Saturday, February 24, 2007

Car Talk, Redux

When I was actively promoting The Gift Horse, I made a speech I call “Car Talk” to some civic groups. Within it, I postulate that cars convey character, just like hairstyle, clothing, jewelry, or some other prop. Having Angie drive a Mazda Miata helps convey that she is sleek and sexy, but no nonsense.

I came to the conclusion that cars reflect the people who drive them over the years of my life, and although there are times when the car and the person don’t seem to go together, more often than not, they do.

Recently, my hubby and I went through a period of car talk for our family, because daughter turned sixteen, and with a bit of cajoling, she managed to pass the driver’s test. Now, neither of us have pushed her to get in the car and just go, but we came to the realization that without a car to call her own, she wasn’t driving enough to keep her skills up, much less improve them.

So, it was time to seek a car for our teenager. If course, it is a financial burden to add to the automotive stable, so we looked for something used. Each of us had priorities for this purchase. Hubby wanted it to have antilock brakes and for it to be under a certain price point. Mom wanted plenty of air bags, decent fuel economy, and utter reliability. Daughter was more interested in style, color, and condition. We did visit CarMax, but the threesome couldn’t agree on anything there.

I drive a Honda Odyssey, which lacks style, but seats seven, has 240 horsepower, and it can haul a boat load of stuff, which suits me. While at the dealership for a routine service, I asked what was on the used lot, and we found a certified used Civic EX, which seemed to fulfill most of our requirements. This little gem has a four cylinder engine which produces 127 horsepower and EPA estimates of 32/37 mpg, has a really decent interior, and a sunroof. On the road, there is a bit of engine roar as the free spinning engine pulls willingly, and more road noise than I’ve heard in many years. That’s not a complaint, but an observation. The large cars and vans I’ve been driving are more luxurious, and therefore quiet inside, but the Civic is more like a go cart, nimble and just plain fun to drive.

As I drove it home, I found myself thinking that when my van’s days are gone, I will strongly consider a Civic, because it is the best way I’ve seen to save gas and have a good time driving, other than two-wheeled transportation. For this Honda, you don’t have to have a rainsuit.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Space Opera is Alive and Well!

One of the Yahoo groups to which I subscribe is for fans of Romantic Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is something I often read for fun. There are several sub genres within this off shoot of SF, including paranormal romances, various versions of fantasy, futuristic romances, and space operas. Some of the newbies to that list have been asking for recommendations for lovers of space opera, so the old hands (including yours truly) have been making lists of our favorite titles, authors, and series. No such list could be complete without the space operas of Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Catherine Asaro, and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

However, many of the titles we were mentioning have been around for several years. Bujold began her Vorkosigan series in the mid-eighties and has been writing fantasy of late. Elizabeth Moon has a new series going which is good, if not quite as memorable as some of her previous efforts. Weber’s works have suffered from bloating and poor editing for some time, so I only mention his earlier works when I make such a list. Asaro seems to be publishing more than ever, and she has multiple story arcs going with multiple publishing houses. Her Skolian series is in the best tradition of space operas. Lee and Miller’s Liaden series is getting a bit long in the tooth, but I love their characters, and it is a real pleasure to introduce them to new readers.

Space opera was once a derisive term, a sort of blending of soap opera and bad science fiction, wherein all sorts of license is taken to create action filled plots, and an attitude which says, “who cares if the physics works?” With the popularity of Star Trek on the small screen and Star Wars on the big screen, space opera has become much more main stream.

In literature, too, the space opera seems to be doing quite well. Baen Books specializes in this genre, and some interesting new ventures are embracing it as well. A new ezine, RayGun Revival, has some gorgeous artwork and publishes serials, short fiction, and even a poem now and then. This one, obviously, is going for a retro look and feel. A very new site, the Quantum Kiss is devoting itself to romantic science fiction, and I am interested to see how that will take shape. I’ve mentioned eBooks in other posts, but some of the best electronic titles belong to some sub-genre of SF.

Of course, my own Trinity on Tylos pays homage to the science fiction stories of yesteryear, as well as focusing on themes which matter in our time, including the concepts of sacrifice and the survival of a species.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

The Gift Horse video is now on YouTube

I’ve noticed that some of my favorite authors have their latest book offerings advertised on YouTube via short videos. Some of these are professionally produced, while others are “homemade and handy” but either way, readers now have even more ways to see what favorite authors are doing. This is really an interesting idea, and I have wondered if there is any return on investment for those authors who are paying marketing firms to produce their trailers.

My efforts are lower tech and much lower in cost. Indeed, the one for Trinity on Tylos was basically free, since I used photos which were released as a service to the general public by NASA, and audio from one of the “podsafe” sites where indie artists post their tracks.

Since The Gift Horse is contemporary suspense, I purchased royalty-free stock pics and used another freebie audio track.

To see the video for The Gift Horse, please follow this link:
To see the video for Trinity on Tylos, please follow this link:

And while you are there, check out your favorite authors, or simply search for book trailer and browse away.


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tech Toys

When I was a highschool yearbook advisor, I usually shot somewhere between forty and fifty rolls of film each school year, especially action sports. Really, it was easier to shoot those pictures than to teach photography to teenagers. After the first couple of years, I learned to do a one or two day seminar on how to take candids and groups, and I just did the rest myself. For almost a decade, I used a Canon Elan camera, with a 35-135 zoom lens and a honking big Canon Speedlight, which would illuminate at least forty feet of the football field or all the way to center court for basketball.

The Elan is dead now, the victim of a problem with the shutter, but I recently replaced my aging Fuji digital camera, with a Canon A630. I liked the Fuji quite a lot, but daughter was a bit too vigorous trying to plug in a USB cable and bent the prongs in the receptor, so I decided to buy a camera for me and me alone. This Canon is a compact camera with a nifty swing out and swivel display, a real viewfinder, and a 4x zoom, which isn’t much different from the one I used for so many years. Even with 8 mega pixels and a large screen, it weighs less than the zoom lens of my old outfit, and it has controls which are not that different from my old Elan. Ironically, this device cost less than a third of what I paid for my Elan with a zoom lens and flash.

In an earlier entry I mentioned my Palm PDA, which I still use for eBooks and other tasks. I hear that the eBookwise marketed by Fictionwise is great, but I like having a multipurpose device. Being able to read at night, without turning on a light, is one of the best reasons to use the Palm; however, having a calendar, an address book, an alarm, and notepad are helpful extras.

Also in a previous entry I mentioned buying an HP printer, a Photosmart 3210, which scans, copies, and prints with speed and style. Unlike my previous Epson all in one, the HP cartridges have the print head built in, so you get a new head with every new cartridge. Color laser is becoming affordable for the home market, but low volume users will get quite a bit of bang for their bucks with a good quality HP inkjet. This machine is handling my printing and scanning chores, and it does have card slots for printing pix from the Canon. Some folks have reported paper handling problems with this unit, but I haven’t had many of those. To be fair, I did like the Epson’s software better.

Rounding out the list is TiVo, which is an amazing device. Trying to explain it to hubby was difficult. “Honey, we can pause the ball game when your mother calls and go right back to it when she finally hangs up!” Once he got the picture, we got the device, and now television is catching up to the digital age, and in-laws can still be a pain, but we get to see all of our favorite shows. My kids love this thing, too, so despite having four tv sets, hubby and I have to fight to see the one hooked to the TiVo.

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