc I did after I’d had back surgery and I needed something to distract me from the pain.)

Lego6My newest LEGO sets are the ELVES. Now, I’ve got mixed feelings about them. On one hand, elves. Elves are always cool. The colors are pretty nice – definitely interesting, even if they are mostly pastels. Lots of really great little accessories that you don’t normally find in these sets…but they are the LEGO dolls  vs the more usual mini-figs.

You can see the difference here:

Lego7

(And really, the biggest issue is that the dolls don’t have movable legs. They can only bend at the waist, which limits them – e.g. they can’t ride horses, like regular minifigs, for example.)

Lego8The dolls showed up at about the same time as the LEGO Friends series – basically, *sigh* LEGOS for girls. Which I guess is okay, but honestly, all they really need to do is add more lady mini-figs in their sets. I get very frustrated with some of the Hobbit sets since it’s basically a sausage factory – out of all the sets I own, there are 3 girls – Arwen, Tauriel and Galadriel. That’s it. I know the movies are like that too, but I don’t think I need two different Lake-town sets, honestly. How about Eowyn fighting the Witch King?

Back to LEGO Friends. Okay – so pastel colors, the mini dolls usually come with some sort of animal companion, and I guess the sets are supposed to appeal to little girls. But instead of being able to reenact scenes of battle and adventure…LEGO Friends get to go to the shopping mall. Or the juice bar. (There are some stables and vet set, etc, but still. A JUICE BAR??) What bothers me most isn’t the sets themselves – they are colorful, but so many of them are just so…passive.

Lego9My daughter is 8. I asked her what LEGO sets she wanted for her birthday. Quick answer? Not LEGO friends. Long answer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Minecraft sets. Fine by me. But I asked her tonight what she thought about the LEGO Elves (since she was helping me put them together) and her opinion is much like mine – LEGO Elves have better colors, but LEGO Hobbit has better architecture and more interesting characters.

That being said, the ELVES sets overall seem to be better than the default Friends sets. (The Spa is the only one I’m really giving the side-eye to – and even then, the waterfall thing is pretty nifty, so I’ll give it a pass.)

At any rate, I’ve gone on quite a bit here, so I’ll just wrap it up by saying that LEGOs are awesome and if you haven’t run by the toy aisle in your local Target, you might want to give it a shot one of these days to see what they’ve got, and then go get your brick on.

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Thanks to Allison for stopping by today, and for giving us all something to “oohhh” and “aahhh” about (that Orthanc build is super impressive!!). Be sure to check out her website for all the info on her current stories and her works in progress. You can also find her on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blog) if you’d like to chat.

How about the rest of you… are LEGOs your thing? Do you have the patience for the big projects? Do you like to collect kits from any certain fandom? I’d love to hear about your favorites — and even see some pictures, if you’d like to share — in the comments.

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Return of the Back

Whew! It’s been a few weeks since I hurt my back (what felt like 4 or a billion years or so) but I’m finally feeling better. Still a bit sensitive, and my IT bands are still driving me nuts, but I made it back to the gym with Sam yesterday and walked on the treadmill, and it felt good. I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference a no-pain day has made in my outlook on the world. If I’m careful (fingers crossed) maybe I’ll make a full recovery and can work on strengthening and preventing new injuries in a couple of weeks.

How did I get there, do you ask? A lot of motivated work. I found a chiropractor and went three times (leaving the office in twice the pain I went in with), bought an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair, iced about twice a day, stretched slowly when I could, and took far more ibuprofen over several weeks than I’m comfortable admitting. I also had a conversation with a massage therapist friend after the chiropractor didn’t really work and she told me to buy two tennis balls. That’s right, tennis balls. Then she told me how to do an exercise with the tennis balls between the base of my spine and the floor. It hurt like nobody’s business, as she warned me it would. But when I stood up, my back didn’t hurt–at all–for the first time in weeks. The muscles tensed back up over time, of course. Nothing’s free. But I actually had something that worked. HUGE difference.

I still have my rolling office bag, and my flats, and are committing to both for a good while. Also, letting experts carry heavy things. I am woman, hear me roar! But not with heavy boxes, at least not right now. (Sheepish smile.)

Now, onto writing and freelance work and Other Great Non-Pain Things…

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Talk Nerdy to Me: Space

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So today is the first post of my new Talk Nerdy to Me series, where I ask friends (and myself) to talk about their (and my) favorite nerdy passions.

Today I talk about my totally irrational love for space. It dates back to when I was That Kid. Awkward. Smart. Braces. Overweight. Asthma. And I didn’t care–I totally wanted to be an astronaut. But I don’t think I fully understood what being an astronaut meant. I wanted to be one of the pilots from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, I think. Or a hyperspace pilot. Hyperspace sounded amazing.

Anyway, I begged my parents to take me to All the Astronaut Things. We did the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, like four times. The Houston space center. We peered up at the Saturn 5 Rockets and I dreamed of riding something just like that into space. The space center in Houston is particularly awesome because it comes with real live people to ask questions of, dressed in real astronaut uniforms so they must be astronauts, right? I think I asked every question imaginable. Our tour went way over the allotted time because I asked so many questions, and my mom, thrilled to have me bugging someone else, totally backed me up and demanded answers.

How do you go to the bathroom in space? They make a LOT of half-jokes about this one on tours for kids and avoid the subject like crazy people. However, there is an answer if you’re annoying enough! You’ve always wanted to know, right? You gotta go in space, right? If you’re a guy in the Mercury missions, you whip it out and use a bottle type contraption. Trickier for #2, but same idea. One of the chief reasons why women didn’t go into space until later (the lack of whipping-ness). At least that’s the official line. In contrast, on the space shuttle in the 90s, both men and women sat down on a small toilet-shaped thing with a weak vacuum where the exit pipe would be–and made sure like hell it was a good seal. Then they turned it on, did their business, “flushed” with larger vacuum pressure, and went on about their lives. Washing your hands afterwards was actually harder in zero-g, with clumps of water and washcloths, but what weirded me out at 13 was the idea of practicing the seal on the toilet seat on Earth with a camera. The video feed was totally available to not just you but your training crew. (Shivers in remembered horror.)

What do they eat in space? Anything super sticky! In packets! Remarkably tasteless meals ready to eat in the beginning, but after awhile entirely tolerable things they could even heat up. In the 90s they totally had coffee in packets too. Why packets you ask? Why sticky? Well, liquids in zero-g are a nightmare–they literally get everywhere. A spill can have micro-droplets wandering around for literally weeks. Which is why you practice with a vomit bag. Many times. Think about it. (Obviously me at 13 was obsessed with bodily functions. It happens.)

Also, space ice cream is very tasty.

Reusable ceramic heat shielding is another thing that sticks out in my brain. Why throw out a whole space pod when you can figure out how to make it survive re-entry to be used again? In the Mercury days they used ablation to survive, designing the pod’s bottom to ablate away, burning slowly in layers until very little was left like the bar of soap in your shower left under the water. That was a very cool idea, but it meant you needed a whole new pod every time. So the shuttle was even better, because it glided down like an airplane (easier landing) and had those cool ceramic heat tiles. Plus reusable! Ceramics are amazingly cool because they survive the heat and act as great insulation, but they’re also crazy brittle. Any more than one or two of them crack, the whole shuttle can die on the way down. So they send the shuttles up with spare tiles. How cool is that?

I also went to Space Camp and got to be Mission Control and walk the astronaut types through a real fake mission. Apparently Space Camp also did not think the overweight awkward kid with asthma was going to be an astronaut. Well, I sure showed them! Wait… maybe not :) but I kicked ass at the ground crew mission too, and my guys got home safe. And I got to eat more space ice cream.

I read every space book I can find. You die in space because your blood boils! You freeze to death! Your eyes pop out due to the negative pressure! All three at once! (The books disagreed, but I thought all sounded cool.) You could hang out in geosynchronous orbit without any extra fuel. Ditto for the gravity spot between the Earth and the moon–there are at least two stable ones. Did you know orbit means you’re falling just fast enough to go around the edge of the Earth? Too shallow and you’re out into space, and too deep and you’re worrying about the punishing heat of re-entry. With math and stuff. Plus moon rocks were like pumice–full of holes and air. Or whatever.

So there you go. My first attempt at talking about one of my nerdy passions. How’d I do? Did you guys ever love space? If so, what cool facts have I left out? Feel free to gush! :)

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New Features On The Horizon

Hello all.

Today’s post is an introduction, of sorts. I’ve mentioned that revamping my blog is among my goals this year, and the first steps have been taken. I’m really excited about a couple of new features that will be starting soon. Of course, I’ll still be posting personal notes to you, and sharing book release and story information, but the new features will bring in guests and lots of fun new topics.

The first of the new features is called “Talk Nerdy To Me”. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is! Fellow authors, scholars, and professionals will be joining us to talk about their geeky passions. Be prepared for a little bit of everything with this feature: science, sports, gaming, reading, traveling, crafting, etc. I’ve opened the door wide, and I can’t wait to share all of the interesting, nerdy things with all of you.

I’m also adding a “get to know you” interview series to the blog. Questions for guests will start with standard craft or story questions, but will also include fun, unique questions to add a little personal touch.

In addition, I’ll be starting my own series of weekly writing/editing blog posts. I hope you’ll find these offerings both interesting and helpful.

If you’ve got a suggestion for an author or other professional that you’d like to see featured here, definitely let me know. I can’t make any promises (deadlines and other schedule conflicts are hard to maneuver, sometimes), but I am open to your ideas.

So, keep your eyes peeled. New features will be starting very soon. Be sure that you’re subscribed to this blog so you’ll receive notice when new posts go up.

 

Posted in blog posts guesting, Cool Stuff For Writers, for readers, Guest Posts by Authors, I'd Love to Hear From You, Why Not | 2 Comments