The Perfect Gift for a Writer: A Dictionary

As the title suggests, I recently received the perfect gift that any writer could get: a dictionary. But this was not just any dictionary. This was a copy of The Compact Oxford English Dictionary.

Big whoop, I hear some of you say. Well, actually, it is.

The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Edition) is a 20-volume beast. No joke. Published in 1989, it clocked in at 21,728 pages. And that doesn’t include all the supplement materials that have since been added. The 3rd Edition is still in production and is not expected to be published until 2037. I hate to think how big the Oxford English Dictionary will be by then.

So what makes the version I got so special? Well, when they said Compact in the title, they meant it. All 20 volumes of the full dictionary have been compressed into 2386 pages, and I don’t mean words taken out. No… I mean compressed in the literal sense. Each page contains 9 pages of the full dictionary shrunk down to microfiche size. Don’t believe me? Look at this…

A single page from The Compact Oxford English Dictionary
A single page from The Compact Oxford English Dictionary.

It’s insane. Even with a standard magnifying glass, I’m going to struggle to read the beast. And even in its compact form, the book is still freakin’ huge. It weighs 6.3 kg (13.9 lbs) and is two hand-spans tall, not to mention a palm-width wide.

Even though it's the Compact version, this dictionary is still big: two hand-spans tall, one palm-width wide, and weighs 6.3 kg (13.9 lbs).
Even though it’s the Compact version, this dictionary is still big: two hand-spans tall, one palm-width wide, and weighs 6.3 kg (13.9 lbs).

Dare I say it, it will likely just sit on the shelf, rarely used. I will likely use my Merriam-Webster first (it’s much smaller and more user-friendly). However, the prestige of saying that I own a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary is definitely not lost on me. And it looks so pretty on my desk.

Doesn't my new dictionary just look so pretty...
Doesn’t my new dictionary just look so pretty sitting along side the rest of my books…


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

9/11: A view of life…

On the weekend just past, it was the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 disaster.  Every year, for the past 15 years, I have been silent about my memories of that day, fearful that someone would get offended.

The events of that day had a global impact. So many things changed in an instant. The world was in chaos. No one knew what was going on and planes around the world were being grounded.

In the days that followed, the clean-up was almost unbearable. So many lives needlessly lost. And the reasons for the insanity still elude us.

Yes, 9/11 had a major impact on my life, but not for the reasons that people would think. For 15 years, I have remained silent because in truth, I didn’t care about what was going on in New York. 15 years ago, I gave birth to a baby boy.

My son, Anthony, only days after he was born in 2001.
My son, Anthony, only days after he was born in 2001.

It’s taken me a long time to work up the courage to share my own memories of that day with the world. After talking to a close friend who experienced 9/11 in a very different way, I realized that by remaining silent, I was ignoring someone who is so precious to me: my own son.

Although so many memories from that day are just a haze, I clearly remember the phone call from my husband.

I was sitting on the back doorstep, basking in the sun, relishing in the knowledge that I was going into the hospital that night to be induced. I was actually a danger to myself in the final stages of my pregnancy.

Anthony at seven years old. Funny face time. (Nov 2008)
Anthony at seven years old. Funny face time. (Nov 2008)

My attention span had gone through the toilet; I’d be reading and the cat would meow, after which I would promptly forget what I was reading. I had even started a kitchen fire at one point. I was cooking something on the stove and the phone rang. I had completely forgotten about whatever was on the stove until I saw flames reaching up to the ceiling out of the corner of my eye.

“Mom, I’ll have to call you right back.” I hung up and grabbed the fire extinguisher.

My husband came home and asked why there was white powder all over the kitchen. My answer was short and simple. “We had a fire. By the way, we’re getting takeaways for dinner.”

My husband banned me from cooking for the remainder of my pregnancy and begged the midwife to induce me.

A few days later, 9/11 happened.

Anyway, there I was, enjoying the sun, and my husband phoned.

“Have you heard?” he asked.

“Heard what?”

“You mean you don’t know.”

“What am I supposed to know?”

“Well… You know the Twin Towers in New York?”

“The World Trade Center. What about it?”

“They don’t exist anymore.”

“What?” I promptly turned on the TV. It didn’t matter what station I had tuned into: all stations had the breaking-news coverage. I watched for about 20 minutes, then turned it off and went back to basking in the sun and relishing in the knowledge that I would get my body back very soon.

My son was born 48 hours later, after two failed attempts to induce labor.

Sun fun with me and my son. (Jan 2011)
Summer fun with my son and me. (Jan 2011)

Today is my son’s 15th birthday. He has brought so much joy into my life. It sucks that he was born at the time when the world was in chaos, getting ready to head into war, yet again. I don’t want to belittle the lives of those lost: they do matter. However, for me, 9/11 had a whole different set of memories.

The world was doing what it needed to do, yet, I was doing what I needed to do for the sake of the newborn child that I gave birth to only two days later.

Happy birthday, little man, even though you’re no longer little.

Happy 15th Birthday (Sept 2016)
Happy 15th Birthday (Sept 2016)

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

New Radio Show and Heavy Water

You never know what opportunities crop up when you put yourself out there. My recent appearances on various shows with KLRNRadio have been no different.

I now have my own show on KLRNRadio: Conversations in Science. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how that happened. Rick Robinson and Jessie Sanders have been trying to convince me for some time, but I was resistant. Producing my own radio show? That was the last thing I wanted to be doing. But apparently, I have the knack of explaining science in a way that everyone can understand. Maybe that’s why they kept calling me for help on the science stuff.

On a recent episode of Jessie’s POV, Jessie Sanders called out for help, not understanding the science behind the issues of Iran and its stockpiles of heavy water. She even shouted out, “Judy, if you’re listening… HELP!” Of course, I wasn’t listening at the time (I was off playing “Mom”), but I got a phone call later that day…

“Judy, when do you have the time to record an episode about this and explain what heavy water actually is?”

Everything from that point was a blur; I think my head is still spinning. What was supposed to be the odd appearance on other shows has now become my own show. Jessie Sanders is producing the show for me, so all I have to do is the research, which I was doing anyway for my blog and personal writing. The whole situation went by so fast that I haven’t even told my parents yet. (BTW, mom, I now have in internet radio show about science.)

ShowLogo500x500Conversations in Science will air the first Monday of every month at 4pm EST (equates to the first Tuesday of every month at 9am for those in New Zealand, but this NZ time will change come summer — daylight savings). For those who miss it, that’s okay. It’s downloadable. I’ll even ensure that there are links to the episodes here on my site.

(Someone please remind me why I agreed to this… Oh yeah, that’s right. I remember now. My husband said it was a good idea. Gijs, I blame you if things go horribly pear-shaped.)

The first episode has now aired and the topic: heavy water and why its so important for nuclear power generation. It’s a topic that was asked for by Jessie Sanders, all because of what is going on in Iran.

Even though I’m not a nuclear physicist, I have enough of a scientific background to understand the technical details and hopefully explain them so listeners of KLRNRadio can understand.

For my readers, here’s the dealio:

Heavy water is just water, but the hydrogen atom used in the molecule is actually the deuterium isotope.

Okay… Techno speak is on overdrive here, so let me bring this back a few steps.

Every atom on the periodic table will exist in different isotope forms. If you remember back to high school chemistry, each atom is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. The number of protons an atom has in the nucleus will determine what type of element the atom is. Different isotopes will have the same number of protons but different number of neutrons. (Electrons don’t come into it.)

The three most common isotopes of hydrogen are protium (often simply called hydrogen), deuterium, and tritium. (Source: creationwiki.org)
The three most common isotopes of hydrogen are protium (often simply called hydrogen), deuterium, and tritium. (Source: creationwiki.org)

Hydrogen has seven different isotopes. H1 has one proton and is also called protium (but most people call this particular isotope hydrogen). H2, also known at deuterium, often given the symbol D, has one proton and one neutron. Both protium and deuterium are stable isotopes and are NOT radioactive. The heavier isotopes, on the other hand…

H3, tritium, given the symbol T, has one proton and two neutrons, and is radioactive. It’s one of the main reactant in fusion reactions between deuterium and tritium, the reaction that takes the least amount of energy to initiate.

The heavier isotopes are highly radioactive, with half-lives in the order of seconds. There I go again… The term half-life refers to the amount of time for half of the number of atoms within a sample take to decay.

Right… Back to the term heavy water. The molecule of water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter what isotope of hydrogen is used, a molecule with two hydrogens and one oxygen is still water, however, water made from deuterium is a heavy water molecule.

Normal water naturally contains heavy water molecules. In fact, approximately 0.0156% of all water molecules in natural water are of the heavy variant. When scientists are referring to heavy water, they are referring to water where majority of the molecules present are of the heavy variety. (CANDU reactors use 99.75%-enriched heavy water.)

Now that the technical description of heavy water is out of the way, time to turn to why heavy water is so important. But before we get too carried away, I should explain about uranium.

Uranium is the primary fuel used for nuclear power generation. Natural uranium contains two main isotopes: U238 and U235. U238 is what is termed as fissionable, requiring a highly energetic neutron to get the reaction started. U235, on the other hand, is fissile, requiring low energy neutrons for fission. To put it in other words, it takes a lot less effort to get a nuclear reaction started with U235 than it does compared to U238. (BTW, fission refers to a reaction where the nucleus of an atom is divided into smaller elements. Fusion is the reaction where two atoms are fused together to form a larger one.) 

Natural uranium ore contains only 0.711% U235. As such, many nuclear reactors will use enriched U235. Weapons-grade uranium contains 85% or greater U235. However, the process to refine uranium is expensive. It is desirable to use natural uranium in nuclear reactors where possible. This is where heavy water comes in.

Within power generation, heavy water is used as a neutron moderator. (Here I go again, bringing out the big terms, but I can’t help it. To properly explain the situation, it’s unavoidable.) To increase the chances of successful reaction, the neutrons injected into a reactor need to be slowed down. Heavy water is used for this purpose. Once the reaction has been started, the fission reaction of U235 produces neutrons with sufficient energy to react with U238. From there, it’s a chain reaction and it no longer matters that you have so much U238 on hand.

As a side note, reactors that use heavy water moderators do not need to use graphite moderators, making them safer. Chernobyl used a graphite moderator. It was after the incident at Chernobyl that reactors of that design were phased out.

Now here’s the deal as to why everyone is up in arms about Iran having so much heavy water on supply and the amount of waste from their nuclear reactors that they’re being allowed to keep.

During the normal operation of a heavy-water reactor, the U238 in the natural uranium fuel is converted into Pu239, the isotope of plutonium used in nuclear weapons. As a result, if the fuel in the reactors is changed out often enough, then significant amounts of weapons-grade plutonium can be extracted from the reactor waste.

Fission of U-235 or Pu-239 by a neutron results in two unequal pieces (fission products), about 3 neutrons and a small amount of mass turned into a large amount of energy. Atomic bombs are all U-235 or Pu-239 so everything splits uncontrollably, releasing an enormous amount of energy in a microsecond. In power reactor fuel, it’s only 3%-5% U-235 or Pu-239, so very little splits, just enough to produce heat and keep the reaction going in a controlled way. Instead, the mostly U-238 can capture a neutron and transform into Pu-239, which itself fissions. Power reactors use this Pu to produce as much energy as the U, resulting in very little Pu remaining for use in weapons plus having some of the wrong type of Pu (Pu-240) that acts as a poison in weapons. But weapons reactors optimize Pu production without burning much of it, and the fuel is removed after only months to be dissolved up in order to separate the Pu. The two types of reactors are easily distinguished. (Source: www.forbes.com)
Fission of U-235 results in two unequal pieces (fission products), while throwing out 3 neutrons and a small amount of mass turned into a large amount of energy. In power reactor fuel, it’s only 3%-5% U-235, so very little splits, just enough to produce heat and keep the reaction going in a controlled way. Instead, the mostly U-238 can capture a neutron and transform into Pu-239. (Source: http://www.forbes.com)

In addition, the heavy water used will contained trace amounts of tritium, resulting from the water absorbing some of the neutrons. (Remember, tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.) While there are more efficient ways of producing tritium, if sufficient quantities of tritium could be extracted, then it could be used in the construction in a boosted fission weapon.

In the 1970s, India proved that a nuclear bomb could be manufactured using the plutonium extracted from the spent fuel of a heavy-water reactor. If you combine this knowledge with the possibility of what could happen if sufficient tritium could be extracted from spent heavy water, it’s not surprising that the world is up in arm about Iran’s current situation.

Am I concerned about all this? Well, let’s just say that I’m glad I live in New Zealand, the one country so far removed from all those using nuclear power or nuclear weapons. (And for those of you who don’t know, New Zealand doesn’t have either.)

You can catch this episode of Conversations in Science, and all previous episodes on Spreaker here.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Juno and Jupiter

Again, I’m on internet radio. YEAH! Go me. Again, it’s about something I hold great interest in: astronomy, and in particular, NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter. The links to the show are found below.

 

There are many things about Jupiter that holds a great fascination to astronomers and other scientist. Even 400 years ago, Galileo was captivated by the giant gas planet, mapping its four largest moons, even though he didn’t know Jupiter was a gas giant back then.

This color view from NASA's Juno spacecraft is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th (UTC). (Photo credit: NASA)
This color view from NASA’s Juno spacecraft is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th (UTC). (Photo credit: NASA)

So why are we so interested in Jupiter? Well, Jupiter could quite possibly hold answers about the beginnings of our solar system. The planet is believed to be one of the first planets formed, with evidence that the cloud atmosphere has a similar composition to that found in the Sun. But we know little else with any certainty about the planet’s composition and interior structure. Is there any water in Jupiter’s cloud formations? Does Jupiter have a solid core? And what about the strong magnetic fields that surround the planet?

Let’s face it, we have many questions about Jupiter and the other outer planets. What is in the core of the planets? Why is there such diversity in the moons around these planets? Why is there a vast difference between the outer planets and the inner planets?

All our years of ground-based observations of Jupiter had led to assumptions that proved to be wrong by the Galileo mission during 1995 through 2003. But now we have more questions than we have answers, leading to the current Juno mission, launch on August 5, 2011 and insertion into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016.

Jupiter's north polar region is coming into view as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
Jupiter’s north polar region is coming into view as NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, 2016, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

Juno has now successfully executed the first of its 36 orbital flybys. It passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter. This flyby was the closest that Juno will get to Jupiter during its prime mission.

Let’s give that distance a little perspective. If you were to drive from New York City to Los Angeles, you will travel along 2,792 miles of road (4,493 km). The International Space Station orbits the Earth at a height of 250 miles above the sea level (400 km). And the moon is 239,000 miles (384,400 km) away.

Are you ready for the next crazy number? Juno was traveling at a speed of 130,000 mph (208,000 kph) during its flyby maneuver.

Again, for a little perspective… The cruising speed of a Boeing 747 is 550 – 600 mph (885 – 965 kph). The fastest plane  (an X-15) clocked in at Mach 6.72, or 4,520 mph (7,274 kph). The International Space Station has a ground speed of 17,150 mph (27,600 kph).

At that crazy speed, and that close distance, it took Juno only 67 minutes to travel from pole to pole, collecting as much data as it could. (And for those who have an interest in image processing… That is a mountain of data to go through.)

Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a press conference, “Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders.” With all the science instruments now on, and all systems go, it’s not surprising that it will be a few days yet before scientist can start to comprehend what Juno is telling us about Jupiter, but I for one look to hearing about those preliminary results.

The images coming from Juno-Cam alone are enough to keep the imagination going… for a while at least.

Lego Figurines are Aboard Juno

Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC)
Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC)

Aboard the Juno spacecraft are three little Lego Figurines: Galileo with his handheld telescope; the goddess Juno and the god Jupiter. The figures are 3D printed, and not the traditional Lego figurines, but still, a piece of pop-culture. Why did they do this? Because they could.

The Juno mission will continue for another 17 months. Expect more posts from me about Jupiter and Juno, along with some of the other missions that NASA is up to.

Posts about Juno and Jupiter:

More information about the Juno mission to Jupiter can be found here.

(Featured Image Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

My dream is not dead…

Well, the PitchWars selections have been made, and as I had expected, I wasn’t one of them. How do I feel about that? In truth, I had resigned myself to the fact that PitchWars was likely a no-go within the first few days after submission. (In fact, I had written this post nearly two full weeks ago, knowing in my heart exactly what the outcome would be.)

The regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve had mental hangups about my novel for some time, mainly because of the word counts being over 100K words. This feeling did not improved when the mentors I had submitted to began tweeting comments about word counts, commenting in particular how some of the submissions they had received were way too high, even for fantasy.

Now, in my opinion, my manuscript is not way too high. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon was 157K words. Terry Goodkind’s novel Wizard’s First Rule was 280K words. Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel Elantris was 203K words. And Steven Erikson started his publishing career with Gardens on the Moon at 209K words. All debut novels. All of them well and truly above the so-called maximum word count for adult fantasy of approximately 120K words. (Eragon is actually classified as YA, which has a maximum of 90K words.)

My word count… Well and truly under all of these, but still over 120K words. Okay… I’ll say it. When I closed the file back in June 2016, it clocked in at 134K words.

Now, I’m not saying any of this to complain, trying to protest that my word counts are not excessive. Certainly not. I mention all of this because it actually gives me a thread of hope seeing my novel is actually half the size of the debut novel of my favourite author. In my mind, it means that there is a chance. However, I know that there is a stigma attached to the debut writer word counts.

So, I have spent the last few weeks trying to decide what my path forward would be if I didn’t get into PitchWars, knowing in my heart that answer would likely be “no” almost as soon as I hit that submit button.

As I mentioned in previous posts, the word count stigma has crippled my efforts and has sent me on an emotional roller-coaster. The lows have been so low that my husband has even suggested that I give up writing altogether. Here’s the thing. While the word count stigma has halted my submission progress, the thought of NOT being a writer actually makes me nauseous. I can’t NOT be a writer. Writing is what I love and is so ingrained in my make-up that I’m positive I have ink running through my veins, not blood. I MUST be a writer.

So, with that decided, how to proceed.

Mentally, I have to get rid of the stigma associated with the word “debut”. If I can do that, then my word count of 134K is insignificant in the scheme of things. So in talking to several of my fellow writing buddies, I have come up with a plan, and it has three sides to it.

Side One:

Shelve my current finished novel which I strongly believe is submission ready but will encounter the “debut” word count stigma. While it is shelved, write the next three novels in the series and get them edited to the same standard as the first novel. This would mean that when I begin the submission process with that novel again that I will actually have the first four books in the series ready to go, with the next ones in the works. (Yeah… I’m admitting the truth here, it’s a long series I’m working on. I don’t think small. I never have, so why should I start now?)

Side Two:

Get my A into G and get the military science fiction that I’m working on with writing partner Ann Bell Feinstein actually written. It’s another series, looking at six novels and a collection of short stories. It might actually be this that gets published first, giving both of us the ability to lose the “debut” writer stigma.

Side Three:

Write the standalone thriller novels that are running around in my head and have been for some time. (My editor challenged me to come up with a standalone story and I did; I came up with two.) I’m well aware that thrillers carry a different word count limit (one that is lower than fantasy), but I’m more than up to the challenge. And seeing as how both my high fantasy series and the military science fiction have thriller elements to them, I feel that I can write something that readers would love.

So there you have it. Just because I didn’t get into PitchWars, I’m not stopping. I’ve always had to work my ass off for the things that I wanted most.  Why should this be any different?

There is one saying that drives me forward:

There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.
—Joe Konrath


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

The Editor’s Blog

Hi all,

There are some that follow me expecting to see tips on editing here. However, this is my personal blog and is about my personal journey down the road toward publication, parenting and life in general. My editor’s blog can be found at here.

Below is a list of recent posts on the Editor’s Blog.

  • Tip of the Day: If you’re not an expert, find one! September 26, 2016 10:00 pm
    When writing a story, there are often areas that a writer doesn’t have personal experience in, or is not an expert. Frequently, the writer will fudge the situation enough to glaze over the details, adequately hiding their lack of knowledge or experience in a given field. However, there are some instances where it’s not enough. … Continue reading Tip of the Day: If you’re not an expert, find one!
  • Tip of the Day: Ensure tactics used match the period of story. September 24, 2016 9:30 pm
    Most writers will agree that research is a vital part of the process. However, it is just as important to ensure that the information you are researching is relevant to the time period that your story is set in. Consider a thriller that discusses the tactics of the Secret Service. If you are writing a … Continue reading Tip of the Day: Ensure tactics used match the period of story.
  • To Oxford Comma or Not? September 22, 2016 9:30 pm
    Before one can make the decision about whether they should use an Oxford comma or not, one must first understand what the Oxford comma is. Consider a list with at least three different items: apples, oranges and bananas. If one was to use an Oxford comma, then the list would look like apples, oranges, and … Continue reading To Oxford Comma or Not?
  • Tip of the Day: Microsoft does have Work at Home programs… September 21, 2016 11:00 pm
    Depending on where you or your immediate family (e.g. spouse) work, you might be entitled to a Work at Home license of Microsoft Office. Depending on the contracts in place between Microsoft and your employer, you could potentially get the full suite for $10 or less. This is a benefit often overlooked. View other Tips … Continue reading Tip of the Day: Microsoft does have Work at Home programs…
  • Tip of the Day: Not all word processors are the same. September 19, 2016 11:00 pm
    Just because your word processor outputs a DOC file doesn’t mean that it’s formatted correctly. Programs like OpenOffice and LibreOffice are notorious for stuffing around with formats in MSWord documents. Never, ever, rely on the output being perfect, just because it looks fine in your main file. Microsoft actually has a FREE MSWord viewer available. … Continue reading Tip of the Day: Not all word processors are the same.
  • Tip of the Day: Editing is called “Slaying Your Darlings” for a reason. September 17, 2016 11:00 pm
    When editing a passage, always ask yourself the following three questions: 1) If the passage was removed, would the narrative still flow? 2) Would the narrative still make sense without it? 3) Could the reader understand what is happening in the story without that information, or with minor changes to other passages? If the answer … Continue reading Tip of the Day: Editing is called “Slaying Your Darlings” for a reason.
  • Tip of the Day: Only mind readers know another’s thoughts. September 14, 2016 11:00 pm
    Unless your POV character within a scene is a mind reader, they won’t know what other characters are thinking, unless those characters vocalize their thoughts. Avoid the head bopping. View other Tips and Tricks from the Editor. P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Tip of the Day: If a POV character can’t see an action, then it’s off-screen. September 12, 2016 11:00 pm
    When writing a scene, it’s always important to remember who the POV character is. If your POV character can’t see an action, then it’s an off-screen event. View other Tips and Tricks from the Editor. P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Tip of the Day: It’s okay to write off-screen scenes. September 10, 2016 11:00 pm
    It’s okay to write off-screen scenes, even if you know they won’t be included in the final version of your manuscript. Sometimes a writer needs to write a scene just to get it out of their heads, or to work out some detail that might be vital for another scene. If you know you won’t … Continue reading Tip of the Day: It’s okay to write off-screen scenes.
  • Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Use Paper or an Ebook Reader September 8, 2016 9:30 pm
    When files are small enough, print them out and pull out the red pen. For larger files, use an eBook reader, not an eBook reader app on a tablet. The eInk technology is better for eye strain. (See post for more details.)


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

Another Guest Blog to be Proud Off

After all the emotional downs I’ve had lately, I’ve needed a bit of a pick-me-up, and what better way than to get my name onto another guest blog. And this one I’m particularly proud of because it used my PhD knowledge, something that I haven’t taxed on in quite some time.

Check out the latest post on Dan Koboldt’s Science in Science Fiction series.

Imaging Over Long Distances (Published: August 18, 2016) The satellite whizzes overheard, being realigned by the technician in some bunker in a secret location. After moments of clicking at the keyboard, a series of images flicker across the screen. Details of the landscape come into focus, but that detail is not enough. The technician taps the keyboard, clicks the mouse and the cameras on the satellite overhead zoom in. They’ve found him. They can see exactly what he’s wearing and the backpack he has slung across his shoulder. Oh no… The hero is now in danger. RUN, JASON BOURNE! RUN!  While Hollywood would in reality take those zooming-in shots using a hover drone, believe it or not, the concept that the movie makers are trying to portray is very real. As much as you might try and hide, you can’t; the spy satellite will see you.

[Read more]


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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Please, PitchWars, be kind.

Okay… So, I’ve submitted to PitchWars and now wait anxiously for the results, along with all the other hopefuls. My non-writer followers out there will likely be wondering what PitchWars is. (Some of my writer-type followers might be wondering the same.) Well, PitchWars is a writing contest run by Brenda Drake.  However, it’s a contest where successful candidates (called mentees) are mentored by an established author through an intensive editing cycle, polishing your manuscript to the nth-degree, getting it ready for the agent rounds come November.

Well… I really don’t know how to feel about this. Last year when I submitted to PitchWars, I found myself religiously checking my email everyday. However, when the announcements came out and I wasn’t among the successful mentees, I wasn’t upset. As I had mentioned in a post back then, I was already a winner.

Last year, during the lead up to PitchWars, I met Ann Bell Feinstein. She and I have become very close friends, on video chat most days and helping each other through more than just the ups and downs of writing. There is no doubt about it: even though I wasn’t selected, PitchWars 2015 changed my life.

PitchWars 2016 will be no different. But if I’m truthful to myself, unlike last year, this year I’m actually terrified.

My fear is entirely focused on the word counts of my manuscript. I’ll admit that for a debut author, the number is considered too high by many, even though it sits dab-smack in the middle of the range that my dream publisher, Tor, says they are willing to accept for fantasy.

But here’s the thing… Many will see it as too high and I’m consciously aware of that. I will likely need to bring that word count down even further, but bugger me if I can figure out how. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve removed characters. I’ve deleted whole scenes. I’ve removed entirely subplots and reworked the entire ending, all in the effort of dealing with the word counts. I’ve had a developmental editor look at my manuscript too — it was with her help that I reworked the ending of my manuscript — and as far as she’s concerned, my manuscript is submission ready.

But that word count is still high. I know many agents will balk at that number, even if it’s not outrageously high. That is why I’ve submitted to PitchWars. Perhaps one of the mentors will see something that I (and the editor I hired) could not.

It is this that terrifies me the most. I struggle to fathom what possible changes a PitchWars mentor could suggest, but I will consider all ideas. There are a few subplots and characters that I would be incredibly resistant to touch though — little Gracy is just one of them and if you have read my manuscript, you’d instantly know why.

I want to be published so badly that I can taste it. I know I could self-publish, but then I would be cheating myself of the real dream. There is a reason I chose the traditional publication road and those reasons haven’t changed.

I want this.  I’m ready for this.

Regardless whether I’m selected or not, I will continue to push for my manuscript to be published traditionally. It’s the path I want and this is my year!


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Self-doubt and Jealousy Strikes Again

I think everyone goes through these bouts when the Green-Eyed Monster and his cousin, Self-Doubt, come to town and refuse to leave. I certainly do, and on this journey toward publication, this isn’t the first time either.

Back in March, I had a bad case of it (something I wrote about here). At the time, it was brought on by a client who had gotten a publishing contract and was so excited about it. They thanked me profusely because they honestly believed that it was my feedback that helped them to shape their manuscript into that sparkling gem that was accepted for publication. As the editor, it felt great. As the writer…

The Green-Eyed Monster had snuck up behind me and clobbered me over the head. Why couldn’t that be me? Then I remembered… I was still editing my own manuscript and hadn’t actually submitted it anywhere.

Then Self-Doubt grabbed me by the throat so I could hardly breathe. Do I really have what it takes to make it as a published writer? What if I’m a fantastic editor, but my writing is the worst dribble that anyone has ever read?

While similar questions still float around in my head, in my recent bout of Self-Doubt, others have come to the surface that actually make me cry. What if someone sees the word count of my manuscript (which is higher than 100K words, but not overly so, at least not in my opinion) but says that debut writers need to be under 100K, end of story, so it’s not only a NO, but a HELL NO?

And you know what… It is that question, and that question alone, that has halted my progress in my submissions to agents/publishers. You see so many articles that say debut writers should be under 100K words. I’ve tried. I’ve removed characters, scenes, whole sub-plots and have whittled that manuscript down as far as I can. I honestly feel that if I remove anymore then the story won’t make sense. How one would make that story below 100K words completely eludes me. I don’t think it’s possible.

So I gave up trying. Instead, I turned my focus on making the writing so stellar that it won’t matter that it’s more than 100K. At least, that’s the plan.

But I still haven’t queried. Self-doubt about that number has crippled me beyond belief. Meanwhile, my clients are continuing to get offers of contract or going on to self-publication, getting their stories out there. And me…

My latest bout of self-doubt was actually brought on by PitchWars. On August 3, the submission window for 2016 opens. I will be submitting. I NEED to move past this 100K wall and actually get my manuscript out there. If I get in, I’m sure that my mentor will help me find a way to bring that word count down, but how far down? And I have no idea how… However, if I don’t get selected for PitchWars, I have already decided that I’ll be going for broke and submitting to agents. From what I can see, my manuscript is ready. It is only the word count that is holding me back. I have to move past it or the Green-Eyed Monster will replace Self-Doubt again as another one of my clients gets the contract that could have been mine had I actually submitted.

There is a video from Chelsea Handler that was released by Elle Magazine earlier this month. In that video, Chelsea spoke of the green-eyed monster. I have found myself watching that video over and over, trying to drum it into my head. It’s okay to have the feelings that I’m having — jealousy and self-doubt are perfectly natural — but I must never act in such a way that demeans the efforts of others. To paraphrase Chelsea: never blow out someone else’s candle to make mine brighter.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Kiwi in US Writing Market

I had originally written this post for a site called EpicFantasy.org. However, since the post went live back on April 25, 2016, the site has gone down. As such, I’ve decided to include the post here on my personal blog instead. So here goes:

Kiwi in US Writing Market

New Zealand… Aotearoa, as the native Maori call it — the land of the long white cloud. It’s a country filled with majestic beauty: a mountain range that spans the length of half the country; volcanic lakes and desert terrain; beaches within a few short minutes drive of any major metropolis; secluded forest bush that takes you back in time; and farmland everywhere you turn. Many settlements could be frozen in time, and with the exception of the cars driving down the street, you would never know that you were in the 21st century. New Zealand has become the film industry’s location of choice with many historic and fantasy blockbusters filmed here, including The Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and the epic drama The Last Samurai. (Sorry to burst the bubble, people, but the images of Mount Fuji in that film were actually of Mount Taranaki, also known as Mount Egmont.)

With so much beauty and diverse scenery in such close proximity, it’s no surprise to find that many writers who live in New Zealand draw so much inspiration for our story settings from our environment. But when it comes to publication, many New Zealand writers I know wish they were in the US or the UK. Publishing within New Zealand for genre fiction is practically nonexistent.

The publishing industry within New Zealand is extremely limited, with most publishers focusing on non-fiction and educational materials. The few that do publish fiction focus on children’s books or literary stories that focus on New Zealand culture. These are niche market books and are unlikely to survive on the world-wide market. But for those of us who write genre fiction, overseas markets are really the only option.

With the exception of Australia, New Zealand is so far removed from the rest of the world. It takes nearly a full day to travel to anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you include all the layover times. It cost thousands of dollars for the airfare. Traveling to one of the coveted writing conferences is not something that I can feasibly afford. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go, but I can’t.

This is where technology has become my best friend.

In the past, writers from New Zealand would have been forced to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on postage, sending manuscript after manuscript to agents and publishers. With the introduction of the internet, submission to an agent in New York City is now just the click of a mouse.

For those targeting the self-publication road, selling books in Alaska is just as easy as selling books to our neighbor down the street. Print-on-demand services and eBooks have revolutionized the industry. Social media has changed the methods in which one must market our books. And all these changes have opened the doors to those of us on the other side of the world.

For me, being in New Zealand has proven to be an advantage. I’m a professional editor, occasionally offering mentoring to my clients. For me, a standard work day is from 9am to 3pm while my two teenagers are at school. Because of timezone difference, it means that it’s morning where I am when my clients are enjoying the afternoon and early evening. For those that work until the wee hours in the morning, they’re likely to still catch me during the standard New Zealand work day. (I just have to remember that I’m a day ahead.)

Social media has become my best friend. Through my actions on Twitter and Facebook, I have made contacts with many amazing writers from around the globe. I have been invited to guest blog (this post being only one of them). And I have managed to build a support network that I will cherish for years to come. Will all my hard work in trying to break into the US publishing industry actually pay off? Only time can tell.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Writer of High Fantasy & Science Fiction, Freelance Editor, and just plain crazy

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