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Aargh, it’s May!

May 5th, 2015

And you may be saying to yourself, What? I love May! Flowers! Pretty weather! Not too hot!

And you are right! I sort of love May for all those reasons!

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But you know what else flowers in May, besides irises and cerastium and dianthus and cranesbills? And peonies and tulips, viburnums and lilacs, the first roses and the last narcissus?

Oaks, that’s what.

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These are strands of flowers. We don’t think of them as flowers because they aren’t showy, but if you look very closely at a fresh strand, you can see the floral parts. The reason they aren’t showy is that they aren’t meant to attract pollinators. Oaks are wind-pollinated. And now you could be excused for saying, AH HA, I bet she hates oak flowers because she is allergic to pollen! Good guess, but no. I did allergy shots for three years and now I LAUGH at pollen blowing around in the air.

No, the problem is: these strands of flowers fall on the ground, where they are swept up by any random Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who happen to dash around. Not only that, but residual pollen means the strands are a little bit sticky. Not very sticky, but enough to make them a pain to brush the HUGE quantities of strands that absolutely coat the dogs’ chests, bellies, and feet. Ish has a very heavy coat, especially on his chest. The fur there is about three inches long, just fabulous for collecting great masses of oak flowers.

So right now, my walking-the-dogs schedule has to involve not only an hour to let them run around like mad creatures, but half an hour to brush all the infuriating oak flowers out of their coats afterward. AARGH.

I grant you, though, the (showy) flowers are amazing in May.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on May 5th, 2015
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Oh, funny: stories embedded in search terms

May 4th, 2015

I found this at Chuck Wendig’s blog:

Search History:

Cat armor

Buy armor for cats

Cat jousting tournaments

How to stop armored cats

Cat army how to stop

national guard phone #

— Alone Shark (@AbrasiveGhost) April 26, 2015

I laughed out loud. Really.

Of course Chuck immediately ran a search-term-story challenge. Wow, I am so bad at this kind of thing, it’s ridiculous. It amazes me how many people took up the challenge, so the comment thread is hysterical. Also, I am now familiar with a pop culture reference I’d previously never heard of: lemon party. I don’t recommend you google that, incidentally. I hope I didn’t get a virus on my computer.

I like Pavowki’s entries the best. And Rowan’s.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on May 4th, 2015
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Top Twenty Autobuy Authors

May 3rd, 2015

I was going to pick ten, but then I overshot.

I was feeling like I should do a list for authors I love but I haven’t read eight or more of their books (because they haven’t necessarily got eight books out yet). So this list is mostly for authors that I couldn’t put on the eight-or-more list, though there’s some overlap.

Also, some of my favorite authors are not *necessarily* autobuy authors. CJ Cherryh for example; she’s mostly autobuy, but if she were to write more in the Rusalka universe, well, I’m not even going to look at it. Guy Gavriel Kay; after RIVER OF STARS — beautiful but terribly tragic in exactly the way I dislike most — I will be more cautious before picking up another of his.

It’s easy to start off:

1. Laura Florand. She has a few more than eight out now, I think. She’s the only author where I have more than once bought a book and started reading it that same day, because her contemporary romances are just so easy to slip into and don’t jar me out of my own work.

2. Elizabeth Wein. Her books can sit on my TBR shelves for ages, though. They are not at all the kind that I can read while working on my own projects. Not even slightly.

3. Megan Whelan Turner. Like everyone else, I would love to see a new entry in The Queen’s Thief series.

4. Ilona Andrews. None of their books are in my all-time-top-ten list, but on the other hand, I’m likely to pick up anything they write at this point, whether it’s in the Kate Daniels series or not. But if it *is* in the series, I’ll probably read it right away; otherwise, who knows?

5. Andrea K Höst. Definitely.

6. Lois McMaster Bujold. Of course.

7. Martha Wells. Naturally. Well, probably not any more Star Wars tie-ins. Just not very interested in that universe. But anything that isn’t a tie-in, for sure.

8. Niccola Griffith. I didn’t really care for AMMONITE, but I loved THE BLUE PLACE trilogy so much. Depending on HILD . . . which I still haven’t read, I can hardly believe it . . . I will definitely buy anything she writes.

9. Merrie Haskell. I can’t wait to see what she brings out next.

10. Sage Blackwood. Ditto.

11. Steven Brust. I haven’t liked all of his. TECKLA, definitely two thumbs down. But even his experimental works that I don’t really like are interesting — I’m thinking here of BROKEDOWN PALACE — and I’m not in the least bored by the Vlad Taltos series, either.

12. Brian Katcher. I know, I know, I’ve only read exactly one of his books so far. But he is indeed an autobuy author for me, right now at least. I definitely want to read THE IMPROBABLE THEORY OF ANA AND ZACK when it comes out later this month, because he did a reading from it one time and it sounded like so much fun. Then I will probably read his other two titles. After that I’ll know more about whether he’s truly an autobuy author or me!

13. Django Wexler. Kind of the same as the above. So far I’m really enjoying this THOUSAND NAMES series. In a few years, I’ll see whether he’s really an autobuy author for me or not, but right now he is.

14. James Cambias. After THE DARKLING SEA, definitely. Very impressive debut.

15. Andy Weir. Same as the above: after THE MARTIAN, I’d be glad to try another of his, if he writes another.

16. Robin McKinley. Not sure why it took this long for me to think of her. I wish she’d finish the unfinished PEGASUS.

17. Emma Bull. AARGH IF SHE WOULD ONLY FINISH the long-unfinished TERRITORY.

18. “Katherine Addison”. Onward with that pseudonym. I would most love a sequel or two to THE GOBLIN EMPORER, but I’d try anything Sarah Monette wrote under the Addison name.

19. Sarah Addison Allen. Right. Of course.

20. Okay, come on. Surely stopping at 19 is just silly. FINE WHATEVER. Who am I obviously missing who ought to go in this spot? Or who would you definitely put in this spot yourself?

Oh, a related question: how many not-that-great or not-for-you titles does it take before an author wears out their autobuy status? I guess that depends on how many of their book you’ve already read and loved, and whether you think a new title of theirs is not quite up to snuff or just dreadful. Oh, and whether you see a real decline in writing quality, *cough* Laurell Hamilton *cough*.

One “just dreadful” title could definitely shut down a series for me, but not the author’s work overall if I’ve already decided I love that author. But how many books does it take to decide I love an author? The Touchstone trilogy and AND ALL THE STARS made me an Andrea K Höst fan. The Raksura trilogy and the Ile-Rien trilogy did the same for Martha Wells. (Those are two more recent-for-me authors, which is why I can remember what of theirs I read first.) That suggests just two stories are enough to either make me start collecting an author’s backlist or put them on my autobuy list for future books.

Update: Wow, so many great suggestions in the comments!

I can’t believe I forgot about Patricia McKillip. Consider her added right at the top. Others for me would be Peter Beagle, Robin McKinley, Patricia Wrede, and yes, probably Patricia Briggs as well. I didn’t like all her backlist as well as her UF series, but I would actually like to see her do some more secondary world fantasy. She’s grown a lot as a writer since her first couple.

I could see others being added to the list as I read more of their books. Frances Hardinge, for example. Elizabeth Bear. Naomi Novik . . . possibly. I rather lost interest in the Temeraire series, but I’m SO looking forward to UPROOTED.

Lots and lots of authors you all mentioned that I ought to try.

And I am happy and flattered that some of you mentioned me, too. Thank you!

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on May 3rd, 2015
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Well, there goes April

May 1st, 2015

I was kind-of-but-not-really surprised at how fast April flew by! I was taking a break from writing, mostly, so that was definitely a contributing factor. Now here we are in May and I guess my break is over!

Glancing at my books-acquired-and-read lists, I see I bought 14 books in April, and read 12. The overlap was about normal: I read five of the ones I bought in April. The rest were off my TBR pile, which of course did not shrink. My goal — one goal — was to whittle down my physical TBR pile to something that would fit on the three shelves allotted. I didn’t quite manage that, but I did reduce the overflow.

Okay, the April list:

PEACEMAKER by CJC. I re-read this one from front to back, so I’ll count it. Of course I re-read it as a prelude to reading:

TRACKER by CJC. I really enjoyed it, of course!

VOYAGE OF THE BASILISK by Marie Brennan. I love this series intellectually rather than passionately, but I do love it.

SHIFTING SHADOWS, that short story collection by Patricia Briggs. I definitely like short stories better if they fit into a familiar world. That must be why I get ideas for Black Dog short stories when I never seem to feel inclined to write independent short stories.

NIGHT BROKEN by Patricia Briggs. So enjoyable. Plus horses.

ICE CREAM STAR by Newman. I really admired it, though it’s hard to say whether I liked it or not.

I RODE A HORSE OF MILK-WHITE JADE by Wilson. I loved the setting (Mongolia) and enjoyed the story. I could see myself giving this away to the right 12-year-old kid.

A POINT OF HONOR by Dorothy Heydt. Really enjoyed it.

KINGS IN HELL by CJC and Janet Morris. Unfortunately, it seemed much more a Janet Morris book than a CJ Cherryh book. I mean, that’s unfortunate for me because Morris’s writing simply does not appeal to me. Your mileage may vary, obviously. I put this one on the give-away pile.

KILL ALL THE LAWYERS and KEEP THE LAW by Barry B Longyear. I really enjoyed these a lot. I could not see how Longyear was going to get that one problem to work out, but he did. Lots of grim stuff in this series (starts with INFINITY HOLD), but it’s fast paced, a real page turner. Also, for an adventure story, it’s a startlingly idea-heavy series. I’m going to be thinking about this series for a while.

ALL FOR YOU by Laura Florand. When I was picking favorite authors not long ago, favorite-authors-where-I’ve-loved-at-least-eight-of-their-books, you recall that list, I forgot about Florand. Probably because she doesn’t write fantasy and I was thinking about SFF authors. Anyway, I really enjoyed this books — because Laura Florand! — but, though I may comment more fully later, for now I’ll just say a) very enjoyable; b) but I preferred ONCE UPON A ROSE earlier this year. Ah, Provence! With roses!

A Laura Florand romance was a perfect way to end the month.

Now I must really and truly think about plowing through the revision of the HOUSE OF SHADOWS sequel … DOOR INTO LIGHT? I’m thinking I will just go with that. I believe I can make it work as the title. Anyway, I need to clear that revision away before getting serious about THE WHITE ROAD OF THE MOON, which is, as I’d better keep firmly in mind, mostly unwritten and due in September.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on May 1st, 2015
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Self-Published Book Challenge: an update

April 30th, 2015

This post from Bibliotropic caught my eye: Ria’s cut her list from 26 entries to eight strong contenders. That sounds to me like a very sensible thing to do, and you can click through and read this and related posts and see what kinds of thoughts led Ria to change her approach to the challenge.

Just as a side note, as far as I’m concerned, looking at Ria’s eight contenders, Auguries of Dawn by Peyton Reynolds has the most appealing cover AND the most appealing title. City of Burning Shadows by Barbara J Webb has the most intriguing back cover copy.

Here’s a link to the Speculative Book Review’s second set of books.

Of those, I like best the title of A Dream of Hope and Sorrow by Jonathan Crocker, and the cover and description of A Soul For Trouble by Crista McHugh.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 30th, 2015
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Public service message: rebound headaches

April 30th, 2015

So, late in March someone sent me a link to a lecture about types of headaches. Don’t remember the details. What I do remember is that I, who have had frequent headaches since forever, never actually looked into headaches as a phenomenon because (I guess) it just seemed like part of life. I mean, I remember as a teenager finally realizing that the reason most people don’t carry Excedrin with them all the time is because they’re not worried about getting a headache, and the reason they’re not worried is because they just aren’t going to get one.

I’m the sort of person who looks up stuff. But then, of course, the internet wasn’t a Thing until recently, so it used to be harder to look stuff up. So that’s probably why I never actually did any research into headaches.

Anyway. It turns out that about 2% of most populations suffer from chronic headache conditions. I mean the kind that aren’t dangerous, just unpleasant. (Very unpleasant.) The three most common types of headaches are migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches. The kind that I have seem to be frequent episodic tension-type headaches plus some (mild) migraines. My headaches used to have typical triggers: lack of sleep, glare, whatever. A few years ago, they decoupled from any noticeable trigger and became a lot more frequent. Excedrin remained fairly effective in treatment, most of the time, so that was how I managed.

Tension-type headaches should be re-named because tension as such has nothing to do with it, at least for me. During highly stressful periods of my life, thankfully rare, I have fewer headaches, not more.

Here’s the good news: it turns out that one thing that can make headache conditions become a lot worse is taking a lot of painkillers. Taking painkillers for headaches more than fifteen days a month can cause rebound headaches, if you are already suffering from a headache condition. Well, I was taking headache medication a lot more than fifteen times a month — more like 28 days a month. I was waking up with headaches most days and often having them come back during the day.

So I stopped taking any medication at the end of March. I was taking a break from writing, so that was a good time to try this. I continued taking 100 mg of caffeine first thing in the morning and sometimes added 50 mg of caffeine in early afternoon. And after the first ten days, if I did get a serious headache, I went ahead and took Excedrin. My goal was to take Excedrin no more than ten days in the month, no more than a few days in a row.

I put a checkmark on every day in April when I was driven to take headache medication. There are six checkmarks. Six. For the whole month. Three days in a row in the middle of the month, then about one a week.

This is fabulous. It puts me back to about where I was three or so years ago, before the headaches became such a constant thing.

So, the problem is way better than it was and I hope it will stay that way. So hey, if any of you happen to suffer from chronic headaches that have gotten way more frequent than in the past, here you go: rebound headaches might be causing some of your headaches and, though it’s not an actual cure or anything, you might be able to get rid of those and back the problem off to something a bit more tolerable.

Incidentally, have you noticed how in novels, no one suffers from chronic headaches? Or arthritis? Or back pain? (I know this is not 100% true, but basically no one.) I long for the day when we can edit all chronic pain conditions out of real life the way we edit them out of fiction.

As a second side note: the topic I hate most in student papers is anything that draws on the idea that Addiction To Painkillers Is A Serious Problem. You know what the real problem is? Pain, that’s what. I believe you may find, if you are in pain, that you can quite easily get addicted to NOT BEING IN PAIN. Allow me to stifle argument for an authoritarian moment: No one should be allowed to express an opinion on this topic unless they have suffered from a chronic pain condition for more than three months.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 30th, 2015
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Promoting your book(s)

April 29th, 2015

Here’s a post from Chuck Wendig that is, as usual, a bit long, but fun. He’s looking at it as Ways to Promote Your Self-Published Book, but obviously all these things apply to any book, whether published by you personally, a smaller press, or a Big Five publisher.

I enjoy the ratings, largely because of the snarkiness embedded in declaring that spamming BUY MY BOOK on social media is a 0/10 and even more so for the extreme snarkiness of rating thunderclapping as Who Cares, It’s Annoying.

I’d go farther for both author-spamming and thunderclapping: those are -10/10 techniques. That kind of thing will make me unfollow you SO FAST because IT IS BEYOND UNATTRACTIVE for an author to do this. For heaven’s sake, don’t you KNOW that the point of Twitter is kitten pictures? And yes, okay, links to interesting posts are good. But basically, kitten pictures, right? I mean, look at this:

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Gandalf the Gray

KittenLeap

Snow leopards

See? I rest my case.

I’ve done blog book tours twice. I enjoyed doing them, but I’m not so sure they did a whole lot for sales. And they take a lot of time. So guests posts are something I’m happy to do, but preferably just now and then, not too many at once.

I should probably have an email list, though. Yeah, probably.

Giving away books: I’ve done quite a bit of this. I think it’s a good idea.

Hanging out on social media sites that actually appeal to you: well, sure. I mean, if they actually appeal to you, than it’s all good. Chuck doesn’t emphasize sticking to social media you actually like, but who could stick with it if they didn’t like it?

Anyway, you can click through if you’re interested. The comments are worth scanning, too.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 29th, 2015
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Top Ten Beauty and the Beast Retellings

April 28th, 2015

Hah hah hah just kidding. I didn’t really try to get to ten favorites particularly. I just tried to get to ten that I’ve read and liked. Also, I didn’t make it anywhere close to ten. So it’s a list, but not really a top ten list.

Actually I’ve got two lists: one for Beauty and the Beast-inspired novels I’ve read and one (slightly longer) for stories I’ve heard of and want to read, but haven’t got to yet. If you’ve got a particular favorite, toss it in the comments, please, because somehow it’s always been one of my favorite fairy tales for retellings.

For whatever reason, I also particularly like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Wild Swans.

Anyway! The lists:

1. BEAUTY by Robin McKinley. This is my all-time favorite, the definitive version as far as I’m concerned, and that’s true even though the story just sort of dissolves gently into the ending. I think this is a difficult fairy tale to bring to a really great ending.

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2. ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley is the one I think of second, mostly because it’s also by McKinley so naturally I think of it at the same time. I like it okay, but I think BEAUTY is way better.

3. THE CHOCOLATE ROSE by Laura Florand. Stepping outside fantasy and into contemporary romance, and of course this isn’t a retelling so much as a story that is gently influenced by the fairy tale. I love it, though mostly I don’t think I would be very interested in reading romances-that-aren’t-fantasy even if they draw on a fairy tale.

4. CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge. Not my favorite, but I did like it quite a bit.

5. THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell. This one draws only lightly on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but on the other hand, it draws more directly on The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I loved it.

6. THE HOBB’S BARGAIN by Patricia Briggs could be seen as a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Yes or no, what do you think? It’s a good secondary world fantasy either way.

I really thought I could get closer to ten when I started. I feel like I must have missed something.

Moving on, though: Top ten Beauty and the Beast retellings that sound like they might be great, but I haven’t had a chance to read them.

1. HEART’S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier. I have really, really loved some of Marillier’s books. Others, not so much. Her writing is lovely all the time, though. Has anybody read this? What do you think?

2. OF BEAST AND BEAUTY by Stacey Jay. This one sounds excellent.

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3. SCARLET by Marissa Meyer. I haven’t read it, but I’m slowly listening to CINDER right now and I also do have SCARLET as an audiobook, so I expect I’ll get to it this summer.

4. THE FIRE ROSE by Mercedes Lackey. What do you all think of it, thumbs up or thumbs down? I haven’t ever read much by Mercedes Lackey, so it’s hard to guess what I might think of this one.

5. BEASTLY by Alex Flinn. A retelling from the pov of the Beast? That sounds interesting.

6. UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. It’s not quite out yet, but it’s supposed to draw a bit from Beauty and the Beast. I read the first chapter and *loved* it, so I’m sure looking forward to it hitting the shelves, even if it doesn’t turn out to draw much from Beauty and the Beast.

7. BEAST by Donna Jo Napoli is also from the pov of the Beast. It sounds fascinating: “Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy’s wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman. Thus begins Orasmyn’s journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man.”

8. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas. I’m not sure this is really a Beauty and the Beast retelling? The male lead is evidently named Tamlin. Maybe it draws more from Tam Lin?

9. BELLE: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Cameron Dokey. This one sounds more like a direct retelling. “Belle, who lacks her sisters’ beauty, spends her time alone with her wood carving, until she must carve the fabled Heartwood Tree to save her father from the Beast.”

10. I thought I could get to ten with this half. Not quite, it turns out! What’s your favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling (or inspired by) fantasy that I have missed?

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 28th, 2015
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Coming up with the title before writing the book: you have no idea

April 28th, 2015

Okay! I’m going with SHADOW TWIN for the 3rd Black Dog book. I can think of two ways it would be appropriate for Book 3, and in fact depending on how I handle a different plot element, maybe three ways.

I expect to have this trouble with every book in the Black Dog series — except the last — because I will always need to put the title of a forthcoming book in the endmatter of the previous book. Joy.

You know what this reminds me of, though? When Orbit asked me for back cover copy for LAW OF THE BROKEN EARTH before the book was written. This happens because they need that for advertising purposes or something.

You know what I had at that point? The first couple chapters and a vague notion where the book might be going. Here’s the back cover we went with:

In Feierabiand, in the wide green Delta, far from the burning heat of the griffin’s desert, Mienthe’s peaceful life has been shaken. Tan – clever, cynical, and an experienced spy – has brought a deadly secret out of the neighboring country of Linularinum.

Now, as three countries and two species rush toward destruction, Mienthe fears that even her powerful cousin Bertaud may be neither able nor even willing to find a safe path between the secret Linularinum would kill to preserve and the desperate ferocity of the griffins. But can Mienthe?

And, in the end, will Tan help her . . . or do everything in his power to stand in her way?

See that last sentence? Remember the actual book? If you ever wondered why the two don’t seem to match up, this is why. At the time I suggested this back cover copy, I thought that last sentence might possibly be where the story was going. As it turns out, this was not really true.

Ah, well. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen again for a while, because three of the four books I have under contract are basically finished and I think I have a pretty good idea where the other one is going to end up. Not quite sure how I’ll get there, but it should be okay.

Anyway. Black Dog 3: SHADOW TWIN. I’m putting that title in the soon-to-be-loaded file right now.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 28th, 2015
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Busy busy busy: a potpourri of distractions this weekend

April 26th, 2015

I must admit, I have not been a bit busy with writing. Or even writing-related stuff. Life got distracting in general and also (unusually) my actual job intruded on my free time. That’s fine, I don’t mind. I mean, I spent about four or five hours this weekend doing job-related stuff, but I can take those hours off some other time, so it doesn’t matter a bit. I was too distracted by other things to work on the HOUSE OF SHADOWS revision anyway. This coming week should be better for that.

Lately I have been writing about a zillion (rough estimate) worksheets that will hopefully help students review this summer for their upcoming math classes in the fall. Thirteen weeks of assignments and assessment/quizzes for students going into Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, and College Algebra. My Amazing Math Tutors are coming up with sets of worksheets for students going into Trig or Calc I (my trig and calculus were waaay too long ago for me to do those; that’s why we hire Amazing Math Tutors from the engineering track).

So the weekend has been all like this:

Remember how to add fractions? Well, then, do this huge worksheet. And that one. And this one. Just go ahead and nail down fractions. It will make algebra so much easier and for the dear Lord’s sake, it isn’t actually hard even if your grade-school teachers somehow gave you the idea that it is.

Never learned the multiplication tables? Well, join the club! [Insert bitter rant here. No, about twice that much bitter outrage.]

Now put away your #^%#^(^*% calculator and just memorize the damn multiplication tables. Do this whole set of worksheets. Twice, if necessary.

Is this an expression or an equation? How can you tell? Simplify this expression and solve this equation and explain why the equals sign makes a difference.

Factor this quadratic equation, and that one, and this equation that is prime, and that equation that is not really quadratic but is quadratic-in-form.

Review these exponent rules. They still apply even if the exponents are rational. Or negative. Do these problems with rational negative exponents.

Review how to handle rational expressions. And rational equations. No, really, get completely, totally comfortable with rational equations. Until you just quit flinching when you see a fraction. For heaven’s sake, you’re going to clear the fractions out of just about every equation anyway. Just learn to do that so you can relax about rational equations.

Well, well, you see how my weekend went. The introductory workshop for how-to-review is tomorrow. We have quite a lot of students who are mature, responsible, and quite possibly willing to invest some time this summer in review if given a crystal-clear structured schedule. It would be awesome to actually see a statistical bump in math success rates in the Fall 2015 semester. Though I don’t know if I really think we can manage to pull that off.

But I am going to dream about math tonight, I just know it.

Meanwhile! What the blazes should I call Black Dog 3?

Black Dog 1: BLACK DOG

Black Dog 2: PURE MAGIC

Black Dog 3: ???? ?????

ONLY HUMAN — a) kind of a stupid title, and b) what would I do for Book 4 if I used black dogs, the Pure, and humans for the first three books? I don’t have another type of person in this world. Do I?

BLOOD KIN — I have no actual plans to include blood kin as an important component of the third book, so . . . well . . . I do need a Big Bad Thing for this book. Maybe I can make it be something to do with blood kin? On the other hand, maybe committing to that without thinking of an overall plot that would actually work is a tiny bit ridiculous.

Something with WITCH in the title? Same as above. On the other hand, I have referred (very briefly) to witches. I know nothing at all about them. That certainly does give me freedom of action, and yet it would be awkward if I couldn’t come up with a good way to involve witches.

Something with TWIN in the title? Miguel is going to be an important pov protagonist in Book 3. That’s the part that I *do* have worked out. But what goes with TWIN? That’s a word that could be an adjective: TWIN ________. Or a noun: _________ TWIN.

Anyway, that is the question that has been drifting through my mind while I’ve been raking leaves off the chrysanthemums and pulling grass out of the epimediums, in between writing math worksheets and weekly assessments.

Tomorrow, I don’t know: my two new baby magnolias arrived. Maybe I should figure out where to put them. I could NOT make up my mind, that’s why two. I got ‘Angelica’ and ‘Woodsman.’ The former is an M. cylindrica x M. soulangeana cross, not too big, with fragrant flowers that are white-with-a-little-pink. The latter is a M. acuminata x M. liliiflora hybrid, a real tree, with flowers that are an odd blend of purple, pink, cream, greenish, and a kind of tan. I’m not quiiiite sure I will like it? But it sounds so interesting! And different! And I think it will bloom late, so late it may overlap with my M. sieboldii. It would be nice if they bloomed at the same time. But it’s fine either way, of course.

The ‘Angelica’ looks good, btw, though the ‘Woodsman’ is way tall for its rather small pot. I will be sure to knock all the soil off it and spread the roots out good and proper when planting it, so that should help it establish. I don’t in general have any problem transplanting magnolias. Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery has a good reputation and I must say, their packaging was amazing. The plants were secure and yet it was easy to get the plants out of the boxes. Sometimes with these mail-order plants, it seems to take longer to get the plants out of the box than it does to get them in the ground. I still have room for a couple more magnolias . . . I think . . . so if these two babies do well, I will definitely order from Klehm’s again.

ANYWAY, next week: I have been thinking about the Black Dog world kind of a lot and I have plenty of ideas for short stories and stuff, but, yeah, I really need to get started with the revision of the HOUSE OF SHADOWS sequel. We’ll see!

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on April 26th, 2015
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