authors, commute, random thoughts, writing

Driving with Jane Austen

What?

Among the many weird and off-the-wall things that cross my mind, I often play a mental game when I drive. It goes something like this:

I pretend Jane Austen is riding shotgun with me, and I get to explain to her the workings of the automobile, traffic, commuting, and we discuss the improvements in modes of transportation from her day to ours.

Jane: “The seats are more comfortable than even Lady Catherine’s barouche box!”

Me: “Oh yeah, we have this stuff called foam now that they put in the seats. It’s a synthetic material.”

Jane: “And this carriage is warm, or cool, as you choose. A vast deal pleasanter when one travels in the winter.”

Me: “Yup. All those knobs and dials pull heat off the engine when you want to warm up the car, or use the cooling system when it’s hot.” Air conditioning takes more time to explain, what with freon and it’s replacement options, and then we have to talk about the ozone and climate change and pollution, which all makes our century sound really bad. But then I get to discuss the advances in medicine and infant mortality rates, and so on.

How would you even begin to explain everything that’s changed between then and now?

And bicycles! I think she would have loved bicycles and the freedom they gave women. Even if originally women were expected to wear seven pounds worth of undergarments (by the 1850s, fourteen pounds of underwear was the norm. Talk about ‘crazypants’).

 

a woman on bike circa 1890s

I bet Lizzie Bennet would have been on one of those in a New York minute if she’d had the chance.

Here Jane’s getting her first driving lesson in the 21st century equivalent of the barouche.

2015-ford-mustang-jane austen

She really liked it; bit of a speed demon that girl. Yeah, I don’t actually own the car either.

So, who’s riding with you?

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4-10-15 Mount Hood
Oregon, photography, self-publishing, Vampires, writing

Interested in Reviewing “Revenants Abroad”?

I should have posted this long ago, but wanted to say if you’re a book reviewer interested in reviewing Revenants Abroad please contact me for a complimentary copy in your choice of electronic formats. There’s no obligation. You can also check out the first 20% of the book at Smashwords (anyone can do this) to see if it piques your interest. Amazon doesn’t give you quite as much to preview, I don’t think. You can contact me through the “Contact” form (see above in the menu) or email me at fillingspaces (at) gmail (dot) com.

And some recent pics. I saw something on the way home a couple nights ago I’m dying to get a pic of as soon as I get the road to myself and don’t have to worry about some tailgater trying to kill me if I slow down for 2 seconds.

Also, I have a huge bouquet of lilacs on my desk this morning stinking up the place.

4-14-15 lilacs at work

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books, ebooks, Vampires, writing

Quick Note – Revenants Abroad

Through April 4, Revenants Abroad is on sale for $0.99 at Smashwords. Use coupon code QN94E (it’s not case-sensitive). It’s available in all formats: MOBI (Kindle), Epub (just about everything else), pdf, lrf, pdb, or read it online.

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Birds, books, clouds, ebooks, flowers, fog, morning, Oregon, photography, Revenants Abroad, self-publishing, writing

‘Cause I Just Don’t Have Enough To Do

So my latest thing is I’m thinking about doing a newsletter focusing on my book and the upcoming sequel as well as other writing, and offering some exclusive content (backstory on characters, new stuff related to the Revenants series and other projects), contests and giveaways. Yeah I know, like I don’t have enough to do already, right?

If you’d like to sign up you can do so here. Unfortunately with WordPress.com sites you can’t embed the forms so I have to have an off-site page for it. I’ll be moving the blog to a self-hosted site soon, though. I’m not sure when I’ll start sending out the newsletter, and it will be monthly if I can keep up. Otherwise maybe every other month, so you won’t be inundated with stuff every week.

The white flowers below are Oregon’s state flower, the trillium. It’s protected, so don’t pick them if you see them.

We’re still getting a lot of fog in the mornings, as you can see.

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CreateSpace, Revenants Abroad, self-publishing, writing

Revenants Abroad and My Battle with CreateSpace.

Just so you guys know, at this point I do not plan to move forward with paper copies of Revenants Abroad. I’m so disgusted with CreateSpace/Amazon’s destruction of the cover art, I can’t bring myself to sell print copies. I can’t understand why the perfectly good artwork that was supplied to them is turned into a murky mess, and they refuse to do anything about it. Their only solution was to tell me to upload a lighter version of the artwork. I don’t have the original artwork, or Photoshop, to manipulate it in. For comparison, here is the original image:

Revenants Abroad - Final Flattened with Text for PrintAnd THIS is what they did to it. These are the first two proof copies I received, the third is exactly the same. I haven’t even bothered to check the actual text inside. I just want to cry every time I look at this.

Two proof covers

I’ve never seen anything like it. If anyone else has had a similar experience with CreateSpace I’d love to hear about it. I was told this was “within acceptable variances.” They also said something about “spacing” which basically meant they didn’t address the issue at all and all I got was a canned response. Obviously they couldn’t care less about the quality of the books they publish.

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cherry blossoms, daffodils, flowers, photography, Revenants Abroad, spring, sunrise, Vampires, writing

Oregon Spring

I’ve been taking loads of pictures lately, just no time to post. Here’s a selection the last week or so. Some of the dates are wrong, typos, ya know. But just in case spring is late in your part of the world, enjoy these pictures.

Not much else going on. Still working with CreateSpace to try to get the cover image for Revenants Abroad printed right. They’ve sent me two proof copies and both were so dark you could hardly see the details and colors in the background. I’m very frustrated. It’s not brain surgery, it shouldn’t be this hard. Let’s hope third time’s the charm.

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barn, clouds, commute, fantasy, fiction, fog, morning, Oregon, photography, rainbows, sunrise, writing

Imaginary Worlds

These pictures feel like a fairytale world. I need to write a fantasy set in this place. Gotta come up with a name for it. Amazing how it’s never the same two days in a row.

When I look at these pictures I keep wanting to label them “Farksolia.” But I need to think up my own name if I want to create an imaginary world. For those not familiar with Farksolia, it was an imaginary planet invented by Barbara Follett, a ‘child prodigy’ who wrote an acclaimed novel at the age of 12, in 1925. She even created a language for the inhabitants, Farksoo. She disappeared mysteriously in 1939, and I like to think she created a new life for herself somewhere, changed her name, and kept writing. She would have been 101 on March 4. I somehow stumbled across Farksolia years ago, no doubt following one link, then another, and have never forgotten about Barbara.

Anyway the whole thing is giving me ideas for different blog formats, and creating a little world of my own. I owe you for that, Barbara.

 

 

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authors, books, post-apocalypse, Publishing, science fiction

The Stars Seem So Far Away – Margrét Helgadóttir

I’d like to introduce you to Norwegian-Icelandic writer, Margét Helgadóttir, whose first book, The Stars Seem So Far Away, has just been released through Fox Spirit Books. Congratulations, Margét! Let’s talk about the book.

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What is The Stars Seem So Far Away about?

The Stars Seem So Far Away is a story set in a distant future, where plagues, famine and wars rage across the dying Earth. The last shuttles to the space colonies are long gone. Fleeing the deadly sun, humans migrate farther and farther north. The story is told through the tales of five survivors: One girl who sails the Northern Sea, robbing other ships to survive; one girl who guards something on a distant island; one guerrilla soldier; and finally, two siblings who become separated when the plague hits Svalbard.

It’s not a novel, but it’s not a collection of stories either. It’s a hybrid, a fusion of linked tales that together tell a larger story.

What inspired you to write the book?

I think the idea of this alternative future for the northern parts of the world has been dormant in me for many years.I have long pictured a world where humans, due to climate changes, must flee to the northern world, and where places that today are sparsely populated could become covered with cities. I’ve had the image of the skyscraper city on Svalbard in my mind for many years. But mostly it’s the small details of this dark and apocalyptic world I have mulled over for a long time. I have for instance been fascinated by the doomsday vault, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, ever since it was built. Also, the image of the killer whale in Nuuk has stayed with me for a while.

 

It’s such a beautiful cover. Could you tell us a little about it?

The lovely cover is by the talented Sarah Anne Langton. I am very happy about it because I feel it reveals some of the atmosphere in the book like I picture it. The cover has ice, snow, ocean, a giant bear, a crashed Hercules, an apocalyptic city and the human who longs for the stars. Sarah even made sure it’s the correct star maps on the cover.

 

What is your relationship to the speculative genres?

It’s more about what mood particular books/stories put me in, rather than who wrote them or what genre they are within. I’m the same with movies. Fantasy and science fiction are always good choices when needing to escape real world and seek comfort.

But I also find that these genres challenge the readers/audience, force them to think in new ways, be it space exploring, new species, new ways of thinking, new technology. They turn the world as we know it upside down, and few things are impossible. I love this. There are of course often used tropes and clichés in these genres too, but still, now and then I can read something or watch something which is so challenging, so brilliant, I almost can feel my brain cells squeal in delight. I love the space opera subgenres and I adore the science fiction classics from 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, filled with optimism and confidence. But my favourite science fiction is the narratives close to contemporary fiction, often about power structures and dystopian societies. They are not new, but we have seen these stories more often the last decades. I am also increasingly fascinated by stories within ‘the weird’, twisted and dark stories, often very surreal and surprising.

Could you tell a little about your writing and other stories?

It was only two and half years ago that I found confidence enough to start writing fiction for publication. A few of the stories in the book are actually amongst the first stories that I wrote. I have chosen to write fiction in English, which is not my native tongue, so working on the book has also been part of a tough language-learning process. Today, when I read through the book, I can see clearly how I have developed as a writer; the later stories flow better and have a more sure voice.

I know my writing and language can’t compete with Hemingway or other great authors, but I’m very concerned about telling a good story, so I hope I have succeeded in this and that people will like the stories and the characters.

My stories have appeared in several magazines and journals, including Gone Lawn and Luna Station Quarterly. My fiction has also been or will be published in nine print anthologies, including Impossible Spaces, six volumes of Fox Pockets, and two more Fox Spirit publications. I am co-editor of the coffee table book European Monsters, a collection of fiction and art released from Fox Spirit Books in December 2014. It is the first of an annual monster series. In 2015 I will co-edit the second volume in this series, African Monsters, and I will also edit an anthology of winter tales. Hopefully there will be time to continue writing as well.

 

You have an unusual background, can you tell a little about yourself?

I’m born in East-Africa to a Norwegian mother and an Icelandic father. I grew up in East- and West-Africa and in Norway. On my webpage you can find small musings about different aspects of being a third culture and cross cultural child. I moved to Denmark two months ago, where I will stay for a few years due to work. I am a movie junkie and a book worm, and can often be found in the history museums and galleries in the weekends. Learn more about me at my webpage, or on Twitter, where I am @MaHelgad

Thanks so much, D.D., for inviting me to talk about my debut book.

The Stars Seem So Far Away was published by Fox Spirit Books and released on Valentine’s Day. It can be ordered as paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Epub is coming soon.

Amazon UK (paperback): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stars-Seem-So-Far-Away/dp/1909348767

And Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stars-Seem-Far-Away-ebook/dp/B00TSR8U6W

Amazon US (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Stars-Seem-So-Far-Away/dp/1909348767

And Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Stars-Seem-Far-Away-ebook/dp/B00TSR8U6W

 

Thanks so much, Margrét, and best wishes for the success of your book!

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Moon, photography

A Visitor to the Moon

UPDATE: March 1, 2015 – turns out it was NOT the ISS. We checked and it was on the other side of the world at the time the pics were taken (4:39PM PST). Plus it’s in the wrong location, and moving in the wrong direction. Best guess now is a satellite.

 

No idea what I got here, but there’s clearly a small shape moving past/above the moon.  I don’t think it’s a UFO (well, technically it is, because I don’t know what it is but I don’t think it’s a spaceship from Mars), wondering if it could be the ISS or a satellite that caught the light of the setting sun. Pretty cool, though. I never got a “bonus” in the frame before!  One of my Twitter friends, @GeoffreySperl, thinks it’s the ISS!! EEEE!! Score!

ADDED: March 1, 2015 – A couple more, with less color. Never thought I’d complain about the sky being too blue.

DSC_0343 color darkened 2-28-15 DSC_0346

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