Friday, August 7, 2009

Bloggers Beware

From Russian Notes
BBC: "High-profile websites including Google, Facebook and Twitter have been targeted by hackers in what is described as a 'massively co-ordinated attack'. Reports suggest the strike may have been aimed at a single user, pro-Georgian blogger known as Cyxymu."

Here's a new twist to the old plot: in our imaginations, the hacker is still an independent loner out the get "The Man." But there's a new breed of hackers out there. They belong to "The Man". They live in the world of The Matrix and they apply their skills neither for random maliciousness, nor to uncover the failings of security systems, nor even for the sheer entertainment of one-upmanship, but to serve the highest bidder.

The thing is, dystopian worlds such as The Matrix, or 1984, or the book-burning universe of Farenheit 451, do not survive. They cannot. It takes imagination to perform even destructive tasks beyond flattening everything under a huge machine, and imagination is what dystopias fear most. But imagination is what dystopias require to achieve domination.

Do you see the paradox? Misdirected minds help the dystopia achieve a certain power, then similar minds bring it down when its walls become too confining. What shall it do? Destroy all the minds? It tries. But then it starves, and something else, non-dystopian, takes its place.

It's not a sci-fi scenario, or a philosophical thesis. More of a lesson in history.

And what is the moral of the story? Watch out for hackers, down with the hackers, long live the hackers, and start getting very familiar with network security. Yes, all of the above and all at once. Like a well-balanced organism, cyberspace needs both harmful and beneficial microorganisms to function properly, and illness can turn one into the other.

Oh, and my first reaction to the attack was that is looked targeted. Why? Not sure. It just did. Maybe because of the sites that were hit.

The Matrix
(1999) Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

1984 (1950) by George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welcome Clare Austin!

Today, let's welcome Clare Austin to Alien Places. She's stopping by on her tour of cyberspace to celebrate the launch of BUTTERFLY. Make yourself comfortable and listen to her tale.

After the interview, you will find more information (including a blurb and excerpt) about Clare's book! And prizes!

Thank you for having me on your blog today. My novel Butterfly is now available and if I don’t talk about it I’ll go mental. Mental: the state of being a little bit nuts. That’s Irish. Well, Irish English at least.

Though Butterfly takes place in Boston, nearly half the characters are Irish. When I wrote their dialogue, I had Irish speakers…mostly Dubliners…talking in my head. After I sold my manuscript to The Wild Rose Press, I worked with a wonderful editor, Eilidh MacKenzie, who helped me tone down the accents and concentrate on cadence and context to achieve a balance…readable but still obviously Irish.

Many Irish are going to sound a bit like this “Werah ye goin’ no bell on yer bike an’ yer knickers wringin.” The answer being…“Ta der an’ back ta say how fare it ‘tis.” If written this way all through a three hundred page book, it’s exhausting to read.

Often the Irish of every socio-economic group will not pronounce the “th” in words like “this, thanks, three…etc.” they come out sounding like “dis, tanks, tree.” Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way it is in the land of saints and scholars. I even asked a linguist and teacher of the Irish language, an Gaeilge. He “tanked” me for my interest in Irish…but hadn’t a clue what I was referring to.

In Butterfly I also have a Puerto Rican character and at least one person who speaks with a heavy Boston twang. I left them with fairly heavy written accents because they appear briefly and it is not as distracting as having every other word end with an apostrophe. Thankfully my editor was sensitive to the feeling of getting just the right amount of accent so that my characters didn’t lose their Irishness. I tried to do this very much with the kinds of words and speech patterns. The Irish will often use five words where with Americans, particularly men, one will suffice. Irish folk love to talk, tell stories, elaborate on a tale. They think like Irish, not like Americans. That makes a huge difference in how they talk. I had to stay in my Celtic brain for some characters and switch to American, Puerto Rican, Bostonian for other characters. It was fun and a challenge.

Butterfly, and the whole Fadá½¹ Trilogy, also has a sprinkling of the Irish language. Some of my characters are native speakers of the Gaeilge. I always try to subtly or boldly…whatever works for the context…define the Irish words. An example is … “Thank you. We are Fadó. It means ‘once upon a time’.”… It’s as simple and sometimes as complicated as that to make foreign words understandable.

I had the most wonderful experience when passing though Galway last spring. As I often do when in a shop or just out for a stroll, I will stop and chat with the locals. I was browsing at a road side shop where a young man had ceramic pendants. His work was truly lovely. I ended up staying quite a while after I had decided on the pieces I wished to purchase because he started telling me stories. I was in stitches! He told me how he had been fishin’ and had dis pile o’ goots from gootin’ da fish. And he’d feck da goots down into the mout a’ dis eel. This wonderful tale came complete with sound effects. What does an eel sound like?

Listen to how people talk, what they talk about and you will learn more about writing than you would years in school. An’ it’s brill altogether like.

If anyone has questions, comments or would like to read excerpts from my other books, please go to my website or email me at

Thanks for inviting me to blog today.


Thank you for stopping by, Clare! I can hear your characters just from your description. Can't wait to get into the story!

Here's what Butterfly is about:

Flannery Sloane is a free spirited bohemian with a soul blessed by Irish musical tradition. She doesn’t give a care for where she’s going or how she’ll get there. Joy and passion are her only map. And, though she’s not interested in falling in love, she wouldn’t mind a little fun with a fine looking man. Hunter Kincade looks like he could fill that bill and have a bit of change left over.

Flannery never wears a watch. She’s late for everything but the downbeat of a fiddle tune. She’s happy serving pints in the pub and playing for tips and smiles. Hunter thrives on punctuality. He is in the music business with his focus on the bottom line. The pretty fiddle player with the bright green eyes would make his next production worth the price of a CD.

Their only common ground is the belief that falling in love is a danger to health and sanity.

Will it take more than Irish magic to pull a man like Hunter into the spell of a woman like Flannery? They are all wrong for each other...and they are so right.


He lost sight of the fiddler in the mobs of tourists enjoying the April sunshine.

No sooner had he decided to give up on his quest than he heard hands clapping in rhythm with the beat of the now familiar Irish drum.

Then he saw her.

She lifted her instrument and, with the surety of a bird’s wing slipping through the air, bow was laid to strings and life was breathed into melody.

He moved to the edge of the gathering where he could have an unobstructed view of the musicians. She looked up, and he thought she recognized him for an instant. Then her eyes turned and followed another. She smiled and nodded.

Cade had never thought of himself as the jealous type, but he did feel cheated out of that smile.

As soon as the last vibration of strings quieted, a man Cade recognized from O’Fallon’s came up behind the fiddler and, with disturbing familiarity, spoke in her ear. She responded with a hug and an adoring look in her eyes.

Cade had been raised to be competitive, in sports as well as in business, and the appearance of a rival on the field made him want to draw blood. He wanted the fiddler in his studio, and if she ended up in his bed, that might be as nice.

He stood and listened until the sun set and the air held a chill that thinned the throng. The musicians were packing it in.

He hadn’t realized he was staring, until she walked up to him and stood so

close he could smell the scent of her warm skin in the cool evening air. Her approach to introduction took Cade completely by surprise.

“Are you lookin’ at me or waitin’ for a bus?” she said, one hand on her hip and a sassy smile on her lips.

Now please leave a comment for Clare! There are prizes for those who dare! Clare will be giving away a free download of her book each week of her tour to a lucky commenter, randomly drawn from the comments during that week. At the end of the tour, one commenter will win an autographed copy of the novel.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Life is Crazy

Somehow, this week was crazier than most. What's more, it wasn't crazy in a run-around-everywhere-and-accomlplish-nothing kind of way. Instead, it was a sit-at-the-computer-and-stare crazy.

I had time. I had bursts of energy. I woke up every morning knowing where the next scene should take my characters, but as soon as I poised my fingers above the keyboard, I hit a wall.

You know, when you're riding your bicycle happily and you hit a little something, a branch, or a pothole, or something, and your bike just stops but you keep going?

That's what my fingers were doing. Stopping. When my brain would catch up, it would shut down, and then trying to wake it up again... Have you tried that? Getting your inspiration back to speed when it's sulking?

What, what? I said I had a crazy week. No wonder I sound like I'm being split into several personalities all battling themselves. And the dominant whatever keeps sending itself into a panic at the thought of bringing up the manuscript on the screen.

I mean, usually I can go back and edit, backtrack, recap, find the spot that's giving me trouble and figure out what the problem really is. But how can you do that when part of yourself very conveniently shuttles the thought of editing away from your conscious impulses and softly redirects you into pointless Web surfing.

Well, it wasn't entirely pointless. It was pleasant and soothing, and I made contacts, and met a dragon... Of course, that's another story. But it wasn't productive. I need another 10,000 words, darn it! It's not like I have a magic wand and I could just transfer my idea straight onto paper!

No, I have to build it, and compose it. To do that, I have to picture it, and feel it...

Darn brain.

No, I don't have writer's block, because I know what I need to write, and where my story is going, and even how it's going to end. Come on! I even have an idea of a good final fight scene. Among other things...

What's left? I think I need to throw a temper tantrum. But how do you do that when you're grown up and the heat index is 100F?

You know it's bad when you're wishing for a good snowstorm.