I’m excited that Mixed In has been nominated for a Rone Award in the category of Science Fiction and Time Travel. The first stage of this award is reader voting followed by judging. I’d love to be judged but to get there, I need some votes. If you are so motivated, please vote for me by following this link.
If you haven’t yet registered, you’ll need to do so. Then you’ll get information and reviews about small and independently published books from Ind’ Tale Magazine. I’ve found publishing with a small press to be satisfying–although not lucrative. If you want the big bucks, get an agent and hold out for a big publishing house. If you want to be happy, small press might be for you. I enjoy my interactions with small press editors. They are nice, helpful, and keep current with publishing rends. Why don’t I self publish? I can’t go it alone. I need editors and proof readers to help me. Before I even submit a novel for consideration, I hire a beta reader and then a proof-reader/copy editor. In my case, the more comments I get the better.
Mixed In is a milieu novel with an agricultural theme. It’s a little naughty. If that’s for you, please lend me your vote and sign up for the Ind’Tale newsletter.
Spring is here at last in the Northern Hemisphere and no doubt you’ve had the chance to enjoy the early morning bird songs. The Dawn Chorus, as it is called, usually begins about 40 minutes before sunrise.
Why do birds sing in the early morning? There are several theories. One is that the songs carry better in the early morning and birds sing to advertise that they made it through the night and are therefore good mates and formidable foes. Early rising birds have better relationships with their mates than sleepy birds of the same species so maybe there is some truth to this.
Another idea is that it is too dark to look for food so singing is a great way to pass the time. Birds with bigger eyes and those who perch higher up in trees tend to sing first.
Gaining popularity is the theory that birds sing when other things are quiet. In places where there are noisy morning insects, birds sing before the insects start making noise. It’s thought that urban birds like to sing before the city gets noisy. Daylight plays a role in telling birds when to sing. It stimulates testosterone in the birds and brings on mating season.
It was first thought that birds sang haphazardly but in the 1940s, conservationist Aldo Leopold noticed that there was a pattern to their singing with a distinct order of birds joining the chorus, prompted by the amount of daylight. What birds are you most likely to hear in the morning? Starting things off in Iowa is the robin, the traditional early bird who gets the worm. Cardinals follow soon after. In the Pella area, field sparrows, indigo buntings, eastern wood pewees, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, and house wrens are common members of the dawn chorus. In Leopold’s audio recording, the Wisconsin birds appear in this order: American Robin (first heard at 1 seconds) 2. Field Sparrow (28s) 3. Indigo Bunting (70s) 4. Eastern Wood-Pewee (100s) 5. Song Sparrow (130s) 6. Gray Catbird (150s) 7. Eastern Bluebird (170s) 8. Great Crested Flycatcher (181s) 9. Northern Cardinal (200s) 10. Wood Thrush (207s) 11. Mourning Dove (214s) 12. Ring-necked Pheasant (223s) 13. Eastern Meadowlark (230s) 14. Brown Thrasher (251s) 15. Warbling Vireo (270s) 16. House Wren (280s) 17. Blue Jay (290s)
There are two categories of singing birds. Oscine or true Song Birds must learn to sing from other males. It can take up to a year for a bird to come into his voice. Here is an example of a male sparrow learning to sing. This type of bird usually is monogamous and has to work hard to attract and keep a mate. They perch on high branches to advertise and have regional dialects. In some cases, such as the cardinal, both males and females sing. Suboscine birds are more common in South America but include flycatchers here in North America. These birds instinctively know how to sing.
I forgot to set my alarm last night and am grateful for the loud robin who woke me up this morning. Birdsong is both relaxing and mentally stimulating. It’s the right mix of repetitiveness and jazz. It doesn’t get annoyingly stuck in your mind nor is it chaotic noise. It’s even being used to treat depression and anxiety. It’s a wild love song and who can argue with the joy of that? I’m opening my windows and letting it pour in.
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.
The challenge to writing a novel set in the past is that the past disappears. In London of 1832, the setting for Wolves and Deer: A Take Based on Fact, today’s familiar landmarks were not yet in place including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. There were no steel framed buildings. Making steel required hand stirring until 1856 and the British were slow to incorporate the material into their structures even after the Bessemer Process was developed (in England ironically). Buildings were wood frame and flammable and flames took Dora’s Drury Lane Theater in 1809. It was rebuilt shortly before her death and can be found in Covent Garden (see below)
I can’t say that I learned much more about Dora Jordan during my recent visit to London although I enjoyed visiting such a vibrant and cohesive city.
A bust market place and theater district
Walking around London, I imagined the places Dora Jordan and my protagonist in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on fact, Grace Clare, had been.
He comes up lacking at the Tower of London as well. Among the Crown Jewels and regalia only the Queen consort’s ring 1831 ( no names attached) was displayed. This was a gift to Queen Adelaide, the one woman who was unfortunate enough to marry him when he was at an advanced age, had ten other children, and was acting erratically. Together, the pair wasn’t able to produce an heir. Victoria was their niece. William ruled for seven years. He’s is known for his support of slavery which was abolished during his reign and opposition to reform (before reform, parliament members were representing districts with no people in them) which was accepted during his reign. He became King through a series of unfortunate events, left the mother of his numerous children in a bind, and produced no heirs. Additionally, he carefully saved Dora’s letters to him, yet had his own correspondence burned. His legacy is an empty base for a statue and that’s about it.
Wolves and Deer is the story of Grace Clare seeking answers about the death of Dora Jordan.What really happened? Who is to blame? Should she seek vengeance? And most importantly, how much power should our rulers have over us?
London is for children. People there are friendly and accommodating to kids.
Here are the places we visited:
The BritishMuseum houses collections of artifacts, some of which were collected and donated and others were looted from fallen empires by the British Empire. This was one of the favorite stops for the older kids.The baby rode happily in the stroller during the visit and there was a special line for parents and kids that kept the wait to get in short.
Our own stuff and things we stole from other empires on display.
If you are looking for a stop to get toys, consider Harrods and Hamleys. Harrods is a little tricky because you need to walk by breakable exhibits to get to the toys but it’s right by the food court so you can add a stop and get braffles if you need something. However, be aware that your kids will want things that they can get in the US such as Legos, Beanie Boos, Barbies, and Sylvanian families. The selection at Hamley’s is extensive. Leave room in your suitcase.
The Tower of London comes complete with characters dressed in Period Costumes.
However, the kids were most impressed with the Crown Jewels exhibit. They ran about while Dad stood patiently in line until we could get a glimpse of but not photograph the Royal regalia.
Going to Stonehenge doesn’t only allow you to see a mystical ancient ruin, it gets you out into the countryside of England. Our guide explained to us that it’s not the only stone circle in England but is an easy drive from London and near other attractions so it’s the one that the British government has elevated into a tourist attraction. The two hour car ride passed easily, thanks in part to iPads and Gameboys, The kids loved running free once we got there (it takes an additional short bus ride from the parking area.) It’s cold and windy out on that plain and our guide brought extra hats, scarves, and mittens. If you need, there are souvenir hats and sweatshirts etc available in the gift store. There is also a small museum with other artifacts. Is it worth it to ride all the way out there to see this one thing? Yes, of course!
Then be sure to go on and visit somewhere else–Bath or Salisbury are popular destinations. We chose Salisbury and it wasn’t at all crowded, perhaps because of the season or the recent poisoning incident.
Salisbury is the site of a cathedral, moved there from Sarum in 1220. The most intact copy of the Magna Carta resides there, although you can’t photograph it. (You can buy a copy at the gift store.)
It was a short hop from Salisbury to Old Sarum in Wiltshire. William the Conqueror built a castle there in 1070 and my kids claim his ancestry so off to see the old homestead. It had a few precarious spots but the children loved running about.
A note on kids and gift shops: What is a tourist attraction without a tourist trap? I’d budget about 5 pounds per kid per tourist stop.
When in London, be sure to take in:
A theater production. There are shows for kids and shows for adults. My daughter and I went to a show together and left the kids behind with Dad, giving her a break from motherhood for just one night.
Theater Royal Haymarket.
Piccadilly Circus in the Theater District
There is nothing like live theater and coming out onto Piccadilly with so many happy people was amazing. The tube was packed so we walked back to our hotel on the crowded main streets. A night to remember!
My son in law carried the stroller and the child up and down stairs without complaining. This helped us get places faster because there aren’t enough lifts anywhere.
2. My daughter’s study abroad experience in London with Central College gave her an ease in London that made the trip go off without a hitch.
3. They’ve taken the children to Dublin and Barcelona so they have this whole traveling with kids down. London was a record for tearless travel days.
4. I did not miss the United States news or culture at all.There are stricter media rules in the UK so less propaganda and the biggest murder incident was an old man killing a burglar with a screwdriver. He got in trouble for it, too.
London was teeming with fun and culture. We didn’t get to see it all so we’ll have to go back, don’t you think?
Recently I went to London with my daughter and her family including three children under eight. My daughter studied in London as a college student and was eager to take the kids to one of her favorite cities. They also took me, nearly a stay at home, along. I was worried I’d be bumbling and in the way. No need to have fretted. It was a perfect trip, Here’s my advice on what to bring if you are a novice traveler to London.
For sure take: a longer raincoat with a hood. Most people there wear ones that are not rubbery looking.
I wore water resistant comfortable shoes. There are lots of escalators and narrowish stairs so don’t get anything too clunky.
Although hotels have universal plugs it might be just one per room so consider carrying a travel adaptor.
A credit card with no foreign transaction fee. Your Costco associated card will do this. Be sure to call the company and give them your travel dates. And if the merchant asks for dollars or pounds, say pounds.
Skip: an umbrella. Annoying tourists with umbrellas almost poking your eyes out will convince you that you might as well just walk in the rain like the Londoners do. If you find yourself wanting one, almost any tourist and sidewalk shop sells them.
Worry less about: your hair. It rains a lot there. Your hair isn’t going to look great unless you spend too much time with it. People walking around looking glamorous appeared to be tourists in London to shop. In fact, one native Londoner told us that intelligence and personality are more important than attractiveness to the British. However, London is a diverse city so look how you like. Speaking of glamour, they do have some fabulous department stores but we were on a holiday with kids so if we even glanced at a nice purse the baby would break free–so no shopping this trip even though we stayed just off Oxford Street. On the plus side, returning through customs is easy when all you have is that catapult pencil sharpener the kids insisted that you buy for grandpa.
I probably wouldn’t: drive.
Avoid jet lag: To accomplish this I followed advice of several of my London loving friends–cut back on caffeine the week before, eat more carbs than protein, wear compression socks. (Sockwell was my favorite brand.) I spent the long flight there watching movies, eating, resting my eyes, taking kids to the toilet. In essence, I pulled an all-nighter, something I hadn’t done since I took organic chemistry in graduate school. I wasn’t looking forward to it but when someone on the plane opened the window and I was treated to a brilliant sunrise over the UK, my heart jumped for joy. I was wide awake and eager to start the day.
The flight on the way back was an hour longer due to strong headwinds. Then I had a four hour layover! I walked around the airport and had a vitamin drink, popcorn, and nuts for dinner. My second flight was delayed due to an issue with a tire. I slept briefly on the 2 hour flight back, dreaming of the devils from The Book of Mormon.
What I loved about London:
Neighborhoods are so cute and there is something about the light in London that makes flowers vibrant. It’s fully worth a wandering about.
Here is a residence in Camden, an adorable area of London.
Here’s a look at Soho:
We stayed in Mayfair. Here’s a shot of a side street.
We stayed near Marble Arch at the edge of Hyde Park.
Hyde park is a fully used green space. I enjoyed looking out my hotel window at people walking and jogging through the park while the double decker busses and cabs went by. The city was pulsing with people and unlike here, you rarely heard a siren.
My next post will be about what we did with the kids.
Last week I got an e-mail from my state representative discussing solutions to the rising cost of college. Here are my representative’s ideas on SF 2361 –making college affordable. They read like a collection of unsubstantiated fixes that do nothing to make college more affordable or to keep college costs down. If anything, they require both more administration and a fast track to college education that might not benefit students. His absurd thoughts about college costs sent me to do some research. Why are college costs rising?
I found some things that surprised me. For example, this is a highly partisan issue. Republicans blame colleges and Democrats wish to make more money available to keep costs down. This is what my research taught me:
College costs have been rising rapidly since the 1980s. Here’s a chart showing this rise. What happened in the 1980s? Reaganomics. Reaganomics is an unproven economic theory which is pretty much the boat that Republicans cling to even today–cutting taxes, especially at the top, and shifting spending to the military will stimulate growth in all areas. Thus, government support for education came crashing down, and falls down whenever Republicans are in charge of the budget. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this policy works for the nation or not. All I can say is that this is when it all began.
The costs per student have risen over time, even as student-faulty ratios have increased, meaning that faculty salaries can’t be the cause of rising college costs. Here are some references, although you will have to wade through them. However, let’s look at personnel as a cost factor for a moment. As Central College President Mark Putnam points out, colleges are “professional services.” They require on face to face contact with educated and sought after professionals. Doctors, dentists,and lawyers are other examples of such professionals. These sectors of our economy can’t increase productivity without decreasing quality. They can’t replace workers with robots or outsource to another area of the globe. Yes, there are on-line colleges and Trump University but they aren’t as valuable as being on campus in classrooms, doing hands-on things such as research with professors. As we all know, part of getting along in the workplace is learning to work with others, to have team work. However, although it is difficult to decrease worker costs, faculty salaries are NOT the main reason for tuition increases. Not only have faculty salaries risen slowly, slower than inflation, they account for around thirty cents of every tuition dollar. Also, college and university faculty get paid less than their private sector counterparts. In fact, professors are considered underpaid. Why do they still teach? Besides finding it enjoyable and a public good, they are willing to take less salary in order to have job security. Like other areas of the private sector, colleges are faced with rising medical and dental benefits for their full-time staff. However, instruction quality increases when faculty have adequate benefits.
Extra administration has often been cited for the increase in college costs. Non-teaching staff and administration make up the bulk of a college’s cost nowadays. Some of these positions, in IT for example, did not exist in the days of low tuition. Others are in areas such as counseling and fund raising that either meet a need or secure funds for the future. More administration is most certainly is a reason for higher costs. However, colleges have a lot of extra accountability these days and parents do want their students to have access to many of these services. In fact, studies have shown that college students today are more needy, perhaps due to helicopter parenting or life’s harsh realities or even parental demands that colleges assist the students with every challenge. Students and parents do not want any surprises. In my own experience, not only have administrative costs risen, what needs to be put on a syllabus has skyrocketed as well. I suspect that much of this comes from the diverse group of students who attend college. No longer is it just for the privileged few who have parents who went to college and can give advice. It’s been, thankfully, opened to many and administrators and advisers are needed to keep pace with the demands.
Colleges face huge costs when it comes to technology. I personally oversee a fleet of measuring instruments. Many were not commonly used when I began teaching and now are so routine that every lab must have one in order to teach students the skills they need for the future. I got outside grants to pay for them but they still add expense as they must be maitained. Personal computers have been cited as a huge expense for colleges and universities. Having a high technology program on campus such as an engineering or medical college also raises costs.
Colleges get about half of the money it takes to run them from tuition. Even as tuition is rising, it doesn’t pay the full cost of educating students. Other sources of money to pay for college include private donations, government money, and grants from private and government sources. Personal giving has helped keep colleges and universities affordable.
A few reasons floated for the tuition increases include cushy dorms and other attempts at branding. This occurred in the past ten-fifteen years as colleges struggled to differentiate themselves from each other. Another idea is that costs have gone up because there is too much demand for college. Those who can’t afford it simply shouldn’t go. These are theories only. I’m not saying these haven’t raised costs but I am not seeing the numbers to prove it, particularly for the second one. However, college costs rose after the GI bill so there might be some credibility to it.
Perhaps the most cited reason for tuition increase is this one: less support from the government has helped raise tuition costs. Tuition is lower in states that support higher education. Here in Iowa, the change in state appropriation for higher education has decreased nearly 20% over the past fifteen years while college tuition has gone up just 7%. Colleges are trying to hold the line on tuition increases and making do with less. This LESS is due to cutbacks. Reaganomics.
I’m not an expert on college tuition and the rise in costs are complicated. Feel free to disagree with me! For simplicity’s sake, if you are angry about the cost of college and want something to put on a dart board, I offer this official photo of the man who started it all.
“The sun gets up! And so do you! Up ear number one. Ear number two.” A Great Day for Up is one of those kids books I clearly relate to. Even a smidgen of sunshine in the morning has me jumping up from bed, happy to start the day. Yes, I’m a lark and as we approach summer solstice, I get more and more lark-like, up earlier and earlier. I even shed a pound or two–and I’m not alone. There’s a holiday coming up for people like me–Daylight Savings Time, DST, or as some call it Daylight Summer Time.
The practice of setting clocks ahead began in Germany during WWI as an energy-saving measure but quickly spread across the globe. It’s fallen in and out of use in Europe and in the United States but has been a staple in the United States since 1966 and in Europe, beginning with France in 1976. Here in the U.S. it starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November (it was extended in 2005). Only Arizona and Hawaii don’t participate in the clock moving ritual.
In 1973-1975 it lasted the whole year in an effort to save energy but was abandoned because some felt that the dark mornings were too dangerous for school kids who mostly walked to school back then. It was also implemented year-round for most of WWII.
The transition can be rough for the first day or two and a study has shown heart attacks, accidents, and cluster headaches rise on the Monday after (March 12 this year). Some of this could be caused by an alarm clock itself, although I couldn’t find the original reference for this. Other studies say that car accidents decrease during this time and that the health effects only bother a few people who got too little sleep. In the U.S., the DST corresponds to fewer deaths per month than Standard Time.
In 2018, Daylight Savings Time begins March 11 and ends November 4. Time to begin your preparation.
I try to prep for the DST holiday by getting up a little earlier each day until it arrives. The birds help me, singing at the ever earlier sunrises each day. Male songbirds such as cardinals and robins begin singing before dawn in the spring as they stake out territory and look for a mate. They’ll start as early as 4 am which would be 3 am without daylight savings time. Do we really want that?
Not long ago I read a comment on a Facebook post: “mass murderers must not have been spanked enough as children”. It seemed counter intuitive. It’s well known that abused and neglected children suffer physical and mental health consequences. They are more likely to commit crimes, suffer from addictions, enter into poor relationships, and even die young. But what about good old fashioned corporal punishment? How bad is it? Could a few well-placed spankings have prevented a mass murderer from forming? I decided to look into it.
Here in the U.S., 70% of parents find some sort of physical punishment necessary. We aren’t talking abut beating or hitting with objects. We’re talking spankings. The United States is among the high-spanking -rate countries. High spanking is also common in African countries. The UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Mexico are low spanking countries. Australia and Germany transitioned from a high spanking countries to a low spanking countries
Hunter-gatherers do not spank their children, (They let their children do things such as hold knives at a young age and encourage them to be helpful by cutting up vegetables and learn from their experience should they cut themselves.) Rates of spanking and physical discipline vary among cultures.
Spanked kids do much worse on tests of cognitive development and mathematical ability. Spanking decreases intelligence. This is pronounced if the spanking is “high frequency” and comes from the father.
Whatever you do, don’t do a search for “spanking and wife beating”. You’ll find all sorts of erotic videos and also links to Christian masculinity. There’s a connection. Being spanked means that a child is more likely to grow up to engage in domestic violence. Spanked children are more likely to become adults with many sexual and relationship problems including coercing another to have sex, risky sex such as sex without a condom, and being aroused by sexual pain.
American criminologists point out that violence begins in the home and is so deeply ingrained that no amount of punishment or incarceration will stop it once the children become adults. So much for the death penalty.
I was spanked as a kid. Not only did I resent it, I weighed every naughty thing I did against if it was worth a spanking. It usually was because spankings didn’t last as long as the fun of the mischief. I don’t think I turned out perverted but on the other hand, I’ve never minded being called naughty.
If I had a vivid imagination, I could conjure up some sinister reason for cutting funds to the CDC and the NIH as our recent Congress has done and create a fiction from it. Perhaps a corrupt leader wanted to kill off the type of people he didn’t like and had secret vaccination programs for his followers. His enemies would become infected and die. One way to do that would be with Influenza A.
There are two main categories of Influenza viruses, A,B., and C. Type A viruses cause the most trouble and can be found in humans and animals, including whales, cats, horses, and other animals,notably birds and pigs. (Bats have their own special viruses.) Influenza B is uncomfortable to humans but not deadly. There is also a human C virus which is milder yet. Influenza A can be deadly.
Besides A and B viruses are then categorized by their H and N types of proteins that they have in their outer coatings. If you want to read more about that here is a great description. Let’s just say that it takes a match up of the right H and N to allow a virus to invade your cells, hijack them, create “baby” viruses, and pop the cells to release moe viruses. That is how we get the designations such as H1H1 (the deadly Swine flu) and H2N3 (this year’s virulent strain.) Both of these, and all Influenzas, are zoonoses–infections that can move between people and animals.
Many Type A viruses can creep between birds, human, and pigs. If you look at charts from the CDC (why are we underfunding them by the way?) you can see that birds are a significant reservoir of these viruses. Shore birds including geese are potent carriers but other types of domestic and wild birds also carry viruses. For example N3 viruses are associated with ducks.
Most Influenza A viruses originate in birds. However, not many of these are easily transmitted to people. They can be transmitted to pigs. Pigs are a common go-between for viruses. Pigs and humans can infect each other with influenza more easily than birds and humans can infect each other. Pig flu symptoms are much like human flu symptoms.
And there are/were government funded scientists working on a universal flu vaccine, which we all want but is not profitable enough for big pharma to develop. That’s why we have to rely on public funds. Or if you have a sinister mind, the people who currently are in charge here in the United States do not want the common people to have this vaccine.
So before you vote, ask your politicians what they want to do with the meager bit of taxes they’ll be collecting. Do they want a Universal flu vaccine or something like a wall or a military parade? When you are laid low with the next flu epidemic or even pandemic, you probably aren’t going to care about all that stuff you accumulated. Consider your priorities.