LINKS…OF…INTEREST! (Interest…Interest…interest…)

This post is dedicated to Futurama, which just got a deal for 26 new episodes on Comedy Central. Sweet!

As you noticed, this blog’s got a spiffy new look, and I’ve been making small improvements (like the new Twitter feed). What spurred on these changes? I’m subscribed to the website "31 Days to Build a Better Blog." If you sign up on the email list, you get an email once a day that gives you great tips on how to improve your blog. Some of the tips deal with cosmetic issues and housekeeping, making sure your links are up to donate. But it also gives tips on making your presence known on other blogs and forums to bring more readers to your site. And best of all, if the emails get to be too much, you can always save the emails to do the tips at your own pace. There are also great tips shared in the comments section and in the forums. For those of you who want to become bloggers, or if you’ve hit a plateau and don’t know how to bring new readers to your site, this is a great email list to be on.

Having just attended Oddcon and Wiscon, I found this article in Strange Horizons called "Let’s Stop Conning Ourselves" by Patience Wieland which talk about cons that aren’t as successful, and what the con world in general can learn from these failures. I liked it because near the end it lists some good advice getting the most out of attending a con, and how to avoid being scammed.

If you’re a writer wondering how to boost your creativity, Writing World has an article called "Lateral Thinking for Writers" by Ahmed A. Khan. It lists three thinking techniques one can use to create a story. I’m sure there are other techniques out there, but for basics, it’s a good article.

Moving from writing to writers: K. Tempest Bradford is doing a Clarion West Write-a-thon to raise funds for both the Clarion West scholarship and the Octavia E. Butler scholarship. This is a great opportunity to support the fantasy/science fiction writing community in general. If you haven’t read any of Bradford’s work, Podcastle recently ran a short story of hers called "Change of Life". Hop on over and have a listen, then head to her website and donate!

Finally, if you want to read a good online comic that mixes African-American folk history with the stylings of, say, The MaXX, check out Bayou at Zudacomics. This is a wonderfully drawn tale of a little girl named Lee who travels to an alternate, creepy Jim Crow South to prove her father’s innocence. Her protector is a hulking green man named Bayou who appears meek and simple, but when pushed can fight like the devil. It’s a scary wonderful read that’s still in the works, so come back over and over for updates.

You read it. You can’t unread it. Tune in at a future date for…

TALES…

OF…

INTEREST! (interest! interest! interest!)

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Happy Birthday Funtime Links

So yes, it’s my birthday. Go ahead, me. It’s my birthday. And for presents, I’ll share yummy funtime links with you.

(Actually, I’m feeling a little lazy because today was a lazy day.)

There’s an interesting video at the TED website which shows what the internet could look like in the future. Imagine walking around wearing projectors that can display email and net stuff on any surface: wall, book, person. It has shades of "Minority Report", though I find it closer to Dennou Coil. Just one thing bothers me about project net info on a person. What if that person’s a woman? Makes you think.

I just did a review of Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. If you want to read his nonfiction stuff, may I suggest this excellent essay from the New York Times? I wish I could write nonfiction as acerbic and hilarious as he does.

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has been running a couple of interesting columns by Kristine Kathryn Rusch called "Signals 19". This last issue, she discusses the attitude of how the world has responded to the economic crises, and she puts it in a perspective of a writer. Very interesting reading.

But if you want something that’s more of a fun read, then I highly suggest you read Writer’s Quest. If you’re a Zork fan, this one is especially for you.

Now, if you excuse me, there’s a cupcake with a candle in it, and it’s allllllll mine.

Sunday Links

A crackling fire, hot soup, Lord of the Rings, and you.

First, a Comic-con coming to Chicago in 2010? That ought to make up for the all the fun with Blago and Burris. Makes it being worth two hours away. Now if we can just bring Worldcon to Chicago, life would be ducky.

Bummer. Google Notebook is no longer in development, which means that if you’ve been thinking about using it, but haven’t gotten around to the site, it won’t let you, since they aren’t taking on new users. Luckily, those who do use it, like me, will still be able to use the service. We won’t just get new updates or anything. Sad.

Hey, Inanimate Alice fans! The British Council is looking into using the game as a vehicle for teaching English. To help boost this on, they’re asking people to play the game and rate how good it is. The more high ratings they get, the likelier the chance that we get new episodes. Go vote!

Writer’s Digest has a good article: "10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers". I found a good motivational tool these past couple of weeks.

And for fun:

I didn’t know that Mur Lafferty was a They Might Be Giants fan. She’s taken to writing flash stories for each of the tidbits in the "Fingertips" song from the TMBG album "Apollo 18". Right now, I’m banging my head, thinking, "Why didn’t I think of that." Of course, the last time I wrote a story based on a song, it became much longer than a flash…

And what’s Garfield minus Garfield? Actually, pretty hilarious, and slightly disturbing. Check it out!

More links for your enjoyment (or I’m actually doing some writing for once so I’ll just cut and paste here…)

Too much to do lately, but I can say without a doubt, that this revision of “She’s All Light” will be the absolute, positive last revision. Doggone it.

In the meantime, enjoy these links:

A couple of good stories I’ve come across and decided to pass on: The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Barbara Gordon can be found at the Spring 2007 volume of Coyote Wild. I don’t remember how I came across it, but it has a feisty little black girl as one of the main characters, so I quite enjoyed it. The cool thing about online mags is that their content can stick around forever, so if you like a story, you can easily go into their back catalog to read their other stories.

Podcastle has been doing animal fable shorts from Peter S. Beagle. These bite-sized stories are fun to listen to. My particular favorite: The Fable of the Ostrich. It was a very nice African folktale-flavored read after Anansi Boys. For some more culture goodness, this time Japanese-flavored, check out the story that comes after: The Tanuki-Kettle. A very sweet tale indeed.

And speaking of podcasts, Adventures in SciFi Publishing has a good interview with Elizabeth Bear. Just from the sound of her laughter along, I would love to just hang out with her. The email they read after the interview is good, too. Just don’t pay attention to the person who wrote it, though.

Short story writer Benjamin Rosenbaum is holding a derivative works contest based of his new book The Ant King and Other Stories. You can download the entire book for free at his website, or you can buy it from Amazon. It’s an interesting way of promoting a book, especially one that’s for free. I’m actually thinking about sending something, but I have to read the book first. Either way, it sounds intriguing.

And finally, something non-writing related. I listen to Eric and Kathy on the Mix in the mornings (praise the Lord for web radio), and the friend of Eric’s daughter was elected President of her second grade class. She recorded a message to the President Elect Barack Obama, and it is very thought-provoking. I highly suggest listening to it (and hey, it’s cute!).

Alright, enough from me. I need to get back to writing!

Light Reading for the Writing Mind

Well, after all the fun of the past couple of days, I’m wiped out. I’m sure the blogosphere is piled with pinings and victory speeches and declarations of death, doom and destruction. Me, I’m happy overall with the way things turned out. I’ll be doing a lot of praying for President Obama (squeee! what a neat thing to write!) and his family. Theirs will not be an easy road for the next few years.

In the meantime, here’s some light reading to get you through the next few days:

The Rose and Thorn has a hilarious feature called “An Author’s Guide to Cover Letters” by Resha Caner. Apparently, it’s a number of cover letters sent by the author trying to see which one would be good to send with his unpublished novel. I especially loved cover letter #3.

I’ve been playing around with Google Notebook and for a writer, this is an awesome tool. It’ reminds me a lot of the Writer’s Cafe scraps feature, in that you can keep copies of websites or make notes to yourself–it’s just kept online. It’s wonderful for when I’m reading a webpage that I think would be good research for my book, but if I’m not at my computer, I can post it to Google Notebook so I can open it again later. It’s also good for pulling off recipes, noting writing contests and markets, even marking blogs and/or forum posts that I want to comment on later. Very nice tool indeed. Go try it out!

On his blog, This Writer’s Life, Kevin Alexander wrote about starting a novel over after being away from it a lengthy period of time. Seeing that I was in a similar situation, I found his post pretty interesting. Check it out if you’re a writer who wants to get back into writing a novel you started writing a long time ago.

And speaking about getting back to writing, I better do so myself.

Saturday Links: Educational, Functional and Just Plain Fun!

I got three links on today’s menu for your reading pleasure.

The first one is a educational initiative. Long ago, a while back, I wrote about watching the 1st season of Electric Company. Well, it looks like they want to bring it back. The people behind the Sesame Street Workshop are applying for a $1.5 million project grant from American Express–but they need votes to get their project, ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’, nominated onto the voting round.

The deadline for the first round of voting is September 1, 2008. To vote, go to the Project Voting Page at the American Express website and nominate the ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’ website. You will need to sign up as a Guest Member, but once you do, you’ll be able to vote for the project. Let’s bring the Electric Company back to the airwaves!

The second one has me bouncing on my toes in excitement. A new upgrade has been released for Writer’s Cafe. Far be it from me to promote another cafe here, but Writer’s Cafe is an excellent writer’s program I’ve been using for roughly two years now. It consists of many tools that help you organize your writing: the scrapbook, for instance, keeps track of your research, websites and notes. The Storylines tools is a storyboard where you can pin scenes of your story up and move them around as needed. The program also comes with a journal, a notebook, writing prompts, a timer, and an option to display inspirational quotes and writing tips upon startup of the program.

The new version is vastly improved over the old version: in the past, Storylines and Writer’s Cafe were two separate programs. The upgrade meshes them together in one. It includes a name generator and a pinboard where you can post notes and ideas. It opens on a start page where you can place shortcuts to your works-in-progress, Wikipedia and other pages, shortcuts within the program, etc.

What I like most about Writer’s Cafe program is the technical support. The program was created by Julian and Harriet Smart, the latter being a novelist. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the program and welcome suggestions. While I was beta testing the upgrade, I found myself using the Notebook to freewrite first drafts of stories and wanted to know how many words I’ve written. I suggested this to Julian, and with the next beta release, the word count feature was included in both the Journal and the Notebook! That was pretty nice.

For a download of $45 bucks ($65 if you want a CD-ROM version), it’s well worth the price. If you’re wary, you can download the beta and test it out here. But to me, this is the best writing software out there. Check it out now!

And finally, a YouTube video from CollegeHumor called “Font Conference”, for all you people who work with finding the right font to write in. Enjoy!

What’s on LaShawn’s iPod? Well, nothing since I don’t have an iPod…but I do have a reasonable enough facsimile…

So I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. It’s been an unexpected benefit of working part-time. That’s not to say that I haven’t been listening to podcasts before–in my SAHM life, it’s mainly what I did to keep from turning on the TV to, say, Oprah or The View. Cleaning time was done to podcasts. Playtime with Daniel was done to podcasts. Writing was not done to podcasts, because it distracts me. And besides, I got the Geico commercial for that…

But ever since I started working, I’ve been using my mp3 player a lot more than normal. I use it when I’m walking to work. I use it at work when I’m filing. I use it when I walk to Daniel’s daycare to pick him up. And I use it when I’m at the Circle M farm, pulling weeds or planting seeds.

It’s weird. Ever since I started working again, it’s freed up a lot of listening time. I like it, because it’s allowed me to catch up on a lot of writing podcasts that’s been building up in my iTunes. And I’ve even been able to add a couple of others I’ve been meaning to get to, but never had the time–such as short story podcasts and indie music. Having gotten around to start listening to novels, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, since I’ve been listening to so many podcasts as of late, I’ve decided to make it a weekly feature at the Cafe to give brief links to the ones I find interesting. I’m hoping to bring a bit more exposure to good stories and interesting topics. For instance, I just listened to a short story on Podcastle called “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall, a surrealistic tale of a woman receiving ‘notes’ from her ex-boyfriend. The woman comes across as rather pedantic (I’ve been dying to use this word all day) and bitchy, but the things her boyfriend sends her are hilarious and touching. I mean, what would you do if your ex sends you Spain to try to make up with you? It gets a little gory near the end, and that’s a lot from a surrealistic story, but I do have to say that the ending itself is a very nice touch.

I’ve also been catching up on my writing podcasts, which is awesome, because by the time I get home, I’m itching to write. Mostly good interviews: Mur Lafferty interviewed Matthew Wayne Selznick on “I Should Be Writing”. I just finished listening to the “Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing” interview with Kelly Link, and oooh! They just put an interview with Neil Gaiman in the feed! Better load that up!

So I’ll going to try to make this a regular feature at the Cafe. Gotta spread the love, man.