Small press publishing: Covers & Revenge

BANNER2-WolvesDeerIt’s here–the cover for my upcoming novel Wolves and Deer. This novel is being published by a small press and with small presses, the cover is often assembled from stock photos and art. Here’s how this one went down:

After the novel was accepted for publication, the editors asked me to look through art sites and find agreeable images that reflected the content and the characters.

I looked at animal photos of wolves and deer but none were to my liking.

The novel takes place in post the Regency era, just before Victoria, but I didn’t find any images I really liked for the cover among Regency era stock photos.

Some of the novel takes place at the Royal Institution in London so I considered old-time lab photos but the main plot isn’t about science–it simply has science in it. It’s really about betrayal and revenge. Wolves and Deer has a good dose of humor along with the pathos and mystery.  In the end, I liked a photo of a woman wearing a wolf skin. It had the element of humor I wanted along with a “Red Riding Hood gets her revenge” feel. It also hinted that the novel might have a little sex in it. The woman had dark hair and a pointed nose as would be possible for the daughter of Dora Jordan.  I suggested that the background be something to do with royalty.  The cover artist came up with this cover.

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I had a decision about the back cover–the grave photo the cover designer suggested didn’t match the grave as described in the novel or the grave of Dora Jordan. I decided it should remain as the illustrator wished because it is so highly discernible as a grave. I made the same decision with the Royal gate on the front cover. The King in question spent most time at Windsor and Clarence House but they aren’t immediately recognizable to people in the US.

I also did not want my name highlighted or larger. I’m by no means a famous author. Like most, I struggle for my sales and good reviews. I don’t consider myself a selling point.

By the way, the cover for Mixed In is up for an award. This cover was also a collaboration with an artist. I wanted a splash of beer on the cover since much of it takes place in a bar.cropped-mixedinfinal.png

The cover of Natural Attraction was selected by a vote of readers.

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That’s how I got my covers. In all cases, the publisher had the last word of approval for the covers.

What do you think? Is there a type of cover that draws you in?

Wolves and Deer will be available on Sept. 8 as an e-book. If you’d like to buy it, please follow this blog or my Facebook page or send me a message as hausteinc@gmail.com.

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So angry…what makes angry characters?

Depositphotos_23652875_original.jpgIn my next novel, I’ve got characters who are angry. I did some research about anger to help me understand them better. I’ve learned a lot about it, especially from this reference,  and I thought I’d share some of it.

  1. Anger is learned behavior. Hostile and angry people are that way because they saw it play out somewhere. They learned that people bully, belittle, and argue with each other and that this gains respect. The hostile environment can be at home but school and the workplace are also places where people learn that anger works.
  2. The true emotions behind anger are frustration, hurt, disappointment, and threat/fear.
  3. Angry people want others to feel the way that they do. If they are hurt, they want others to hurt, if they are ashamed, they want others to be ashamed.
  4. The average adult will be angry once a day.
  5. People who use emotion rather than logic to guide their reasoning tend to be more angry. Emotional reasoning can lead people to misunderstand social cues.
  6. Stress causes low frustration levels and can make the stressed out person see threats that don’t exist or have unreasonable expectations.
  7. Labeling and derogatory perceptions of other groups of people —people rating–causes anger. If we look at the recent mass killers in the US most are misogynists and supremacists.
  8. Physical pain, drugs, and alcohol can exacerbate anger and frustration. Even a spate of minor irritations can build up and cause anger.
  9. Anger is not always bad. It can be motivating if used as a positive catalyst for change.
  10. Physically, anger causes a release of both glucose and stress hormones. It creates strain on the heart and pancreas. Eventually it will affect the brain, creating a hyperactive amygdala (the seat of fear in the brain) and dampening reaction in the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls reasoning and social behavior.)
  11. Anger can be dealt with easily by most individuals. The amygdala quickly returns to normal. Crying can help bring the brain back to normal.
  12. Ironically, people who are taught to suppress emotions such as sorrow are more likely to became angry or depressed (the passive form of anger.) Boys who have been shamed for showing pain or sorrow often find that anger is the only socially acceptable emotion they have.
  13. Type A people are often rewarded for their drive and determination. They can give others the impression that they are best able to respond to threats. They are more likely to be angry and focus on the weaknesses of others and in turn, make themselves sick.Angry people are more likely to have colds, skin problems, and arthritis. Being Type A is hard on the immune system. The stress of anger causes other problems such as weight gain, ulcers and acid reflux.
  14. Since anger produces cortisol, angry people suffer from hormone imbalances and the result can be thyroid problems and decreased bone density.
  15. Angry people are poor communicators and even worse listeners. They are often impatient and in a hurry.
  16. Angry folks will clench their teeth, sweat, pace, get sarcastic, rub their heads, reach for a drink, and might shake or tremble.

According to the Mayo Clinic, ways to control your anger are to

  1. Express yourself and be calmly assertive
  2. Be cautious.
  3. Develop positive social relationships.
  4. Change your environment
  5. Understand your anger’s cause
  6. Laugh! Laughter and joy can drive anger away. Try to find humor in your situation.
  7. Exercise.
  8. Don’t place blame. Focus on yourself and what you can do, not on someone else.
  9. Write in a journal.
  10. Listen to music.
  11. Get therapy.

Ways to deal with an angry person include:

  1. Giving them space or getting away from them if they are dangerous. Recognize the danger signs of eminent physical assault.
  2. Don’t get angry back.
  3. Work with others to resolve the situation.
  4. Calmly address the situation and identify the problem. Have empathy. Apologize.
  5. Distract with laugher but be careful, this could make them more angry. Angry people lose their sense of humor.
  6. Be respectful but assertive.
  7. Be rational.

Although life is in many ways better than it has ever been for humans, people are more angry. Anger has been a way of life in the United States and people vote for angry politicians. Spanking can cause anger as can lack of social progress  and being poor.(frustration!). Western countries tend to be more angry while Asians are less angry. However, at the bottom of the anger ladder are the Danes and Scandinavians. Danish people claim to get angry less than once a week. Since these countries value emotional suppression, the reason for their lack of anger is presumed to be their society. It might be worth reading up on it for the sake of us all. Meanwhile, I understand my angry characters–and their society–much better now. And I’m going to do my best not to be angry myself.

 

Strange Change and other Elements of Science Fiction

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One reason I enjoy writing science fiction is because it is at its best, social satire. It’s both serious and campy, insightful and strange. It is by nature, multidisciplinary, wrought with nuance and language subtleties that make it unpalatable for some readers and catnip for others.

Author David Ketterer says “Science fiction (in the inclusive sense) combines satire with the kind of visionary (or prophetic) imagination exemplified by Dante’s Divine Comedy or Milton’s Paradise Lost. ..”

If you look at the history of science fiction, you can see prime examples of  social satire. Ray Bradbury, who wrote during the era of segregation said that much of his work is about oppression and racism. The word robot derives from the Czech word for slave so often in science fiction, you can assume that a robot represents an individual who has  low social status and is oppressed, like Wall E. The term was first coined in a play, R.U.R.  In this campy melodrama, the robots finally accomplish a rebellion against their tormentors.

Likewise, an encounter with an alien or “other” may be a subtle comment about racism, classism, or sexism, often accompanied by an anti-colonialism sentiment. One of my favorite classical examples is First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells in which a scientist and a businessman have competing ideas about studying the moon vs conquering it.

James Gunn argues that science fiction has its own set of protocols set apart from literary fiction. Like science itself, it is a genre in which characters encounter the unknown,  solve problems, and create understandable universes. He describes it as “the literature of the human species encountering change.”

Margaret Atwood calls Science Fiction “Social Commentary about Now. ” She doesn’t write a novel without a modern detail hidden in the story line. An older woman, she warns what life was like, and could be like, if women aren’t allowed to control their own bodies, as happened in the past.

Since science fiction is mainly about today’s society, a person doesn’t need to be a scientist to write science fiction. Some scientists avoid it because they dislike the anxiety about science that is often found on the pages. However, the science must be plausible and based on scientific information or the story won’t have authority. To paraphrase the late author and biochemist Isaac Asimov, science fiction needs to make brains respectable.

One way that an author can gain credibility is to accurately name chemical substances. For example, vibranium, found in Wakanda, carries the Latin noun ending -ium which became common for elements in the Victorian era when many elements were discovered and named. Despite a lot of well-known memes, keep in mind that scientists are most often drawn to science because they want to help people To create fresh, realistic characters, here are some traits that scientists feel help define them.

Through its discoveries and ways of looking at the world, science creates change that society adapts to. This is why we have science in science fiction–to create strange new change.The most important parts of science fiction are people and change, and in the best cases, satire based on today.

MICE: living in and writing about Milieu…and other things

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When teaching science fiction, I, and many others, use the MICE quotient to help my students focus on the type of story they are creating. Once an author knows what type of story they have, it’s easier to craft it into something that their readers will enjoy and appreciate. All stories are a blend of all of these categories. The question is, what letter dominates.

The MICE quotient was popularized by Orson Scott Card. Briefly, MICE is an acronym for these common categories of science fiction:

Milieu. The milieu novel focuses on a place and community. Most often, society itself is the antagonist. A stranger comes to town and is transformed by being in this milieu. The Wizard of Oz and Gulliver’s Travels are classic examples. The tale begins when the stranger comes to the place and ends when she leaves.  Mixed In is clearly such a novel. Without the dreary world of Cochtonville, none of the events would have taken place. All good science fiction has more than aliens and robots. It has metaphorical implications. That is, it says something about society and this is clearly evident in any milieu novel. The metaphorical implication of Mixed In is that the Midwest could become Cochtonville. In fact, it’s inched closer to the dystopia since the novel was written. Sometimes I worry I am living in my own Milieu.

Idea. The idea story is based on a question and ends when it is answered, as in a mystery novel. It begins when the mystery is introduced and ends when it is solved. Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an idea novel, beginning when Grace Clare learns of the death of Dora Jordan and ending close to when the mystery is solved.

Character novels are often the stuff of both high literature and romance. They start with a character with a clear problem and desire and end when the character is transformed for better or worse or accepts her fate for better or worse. An example of a character novel is The Color Purple or in the case of science fiction, Frankenstein. Natural Attraction is a character driven novel moved forward by Clementine’s desire to be taken seriously as a scientist.

Event stories are based on an interruption to a normal way of life and follow what happens as characters try to bring life back in order. A classic example is The Lord of the Rings series which begin when Bilbo discovers the ring and ends when order is restored. Most science fiction and fantasy stories are event based and my next novel will be such a novel. Then I will have a quartet of books each representing one letter of the MICE quotient.

Do you have a favorite letter in the MICE quotient? Every novel I write has a huge dose of place and time in it so perhaps I lean towards the M.

I’m excited to say that Mixed In is in contention for a Rone Award for Science Fiction. If you’re looking for a Milieu novel with a touch of romance, a dash of absurdity, and a pinch of naughtiness, check out Mixed In.

 

What ever happened to that actress and the prince?

 

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Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact (No, this isn’t the cover.)

You’ve heard the news. Here’s the Royal announcement:

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A prince is engaged to an actress! Why would an American like me have any interest in such news at all? Actually, I do have interest and an announcement of my own.

I have interest because there was another time –200 years ago– when an actress took up with a prince who was third in line for the throne. Her name was Dora Jordan. She was Great Britain’s most famous comic, and I’ve written a novel about her. I just signed a contract for it with Rouge Phoenix Press. The e-book will be published in September, 2018 with paper backs available a little later.

Here’s the synopsis:

In 1832,Grace Clare works at the Royal Institution under the direction of the well-known chemist Michael Faraday. But science isn’t all she has on her mind. She learns that her birth mother was famous comic actress Dora Jordan. Grace is dangerously drawn into the tale of Dora’s mysterious, unjust death after her twenty-year relationship with the prince who now occupies the throne–a man who betrayed his life partner and mother of his children. As the only child free to do so, Grace travels to Paris for work and to view her mother’s lonely grave. Awash with the injustice of the cruel betrayal, will Grace be doomed to a tragic life of seeking revenge for her mother or like her mother will she be laughing in the end?

 

This novel is different from my others in that it’s written in third person –an appropriate point of view for the British Empire. The protagonist is more emotional and more vulnerable than my others. And, in keeping with the times–1832–the book is less absurd. The science is 100% realistic–based in 1832.

It’s filled with historical name dropping. Have you heard of any of these people?

Charles Babbage

Evariste Galios

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse

William IV and Queen Adelaide

Ching Shih

They’re all in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based On Fact.

My previous novels had two-word titles. How did I get this long title for my third one? Here’s the story: Dora Jordan and Prince William lived on an estate in Bushy Park, famous for its fine deer. There was no retiring or resting for this actress. She worked to support the prince’s lavish tastes. She spent lots of her hard-earned cash fixing up the dilapidated estate, only to be tossed to the wolves and the house given to the Queen who replaced her. Dora’s not the only one thrown to the wolves in this novel. My heart bled all over the pages as I read about the betrayals suffered by the lower classes during this era. There were lots of “deer” and fewer but more powerful “wolves”.

How much of this book is based on fact? I did plenty of research on Dora’s life and times. I read letters she wrote (the best I could, her handwriting was difficult to decipher). I read plays she was in. Some such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It are old favorites. Others such as She Would and She Would Not are still published with the long S, (This was used at the beginning and middle of words but rarely at the end and can be found in typography before 1803.) Try reading that.

I became an amateur expert on Dora Jordan. I even found a sketch of her that her biographer had never seen. I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to herI’ve written about her before. I purchased old newspaper clippings about Dora and even have one of her theater handbooks. I discovered that she was prone to telling tall tales. She was skilled at her own PR. Her lover, the Prince, acted as her agent and manager. It was difficult to tell truth from the fiction surrounding her. I put all of my data together and came up with the best story I could. Due to gaps and inconsistencies in history, I was compelled to fill in the blanks. I made up my own theories about her, logical and in keeping with how theater folk were expected to act at the time. As they said in the 1800s, it’s “a tale based on fact”, but it is, indeed, a tall tale of my own–a logical one created from the information gathered, but still, a tale. And it goes against the historical record, which I considered highly fabricated.

I also did research on Michael Faraday that included reading his biography and some of his letters. He took a trip to Paris and that helped me create the Paris of 1832. So did a British guide to Paris dated 1831.

For William IV, I read his biography and that of Queen Adelaide. The Diaries of Charles Greville provided some upper crust gossip–describing William as “something of a blackguard and something more of a buffoon.” And forgive me, mathematicians Babbage and Galios, I researched you too,  and I’ve painted you as eccentric.

Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an 85,000-word historical novel that re-examines history and provides a happy ending along with tongue-in-cheek fun, early 19th century-science, and mild social commentary. I hope you’ll love it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Carbon dioxide and the futuristic novel

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How will more carbon dioxide affect future humans? In unpleasant ways.

I still remember the sensations–pounding heart, crushing headaches, confusion, and the deep dread when I put my hand on the door to the sick building I had to work in for nearly ten years. I’ve experienced high carbon dioxide levels. My body thought I was suffocating in my own exhale. This week, I find myself reliving those unpleasant times.

You see, I’m working on a sequel to Mixed In–Book Two in the Unstable States series. It’s set in the near future. When I saw this headline about record high levels of carbon dioxide, I thought, “Damn, I’m going to have to add increased carbon dioxide levels into this series.”

It’s true. There’s more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere than ever before due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling and travel and electricity, cutting down trees, pouring cement, and eating plenty of meat. This trend doesn’t look as if it’s changing anytime soon. And if, as a fiction writer, you create a future on earth, there are consequences for your characters.

It’s time to consider: what will humans on earth experience in a high carbon dioxide world?

Here’s my list:

  1. Effects on food production. Plants use carbon dioxide to grow and give off oxygen. Some plants will grow bigger in a high carbon dioxide world. However, this may mean they are less nutritious. Not all plants will react the same way to more atmospheric carbon dioxide. How they take in carbon dioxide will determine if more carbon dioxide will make them giant, gangly, and less healthy. Some crops such as corn will not be affected by increased carbon dioxide while beans will have a growth enhancement.
  2. Climate Impacts. This is the effect most people consider when they think of higher carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide acts as a blanket and holds heat in. What will happen? Here is a detailed prediction based on each part of the globe. Coastal areas will be flooded. My series takes place in the Midwest. Displaced people might have to move here. I’m not sure Midwesterners will enjoy the crowds. Warmer temperatures could mean fewer blood clots in the elderly.
  3. More rust. Yes, carbon dioxide plus water forms carbonic acid and this hastens corrosion.
  4. More ocean acidity. All life depends on the proper pH balance to maintain itself. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water and when it does, it forms carbonic acid. This acid does bad things to ocean life such as dissolving shells and bleaching coral. Fish could have seizures or even lose their minds.
  5. Mental challenges. Fish won’t be the only animals out of their minds. In humans,  increased anxiety and depression are associated with increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Drowsiness and reduced reasoning ability also occur. This is why people should not take tests or make decisions in poorly ventilated rooms. Think about what life will be like if everywhere we go is poorly ventilated.
  6. Other health implications. I worked in a building with high carbon dioxide levels due to poor ventilation and I can tell you, it’s  no fun. Skin flushing, chest pains, confusion, muscle twitches, and crushing headaches can occur if carbon dioxide levels go above 1000 ppm*. If carbon dioxide levels increase at the current rate, this will be the outside atmospheric concentration in about 300 years. Human blood pH will go down–become more acidic–just as the ocean pH decreases with too much carbon dioxide. An affected person will breathe fast and deep which sounds kind of sexy but at high levels, the person might start flapping their hands and resemble someone out of a Vonnegut novel. To get rid of the extra acid, our kidneys will need to work harder in a high carbon dioxide world. Urine will be flowing! (As a side note, slurping carbonated drinks causes the same effect and irritates your bladder and promotes urination.)
  7. Fewer mosquito bites If there is an upside, here it is. Mosquitos are attracted to the carbon dioxide in your exhaled breath. As background carbon dioxide levels rise, they have a harder time zeroing in on their prey.

Drowsy characters flapping their hands and going to the bathroom all the time–what am I going to do with that premise? And yet, this could be the future. Can technology save us? Yes, probably, but only if we invest in it and that’s not going to happen if we live in denial of the consequences. And will everyone have the technology or only a few? I’m sure you can answer that question in your next novel. I know I’m going to have to.

*Carbon dioxide levels are usually expressed as ppm or parts-per-million. When I was a kid, the level was around 300 ppm. When I was in college it was 320 ppm or so. Today,  we have already shot past the 400 ppm level. It’s thought that once we get to 450 ppm, we will begin to see climate effects that will be difficult to reverse

 

 

 

What do you need to sell a novel?

I don’t usually write about “authoring” because there are many more well-known authors who do this. However, the other day I went to an author book fair and I was complimented on my table. I thought I’d share what I did to get the flattery.

Here’s a photo of the table complete with a reader:IMG_3976

You can see that I kept it simple. No banners or anything hard to carry.–just the books, business cards, and some giveaways. The purpose of the giveaways is to get my name out there, inspire people to buy the ebook,  and maybe bring people to this blog.

Here are the giveaways–one modern and one historical. Both were carried off with equal success.  The idea to put a Qr code on the modern giveaway–a science notepad, came from author Em Shotwell. You can get a Qr code generator and reader many different places.IMG_3940

One thing I learned is not to attract children. My books are adult only and we all know that human children are difficult to manage and need many alloparents to watch them. 

So, I didn’t have food or candy at my table, as I have in done in the past. I’ll never forget last year in Pella and those kids running all over a library with my GoldRush Gum giveaway while their mom ignored them. That being said, the fair last month was not well attended and I sold less than ten books. Since it cost $50 to register, there wasn’t much profit in the day. However, the best way to sell books is still word of mouth.

Along the lines of authoring, getting started isn’t cheap. You really have to have a patron or be rich yourself to be able to do it full-time. I am neither but still plug along. I have set up some marketing surveys designed as giveaways, If you are interested in what genres attract the most attention, take a look here and here.

I’m also interested these questions about content.

And for this survey, it’s interesting that so few people even care that a book is about equality. 

I have to admit, I write to a niche market when I write about female scientists but since the books are humor, there are readers out there ready to laugh. Now, on to the next one.

 

 

 

 

Author News

I’ll admit it, I’m mostly a scientist. But if you find your life missing kooky, nerdy female protagonists who like men and science, check out my books. They contain romance but focus on the protagonist and her society which makes them technically, not romances. Romances focus on the tension between two lovers and although this might be a sub-plot, it is not the whole plot for what I write. I write about society–past or future.

My historical novel has a new cover. Here it isunnamed

To Celebrate I’m having a virtual New Cover Party

Click the link above and comment for a chance to win a Darwin bobblehead, Alice In Wonderland socks, a naked mole rat toy, and numerous buffalo themed items. This goes from now until Saturday night.

Sunday I’ll be at an author fair. Sometimes these are great and you meet new readers and other authors and sometimes you sit there awakwardly. But I’ll be there signing books–I hope.  Fates willing, people will be interested. When I find the key to being a successful author, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, my day job is pretty fantastic. And thanks for visitng my blog!CE IOWA AUTHORS - CATHERINE HAUSTEIN

Sixteen Sweet Writing Tips from Madeleine L’Engle

Many readers are eagerly awaiting the release of the movie version of A Wrinkle in Time this coming March. When the novel was first released in 1963, the story of awkward Meg Murry who traverses time and space to rescue her scientist father wasn’t expected to be a big seller. It was in author Madeleine L’Engle’s words “peculiar” with its female protagonist in a dark science fiction novel for children. In the 1950s and early 1960s it wasn’t common for books for children to deal with things such as death and social conformity. Yet A Wrinkle in Time has sold continuously since its publication and won The Newberry Award despite mixed reviews when it was released. Madeleine L’Engle struggled to make a living writing and garnered thirty rejections for A Wrinkle in Time before it was published. She offers many tips for aspiring writers in her book Reflections on a Writer’s Life. Here are my sixteen favorites:

  1. Be disciplined. “The writer cannot write just when he feels like it or he won’t have anything to write with. Like the violin, he has to be constantly tuned and practiced.”
  2. On the other hand, when inspiration strikes, you must drop everything. “I not only burn dinner when I dash to the typewriter to set down just one more sentence. I’m also given excitement and enthusiasms far beyond the dignity of my position of somebody who’s past the half-century mark.”
  3. Expand your vocabulary. “The more limited our language is, the more limited we are…The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves…the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think.”
  4. Study theater to learn about human nature. L’Engle’s husband was actor Hugh Franklin. (L’Engle was her mother’s maiden name.)
  5. Food is a great way to add sense detail to your fiction. In A Wrinkle in Time this takes the form of a liverwurst sandwich—one of her favorites.
  6. Don’t fall into the temptation of doing housework when you are alone. Write. Your family members can help you with the housework. They can’t write your fiction for you. Also, keep in mind that “the time our children are at home is a very short part of our lives” so plan for the long haul—you can write more when they and you are older.
  7. Don’t quit your day job. “For most writers it takes many manuscripts before enough royalties are coming in to pay for a roof over the head and bread on the table.” She said that she wrote at best at night and when she got up in the morning.
  8. We write best when we are in pain. “It is interesting to note how many artists have had physical problems to overcome, deformities, lameness, terrible loneliness…Those who have no physical flaw…seldom become artists.” (One of her legs was shorter than the other due to a childhood illness.) To writers she warns “if you feel you are called, then I can promise you great joy as well as conflict and pain.”
  9. You’ll be let down when you finish a novel. She compared the time after writing a book to post partum depression. “The great art of creativity is always followed by a sadness.”
  10. On the danger of being an artist: “The first people that a dictator puts in jail are the writers and the teachers because these are the people who have vocabulary, who can see injustice and can express what they feel about it.”
  11. On rejection: “Every rejection slip—and you could paper the walls with my rejection slips—was like the rejection of me, myself, and certainly of my amour-propre.” “I started writing A Wrinkle in Time at the end of a decade of nothing but rejections.” Writing opens yourself to criticism. If you write a book that says something, you will be criticized. Yet a book with nothing to say is meaningless. “If you write a book that pleases everybody, you’ve failed.”
  12. Your protagonist must have a choice to make. “A protagonist must not simply be acted upon, he must act, by making a choice, a decision to do this rather than that.”
  13. L’Engle warns that too much description of the protagonist will alienate the reader. In order to allow the reader to see the protagonist as an icon, don’t create a photographic reproduction in words.
  14. Stories must be believable. This doesn’t mean writing what exactly happened but by putting down “the truth I see.” Truth is more than a list of facts. Truth reflects the “human endeavor.” A good story helps answer the question “Who am I?”
  15. Keep a journal. Not only can you organize your thoughts this way, you can return to it to see how you felt at a certain age and in particular situations.
  16. Writing is not all about you. Writing is a “participatory event” between the author and the reader. “The one who reads…is equally creator with the person who sets down the words.”

 

A Wrinkle in Time inspired me to be a scientist-mom like Mrs. Murry and gave me the courage to buck society’s expectations for women. I’ve nevermore been able to accept lifeless female characters. For more thoughts on writing, read Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writer’s Life. (2001)IMG_3567

 

 

An Interview with The Hexagon of Alpha Chi Sigma

Alpha Chi Sigma is a professional society for chemists. One thing that I like about them is that they honor chemistry’s alchemical roots. They even have a cool coat of arms.

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Do I consider myself part alchemist? Of course I do! Alchemists developed many of the “wet” chemistry techniques we use today including precipitation, sublimation, and distillation. Yes they added prayers and chants to their formulas but I’m sure many students today do likewise. Possible the chants might include curse words. The truth about chemistry is that it is a discipline that requires some seasoning, some experiences, some sort of unmeasurable history with the techniques. Chemistry honors the ancients. The more time you spend with it, the easier it becomes.

I was recently interviewed for the AXE magazine, The Hexagon. I appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences as a scientist and an author. In fact, I thank everyone who has read my writing, everyone who has encouraged me, and all who have left positive reviews.

Here’s a transcript:

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(1) Describe your projects. I have two novels published by small presses. Natural Attraction came out in 2015. It’s a comedy about Clementine, who longs to be a scientist in 1871. She drinks a tonic which helps her partially transform into a man and takes part in a prospecting expedition as a naturalist. Mixed In—a comic dystopia– just came out this month. It features Catrina, a chemist in the agricultural industry, who gets mixed up with a man on the wrong side of the law.

(2) Describe your motivations. Besides wanting to entertain people, I’m responding to a lack of interesting scientific characters in fiction. Must scientists always be anti-social side characters obsessed only with their work? Can’t the female scientist be adventurous, flawed, and get the guy now and then?

(3) Why do you think these topics are important? Science has enriched our lives and yet people have this fear of it and even a disregard of scientists, seeing them as walking brains and not as real people with normal wants and needs. I admit that my characters are quirky and maybe even nerdy at times but they have the same desires and the same problems at work as many people along with loads of passion and curiosity. They even have friends and care about humanity.

(4) What sort of distinctive twist do you bring to the discourse? I don’t shy away from having my protagonists deeply involved in plausible science. I also bring in social issues that scientists and women in particular face as they struggle to balance all of their desires. I must admit that the novels are also a little naughty. They’re not erotic but they are aimed at an adult audience. To add to the mix, I’ve made them comedies because science plus tragedy was done well-enough in 1816 with Frankenstein. Of course things go wrong in my novels but I’m hoping to demystify science, not make it dreadful.

(5) Any connections to your AXE experiences? In Natural Attraction Clementine gets her tonic from and later becomes close friends with chemist Theophrastus. Yes, there is a chemical basis for all that happens with that tonic but maybe a little romantic alchemy was involved as well.

(6) Other reflections on AXE to share. One of the first things I ever published was a monologue called I the Great Paracelsus based on the writings of Paracelsus. It was even performed at a conclave. I am a lot richer as a chemist due to my understanding of chemical history and I still have connections with Alpha Theta. My publishers are small and I’m not on the New York Times best seller list but if any brothers want more information on fiction writing or publishing I’d be happy to offer my advice. They can contact me at hausteinc@gmail.com or through my blog at catherinehaustein.com.