Magnets: how do they work?

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I’m working on my mental health with a treatment that sound pretty science fiction: HF-rTMS, which stands for high -frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. I spend about twenty minutes sitting in a chair every day with a figure-eight-shaped magnetic coil attached to my head. A series of electric pulses travel from a generator through the coil to my skull in quick succession, then pauses, then repeats. The therapy targets the left prefrontal cortex, which shows reduced resting activity in depressed people. It also contains a lot of motor neurons.

The sound is much like there’s a metal woodpecker inside my skull. The feeling is less painful, but it’s not something I’d do for fun. Often my eyes twitch during the treatment and afterwards I feel extra twitchy and shaky, because my already overstimulated (due to myoclonus-dystonia) motor neurons have also been getting more current.

 

Focal field for TMS positioning
Why magnets? Electromagnets are currently the least painful way to send current to brains.
The side effect is that sometimes I have a headache afterwards, which is common. I’ll take headaches for the chance to make a long-term improvement in my mental health. The neuropsychiatrist told me that about two thirds of patients respond. So far, no positive change in mental health, but I’m only two weeks in, and they see most responses begin in week three or four. As to why exactly it works…well, scientists are still working on that one. Best theory seems to be that evening out an electrical balance alleviates some of what can cause major depressive disorder.

It’s an every-weekday for six weeks treatment, after which there are three more weeks of tapered treatment. If I start responding on week six, I get another few weeks of it. It’s a hassle to get to and from the center- I have to leave work early. I get to spend the time in the chair reading, at least. So far I’ve read N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms, Jeffe Kennedy’s The Mark of the Tala and Lonen’s War, and Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen. I’ve been too tired to work on my novel, but at least I’ve been filling the creative well with a lot of books.

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Annual SFR Galaxy Awards coming up 31 Jan!

I’m honored to be a judge on the SFR Galaxy Awards again, coming at the end of the month! Awards are often quirky and inclusive. This year, I challenged myself to award authors who I hadn’t last year.

Designed by Kanaxa

To that end, I’ll do a giveaway once the awards are up.

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Book Review: Without a Front – The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey

Book Review

The time and place

This book picks up right where Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge ends. Read that book first.

The suspension of disbelief

See Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge.

The quick summary

Andira Tal is recovering from an attempt on her life with her new love by her side when the machinations against her finally bear fruit. Her resources are depleted, and she has very little time to counter the threat. Can she get out of this mess with her job, her family, and her life intact?

My squees

DeLancey has given a ton of attention to detail in the world and plot. I felt Alsea as very real and cohesive, and the plot is complex but not difficult to understand. The action scenes are easy to follow, and so are the foreign-to-me celebrations and traditions we see.

The love story has some credible conflict and two incredible women, and the familial and friendship relationships are rich and believable. Andira’s lady shows incredible resolve and strength while remaining human. She grows to assert herself even more in this book, and that makes Andira grow and change for the better in response.

My grumbles

The idea of someone (divine or technological) selecting soul mates for each other doesn’t grab me. As TV Tropes says, your mileage may vary.

Some of the issues highlighted in the first book felt like a distant memory here. I wanted to know the status of the named asylum seekers and troubled veterans, since I’d grown to care about them and I thought they were situations that still needed more addressing. Perhaps that will come up in further books.

Read if you

  • Can handle many twisty plot threads
  • Want many strong characters to sigh over

Skip if you

  • Can’t deal with a little nonhuman biology (think Star Trek aliens)
  • Need a quick, light read
  • Are creeped out by empaths

Final thoughts

I received a review copy, but also borrowed this book from the library for the time it took me to read it. Almost everything gets wrapped up in this novel, after three long books! The couple and memorable secondary characters each get their deserved resolution or at least a break after so many exhausting trials. I’m curious to know what will be next for the world of Alsea- I look forward to reading about the further adventures of several intriguing characters. I’m no television buff, but I believe that these books would translate well to a miniseries. Someone pick up that option!

Resources: Author siteGoodreads / Amazon / Kobo / Ylva Publishing

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Back to the manuscript

Writing

I’m following some revision guidelines from Holly Lisle and Rachel Aaron. It’s recommended that you print out your manuscript for annotation. Trouble is, I’m doing lots of travel for the next few weeks. Lugging around 400+ 8″x11″ pages seems like a recipe for disaster. I’ll lose papers all over the place. I’ve compiled the manuscript for my ereader, but I don’t think annotations will feel the same.

In any case, I’m going to put that part off and make a scene list where I look at the structure of the scenes and plotlines.

  • Which plots do the scene advance?
  • Which characters are involved?

From this I’ll be able to note if the book has too big a dose of the journalist late in the story with very little buildup earlier in the book, or if I have five scenes in a row dealing with the office break-in plot.

I will also try to answer the following questions:

  • What new data is conveyed to the reader?
  • What is the conflict in this scene?

New data pulls the story along. I wonder if I believe almost all scenes should have a conflict in a novel. This can be low-stakes, like two people discussing a plan to go to France. Chances are, they don’t have the exact same plan in mind. There’s the conflict: the details they have to work out. Both people have something they want from the conversation, and it’s my job to get them to tell what that is.

I think that can eat three weeks, easily. I just need to do it!

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Book Review: Jumper’s Hope by Carol Van Natta

Book Review

Jumper's Hope cover art

The time and place

About a thousand years from now. Action takes place on fairly backwater planet Branimir, on the passenger-freighter Faraon Azul, and in the city of Ridderth on planet Mabingion, the site of a brutal city riot several years before the book begins.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized many planets and developed space travel. Some humans have psychic powers, referred to as “minder talents.” These talents include mind control, healing, telekinetics, detection of other powers, and plenty more. Those who have them are often pressed into the Minder Corps of Citizen Protection Services: essentially the galactic police.

The quick summary

Retired pilot Kerzanna crashes on the planet Jess has retired to. It’s no simple accident—someone wants her dead. Jess finds and rescues her, to both their confusion, as they were each convinced the other died several years ago. The two try to lay low and make their escape, but somebody has a tempting offer for them that could give them a chance of a future together. All they need to do is deliver some information. Easier said than done when the baddies are still after Kerzanna.

My squees

Kerzanna is one of the most interesting cyborgs I’ve read about in SFR. Cybernetics aren’t all sunshine and roses while we still have flesh. Like prosthetics now, they cause stress on other systems and need constant tweaking. I like how the CPS deactivated some of her capabilities and there was a side market for restoring them, it felt very punk. Kerzanna and Jess are mature adults who use their experience wisely during the course of the story. Though he’s retired, he has problems due to some mismanagement by his workplace. There’s a bit of upside to that oversight, but of course there is also a price for taking advantage of that. It makes me think hard about how organizations treat their employees.

The villainous troupe is entertaining. Davidro is an easy fellow to understand, and watching the way he tries to handle his underlings keeps making me snicker. I felt sympathy for Vahan, who may be cold-blooded and callous, but has to deal with a difficult job. Renner the electric talent has gotten more interesting through the series, and Georgie the forecaster and the others are memorable. Those who slip Davidro’s leash still have parts to play, even if they pay vividly terrible prices.

There’s a battle in space, and it’s exciting. Keeping track of the minor characters involved there is easy. Van Natta is good at making them distinctive and choosing interesting names.

My grumbles

I had a lot of trouble visualizing the layout of the passenger-freighter ship. That could just be my own spatial reasoning problems. What’s a nav pod, and why can it do what it does in the story?

There are several time jumps near the end of the book. Sometimes it felt like events were skipped over a bit abruptly, which made keeping track of them a little difficult for me.

Read if you

  • Enjoy a tale of reunited lovers
  • Like an interesting stable of villains
  • Are really into competent cyborg heroines

Skip if you

  • Want your heat level higher than sweet
  • Shy away from violence
  • Prefer a primary focus on the love story

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received an advance reader copy for review purposes.

Don’t read this book on its own. Earlier books introduced these villains and their motives, and that makes the experience much richer. The leads get their happy ending, but there’s a twist for some characters which makes me very excited to read the next book. The way the characters have been built over time makes me curious about where some of them will end up.

Each entry in the Central Galactic Concordance is a bit different in tone. This one felt most like Overload Flux, with some spaceboard and plenty of hand-to-hand action. If you’re curious about other books in the series, I also reviewed Minder Rising and Pico’s Crush.

Author site: http://author.carolvannatta.com/

Resources: Kobo / Goodreads / Amazon / Google Play / iBooks / aRE

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