Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 15-21, 2019

It’s the usual mixed bag, this Thursday. I hope you find something here to inspire your next creative project.

Nina Munteanu shares five perspectives on humanity’s relationship to our forests.

Maya Wei-Haas: mysterious waves have been pulsing across Oklahoma. National Geographic

Matthew Green introduces us to three young women racing to defuse a carbon bomb in the arctic: the climate hunters. Reuters

Stephen Kinzer recounts the secret history of Fort Dietrick, the CIA’s base for mind control experiments. Politico

Sarah Harvey suggests trying Japan’s Kaizen method to cure insomnia and sleep anxiety. Stylist

Dr. Becky considers the engraved hourglass nebula.

Veritasium looks at the Planet 9 hypothesis.

And PBS Space Time weighs the possibilities for terraforming Mars.

Dave Linkletter reveals the ten toughest math problems ever solved. Popular Mechanics

Finally, SciShow introduces us to a snail that makes its own armour (!)

Sara Barnes shows how a natural phenomenon transforms Christian Spenser’s hummingbird photographs into rainbows. My Modern Met

Thanks for stopping by and popping your mental corn with me.

Until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

ThoughtyThursday2019

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 15-21, 2019

Here we are, officially in the fall. Take the time to enjoy the turning leaves and the delicious smells of the season. And, of course, spoil yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Vaughn Roycroft is using theme to leverage revision. Julie Carrick Dalton hopes no one will notice. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland critiques another brave writer to demonstrate ten ways to write excellent dialogue. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan de Freitas points out three things you won’t learn from an MFA program. Jane Friedman

Joanna Penn interviews James Scott Bell about writing unforgettable endings. Then, Harrison Demchick offers you four ideas to help authors revise a first draft. The Creative Penn

Chris Winkle returns with the fourth aspect of goal-oriented storytelling: satisfaction. Writers Helping Writers

Jenna Moreci offers her top ten tips on character arcs.

Nathan Bransford offers six ways to build intimacy between characters. Later in the week, he asks, are you creating a mystery, or are you just being vague?

Jenn Walton shares three ways to find inspiration at a writing conference (or any work event). DIY MFA

Jenny Hansen wants you to find and share your story’s theme. Writers in the Storm

Chuck Wendig explains how to be a professional author and not die screaming and starving in a lightless abyss. Terribleminds

Jami Gold helps you figure out how to build your story with chapters, scenes, or both. Then, Kris Kennedy returns with part four of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Bunny discusses choosing a follow-up strategy for a popular story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi shares five ways to handle parents without killing them. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer advises writers regarding spacing between sentences. Writer’s Digest

Daniel Ross Goodman shows us the haunting magic of Maurice Sendak. National Review

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something you need to move your work in progress forward.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019

Book review of River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

I decided to review both of Sarah Gailey’s novellas—currently collected in the volume American Hippo—in one post.

What the publisher says:

River of Teeth:RiverofTeeth

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

TasteofMarrowTaste of Marrow:

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the dam that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.

Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.”

In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

My thoughts:

River of Teeth:

A delightful premise, a diverse cast of characters, and a heckuva lot of interpersonal conflict made this novella an enjoyable read. It’s basically a Mississippian western with hippos. A southern? It’s also a caper plot, something that the characters debate at length, much to the reader’s amusement.

Winslow Houndstooth once had a hippo ranch until it was burned to the ground with his beloved hippos inside and he was forced to leave that idyllic life behind and resume a less reputable one. He’s taken on a commission from the government to blow up the dam that keeps feral hippos trapped in the Mississippi so that the river can be reclaimed for travel and commerce. The owner of a riverboat uses the ferals for his own nefarious ends, however, and he’s not interested in letting Houndstooth and his crew achieve their goal.

And Houndstooth has ulterior motivation: the riverboat owner is also the man responsible for the destruction of his ranch. If he and his crew complete the commission, he can also exact his revenge.

Taste of Marrow:

This novella continues the story of Houndstooth and his crew after the events of River of Teeth. While the dam was destroyed, the chaotic events leading up to that qualified success leave Houndstooth and his crew scattered. Houndstooth is obsessed with finding his lover Hero, denying the possibility that they may be dead. The one crew member with him, Archie, worries for Houndstooth’s sanity.

Meanwhile, Hero travels with Adelia the—retired, she insists—assassin, believing that Houndstooth was blown up along with the dam. With Hero and Adelia is Adelia’s newborn Isabel and when their erstwhile employer kidnaps Isabel to coerce Adelia out of retirement for a very special assassination, it sets Houndstooth and Archie, Hero and Adelia, and the federal Marshall who’s been trying to bring Adelia to justice, on a collision course in Baton Rouge.

My ratings:

Four out of five stars for both!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 8-14, 2019

And now … it’s time to get your mental corn popping.

Erika W. Smith reveals the spiritual reason Friday the thirteenth is considered unlucky. Refinery29

Cassie Shortsleeves explains why being near water really does make us happier. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

Rod McCullom reveals how bullying may shape adolescent brains. UnDark

SciShow Psych looks at the varieties of bipolar disorder.

Sophia Chen: Sean Carroll thinks we all exist on multiple worlds. Nabbed his book, Something Deeply Hidden, on the strength of this article. A little mind-blowing 🙂 Wired

Gabriel Popkin explores soil’s microbial market and the ruthless side of forests. Ties the “wood wide web” to the Gaia hypothesis—awesome stuff. Quanta Magazine

David Gelles: Jane Goodall keeps going, with a lot of hope (and a bit of whiskey). The New York Times

Physics girl looks at the surprising ways Mars is hostile to life.

Dr. Becky answers the question, if the universe is expanding, why do galaxies collide?

Andrew Lasane introduces us to the “Universe of Words” installation by Emmanuelle Moureaux. This is Colossal

Jessica Stewart shares 15 powerful finalists for the 2019 wildlife photograph of the year contest. Warning: though compelling, several of these photos are uncomfortable, if not outright disturbing. My Modern Met

Thanks for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire your current or next creative project.

Until next tipsday, be will, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 8-14, 2019

I present this week’s batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

Daryl Rothman visits Helping Writers Become Authors: how to write stories that matter with writing’s secret formula.

Jim Dempsey wants you to give useful criticism. Kathryn Craft studies showing through exposition. Juliet Marillier considers publicity and the introvert. David Corbett is turning a terrible truth into compelling fiction. Kathryn Magendie is living the dreamy dreamland. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how to write a scene. Reedsy

Jami Gold considers what’s stopping our characters: avoiding change. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Kennedy returns to Jami Gold’s blog for part three of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Nathan Bransford lists seven reasons your characters feel flat. Then, Nathan lays out your options in hybrid publishing.

Manuela Williams explains how to use Pinterest to create an author brand board. DIY MFA

Fae Rowan shares ten more f-words for writers and their characters. Writers in the Storm

Sophia Jeppson explains how to make time travel logical. Oren Ashkenazi considers five ridiculous organizations from popular series. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer explains the difference between prophesy and prophecy. Then, he tackles the difference between allude and elude. Writer’s Digest

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found the information you need to move forward with your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my friends!

Tipsday2019

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 1-7, 2019

And now, it’s time to get your mental corn popping.

German Lopez: America’s problem with gun violence, explained. Vox

It’s okay to be smart debunks seven scientific myths.

Peter Coy explains why the periodic table is more important than ever before. Bloomberg

PBS Space Time considers whether Earth’s magnetic poles are flipping.

James Gallagher reports that scientists have identified the gene responsible for left-handedness—which also affects how the brain processes language. BBC

Josh Dzieza follows some storm chasers as they search the clouds for the key to climate change: thunderheads. The Verge

Jessica Stewart showcases the amazing winners of the 2019 bird photographer of the year contest. My Modern Met

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire your next creative project.

Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 1-7, 2019

This week’s batch of informal writerly learnings is a bit more select than usual, but it’s all good stuff 🙂

Greer Macallister is defending (or not) historical fiction. Annie Neugebauer has some advice for writers who are in it. Donald Maass: the anti-arc. Therese Walsh wants you to move beyond two-dimensional character building and capture the real. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland dives deep into creating your character’s inner conflict: want vs. need. Helping Writers Become Authors

James Scott Bell asks, how realistic do your action scenes need to be? Then, Angelica Hartgers recommends using backward design to plan your story. Writers Helping Writers

Helen Darling gives you the lowdown on ISBNs. Rebecca Fish Ewen expounds on the impact of lost words (and decries their loss). DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci explains how to end your story.

Chris Winkle shares six ways to add novelty to your story. Mythcreants

Kris Kennedy’s back on Jami Gold’s blog with part two of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Jillian Boehme offers some survival tips for writers who would rather hide. Fiction University

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found something you need to fuel your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019

Book review of What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes

What the publisher says:

In the mid 1500s shipwrecked African slaves melded with the indigenous peoples of coastal Ecuador and together they fought the Spanish colonial power to a standstill, to remain independent for centuries.  The story of the people of Esmeraldas is told through the eyes of three characters: Alonso, an escaped slave; Expectation, an a-gender shaman; and Alejandro, a priest on the run from the Inquisition.

With its slipstream elements this novel carries a flavour of South American magical realism tradition into a grand historical epic.  Both sweeping and intimate, it is a delight to read from beginning to end, and we are honoured that Matt has decided to entrust his grand work to us.

Pulp Literature

WhatTheWindBrings

My thoughts:

Hughes is not shy about calling What the Wind Brings his magnum opus. It’s a novel that’s been over twenty years in the making, the author not wanting to publish the work until he felt it was ready to meet the public. That time is here, and Hughes has produced a novel worthy of his ambitions for it.

My favourite character was Expectation, the nigua shaman. They’re an outsider because of their vocation, but even more so because of their gender and identity. None of the other characters quite know what to do with or about Expectation or even what to call them. Accordingly, some characters identify Expectation as she, some as he, and some identify them by their vocation, or, pejoratively as a witch.

Expectation doesn’t care. They know who they are and what they need to do, and they find a way to persevere despite the antagonism of Anton and the other Africans who have taken positions of power within the new community after the shipwreck.

Expectation has a spirit guide, who counsels them in their work. They heal sickness in the community and they, in turn, counsel the community’s leaders.

They’re pivotal to the melding of the Africans, the nigua, and the other tribes eventually brought into the larger Esmeraldas community. Expectation also plays an important role in Alonso’s story arc when they recover Alonso’s lost spirit guide, and in Alejandro’s arc, when they trepan the Trinitarian monk’s skull after a severe head injury endangers his life.

What the Wind Brings is, in my opinion, Expectation’s story. They’re the character that does the most to bring the community together and ensure its continued harmonious survival. While Expectation’s shamanism is the source of the novel’s speculative elements, they also display a healthy scientific curiosity, thinking about the nature of illness and contagion. These ponderings enable Expectation to adapt to other ways of thinking and healing and help them to remain relevant in the changing political structure of the Esmeraldas community.

Hughes writes with candour and compassion about the African slaves, the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples, and even the Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. His characters are, first and foremost, people with relatable fears and goals, flaws and better qualities. He does not shy away from the harm his characters do to one another, purposeful or inadvertent. There is great violence in the novel, but also great moments of compassion and love.

Highly recommended.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 25-31, 2019

You’ve made it this far through the week. Reward yourself. Get your mental corn popping!

Jennifer Walter explains that, to our brains, it doesn’t matter whether we read or listen. Discover

Gregory Barber: what science fiction can teach computer science about ethics. Wired

SciShow explains how projects for living on Mars can improve life on Earth (from climate change to affordable and recyclable homes).

Deborah Netburn shows you how the world can cut food waste in half. LA Times

Jeff Goodell wonders, can we survive extreme heat? Rolling Stone

Nithin Coca: as the Amazon burns, Indonesia shows the world how to fight forest fires. Ozy

Caroline Riseboro: why we’re losing ground in the fight for gender equality. TEDXDonMills

Dan Nosowitz says, respect the hammock, one of humanity’s greatest creations. Atlas Obscura

Michael Greshko explains how this “unprecedented” skull reveals the face of a human ancestor. National Geographic

Dr. Becky explains the proof of dark matter’s existence.

SciShow Space considers the propulsive potential of the Hall Thruster.

Then, SciShow Space news announces the collision of a black hole and a neutron star detected by LIGO and VIRGO plus, progress on the Europa Clipper mission.

Emma Taggart shows us artistically arranged time slice photos that display the stages of a total solar eclipse. My Modern Met

M.R. O’Connor experiences a day in the life of a tree. The New Yorker

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found some inspiration to feed into your current of next creative project.

Until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 25-31, 2019

Ah. Here we are in September. Back to … all the things. Ease back into your routine with some informal writerly learnings.

Lainey Cameron advises you use a three-tier backup plan. Then Tiffany Yates Martin helps you to reclaim the creative spark in troubled times. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland explains how to use a truth chart to figure out your character’s arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Julia Munroe Martin wonders, what makes you love your main character? Molly Best Tinsley explains how hearing voice(s) led to order in a previously chaotic manuscript. Barbara O’Neal explains what happens when the book takes over everything. Writer Unboxed

Pathologist Jane Bennett Munro wants to help you explain forensics to readers. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Jeanette the Writer reveals the secret importance of readability. Tess Enterline explains why it’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to step away from our writing.  Constance Emmett shares five tips for writing complex, flesh and blood, LGBTQ+ characters. DIY MFA

Janice Hardy doesn’t want you to create cardboard conflicts. Fiction University

Jami Gold explains how sequels make scenes stronger. Then, Kris Kennedy stops by to explain how to avoid info dumping by making backstory essential.

Chris Winkle: how to turn your fanfic into your original fiction. Then, Oren Ashkenazi answers the question, how do cannon affect your naval combat? Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer considers OK vs. Okay vs. O.K. Writer’s Digest

N.K. Jemisin, Jasmine Guillory, and Lauren Wilkinson: publishing’s still owned by white men. The Washington Post

Nick Venable talks to the creators of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance about the challenges of making a puppet series on Netflix. Saw the first episode—love! CinemaBlend

And that was tipsday. I hope you found something to help you progress with your work in progress.

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty goodness 🙂

Tipsday2019