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On the Necessity of Research

Over at Mad Genius Club, Sarah Hoyt has an article on how to do targeted research. This is the sort of research you do when you know you need to fill specific gaps in your knowledge (known unknowns), rather than when you're trying to discover all you can about a broad subject, including the stuff you didn't realize you didn't know (unknown unknowns).

Which reminded me that I'd written a blog post back in 2014 about the process of research, particularly when you need to go beyond print and Internet sources and ask people to help you.
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On the Age of YA Characters

Continuing on her discussion of what age of reader The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is intended for, author L. Jagi Lamplighter explains the process by which she worked out what age her protagonist had to be. It's an interesting case study in the considerations that go into YA fiction.
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Promo Awaits

I'm busy getting ready for Grand Rapids Comic Con, including catching up on some bookwork. So I wanted to get this week's promo post out before the day slips away from me. Enjoy, and hope to see a least some of you at the con.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts – A magic school like no other!

To Rachel Griffin, Roanoke Academy is a place of magic and wonder. Nestled amidst the beauty of New York’s Hudson Highlands and hidden from the eyes of the Unwary, it offers everything a young sorceress could desire—enchantments, flying brooms, and the promise of new friends.

On her first day of school, Rachel discovers her perfect memory has an unexpected side effect. She can see through the spell sorcerers use to hide their secrets.

When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel investigates. She soon discovers another far-vaster secret world that hides from the Wise the way the Wise hide from mundane folk. Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel bravely faces wraiths, embarrassing magical pranks, mysterious older boys, a Raven that brings the doom of worlds, and at least one fire-breathing teacher.

Described by fans as: "Fringe meets Narnia at Hogwarts", The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is a tale of wonder and danger, romance and heartbreak, and, most of all, of magic and of a girl who refuses to be daunted.

Curiosity may kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin!

"Lamplighter introduces many imaginative elements in her world that will delight..." VOYA

(The first of a series that currently stands at three volumes, with more to come).

A Diabolical Bargain by Mary Catelli

Growing up between the Wizards' Wood and its marvels, and the finest university of wizardry in the world, Nick Briarwood always thought that he wanted to learn wizardry.

When his father attempts to offer him to a demon in a deal, the deal rebounded on him, and Nick survives -- but all the evidence points to his having made the deal.

Now he really wants to learn wizardry. Even though the university, the best place to master it, is also the place where he is most likely to be discovered.

Wren Journeymage by Sherwood Smith

The first summer of peace brings Wren on her weekly visit to the young Queen Teressa, where she encounters the derisive, upsetting Hawk Rhiscarlan riding in! Wren races to warn Teressa, to discover he's expected, which causes the girls' first argument. Tyron gives Wren a chance to leave Meldreth by sending her on a new journeymage project--to find Connor, who had wandered off to the Summer Isles. When Wren vanishes, her scry stone abandoned, Teressa veers between regret over the argument, worry about Wren, and the beguilement of attraction as Hawk skillfully upsets her court. Wren has just made friends with some young sailors when they are captured and forced on board a shady smuggler, where Wren learns all about the sea. When pirates attack, Wren does magic, which leads her straight to another confrontation with the villain she hates most, aided by the boy she . . . what do you call these feelings? Once again the four--Wren, Teressa, Connor, and Tyron--find themselves deep in adventure, as they try to navigate the treacherous waters of growing up.

(The first three Wren books were originally published by Jane Yolen's YA imprint with Harcourt. When Harcourt discontinued the imprint, it left the series orphaned with the fourth book unwritten. Sherwood Smith has reissued the series through Book View Cafe, a writers' co-op. It begins with Wren to the Rescue and continues through Wren's Quest and Wren's War.)

The Sun Never Sets by Joseph T. Major

A passionate defense of an exiled prince leads to changes that shake the course of European and world history, and lay the stage for a wider and wider yet monarchy.
In our world, the Electress Sophia of Hanover, sister of the gallant Prince Rupert of the Rhine, was made heir to the British throne, only to die just too soon, leaving the succession to her son. Once, though, she got a little too exercised about the poor exiled Pretender . . . and if she had been just a little more exercised, William of Orange might have changed his mind.
Such a change could put a strange and striking monarch in reach of the British throne. But the heirs of the Stuarts were not yet gone, and they could strike back. The result of this bold decision would mean wars across the world, involving people from lands spreading from Poland to Virginia, from Scotland to Naples. It would mean battles in the Cockpit of Europe, in the wilds of Saxony, and indeed on the green fields of England itself.
Not all is war. Literary figures such as Swift,Johnson, and Voltaire have strange and different meetings. The universal genius Benjamin Franklin, Printer, has an entirely new field of endeavor.
The opposed royal houses, and the other princes of Europe, face off in new and strange alliances in this novel.

Historical Lovecraft by Silvia Monero-Garcia, editor

Historical Lovecraft, a unique anthology blending historical fiction with horror, features 26 tales spanning centuries and continents. This eclectic volume takes the readers through places as varied as Laos, Greenland, Peru, and the Congo, and from antiquity until the 20th century, pushing the envelope of Lovecraftian lore. William Meikle’s inquisitor tries to unravel the truth during a very hostile questioning. Jesse Bullington narrates the saga of a young Viking woman facing danger and destruction. E. Catherine Tobler stops in Ancient Egypt, where Pharaoh Hatshepsut receives an exquisite and deadly gift. Albert Tucher discovers that the dead do not remain silent in 10th century Rome.

These are tales that reimagine history and look into the past through a darker glass. Tales that show evil has many faces and reaches through the centuries. Tales that will chill your heart.

Join us in our journey through horror and time, if you dare.

Stories by: Regina Allen, Jesse Bullington, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin, Mason Ian Bundschuh, Andrew G. Dombalagian, Mae Empson, Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, Orrin Grey, Sarah Hans, Travis Heermann, Martha Hubbard, Nathaniel Katz, Leigh Kimmel, Meddy Ligner, William Meikle, Daniel Mills, Aaron Polson, Y. Wahyu Purnomosidhi, Alter S. Reiss, Josh Reynolds, Julio Toro San Martin, Bradley H. Sinor, Molly Tanzer, Albert Tucher, E. Catherine Tobler, Bryan Thao Worra

(Contains my short story "Red Star, Yellow Sign," which is tied to my indie short stories The Other Side of Midnight and The Shadow over Leningrad

All the Little Hedgehogs" by Leigh Kimmel

The Lower Volga Special Bio-Research Laboratory is one of the Soviet Union's most closely guarded secrets. Yona Feldberg didn't even know it existed until the day Academician Voronsky arrived at the Suvorov School and took him away from the austere life of a military cadet.

Here Yona learned why he, the son of a KGB labor camp commandant, should have been placed in a school to train the Soviet Army's future officers: he is a clone of one of the Red Army officers murdered in the Great Terror. However, his extraordinary talent for genetics makes him more valuable as the Academician's personal student, learning the technology of gene splicing alongside the Academician's adopted son.

But privileges can be revoked, as Yona discovers when he runs afoul of the local guardians of propriety. Now he will get a different kind of education, in teh darker secrets of the Soviet cloning program.

(Another story set in the Soviet Union, in the Gus on the Moon timeline).

Over at Sarah Hoyt's blog, the Free Range Oyster has even more cool books. In the comments you can also find a story beginning of mine, for another story in the Gus on the Moon timeline.

I also have some new in-depth book reviews up at The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf.

As always, if you'd like to have your works included in future versions of this promo post, please let me know at Because I'll be setting next week's promo post up while I'm at Grand Rapids Comic Con, they'll stand a better chance of being included in it if sent earlier.

Crossposted at The Billion Lightyear Bookshelf Blog and Through the Worldgate.
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The Long Goodbye

I was flogging around for something to write about today when I took a look at Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog and found this week's free short story Elegy for Piano and Three Voices (if it's already gone off free by the time you find this, you can still buy a copy).

This is one of those stories that hit so close to the heart it hurts. I know all too well the ravages of Alzheimer's, watching it repeatedly in our family. Not to mention the issue of families dumping all the hands-on caregiving responsibility onto one person who is perceived as having the fewest other responsibilities, usually because they're single and in a line of work they're seen as being able to put aside.

This story has an ending that, if not happy, is at least sort of bittersweet. But we can only hope that Stacey can continue to bear up to the inevitable end, no matter how terrible the strain becomes.

I know of all too many cases in whihc the Designated Caregiver gets in over their head and asks for help, only to get condescending pats on the head and comments like "chin up." As things become increasingly desperate, they try to communicate that they're at the end of their rope, only to be shut down with an angry "quit whining." And then, when things finally come apart altogether, the recriminations start -- but only at the Designated Caregiver who failed and collapsed under their load, never at the family members who left the person dangling, who refused to hear repeated pleas for help.
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An Embarrassment of Riches

Except they're not for me to keep. Today I received a shipment of merchandise for us to take to Grand Rapids Comic Con next weekend. So I spent the evening getting it inventoried and priced, and didn't have time to get much else done.
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Yet Another Security Leak

This time it's with a third-party information management company rather than a retailer, and it doesn't appear to have included passwords or credit card information. But it's still troubling. In the past year I've had to replace one credit card three times and another once, all because security breaches resulted in unauthorized persons making fraudulent purchases on my accounts. It's a hassle, and it can be nerve-wracking. Not to mention the time when you have to go to a trusted store to buy gift cards for one store that you're pretty sure is a major culprit, so you don't risk exposing your credit card to the problem store's systems.

And I fear it will only get worse, for a number of reasons. The fragmentation of civic trust. The increasing number of state-sponsored hackers treating this sort of thing as an act of covert war. The spread of information technology to a wider and wider audience, which means more potential criminals getting their hands on it, combined with the proliferation of scripts that enable a person with little or no theoretical understanding of the technology to exploit security holes.
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Why Aren't They Working?

There's an interesting article up over at The Arts Mechanical about our elites' dismay at increasing disengagement of able-bodied working-aged males from the economy, and how they're coming across as disconnected airheads, not that different from the aristocrats and royals at Versailles right before the French Revolution.

One thing in particular struck me:

Then there’s looking for work. Looking for work is a heart breaking draining experience. All the same invasive questions from prospective employers. “Why did you leave your last job?” “How much were you paid?” “Do you have a car?” “What have you been doing since you left your job?” All the questions you hate. Along with the feeling of being stigmatized by things completely out of your control. After a while, the temptation to just take the welfare and give up becomes overwhelming as you feel that you have no self worth and no skin in the game. There’s just so much rejection that anybody can take and after a while it just becomes so easy to not make those phone call or submit those applications that go badly anyway.

I remember all too well the frustration of sending resume after resume out only to get an endless stream of rejections. Most of them of the sort that left the impression that they'd done little more than glance over my documents long enough to find some excuse to move on to the next resume, then find the address information so they could send me my FOAD.

Even as I'm working on my job hunter website, I wonder how much good it's doing when there are hundreds of applicants for even bottom-level jobs. I know way too many people who are trying their hearts out but treated as unwelcome surplussed humanware.

I'm not one of the people who want to suspend all government regulation of business and industry -- there need to be some ground rules to rein in selfishness and make sure the unscrupulous don't run wild. But we need to prune back the regulatory thicket so that people can start small businesses or work for themselves without worrying that they'll trip over some obscure regulation and face criminal charges because they used a pipe that was an eighth of an inch too large, or suchlike.
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How Economies Shrink

I try to avoid complaining about personal troubles, but as I was battling our ongoing problems with a tub drain, I was thinking about some stuff I read in The Forgotten Man, a book about the Great Depression.

We often have the impression that the Crash was a sudden and catastrophic event: the stock market collapsed and everything fell apart. But as Amity Shlaes shows, it was not an event, but a process, a devolutionary spiral as the bursting of the stock bubble put strain on other parts of the economy. Think the unraveling of a piece of cloth.

As people have less money or fear they soon will have less money, they cut back on their spending. As a result, the sellers from whom they would've bought have less money coming in, so they have to cut back on their spending. If they have employees, they may have to cut hours or lay people off altogether. Now those people have less money to spend, and have to cut back.

In my own situation, if money were good, we would've just called the plumber to get it fixed properly. But because sales have been lousy for us, we don't have the money for the plumber, and have to hobble the tub along as best we can. As a result, the plumber doesn't have the money we would've spent, and doesn't buy the supplies that would've been used to fix the problem properly. And the wholesale plumbing supply store doesn't have the money that would've been spent on the parts, and out the ripples spread into the economy.

And why are sales lousy for us? The reasons are complex, and some of them get into issues of properly balancing a vendor hall for the size of a convention and the proliferation of conventions in certain areas. However, to judge by how many people keep admiring our merchandise but don't spend, I'm thinking that a lot of the lost sales are just a factor of people having less money to spend, or fearing that they may soon have less money and limiting their spending in anticipation of trouble. If they're spending their own money, they may be experiencing stagnant wages or the threat of layoffs (when your fellow workers are getting called in and told they're being let go, you can't help but fear you could be next). Even at anime conventions, which have a younger and more free-spending crowd, parents are handing their children less money. Even older teens and twenty-somethings who have their own incomes are facing reduced hours at work -- because people are cutting their spending at the sorts of places where young people tend to work.

And it looks like we're not done with the contractions yet. There's another disturbing bubble developing in the housing market, not to mention the student debt bubble, which is going to have to burst when a shrinking economy means all those graduates can't find employment that enables them to keep current on their monthly payments.
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