Category Archives: Awesome News

Time to Edit

Time to Edit

A spot of joy in my crazy little world occurred last night when I realized I had written the last words in the last chapter that still “needed something.”

Schicksal Turnpike is now ready for editing!

I will accomplish this in several steps…

  1. A read-aloud edit. This will include my husband, which accomplishes the dual purpose of letting him hear it audiobook style (something he prefers over conventional reading) and the act of editing it on the fly. Saying it out loud really helps get any awkward word combinations out of there.
  2. Beta readers who will also edit. I’ve got three lined up, ready and willing. I’ll ask them to read through it, note anything that is misspelled or awkward sounding, any conflicting information, and also ask them to write a few descriptive sentences. What was it about? What did they like about it? What did they not like?
  3. After I’ve updated the manuscript with any fixes they have found, it will be ready for content and line editing.
  4. Then a cover letter and prep for packaging.

Yep, I’m going shopping for an agent. You hear that, Casie Blevins? I’m going shopping for an agent!

A couple of weeks of reading out loud and edits and it will be off to my army of beta readers.

Prepare yourselves!

And if you are interested in joining my army of beta readers extraordinaire, volunteer by commenting on this post or sending me a message through Facebook. You can find me here: Facebook Author Page

December Update

December Update

What Do I Have to Lose?

Back when I was preparing Gliese 581: Departure for it’s final revision and upload to Amazon, a friend of mine said, “Wait! Why aren’t you sending this to a publisher or agent?”

I thought about it for a few minutes and replied, “I’ve just never had luck with traditional publishers. And I guess the idea of going to an agent and asking them ‘pretty please’ to take 20% of any potential income just seems silly to me.”

My friend was concerned for me, though. “It’s a good story, it has such potential. Aren’t you limiting yourself by self-publishing?”

And, as much as I would like it, the chances of me becoming a female Hugh Howey (author of Wool, which went viral and ended up earning him a publishing contract) are pretty small.

So I told myself I would give it six months.

My first fiction book, War’s End: The Storm, sits at six reviews. My second work fiction, the sequel to The Storm, A Brave New World, sits at five reviews on Amazon.

So in terms of total reviews, Gliese 581: Departure, now at 21 reviews, has been a screaming success. And I’ve made about half of my investment back (not counting hours put in writing and editing) so that’s something.

But it is time to push it out into the bigger world.

I bundled it up and mailed it to a potential publisher today. They may look at it and say, “Wait? It’s already self-published? Forget it!”

And if they pitch it into the circular file and move on, I’ll try again. After all, the postage was right at $3.00 when you include the SASE. They may say “no” – and the next guy might say “yes.”

Being self-published, having the book up on Amazon, might be a death knell. But then again, it might not. The times, they are a-changing and self-publishing is slowly becoming less of a bad thing.

We will see, I guess. What do I have to lose?

Two Weeks of Writing Immersion

I have declared us done with homeschooling until after the New Year. Specifically, nothing but fun and relaxation from now until Tuesday, January 3rd for the kiddo.

And that means I get to write!

I am hoping I can knock out a good chunk of the needed parts of Schicksal Turnpike in the next two weeks. I would love to have it edited and some advance reader copies out there and ready with reviews by the time I upload the book to Amazon in the spring.

A Special Present – Just For You

A few years ago, long before I finished Gliese 581: Departure, I wrote a short story titled Forward Reach. It is set approximately 30 years after the events chronicled in Departure. It has been sitting there, unloved, in a file folder on my computer for far too long.

Earth after the devastating plague is a very different one from the Earth of today. The image of families, of mothers and fathers raising 2.4 children is a thing of the past and Forward Reach offers a glimpse into that world, and the effects of the planetary breeding and repopulation program.

On Christmas Day, as my present to you, you will be able to read the story here.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Edits and Free Days

Edits and Free Days
Edits and Free Days

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Free Days Start Tomorrow

I will be offering War’s End: The Storm for free Kindle download for the next three days. At this time, all of my books are part of Kindle Unlimited, so if you are a subscriber (just $9.95 per month!) you can always read my books for free.

However, if you are not a KU subscriber, then get the book while the getting is good!

If you have read Gliese 581 and are wondering what the references to The Collapse and the Second American Civil War are all about – War’s End: The Storm will explain it. Beginning in 2017, this book serves as witness to the socioeconomic collapse of the United States and the civil war that follows.

In the day after tomorrow, after the socioeconomic collapse of the United States, one young girl fights for survival. Violently ripped from her family, abused and now pregnant, Jess must somehow survive while fleeing those who pursue her. Jess must come to peace with the life growing inside her as she struggles to return home.

So get it while the getting is good – starting Wednesday and ending on Friday!

Kaplaran Universe

Schicksal Turnpike

Dee, my editor extraordinaire, has returned the first draft of Schicksal Turnpike to me. I’m reading through her suggestions now and will begin working on edits this week. My hope is to have the book done and on Amazon by early fall, but we will see what happens. Deadlines are flexible things.

Schicksal will serve as the prelude to The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, which is somewhat of a prequel to War’s End.

And for those of you chomping at the bit for a sequel to Gliese…all in good time, all in good time. There is a method to my madness.

It is still madness, but that’s okay, a writer is allowed some lunacy, don’t you think?

Project Funding

I am doing the last bit of prep on two different crowdfunding campaigns – Kiva and IndieGoGo. The reality of the matter is, I need to do something with The Cottage at the end of our property, and that means raising money. I mention it here simply because I’m mentioning it EVERYWHERE. I’m drumming up support and encouraging folks to contribute.

When it comes to Kiva, you get your money back, 100% of it.

With IndieGoGo, you are receiving perks in return for your contributions – everything from unique art to night’s stays at The Cottage once the renovations are completed.

So you aren’t sending money out into the abyss to never be seen again. I want to stress that because it is important to me that others understand I’m not looking for handouts. This won’t just help me and bring me income, it will also bring worth to my neighborhood and community.

Stay tuned!

Someday I Will Look Back

Someday I Will Look Back

Someday I will look back and remember how it felt with those first books, waiting, nail-biting, hoping, pestering…for folks to read and review my stories.

I will remember how it felt to question myself, to wonder if I had any stories worth telling.

I will think of how it felt to see the reviews roll in, one at a time, where weeks stretched and my fears grew once again…that I had been mistaken, that this was all a very nice try, pat me on the head, chuck me on the chin, and tell me “Atta girl, you keep writing those words and someday, someday maybe you will be good enough.”

I will look back.

And I will smile.

I won’t take it for granted, I won’t let it go to my head.

I’ll be grateful…

Just like I am in this moment. The rain is falling outside, steady, as it has all day. Damned if we didn’t need it, it has been so dry. Occasionally there are bursts of fireworks in the distance.

This day, as it comes inexorably to a close, was our tenth wedding anniversary, complete with a decent lunch and a ridiculous movie (Julie Hennessy, if you are reading this, I still went and saw it even after you told me not to bother!).

I have seventeen reviews now.

And I hope to see many more. Another 83 would make me very happy. I’ll get there eventually.

For now though, I have at least seventeen people who have taken the time to read my book and post a review on Amazon. And I have to tell you, I’m grateful to every single one of them.

Damn, What a Ride!

Damn, What a Ride!

I have lived this moment before, I’m pretty sure I have. Yet, every time it hits me, it feels new, transformative even.

The past few days have been absolutely incredible. The words have pushed, shoved, screamed at me to get out on the page. They march out, like a tiny army of ants, ready to conquer the blank pages, and fill the screen.

There are moments when I think that becoming a writer is some awful form of self-torture. Those moments when you sit there, staring at a blank screen thinking, “How the hell do I get Y character from Point A to Point B?”

There are times when the dialogue is so stilted, my ideas and thoughts so scattered that I’m ready to commit seppeku. Seriously, hand me that sword.

And then there are those rare moments, words wrapped in joy, that fall onto the page.

I can’t properly describe it, but when it occurs, the only thing I can do is hang on and WRITE. As fast as possible, notes everywhere, words, phrases, connections – they dance, DANCE out of me in a flood.

And in that moment, everything in my life makes sense. As if every moment I have lived up until this time has brought me inexorably to this place, where the stories breed, the characters laugh, love and hate.

I swear, I could stand on top of a mountain and sing like that overly happy woman on The Sound of Music.

Let me tell you, sometimes writing is one hell of a ride.

p.s. I expect to have the first draft of Schicksal Turnpike done this weekend

Jumping Into Orbit with an Astronomer ROCK STAR

Jumping Into Orbit with an Astronomer ROCK STAR

I’m feeling like I have just attained super-geek status right now. Giggly, “Oh my God, he spoke to me” kind of feeling. Step into a room and find greatness, kind of thing.

So let me explain.

When the news that a possible earth-like planet in the Gliese system was announced back in 2010, I was instantly captivated. Dr. Steve Vogt was in the news as he described his team’s findings. Fascinated by the idea, and with a story of a trip to this unknown and distant planet bouncing about in my head, I emailed Dr. Vogt.

Despite his busy, busy life fielding press and probably other dreamy-eyed writers like me, he wrote me back, which was amazingly kind.

When news of a Swiss team disproving his findings broke, and the news pilloried Dr. Vogt, I’ll admit, my project came to a standstill. I know it sounds silly, considering I’m a fiction writer and  all, but I actually wondered how I could write a story about Gliese 581g if the planet itself did not exist!

There was also the pesky problem of not knowing what the conflict point would be in the book, either. I had thought of a saboteur, but I couldn’t figure out what his motivation was.

It would be a couple of years before I saw the news of the James Webb Space Telescope and its scheduled launch date of 2018. I latched onto it immediately, changing the date (due to the conflict of The Collapse and the Second American Civil War in my War’s End books) to 2030. At that time, the increased abilities of the new telescope would “re-discover” Gliese 581.

I combined that with another story that was languishing in my Snippets folder, the Plague Tales, and combined them. The result was Gliese 581: Departure.

On a lark, I sent a second email to Dr. Vogt a few days ago. I wrote:

Dear Dr. Vogt-

Years ago, I emailed you when news of Gliese first broke. You kindly responded to me. I appreciated that, considering how inundated you must have been at the time.
It took a while for my vision of the book to fully form. But I wanted to share the news with you that it finally did. Along the way I spoke with a virologist, two nurses, and researched Chinese burial customs and proper autopsy procedures. Fascinating stuff. Gliese 581: Departure is slowly accumulating reviews. I will admit, that the reports that your findings could not be repeated saddened me – and caused a full stop for a little while on my literary endeavors.
That said, I am pleased to inform you that eventually you will be vindicated. I have attached my book for your reading pleasure. I would be happy to send you a paperback if you would prefer.
This is my first foray into science fiction, but it won’t be my last. I write cross-genre, so I have a Twilight Zone ‘esque novella to finish, and then a [oh dear god] TWELVE book fantasy series after that. But then the way will be free and clear for a sequel to this book.
I wish you well. Please forgive any assumptions this poor author has taken when assigning you descendants. I assure you they are of the highest character.
Best Regards,
Christine Shuck
Author, Community Educator, Homeschool Mom and General Malcontent
And today I received a lengthy response back from Dr. Vogt! I’m so excited to see this, and to learn, to my delight, that the possibility of Gliese 581g is still there!
I will admit to not understanding most of what is surely a dumbed down explanation of astrophysics. I’m including the entire email for your reading pleasure…
Hi Christine,
Nice to hear from you again. Yes, those were some crazy days back in 2010 when we announced GJ581g. I’m glad you decided to go ahead with your Sci-Fi novel. Thanks very much for sending me an advance copy. I will peruse it as soon as I can get some free bandwidth.
You needn’t be saddened about reports that others could not confirm my findings. Let me give you a bit of history and an update that you won’t find in the public media.
We worked on this result for many, many months, playing Devil’s advocate with our data and errors, to convince ourselves that we were on solid ground for claiming the detection of GJ 581g. We then submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal, the world’s premier journal of record for work in my field. It passed two independent peer reviews, both with flying colors. Indeed, our editor was/is also one of the world’s pre-eminent experts in statistical analysis, and literally “wrote the book” on statistical techniques in science. Even he agreed that our detection was rigorously significant using all the usual metrics for false alarms, etc. He even advised us that we were under-selling the confidence level of the detection. It was only after passing this rigorous peer-review process, and the paper was accepted, that we then organized the NSF press release announcement.
Several weeks after our announcement, the Swiss team from Geneva (the only other group then, and now, capable of providing confirmation of such a difficult detection) gave a talk at a conference in Trieste, Italy. At that conference, they verbally stated that they had an additional bunch of 60 new points of data, data that was also superior in quality to ours, and that they saw no evidence of GJ581g in their expanded data set. They did not provide that data in their talk, nor make it available to the public.
We were a bit disappointed in this, but could not respond in any way as they did not divulge any of their data. But we were skeptical, and so we simulated up a data set (actually we simulated 1000 data sets) using Monte Carlo techniques, that had the exact same cadence characteristics (they Swiss HARPS team doesn’t get to observe every day of the month, only in lunar bright time, etc) and signal/noise characteristics as their typical HARPS data. In these mock data sets, we inserted real signals at the periods of all the 4 known planets (b,c,d, and e) plus the ones we had claimed (f, and g). In doing so, we quickly convinced ourselves that, even if the Swiss had 60 more high quality data points, they would not have been able to either refute or confirm GJ581g. So we knew that their claim (that they would have been able to see GJ581g with their expanded, superior data set) was untrue. But since we did not have access to their data, we did not feel we could write this up and get it published in the peer-reviewed literature.
So we sat back, and waited, while we were roundly pilloried in the media about our GJ 518g claim being a false alarm. It was rather frustrating, and we were accused of being scoundrels, of grand-standing in order to get grants renewed, etc. etc. I was accused of making a “mistake” by assuming circular rather than eccentric orbits. All of this was complete and utter nonsense, but that was how it played out. And we just could not join the public discussion to defend our conclusions and data.
So we kept acquiring further precision velocity data on this system, and waited for the Swiss to eventually publish their data set. It took about a year of waiting for the Swiss to submit a preprint to the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, their equivalent of our Astrophysical Journal. That preprint by Forveille et al 2011 is attached fyi. Once we had their actual data set, I set about combining it with our data to do an extremely careful analysis of the joint data set and see what was what.
In doing this detailed analysis, we learned several things. First, the Swiss’s 4-planet Keplerian model was dynamically unstable, and was therefore manifestly unphysical. Secondly, we could not reproduce their values of Chi-squared, and RMS from using their 4-planet Keplerian model as fit to their data set. Digging in further, we realized that this was because they had omitted 5 of their data points from their analysis. These were specifically the 5 data points which had the worst fit to their model. They did this omission without disclosure. Indeed, they even stated in their paper that they had omitted no data points in their analysis.
Once we realized this, we re-did their analysis, including all of their data points, and omitting none. We also included the effects of planet-planet gravitational interaction, something the Swiss had not done, but that is critical for properly modeling this system. That kind of fit is called a dynamically “self-consistent” fit, and is generally not done as it requires a much more sophisticated level of numerical modeling. Anyway, our self-consistent fit, using their expanded data set, combined with our full data set, revealed that, after accounting for the 4 “known” planets b,c,d, and e, a statistically significant signal for planet g still emerged from the data set, with a period of 32-days, and consistent with a planet of minimum mass 2.2 times the mass of the Earth, and smack dab in the liquid water habitable zone. Furthermore, our 5-planet model was statistically superior to that of the Swiss, and was completely dynamically stable.
I wrote this all up and submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal to finally join the debate. Again, it passed several peer-reviews at ApJ, and was soon accepted for publication. Unfortunately, the Swiss’s Forveille et al paper had yet to be accepted by A&A, and to appear in print. So the ApJ editor put our accepted paper on-hold until the Forveille paper appeared in print. So we waited another 6 months.
Eventually, we gave up waiting for the Forveille et al paper to be accepted and to appear in print. And the ApJ editors just would not relent and let us publish until that happened. So we pulled the paper from ApJ and submitted it to Astronomische Nachrichten, a European journal in Potsdam. It passed peer-review and was published in only a few weeks. I attach a copy of that also fyi.
The Forveille et all paper was never accepted nor published. No doubt the A&A editors rejected it and they never re-submitted. They know they were wrong, and we called them out on it publicly. There is little they can say to change that. At the same time, the Swiss have had a habit of making their mistakes just disappear conveniently from the web. So, just in case they did this, I included all of their actual data in our A.N. paper, for all to see, for all time. Anyone can repeat my analysis, with all of the available data, and will come to the same conclusions I did.
So, even though the press has long since moved on and forgotten about GJ581g, the scientific peer-reviewed record shows that our result still stands, our analysis is the last and best word on the reality of GJ581g, and the available data and most sophisticated analyses all indicate that planet g exists, albeit with a slightly smaller period (32d instead of 36d) and slightly smaller mass (2.2 Mearth). What will it take to firmly confirm this planet? That’s a tough one. We already have many hundreds of data points. We’d need more than twice that data set to even begin to make further improvements (as I discussed at the end of our rebuttal paper). Also, this is a particularly complex system in that the 67d orbit could be either circular or eccentric. Slight amounts of eccentricity in the 67d orbit could be used to mask the signal from the 32d. So the reality or not of planet g is coupled to whether or not the 67d planet’s orbit has a small amount of eccentricity. This is a very tough thing to assess, even though we now know from KEPLER results of thousands of exoplanet orbits, that it is most likely that all of these GJ581 orbits are very nearly, if not perfectly circular.
So GJ581g still lives, at least according to the present set of available data, and the best and most sophisticated analyses of those data. But we have moved on to many other systems that are much simpler and easier to confirm. These are systems such as Kapteyn b, GJ 667Cc, GJ667Ce, and GJ667Cf. FYI, a list of these nearest potentially habitable Earth-sized planets can be found here:
Sorry for the long-winded reply. It is not an easy story to tell, and the version that played out in the public media would have one believe that GJ581g was merely a flash in the pan, another debunked result for the dustbin of history. Quite the contrary, it is still alive and well according to the official record, the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
I will read through your novel as soon as I can get some time. In the meantime, I wish you much success with its release. And I’ll keep my eye on the NYT list for its imminent arrival.
With all best regards,
Steve Vogt
So, yeah…My inner fan girl is squealing with excitement.
Let’s be honest, my husband can attest to hearing several squeals of excitement from me. What an amazing guy. He wrote a fantastic, long response and I’m so damned excited – to hear from him, to know that the non-existence of Gliese 581g was erroneously reported, and so much more.
Dr. Vogt, you made my week. I swear I’d hug you if I could.

 

Whew! Almost Done!

Whew! Almost Done!





The (hopefully) final draft is now back in my eldest hands for review and macro edits. Basically, I’ve asked her to make sure that the story is complete and that the chapters make sense in the order I’ve placed them in.

From first edit to this “final” edit, five new chapters were added, along with an additional 13,000 words.

This one has been a tough one, and I’m sincerely hoping it is done. However, I don’t have the perspective, I’m deep in those proverbial trees, so I’m hoping my eldest will see any holes that need filling and point them out for me.

It’s time to start designing the cover art and plan what I’m going to write next.

The Jeff Mizanskey Story?

Chronicles of Liv Rowan – The Glass Forest?

Quit Your Job: Change Your Life?

Historically speaking, to date I’ve alternated between non-fiction and fiction books. I would LOVE to sit down with Jeff Mizanskey and start on a book with him. That would be a fascinating project. For those not familiar with the name, Jeff Mizanskey was incarcerated for over 20 years, given a life sentence with no possibility for parole under the habitual offender law for marijuana possession. Thanks to Show-Me Cannabis, lawyer Dan Viets, Amber Langston, and others’ tireless efforts his sentence was changed to include the possibility of parole and he was released less than two months later.

Jeff is standing by his promise to be an advocate for cannabis reform and has been traveling and speaking in support of it ever since his September release. His experiences in prison and his stance on cannabis reform as well as prison reform would be an excellent book to release now with legislation for marijuana reform in Missouri and other states this year.

Decisions, decisions, decisions!



Forget Eats Shoots and Leaves

Forget Eats Shoots and Leaves

I have found THE ONE and she isn’t in a book.

Forget Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

Forget those evil Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition books from my high school days. [I stop to glare at my bookshelf where four of them are gathering dust on my bookshelves]

Forget all of them.

I have found the answer to my grammar questions, and her name is…

Comma Queen

I think I’m in love.

I started with seeing her definitions and suggested usage of hyphen, n-dash, and m-dash and it completely made sense. LOVED it.

Don’t get me started on how often I overuse ellipses.

Ooh, yeah, no more.

I’m learning.

Go Comma Queen! I LOVE YOU!

Reviews Give Me Incentive

Reviews Give Me Incentive

I can’t help it, I live for the reviews. I really do.

Except when life and other projects distract me, I regularly (okay…obsessively) check Amazon for reviews.

What are they saying? What do they think? Do they like what I wrote? Did it speak to them?

Let’s face it, if I didn’t care what others thought about my books I would probably never publish them to begin with. I wouldn’t see a need to share these stories in my head in such a public way. It isn’t easy to put your baby out there on the big old internet. Who knows if someone will call it ugly, or stupid?

Thankfully, I’ve not had those kind of responses. So the reviews are a little like a drug. I look at them, break them down, read between the lines, and love them – because they have told me my baby is special and unique. This latest one came in yesterday and I wanted to jump up and down because he got it, he really got it and I LOVE that. This in particular was one of the messages I was trying to convey…”It is also about love, and finding family where you least expect.”

Especially with Book 1 – the first couple of chapters are HARD to read. Believe me, they were hard to write, and I struggled with whether or not to include them or take them out and simply hint at them. I still struggle with the decision, because the images they present are gut-wrenching, nauseating, and any parent’s worse nightmare. That said, they set the stage for what is to come. Get past them, move forward, and you will see how important they are to the overall story.

But I digress.

Reading reviews like Joe Midwest USA, reminds me, prods me, and encourages me to keep writing.

Thanks for that…now back to writing…

I Will Be Interviewed on the Radio Tonight

I Will Be Interviewed on the Radio Tonight

I’m terribly excited. This will be the second time I’ve ever been on the radio as a guest – and the first time ever that anyone has interviewed me for my book The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale.

The call for the end of prohibition is really heating up around here. In fact, one organization I follow, Show-Me Cannabis (here in Missouri we are known as the “show me” state), posted recently saying that there is a strong possibility that we could see medical marijuana passed here in Missouri THIS YEAR.

One of the biggest proponents of this legislation is Dan Viets, a lawyer in Columbia, Missouri and a member of the board of directors for Norml.

And he is also the gentleman who will be interviewing me tonight for his show, “Sex, Drugs, and Civil Liberties.” The radio station is in Columbia, so we can’t get it here in Kansas City, but there should be an internet link to either a live feed or an archived version of it after it airs.

If you are interested in learning, check out the live stream at KOPN.org at 7pm CST. It will be archived as well, but that doesn’t happen until a couple of weeks after the show.

I’ve been told that I have a great voice for radio and hopefully I won’t be too nervous when I talk to him.

Here’s to my fifteen minutes of fame…!