Hugo Awards and a Film Screening

Hugo Award logoThe Hugo Award is one of the oldest and recognizable awards for science fiction in the world. It also, in my opinion, tends to be one of the cooler awards visually.

When the nominations for the 2011 Hugo Awards were announced a week ago, I quickly heard about it from friends of friends. Within the list of the nominations is Carrie Vaughn’s upbeat “Amaryllis” (viewable now at Lightspeed) for Best Short Story and Eric James Stone’s “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” (still available for free on Stone’s site) for Best Novelette.

Winners won’t be announced until August 20, 2011. I’m guessing it will be a long wait for the authors who could receive this year’s glistening rockets.

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Claudia and Roland, arguing in a car at night
Characters Claudia and Roland in “Via Dreams”

In more personal news, I attended a screening of independent films that included “Via Dreams”, a short psychological horror film in which I play an abused housewife. (The link will take you to the film page on IMDb.)

That night, I learned I hate watching myself in a theater. It didn’t help that the film was shot in high definition–to accentuate my skin’s many flaws, it seems–and that I hadn’t seen more than a few, broken minutes of the footage before experiencing the whole story in a room full of strangers.

Despite 20 minutes of anxiety, the screening was a great experience. In between each film, the host encouraged the audience to ask the directors questions and provide small bits of feedback. The critique breaks, though unexpected, reminded me of writing critique meetings and made the event more familiar.

Also on the positive side, I saw my co-star, my fictional husband, for the first time since our last film shoot. The screening gave us an opportunity to catch up on each other’s activities, critique the films in whispers, and share in the misery that bred from HD, odd post-production choices, and harsh inner critics.


July Began With a Bang

Writing Updates

Test readers are supposedly analyzing a fantasy short story I completed a couple weeks ago. I’ve promised to hand over another short–an action sci-fi–later this week. In the meantime, I’m considering my novel-in-progress, DeCo, in less than favorable ways. (How is the story so disorganized? There’s too much! Too much!)

Life Updates

I’m still working an 8 to 5 job, still trying to keep up with the paperwork and scheduling for a martial arts school, and still taking part in the filming of a dark fantasy / horror short film. An early trailer for the short film is available on YouTube:

Vaughn on Tour

Discord's Apple by Carrie VaughnI’ve mentioned Carrie Vaughn on this blog before. She’s the bestselling author of the Kitty Norville series, including the newly-released Kitty Goes to War, and the young adult novel Voices of Dragons.

Tor just released her first adult stand-alone novel, Discord’s Apple, and to celebrate, she’s going on tour. Here’s her official schedule for the month, altered from the information cheerfully stolen off of her blog.

If you have the opportunity to meet her, I recommend that you go for it. She always has good information for fans and aspiring writers.


July 28: Phoenix, Poisoned Pen at 7:00 pm


July 24: San Francisco, Borderlands at 3:00 pm

July 26: San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy at 7:00 pm

July 27: Burbank, Dark Delicacies at 7:00 pm


July 10Romcon 2010 in Denver

July 31:  Denver, Broadway Book Mall at 3:00 pm

New Mexico

July 20: Albuquerque, Bookworks, at 7:00 pm


July 21: Portland, Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing, at 7:00 pm


July 29: Seattle, University Bookstore at 7:00 pm

What’s My Motivation? Why Film Acting is Easier Than Novel Writing

"Camera, Film, Moleskine, Pen, Coffee" - Click for source

A few days ago, I recorded automatic dialogue replace- ment (ADR) for a short student film. On the drive back home, I began thinking about how little anxiety I feel when working on a film compared to novel writing.

I’m still thinking about it.

However, today is the assigned birthday of my novel’s main character. (I needed to know the season and ended up choosing a specific date with the help of The Secret Language of Birthdays.) As it’s also Saturday, I figure I shouldn’t bother with deep issues today unless it will help the character.

So, instead of explanations of my childhood beliefs or an essay on the time and resources needed to practice acting vs. writing techniques, here are six tongue-in-cheek reasons why film acting is generally easier than novel writing.

  1. Someone else edits.
  2. Someone else figures out the plot.
  3. A contract is signed before the work starts.
  4. Auditioning for one role takes at most several hours; querying one novel takes days or weeks.
  5. You must remember to feed yourself during writing time, but crew members or a catering service bring food to you during film rehearsals and shoots.
  6. The average person (TAP) actually thinks acting is cool and doesn’t demand you prove that you’re not a slacker. For example:
  • You say, “I’m acting in a film.” TAP asks, “Is it fun?”
  • You say, “I’m writing a novel.” TAP asks, ” Have you been published?”

Yes, I enjoy acting. No, I haven’t published anything worth mentioning.

And no, I’m not giving up novel writing anytime soon.

Weird Science in the News – March

It’s time for the weird! This month, I’m providing background music that brings back the oddities of the ’80s:

The definition of weird is subjective, and I do my best to incorporate different perceptions while keeping the number of articles small. That last part was difficult for this post, because this has been a busy month for science journalists. 

Don’t you love reminders that we’re on a ball floating in space? Well, this month started out with one: “Chile Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth”.

Fortunately, the change to our planet’s days is too small to percieve as we go about our daily business. Which is really good, because some of us already deal with distorted perception from changes in our brains. Am I complaining about my migraines? No, certainly not. Pain, black floaters, and the rare sensation of my consciousness trying to escape out of the back of my neck is nothing on what some people deal with: “When the world looks like a real-life Wonderland”.

Movie monster
The Predator, master of cloaking tech

Scientists have been attempting to make an invisibility cloak for longer than I can remember. A cloak that allows its wearer to move unseen is a tempting concept, one used in fiction for centuries, and won’t be dropped until someone makes it a reality. Each experiment does seem to bring scientists closer to their goal. The latest approach seems to be a German experiment with tiny crystals. A member of the team was quoted as saying large-scale cloaking “could become a reality in 10 years.” Hm, I haven’t heard that before.

Just like no one has ever talked about finding the secret of immortality. Well, wait a minute–I’ve learned of a way! Reincarnate into an immortal jellyfish, avoid predators and toxins, and pray for someone to rescue you when your habitat dies. All right, I’m being snarky. However, the animal called the immortal jellyfish does exist, and it possesses an unusual ability to prolong its life. You can read more from “The world’s only immortal animal” on a Yahoo blog  or from Discover’s older blog post, “The Curious Case of the Immortal Jellyfish“.

Here’s one of my favorite discoveries of the month. A NASA probe captured the first evidence of recognizable multi-cellular life under Antarctic ice, encouraging more daydreams of higher life off-planet. Something that might have been a jellyfish offered up a tentacle for scientific study, but more interesting is the brightly-colored, shrimp-like creature that showed off on video.

More news that didn’t surprise as much as delight me involved microbes. A recent study by the University of Colorado shows that Hand Bacteria Left On Surfaces Could be Forensic Tool and provides good material for science fantasy and crime fiction.

And finally, Johns Hopkins scientists have determined that the drug, minocycline, prevents HIV breakouts. This antibiotic, which may become a part of the drug cocktail used to treat AIDS, has been used since the 1970s as a treatment for acne.

You may now return to your normal programming.

What is Contemporary Fantasy?

NOTE: This post has long been one of Shadows in Mind’s most popular pages. However, content is moving over to a new address, You can find an updated answer to “What is Contemporary Fantasy?” on the new site.

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Someone asked me to define “Urban Fantasy” last weekend, and I neglected to mention how it fits within Contemporary Fantasy. There’s a problematic habit of identifying stories as Urban Fantasy when they are actually Contemporary Fantasy.

Let’s go over the differences here, shall we?

Contemporary Fantasy is Fantasy set in our present time and in a world that mostly looks like ours.

Stories in this sub-genre often emphasize the setting by referring to pop culture. It’s also known as Modern Fantasy.

Note: Some Dark Fantasy rolls into this sub-genre of Fantasy.

An alternative definition is that Contemporary Fantasy is all Fantasy written, not necessarily set in, modern times. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would use this classification except for research, but I’m mentioning it as one argument.

Fantasy Subgenres

On the Prowl anthology cover
Note the markings of an Urban Fantasy book cover

In my mind, Urban Fantasy is a sub-set of Contemporary Fantasy set in a current city or densely populated area that would be recognizable to the area’s real-life residents except for the fiction’s addition of magic or fantastical creatures (e.g., vampires, werewolves, and ghosts).

A more common, albeit more confusing, definition of Urban Fantasy is action chick lit involving sexy, magical creatures. In bookstores, the covers are identifiable by a well-proportioned, scantily-dressed, but introspective woman.

You can tell the difference between these covers and Science Fiction Romance covers by the details. A tattoo or something sharp (e.g. knife or a known, fanged animal)? That’s Urban Fantasy. Spaceships or a really big gun should clue you in that the book is Sci-fi, not Fantasy.

Published Examples

Genre and sub-genre definitions are subjective. The line between Fantasy and Sci-fi, Horror, or another genre is hazy, and so are the lines within Fantasy. Here are examples that fit into the definitions above.

Contemporary Fantasy:

Urban Fantasy: