Friday, December 30, 2011


My subconscious is trying to tell me something. I have never dreamed about skunks before.

And yes, they were doing what skunks do.

I don't think I've written any stinkers lately...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Chefs

The Chef Rule

In our household, we have something called the 'chef rule'. It goes like this:

A good chef will serve you something you like.
A great chef will serve you something you don't like - and make you come back for seconds.

Right before Christmas, my mother-in-law took us to an exhibit of Rembrandt paintings. Now, when it comes to non-sequential visual art, the human form has to be my least preferred subject. In both painting and photography, I prefer landscapes. I seldom take pictures of people, unless it's as a record/memory of that person. So, an exhibition of portraits? Ugh.

Except that somehow, Rembrandt makes the portrait something special. It's what he did, and it's why he's considered a master.

Rembrandt is the art equivalent of a Great Chef.

In writing, of course, a Great Chef can serve you a genre you don't like. The problem is that because of the time investment in a book, most people don't want to spend time on genres they already 'know' they don't like. I'm guilty of it myself.

So, who are the literary world's Great Chefs?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Acknowledging Debts

As writers, we have debts to those who went before us. As a form of fiction, the novel did not really flower until the 19th century. Back then, people really did do things 'for the first time'. (Or rather, for the first time in print and in that form).

Most novels, at the time, were serialized. It was not uncommon for newspapers to print serials, the forerunner of the literary magazine. (Analog continues the tradition of printing novels in serial to this day).

However, most focused on what the author knew. In the 18th century, Jane Austen brilliantly described the world in which she lived, making of the sheltered lifestyle she led something of interest to many readers (Personally, I consider her to be the mother of 'chick lit'). Charles Dickens brought Victorian cities to life. Additionally, novels tended to be slower paced, in part because they were serialized, necessitating a certain amount of repetition. One of the biggest complaints often made about early novels is 'nothing happens' or 'you can tell the author was paid by the word'.

Today, we tend to think of most of the important literature being written in English, but I owe a personal debt to the first science fiction novel I ever read - 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne. Who, of course, was French.

Much earlier, a Frenchman of mixed race wrote several novels:

First of all, they were historical fiction, describing not the world in which the writer lived, but the world of two centuries previous. (Although the authors own time is, of course, echoed within them, as is unavoidable.

Second of all, by the standards of the time, they were remarkably fast paced, focusing not on intricacies of character or deep themes, but on high adventure. They were not written to educate, but to entertain.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that this may well have marked the birth of pulp. From this, of course, came much of the early science fiction and certainly, one can see elements of the plot of these books in much modern fantasy. (Even though many writers have never, in fact, read them, but only see the movies).

And, of course, thanks to the movies and at least one wonderful cartoon, everyone will recognize the names of his startling protagonists:

Athos, Aramis, Porthos and, of course, d'Artagnan.

Thank you, Alexandre Dumas, for handing down to the ages The Three Musketeers - and laying part of the foundation of modern genre fiction.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


First of all, this will be my last post until after Christmas. Family stuff is going to occupy most of my time for the next week or so.

Second of all, I'm pleased to announce that my historical fiction short 'The Emperor's Grandson' will be featured in Issue #2 of the new ezine Comets and Criminals. It's a mixed-genre magazine that should have something for every speculative fiction fan. The first issue is available in Kindle, Epub and PDF formats.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stupid Neanderthals...

We tend to equate 'Neanderthal' with stupid, uncivilized, barbaric. Behind the times. Cavemen.

How about the eastern Ukraine a structure built primarily of mammoth bones has been found that considerably predates the expansion of modern man into the area. It was made by Neanderthals. Traces of paint indicate that they colored the inside of the structure.

No less than 24 separate hearths were found inside. Somebody was living there. Somebody was living there for a long time.

The area, close to Moldova, has no suitable wood for building, so they used bone. But one has to wonder how many other Neanderthal houses were built that we might never find...because the wood foundations are long gone and we have no clue where to even start looking.

Just how intelligent and civilized were they?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chicken and Egg...

Which comes first...story or character?

With me, it is often character, and sometimes the most surprising revelations can happen in the middle of the story. I suppose that is part of why I find it almost impossible to outline.

What about the rest of you...where do you start? Story? Character? Maybe even setting?

Thursday, December 15, 2011


...working through the to be read pile. I am actually close to catching up with the husband on our Analogs (at which point I'll let him go first as I have SO many novels to read (or re-read in preparation for reading the next book).

And I keep acquiring more.

I am a bookaholic ;).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Really, Time?

'The Protestor' as person of the year? Shouldn't person of the year be, you know, an actual person?

I'm somewhat mystified. Yes, this has very much been the year of the protestor, but I don't think that an archetype or a type of person should be what is honored here.

Of course, that would require coming up with a good candidate. Maybe they were just stumped? They did consider Kate Middleton, but as nice as she seems to be, all she did was marry a prince.

Yeah. You know. If they were stumped, so am I, so maybe it was as good as anything else they could have done.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


If you notice that my profile has changed, it has. Blogger is finally integrated with G+, meaning that I'm now using the same profile for both services.

Secondly, I decided that as Smashwords is not going to get Amazon integration done in time for Christmas to also post The London Incident to Kindle Direct. Here's the links:


Monday, December 12, 2011

A Fermi thought

Any science fiction writer or fan worth their salt knows what Fermi's Paradox is.

If there are alien civilizations out there, why haven't they contacted us?

I've thought of many reasons over the years, including the difficulty and expense of interstellar travel (if faster than light isn't possible, then it's a very long...although far from impossible...trip).

Here's another thought.

One of the reasons commonly cited is that truly advanced civilizations would have a Prime Directive. This is generally mocked by most people who don't support it as 'why would they do that?'

Well, hear me out.

A civilization advanced enough to have interstellar travel is not going to be flying around the galaxy for resources or even finished goods. We're on the verge of having Star Trek style replicators ourselves. The only thing a starship might want from another system is fuel.

So, what IS worth trading between the stars?


Except that a truly advanced civilization isn't going to get meaningful scientific information from one that's lower in development.

What kind of information, then?




Intangibles. Things that will be different from system to system, species to species. Things affected by who we are and what our sensory capabilities are.

What does this have to do with the concept of the Prime Directive?

If you contact an insecure or unstable race, their culture will be irrevocably damaged. And what will be damaged will be those very intangibles that are the only things worth trading with them for. As the newly contacted species learns from you, there is a very real risk that they will trade their culture for yours...ruining their value as trading partners.

It is only worth trading with a mature species. Therefore, guidelines against premature contact would be in place to ensure that a species becomes 'mature' before they are contacted formally. (Informally might be another matter...but there's all kinds of stories there).


Friday, December 9, 2011


My Goodreads library is now pretty much done. Everything's in except the periodicals, which I'm not sure whether or not I want to put in there.

(Sadly, they don't consider 99 cent shorts to be books, so I can't actually promote them on there. Which is silly - if it has an ISBN, it's a book, surely?)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Horses, Courses, Success

Yesterday I rode two horses. Both of them are animals I've worked with before, but I had never ridden them back to back, one after the other.

It really highlighted just how different the two of them are.

G is a fifteen hand Quarter Horse who is dangerously close to what people in the horse world refer to as a 'tank'. He is short-coupled, compact, and holds a lot of power in his frame. His pedigree is a laundry list of some of the most familiar names in the ranch horse breeding world - Wimpy, Three Bars, Joe Hancock, Poco Bueno, King... He's close to being smarter than I am and an extremely dominant animal who wants to be top of the heap. Almost every time a new person gets on him, he tests their mettle by trying to slam them into the arena wall. His other favorite trick is to literally fling himself into the center of the arena. He even bucked me off once. But he has never been lame in his life, to my knowledge, and everyone who can handle him loves him.

Bo is about sixteen two and is believed to be a Thoroughbred. He has no racing tattoo and his past is somewhat murky, but he looks and moves like a Thoroughbred. This means he is long in all dimensions...long legs, long back, long neck, long stride. He's not quite as knife-blade narrow as many American TBs, but he's close. Being a Thoroughbred, he is often eager to go, especially on a cold day, although he also has his moments of not wanting to work. Also, like many Thoroughbreds, he spends much of his time rummaging around for a second braincell. Sorry, Bo, but it's true. But he's willing, and the worst thing he does is let you know that he doesn't understand or get what you want (he's still in training, so this happens fairly often) by just stopping and standing there until you explain it again.

Truth is, if you asked me which of the two I wanted to ride, I would be looking around for a coin. If you asked me which was the better horse? I couldn't give you an answer.

If you told me I could have one of them tomorrow...I would take Bo.

Why? I love and adore G, but he does not belong in an English barn jumping fences and trying to do dressage. He lacks the longitudinal flexibility needed to be a good English horse and really wants something to herd...he's tried to herd the barn swallows and even the barn CAT (somebody needs to tell him about herding cats...) He's a tough-minded, ranch-bred horse who would be absolutely great if I wanted something to ride across the plains or chase cows.

Bo, on the other hand, has elasticity, he has the ability to 'float' in his action. He can do dressage and I rather suspect that when we start teaching him to jump he'll be pretty good at it. He's not the better horse, but he's the better horse for the job.

Relevance to writing? There's no sense submitting to the best publisher in the world if they aren't the right publisher for the job. Do they do your genre? Do they treat their existing authors the way you want to be the editorial style right? Would you honestly be better off with a small press or even going it alone?

Those are all things we need to think about when we're deciding which 'horse' is right for our personal 'course'.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Replicators are Coming

One of the most exciting technologies in development right now? The 3D printer.

It seems that most people who aren't geeks don't know anything about this.

A 3D printer is a fairly simple concept that's not dissimilar from the inkjet printers most of us have these days (If you have a photo printer, it's an inkjet, and most small desktop printers are inkjets.) Instead of extruding ink from the jet, the 3D printer extrudes plastic, metal, or whatever you need. 3D printers have been used for all kinds of purposes. Plastic printers can, for example, create a missing part for an old Airfix kit. Some restaurants have 3D printers that extrude dough, allowing the creation of intricate confectionaries that would be hard or possible to do by hand.

The cheaper kinds of 3D printers are now within the reach of individuals at prices comparable to a high-end laser printer.

But this is not what is truly exciting about 3D printers.

3D printers have been used to create muscle, cartilage and bone. There are 3D printers in existence right now that can be fed a small amount of cartilage taken from a person's joint and print up an ear - just add skin.

Medical researchers are hopeful that within a matter of not decades but years, they will be able to literally print replacement organs. They hope that bone printing will be approved in a year or two, potentially allowing the repair of complex fractures that until now have required amputation. In the longer term future, printing up somebody a new arm or leg, or at least the framework to allow that person to grow one, is now feasible. Not technically there yet, but feasible.

In the future, nobody will need a prosthetic arm or leg, but only an outer framework to temporarily support the limb and perform its purposes while it regenerates (such already exist). In the future, we will be able to grow somebody a new heart, lung or liver, from their own tissue (so no rejection problems), but with whatever defect or deformity was causing them to need one corrected.

And there may be other implications. Who remembers the Star Trek episode 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?' In that episode, the sinister Korby creates android copies using a blank and a device that might well be a highly sophisticated 3D printer.

More obviously (thank you Nobilis for pointing this one out) the recreation of Leeloo in the Fifth Element is definitely 3D printing.

Now there is a can of worms...are we ready for factory-made clones?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


'The Third Princess' is completed with substantive edits and being sent out to betas. Finally.

Of course, I'm betting there will be more substantive edits, but I can get it out of my head for a while now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Where are we going?

There's an article in today's Washington Post. (You can find it here).

A successful man with multiple graduate degrees took a standardized test for 10th graders.

He basically failed.

NOTHING in the test was relevant to real world success. None of the math questions were math anyone in an actual job needs.

With the results he got, he would have been told not to bother with college, that he wasn't smart enough.

Where are we going with this education system? I know I rant about it fairly often, but I was raised by a teacher, so I know a little more about education than most. In fact, the only reason I'm not a teacher is because I'm the wrong personality to keep control of 30 or 40 kids. If I have 4 or 5, I can teach them fine. Sigh.

What do we need to do to come up with an education system that works? Any ideas?

Friday, December 2, 2011


I didn't do it for various reasons, but who completed NaNo this year? If so, you all deserve a big high five, especially if you did it for the first time.

Now go write some more...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Yesterday, Bo cantered.

What? A horse cantering is an achievement?

It is if the horse concerned is barely trained and this is the first time anyone other than his original trainer has managed to convince him that cantering under saddle is actually possible.

Achievements are, well, relative. Your first credit is an achievement, but selling another story to the same magazine? Less of one. I'd go so far as to say that for something to feel like an achievement is has to register as an improvement. In writing, this might mean selling to an editor who rejected you 100 times with other works or selling for a higher rate.

Finishing your first novel, thus, is a greater achievement than finishing your second one - at least in your psychology.

But then, you can look at this another way. Everything you finish is an achievement. If you see it that way, you will feel better. Trust's hard to see finishing a novel as an achievement if you haven't managed to sell the last one, but it is.

And if that doesn't help, remember that there are people out there for whom getting through the day is an achievement.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Noisy, Noisy, Noisy

I have no clue what my neighbors are doing, but it's not conducive to writing. Bang, rumble, bang, rumble. I may just have to grab my netbook and flee.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I should not...

...have complained about the heat. Now it's pouring it down. Gym is waiting until later. Of course, that means I have to work now.

Ah well. It beats flipping burgers.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Last week was a fiction writing week for me. I wrote, count them, five short stories and finished three of them. I'll get the other two finished this week.

Not bad, eh?

Friday, November 25, 2011


Who ate too much yesterday? Probably almost everyone in the United States. (I hear Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thankful, right now, just for life, health, a roof over my head and enough money to plan a vacation. I am so much better off than many people out there.

(Now if I could just finish this story...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gone Away, Gone Ahead

In 1968 a novella was published by a young woman. The quality of the story was recognized at the time - it won the inaugural Hugo award for a novella, making its author the first woman to win a Hugo. A year later, she wrote a novel in the same world.

The significance may not have been.

In western tradition, the dragon was a classic monster. Associated with Satan, he would pillage and destroy, often backing down only when the beleaguered people offered a young virgin (preferably of high rank) as a sacrifice.

Tolkein used Smaug as the 'Big Bad' of the Hobbit - a cunningly evil beast who valued only treasure and money. In 1952, C.S. Lewis turned a bratty kid into a dragon as a punishment for greed. Plain and simple, though, is that the image most of us in the west now have of dragons?

The novella was Weyr Search.

The novel was Dragonflight.

The young woman was to become SFWA Grand Master Anne McCaffrey, one of only three women to hold the title thus far.

In Dragonflight, she subverted the myth of the young woman sacrificed to the dragon by having a virgin, of high rank, but trapped in the kitchens as little more than a slave, carried away by the dragons. Instead of being eaten, however, she was elevated to a position of great power. On her Pern, the best thing that could happen to a young woman was to be carried away by the dragons...although the sacrifice still happened, for the process of bonding a dragon was (at least in the ninth pass) dangerous and potentially fatal.

But she also created an entire new kind of dragon. Her dragons were neither the monsters of the west, symbols of worldly greed, nor the benevolent but powerful nature spirits that the peoples of Asia and the Far East call dragons. They were elegant, gentle companions to mankind, loyal beyond death to their chosen (and highly privileged) riders.

She created, in fact, the trope of the dragonrider - seen in The Dragonlance Chronicles, Eragon, Temeraire and numerous less well-known series (I highly recommend Mercedes Lackey's Joust for a very different look at the modern dragon).

Even George R. R. Martin uses the dragonrider trope in A Song Of Ice And Fire, albeit in a harsher, darker sense that fits his unique style.

On top of that, she created a world that people want to live in. Back in the early days of the internet, MUDs hit their heyday. Less popular were the code-light and roleplay-oriented MUSHes and MUSEs. However, one MUSH was so popular that busy nights sometimes crashed the somewhat primitive servers of the day. One guess what the theme was.

Although text-based roleplay is less popular now, 'All The Weyrs of Pern' currently lists 32 Pern bulletin board games and 42 games that are based on Pern with significant alterations - not all of them are active, but it shows that there is still a strong demand for 'living on Pern'. At least two full-length fanfiction novels have been written. One of them, Dragonchoice, is considered by some fans to be better than anything Anne wrote.

Anne McCaffrey also made a place in her world for gay the 1960s. Although she had some strange ideas about human sexuality (she apparently genuinely believed one homosexual experience as a 'bottom' would make a man gay for life), she was one of the first to open the door to gay characters.

Her writing had many flaws. The aforementioned lack of understanding of sexuality was one of them. She was also not a scientist, and it often showed in her work. Some of her books would have benefitted strongly from an editor with a degree in biology. At heart, too, she was a romance writer, who also wrote several category romances. Her books tend towards strong romance plots, sometimes at the cost of characterization.

Yet, how many people can say they created a major trope of modern science fiction and fantasy writing?

Also worth mentioning is 'The Ship Who Sang', where she gave a unique place to the profoundly disabled. Or her Tower series, in which she created a world in which telepaths and telekinetics gave humanity the stars. I also have a weakness for the Crystal Singer trilogy - beautiful, tragic and profoundly romantic in all senses.

Sometimes, I found her writing pedestrian, but her ideas. Her ideas flew as high as a queen dragon in her mating flight.

On Monday, November 21, at the age of 85, Anne McCaffrey suffered a stroke at her home in Ireland.

Random House confirmed yesterday that the Grand Master had indeed gone Between for the last time.

Fly high, Anne. You will be missed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reach for it

I've had the same conversation more than once with writers.

There appear to be some writers who think they need to start with non-paying markets and work their way up after getting a certain number of credits. That they somehow don't 'deserve' to be paid until they have 'proven themselves'.

Here is what I would say to those people: It costs the same to submit to Asimov's as it does to submit to Non-Paying Ezine #357. Nothing. Why take nothing or little for a story that might be worth 5 cents a word? Because you're afraid of what might happen? Seriously, the worst case scenario is a form rejection. Start at the top and work your way down. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Also, the 'exposure' Non-Paying Ezine #357 promises you probably isn't worth very much either. Sorry to the ezine editors out there, but most don't get thousands of readers. Many don't even get hundreds of readers.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Memory is mutable, flexible and...can be manipulated. Move over subliminal advertising - turns out you aren't needed at all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What a day.

Having one of those days. A JRE update nuked my Firefox install (I thought I was going to be using Chrome for the duration, and I'm not that keen on Chrome). Got it sort of fixed.

Oh, and it's coooold out. But I did get no less than five stories submitted. Which I suppose means it wasn't entirely unproductive.

Note to Mac users. If your Firefox install is locking up every time you load a page with a Java applet, the Aurora version DOES have the patch. Or just use Safari until they fix it. Which they will...the patch is in alpha testing right now.


Thursday, November 17, 2011


The developments continue to come:

I want some of THAT to put on the outside of my spaceship. It might be nice against micro-meteor strikes without adding much weight. I also wonder what sort of 'energy absorption' capabilities it really has...

Of course, it probably costs billions of dollars an ounce to make right now.

Right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Digital Vs. Analog

It's common wisdom that digital computers have taken over from analog ones... (Who even knows what a vacuum tube is these days?).

Or...have they. MIT researchers have come up with a chip that can accurately simulate a neural synapse. Of course, it's analog, because WE are analog computers. (Well, with a few more things going on we don't understand yet, some of which may well be beyond science).

The significance of this is not 'We can now make an artificial intelligence'. Instead, the most likely use of these chips will be to replace damaged parts of the brain after traumatic injury or in individuals born with brain damage.

Of course, as the chips may turn out to be faster than the natural version, they might also be used to enhance mental capabilities or as an interface between the analog world and the digital.

Cool stuff, if a little scary.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


What happened to winter? We had winter. It went away again. It's been in the sixties and some people further south have been getting out and out summer temperatures.

I dunno whether to complain or not. Still...there are worse things. It could be, you know, snowing in October, as some people got.

It's enough to make anyone believe in climate change.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A little bit of a status report

Wrote a bunch of very short stories this week for various calls for submission. Planning my next trip (to Arizona).

Other than that, life goes on, although I am totally going to steal the Westies. One of them, anyway. For some reason, this apartment complex is suddenly full of terriers!

I want one *pout*. No, wait. I want least two...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Russian Mars Mission

The Russians just can't seem to get a successful Mars mission, can they...and this one didn't even get out of LEO.

(If I was some kind of conspiracy theorist, I'd link this to the fact that they were apparently trying to deliberately contaminate Phobos with earthlife. However. I know the truth. Russians just aren't good at sending things to Mars. I will resist Red Planet jokes here).

Hopefully it won't land on anything important when it crashes back to Earth.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I'm wondering, right now, when we are going to turn things around. The western black rhino of Africa appears to be extinct.

Over its horn.

Come on, people. We need to clean up our act. Maybe, and I've had this thought before, there are space aliens...and they aren't contacting us because they just plain don't *like* us.

I mean. Some days I don't like us.

Sorry...I'm in a cynical mood about this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little bit of reorganization

I've decided the second media blog experiment is not working. I simply don't have enough ideas for it. Also, all future sales and release announcements will be on and I may post some blog posts there too.

For now, though, most of my thoughts on writing will stay here and if there's something important over there, I'll definitely drop a pointer.

Right now, I'm just waiting on the actual results of the state elections. Stupid recounts...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Being a professional writer

I've been thinking today about what separates a professional writer from an amateur.

The key is that a professional writer handles their writing as a business. But what does this mean?

First of all, it means treating everyone you deal with as a customer. An editor I am sending a story to is a customer. A client I'm writing an article for is a customer. A reader is a customer. This means you have to treat everyone the way you want to be treated when you are a customer.

It means being polite, it means staying rational. It means going ahead and calling the editor an idiot in the privacy of your own home, but resisting the temptation to do so in public.

One thing I have only fully grasped recently is that to a writer or artist everyone is a potential customer. I am, naturally, a highly emotionally volatile person with a temper and a tendency towards mood swings. I've had to learn...and am still learning...a higher level of self control. I've pissed people off in the past...but everyone has. My latest realization is that by treating absolutely everyone as a 'potential customer' I can apply the golden rule in a manner that is not pure altruism. Tech support guy who's trying to fix my broken DVR? Potential customer. Teller at the grocery store? Potential customer. I think that if I can learn to apply this professionalism to my life, then I will be a better person for it.

The second big chunk is that if you run your writing as a business, you have to approach every venture with 'What is in it for me?'.

That sounds horribly selfish, doesn't it. But think about it this way. If you sell a story to an editor, then what do you get out of it? It might be X cents a word. It might be royalties. It might be the ever-nebulous 'exposure'. A lot of writers are willing to hand their rights over to a publisher that opened its doors one week ago and is asking for submissions for an anthology for 'exposure'. Think about that. If they're that new and can't afford to pay you or even give you a copy of the book, how much 'exposure' are you really going to get? There are a lot of people who expect artists, of all kinds, to give their work away. I've even had it seriously suggested to me by otherwise sane people that I find an artist willing to give me cover art so I can profit off of it. That is not professional...on either side. As long as artists are willing to give stuff away because they want the 'credit', though, it will continue to happen.

Will I give stuff away? Sure. If there's something in it for me. For example, if I self publish a novel, I might write a related story and give it away for free. That's called a 'loss leader' and stores have been doing it for as long as there have been stores. I will also give work to non-profits, providing I agree with their cause and know they are really charities...and I will check. I'll write guest posts on other people's blogs for nothing, providing they use my byline and link back to my blog or web site. Even better if I can get them to return the favor. Cross promotion is one of the best things out there.

But I will not work for nothing but 'exposure' unless somebody actually has exposure to offer. Most of the time, publishers that put out 'for the love' calls don't have any exposure. If they did, they could afford to pay their writers.

Now, some people are going to read this and call me a mercenary and a hack. No. I am running a business. I am trying my best to be a professional. I may not always succeed, but I am trying.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New website.

It's now up. Check it out at

You'll see some additions and reorganizing as well as the new color scheme.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What I've been doing this week... completely redesigning my website. I'm hoping to get the new version live tonight or tomorrow, depending on my hosting provider's schedule. I only have a couple more things to do. I'm mostly changing it because I got bored, but I've also gone with Wordpress, which allows me to do a bunch of things I'd otherwise need to do a lot of coding and installing stuff to do.

Other than that, I finished a couple of short stories. Hopefully the editors will like them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Awesome ancient technology

I always love it when we discover X group of primitives had things we didn't know they had. This time, it's the vikings.

Now I have a sudden urge to do something with polarization of light and *interstellar* navigation. I need to let this one percolate.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


One major step closer. Of course, the solution is to look at how nature does it. Molecular machines and nanomaterials occur in all living things, including ourselves.

In fact, the development in this article completely blurs the line between living and non-living, between what we call natural and what we call artificial.

Why spend years designing a framework with which to build designer molecules and small scale structures when nature already did it all for us?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Actually, here it seems to have jumped straight to winter, but I have to admit: I love fall. Halloween is, of course, my favorite holiday, although the lack of trick or treaters was disappointing. I need to live in a neighborhood with more kids so I can menace them!

(And so I don't end up eating all the candy myself).

On the other hand, I just love how I go to the store ON Halloween and the Halloween candy is all gone and replaced by Christmas stuff. Really? Seriously? We can't wait one more day so people can buy their last minute candy?

I'm really tired of how Christmas has taken over the world...and I feel sorry for the Christians. But hey, *somebody* already did almost all of her shopping.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Billion - Good Or Bad?

Or just...hype.

We're going on and on about the seven billionth human to be born, even though we don't actually know for sure that it is or is not. Furthermore, how do you define human? Do you include Neanderthals? Australopithecus? Some scientists even argue that we should recategorize chimpanzees and bonobos as members of genus homo.

And then there's, well, how many hunter gatherers in Ice Age Europe? We simply don't know.

Setting that aside, population growth is a concern. By many measures, there are too many human beings on the planet. There are especially too many human beings in certain parts of the developing world. On the other hand, a new worry is beginning to emerge.

People in the developed world can't afford to have children without wrecking their standard of living. Populations are starting to drop and the number of retirees is growing...without new workers to replace them. Many countries are facing the specter of raising the retirement age - which might make sense as people live longer and stay healthy longer.

Here is the real problem.

We do have too many human beings. However, we have economic and social systems calibrated for an increasing population. In the long term, dropping the human population to some reasonably determined carrying capacity is a good thing...but how do we do it without wrecking our entire society?

Especially as our society is already in so much trouble. Answer? I don't have one...yet. I do know that uncontrolled population growth is bad. So is uncontrolled population fall. Population stability will require that we rethink how our economy work.

The other alternative is to expand our range, but realistically, we don't yet have the technology to move large numbers of humans off this planet. Yet. I personally feel expanding our range is the true solution, but it too carries far too many 'hows' with it to be a feasible short term option.

So, once more, I'm leaving you with more questions than answers. I don't really have the choice, because I don't have the answers. Yet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ding, dong...

...another bastion of gender inequality is dead. Well, dead in the sense of not being a bastion of gender inequality any more.

Upon the ratification of appropriate Acts by the elected governments of the United Kingdom, the sixteen Commonwealth countries that still consider the British Monarch to be their head of state and the Manx Tynwald, the male requirement for succession will be removed from the British Monarchy. The Act of Succession will also be amended to permit the Monarch to be married to a Roman Catholic (although the monarch him or herself will still be required to be 'in communion with the Church of England').

What this means, in plain English, is that the first child born to William, Duke of Cambridge and his wife Catherine will become the direct line heir to the throne after his or her grandfather, then father (displacing Prince Henry). If this child is female, then by the older tradition she would have been displaced by a younger brother.

This will no longer be true. The line of succession will now pass to the first born legitimate child regardless of gender, beginning with the offspring of William and Catherine.

This is way, way overdue. Since 1993, it has been possible for a woman to serve on an active duty warship in the Royal Navy, allowing a female heir to properly fulfill the traditional requirement of service as a military officer. (William broke with this tradition in choosing to serve in the army not the navy). Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth II did partially fulfill this requirement by serving as an ambulance driver during the final months of the blitz (as soon as she became old enough).

There is no reason why the reigning monarch needs to be a man and no reason to retain this archaic tradition.

So, all I am going to say now is:




Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Blast From The Past

I got an email today from somebody I hadn't talked to in years. I used to do tabletop RPGs with him many, many years ago.

I made a character for one of his campaigns that was a member of an alien race that I had introduced to multiple game worlds. I was quite surprised to get the email...because he's apparently still using them after all these years.

So, I figured I owed a shoutout to Gene DeMaitre - he's a great worldbuilder and I love the Venetian land whale.

Check out the campaign description here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Unfortunate news...

It appears that Twisted Library (formerly the Library of the Living Dead/Library of Horror) is in significant financial difficulties due to the state of the economy. Apparently, even evil dentists can be hit by it.

Because of this, they've decided to cancel most of the upcoming anthologies. It appears that Horror Comes Out may have been axed and I'm fairly sure Zombiality 2 and The South Will Rise Undead are also not going to be happening. It's a definite confirmation that Zombie Feary Tales is a no go.

However, the publisher is still afloat. Which led me to think of some things. With Christmas coming up, I can think of two presses that need support.

Norilana Press is also in some financial difficulties, and has also had to cancel and delay books.

With the holiday season coming up, consider one of the following books for a present. Books make cheap presents and you can read them as many times as you want to.

From Norilana Press:

Warrior Wisewoman 2

Warrior Wisewoman 3

From Twisted Library:

The Zombist: Undead Western Tales

Zombiality: A Queer Bent on the Undead

These are all great books...and they have me in them to boot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Woof, woof, woof.

Right now, I'm contemplating finding a nice way to tell my neighbors that this sequence of events is entirely their fault:

Dog sees leash. Barks. Door opens. Dog barks louder.

Owner yells 'Shut Up!'

Dog...barks louder.

Yeah. Lady, your dog thinks you are joining IN, not telling him off. (Your dog is, by the way, extremely cute, no doubt how he gets away with things...)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rising above the crud.

Somebody mentioned earlier that there is too much porn on Smashwords.

This may well be because the erotica industry has embraced the ebook faster than anyone else. If you have porn on your ereader...nobody knows you're reading porn.

However, his concern was that the porn was drowning out the other stuff. I would point out there is a far greater concern.

The crap drowning out the good stuff. We're in a publishing wild west right now, with people bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of quality (agents and editors). I once read a short story in which the definition of 'professional editor' had changed completely. Instead of producing books or anthologies, professional editors were paid by readers to make personalized recommendations.

Maybe we need people to start that service...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rational thought

I really have slight writer's block today in terms of good blog posts. Over the last couple of days, I've got into a couple of online debates.

Most people debate rationally. Others, however, seem incapable of doing so. What makes the difference between people who can disagree with respect...and people who start calling names, blocking people and making threats?

Is it just an anger control thing? Or does it reflect it that the people who can debate in a reasonable manner are those who have actually, at some point in their lives, been taught to debate?

I think that may be the closest thing...and if that is the case, then the answer is to teach our children how to debate. How to argue a point. How to cite sources. How to be sure to attack the opinions of the opponent rather than their character. We'd certainly have a much more civil...and fun...internet if everyone could do it right.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Here we go...

I'm linking to this post, but I would note it is lengthy and somewhat technical and not everyone who reads this blog may want to actually read it.

Basically, we're talking about the Technological Singularity. Except, we're not, quite. This post talks about one aspect. It appears that the meaning of the term has shifted from what Vinge originally meant.

The Singularity is when technological development accelerates to the point where the world changes totally within a human lifespan. It doesn't technically mean 'When computers get smarter than us'. But it's come to be very focused on that.

Here is the question: Do we want computers smarter than we are? (If you can get your hands on it, read Mary A. Turzillo's 'An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl' for one look at why that might not be the best idea).

Second question: Can we stop that from happening? Short of the destruction of our civilization, the answer is probably no.

So the real question is...can we have a C/Fe culture? Here, I refer to Isaac Asimov's wonderful robot novels (which every science fiction and mystery fan should read...a lot of people forget that Asimov had a deft hand with a mystery). A C/Fe culture is one in which humans and robots work together and complement one another. If we are really going to have fully sapient computers, then we need to work out what a C/Fe culture would look like.

And lately, I've been thinking a lot about what a post-industrial culture will look like and one of my thoughts was 'fewer humans, more robots'...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things Girls Don't Do... comics - check.
...enjoy science - check. motor racing - check.
...write science fiction - check.
...go to gaming conventions - check.

...hey. I'm apparently not a girl ;). (Actually, I'm gratified that most of these are ceasing to be true, although some of DC's recent decisions seem bent on 'fixing' the first one).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writer's Block

We all get it. I get it less often than most, but sometimes it can be chronic. And the more pressure is on me to write, the worse the block gets. So I'm going to pass on this tip.

If you have writer's block on a project, step back and write something else. Even if you have a deadline. And if you do have a deadline, ask for an extension. Make sure that you set reasonable deadlines for yourself, too, so that you're not under the kind of pressure that can create writer's block...or make it worse.

Now. I have to go try and write an article. Mutter. I have idea block on non-fiction right now. Then I have a short story I want to write.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More on risk

I've said before, either on this blog or on Google plus that I feel that mentally competent adults should have the right to take risks.

I feel that I should have the right to get on a horse without worrying about whether my health insurers will pay if I fall off...or worse, worrying that they might sue the horse's owner into bankruptcy if I do hurt myself.

I feel that people should have the right to choose whether they wear safety gear (although I would prefer that they did) unless, of course, they have agreed to waive that right by signing a contract. However, I am adamantly against any sporting body (NCHA, I'm looking at you) banning safety gear or campaigning against its use.

Yesterday, the final IndyCar race of the 2011 season went horribly wrong. During qualifying, more than one driver expressed concern about high qualifying speeds, with the pole position driver and several others hitting 222 miles per hour on the relatively tight 1.5 mile oval.

Ten laps into the race it happened. Even on slow replay, the cause of the crash was hard to determine, but all it took was for two cars to touch wheel to wheel to set off the 'Big One'. Problem is...these were not stock cars. Multiple cars spun and the car driven by Will Power was launched into the air.

Towards the back of the pack, Paul Tracy hit the brakes to try and avoid the carnage ahead of him. Driving close behind him was 33-year-old veteran Dan Wheldon, who had failed to get a full time ride for the 2011 season and was driving in only his second race.

He could not stop in time. His car hit the back of Tracy's, flipped and went airborne. Once an open wheel car is inverted, the technology designed to keep them gripping the track can send them even higher, and this was not the normal rapid end over end flip. Instead, the car slammed into the catch fence above the soft barrier, a device designed to prevent spectator deaths from flying debris or cars, and caught fire, spinning horizontally and finally coming to rest well down the track. At some point, the roll 'pod' designed to protect the driver from head and neck injuries came detached from the 'capsule' that houses the driver.

Dan Wheldon was airlifted to the nearest hospital, and pronounced dead two hours later.

The fourteen other drivers involved in the crash walked away. Three - Will Power, Pippa Mann and J. R. Hildebrandt were taken to the hospital. Power was released that night, although he has already said he will not be driving next week in Australia as planned. Mann and Hildebrandt were kept overnight for observation.

Ironically, Wheldon, left without a ride, spent most of 2011 test driving the 2012 chassis, which addresses many safety concerns. He spent the last year of his life trying to prevent accidents like the one that claimed it.

However, there are two key facts here. Very key.

1. Dan Wheldon knew the risk. So did his widow. Do I have every sympathy for him and his family? Absolutely. But he chose to be a race car driver. It was what he was good at, it was his gift and what he did well.

2. Fourteen drivers walked away. Including the other driver who's car went airborne, although Power did apparently suffer from minor injuries to his lower back and might well be buying his chiropractor's next new car. Had this accident happened fifteen or even ten years ago, we would be looking at probably at least two driver fatalities, if not more. Instead, we have one. A tragedy, yes. But not the tragedy it could have been. Heck, if this accident had happened twenty years ago, we would probably be looking at dead spectators.

There are people who are going to say 'open wheel racing is too dangerous'. To which I respond 'Yes, but those drivers know exactly what they are getting into'. Just as I know that when I get on a horse I face the risk of an unscheduled dismount and possible injury, so any race driver knows that when they climb into that cockpit, they face very real risks. Serious risks.

Can and should those risks be mitigated? Definitely. In fact, I will stick my neck out and say that had these drivers been driving the Safety Cell chassis that will be used for 2012, there is a very real chance this fatality would not have happened. The new chassis has a deeper cockpit with much better integration of the roll pod with the cockpit capsule (which might well have saved Wheldon), and the chassis encloses the front of the rear wheels. This should reduce the risk of a car going airborne and improve safety for both drivers and spectators.

On top of that, this happened on a new track which the drivers did not like...the drivers said it was too fast, and they were right. The drivers also said the field was too big, and they were right. Indy needs to apply something like the NASCAR restrictor plate system on these tight ovals so that the top speed is restricted. (NASCAR, generally, tries to avoid having cars go over 200 miles per hour and, in general, stock car racing is safer than open wheel). The promoter had a lot riding on this race, financially...and perhaps it should have been canceled. I hope that in the future the drivers are listened to.

But does this mean we should stop racing? Or stop racing on ovals? Heck no. I suspect that Dan Wheldon would be the first to chime in with that heck, no...closely followed by Dale Earnhardt, Ayrton Senna and the rest.

Risk is part of life and part of almost all sports. As somber as it is to reflect on tragedy, we must learn from it and move on. This could also be applied to any other field of human endeavor, such as, say, the space program.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Primitive, not stupid

I get really tired of people who say that Stone Age humans were less intelligent than we are. How about this for evidence to the contrary. A paint workshop...where apparently people gathered to mix ochre for cave paintings and body paint (I say people, but it's likely this kind of work was mostly done by women). The point is not just that they were making paint, but that they had a special area set aside for it. You can imagine them sitting around mixing the dye and chatting about who was mating with who...

(Humans have always gossiped about other people's sexual activity. I'm sure of it).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I have a new toy...

I got tired of not being able to write on the road (every writer has their rituals. One of mine is a complete inability to write longhand). So I bit the bullet and ordered an Asus EeePC netbook.

This is basically an ultraportable netbook. Ten inch screen, weighs less than ten pounds. It comes with the MeeGo operating system over a Linux kernel. I have yet to properly put it through its paces, but it arrived on my desk with Open Office and Adobe Reader pre-installed as well as usable email, instant messenger programs. It came with the Chromium web browser (which has the annoying feature of refusing to permit connection at ALL to sites it thinks the security certificate is revoked on, but I don't want to weigh a netbook down with a heavier browser).

I'll probably write a full review of it once I've actually used it a few times, but it has an...interesting GUI, a decent keyboard for a netbook and a surprisingly usable trackball. At the very least, I know it will be good enough to jot down story ideas on and I should be able to write on it. I plan on testing it soon by transferring the entire manuscript of Third Princess and seeing if I can edit it, or if I'm going to have to break down files to allow for the lesser computing power compared with my desktop.

I have hope that it's going to prove to be a handy toy, though.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A few things...

Grrr...DC. Cough up JL #2 already. Or put the thumbscrews on whoever missed their deadline. Surely it should be out by now, or is it going to be bimonthly or something? I want to know what happened next.

UPS...cough up my netbook. It's been on the truck since 5am. (I wish I could see delivery trucks arrive from my apartment, but the angle's not quite right.

On the other hand, work is going well, even if the weather is unpleasant. Finished another short story today, but not quite sure what to do with it as the call it was for got tweaked in a way that makes it no longer suitable. Probably one for the rewrite queue. Three more short stories in the queue then I can go back to editing Third Princess.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Domestic Violence Month

I meant to blog about this earlier, but it is, indeed, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Which means it's a time to remind ourselves that not every relationship is healthy.

A time to remind ourselves to appreciate the healthy relationships we have.

A time to remind ourselves to keep our eyes open for those who might need our help.

A time to appreciate and give a shout out to those who have suffered or are suffering, not all of them women, in abusive relationships past or present.

So. Yeah. It's a shout out...especially to the children trapped in situations they might not be ready to understand.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting on with things...

Not taking the day off this time...I'm hoping to get a ton more articles written and then start editing the flash fiction I wrote yesterday (love the CFS - write a story of exactly 713 words. Why 713? I dunno...maybe it's the editor's birthday?)

But definitely in a better place...albeit wishing my new netbook would get here already. It was impossible to buy one locally without also purchasing a Windows license I don't want. Sigh.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Tribute for Ada Lovelace Day

I was just informed that today is, in fact, Ada Lovelace Day.

As a woman who writes science fiction (and not that long ago would have had to consider using just her initials to make sure nobody found out) I have to give a big kudos to all women in science, in technology, in mathematics.

At first I wasn't sure I could follow the suggestion to give a shout out to a woman that inspired me in science specifically. As it happens, I love scientific theory, but suck at the practice of science....hence why I am not a scientist. I also have math phobia I'm working hard on getting over. I'm not a scientist. I love science, but...

Then I realized there was and is a woman I want to give a shout out to today. I doubt any of you have ever heard of her.

My shout out for Ada Lovelace Day goes to Julien E. L. Harvatt. To any reader of this blog, she is a 'who?'. Her achievement for all women was incredible and vital, but went almost unnoticed.

She served as a civilian advisor on the committee that determined that it was not only feasible but desirable for WRENs (female officers) to go to sea on ships of the Royal Navy. Her work opened the door for women in combat roles in the British armed forces, and it was her ability to speak with and deal with everyone from the janitor to the First Sea Lord that made her so excellent in her role.

She was also a breast cancer survivor.

Both of those things, alone, made her an incredible woman. But her true achievement was not in using her sheer force of personality to convince the navy now was the time to allow women to go to sea.

It lay in creating the women they needed to be those first, brave female officers. For she did not do this for herself.

She did it, as she did everything else, for her girls. For the young women in her charge, whom she guided from girlhood to womanhood and to whom she always sent the same message. You can do anything. You can be whatever you want. You can achieve. You can stand as equal to any man born. Don't listen to anyone who tells you you are only a girl...because there is no such thing. Because you are, each of you, valuable as girls. As women. As individuals. And, yes, as scientists or as soldiers or as sailors.

Or, for that matter, writers.

Like this one.

I am proud to say that I was and always will be one of Miss Harvatt's girls.

She belonged to the most valuable profession of all: Teacher.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Therapeutic Cloning

It's with us. We have it. What does this truly mean? I don't know...but I do know that it will be 'fun' to watch the backlash.

The technique is not yet workable, but scientists have genetically engineered non-viable human embryos that produce stem cells matched to a donor. One more step...stripping out extra DNA these cells carry...needs to be perfected before it can be used.

But will it? This will be the next target of those who think all 'human life' is something special, even human life with no chance of surviving. For that matter, I'm not even entirely sure what I think about it myself. It could be a slippery slope.

But we have to accept that 'playing God' is, and always has been, what humans do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Treating People Right

I just came across a story about an Australian fashion store where a sales associate was rude to a customer, insulted her body, called her a 'joke' and chased her out of the store. Why? Because she could not find what she needed there and decided not to buy something.

When she complained, his manager called him a 'retail superstar' and basically said they expect their associates to be snobs.

Just wow. Wow. Unfortunately, a lot of writers treat their readers like that. Especially if they don't buy something. The truth is, you can't afford to chase off a reader, even if it turns out they would never buy your book in a million years.

People talk to each other, especially in these days of the internet. What is the right attitude to take when a reader says thanks but no thanks?

The best thing to do might well be to recommend something that might be more to their taste...and then everyone wins.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Slower than usual today because I had to go buy printer paper (This is a distinctly unpleasant trek without a car, with a heavy hand cart).

So I'm going to mini-vent about the Shoppers Warehouse I have to walk past to get to the Staples. It has to be a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act to completely block the sidewalk outside your store with merchandise displays, surely. Every single time I go there, it's blocked. Which when you have a cart full of paper is almost as bad as if I was in a wheelchair.

Why can't people think about others, just a little, more than they do?

Monday, October 3, 2011

FISH. Fish, everywhere.

The story is what happens when the call for submissions says 'fantasy focused on fish' and my muse hands me robot fish. I end up with...well. You'll see.

The anthology is FISH by Dagan Books. Thirty-five watery tales combined with really sweet cover art.

This one will be coming out on February 8, 2012, assuming we don't get a disaster of some kind. Follow the news at Dagan Books - FISH anthology where you can see the full table of contents (note that this is not the final order of stories, which has yet to be determined) and the cover art.

Judging by the story they bought from me, this one is going to be delightfully weird and a lot of fun. Some of the titles alone intrigue me: "Did The Catfish Get A Flat Head?" and "Needlepoint Fish of Azure City" come to mind.

I'm really looking forward to this one. Bubble...bubble...bubble...

Friday, September 30, 2011

So, let's see...

In addition to article writing, this week I wrote (but did not finish) two short stories that I intend to submit to a literary journal.

I also got a good start on editing my latest novel, with the working title 'Third Princess'. I'm hoping a beta reader will come up with a better title. I've yet to think of one I'm happy with. I seem to be one way or the other with titles. Either I have an absolutely great one from the first moment I think of the idea or I have to wrack my brain about it, sometimes for hours.

Ah well. It's a great novel, I know it's my best yet, and I think I may have found my target audience. I'll leave you on that rather mysterious note.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Horseshoes and self publishing

Bear with me, because I'm off on the extended analog train again.

People who ride horses tend to have some...ideas...about how best to treat them. Five minutes on any equestrian board will show you arguments about when it's best to turn a horse out, the best bit for any situation,

Horse shoes are, in fact, the subject of a war of ideas between people who believe All Horses Need Shoes and those who strongly feel that Shoes Are Evil And No Horse Should Ever Wear Them.

And never, it seems, the twain shall meet. They strongly drown out the sensible horse people who actually think that, hey, it might depend on the horse and what you're asking the horse to do. I've known horses that could trot for six hours on tarmac without shoes and horses that needed them to do work in an arena on good footing. And in some parts of the world it's not uncommon to put shoes only on the horse's front feet.

The right kind of shoe is important, too. In England, for example, road shoes are common, much to the surprise of many Americans who have never heard of them. Road shoes have special studs, made of a slightly harder material than the shoe itself, set in the back of them, specifically designed to prevent a horse from slipping on tarmac. Carriage drivers know all about road shoes, but most casual riders in America don't and react to a horse being ridden and driven on tarmac with negativity. But nothing is quite as heated as the argument between the shoe people and the barefoot fanatics.

Well, except for the argument between the people who believe all self-published books are of lousy quality and not worth publishing and those who opine that mainstream publishing is evil, wants to control writers, is taking more than their fair share.

I have to admit I have long leaned towards the first side. It's my opinion that the majority of self-published books should probably not be published, because people are lazy and don't bother with editing or decent cover art. (And really, the right photo and a free graphic editor can give you decent cover art). Editing is a particular problem as professional editing runs to about $100 for a short story and between $1000 and $1200 for a novel. Most self published books don't make that much.

But, I also don't feel that mainstream publishers are evil and setting out to control writers. I also don't feel that there should be so many absolutes.

Maybe, just maybe it depends on the author, the book, and the circumstances? Is there any real reason why a writer can't do both, using self publishing for niche books and to put out back catalog whilst working with a 'real' publisher for novels they hope to sell thousands of copies of? Other than people's attitudes, I don't see one.

I give every kudos to people who self publish right. For me, I hesitate to spend that much cold, hard cash on editing on a book that might not make it. I'd much rather have a publisher to share the risk and the profit, but I also know that some times going it alone is the way to go. And maybe we need to stop arguing about whether to shoe our horses and look at ways everyone can work together for a healthier publishing industry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Okay, I like it...

The new blogger interface, that is. I always worry about software 'updates' because they are often nothing of the sort, but it is a lot easier to read my followed blogs and look for interesting stuff. The post window is cleaner, although I personally think it should default to the full would look better that way.

My only issue is that tags (labels) don't appear automatically, but you have to click on them. As I'm horrible for forgetting my tags, this is a bit of a downside. But otherwise, kudos to Google for an upgrade that really is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about DRM lately.

My investigation of Smashwords came up with the fact that they outright refuse to use DRM, and are perfectly fine with people downloading multiple copies of a book so they can play them on all of their different devices.

Thinking about this some more, I came up with an analogy. Back when I was in college, I used to MUD a lot. I still do, although these days I only do pure RP games and I don't do it as much as I once did.

But back then, I was quite happy to spend a couple of hours killing monsters. Now, there are a ton of different kinds of MUDs.

One particular kind is the RPI (Role-Playing Intensive) MUD. The point was not to just kill monsters, but to interact with one another in a realistic manner. Some RPIs even got rid of the unlimited lives of the traditional MUD. I tried a number of different RPIs, thinking they would be more fun than just typing 'kill ' a thousand times.

Were they? Every single one I tried approached the idea of 'role-play intensive' in the same manner. Instead of encouraging roleplay, providing the tools for it, they chose to enforce it. (In fact, some of these MUDs called themselves 'Roleplay Enforced'). For example, they would disable the tell command (allowing a direct message to another player) because 'people will use it to pass out OOC information'. In fact, it was not uncommon to disallow all communication with characters not in the same room, or limit it to one (very spammy) channel on which staff would jump all over anyone who said anything they didn't like. The result of heavily restricting communication, of course, meant that the only way to actually roleplay was to wander the grid until you bumped into something.

The news files invariably had a long list of code enforced rules with the attitude of 'Players always cheat'. I didn't appreciate being assumed to be a cheater from day one, so I left, gave up, and took my custom elsewhere.

Digital rights management is the same thing as 'role-play intensive'. It approaches the problem from the standpoint of 'Customers always steal'. It restricts perfectly legitimate uses and sometimes declares them 'wrong', 'bad', or 'evil', just as RPI admin said it was 'wrong' to send somebody a tell and ask them if they wanted to roleplay.

People do not appreciate being assumed to be thieves from day one and until some kind of terrible dystopia emerges in which it is impossible to acquire any kind of content without egregious DRM, they will take their custom elsewhere.

If the only elsewhere for them to take their custom is the pirates, then there is a problem for content providers. And, ultimately, for content creators, many of whom are opposed to digital rights management.

As am I.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scientific discoveries...

I think it was Asimov who said the most important words in science are 'That's odd'.

I would actually rephrase it to 'That makes no sense'. Like this article, which implies...well. I'm not even sure what it implies.

I'd love to read the actual paper and find out whether it's being overhyped, but I can't find it. However, it might explain one of the odd anomalies of the world.

Why has no bird, even ostriches and penguins, to whom it would be a huge advantage, ever evolved to bear live young?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reprint Alert!

Two years ago I sold 'The London Incident' to Alternative Coordinates. It's a great story and they printed it more or less as is.

Sadly, early this year, Alternative Coordinates vanished off the net. Their archives are, of course, gone. I've thought about this for a while.

I've now decided to make this story available again myself. This is my first venture into self-publishing and an experiment...and one about which I'm very nervous, not least because I'm not perfect and am worried there may be errors in the text.

The distribution channel I've chosen to use is Smashwords, as they make things available in all ebook formats, including several you don't need any kind of e-reader for.

So. If you didn't read it the first time round, then feel free to go to The London Incident and download it in whichever format you're most comfortable with.

FTL or cold fusion?

Have scientists at the CERN particle accelerator really found neutrinos going faster than light? Or is this going to prove to be a flawed experiment, an artifact or even something more interesting, like an experimental condition messing with the speed of light itself?

Will it prove to be more than a laboratory effect?

And, of course, this opens the old question. If something can go faster than light, then where are all the aliens?

Here's one intriguing thought. Perhaps, due to the nature of relativity and causality, living beings cannot travel faster than light, limiting faster than light to communications and probes.

There's a thought for a hard science fiction future I might or might not have time to do anything with...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clueless versus scam

Somebody brought Pubslush Press to my attention. They have the brilliant idea of basically crowdsourcing their publication decisions. That is, they'll publish only books that get a certain number of pre-orders.

Unfortunately, they have a bad contract...that is non-negotiable and agreed to on submission. Amongst other things, it allows them to change your royalties at will. Are they pulling something?

More likely, they're just clueless. They don't realize that most professional writers won't agree to give away any rights at all on submission. Or that what they likely intend to be a get out clause if they go bankrupt sets off everyone's scam radar.

New publishers crop up all the time. The internet and electronic publishing make it easy. Not all, though, have the savvy to go the distance. I actually hope Pubslush has success - it's an intriguing idea, but as it stands, they won't be seeing any of my work.

Unfortunate, really.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Warehouse 13 prediction

So. They fired Jinx for having scruples. And now he's being hired by the bad guys.



My prediction: He hasn't been fired at all. It's all a set up to get somebody into their organization...somebody with enough scruples not to be corrupted. Would explain Arny's casual dismissal of the manner and why he won't talk on an unencrypted cell to poor confused Claudia.

(Who is my favorite character in that show and one of my favorites in current spec fic TV).

Genre Snobbery

I just saw something in my G+ feed which said 'Should we defend chick lit?'

I hate chick lit. You wouldn't catch me dead reading it. Heck, I can't stand Jane Austen and have referred to her as the 'mother of chick lit' before.

I will never, ever buy a book that is categorized as chick lit. So...will I defend it?

Heck yes. If people enjoy writing it and people enjoy reading it, then it needs to continue to exist. Just because I see that section of the bookstore and walk away doesn't mean that I am going to go around saying other people shouldn't read chick lit. Or whatever else floats their boat. I'm fairly sure there are people out there who can't stand fantasy and science fiction too.

That's one side of genre snobbery, dismissing something because you don't like it and not respecting the thousands of readers who do.

The other side, of course, is the writer who insists their genre is better than somebody else's. For example, a lot of writers would never be caught dead writing erotica. They'll disparage it as pornography, or strings of sex scenes. Look down their noses at the people who write it, and use excuses to do so, such as vague comments about morality or even mocking the pen names used in the industry.

I won't write erotica either. But for a completely different reason - I'm not very good at it. I have absolutely every respect for people who can pull it off and make a success of it. One of my good friends, in fact, is an erotica writer under the name Nobilis Reed. (Also known as 'That guy with the podcast'). He's a great guy. He's very good at what he does and people buy what he does. I'm not going to look down on him because he chooses to write about sex, romance and the emotions that surround it.

Every single genre is valid. Not equal, no, because they require different skills, a different mind set and different inclinations. Historical fiction requires the ability to do...and enjoy...hours of research into the past. Science fiction requires an understanding of how the universe really works rather than how we wish it would. Thrillers need an incredible grasp of pacing. I don't like Dan Brown as a writer, but that man can pace a book to perfection, and that is why he sells millions of copies.

Setting genre snobbery aside can help you open your horizons as both a reader and a writer. Perhaps if you're willing to learn the understanding of human relations from erotica, pacing from suspense and the grasp of human society needed for a good historical, you can move from an okay writer to a good one...and even a great one.

And, besides, you might meet some very cool people from the other side of the genre fence.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thoughts on health care reform...

Politics again! Sorry, guys.

But I've been thinking a lot about it. Obama's bill did not help, not at all. In fact, I've had more problems with my health insurance company pulling crap since it was passed than before it was...

The problem with a traditional national health service is that it ends up without enough money to care for all of the patients. Triage becomes inevitable, as does long waiting lists. People die.

The problem with the health insurance model is that the motivation of the health insurance companies is profits. They cut costs any way they can, and again, triage of sorts becomes inevitable as insurers try to stop their customers from actually using their insurance. People die.

It's clear that neither system is perfect, but what about this one.

What if health insurance could only be provided by a specific class of entity...a new form of non-profit corporation? No shareholders allowed. Bonuses to executives eliminated or strictly regulated. The insurance company would only be allowed to keep the money needed to deal with its overhead and pay its personnel. Everything else would have to go back to the patients, either in terms of lower premiums or in funding for medical research.

Or how about this one: What if the only entities allowed to provide insurance were health coops, that were owned by the patients or their employers?

Both of these take the *profit* out of health care. Nobody should be in the business of health care to make money. I don't begrudge doctors, nurses and other medical personnel a living appropriate to the level of skill they possess. I do begrudge people large profits while their so-called customers are jumping through red tape to get preventive care, going to the doctor more than is needed as a result, or just not going to the doctor at all...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Arrr, Me Hearties!

Let's haul in the fo'sail and heave-ho right here. And break out the grog!

(And I'm no good at talking like a pirate, but am having too much fun with


Friday, September 16, 2011

Thank you... the wonderful folks at Digital Science Fiction, who graciously offered to post an extended bio of yours truly to their web site. It can be found here:

Shameless co-promotion will now cease. For now.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I have the strong desire to do something steampunkish. But what, is the question. Maybe I need to go read more steampunk.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Inspiration... at a low level today. Working on post outlining a novel that came out too short so I can hopefully fix it. At least I don't feel like I just plain need a drink any more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


...with hub pages. I have some writing and publishing industry information posted there. I thought it might be worth a try and at least some people are already finding the articles useful. Here's the ones I have so far:

Monday, September 12, 2011

No longer...

...dancing in the rain. It finally stopped late on Friday and the weekend was pretty nice. Mostly spent it working on my personal database of literary agents (no, none of you get to see it).

Now working on editing stories and writing articles.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Things I won't do...

I do a lot of what I call 'sign painting'. Re-writing somebody's 'About Us' page for their web site isn't nearly as exciting as working on a novel, but it pays some of the bills.

Today, though, I saw a proposed gig that made me think of what I won't do. So, here's what I won't do for money:

1. Work for insulting rates. I know of one guy who has been trying to get 2,000 words for a dollar for, to my knowledge, the last year. Every time a writer accepts rates like that, it drags the price down for everyone else. I won't write non-fiction for less than a penny a word, and that's only if I don't have anything better. Fiction is a little different, but I generally only submit to places that pay less than 1 cent per word if I'm struggling to sell a piece. My goal is to try and sell all of my non-fiction for about 5 cents a word.

2. Promote illegal activities. I've seen people looking for writers for the bad kind of discount pharmacies and recently to write articles advising people on how to find prostitutes in an Islamic country (I'm not kidding...or touching that one with a pole of any length. There isn't a pole long enough).

3. Sell sleazy or scammy products like get rich quick ebooks or schemes. Will I help you sell boat trailers or tree cutting services? Sure.

4. Work for jerks. If I don't get on with a client, then goodbye. Fortunately, I've managed to mostly avoid people who treat writers like dirt (except in the area of pay).

5. Write erotica. I'm no good at it, I have no interest in it, and I'd rather leave it to the experts.