Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Learning From Others

Sometimes I edit for another publisher. These are manuscripts that they have already accepted, and it is my duty to make sure the grammar is correct, that there are no plot holes or inconsistencies.

I do it as an editor, but as an author, I have learned quite a bit.

For instance, one author – let’s call him Ace – usually writes historical (light) romance set during World War II. I have a few qualms about his writing style, but only one really made me impatient with the story line. I immediately recognized that Ace was telling the story of a couple - relatively minor characters he had introduced in his first book. The girl of this couple was raised in a different place from the others, and it was she he followed in this episode. What irritated me was that he didn’t introduce the male half of this couple until half-way through the manuscript!

Don’t get me wrong; Ace doesn’t write the usual, run-of-the-mill romance, and I don’t expect him to. Strongly interspersed among tidbits of romance are great explanations of the way life was during that time period, shown by what the characters do and expect. But I thought waiting that long to introduce the girl’s love – after spending so much time going through two earlier ‘boy friends’ – was a bit much. It may have me wondering about my own timing in my romances (which I write as Linda Joy).

And then there’s ‘Bill’, who writes contemporary romances. Or rather, one contemporary romance, which never seems to end. There have been five volumes so far, and he thinks the story line deserves at least another five. I find myself getting extremely irritated as I edit these manuscripts. Each one ends on what others would consider a ‘Happy Ever After’, and yet, during the next episode, the main characters immediately continue what they were doing before; jumping to conclusions, keeping secrets, not being truthful, and being super-jealous. They never seem to learn to not be stupid.

I can understand not wanting to set aside characters you’ve lovingly created and worked with for a long time. And many readers enjoy multiple volumes dealing with the ‘adventures’ of characters they’ve read about before. However, there is a reason why the typical romance novel is shorter than other fiction novels; there is usually only so much stupidity a person can tolerate in their love interest before they fall out of love, so to have an HEA ending, the couple needs to realize they are making mistakes and stop making them.

Is it possible to have too many volumes in a series of some other genre? Probably, although other genres offer a far greater variety of adventure types for the main characters to have to deal with and learn from. Still, when I decide to work on another volume for some series that I am writing, I will pause to consider whether the continuation makes sense, if it is significantly different in context from previous episodes, and if the main characters will be learning from it.

I thought I would be boning up on my grammar and punctuation. Sure, that’s happening, but I'm also learning so much more.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What I'm Doing

Merry Christmas! Hope yours is joyous!

Okay, Hubby and I are in the area of Orlando, FL, bouncing from resort to resort as we wait for the closing date on our new home. We've been here since November 1, and we don't get the new house until the middle of February.

We have annual passes for Disney World, but we've found the parks crowded and busy after 11:30 or noon, so we don't go every day. Half of Hollywood Studios is closed down while they build two new areas, anyway.

So, you'd think I'd be getting lots of writing done. Alas, no.

We've checked out 2 'maker spaces' in Orlando, tracked down the Tandy store, and a fabric store. Spent time with friends in Tampa, and visited another friend in Davenport. John's done 3 appearances as a sand trooper, and we've built him a new pair of pants and shirt(s) for his Darth Vader. These ones are actually made for him, not the previous owner, so he can sit down in them without splitting the seams.

I've fought off 2 illnesses in the last 3 weeks; a cold and I don't know what the 2nd one was; I felt like I was freezing, and I had no energy, so - a fever. Every few days, we run to the post office to pick up our mail. We've seen 4 movies (5 for me-I saw a movie during one of his troops). We've spent entire days doing paperwork, either to sell the old house, or to buy the new one. And we've visited our next mortgage holder several times, turning in paperwork.

Oh, yes, we went to the one-day Clermont Comic Con. John was with the 501st, but I was at a table, trying to sell some books and some other things I had thrown together in a few days. And I've visited a local dentist several times. (Shudder)

Yesterday, I got out the pattern I'd bought and started 'adjusting' it to my size to make the 'flight suit' for a Mandalorian costume. The helmet and armour are sitting at a friend's house in Tampa until we get our house.

And I've been editing.

I am SOOOOOO looking forward to having an office again!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Different Place

If someone mentions New Zealand, what tidbits of thoughts race through the back of your mind? Mine include ‘hobbit films location’, ‘weird landscape’, ‘two islands’, ‘south Pacific’, and ‘near Australia’. Of course, I don’t often think about New Zealand. It’s very far away, and I’m not likely to get there soon.

A couple weeks ago, I saw a headline about a recent earthquake NZ had. It took my head a couple seconds to realize, “Oh, yeah, it sits on the other side of the ring of fire.” So, just because my curiosity was aroused, I’ve been looking into the geology of NZ.

First of all, yes, New Zealand does have two large islands, but they are surrounded by a bunch of little ones. Islands tend to come in groups, right? Seems like it to me.

The south island is home of the Southern Alps, the tallest some 12,316 ft tall. These steep peaks and the deep fjords on the southwest coast indicate the glaciation that once covered the area. Makes me shiver just thinking of the ice that was once there.

The north island is not as mountainous, but does have volcanoes, which have formed a plateau. That plateau hosts that island’s highest peak (9,177 ft) and the country’s largest lake, which sits in the caldera of one of the world’s most active supervolcanoes. Okay, that’s a little too much heat for roasting marshmallows.

New Zealand is what’s left of Zealandia, a microcontinent (half the size of Australia) that long ago broke off from the super-continent Gondwana, and then slowly submerged. It also straddles the border between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates.

The border of these plates is most evident by the Southern Alps, pushed up and contorted by the force of the 2 plates pushing against each other. In other places, the edge of one plate gets pushed beneath the other, producing deep trenches in the ocean, most notably south of NZ, east of North Island, and 2 others further north.

So, NZ has mountains and bays once scoured by glaciers, deep ocean trenches and volcanoes. What about earthquakes? Of course! It sits on a giant fault. In fact, Wikipedia says they experience 150-200 earthquakes every year that can be felt, and almost 14,000 more each year that aren’t felt.

The headline that caught my attention not long ago was about an earthquake in November of this year; a section of seabed that had been raised 6 feet above sea level on a beach. As I researched ‘New Zealand earthquakes,’ I saw another interesting headline, this one about 3 cows that were left stranded on a ‘land island’ after an earthquake. Apparently, that earthquake caused a lot of land to collapse, leaving dots at a higher altitude with sides too steep for the cows to navigate. And possibly some tourists were also trapped on similar ‘land islands’ and had to be rescued.

Just one more way New Zealand is ‘different.’

Thursday, December 8, 2016

From Giant Dinosaur to Tiny Hummingbird

So, the theory is that Tyrannosaurus Rex gave birth to today’s birds, right?

Well, not exactly. T Rex was one of the of the theropod dinosaurs. It reached 40 ft in length, stood 12 ft tall at the hips, and weighed around 10 tons. However, other members of the theropod family were of various sizes, all the way down to 1 foot in length and 110 grams (3.9 oz) in weight. And throughout the ages following the T Rex, members of the theropod family grew smaller and smaller, and their skeletons changed four times faster than the skeletons of other dinosaur families. However, the theropods had hollow bones, like birds.

From what I’ve been reading, it isn’t terribly likely that birds evolved directly from T Rex, but they are both considered members of the theropod family. The largest modern theropod is the ostrich, 9 ft tall and up to 320 pounds. The smallest avian is the bee hummingbird, just over 2 inches long and weighing less than 2 grams. Although the theropods have shrunk since the days of T Rex, they continue with a wide range of sizes.

Ever wonder where birds got their feathers? The flying reptiles that nature started with didn’t have any. But the last decade or so, scientists have discovered non-flying dinosaurs that had feathers. How did that happen?

If I understood what I read, the transition began when some scales elongated into a filament. Over time, the filament developed ‘branches’, which eventually became numerous enough to form feathers. Scales and feathers are both made of keratin, and scientists have found that embryonic alligators contain some feather keratin, but that this type of keratin is suppressed in later stages of development in favor of scale keratin. Oh, and by the way, T Rex is more closely related to birds than to alligators.

Actually, lots of dinosaurs had feathers. Perhaps they didn’t grow feathers in order to fly, they grew them as insulation against the cold. And to look pretty to the opposite gender. Only later did the feathers help some glide from tree to tree and feathers started to become part of flying.

Are you up for a story about a T Rex covered in peacock and ostrich feathers?