Speculative Fiction podcast link spam!

This week at the Star-Dusted Sirens, I’m serving up some link spam!

The Star-Dusted Sirens

When it comes to fiction, I generally prefer reading over listening, but over the last few years, two factors have led to me spending more time listening to short fiction podcasts: 1) I’m a dreadfully slow reader with very little free time, and 2) I often have stretches at work where I’m doing fairly routine tasks like binding or scanning music—the perfect opportunity to put on my headphones and let someone else do my short fiction reading for me.

What’s been interesting about listening to fiction rather than reading it myself is that audio often gives me a better sense of when a story is truly gripping me. The less engaged I am with the story, the more I find myself zoning out and missing things. But when a story’s good, I’ll hang on every word—assuming the narration is decent, that is. There have been a few times when I’ve…

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France, shiny writing news, and the impending arrival of the cymbal-clapping demon monkeys

Life has been so amazingly nice to me lately that I’m expecting the other shoe to drop at any moment, complete with an army of cymbal-clapping demon monkeys. I’m a pessimist like that. But in the meantime, I shall revel in the shiny!

I just got back from a rather lovely trip to France with my husband’s family. Much awesomeness was experienced. As an opera nerd, getting to see the Palais Garnier was the highlight for me during the few days we spent in Paris. After Paris, we took a barge cruise through Burgundy, which rocked on every level—the food, the wine, the weather, all the places visited, the amazing crew, and the chance to go bicycling along the canal route. But now, alas, I am re-adjusting to real life, where lunch sadly does not include wine and a ridiculous number of cheeses.

There has also been continuing writing-related shininess, most of it occurring while I was off learning just how rusty my French has gotten:

* My story “Memories of Mirrored Worlds” is now available online at Daily Science Fiction;

* Last week I got another acceptance from Daily Science Fiction for a flash piece called “The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child”;

* And finally, “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen” from issue 124 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies received some nice comments in reviews at Locus Online and Tangent Online. BCS will also be offering the story as a podcast sometime in the near future, which I’m quite looking forward to hearing.

The Kneejerk Click-and-Share

Or, “Facebook is going to steal your photos before you’ve even taken them!”

Those of you on Facebook are quite likely familiar with variations on the following post:

For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

When I see stuff like this, the first thing I do is stop and think about it for a minute. Does it seem even remotely plausible? (In the case of the above example, no. Becoming a publicly traded company has nothing to do with privacy rights.) Then I usually take a few minutes to look into it. I use my Google-Fu. I check reliable and highly useful places like Snopes.com where, more often than not, I’ll find that the post is a mutation of an outdated or equally erroneous post. And based on what I find, I do one of three things:

1) Share the post,
2) Ignore the post, or
3) Tell people to stop sharing the post because it’s just not true (giving them links to relevant sources, of course)

For the record, it’s usually #3.

Sadly, there are an awful lot of people who will pass the post along without a moment’s thought. Hence the reason it’s usually #3.

And when it is #3, sometimes people will thank me for the correction, delete and/or correct the erroneous info, and mention how they need to remember to check these things before clicking “share” in the future. Unfortunately, other people will just leave the post there and not respond to comments pointing out its bogus nature, or they’ll delete it and act is if it was never there, because who likes to admit they were wrong about something? No one. It’s not a pleasant feeling. But what really makes me want to bang my head against hard objects is when I get responses like this:

“A lot of people told me it’s not true, but I figure what can it hurt? LOL”

What can it hurt? Well, my least tactful response is that it makes you look kind of stupid. My more tactful response is that, because other people with kneejerk click-and-share tendencies are going to share the post after seeing it on your page, you’re needlessly perpetuating misconceptions and disseminating information that just ain’t true. Too many legitimate issues are obscured by the tinfoil hat flavored variety. But my main concern about this “share now, think later (if ever)” culture is that it’s part of a larger problem that unfortunately isn’t limited to the internet: a lack of critical thought.

In the ancient days of email forwards, I would sometimes do exactly the sort of thing I’ve ranted about here. “A friend sent me this email saying you’ll get cancer if you hold in a sneeze after ingesting Pop Rocks and Coke, so it must be true! Forward to everyone!” Two things helped me change that habit. The first was a friend who revealed that an email I had forwarded was bogus. He introduced me to the glory that is Snopes.com, for which I am eternally grateful. Because I hate feeling like a dumbass. The second was a class I took as an undergraduate called Science vs. Pseudoscience. That class helped to remind me that a) I have a brain, and b) I should engage it in critical thought more often.

To make a long blog post short (too late!), I’m toying with the idea of writing a series of blog posts (probably posted fairly irregularly given my schedule) titled something like “Why Skepticism is Not a Four-Letter Word.” Given that I normally blog about writing-related matters, I’m not sure if that would be of any interest to the folks who actually read my ramblings. But it would give me an outlet for some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, and I guess that’s reason enough.

*blows dust off blog*

Wow, it’s been a while, huh? I guess it’s time I stop with the “I’ll blog more, I promise” stuff and accept the fact that a regular blogging routine is probably not going to happen for the duration of my time in grad school. When it comes to establishing priorities, there are just too many things that win out over blogging at present–fiction writing, classwork, day job, musical endeavors, exercise, and sparing some moments to remind myself that I have friends and family.
Oh, and sleep. Precious, precious sleep.
That said, I can at least promise two upcoming posts: some story pimpage later this week, and later this month, a guest post by writerly compadre Lindsey Duncan, whose contemporary fantasy novel Flow has just been released by Double Dragon Publishing.

Adventures of a Fiction-Writing MLIS Student: Semester 1

My first semester working toward my masters in library and information science is over, and I feel confident in saying that I totally rocked it. I was pleased to discover that, twelve years after finishing my undergraduate degree, I haven’t lost my Nerd-Fu.

On the downside, first semester craziness combined with Ye Olde Day Job seriously cut into my fiction writing time. I did, however, find my fiction writing life creeping into my grad school life in fun little ways.

How do I love Scrivener? Let me count the ways . . .

I bought Scrivener several years ago for novel writing. When putting together a lecture for TNEO one summer, I discovered that Scrivener was also great for collecting and organizing research for that. So when it came time this semester to turns lots of research into a presentation for a group project in my Human Information Behavior class, Scrivener once again became a handy tool. And then came my final paper for that same class. In addition to using Scrivener for organizing my research and turning it into a paper, I discovered that Scrivener had an APA style template. From my undergrad days, I was used to writing papers in MLA format, but the MLIS program requires APA format, which was new to me. Scrivener saved me huge amounts of “how exactly am I supposed to format this again?” time on the APA learning curve.

It’s just like a short story, only it’s mostly plot with very little setting and character development . . .

At first, I was a little apprehensive when faced with the prospect of writing a 15-page research paper for the first time in over a decade. But then I thought, “Hmm, 15 double-spaced pages in 12 point Times New Roman font with an inch margin all around–that’s roughly the equivalent of a 4,600 word short story for which I’ve done lots of background research. Piece of cake!” On the downside, years of focusing on the style and rhythm of my prose made the paper revision process go a little slower than it might have otherwise. Without the fiction writing experience, I probably wouldn’t give a damn about using the same sentence construction twice in a row in a research paper.

This one time, at writing camp . . .

Human Information Behavior, where we studied how people search for and process information in a broad number of contexts, was a fascinating course. Several times I found myself drawing on writing-related experiences as an example of information-seeking behaviors and how library and information science professionals interact with users in their search process. One example was the judgmental you-frighten-me look I got while checking out a book called On Killing for research purposes and how that kind of attitude can dissuade people from using the library. And as an example of the Principle of Least Effort, where someone consults a known resource instead of investing the small bit of extra effort needed to get what they know would be a better quality answer, I mentioned the weird phenomena I sometimes saw of individuals asking very specific research questions in a writing forum where it was unlikely anyone had expertise in the area in question, and then balking at suggestions to consult resources more likely to actually provide an answer to their question.

The geek is strong with this one . . .

My other class this semester was Information Technologies, where we got to learn some basics about web design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and other fun stuff. The class seemed like it was a struggle at times for several folks, but I was safely in my geek comfort zone. I already knew how to create a website with HTML going into the class, and I picked up the rest of it pretty easily. Two of our projects involved creating an “information resource” on any topic of our choosing, so I created a site called So You Want to Write Speculative Fiction? And for our final project, we had to create a site using WordPress, so I tested out a redesign of my writing website.

And there you have it. Now to check off more items on my winter break to-do list, which includes paying attention to this blog again and rediscovering the fact that I’m a writer.

Signals and study and stories, oh my!

It seems I went AWOL on the blog posting front. Again. But now that I’m here, many things…

SIGNALS: First, a signal boost: Say Yes to Gay YA, where authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith talk about an unfortunate instance of being asked to either make a gay character in their novel straight or remove the character’s POV altogether. EDITED TO ADD: Some follow up. And this is where I bow out without further comment other than to say: must so many people resort to needing to cast a villain with a dastardly agenda in the matter instead of considering that it’s more likely not so clearcut?

STUDY: Busy grad school is busy! But despite some initial moments of panic (because that’s what I do), I’m settling into the school routine just fine and have started to find a balance between class and everything else I need to squeeze into my days. You know, like writing. Speaking of…

STORIES: Appropriately enough for a writer, there are sevveral things going on in the story department:

* Now available for purchase is the 2011 Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Anthology, which includes my twisted little flash piece “Mr. Fluffy.” The story should also be online soon in issue 5 of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

* My story “The Cycle of the Sun” was accepted for publication in the March 2012 issue of NewMyths.com! My Odyssey classmates will quite possibly remember this piece as “the orgy story.”

* My steampunk lemurs on a dirigible story, “A Red One Cannot See” (originally published in Shimmer’s Clockwork Jungle Book issue), has been added to my stories available at AnthologyBuilder

* And I’ve finally gotten to work on the revisions for my story “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen,” which I got some great feedback on back in July at TNEO. Much like my daily schedule right now, these revisions are proving to be quite the balancing act. There are some changes to make that I think are going to really strengthen the story, but I feel like it would be easy to do too much and totally edit all the life and magic out the story.

Random Summer Is Random

I’m the kind of person who likes to have some structure to my life. It can be a little bit of structure or a lot of structure, but preferably a mix. If I need to practice piano earlier in the day than usual to accommodate something that can only be done later in the day, I like having that flexibility. But if I didn’t have my piano lesson at the same time every week, I’d have a hell of a time planning around it and remembering when I need to head out the door (note to self: you need to leave in about 45 minutes for this week’s lesson).

But trying to maintain any kind of structure to my days this summer? Didn’t happen. Too much flux, which is one of many reasons I’ve been so scattershot about blogging the last few months. Hopefully, though, September should bring a touch more stability with it. Classes for my MLIS program start this Thursday. Regular weekly choir rehearsals start up again next Wednesday. My last day at Ye Olde Day Job was a week ago; I’m hoping to find something part-time and library related, but in the meantime, there’s a freelance database project I’ll probably be taking on. And with all of those things set, maybe I can get back into something resembling a regular routine for writing and exercise, both of which I’m ashamed to say I’ve been mostly neglecting lately. Bad me. Bad.

Related to all of the crazy flux in my life right now, trying to answer the question “What do you do for a living?” at my grad school orientation last week was far more difficult than it used to be. “What do I do? Up until a few days ago, I was a grant writer for a theater company. Why did I leave something that sounds so cool? Well, working in the performing arts was cool, but fundraising made me miserable, and I really loved the two years I spent working in a music library, which is why I’m pursuing my MLIS now. Why didn’t I stay at the music library job? Because it was a temporarily funded project, or else I would have. No, I’m not going to be a fulltime student now. I’m hoping to find a part-time library job, and I’ll probably be taking on a freelance database project.  

“Oh, and I also write fiction.”