Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent Reading

So! Just read RA MacAvoy’s new book, DEATH AND RESURRECTION. I really enjoyed it! Really! MacAvoy hasn’t forgotten how to write! I really liked Ewen (the main character) and the secondary characters were well drawn. I enjoyed how MacAvoy made one police character a poet and the other a Mormon. I enjoyed the way Susan dyed her hair blond (she is Indian or part-Indian and fiercely defends her right to dye her hair any color she chooses).

I admit, not too crazy about the wolf-dog hybrid. Not usually crazy about super-obedient super-tough dogs in books. The writers seldom seem to know what real dogs are like and have them act like programmable robots instead of like real dogs. PLUS WOLF HYBRIDS ARE NOT SUPER OBEDIENT. Adding wolf blood does not exactly make a dog easy to train, hello? Although to be fair MacAvoy implied that there was not a lot of wolf in that dog. Still didn’t like it.

But that’s me, and personal. Here’s a more substantive comment: this book is kind of like a novella plus some related stories, rather than an actual novel.

See, there’s this big bad evil thing? And it gets defeated. And everything after that, which is about half the book, seems like an afterthought. Or really a series of disconnected afterthoughts. If I’d been editing this book — and I definitely do not claim major editing mojo — but it seems obvious to me that MacAvoy should have either a) put the defeat of the big bad evil thing at the end, or b) had some other problem that was in some way worse than the big bad evil thing, was foreshadowed early, and was dealt with in the second half of the book.

As it was . . . every part of the book was enjoyable, but it doesn’t seem very coherent as a single work. Plus, nothing after the defeat of the monster carries the increased sense of danger or urgency or importance that you would expect to see as a story builds toward the end. It’s as though you climb up a mountain . . . and then rather than being carried over a cliff by an avalanche, just clamber calmly down the other side.

So . . . hard to rate this book. I liked it! I will re-read it! I recommend it! But all with caveats.

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It helps to be awake when performing in public . . . and recent YA releases

I’m afraid my Adora was basically sleepwalking through her obedience classes on Sunday. Oh, well! She qualified in Rally anyway because, hey, Rally. I mean, when a dog loses focus in Rally you can call her name. But her heeling in formal obedience was awful. There was a thunderstorm the night before and she doesn’t like thunder, so I’ll use that as an excuse. She virtually went to sleep on the long down, thus lending credence to the notion that she was tired or just not in the mood to show.

Nevertheless, she is now Anara Adornment RN, C-RN, RA, C-RA, RE. That’s not “registered nurse,” obviously. It’s “rally novice.”

And Pippa is Sevenwoods Epiphany RN, C-RN, RA, C-RA, RE, CD, C-CD.

Also, I sort of regretted not entering Adora in the real show (the breed ring, you know). Because even sleepwalking, she would probably have won her class — she’s beaten the winner several times in the past. But, I don’t know. She really is terribly out of coat still. Although three of the confirmation people walked by her when I was practicing her stays in the lobby and independently stopped, looked at her, and said, “That’s a nice ruby.” Which she IS. Except when she wanders off to do her own thing on the off-lead heeling pattern.

So! Home again.

Also! Check this out. It’s the April YA releases. a) there are sure a lot of ’em; and b) whoa, paranormal is still popular. I never read paranormal unless a review by someone I trust cuts one out of the herd. Too hard to tell which ones might be good otherwise.

It’s interesting to see the trends, (Immortals, anyone?) but I don’t know how many sound like they would actually appeal to me. ABOVE I’m familiar with by repute, because I follow Leah Bobet on Twitter, but I haven’t read it. It’s getting good reviews, though, and it sounds like I would probably like it. I need to add it to my wish list at least . . . there, all done. So now I won’t forget it’s there.

And serial killers appear in at least four April YA releases. Four! Maybe five, not sure about number 55, go read the plot summary and see what you think. Plus maybe I missed a couple somewhere in the list. Anyway, it seems like an awful lot of serial killers. One of the books sounds especially disturbing: number 11) I HUNT KILLERS. I loved Dan Well’s book I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER and I wonder if it spawned some offspring? Which I am not sure I would like nearly as well.

Oh, look, number 46 is GRAVE MERCY by LaFevers! That one actually sounds quite good Angie at Angieville liked it, that’s a good sign. Also, Robin LaFevers wrote this really good post on second and third chances for a writer whose career seems to have stalled. That post alone makes me want to read her book. That’s another one to put on my wishlist.

How about you? Any stand out?

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Hating main characters — driving in the rain — and puppies!

Okay, I came across this across this neat post on things that make a main character not work. Oddly, I find I agree with basically the whole post! Especially this:

I don’t want to feel a sense of unending embarrassment for your main character. Watching him, I shouldn’t be constantly wincing, crossing my legs, furrowing my brow. Do not let conflict be driven by the character’s ceaseless stupidity. Endless humiliating self-driven failure ceases to be interesting.

Whoa, you said it, buddy. I hate that. Hate hate hate. You know what? I realized, oh, decades ago, that the reason not a single sitcom tv show has EVER appealed to me is that they all base their so-called humor on putting people in embarrassing situations and then laughing at them. Sorry, to me, that is just embarrassing, not funny.

Here’s the one I agree with least:

I want the main character to be the protagonist. This doesn’t need to be true, technically….you can have a main character who is a witness to the protagonist’s journey and is an observer to the changing world and the unfolding tale, but you need to be really powerful talented to pull that off and get away with it. Let your main characters drive the story as protagonists. Don’t give us a main character who somehow remains secondary to the tale being told.

And you know why I don’t agree all the way with this one? Because I’ve seen this done really, really well. I think this is what Dorothy Dunnett is doing in her (outstanding) historical series The Lymond Chronicles. Starts with, uh, GAME OF THRONES KINGS (whoops!)? Actually one of the books, the second or third, is kind of mediocre (IMHO). But still! Overall, a great series! And the driver of the action, Lymond, is not the pov protagonist. And that adds this great element of uncertainty because we don’t know what’s in Lymond’s head. It’s like watching The Hunt for Red October and truly not knowing whether Ramius is defecting or out for blood.

And, ever stumble across any of Dorothy Dunnett’s mysteries? Because they are SO MUCH FUN. I managed to get my hands on all of ’em back when that was actually hard, ie, before the internet started really making our lives easier. Anyway, again, the point of view character — always a female first-person narrator — is arguably not the protagonist. Track one down and read it and let me know if you agree.

Now! Important driving safety tip! If you have a white car? Consider turning on your lights if it is raining hard and traffic is heavy. Jeez, you guys are invisible under anything but ideal conditions.

But! Made it to Chicago just fine. Brought my laptop because I figured if cell phone reception is not fabulous at the Chicago airport, where would it be? Sure enough, reception here is great. Such a difference from my house.

Made it to the hotel after rush hour and before dark, just as planned. Whew, no traffic jams or serious slowdowns. Now taking the evening off. The show doesn’t start till nine. For me, that’s way way way late in the morning because I’m used to getting up at five thirty. So, plenty of time to do training in the lobby with distractions. I don’t want to say that I’m confident Adora and Pippa will do beautifully in Rally . . . though they ought to . . . but dogs are not robots and you cannot program them and then depend on unvarying performance. But they OUGHT to do well. Then in formal Obedience, not sure. Adora CAN do everything, but I haven’t really worked with her enough because, hey, time is not unlimited and the new puppy takes a lot of my attention and, well, I just haven’t. So crossing my fingers. I don’t think she’ll make me look like a total idiot in the ring, which is the big thing, I guess.

Then I think (not sure) that I’ve been dragooned into being a table steward for the breed ring in the afternoon. Never done that. Lots of complicated paperwork. Hope I get a chance to watch somebody experienced do it in the morning, or I might not need help from my dogs to look like a total idiot.

So! Busy! After this weekend, might (might!) have time to try writing.

I mean, other than writing an article for the Cavalier Bulletin on “swimmer puppies” (a potentially serious defect of proprioception you occasionally see in very young puppies) versus normal puppies that are just late to walk — like, how to tell the difference. I read a lot about swimmers because my new puppy was late to walk, see, and it turns out there’s a lot of confusion out there about what a “swimmer” actually is, based largely on confusion of terminology, so doing my part to clear that up. Thus we see that precision in language is important and that it’s really not okay to give two different conditions the same name. Which, actually, is not that uncommon an issue.

That article may well have a readership in the hundreds, so that’s not bad, but my guess is general interest in the topic is, shall we say, limited. Though, hey, maybe I’ll put the article on my other website (www.anaracavaliers.com) and link to it from here, because you never know, maybe tons of people would find it way exciting to read about swimmer puppies. Plus, on a website, I could include pictures! Visual aids are neat!

My own baby puppy is peachy-keen, btw. Five weeks old yesterday and bouncing around like anything. Cavaliers puppies are just hitting the too-cute-for-words stage at five weeks. I REALLY need to figure out how to add a video clip to a post. Or at least add a new picture.

Wish me luck showing!

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Have you seen The Hunger Games?

What did you think?

I, unlike some people, loved the book as a single book, not just as a trilogy. I didn’t think the “conflict felt contrived” at all. I didn’t even notice that Katniss was protected from hard choices! Which she was, that part was obvious once it was pointed out — what if, for example, the original hunger games had come down to Peeta, Katniss, and Rue? Or even Peeta, Katniss, and Thresh? Talk about tough choices then!

But I loved the immediacy of THE HUNGER GAMES and the close focus on Katniss and the world building — what great world building it is, and the way Collins skimped on physical detail didn’t bother me a bit.

So. Loved the book. The movie? I think it was fine if you had already read the book. Otherwise, how could you possibly know what’s going on in Katniss’ head?

When I watch a movie I like, nine times out of ten if there’s a book I’ll want to re-read it after watching the movie. Which I did. So that just confirmed for me HOW MUCH BETTER the book is. Though, don’t get me wrong, I thought the casting was good and the visuals were good. Katniss looked just right. So did Gayle and Peeta. Haymitch was fine. Cinna was all right. Caesar Flickerman was fabulous, just fabulous. FABULOUS.

Even so, even though almost every action was taken directly from the book — except that bit with the berries and the games director right at the end, and actually I wasn’t happy about that change — anyway the movie had a very different feel. A shallow, glossy sort of feel. A casual-adventure-movie sort of feel. A sanitized sort of feel. I think the viewer has to put the depth into the characters and the horror into world, I don’t think the movie on its own did the job.

But it’s not like I can go back in time and watch the movie without having read the book. So how about it? Was the movie great or did it lack the strength of the book?

.

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I spent all Easter gardening —

And by “all Easter”, I mean of course all weekend. Lessee. No little kids, so no Easter egg hunts (I do regret the lack of small children around holidays, but there you are — though I’m sure the dogs wouldn’t mind if I hid sugar eggs for them. Or liver eggs!)

Anyway! Planted the new astilbes that just arrived — I want to create a river of astilbes down the dry stream bed beside my house.

Folly posing at the beginning of the dry stream bed

That stream bed continues around the corner of the house and right down through the yard, past the fence and down the hill. The rocks turn from nice pretty round manicured rocks to big rough boulders, because luckily a neighbor has a small bulldozer which we used to move really big rocks into place just after the house was finished.

I’ll take a picture of the astilbes when they’re up, though they’ll be small this year. Also I thought about what else to plant down along that stream bed, but of course thinking doesn’t count. Plus the nursery accidentally sent me a Chaenomeles ‘Cameo’, which is not what I ordered. Naturally they’re sending the shrub I actually ordered and naturally they’re allowing me to keep the flowering quince, which I am not a huge fan of flowering quince, but if I were going to get one? It would in fact be ‘Cameo.’ So I wandered around looking for a place to put it and finally planted it over to the side of the flowers bordering the orchard. If it’s happy there and looks nice, maybe I’ll get a couple more to keep it company.

I moved the poor little climbing hydrangea vine. Its tree died. For no reason at all. Just poof! Dead. A hickory, maybe thirty or forty years old. We’ve had the odd tree die for no reason before — a couple really big hickories and a few young oaks, like thirty years old, and two perfectly fine willows. Sometimes mysterious things happen. But why to a tree where I planted a somewhat tricky and very slow-growing vine? That was just unfair. Luckily the vine is young, but it hurt me to cut off all its tendrils and hack it out of the ground. I hope it survives and recovers and starts up its new host tree. It’d be nice to see it flower before I die of old age.

But I can plant a new tree where the hickory used to be! That part will be fun! But what? A dove tree? A silverbell? A kousa dogwood? Maybe even a paperbark maple? Choices, choices . . . my life is so tough, having to narrow down the list to just one! Maybe there’s room around the place for all four if I just walk around and stare at the landscape long enough?

Too much shade and too dry for anything demanding

But doesn’t this give a great sense of space? We’re moving the pathway that used to run through this area because obviously the Vinca minor vines are eating the old pathway. Dad built that gazebo.

Check out the other side of this area as you come around my parent’s house:

These spirea? They’re ordinary Vanhoutte spirea, an excellent choice. These particular shrubs are cuttings off the bush that my grandfather planted for my grandmother when they got married. Isn’t that something? I took several more cuttings this spring to extend the white white white blizzard of flowers down farther toward the pond.

Back over at my place, I dug a bed for the kerria cuttings I made last year. I’ll move ’em as soon as they stop flowering or next week, whichever comes first. Love those things. Hard to complain about a really easy shrub that puts on a show you can see from 100 feet away! I have plans to make a lot more cuttings ASAP, which is why the established cuttings need to move. I’ve got the ordinary double, ‘Flora Plena’, I think.

Weeded, of course.

The low-growing stuff in front will produce white upward-facing flowers soon, and the daisies behind the Japanese maple will flower any day now, and I should take another picture at that point because it’s going to look great! Especially with all the weeds out!

Got all the big weeds out of the butterfly garden in the dog yard, too. Much quicker to write that sentence than do it, I assure you. The butterfly plants are out there not so much for me but for the critters, which is why the yard gets called the dog yard rather than just the back yard. I don’t worry about holes getting dug out there or whatever, either. Cavaliers love chasing butterflies, hence the butterfly garden is out there. Also! Transplanted some butterfly bush seedlings that were not in a convenient spot. Now re-mulching the whole area (also takes longer than you’d think) and thinking about adding a few more butterfly plants out there. Not sure what. Thinking’s cheap. The buy-it-now list tends to shrink when I look at the actual prices of plants.

Tied up the peas in the veggie garden.

The garden won't look this neat and trim in August, believe me.

That’s a polyantha rose in the center, ‘Marie Pavie’, a fabulous pale-pink highly scented rose that appears to be entirely immune to rose rosette, because man have we lost a lot of roses to rose rosette. But not this one.

Also spent time snarling about the weather, which was fabulous but is predicted to turn chilly and thus I am prevented from planting the summer seeds — squash, melons, okra (I like okra, okay?), beans. We’re supposedly at risk of a frost tonight. I trust it won’t happen. There’re thousands of baby apricots and cherries and plums and peaches, so frost would be bad. Luckily we’re up on a hill, so in fact we should stay a few degrees warmer than down below. Plus baby apricots are tougher than you’d think. We’ll see!

And ALL THAT is why I did not touch my computer all weekend! So no writing taking place just now! After the major gardening push or after school gets out, I promise I will get back to work! On something . . .

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An entertaining defense of a bad book, but I don’t buy it

I found this at Pub Rants, which you probably already know is agent Kristen Nelson’s blog. I gather it was a comment left in the previous post, but I didn’t go read through the comments, so I won’t swear to it. Anyway, check it out:

I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it [FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, which apparently started as a piece of erotic fanfic]. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here’s why: 

I couldn’t put it down.



True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses….



Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining.

And then the commenter goes on to explain what she loved about this book and how little the poor writing bothered her. And that’s fine. I don’t care if people love books even though they’re poorly written and hideously edited. Much.

Except really I guess I kind of do mind. Because if punctuation is random but that doesn’t bother you, and typos abound but that doesn’t bother you, either, then, well, I guess the fact that you don’t care does bother me. Not so much because of what it says about you as a reader, though I think I would actually be happier if all readers everywhere were pickier. No.

I care because of what the reader’s lack of discrimination says to the author. And what it says to the author is: It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to be a slob. It’s all right if you don’t know the rules — just throw punctuation in any old place, no on cares! Sure your writing will be less effective and your readers will often be confused and have to figure out what you mean — but whatever! Close enough!

And I hate that. I think it’s insulting to your readers to not bother to edit your manuscript. I think it’s insulting to be too lazy to bother trying to put out the best book you could produce. And if your book is popular despite the fact that it’s a mess? That is nice for you but it is more than you deserve and you should be ashamed to blow off your readers that way.

Humph. Mood: Grouchy. I’m going to go eat chocolate and read something that was written BEAUTIFULLY and has EVERY SINGLE COMMA in exactly the right place.

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And Cake! / Blog

Puppy pics! And cake!

Puppy G made it up onto her feet this weekend! Woo hoo!

I was actually a bit concerned about this because the puppy was about a week late to start walking. One does expect a puppy to make it up EVENTUALLY unless she is a “swimmer”, which is a problem way different from (and much worse, and often confused with) just being too heavy. MY puppy was fine, only fat fat fat and lacking in hind-leg strength.

I did two things to help Puppy G get up:

1) Used a terry cloth surface to give her better traction than the smooth absorbent pads I usually use in the whelping box and placed rolled-up towels under the surface to give her hills and valleys to crawl over so she would build muscle strength in her hind legs, and

2) Every single time I noticed Kenya going into the box to nurse, I would let the puppy start nursing and then move her the full length of the whelping box and make her crawl back to her mom. My policy was: if you are not hungry enough to crawl back over there, you are not hungry. After all, getting a little less to eat would only be a plus for this puppy!

And it worked! She was up at three weeks and two days, just about exactly what I’ve seen before for heavy singleton puppies. If she hadn’t been up by Sunday, I was going to start swimming her in a tub of warm water to help her exercise those legs, but it wasn’t necessary, so I am happy.

This is Puppy G at one day! She weighed 4.25 oz.

This is Puppy G yesterday! She weighted 2 lbs 8.0 oz.

Quite a difference, huh? The limbs are so pink in the just-born picture because she was too premature to have a full coat. In fact, it’s amazing she had so much hair and such dark pigment. She doesn’t look like a full-term puppy, but closer than she had any right to.

And those stuffed animals she has in the box with her now are her “siblings”. She likes the lion toy best. She is active enough to spend ten minutes or so at a time playing, so I try to make the lion toy “play with her” several times a day. It even nips back, but only very gently. Soon Puppy G will be steady enough to really benefit from playing with Folly (four months old) and Dara (two years and my very best and gentlest babysitter).

I’m thinking of naming this puppy Anara Give Me A Break for her show name, btw, and the name I like the best for a call name? It’s Lithuanian — Giedre. Pronounced GYEH-dray. I think I could learn to say that (“Giedre! Come!” it sounds all right) and doesn’t the word look neat? Unusual and distinctive. Plus, the semi-famous Giedre right now is a Lithaunian model (I found out while goggling pronunciation). Naming a show dog after a model is perfectly reasonable.

I celebrated the puppy walking by baking a cake! (Seriously — I promised myself I would try out this keen new recipe the day the puppy got up on her feet).

This started as a Moss Rose Cake and I didn’t make very many changes. (You know, I always thought I followed recipes until I started posting some? And I was just wrong, because actually I almost never follow the recipe all the way through. It took me by surprise.)

Anyway, the cake!

(Mostly) Moss Rose Cake

This is a sponge cake, not a butter cake. If you do it right, you’ll get a light, airy cake that sort of seems like a cross between a normal cake and an angel food cake. The original Moss Rose cake uses almond extract, but since you’re using a coconut-orange filling? I thought it made sense to use coconut and orange extracts instead. Also! Please notice that you need to put the filling ingredients together ahead of time!

Filling:

3 C sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp sugar

Cake:

4 eggs
2 C sugar
1 C hot milk — I actually used almond milk because I had some that needed to get used up, and it worked just fine, but I wouldn’t actually suggest it or anything. Just FYI.
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder — which not all sponge cakes use, but it does help guarantee lift
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coconut extract — I would use 1/2 if I did it again
1/4 tsp orange extract — I would keep this at 1/4

Frosting:

1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp orange extract

Combine the filling ingredients and chill overnight.

Now, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar and beat until thick, like four minutes or so. Combine the milk and oil and have that ready. Combine the dry ingredients and have that ready. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat in half the milk mixture. Repeat, ending with the last third of the flour mixture. Beat in extracts. Pour into 3 8″ or 2 9″ cake pans (it’s best to line them with circles of parchment paper and spray the circles with baking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, a bit less if you’re using the larger cake pans. I took them out when a tester came out of the center with a few moist crumbs stuck to it, and that was perfect.

Let the cakes cool ten minutes and turn out onto racks. Peel off the parchment. Cool.

Make the frosting: Mom commented that this is like seven-minute frosting. What it reminded me of was making marshmallows. It’s VERY sweet, and obviously you won’t need it all if you’re making a two-layer cake, but I didn’t want to deal with cutting the amount down (how do you cut the recipe by a third when you’re using two eggs?), so I made the full amount. Anyway!

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan to 240 degrees. While you wait, beat the egg whites just until frothy. When the syrup is hot enough, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream while beating on medium speed. Then beat on high until quite stiff peaks form. I didn’t beat it quite long enough and the frosting showed a distinct tendency to ooze gently down the sides of the cake, so don’t get bored and quit early. I bet it’ll take at least eight to ten minutes to beat it till stiff. When you think you’ve beaten it enough, beat in the extracts.

Assemble the cake: Put the first layer on a platter and spread with frosting. Sprinkle with about a cup of the filling. Repeat, so there will be coconut-orange filling on the top of the cake. Frost the sides of the cake. I chilled the cake to help set the frosting and make it easier to slice the cake, but I don’t know that you’d need to. Like all cakes, it’s better eaten at room temp rather than cold.

The frosting is getting a little crackly crust in places after being stored overnight in the fridge, so I don’t know, you might want to make this when there’s enough people around to eat basically the whole thing the same day it was made. People with a serious sweet tooth could also help you take care of any extra frosting you might have! It’s a little over the top for me!

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Fun links I just discovered —

I clicked on this link because it said something about perfect sentences. Finding Calvin and Hobbes was a surprise! My personal favorite was Playing Frankenstein With Words. Click through and see which one you like best!

THE INTERN has a post up about social media and whether doing stuff online actually translates to book sales. Now, she refers to a person who did TONS of social media stuff for a while and then quit cold and her book sales didn’t change. Obviously what we really need is a time machine so that this exact same author could launch her book the other way around: no online presence for six months and then TONS of social media stuff. Alas, that’s unlikely. Maybe THE INTERN will find a counter example which is at least roughly comparable to the other-way-round example.

THE INTERN also asked: how many book have you bought lately as a result of online social media? And this is hard to answer because what counts as social? Because if book review blogs do, then for me the answer would be LOTS. Or if book review blogs don’t count, then VERY FEW. But my online social thing is limited to a few twitter posts a day and a little cruising through the book-related blogosphere.

I thought this post was a nice reminder of what NOT to focus on, speaking of online stuff and writing. “Unhitch Your Wagon From the Stars” — meaning, review stars! I need to remind myself of that. I’m good at dwelling on good reviews and not bad ones, but not so good at truly IGNORING bad ones. Yet, you know, you’re never going to have EVERYBODY love your book, so probably not the best thing to pay attention to.

On a totally different note! Have you ever seen a cooler infographic than this? It has nothing to do with writing or fiction — it’s a graphic showing about a billion “alternative medicine” treatments — vitamins, herbs, whatever — according to evidence that the thing helps the condition and also according to popularity. Naturally it won’t surprise you to find out that popularity has little to do with evidence. Hover over a bubble to see what the herb is supposed to treat — click on a bubble to get the link to the evidence that it is beneficial (and if there’s no evidence, there’s no link).

The only thing I take is vitamin D, btw. Well, and dark chocolate. Naturally I only eat chocolate for medicinal reasons.

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Yep, still spring —

So I’m planting more beets (for Mom; I hate beets) and putting the trellis up for the peas and wishing it was time to start squashes and melons and corn and all that good stuff.

Also, spent all day yesterday transplanting the heucheras and astilbes that last year were buried underneath hostas that got bigger than expected. This year everybody should have room to stretch out.

Weeding is neverending. Removing all the dead stems from the chrysanthemums and sedums and everything just SEEMS like a neverending chore, but weeding really IS.

New plants are going to arrive shortly — I ordered a ‘Butterfly’ magnolia and some ‘Honeycomb’ buddleias and more astilbes and, I don’t know, some other stuff.

Also! My friend Deb talked me into entering two of my girls in rally and obedience at the CKCSC specialty in Chicago in three weeks! I haven’t worked with them at all in about eight months! But Deb is right, it’s important to support the performance stuff at the Cavalier specialties. Just hope my girls don’t make me look like an idiot. I’m entering the most experienced ones, so hopefully they’ll both polish off another one or two titles each so I can brag about them.

Also! I got stuck on the ms I was working on and haven’t touched it in a week, and honestly, does it sound like I have time and energy to work on something?

But in fact I am sticking to reading books I have read before and don’t find that compelling. And I’ve put the one project aside and am starting to think about something else. So probably in the coming week I really will start doing something productive. Maybe. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see! I’m thinking about a brand-new YA. I think I kinda have the opening scene in my head. Maybe I’ll open up a new file and just see if it flows . . .

Meanwhile! Back to weeding. Gotta clear out that bed by the driveway where I usually grow annuals. What an eyesore right now! I want something beautiful to look at out my front windows — preferably before the peonies and rugosa roses start blooming.

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This is kinda cool —

An infographic from Goodreads, showing the popularity of dystopian fiction.

The graphic is here.

Now, a question immediately arises: Is it true that dystopian fiction is super-popular right now? Or is it possible that because THE HUNGER GAMES was such a breakaway hit (and deserved to be), and because of a handful of other successful, popular dystopian titles published around the same time . . . we are now seeing a major trend to DESCRIBE a book as dystopian? A book that might very well simply have been called “science fiction” five or ten years ago?

How about INCARCERON? Dystopia? Or SF? (Or fantasy-SF blend?) Sure, TODAY it is called a dystopian novel. But is that how you would have thought of it five years ago?

How about I AM NUMBER FOUR? Nothing about that strikes me as dystopian — it’s straight up science fiction. But it was published recently! So hey, must be dystopian because that’s what sells!

Goodreads has a list that includes ENDER’S GAME as a dystopian novel. Are you kidding me? It’s a great story, but a dystopia? No way. Here the current preoccupation with dystopias reaches backward to claim victims from the past.

You know what I think is totally, utterly crucial to a dystopian novel? You have just GOT to have a truly oppressive society. You MUST. And if the surrounding society does not fit the bill, then what you have is NOT a dystopian novel.

I’d even separate out post-apocalyptic novels: a society that has just totally collapsed, leading to anarchy and horror? NOT a dystopia.

So if it were me . . . I’d want to see the data that infographic is based on. I’m sure the WORD dystopia is a lot more common today than a few years ago. But not so sure dystopian novels are really through the roof to quite that extent.

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