INCARNATE Giveaway and Gushing

You guys know Jodi Meadows, right? I don't see how you could not. She's the most awesome person that ever awesomed (even before she became an Air Pirates fan).

And she wrote a book. It's called INCARNATE about a world where everyone is reincarnated and remembers their past lives and builds on their past lives . . . except for one girl. Ana's new, and nobody knows why, and worse, they don't know what happened to the person who was supposed to be reincarnated in her place.

UPDATE: Read an excerpt here.

So yeah, it's a tough life for Ana, but an awesome book for you! And it comes out tomorrow! And I'm giving a copy away to one of you lucky people!

Good day, yeah?

Even more, 45 bloggers are participating in a treasure hunt with clues, activities, and lots of prizes including signed books and handknit fingerless mitts. Simply by participating in MY contest, you automatically gain entries for Jodi's BIG drawing to win some of that stuff. Then you can head to the next activity for more INCARNATE fun! There are 19 INCARNATE activities around (I linked a few below). The more you do, the better your chances of winning the grand prize.

For more information on the INCARNATE Theater Treasure Hunt, check out Jodi's post here.

Now, to win a copy of the book from me, and also get entries to the grand prize drawing, all you have to do is come up with a caption for this (NOTE: the knitted critters are characters from INCARNATE, though your caption does not have to reference the book):


To be eligible for both contests, you MUST fill out this form:

All captions will be entered for Jodi's grand prize drawing. Additionally, I will choose my favorites and post them here on Wednesday. Then you will vote for a winner and that way no one can get mad at me that person will get a copy of INCARNATE from me (unsigned, but I will send it internationally).

UPDATE: The finalists for my contest have already been chosen, BUT any caption entered on this form will still get entries for Jodi's grand prize drawing, until Monday, Feb 6th, 11:59 pm EST.

If you have any questions, post them in the comments.

Improve your chances to win the INCARNATE grand prize giveaway by checking out some of these blogs (who in turn link to more; it's a big wicked circle):

What Are Your Top 5 Books?

So, your favorite books. I know, I know. Choosing favorite books is like choosing favorite children, but I figured I'd give it a shot. For the record, these are my favorite books, which is a different thing than what I would consider the "best" books. For example, the best Nazi movie might be Schindler's List, but my FAVORITE is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

See the difference?

Ender's Game -- Yeah, the computer game that explores his psyche is a little much, but the kid's a tactical genius with a heart. I will never get tired of that.

The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings -- Do I really need to talk about this? (And yes, series count as one book. IT'S MY GAME SHUT UP!)

Dune -- I talked about this once, but for those who missed it: sandworms, desert ninjas, Sting.

Mistborn Trilogy -- The newest one on the list, so I'm not sure how it will stand the test of time. But at the moment? Original and awesome superpowers, clever heists, immortal tyrants, and subverted fantasy tropes all over the place.

Marvel 1602 -- An interesting look at what Marvel superheroes might be like in the 16th century rather than the 20th. Hey, I had to put one graphic novel on the list, and this one creeps me out less than Watchmen and V for Vendetta (though both of those are good as well). Plus it's written by Neil Gaiman. Double win.

Now that I look at this, it's interesting to note that 4 out of 5 of these revolve around the Chosen One trope. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess.

Of course you all hate my top 5. So what are yours?

My New Kindle

Yeah, I finally got an e-reader for Christmas (Kindle Touch, specifically). Some of you know where I stand on these things. Let's see how the talk measures up to my actual experience.

  • I can buy any book and read it RIGHT NOW. (My previous solutions have been to either (a) pay shipping costs equivalent to the price of the books or (b) wait months and months until some trusted friend can bring my Amazon purchases to me).
  • I can carry around hundreds of gigantic books in one hand.
  • It lays flat on the table, so I can read while doing practically anything else.
  • A battery life I (almost) never have to think about.
  • The availability of free classics.

  • Occasionally losing my place when my kids bump the screen.
  • The relative slowness of flipping to an appendix and back (in a book like, say, Dance With Dragons, where I need to remind myself who all these hundreds of characters are).
  • Scads of features I currently consider useless (crappy web browser, "X-Ray," highlights and notes -- seriously, guys, I just want to read the book (although I admit I may find a use for these features later, especially if they improve their web browser) (and it's not like the features get in the way or anything)).

  • Reading PDFs. (It treats each page as an image, so unless the pages are designed for a 6" screen, I have to manually zoom in to read it, then zoom out again to turn the page. Repeat.)
  • Looking at world maps. (Similar problem to PDFs, except you can't zoom).

The last two could be fixed with better software. I don't know if they will be, but they could be. Also Random House has really impressed me by releasing printable Dance With Dragons' maps on their website. Seriously, that alone changed my reading experience of Dance With Dragons from HATE to PUT UP WITH (and LOVE when I don't need the maps).

Do you have an e-reader? What's your experience? (Or what are you afraid of, if you haven't used one?)

And does anyone know a better way to deal with PDFs on this thing?

Books I Read: Les Miserables

Title: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 1862
My Content Rating: PG cuz people die

Jean Valjean is an escaped convict, recaptured in a small French village for stealing from a bishop. But when the bishop vouches for him, even gives him more than he stole, Valjean devotes his life to helping others. His sins catch up with him, however, when a relentless police inspector named Javert comes looking for him.

No, I am not going to summarize everything. This is a big, freaking book!

Besides, Jean Valjean's story is the one I really love. But it took me four months to read this book, because of the loooong descriptions of Waterloo, the history of convents and Parisian sewers, the social development of French street urchins, etc, etc (etc).

Not that these descriptions were bad or even boring. It's being forced to study 50 pages of history -- even interesting history -- before being allowed to get back to the plot. If you love France or history or 45-page diversions about criminal argot, then you definitely should read this.

You should probably read it anyway, but enter with patience. If I had to read this in high school (as a lot of my friends did), I would have hated it forever. I'm glad I read it now, though. It was worth it.

On Blog Fatigue

In the last couple of months, I've seen a LOT of bloggers suffering blog fatigue: that thing where they lose interest or don't know what to write about or feel like it's all been said, and consequently they stop blogging (or at least cut back significantly).

Ain't nothing wrong with that. Blogging's hard, and the benefits are often nebulous. Often, I find myself hating every topic I've thought of. I can't speak for anyone else, but these are the things I tell myself when my motivation starts to wane.

"I have nothing new to say."
Seriously, how many posts are out there about prologues and chapter titles? Does the world really need one more?

Well, yes and no. Even assuming I have nothing unique to add (a big assumption, cuz hey, it's me), just because I've read ten posts on the subject doesn't mean you've read any. Much as I hate to admit it, blog posts are transitory. Even the almighty Google can't stop millions of them from disappearing everyday.

And we forget things. Think about church for a sec: billions of pastors preaching trillions of sermons over two thousand years, but are they successively unlocking new, hidden depths of the Bible? Mostly, no. We go to church and hear the same truths over and over, not because God demands it, but because we need to hear them again.

Blogging's exactly like that, just less . . . holy.

"I don't know what to blog about."
 Happens to me all the time (seriously, have you seen some of my posts?). I mostly stave this off by keeping a list of ready blog topics, but also by giving myself permission to:

"I should be writing instead."
I've got no good answer for this. My excuse is that I find it really difficult to write when my kids are around, but for some reason I can blog just fine.

It may be that when I have deadlines and book tours and all the other fancy stuff that best-selling authors have to do (IT WILL HAPPEN), that I'll have to stop blogging entirely, or at least cut back. But for now, so long as my writing isn't suffering, I'm going to keep figuring out what works.

What about you? Do you blog? Have you ever thought about quitting?

Sketch: Billy Horrible

(Reposted from Anthdrawlogy)

Guys, if you haven't seen Dr. Horrible yet, find a way to see it RIGHT NOW. It's only 45 minutes long, and it's the best Joss Whedon supervillain musical starring Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris EVER.

The Secret to Being Talented

Let me chat up my brother for a bit. The guy plays piano, bass, and guitar at a professional level. The San Diego Union Tribune once described his singing: "like if Jack Johnson weren't so dang annoying." He makes art and sells it for actual money. He does graphic design, marketing, and was a founding member of San Diego's art collective, Sezio.

Also, he's a college-educated engineer and (thanks to Iraq) a war veteran. So yeah, talented.

For years, I was in awe of what he could do. I'm still, always extremely impressed by what he does, but I'm no longer in awe.

I know how he did it.

I remember the first time Andrew picked up Dad's classical guitar and had trouble banging out the theme to Spyhunter. I remember that, even though I sucked at piano, I was ahead of him in our lessons. I remember doodling at an equal level on the church bulletin during sermons.

When we were kids, he was no better at these things than I was, and I wasn't very good at them.

He surpassed me because he didn't quit. While I was working out how to program a text adventure, he was working out my dad's old banjo or ukelele. When I beat Fool's Errand, he was recording songs on the keyboard. When I was ten pages into my crappy Lord of the Rings knock-off, he was filling his tenth sketchbook.

Whenever he came across a challenge, he faced it again and again until he beat it. THAT is the secret to being talented.

It's possible that some people start off with a little more ability than others. I don't know. I've never seen proof. Andrew is the most talented guy I know, and when I think about where he started, I realize I had started in the exact same place.

This isn't to belittle Andrew's accomplishments at all. The opposite, actually. I would much rather someone praise all the work behind what I did than tell me I was given a gift nobody else was.

It's also to encourage you. Is there something you wish you were better at? You can do it. It's freaking hard work, but you can do it. (Can you succeed professionally at it? Well, that's not really up to you. I bet you've never heard of my brother's band).

Instead, focus on what you can control. Choose what you want to excel at, and work at it everyday. Even when it gets hard. Especially when it gets hard. Until one day someone looks at what you're doing and says, "Hey, you're really talented!"

Then you can tell them your secret.