Friday, September 23, 2011

To the Novel Experiment!

Earlier this month I announced that, in addition to the Superheroes of Science Blogfest, I would move to another blog. To Campaigners just happening by, I'm sorry you have an extra link to click. ;)

I'm a bit nervous half of you trusted readers will vanish, especially since free wordpress doesn't allow for Google friends connect. The new design, however, is totally worth the risk and hassle.

Without further ado... to The Novel Experiment !

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Wicked Reminder

Hey, just wanted to remind everyone that while I am absent here, today is my post day on Wicked & Tricksy. In case you've joined from the Campaign and have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a quick W&T explanation, from my first post on the topic.
Wicked & Tricksy is an initiative by four aspiring writers of speculative fiction to provide a place for the community to gather and share. There'll be plenty of craft talk, asking of hard questions and offering of insight, and we hope that you will be as much a part of it than us.
 My three wicked colleagues are Margo, Sommer and SB, three incredible writers I am honoured to work with. We've had a plethora of badass guest bloggers too!

Here's the interesting parts, guys: we are always on the lookout for more guest bloggers. Every Friday we welcome another writer from the community and share the spotlight. It could be you! We don't bite, I promise. We just take your soul. So if you want to join the fun, just head over to our guidelines!

Happy Thursday all!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Creative Classes and Group Critics

Yesterday I started my third week in my Creative Writing program. If you've been around this blog for a while, you'll have noted my posting rate went down. It isn't a coincidence. There is a lot to read and a lot to write. I'm super busy.

The good part? I have never loved being buried under a pile of schoolwork this much. I'm having a blast!

I'll say this: most of the general writing advice I've received are things I've heard on the interwebs before. Watch out for the "feel", "realize" or "see" in the texts. Don't step out of the POV. Have a strong opening paragraph. Show don't tell (though this one was phrased nicely. My teacher said "Remember, you have little to say but a lot to show).

I expected this. I've been digging the internet for writing pearls for at least two years now. Not that I've heard it all, but I believe I have a fair grasp on what I should do. It's applying it that is difficult. I came to the program to write texts and be critiqued, to receive personalised advice.

This week I had my first taste of critique groups. I loved it.

I was insanely nervous at first, in no small parts because the first texts to be critiqued wasn't my favourite. As in, I was exhausted when I wrote it, and the structure was all wrong, and I was certain there'd be a dozen other things that failed about it.

It went well, and I was relieved. Then came the Novel Writing class, in which I presented pages I was really proud of.* And guys, I received lots of great comments. But not just that. They picked on everything that was wrong despite the praises. They found my real first sentence, trimmed the extra fat, pointed out the repetitions. Everything I'd missed, or just about.

And I discovered how some are great at finding overall problems while others will find your spelling mistakes. It's great to have a good range of readers, both strangers and writer friends. I feel like I've learned more in the last two days than I have in months. From receiving and giving critiques.

I'm aware critique groups aren't for everyone, or that not every group will fit every writer, but in the chance you get an experience that is anything like mine so far, I encourage you to seek other writers and try this group thing.

Also, related but not quite the same, my teacher loved my novel pages. *happy cloud*


Don't forget that next week is the Superheroes of Science Blogfest!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three Blogfests or A Recipe for Frankenstein

It's blogfest season! Don't tell me there's no such things. There is no other way to explain the pile (read three) of new and awesome blogfests coming our way. One of which is mine. Yeah.

Anyway, here they are:

The I AM LEGEND blogfest

My blog isn't the only one who's nearing its one-year anniversary. I stopped counting how often I linked to Urban Psychopomp, but there you go. Once more! In her own words:

"The idea behind the blogfest is to give people an opportunity to share what is EPIC LEGEND WIN about their WIP or their favorite book. Is it a larger than life mythical creature? Is it a hero possessing such tenacity that he puts all other heroes to shame? Is it a war of such devastation that the human psyche will never be the same?"

This is going to be fun. There is Epic in all of our stories, and it's time to get it out. Not to mention, there are prizes! Hoorah!

Go to this post and sign up. You know you want to.

The great MonsterFest 2011!

Halloween is getting closer, and Sommer Leigh is preparing something big for it. It's no secret that we need to prepare ourselves from the onslaught of monsters that will rise on October 31st, and for that she is calling forward the League of Monstrologists.

Who are these guys? Well, us! Or, from the page: "Anyone who studies, writes about, reads about, hunts, loves, and/or is scared of monsters. There’s no formal education or training, no credentials needed. If monsters stalk your dreams, your waking curiosities, your writing, then you’ve been a Monstrologist all this time!"

If you're a monstrologist, it's your solemn duty to help us build a comprehensive informal guide of all things monstrous and terrifying! You can (and should) learn more on the MonsterFest's page

Superheroes of Science Blogfest

Yep, I know, this one is mine! I just wanted to remind you that sign-ups are ongoing for the Superheroes of Science Blogfest, celebrating the great scientists of our world, whether imaginary or not.

I want to stress this last point, because I'm well aware that today, scientists don't occupy a place of prestige and influence, and most people only know a few names. There are, however, a great number of scientists in movies, novels, TV shows and comics. It doesn't matter if your scientist is real or fictionnary, a hardcore physicist or an engineer. If you love him (or her) or if was an influence on your life or stories, this is the time to honour him.

Don't forget I'm giving away a copy of Forgotten Gods, a historical novel from fellow scientist and writer SB Stewart-Laing, at Writing the Other. It's coming out on the e-shelves tomorrow! So excited.

So this is it. Monsters, Mad Science and Stuff of Legends. I told you this was a recipe for Frankenstein!

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gummy Embyo and Other Transparent Organs

Biologists have long relied on dissections to study the body and organ structures of different animals. We've all had that class where we cut up a bull's eye, a frog, a mouse or a fish. Sometimes all of these.

We've also used specific species to study the embryo's development, such as the zebra fish, which has the awesome particularity of being transparent at that stage, and which we engineered to remain transparent all the way to adulthood.

A team of Japan scientists just discovered another, madder way to study organs. They developped a chemical reagent, Scale, which turns biological tissue transparent.

Image courtesy of io9, very awesome science site

Those are two mice embryo. The one on the right was treated with Scale, and now you can see everything inside. 

Scale and Optical Imaging Techniques

The beauty of Scale isn't only that it can turn tissue transparent. It also does so without interfering with the fluorescent dye commonly used today in our best imagery techniques (these are very awesome, and I spoke about them in my three posts regarding the brainbow here, here and there).

This means scientists are able to colour specific tissues with a fluorescent protein and use the transparency reagent to remove all interferences. This gives them images of unprecedented clarity. The Japanese team used it to study the mouse's brain, but it is applicable to just every tissue under the sun.

What Remains to be Done

Scale currently has one big disadvantage: it's too potent to use on living organisms. Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, the leading scientist on the japanese team, believes this could change. They're currently working on a "another, milder candidate reagent which would allow us to study live tissue in the same way, at somewhat lower levels of transparency."

If you want to know more, you can read the io9 article on the subject. I have to agree with them: the transparent embryo looks like a gummi. Yum! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blog Anniversary and the Superheroes of Science Blogfest

On September 25th, I will have blogged for an entire year. It's weird to think about it. Time flew by at an incredible speed, and the idea that I'll have written 200 of these little posts by then is mind-numbing. I mean, really? I found something to say on 200 different days through the year? And there's, what, 131 followers that found it interesting enough to stay around? Wow.

It deserves a little something special, don't you think? I sure do.

I'm doing two things. The first is a gift for myself, and the second is, well, something I thought would be fun for everyone. I sure hope so anyway!
Number One: I'm moving the blog! The new one will be on wordpress, with a new name and a new design. There are several reasons for why I'm changing from blogger to wordpress, including flexibility, comment threads and, well, just liking wordpress more. So, future new blog, whoo!

Number Two is the Superheroes of Science Blogfest!

One day, I swear, my buttons will be badass and awesome. One day!

The last time I organised something here (a guest blogger and giveaway), I asked you what aspects of science creeped you out. There were tons of awesome answers, and it remains the most popular post I have to date.

This time we'll visit the other side of science. It deserves some love! Here's how it'll go.

The blogfest takes place between Sept 25th and Sept 30th, on my new digs and your respective blogs. You can participate by answering to one of the prompts below (or anything related) and adding your name to Linky below.

There is a secret prize! At the end of the blogfest, I will use my awesome dice to pick the winner from participants. No extra entries, though you're welcomed to post more than once on the topic. It just won't count for the giveaway. (It'll count as points in my heart, though. I promise!)

Without further ado, the prompts!

Who is the most memorable scientist character to you? What's so special about him?
What scientists - dead, alive or fictional - made a difference in your life?
Is there a scientist you admire? What has he discovered or what is he working on?

This blogfest is as much about fictional science than real one - whichever suits your boat the most. Feel free to take "scientist" in the larger sense of the word. They don't have to be chemist with the beaker in their hands. They can be physicists with wild theories as much as the first mathematicians or philosophers who tried to understand nature. It's a scientist to you? Then it is for me!

Don't forget to join the linky and have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group -- The Language Fear

Dear Insecure Writers,

I like to think I do something extraordinary. I'm writing a novel. It's not a fancy one, with Deep Ideas about Human Nature. Not that there's anything wrong with literary fiction. At all. But I'm not sure I have that fibre in me. I leave it to others, with a better understanding of what makes us human. And while sometimes I'm afraid of people judging me for writing commercial fiction, it's not my biggest fear.

No. I'm afraid they will judge me for writing in English. Quebec's fight for French preservation is old and never-ending. I am proud of my language, of its lyrical sound, of its peculiarities and culture and warmth. I love it. But often, so often, I feel like I'm betraying it. So many words on a page, in English, trampling on a heritage I ought to defend. 

You have to wonder if I'm a hypocrite. I fight for French's correct usage, I preach its presence at work even in English-dominated domains (hello, science), and I believe in immigrants learning it, along with English. French is an integral part of what Quebec is.

Yet when it comes to writing, an art so deeply tied to language, I write my stories in English.
When asked why, I don't know what to answer. Sorry. That's how the story spills. 

But I know I will be judged and critiqued for it. And I'm afraid, so afraid, it will come from my family and friends. That they'll be impressed that I can, disappointed that I did. 

I'm starting to go public with my writing life. Every step – every new person I tell – is terrifying.
I can't express how good it is to have you at my back. You're welcoming, reassuring, energetic, helpful, everything! Thank you for being here. 


P.S.: This is part of Alex J. Cauvanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group, every first Wednesday of the month. Your writing community is a great support for your fears, insecurities, problems. Don't be afraid to call on them, or to help your fellow writers. There are amazing people out there.

P.P.S.: I forgot to mention yesterday that you can vote for the pieces of flash fictions? I'm #214 on the list, if you wanted to go that way. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge - A Flash of Italian-ish Flavour

The first Campaigner Challenge is here! Rules-y:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

You guys can blame Assassin's Creed for the italian names in there. ;)

The door swung open. His chains rattled on the ground as the guards led him out.

Silvio Sergenti kept his fingers in a tight ball around the fabric in his hand. The rough prisoner tunic scratched the soft skin of his noble ass. His underwear was hidden in the pail - all but the bit in his hand, with bloodied words scribbled over it.  They had taken his tongue but it would not silence him.

The bright light outside blinded him. The crowd hooted as they dragged him. They threw rocks, rotten apples and bread. It didn't matter. Silvio held his head high. The de Mezzi branded him a traitor and hunted his family, but their secret would not die with him.

"I will be at your back," Iaccopo had said. To take his words and relay the message.

Silvio Fergenti smiled at the nameless faces, distorted by anger, screaming colourful insults. He dropped the bloodied underwear on the ground. His message. Iacoppo would pick it up.

He took a shambling step forward, towards the noose. His heart twisted. Iacoppo stood there, shook de Mezzi's hand. Smiled. Laughed.

He would be at his back, he'd said. Stabbing.

The prison's iron doors swung shut.


Tada! The Campaign's Challenge page is here. Hope you enjoyed!

EDIT: I forgot to say, I'm #214 on that list, if you wanted to vote. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back on the Blog

Wow, what a week. I'm sorry I missed the promised post last week but with the way my life went, it was the last thing on my mind.

But hey. I survived and I finished Camp NaNoWriMo in time. Huzzah!

In the meantime, Annalise Green tagged me for a 10 Random Facts Meme, which I will gladly do. You should check her out, because in the last week I've seen talk of Phoenix Wright, scary monsters, Earthbound, coffee and, of course, writing. All things that are downright awesome. (Also, she slays dragons with lasers. Epic.)

Also in the list of awesome writers discovered through the Campaign is Ari Susu-Mago, who just passed the Liebster award over here again.  Thanks a lot! Among other things, she posted this fascinating video. Sharing-worthy!

Now on to the ten facts, hm?

1. I love the letter W. I don't know why. It's one of those irrational, quirky love I carry around. It's a rare letter in French (worth 10 points in Scrabble), which is happily not the case in English. I once spent 20 minutes of walk making long W alliterations.

2. I used to think I'd read a lot of fantasy until I started hanging around fantasy writing communities. Then I realised I was missing out on most of the genre. It was one of the happiest discovery of my life.

3. I once joked to my ex that "Purple was Evil" in a very random context. The joke went viral in my circles of friends. All of them. Today Purple is my favourite colour (along with orange!)

4. I start school tomorrow!!!! I've been waiting for this day for about a month now. Although one could say that since this is the start of my Creative Program, I've been waiting for it for a year and a half.

5. My biochemistry program almost killed my love for science. Now that I'm (nearly) done, and with this blog frequently posting about it, I am finally rediscovering why it makes me so giddy.

6. I'm a squid. I even have a squid hat (which is cuddly and makes a wonderful pillow). True story.

7. I have Einstein in my bedroom. Not a poster. Not a plush. A puppet. It is from Prague, renowned for its puppet, and I love it to pieces. Best birthday gift ever! Look:

8. I haven't written a word in about a week now, and it feels so good. It was time for me to take a break. Apparently said break is called Minecraft.

9. I love to wake a hour earlier than I need to and enjoy my coffee and breakfast, read my newspaper and take it easy. It relaxes and awakens me. I don't do this often enough.

10. My bloganniversary is coming and I am planning something for you guys. Oh yes. To Be Announced this week or the next!