Makani's Blades

Biting Ladybug

TJ helped with this one. It was his steady hand that moved the mouse; Makani directed him on what she wanted--color, shape, ladybug hilt.

Sparkle Sword

This one was all Makani's own doing. She has watched TJ designing a sword as big as a door, and this was her rendition of it.

Word Challenge Winners

* drumroll please *

We have a tie, so I will order the book for both Joyful Chaos and Kat Gergis. You can check out the winning entries here.

Normally, I have a bio about each winner, but neither contestant provided me with this information. So I will say a few things about each contestant.

Kat, a friend of mine, is sometimes called my clone. We share a birthday and often say the same things at the same time. Even when playing Rock, Paper, Scissors, we tie more often than not. But one thing that Kat has that I do not is the ability to draw. She is an awesome artist who has contributed some of her works to share here. Check out Kat's Monkey or Kat's Wolf.

Joyful Chaos writes a beautiful blog about growing up Amish. Her stories are full of the wonder and magic of childhood, when life was innocent and troubles were full of laughter.

Joyful Chaos, I don't have your address. If you can email that to me, I'll send the book your way; otherwise, I will hold the book for two months or so. If you don't claim it by then, I'll donate it to the library. Hope to hear from you.

Feminine Influence on Sci-Fi

Saying I was a bit miffed after reading this article is putting it mildly. So I have a few things to say:

#1) Science Fiction, like any other genre, needs to have good story elements. Plot is a story element. Characterization is a story element. You leave one out, and your story is only half-baked, leaving the middle a slimy mess.

#2) I actually do agree with him that emasculated men in science fiction is really annoying. When the 95% of the woman in a story are superior to 95% of the men, you gotta wonder abour the writer's agenda. But having 95% of the men superior to 95% of the women, just makes me wonder about the writer's prejudice.

#3) If science fiction is about "doing things," then it is plot focused. If adding a feminine focus means more character situations as this author indicates, then there is now a better balance between plot and character development. A good story has both.

#4) Even Orson Scott Card writes for plot and character both. It deepens the meaning, the impact, and the power of his novels.

#5) It's not the fault of science fiction that boys aren't taking more interest in science and in accomplishing great things. Without a strong father figure in the home, there is a breakdown in the male ego. I have watched many families where the mother is doing the raising and trying to turn her boys into sweet, mild-mannered girls. The Christian church has gotten in a big huff, "Mothers should be in their homes." But I say that fathers are just as necessary. While growing up, it was my father that I needed to give me my sense of self.

#6) Why is it that boys are the only ones you want to entice into science? Because they are the ones who accomplish things? Excuse me, but women can add to the field of science too.

#7) Families need both strong male and strong female influence to survive. Society needs strong men and strong women to work. Government also needs strong men and strong women. For it is the balance of both that makes everything better. The fact is that men and women are different, and when they work together, that's when our world is in perfect harmony.

#8) I am not a feminist. I don't believe in a female agenda to drive out man, and I am not so insecure as to think that I don't need my husband's strengths. I know I make a better beta than an alpha. It's not a weakness on my part; it's just a different skill set. So instead, I believe in balance--balance between male and female, balance between plot and characterization, balance between yin and yang. That's what makes good science fiction, good stories, a good life, a good family...


My husband TJ has a strange fascination with blades. He has notebooks full of exotic weaponry, strange and fantastical, and so I wasn't surprised to come home from work to find this on the computer today. He's even got the kids designing swords and drawing them on ArtRage 2.5.

I'll post some of the girls' swords in the next couple days.

Worse than an Asshole

In the book Xenocide by Orson Scott Card, Miro is a cripple, bitter at the blow life dealt him. With his blundering speech, he questions his brother, a priest, on matters of faith. Oh, not to learn from him but to challenge him. Finally, the scene leads to these words:

"You know what's worse than an asshole, Quim?"

"Sure," said Quim. "A hostile, bitter, self-pitying, abusive, miserable, useless asshole who has far too high an opinion of the importance of his own suffering."

It was more than Miro could bear. He screamed in fury and threw himself at Quim, knocking him to the ground. Of course Miro lost his own balance and fell on top of his brother, then got tangled in Quim's robes. But that was all right; Miro wasn't trying to get up, he was trying to beat some pain into Quim, as if by doing that he would remove some from himself.

--Orson Scott Card, Xenocide

These lines struck me like a ton of bricks. Hearing those words, I thought, "That's me." I'm bitter and self-pitying and miserable and useless because I'm angry life hasn't always gone my way. OK, I'm not a cripple. I'm healthy--mostly. And I have a job and a wonderful family, a roof over my head, food on the table, and gas in the car. But for the last seven years, I have wanted something that's been beyond my grasp: Financial Freedom.

At times, I have grown bitter when things didn't go my way. Angry at God. Hostile toward the world. Desperate to get beyond what today had to offer. And where did all that striving get me? It made me worse than an asshole.

Orson Scott Card is not an author. He's a prophet, using words like bullets to strike us with wisdom.


"You are really sad. What's the matter?" I asked.

"There's nothing left for me to explore," Makani whined. We were having a history lesson on the explorers throughout history. There are no textbooks in our home schooling, just library books, and normally she loves these kinds of books, reading about intriguing people in history or fascinating animals in science.

I flipped through to the end of the book. "See? Space and the ocean haven't been explored yet."

"But I want to explore an island."

"You still can."

"No, I want to be the first."

I can't blame her; I felt the same way when I was a kid. These stories ventrue into places that had never yet been seen by the civilized world. I tried to point out to her that it was the civilized world, not the human eye, that had never seen these places. "Look at this picture again. See, they had a guide. They didn't discover it. There were people already there."

There was no consoling her though, and I realized she needed to work it out for herself. I sent her off to bed but continued to think about it for myself. There really is a world out there that can still be explored. It only has to be new to me for it to be exploration. Isn't that why I write? Challenging myself to weave a story is a type of exploration. It is why I take long walks, read new books, study a new subject like learning Japanese, dream big dreams...

What do you do to explore the world around you?

Word Challenge Finalists

Please vote for the one you like the most:

A Joyful Chaos

I'm feeling twangled about this competition. Since I would really like to enter and yet can't think of a witty way to use my favorite non-word.

Kat Gergis

It is 3:30 and I run out to my Catruck to meet my husband for lunner.

Finding Peace: Practicing What I Preach

I haven't been writing as much. Usually, I put up a post about every other day, but this month, I've barely put up a post each week!

I admit I'm tired. But I have also been doing some soul searching, thinking a bit about where I want to go & what I want to do next, dreaming some interesting dreams. And so I have slowed down a bit and tried to keep some balance and perspective to my life, just as I've been writing about recently.

My kids have been missing me, and I've been trying to give them what they need. I can't walk through the kitchen without my littlest one Kaylee leaning on me. Rowena alternates between total rejection and total dependence to get my attention, and Makani, normally so free-spirited and independent, has been a bit whiny.

I spent most of last Saturday night with her; she woke up coughing and couldn't stop. Unable to give her some cough medicine because she'd already had a dose before bed, I slept with her in a chair. A juice cup was tucked by my hip, and when she coughed, I'd hand it to her. Everytime she squirmed, coughed, farted, I was awake, groggily trying to comfort her. She woke early and was ready to play while I just wanted to stumble into bed.

The week before, Makani had a fever for 3 days. That was another weekend of worry while I tried to keep her comfortable. Mostly self-sufficient, she is the one child who gets the least amount of my time. So I took her aside and read The Ordinary Princess with her. We snuggled up and read until I had no voice left. She loved the story as much as I had as a kid. What was wonderful about the book was that the princess had freckles just like she did.

And Rowena has been healthy but lonely. And so the never-ending job of being a loving parent continues, and blog posts don't get written and chores begin to slide. But I'm finding joy in my children and some long forgotten peace as I remember what it means to be a child.

Grumpy People Haiku

Have you noticed an inordinate amount of grumpiness? It seems like every where I go people are too tired to be nice, too cranky about life to remember polite considerations, like not biting people's heads off for liking or disliking a book.

grumpy grump people
everywhere I look these days
something in the air?

Pep Talk

The experts say we should have dinner as a family, and I admit that it doesn't always happen in our house. Three kids, jobs, chores, exhaustion, whatever, sometimes gets in the way. But when we do, I try to stear the conversation, asking questions. Everyone at the table gets a chance to answer.

I bring this up because, as writers and artists, these questions are good things for us to think about too.

What are you grateful for? The children answer this as a prayer: I thank God for the sun. I thank God for this house. I thank God for Mommy and Daddy and my sisters. I thank God for my frogs...

It really changes the attitude of everyone at the table. We go from "I want my milk" and "How come I didn't get any of that?" to something so very pleasant. And I found that when it was my turn to say what I was grateful for, it really changed my perspective. I wasn't as focused on what I want but thankful for what I have.

As a writer, having a positive attitude is important, necessary, to moving forward on my projects. Being thankful reminds me why I love to write and helps me to let go of the anxieties of finding publishers and wooing readers.

What have you accomplished today that you are proud of? Sometimes days go by, and I don't celebrate the little accomplishments that make life a joyful experience. Sometimes, I am so busy that I don't take the time to hear about what's going on in my kids' lives. It's important to stop and remember the little things that I was proud about.

What have you done today that you wished you could have done better? I have one child in particular who really wants to be perfect. She gets so dejected when she fails at something. She crumples, wilts, whimpers, and there is no cajoling her out of it. She's the reason why I added this question to the mix. I wanted her to see Mommy and Daddy expressing desires to change and for her to learn that it's safe to fail.

The answer to this question is always answered with the attitude, "There's always tomorrow. We can try again." So I didn't write the 1000 words I planned. There's always tomorrow. So I didn't exercise in the morning because I overslept. There's always tomorrow. So my editors said my story sucked. There's always tomorrow. So I spent too much time chatting on goodreads. Well, I'll probably still chat on goodreads tomorrow, but I can try not to be so addicted to being witty.

So now it is your turn. Please leave a comment answering this questions for yourself:

What are you grateful for?
What have you accomplished today that you are proud of?
What have you done today that you wished you could have done better?

Nameless Artwork by Toby Green

I sometimes wonder why it is that some people can draw these amazing things with little or no effort. Toby is one of those people. I watched him at work during meetings, doodling on his paper, creating this ink drawings that were absolutely amazing. I would watch spellbound as line after line would reveal the most amazing face, creature, vehicle, spaceship, animal, I had ever seen. How did he know how to put that line there? Did he see his picture in his mind before he started? Or did he make it up as he went along?

So I asked him to create something that I could share with all of you, and this tron-like motorcycle is what he built for me. It reminds me a bit of Wall-E; I can almost hear the motorcycle's little motor as it zips about.

Here's some of Toby's words when he sent me the artwork--a little about how he created it:

Your request was for fantasy/sci-fi and I tended more toward sci-fi, in that it's a picture of a tron-looking motorcycle cruising around an O'Neill cylinder, which is pretty solidly science-based, and not real yet. It's what you end up doodling when you spend your high school years playing Extreme G and watching Babylon 5. Almost all of this image was created in a single real, fake 3D scene, except for the headlights and motion blurring. The background is a sort of virtual matte painting, in that I rendered it seperately and dropped it in the background, literally slapped on a wall. Most textures are photosourced.

If you're interested in the software I used, it's all free and you can download it and try it out yourself. The actual rendering was done in Bryce 5.5 which is the free counterpart to 6.0 (the current release client). Post was done in the GIMP, a free Photoshop clone that really works better in Linux than in Windows if you just happen to have Linux installed.

-- Toby Green