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.