Friday, October 30, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Transgender Genetics

From Open Minded Health, early research on the genetic differences between cis and trans men and women. We don't know what these findings mean...yet.

The science of transgender is still in its infancy, but evidence so far points to it being biological. Differences in brain have been seen, and I’ve covered them before here on OMH. However, genetic evidence is also being published!
This week, let’s take a look at CYP17. CYP17 is a gene that makes enzymes that are part of sex hormone synthesis. Mutations in CYP17 have been noted in some intersex conditions, such as adrenal hyperplasia.
Now, there’s a SNP that’s been noticed in CYP17. SNPs are “single nucleotide polymorphisms”, which takes some explaining. SNPs are very, very tiny mutations in genes — just one letter in the DNA alphabet changes! SNPs don’t usually change the protein that the gene makes very much.
So we have this gene — CYP17, that is involved in making sex hormones. And we have this tiny mutation, this SNP. Now let’s look at the science!
Specifically, let’s look at this one study that was published back in 2008. They looked at the CYP17 gene in 102 trans women, 49 trans men, 756 cis men, and 915 cis women. They compared the CYP17 of trans women to cis men, and trans men to cis women. Unlike many studies, this comparison makes sense. We’re talking about the DNA in the genes here, not something that’s changed by hormonal status.
They found multiple things:
  • There was no difference between trans women and cis men
  • Trans men were more likely to have a SNP in their CYP17 than cis women were.
  • Cis men, trans women, and trans men all had the SNP more frequently than cis women
What does that mean?
We don’t know yet. But it does appear that CYP17 is a gene that it might be worth looking deeper into to find potential causes for transgender.
Want to read the study for yourself? The abstract is publicly available.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kobo Storewide Ebook Sale

Check out my ebooks at the Kobo Storewide Ebook Sale! Here's the link to my books.

Kobo is a multinational ebook vendor and for the next few days they’re offering indie-published ebooks at 50% off. Be aware that Kobo ebooks are in EPUB format only, so you’ll need a compatible e-reader or app.

Here's the skinny:

Customers will be able to redeem 50% off of any title published by KWL using the promo codes below an unlimited number of times—so please, let your readers and fans know about this incredible opportunity to stack up on eBooks while they can! Unlike last time, the sale runs in different dates by territory, and each territory has its own promo code. See below for the full details.

Canada: October 28th – October 31st
Promo Code: CA50SALE

United States/Australia/New Zealand: October 27th – October 30th
Promo Code: GET50SALE

United Kingdom: October 30th – November 2nd
Promo Code: UK50SALE
Promo code is valid for 50% off select eBook purchases from this list. Discount will be confirmed at checkout. Offer valid from October 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST through October 31, 2015 at 11:59 PM EST. This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other offer or promotion and cannot be used to adjust amount paid on previous purchases. Promo code must be entered at time of purchase to qualify for this discount. Discounts cannot be applied nor the discount value refunded once a purchase is complete. Rakuten Kobo Inc. reserves the right to change or cancel this offer at any time without notice.

Realms of Darkover Table of Contents

I'm thrilled with this lineup, if I do say so myself, says the editor. Realms of Darkover will be released in May 2016. I'll be posting interviews with the authors and other tidbits as the time approaches.

  • Tainted Meat, by Shariann Lewitt           
  • Snow Dancing, by Jane M. H. Bigelow
  • Impossible Tasks by Marella Sands
  • The Snowflake Fallacy, by Michael Spence
  • Old Purity, by Leslie Fish
  • A Walk In The Mountains, by Margaret L. Carter and Leslie Roy Carter
  • The Fifth Moon, by Ty Nolan
  • Sudden Tempest, by Deborah Millitello
  • Housebound, by Diana L. Paxson
  • Sea of Dreams, by Robin Wayne Bailey                                      
  • Stormcrow, by Rosemary Edghill and Rebecca Fox
  • Fiona, Court Clerk in Training, by Barb Caffrey

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pearls of Fire, Dreams of Steel Story Notes

I love reading "the stories behind the stories," so here are some background musings from the stories
in my new collection from Book View Cafe, Pearls of Fire, Dreams of Steel.


As I put together this collection of short fantasy fiction, I realized it comprises a retrospective of my writing career. Although it does not include my very first professional sale (“Imperatrix” in Sword & Sorceress), it spans the decades from novice to seasoned writer. To my delight, I found many of those early stories still spoke to me—delighted me—as much now as when I labored to create them. Often the output of a young writer will be justifiably relegated to the Trunk of Doom (hence the term “trunk stories”). When we’re learning new skills, we need to practice, and not all of those early experiments succeed. More than that, in order to grow as artists, we need to take risks, to “push the envelope,” even if it means falling flat on our faces, so to speak. But it does not follow that every early effort is best forgotten. Stories ignite within us, waiting to take shape on paper. Once we have acquired a certain basic level of craft, it no longer matters if this is our first sale or our fortieth. And one of the gifts of new publishing technologies is the ability to revive those stories, even from decades ago, so that new generations of readers can enjoy them.

“Storm God,” “Fireweb,” and “Dragon-Amber” all come from those early years, when I was trying out lots of new ideas. Astute readers will recognize a touch of a well-known American folk tale in “Storm God.” “Fireweb” was an early exploration of the “wounded healer” theme, and also taught me that whatever I thought a story was “about” when I started writing it, I was sure to be wrong; I developed the wisdom to let the “underneath” story tell itself. When I wrote “Dragon-Amber,” it seemed as if everyone and their cousin was writing stories based on Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern” series. True to my contrary nature, I insisted on something different. No oversized fire-breathing flying reptiles here, but a creature of magic nonetheless.

“Bread and Arrows” and “Nor Iron Bars A Cage” were written within a couple of years of one another. Both stories arose from a turning point in my life. When I wrote it, I had just moved from a large city to a redwood forest. I’d started a full-time day job to support myself and my younger daughter. It’s about new beginnings, and also making choices that close off other avenues. “Bread and Arrows” echoes “Summoning the River” (Transfusion and Other Tales of Hope) in its journey into a dark place, grappling with loss and mortality. I also wanted a different role for the charismatic, sexually attractive stranger; Celine looks beneath the handsome exterior to the suffering man, and draws compassion from her own struggle. And the bakery salamander was irresistible!

Monday, October 26, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Brenda Clough on "Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?" (part 4)

Writer and Book View Cafe member Brenda Clough shares insights on how she comes up with names for characters, places, and more!

Shakespeare mavens know that the question in the blog title does not mean, “Where are you, Romeo?” (Clue: there is no comma between ‘thou’ and ‘Romeo’.) Juliet is asking, “Why are you
Romeo?” Why is a person or a character named what he is named?

Names, even in real life, tell us far more than you would expect. Have a look at this: a study in which scientists can use your name to, possibly, determine your age, your job, what state you live in, even your political leanings. Some fascinating bubble charts here, showing the popularity of certain names over time!

Does this mean that your Republican hero from Decatur, Georgia really has to be named Duane Bailey? Oh, I hope not. Remember what Juliet tells us in the very next line: that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. People are amazingly sensitive about names, although IMO these people have taken it too far — Heaven ordained nicknames for just their situation. And I would never in a thousand years do this. A contest to name the protagonist? A character with whom I am going to be spending the next year of my mental life, whose every dream, digestive upset, sexual encounter and trauma from birth to grave I am going to invent out of whole cloth? I would never hand over such power to anyone; I shall reign like Alexander, and I shall reign alone.

You can’t pick the name for your hero off a list. (More football coaches are named Michael than Gordon. But not every football coach is named Michael, and there’s probably a Coach Gordon on a gridiron somewhere.) You should think about it. Ponder all the implications well, because now the big data researchers can tell you precisely why it’s not convincing when you change Romeo’s name to Duane..

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest.
Her novel How Like a God, forthcoming from Book View Cafe, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pearl of Fire, Dreams of Steel Table of Contents

Here's the lineup for my forthcoming (October 27) collection of short fantasy stories, from Book View Cafe. Many, but not all, of these stories made their first appearances in the anthology series Sword & Sorceress, many of them under my former name, Deborah Wheeler. For some, this is the first time they've been reprinted anywhere and the original volumes are hard to find. One of the things I love about epublishing is the opportunity to keep gems from the past available to today's readers. 

Bread and Arrows
A Hunter of the Celadon Plains
Storm God
Nor Iron Bars A Cage
Poisoned Dreams
The Sorceress’s Apprentice
Under the Skin
Our Lady of the Toads
Pearl of Fire
Pearl of Tears
Dragon Amber
The Casket of Brass
The Hero of Abarxia

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pearls of Fire, Dreams of Steel Cover Reveal

On October 27 -- that's next Tuesday -- Book View Cafe will release my latest short story collection, Pearls of Fire, Dreams of Steel. I've drawn together short fantasy fiction from over the (many) years of my professional career, choosing stories that still delight me. Here is the cover, designed by Amy Sterling Casil (and I'll post the ToC in just a bit):

What do you think?

BVC's bookstore doesn't permit pre-orders, alas, but I will remind you as the day arrives!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NaNoWriMo Thoughts

National Novel Writing Month will soon be upon us. It's an international month-long event in which
folks pound out the first draft of a novel, posting the progress, getting lots of cheers every step of the way, and exchanging writing advice. Lots of friends will be doing it, many of them regular participants.

Alas, or perhaps not alas, not me.

I always have specific reasons. This year, I'm very close to finishing a revision of an on-spec novel that I've been working on for some years now, in the time gaps between contracted projects. I'm on the brink of the climactic scene, which spans 4 or 5 chapters and brings together everything that has gone before with a bang and a few nifty twists. If I nail it, the book works. Needless to say, this book not only haunts my every waking hour but has inveigled itself into my dreams. Not the story, mind you -- the writing and revising of it.

I began this book back in 2013 on a lark, one of those what-if ideas that just takes off on its own. It had been a long time since I'd embarked upon an unoutlined, unplanned, seat-of-the-pants story, especially one of novel length. I had not realized how much my creative spirit needed what I call taking a flying leap off the cliff of reality. Working on my netbook, I continued the draft while taking care of my best friend as she died of cancer. The story, with all its open possibilities -- and it had quite a few surprises for me -- gave me an emotional refuge so that I could return, "batteries recharged," to be present with my friend and her family.

Am I going to set this aside and lose all the momentum I've regained during this revision?

Monday, October 19, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Brenda Clough on Naming Places (part 3)

Writer and Book View Cafe member Brenda Clough shares insights on how she comes up with names for characters, places, and more!

Whatever or whoever your characters are, they need a setting. A country, a town, a space ship, a country-western bar.As with other names, there is a major divide here — the ones that exist in the real world, and the ones that you make up. In this day of interconnectivity, it takes maybe five minutes to find the top-rated Chicago-style pizza restaurant in downtown Ulan Baator or the highlands just outside Luang Prabang. Just fish it up off of Yelp, and send your characters over for a pie and a brew. You can probably view the menu on the restaurant’s web site, look at the street facade through Google, and email the owner for permission to reproduce the sign on the book cover.

But sometimes it is preferable that a place not actually exist in the real world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

[links] Wonderful Things in the Sky and Elsewhere

First, a beautiful image of the Trifid Nebula to brighten your day:

Mountains of opaque dust appear on the right, while other dark filaments of dust are visible threaded throughout the nebula. A single massive star visible near the center causes much of the Trifid's glow.
 Thank you, Hubble Space Telescope!

From Open Minded Health: Article Review: Sexual Orientation Identity Disparities in Awareness and Initiation of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Among U.S. Women and Girls
Human Papilloma Virus
Lesbian, bisexual, and straight women had heard of the HPV vaccine. There was no difference there. However, 28% of straight women, 33% of bisexual women and 8.5% of lesbian women received the HPV vaccine. That’s 8.5% of lesbians vs 28-33% of non-lesbian women. Why?? Lesbians are at risk for HPV infection too!

In case you despaired of there being no new animal species left to be discovered, here is a beautiful new species of lemur:

About the size of a small squirrel, the animal weighs 250-310 g. It is reddish-brown in color with a white underside and has brownish-black rings around the eyes.

This galaxy (MBM 54) in the constellation Perseus isn't really awash in dust.  

The faint but pervasive clouds of interstellar dust ride above the galactic plane and dimly reflect the Milky Way's combined starlight. Known as high latitude cirrus or integrated flux nebulae they are associated with molecular clouds.

Monday, October 12, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Brenda Clough on Names in Fantasy and Science Fiction (part 2)

Writer and Book View Cafe member Brenda Clough shares insights on how she comes up with names for characters, places, and more!

You write fantasy or science fiction novels. And, unless you write very philosophical Olaf-Stapledon
type fiction about colliding universes and enormous spans of time, you have created science-fictional or fantasy characters — elves, Klingons, Martians, Wookkies. They need names — and this time you cannot resort to Robert, Mildred and Susie!

This is particularly hard for those of us who need to have the names in hand before starting to write. Because names imply enormous things. We do not notice this so much, because modern Western culture pervades all we see and do so thoroughly. But step out for a moment. You don’t need a rocket ship and FTL to travel to another world. All you need do is learn another language and culture. And suddenly names mean something different. Paul Atreides changes his name to Paul Muad’Dib in Dune. The change of name shows the spiritual change. Or open your newspaper. Some Midwestern kid moved to Syria yesterday and joined ISIS. What did he do, just before that? He changed his name from Jason to Ali.

So, somehow, before you’ve invented the world, figured out the plot, or anything, you need a character. And to handle him you need a handle — a name. In fact in inventing this name all the rest will follow: because the world is encapsulated in the name, and the name embodies character which will inevitably lead you to plot. Pantsers have it hard! But even if you are not a pantser — names are so important that you might well start here as well. J.R.R. Tolkien had Middle Earth and its languages mapped out in fanatical detail long before he sat down to write The Hobbit. But to start that work he needed Bilbo Baggins, who is not (as Gandalf notes) in any of the material about the Eldar at all. All those appendices at the back of LOTR, they were not the story. Bilbo was the story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Guest Blog: Article Review: Differences in Health Risk Behaviors Across Understudied LGBT Subgroups

From Open Minded Health: 

480px-RGB_LED_Rainbow_from_7th_symmetry_cylindrical_gratingI’ve been saying for years now that the phrase “LGBT community” is insufficient when it comes to health. It’s not one community — it is multiple communities. The social issues and health issues that a gay transgender man faces every day are different from the issues a bisexual cisgender woman faces every day. There are some similarities and grouping the communities together has been politically useful. But it should never be forgotten that L, G, B, and T all face different types of health concerns and have different civil rights battles to face.
A study came out in August that has to be one of my favorites this year. Researchers in Georgia surveyed over three thousand lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer people. They asked about health behaviors of all kinds. And then they did statistical analysis, comparing the various genders (cis male, cis female, trans male, trans female, genderqueer) and sexual orientations (lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, straight). Let’s look at what they found!
  • Diet and exercise: The researchers asked about fatty foods, eating while not hungry, quantity of vegetables and fruits eaten, and about hours and types of exercise. Transgender women had the least healthy diet of all genders. As a group, they were less likely to eat many fruits and vegetables, and more likely to drink sugared drinks and eat when they weren’t hungry. Both cisgender and transgender men were also less likely to eat many vegetables compared with other groups. Genderqueer people and gay cisgender men were most likely to exercise.

Monday, October 5, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Brenda Clough on Naming Characters (Part 1)

Writer and Book View Cafe member Brenda Clough shares insights on how she comes up with names for characters, places, and more! This is the first of a series. Welcome, Brenda!

You write a novel. Naturally it has characters. And those characters need names! Let us set aside for some other day the issue of creating fantasy names, and consider today only naming characters with cognomens that already exist.

Depending upon how you roll, this usually comes very early in the writing process. For me it comes before beginning the writing at all; if I don’t know the character’s name I cannot write. I can get away without looking at my hero for many thousands of words. I was more than halfway through the first draft of How Like A God before I thought to actually cast the authorial gaze upon my hero; I knew what all the other characters looked like because I was using his viewpoint, but he had never done the old look-in-a-mirror stunt. (When I did look I was astonished, and marked the place in the text.)

But there are a number of factors to consider. The most important of course is time and place. A work that takes place on Mars in AD 2502 is going to have a differently-named cast than a work that is set
in 1741 in Wales. Given names especially come and go in fashion in an easily-charted way. You can search on it and kick up sites that will graph for you the popularity of, say, John as a name for boys over the centuries. Certain names are highly redolent of their time. Consider my own. Every Brenda you are ever likely to meet is between 50 and 70, because that was when that given name was in fashion. Nearly all Lindas are the same, whereas a Madison was surely born the year after Splash and is around 30 years old today. You therefore are foolish indeed to name your Elizabethan heroine Brenda or Madison, and if the novel is set in ancient Rome, all I can say is for god’s sake don’t! Rome, like many other non-Western cultures, had its own naming conventions which you should research carefully.

Surnames, if your characters need them, are also a challenge. An old writer trick if you need foreign names is to look up categories of people — sports figures, say, or members of the state legislature, or plumbers. You need a Czech villain? Find the list of the members of the Czechoslovak Olympic soccer team from the 1950s. Plenty of nicely authentic surnames and given names will pop up, and a little slicing and dicing will get you a correctly-named supervillain. The great Georgette Heyer derived all her realistically-English titles for the earls and dukes of her fiction by plundering maps — all the names are obscure villages in the English countryside.

Beyond that, the vagaries of naming a character are mysterious — an art rather than a science. My heroine is staying with an elderly Frenchwoman. When the character was named Solange she was tall. Now she is renamed Cresside, and she is shorter. If I rename her again to Yvette she will be shorter yet. How do I know this? Why is it so? I have no idea. At some point the Muse takes charge of the process, and I have to let her do that. A rose by any other name does not smell quite as sweet.

All names, and in fact all terms and invented places, should be shoved through Google. If someone with your hero’s name was just executed in Beijing for sex crimes, you want to know this. You say nobody will likely notice? It is possible you will sell those Chinese-language rights, you know.

Oh, and one more very important tip: when you change her name from Cresside to Yvette, go through the ms with care. Do a Global Search and Replace, but then reread it. There are sad stories about writers who changed the hero from Richard to Wallace on page 200 but didn’t do a Search and Replace. The readers were confused!

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest.
Her novel How Like a God, forthcoming from Book View Cafe, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.