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Elissa Malcohn Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "elissa_malcohn" journal:

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February 21st, 2012
04:31 pm

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NaHaiWriMo Week 3


February is NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. I've been posting a daily haiku on Twitter and Facebook. These are my tweets from the third week.

My February 17 haiku is an editorial/metaphorical haiku inspired by "Maloney asks, 'Where are the women?'" by Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog.

My February 19 haiku is inspired by my photo of a Southern House Spider.

Haikus from Week 1
Haikus from Week 2
Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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February 14th, 2012
02:16 am

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NaHaiWriMo Week 2


February is NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. I've been posting a daily haiku on Twitter and Facebook. These are my tweets from the second week.

My February 13 haiku takes its cue from "Riusuke Fukahori Paints Three-Dimensional Goldfish Embedded in Layers of Resin" (Christopher, Colossal Art and Design, Jan. 9).

I've signed up at Pinterest and am learning my way around. One item I've just added is a new musical composition by my friend Julie Waters, which I've been groovin' on for much of the day.

Dybbuk Press is offering all its Kindle editions for free download on Valentine's Day! Here's the publisher page on Amazon. That includes She Nailed A Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror with my story "Judgment at Naioth."
Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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February 7th, 2012
11:13 pm

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NaHaiWriMo Week 1


February is NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. I've been posting a daily haiku on Twitter and Facebook. These are my tweets from the first week.

My February 5 haiku takes its cue from "Bird life badly hit by nuclear fallout in Japan" (David McNeill, Irish Times, Feb. 3). Its line "a cuckoo cries" is taken from Basho's haiku 1a, here.




Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
Promote Your Page Too
Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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January 17th, 2012
12:29 pm

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On January 18, 2012


Several sites (including reddit, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Failblog and the rest of the Cheezburger Network, and BoingBoing) are blacking out tomorrow. I will be off social media.

Here's why:

SOPA blockout countdown clock (with link to "Stop SOPA, The Essentials Summary And Bill Text" via @YourAnonNews and video "A call to action for webmasters around the world"

"The day the internet fought back: Anonymous, SOPA & the Battle for Free Speech" (some language NSFW)

"SOPA Blackout Set For January 18th: Here’s All The Info" (WebProNews)

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December 29th, 2011
10:34 pm

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(Link to) Year-End Writin' Round-Up


Click here for the full 2011 retrospective!

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
Promote Your Page Too
Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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December 13th, 2011
10:54 pm

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#SciFund Countdown Primer!
Quick, before they're gone! The #SciFund Challenge ends on Thursday. Here, then, is a primer. If you see something you like, go check it out! I've funded a number of these and may kick in more before it ends.

I'm listing these in alphabetical order by researcher or organization name. Color coding: Green = fully funded. Purple=75% or more funded (I update my spreadsheet around midnight Eastern time; last update was at the cusp between Dec. 12-13). Brown= 50-74.99% funded Blue=25-49.99% funded. Red= <25% funded. Monies go to the researchers even if they don't meet their goal (RocketHub takes a slightly bigger cut for those), and even incomplete funding can accomplish great stuff. For example, Jarrett Byrnes has enough funding for one day's dive so far; Shermin deSilva has enough funding to pay a single assistant for a full year.

In other words, this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Anything and everything makes a difference.

Herewith, then -- a group I've come to think of as "the forty-niners":

Eric Abelson: Does the act of looking change what we see? Abelson is trying to determine whether camera traps themselves alter the behavior of, say, skittish mule deer. And, since camera traps are our way of "reading" animal behavior and counting their numbers in the wild, what are the implications for our own data and wildlife conservation practices? (I look at this as kind of a Hawthorne Study in the wild.)

Rebecca R Achterman: Athlete's foot in worms? Turns out that some worms are very similar to human skin when it comes to diseases like athlete's foot, ringworm, and other skin ailments. Studying the effect of disease-causing fungi on the worms can give us insights into a whole host of skin infections.

Erin Ashe: Dolphinpalooza. Co-founder of the nonprofit Oceans Initiative, Erin Ashe takes to the high seas with her dog Wishart (dolphin spotter/sniffer/listener), to follow the Pacific white-sided dolphin. She's been studying and photographing this population to see how the dolphins interact with other species. Her non-invasive techniques (photography and statistics) track the dolphins through time to assess whether they are declining or endangered.

Eric Basham: Magnetic Nerve Stimulator Prototype. Basham wants to study the effects of electromagnetic pulses on a worm, because that could teach him more about the human brain. His modest budget is earmarked for worm bed and board and a few electronic components. Instead of a large-scale magnetic stimulator that runs into the tens of thousands of dollars, the parts Basham is looking for have price tags in the single- and two-digit range. Furthermore, whatever he builds, he will share as open source.

Jeffrey Bodwin: Pennies instead of petroleum! Bodwin wants to liberate cellulose from all parts of a plant for ethanol production instead of from just the kernel. His work is aimed toward chemically opening plant fibers and freeing their energy reserves. (Bodwin also created this Google map showing where all the forty-niners are.)

Timothy Bonebrake: Urban Butterfly Blues. Bonebrake has watched an estimated ten butterfly species go extinct in Griffith Park. He wants to know why, and he wants to know how to help save the butterflies that remain, not least because butterflies are environmental and health indicators. His study of the park involves citizen science in collaboration with schools and museums. (He also takes school kids on cool field trips.) And he posts pictures, like this lone duskywing near the end of its season.


Jarrett Byrnes: Hey! Did you miss that fish?! Byrnes has a treasure trove of data that spans 30 years, but he needs to calibrate it. The data, once calibrated, can show how the Channel Islands kelp forest has been changing, letting researchers get a better handle on environmental and other effects. Byrnes wants to fund a couple of dives that will get him the missing data links that will let him do that calibration. In addition to his own research, Byrnes also helped fund an aquarium to bring the ocean to disadvantaged schoolchildren in Utah.

Jessica Carilli: Corals and Climate Change. Carilli studies human impacts on coastal ecosystems. She's looking partiularly at heat stress: what lets some corals live while others die, the best places for corals to survive, and what humans can do to help corals survive. She also took some time out from preparing her #SciFund proposal to give birth to her son, who makes a three-days-late prenatal cameo in her video. He also attends her lectures.

Katelyn Cavanaugh: Learner Control in Online Training Programs. Cavanaugh wants to know what goes on when people control their own rate of learning in online training programs. Some studies show that learning improves when learners take control, while other studies show that learning suffers. Cavanaugh is investigating individual decision-making processes, using crowdsourcing to recruit her study participants.

Center for Conservation Biology: Preserving wildlife to benefit farmers. The Center wants to know if forests can support the native predators of crop pests. Researchers are tracking bird and bat species that are predators of a pest called the coffee berry borer. Farmers can conceivably preserve the habitats of these predators, which then help keep agricultural pests in check. Rather than taking an either/or approach to farms versus wilderness, the two could work in concert to benefit both farmers and wildlife.

Scott Chamberlain: Evolution in Agriculture. There is much more species diversity in natural landsapes than in agricultural ones, but what does this mean? Diversity offers more protections against pests, for one thing. Chamberlain is looking into how these differences drive plant evolution, by studying native sunflowers near or far from agricultural crops, and the role that pollinators play in both those types of environments. Pollinators and seed predators both influence the evolution of flower traits. Chamberlain is also studying the evolution of agricultural weeds.

Chip Cochran: The Yin-Yang World of Venom. Cochran chases down southwestern speckled rattlesnakes to collect blood and venom samples. Across their range, this species exhibits different markings and possible differences in venom. Cochran's work examines the toxins within these venoms, for the purpose of designing better anti-venom and for potential use in drug therapies.

Shermin deSilva: Helping elephants and people coexist. DeSilva has spent six years studying around 600 Asian elephants in Sri Lanka. Not only is she breaking new ground in studying a largely unexamined species, but she is also taking a holistic approach to looking at how elephants and farmers affect each other. Check out EFECT's Facebook page.

Zen Faulkes: Doctor Zen and the Amazon Crayfish. "Dr. Zen" wants to come to Florida to gather up some slough crayfish, close cousins to "Amazon" marbled crayfish, so that he can study their evolutionary differences in addition to one very obvious one: slough crayfish reproduce sexually while marbled crayfish clone themselves. What he learns could possibly help stem the tide of the invasive marbled crayfish. Faulkes also curates a #SciFund Twitter feed, had reviewed every #SciFund proposal before it went live, and has put together some awesome videos (like #SciFund Super Team-Up and Kitten or Crayfish?, not to mention a Dancing Yeti Crabs playlist).

Kevin Fomalont: Depression -- an Illness of the Whole Body. Fomalont studies depression and is investigating the contributions of early life stress to the development of mental illness, not just neurologically but as an illness of the whole body. Mental illness runs in his family, so this is a personal as well as a professional quest. Drawing from the new and integrative field of psychoneuroimmunology, Fomalont's research is taking him to St. Petersburg, Russia, for rare international collaboration with Russian neuroscience researchers.

Robin Freeman: Tracking the migration of the Atlantic Puffin. Individual puffins take different migration routes, but those individual routes remain fairly constant over time. Freeman wants to learn what effect environmental change is having on those routes over the long term.

John Gust: Send John to the Jungle! Gust is seeking support for his travel to the Yucatan's Yalahau region, to retrieve and study its artifacts. Yalahau's nineteenth century industrial activities had made global impacts. Plus, Gust could potentially solve the murder of Robert Stephens, the last owner of an old rum distillery.

Elizabeth Hadly: Species in peril. Hadly's team is studying species at risk of losing their genetic diversity. Such diversity is key to species survival. The team is monitoring populations and sequencing the DNA of pikas and tuco-tucos, Costa Rican bats and birds, and rainforest frogs. (This just crossed the 50% funded mark!)

Kalani Kirk Hausman: STEMulate Learning! Hausman discovered the power of supercomputing on a budget, and he wants to spread that power and frugality throughout the American public educational system. An offshoot of his "Scrap-heap Supercomputing" workshops, this DIY lab would link computer nodes together in concert with projects like the World Community Grid's "Discover Clean Water" and "Cure for Childhood Cancer." Hausman himself devotes hundreds of hours of otherwise idle computer time to these projects. He also curates several #SciFund digests, such as this one at Scoop.it.

Steve Herbert: Domesticating algae for the 21st century. Herbert studies Chlamydomonas, an alga that may lie at the center of a new "green revolution" in biofuels. Herbert wants to see if genetic help from a related alga called Volvox could help "Chlamy" cells stick together for easier harvesting. It would be like picking up a slice of bread instead of one crumb at a time.

Matthew Hutchins: Methods of artifically aging red wine. Hutchins is looking to separate fact from fiction, comparing more than half a dozen methods of artifically aging red wine to see if any have any effect. These methods range from flowing the wine through an electric field to soaking it in toasted oak chips, to subjecting it to various gadgets.

Diane A Kelly: Force of Duck: Measuring explosive erection. Kelly has teamed up with biologist Patty Brennan to study the biomechanics of an evolutionary arms race (well, genital race) between male and female ducks. They want to know whether copulatory forces drive the evolution of reproductive structures. (If you've ever wondered whether a duck's penis can shatter a silicone tube, watch the video.) (This just reached the 50% mark!)

Debi Kilb: Every Blip Counts -- Low Cost Seismic Sensors. Kilb wants to turn every computer into a seismic recording device, because increasing earthquake understanding might help seismologists predict them better. Her fundraising would support developing a game to educate children and expand her network of users.

Kristina Killgrove: Ancient Rome DNA Project. Killgrove has already been studying the isotopes in ancient Roman bones that tell her how members of Rome's underclass had lived and died. Her groundbreaking research has already shed light on the heretofore invisible men, women, and children who had immigrated to Rome. Now she wants to study the DNA of Rome's "99%" to see where they all came from.

Matthew Leslie: Why is this dolphin's fin on backwards? Leslie is studying a species of spinner dolphin in which adult males sport dorsal fins classified as "wacky" or "funky," depending on which authority you consult. He wants to conduct flow tank studies to see if the odd "backwards" fin makes a difference in the dolphin's swimming capabilities and, by extension, its desirability as a mate. His video includes a shot of an X-29 experimental fighter plane with drag-reducing, backward-looking wings. If that sort of thing worked for planes, why not for cetaceans?

Levi Lewis: Saving Hawaii's Coral Reefs. Building upon research that examined the effects of pollution and overfishing in Maui, Lewis has organized a team of chemists, biologists and resource managers to explore the effects of water quality and herbivory on coral reef development. His team is looking at over eight sites along leeward Maui. (This project has just passed the 25% mark!)

Lopez et al.: Culture of Climate Change in French Polynesia. At the national level, French Polynesia has recently begun planning for how it will cope with the effects of climate change. Yet little is known about how local people in French Polynesia experience climate change on a daily basis, and how they're already coping with and responding to environmental fluctuations. An interdisciplinary team is studying how environmental change is affecting subsistence fishing and agriculture, tourism, aquaculture, fresh water availability, human health, and cultural identity.

Kelly Lyons: What's That Weed? Lyons is creating a pocket field guide to urban plants. Her original publication will be made for the city of San Antonio, but will serve as a template for other regions. In addition to high-quality macro photographs, Lyons' guide will contain general information and fascinating facts for each species. Her photos will be of two types, those dedicated to recognizing plants in the field and those dedicated to the more botanical understanding of the species and their relatives.

Jorge Mederos: Can we save Collserola National Park? The forest canopy plays a big role in ecosystem function and in regulating climate, but almost nothing is known about the tree canopy throughout Spain and Portugal. Mederos is studying insect species in the canopy of Collserola National Park, an Edenic forest surrounded by urban sprawl outside Barcelona. (This project has just passed the 25% mark!)

Daniel Mietchen and Fabiana Kubke: Transforming the way we publish research. Taking their cue from Beethoven, who said, "There should be only one repository of art in the world, to which the artist would donate his works in order to take what he would need," Mietchen and Kubke apply that principle to research. They want to make thousands of scholarly articles easily accessible -- to anyone -- by creating and maintaining a central repository.

Melia Nafus: The Secretive Life of the Desert Tortoise. Agassiz's desert tortoise is found only in the Southwestern deserts of North America, and it is in rapid decline. The desert tortoise is also difficult to study. It spends most of its time in burrows and is well camouflaged outside those burrows. Nafus wants to track tortoise populations with the help of radio transmitters. By knowing more about the tortoise's preferred habitat, better decisions can be made with respect to urban expansion and solar energy facilities.

Marisa Alonso Nuñez, Cancer? Yeast has answers. Nuñez is studying the effects on one of cancer's major players, a protein called Polo Kinase. Why yeast? Because the neat thing about Polo Kinase is that it ranges throughout the evolutionary spectrum from yeast to humans, and yeast is much easier to study.

Lindsey Peavey: Turtles in the Deep. Peavey wants to fill the knowledge gap that exists concerning olive ridley turtles. Studies of these turtles have concentrated on females nesting on beaches. Peavey wants to study these turtles in the open ocean, where they spend most of their time. That will allow her to study both sexes and all ages, to see how they are foraging and otherwise utilizing their habitat. This knowledge can then help the fishing industry be more effective in catching more of its target species and avoid the bycatch of turtles.

Bree Putnam Squirrel-Snake Face Off!Putnam wants to know why ground squirrels harass rattlesnakes for no apparent reason, particularly using a behavior called tail-flagging. Tail-flagging creates an infrared signal that rattlesnakes are specially equipped to detect. Putnam is using a mechanical squirrel to collect data on rattler behavior.

Yoav Ram: The Evolution of Stress-Induced Hypermutation. Ram's mathematical models on how bacteria react to stress show where conventional wisdom may have gone astray, and may explain why bacteria become antibiotic-resistant so quickly. Their mutations and evolution may also have implications for cancer treatment. Funds will help him travel from Israel to next year's Population Genetics Group meeting in Nottingham.

Aditya Rao: C-Cilia in Motion! Rao is studying Chlamydomonas cilia (hairs), which are a lot like the cilia occurring throughout the human body. Those little whips are so important than when something goes awry in one, some awful diseases happen. He wants to know how things go wrong, so that maybe some day they can be made to go right. (This project just reached 25%!)

Jennifer Schmitt: Smart Delivery. Schmitt wants to use Tanzania's vast network of cell phones and a Facebook-like social network to help transport vaccines to Tanzania's remotest villages, when and where they're needed. She's looking at the infrastructure already in place: Tanzania's people in motion. All they need, Schmitt says, is "extra room in their backpack, on their bike, in their trunk, on their mule, or elsewhere for transporting a small cooler of vaccines." They know where all the potholes and muddy ditches are, and they can navigate them better than traditional vaccine delivery trucks encountering the same ruts and yawning, washed-out chasms.

School Of Ants: School of Ants. Ants pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and eat insect pests. The School of Ants is a citizen science project that maps different ant populations that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. In addition to discovering new species, the School of Ants tracks shifts in ant populations as their landscape is altered by urbanization and a changing climate.

Serengeti Lion Project: Serengeti Live. The Serengeti Lion Project spans 45 years. More than 200 camera traps capture images of the Serengeti's large carnivores, to study how these predators coexist; those cameras currently generate a million photographs a year. Researchers wait months for friends and colleagues to fly home from Tanzania with flash drives. They're looking for a way to transmit photos by satellite, not just to the University of Minnesota but to the public.

Allison Styring: Mapping a Bornean Soundscape. Bornean rainforests are some of the most diverse forests on the planet. Not only are Bornean forests incredibly rich and poorly understood, but they're also under threat. Styring wants to record and map the sounds of hundreds of animal species living in these forests, ranging from ground to canopy, to better understand how they communicate, and to share the sounds with both the public and the scientific community.

Marisa Tellez: Alien vs. Predator. Tellez is studying the relationship between crocodilian species and their parasites, which have co-evolved over hundreds of millions of years. As a result, crocs have evolved the strongest immune system in the world. This bond between croc and parasite could possibly be beneficial, helping crocodilians adapt to changing environments. But the parasites fall victim to water pollution -- and without them, a croc's immune system could be compromised. This parasite-host relationship also has implications for human health and the relationship we have with our own parasites.

Susan Tsang: Bats in peril: flying foxes past and present. Tsang studies the flying fox, which does not use sonar. She wants to learn how these fruit bats relate to other bat species, but more than half of all flying fox species are endangered. By sequencing DNA from museum collections, Tsang can study those connections and the bats' genetic histories.

Luis Valledor: Chlamystress. The alga Chlamydomonas is good biofuel material, among other things, like a source of electricity and biomass heat. It produces even more when it's stressed. Luis Valledor studies "Chlamy" stress responses, which include making more material that can be refined into energy. More than just watching what they do, he wants to know how they do it. And since green slime hasn't yet become a Special of the Day at dining establishments, farming this alga sidesteps the debate over whether to use more popular crops (and valuable agricultural land) for food or for fuel.

Walter Weare: Artificial Photosynthesis at NCSU. Weare wants to collect and store solar energy, but not in a battery. Liquid fuel is much more energy-dense and thus weighs much less than a battery does. Weare is looking for a way to absorb the energy of light and then transfer it to a catalyst for making fuel.

Kelly Weinersmith: Support Zombie Research!. Weinersmith is studying fish behavior under the influence of parasites that reside in its brain. The parasites change the fish's brain chemistry in order to get the fish to behave in a way that's beneficial to the parasite -- like attracting a predatory bird. Since the parasite lives out its next life cycle in the gut of the bird, it wants the infected fish to be eaten.

Ross Whippo: Behold, the power of Seagrass! Whippo is studying the role of seagrass in the seagrass meadows of British Columbia. Those limp clumps on the beach are powerhouses of food, shelter, and photosynthetic energy, and are interconnected with many species throughout the ecosystem. Whippo wants to understand them better and figure out why they are declining.

The Wild Life Team: The Wild Life of our Homes. The Wild Life Team is collecting data from citizen scientists on the microbial life that is all around us but invisible. Their study includes genetic analysis of these life forms. They want to gain a better understanding of the species living with us and on us in different types of homes and environments, and hope to expand their reach into places with more extreme climates. They also want to study the impacts of climate change, both through short-term readings and "long-term ecological research houses."

Andi Wolfe: Cats Nails: A parasitic plant of South Africa. Wolfe is studying a South African plant whose health speaks for that of an entire ecosystem. Cats Nails takes all of its nutrients and water from the roots of other plants, and it is found in ecosystems that have been mostly preserved from human interference. The presence of Cats Nails means that an ecosystem is in relatively good shape. Wolfe's lab group is studying the plant's basic biology and the ways in which it relates to different species.

Lee Worden: Mathematics of Direct Democracy. Can the ways in which people work together to make decisions be charted mathematically? Can models be used to learn how we can best solve shared problems? Worden wants to know what works, not just within movements like Spain's Real Democracy movement, Greece's dimokratia movement, and Occupy Wall Street, but in the workplace and within the scientific process.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
Promote Your Page Too
Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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December 3rd, 2011
03:24 pm

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Variations on a Theme: Notes on Editorial Process
I've got some other writing-associated activities going on while I continue to follow and chronicle the #SciFund Challenge. For one, my guest-edited section of Star*Line (journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association) is forthcoming.

Last December, Star*Line editor Marge Simon invited me to guest-edit half of the journal's 4th Qtr. issue for 2011. It would not be the first time I edited Star*Line -- I had done so from 1986-1988 -- but it would be the first time I edited according to a particular theme, which I was free to choose. It would also be the first time I edited to fill a finite space (i.e., without a backlog of poems to save for future use). That in itself introduced a completely different dynamic to my editorial process.

First, I want to again thank Marge, and to thank everyone who submitted. I received 226 poems from a total of 75 poets before the end of my reading period. From that richness, I gathered 26 poems to fit onto 20 pages.

I had to make some tough decisions. And, to some degree, they were different types of decisions because this was a one-shot. "Interplay" (I describe the theme below) thus became a voyage of discovery for me.

I offer these process notes in case insights into my editing process prove helpful. To be clear: I cannot speak for any editor other than myself. In the final analysis, everything boils down to individual taste and idiosyncracy, including mine. Especially if you are new to submitting and are reading this: Do not be discouraged by rejection. Keep trying. As many times as you may have heard that advice, the notes that follow will, I hope, give you concrete reasons to take that oft-repeated chestnut to heart.

1. Editorial Interplay

A submission gets accepted or rejected for all sorts of reasons, and issues of craft comprise only one portion of that. In hindsight, my list of issues to consider went like this:

1. Craft. How does the poem read? Is it well-structured and evocative? How well are the words used?

2. Adherence to the theme. This gets interesting, because the theme itself contains several levels. There's
(a) My vision of the theme when I wrote it;
(b) Interpretations of the theme by the poets who submitted;
(c) The dynamic of the two and how they interact; and
(d) The theme as carried by the poems not only in and of themselves, but in concert.

3. Tone. This relates to how a poem is evocative (is it funny, sad, clever, pensive, wondrous, etc.?), but it also relates to the dynamic movement within the section as a whole. When I performed my final cut, I looked not only at the poems individually, but at how they blended with each other.

4. Space. As you can see from my submissions call below, my preferred length was up to 75 lines. The longest poem I accepted came to 67 lines -- 74 if you count spaces between stanzas, plus lines for the title and the poet's name (all considerations for purposes of layout and space availability). In a sense, this exercise resembled packing for a long trip: too many floor-length coats in my suitcase would have meant leaving my pants behind.

5. Range. I've rejected poems that I liked. Especially if you are new to submitting, go back and re-read that sentence. Although frustrating to the poet (and also to this editor), this is ultimately good news. If this were not a one-shot, I'd have accepted those poems and set them aside for future use. My decisions on what to accept hinged in part on providing both variety and continuity.

6. Blend and Arc. More than anything, this demonstrates how the editing process is really a collaboration between editor and poets. "Blend" relates to both range and tone, while "Arc" relates to the dynamics of the section as a whole. This dimension didn't come into play until I began to actually assemble the section, determining poem order and seeing how the poems would fit on the pages. It caused me to re-evaluate some of my earlier selections, swapping one poem for another. It also provided some surprises, because a poem can read one way when considered in isolation, and another way when considered within the context of the surrounding work.

7. Pure, unadulterated subjectivity. Something might grab me; something might not. This element came into play particularly early on. But even this element can be overridden during later reads, especially with respect to Blend and Arc.

There are as many editorial processes as there are editors. Your results may differ.

2. Interplay Mechanics

My reading period extended from March 20 through May 31, 2011, with the following call for submissions:

"I'm interested in poems that explore the interplay of opposites -- not a 'point/counterpoint' type of dichotomy, but the ways in which contradictory elements influence and infuse each other. For example, not science versus religion, but the dance between the two. Not hero versus villain, but the meeting of flawed hero and noble villain. Subject matter can range across technology, philosophy, personality, nature, myth, borders, and beyond. I'm looking for interstices, common ground, shades of gray. All speculative genres, poetic forms, and mixtures thereof will be considered. I'll also look at simultaneous submissions (let me know if you're sending one) and previously published work (include publication history). Preferred length is up to 75 lines; poems longer than that will be a tougher sell."

I have what is now a ten-page printout of what I called my "process sheet." That table has four columns: poet's name, submission title (one line per poem), accepted or rejected, and comments. The 226 poems fall into 14 marked "Yes," 29 marked "Maybe," and 183 marked "No." Those had been the standings before I made my final cut.

I can point to a "No" that became a "Maybe" and then a "Yes." I can point to a "Yes" that became a "No." I can point to a "No" that became a "Maybe" and that then reverted back to being a "No." I can point to a pair of poems by the same person in which I personally preferred A over B, but where I chose B because of Blend and Arc. In other words, the impact of other people's poems also influenced my decisions.

That also explains how a "No" became a "Yes," but not entirely. I'd read the submissions at least half a dozen times. At least two poems grew on me, one of them enough, and in concert with the other factors above, to make that leap.

Every time a poem became a "Yes" or a "Maybe" I included its line count on the sheet. I transferred my info to an Excel spreadsheet, so that I could have a running tally of total lines, given the space I had to work with. (The spreadsheet also included word counts, for figuring out payment.) Dealing with a one-shot made me take a much longer and harder look than I otherwise would have if I'd had the luxury of setting poems aside for future use.

Almost all the submissions came via email; I printed those out. As I assigned and re-assigned categories, I placed the poems into piles. But it wasn't until I actually began ordering them that my choices solidified.

Here the Interplay section took on a life of its own. It developed an arc much like a story arc, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. (These correspond to what I call subsections.) And some surprising things happened. For example, I had two poems that I wanted to use, but at first glance I thought they might be too similar. Through most of my reads I felt I'd have to choose one over the other. Within the arc, however, they seemed more to play off and complement each other. The first poem introduced a change in tone while carrying forward a particular subsection. The second poem then served as a bridge to another subsection.

Another pair of poems fared differently. My first choice fit a subsection but would have added more weight to it than I wanted, while my second choice blended well with a different subsection. That led me to choose a poem over one that I would have accepted instead under different circumstances.

Some of the nicest surprises came from poems that worked especially well when placed one after the other, making them into companion pieces. That cross-poem interplay added layers of meaning for me, and in one case bumped a poem up to a "Yes."

In the final analysis, all the machinations above were geared to my sensibilities, including the ways in which I chose to be influenced one way or another. Here's the final order for the Interplay section:

1. Greg Beatty: The Physics of Age & Baseball
2. Geoff Landis: subsume
3. Robert Frazier: A Break During Temporal Distortion
4. Kurt MacPhearson: Europa's Stoic Stance
5. Sophia Rhei (trans. by Lawrence Schimel): The Golden Ring
6. Terrie Relf: Hypatia
7. Mitchell Hart: Cosmoritus
8. Elizabeth Barrette: Astronauts and Angels
9. Marcus Ewert: No one could have guessed…
10. William John Watkins: How Fallen Angels Spend Their Golden Years
11. Alison Stone: IV. The Emperor
12. Matthew Richards: Ravel: An Etymology
13. Holly Day: The Orchard
14. Charlotte Hussey: Tree (for HD)
15. Ken Poyner: Workman's Creed
16. Sandra Lindow: Identity
17. F.J. Bergmann: Multi-tasking
18. Gail Wickman: How Martha Saved Her Life & Marriage
19. Noel Sloboda: Shuffling Off
20. Robert Borski: Kitchen Carcharodon
21. Roy Bayfield: Talking to Sim Man
22. Karen Newman: An Absence of Superheroes
23. Alexandra Seidel: Puppet Minds
24. Matthew Richards: Lullaby for Ununoctium
25. Penelope Cottier: Heliocentric
26. Melissa Frederick: Self-Assembled Universe

(To my knowledge, the "HD" dedication in Charlotte Hussey's "Tree" does not refer to Holly Day, author of the preceding poem "The Orchard.")

Again, I'd like to thank Marge Simon for inviting me to edit, and to all the volunteers working behind the scenes to get Star*Line out there: Robert Frazier for layout, F.J. Bergmann for updating the webpage, Deborah Flores for paying contributors, and Deborah Kolodji for getting everything out in the mail.

The Star*Line page at the SFPA site offers the TOCs and Editor's Choice poems of past issues. Also, check out SFPA's e-zine Eye to the Telescope and our Halloween poetry reading page.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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November 29th, 2011
12:40 am

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NaNo Update: The Next Phase

I've been validated!

After a roughly 26-hour writing marathon at the end of a fevered-pace weekend (with a 2,900-word count average over the past six days) , I have crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. Word count by their validator: 50,255 words. According to my Word program, the total is 51,649, a 1,394-word discrepancy. I'll bet it's the footnotes.

I have a lot of footnotes.

According to my Word program, I had crossed the NaNo finish line about 5-1/2 hours earlier than the site's reckoning. What with NaNo's pace, the draft is already very rough, and that roughness doesn't compare with what I had slapped together in those last hours.

My NaNo is effectively over, but my work is far from done. How far?

1. The #SciFund Challenge runs through December 15, and I will continue to cover it in realtime. The #SciFund story -- part of what attracted me to this project is because #SciFund is a story -- is more than the event itself. It's more than a fabulous community of scientists who have bonded with each other -- and with non-scientists -- around the globe, in a way that transforms everyone involved (including me!).

The event has added a new layer to already-existing discussions concerning crowdfunding in general, science funding in general (both within the US and internationally), open access to research, and the state of science, period. And I'm just touching on the main points.

I am personally fascinated -- awed, frankly -- by the interplay of layers I'm seeing. By the way in which the human interest stories of individuals are getting folded into something very, very big that is happening across monetary, academic, technical, and political landscapes. And by the way those relatively tiny but powerful human interest stories are affecting those massive landscapes. It has literally taken my breath away.

That's the kind of material that is part of my ongoing process of discovery. The scope of my project has shifted from what I had first envisioned, much the way in which the dorsal fin shifts on the male spinner dolphins that Matthew Leslie is studying, where it's hypothesized that one edge of the fin grows while the other edge stops growing. When I had started this writing, I had expected to grow one "edge" of the story, but another "edge" has been growing instead, with #SciFund remaining the central focus.

2. I am also dealing with the laws of physics (or at least the laws of coffee-saturated biology). My breaking the 50,000-word barrier doesn't mean that I am up to date in assembling the data I've been collecting. My draft narrative currently runs through November 23. That means I've got five days of #SciFund-related events that I haven't even touched yet, beyond grabbing info off the Web. Before my six-day frenzy I had been running a good ten days behind. And I know I'm missing a lot that's out there, including conceptually. When the #SciFund experiment ends its crowdfunding phase on Dec. 15, I will still likely have days worth of data to process. And that's just for the realtime narrative part.

3. I have concentrated on Archie-writing rather than Michael-writing. Put another way, I have concentrated on the realtime narrative material rather than on material devoted solely to the projects themselves. Those project narratives are important to the draft, but they can be done later because the material there is relatively static. The realtime narrative is dynamic, meaning that it can get away from me if I don't keep up with it.

That still leaves me with a lot to write. However, it's material that will wait for me.

4. Good old-fashioned editing. My draft is slapdash. It's like an underpainting, with basic shapes and colors and the relationships established between forms and angles. It's missing a lot of nuance. It likely contains unnecessary repetitions and some gaping holes. And the narrative itself is choppy, with edges that need smoothing, and bridges that I need to build between sections.

All that said, watching this amazing event unfold has been and continues to be a privilege. (Want to be a Science Santa? Here's a taste!)

Meanwhile, I've had my five-hour nap following my writing marathon. I've lived the "NaNo lifestyle": holed up at home, not getting dressed, eating out of cans, and watching with increasing alarm the level in my one remaining coffee bag decrease. I have not yet seen the movie The Road to Perdition, but I had found Thomas Newman's gorgeous score, which had fueled my last-push marathon after I had spent Sunday night listening to Hearts of Space.

There are errands in my near future. And a shower. Not in that order.

And then -- back to the story.



Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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November 25th, 2011
05:10 pm

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NaNo Update: Science Santa!
My NaNoWriMo word count reached 39,260 as Thanksgiving ticked over into Black Friday. Almost up to par.

And my Rocket Hub dashboard shows that I've funded four #SciFund projects, but there are more. The discrepancy has to do with my credit card company putting a freeze on my account because, well, they weren't used to seeing me click on the same kind of button that many times. So far as I know, that end of it has been resolved. Once the rest follows, I'll resume my holiday shopping!

Really, go check out the projects. If you want to inspire someone's scientific curiosity, here's your chance to touch base with researchers working on the front lines, doing innovative stuff. And as much as I love the companies from which I've bought things like our little Astroscan telescope, or the gyroscope I photographed for my chapbook of science poems, those things are mass-produced, ready-made products.

They're neat and all that, but they're not personal.

Every thank-you written on a postcard -- from places like St. Petersburg (in Russia, not Florida!) or South Africa or French Polynesia or Tel-Aviv -- or on a Gingko leaf (as Goethe used to do, when writing to his close friends) -- is unique. Every sample of data -- an autographed copy of a notebook page or handwritten mathematics from the research or handwritten field notes -- is a small piece in a grand adventure.

Want a paperweight or jewelry made from a cast-off crayfish claw? How about an alligator foot mold? Or a personalized Roman skull card? How about a bottle of wine that you can't get in any liquor store? Or a T-shirt print in high-res, living color of two algae in flagrante delicto? (Look at this picture; it's gorgeous. If you didn't know ahead of time, would you know what it was? Need a good guessing game for the holidays?) How about a unique DNA sequence from an animal being studied in the field? How about having a specimen named after you?

How about unique, woodturned art made by the scientist? Or a replica of models used in flow tank studies? How about stationery made from elephant poo? Or an acknowledgement in a presentation? Or a personalized kit for doing your own experiment? (Acknowledgements, copies of the research, and special access to progress reports are shared by several projects. Several high-end gifts include personal presentations and field tours.)

Holiday stress wearing you out? There's a virtual rainforest experience for that.

The swag is great in and of itself and there's something for every budget (I haven't covered all the projects here, not even close), but that's just one layer of the magic.

Back in December 2006, I had volunteered at a paleontological dig here in Florida, called the Tapir Challenge. Part 4 of my 4-part report is here, with a photo of the sea urchin spine I'd found. It had nothing to do with what we were looking for, but I was told that the quarry where we worked was full of them.

Then I was told I could take it home with me. And then I was told that it was probably 30 to 40 million years old. I was holding it in the palm of my hand. (Never mind that I had burned much older fossil fuels to get to the dig site. That was different.)

If someone my age gets all goose-pimply from that, imagine what a kid would feel. Now imagine a kid holding a souvenir from fresh, spanking, brand new science in the making, from a researcher who's breaking new ground.

But what about scientific inquiries that come to dead ends, as many do?

I could bust open a mess of incandescent light bulbs and pull out a filament like the one that had finally worked for Edison. I think of all the incandescent light bulbs in the world, especially prior to the changeover to fluorescents.

But what about the filament designs that didn't work? How common are those light bulbs now? Moreover, those filaments had been Edison's teachers. So had his early inventions, including his vote-recording machine, a disaster for being too far ahead of its time. When he lost the faith of his investors and his own funding was in peril, those failures had driven him on.

That makes them magic, too. Regardless of an experiment's outcome, it advances knowledge. That makes it pioneering work.

Speaking of thank-you letters from scientists...



Oh, wait -- Edison was a success by then. How about this one?



It reads, "Your favor of the 19th was duly received. The megaphone is not yet completed and I am quite unable to say when it will be as at present I am busily engaged on the electric light."

Who knew?

Who knows?

Want a taste of what Edison's passion and dogged determination felt like in the face of unknowns and uncertainties?

Here's your chance.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
Promote Your Page Too
Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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November 22nd, 2011
02:57 am

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NaNo Update: The Best of Both Worlds
Heading out of Day 21 of both NaNoWriMo and the #SciFund Challenge, my word count stands at a rather pretty 33,399. I had dropped behind the desired NaNo pace during my days of modem slowdown-death.

I'm still behind par. My daily word count currently averages 1,590 rather than the 1,667 intended to produce a 50,000-word opus by month's end.

I'm not worried. First, because meeting the 50,000-word goal by the end of November 30 is the NaNo thing to do, but it's not crucial. Second, while some other writers may be celebrating their post-NaNo collapse on December 1, I'll still be going strong. I'll still be on the #SciFund timetable, which goes through December 15.

Third, because for me it's not a question of word count. It's a question of processing all the data that comes in. I'm still catching up on that end.

And fourth, because I'm not really the author here.

You heard me.

I'm the assembler.

When I talk about "the best of both worlds," I don't refer to NaNo and #SciFund. I refer to two of my creative activities: writing and mixed-media art, specifically collage and assemblage.

Back in the early "aughts" -- roughly 2000 through 2003 -- I wasn't writing, at least not for submission. I was working steady multiple shifts and my brain was too fried for worldbuilding. I saved my creative sanity by picking up odd things -- shells, broken crockery, dropped pigeon feathers, pieces of broken mirror off the sidewalk -- and fiddling with them, to make them juxtapose with each other in interesting ways.

Put another way, I was playing. Like this:



This piece, "Totem," is made from a folding closet door that measured 1x7 feet. The door had been left on the curb for trash and had a hole seemingly kicked into it. I turned the door upside-down and transformed the hole into a bird's nest, housing three paper pulp baby birds in a combination of white pigeon fluff and shed cat fur. Mama bird is a pulp sculpture stuck with adult pigeon feathers. The mirror pieces in the sun/moon combination came from the curb as well.

The rest is sculpted pulp made from more than a ream's worth of discarded office paper that I mixed with gesso and then painted. I had built thick "branches" up from the wood, whacking them with a plastic knife to create the rough texture of bark. (I took this photo before my "good camera" days. It's lacking in detail and doesn't show the piece's true three-dimensionality.)

A friend and neighbor had told me that whenever she visited the cafe where this piece was on exhibit, her toddler son went over to the sculpture and kissed the lizard. (Best compliment for my artwork I've ever gotten.) I subsequently made him his own lizard and then gave "Totem" to his mother before Mary and I moved to Florida -- whose high heat and humidity discourages this kind of sculpting. Pulped paper mixed with gesso is heaven on earth for mold.

So, what does this have to do with my NaNo project and with having the best of both worlds?

One, I'm writing, which is something I'm passionate about. And two, I'm doing the writing equivalent of collecting interesting things and putting them together in what I hope are interesting ways.

In a way, it's like what Aditya Rao is doing with his Chlamydomonas cilia. Each cilium -- think of it as a microscopic hair -- has more than three thousand genetic puzzle pieces. Rao is studying how two very important pieces fit together.

In his puzzle, the pieces have to fit just right or nasty diseases can occur.

In my puzzle -- some of whose pieces come from his project -- I get to make up where the pieces go. I get to play with their shapes a little bit, the way I've done with my mixed-media art. In my puzzle, the pieces are ready-made, but the puzzle itself isn't. Because I'm the one making the puzzle.

In my mixed-media days, I took regular walks to Dorchester Bay in Boston and combed the beach for puzzle pieces like broken ceramic and glass worn smooth by the sea. Or I patrolled my neighborhood the night before trash day. Honestly, Dorchester had awesome trash.

These days, I turn my computer on and comb the Web for #SciFund puzzle pieces. I collect a bunch of them, just as I had filled my tote bag with a bunch of stuff from the beach or from the curb back in Dorchester.

And then I cull. What fits? What doesn't fit? What two pieces need a verbal bridge to connect them? What do I set aside for later? What new development gets a little line inserted earlier in the draft as a bit of foreshadowing? What gets left behind as redundant-redundant? What do I use to shift from one tone to another? What do I earmark as "needs more data?" What do I highlight, to see if any follow-up occurs?

Much of what I do is not actual writing. It's moving the pieces around. The writing part comes in shaping and connecting, and in the occasional commentary, when I feel the need to put in my own two shekels.

Seen in another way, this project is like putting together a found poem. Except that it's a found book. And the book is still being written. Not by me, but by dozens of people.

I'm just the one combing the beach.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
Promote Your Page Too
Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.
Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks.
Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy).
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