Monday, December 31, 2012

Unusual Characters

Aren't they all unusual?

Well, perhaps. But in most books the major character or characters are human or, in the case of science fiction and fantasy, human-ish. Over the years, however, there have been a number of exceptions:

1. An animal. To my knowledge, the first non-human protagonist in a major novel was Black Beauty. Watership Down has its wonderful rabbits and cartoons are well known for animal protagonists - most people instantly recognize Scooby Doo. For those of us over a certain age Tom and Jerry and Sylvester and Tweety are great comic duos. One could also include the muppets. Or the wonderful dogs of Disney's 'Lady and the Tramp'.

2. A ship. Michael F. Flynn's "The Wreck of the River of Stars" uses the ship's artificial intelligence as a major character, but he's not the first. Anne McCaffrey's 'brainships' are an arguable example (transplanted human intelligence). And, of course, one could put the iconic computer HAL 9000 in this category. Let's not forget the Doctor's TARDIS. Not all ships as characters are intelligent, though - both the Millennium Falcon and Star Trek's Enterprise are quite memorable characters despite having no intelligence of their own.

3. The planet Earth - David Brin's interesting environmental novel called simply 'Earth' essentially has the earth itself as a protagonist.

4. A dragon or other fantastic creature - Anne McCaffrey's Pern is notable for how real her dragons are and the trend was picked up by other authors. Novik's Temeraire is simply one of the most fun characters around. Mercedes Lackey is particularly fond of fantastic creatures as characters - including the horse-like Companions, well-realized gryphons and an interesting take on dragons as non-sentient, trainable animals.

5. A robot. To most people these days, Star Trek's Data is the most recognizable humanoid robot, but he's an homage to Asimov's robots. R. Daneel Olivaw is one of the best-realized robot characters ever. On a less serious note we have Wall-E and, before that, Number 5.

6. A computer. Not all fictional computer characters are mobile. HAL 9000 has already been mentioned, but there's also Portal's GladOS and Heinlein's fascinating Mycroft.

7. A place. Edward Rutherfurd has written an interesting series of historical novels in which the protagonist is a place, usually a city. (These are well worth a read if you have any interest in history at all).

Can anyone think of any more?

Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm back!

From an awesome Christmas, that is.

And, believe it or not, I have updates.

Interstellar Fiction has accepted 'The Rogue', and if all goes well and gets done it may even be in the January issue.

The Gods & Cattle graphic anthology, which will contain my short script 'Darcy's Angels', is now officially in production.

Finally, the Dark Stars anthology has been officially released - so if you have those Amazon gift cards to spend, consider this one:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pre-Christmas updates!

This is my last post before my Christmas vacation, so I thought I'd do updates.

1. Steve Berman has accepted my story "Mistress" for his "Shades of Blue & Gray" anthology. Literal shades, that is - it's an anthology of Civil War ghost stories.

2. Progress is happening on the RPG project with +Emlyn Freeman (why, yes, I am using you to test direct mention to G+ from Blogger, which is awesome. Thanks, Google). We're not rushing on this'll likely be a second half of 2013 release.

Oh, and there might be some more RPG news. Maybe. Too early to discuss yet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exoplanet Excitement

Things are getting interesting. As our detection methods get better and better, we are finding even more planets.

The latest bit of excitement? A potentially earth-like planet orbiting...Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti is the closest single G type star to our sun, at only twelve light years away. (That's actually within feasible probe range if we can get speed up to 0.5 c or better, without FTL...results would return within a working lifetime). I'd put Tau Ceti high on the priority list for targeted interstellar probe missions, although obviously the first one should go to the Alpha Centauri complex just because it's so close (4 light years) and would be easier to deal with the inevitable problems associated with the 'first one'.

The more we look out there, the more it seems that planets are normal. Common.

If even a fraction of them bear life.

If even a fraction of that life has achieved sufficient complexity for sentience and sapience.

We are not alone. I think we can say that now. True, we have no direct evidence that somewhere out there, somebody is looking up at the stars and wondering what we wonder. But we do have basic math.

I have held my entire life to the belief that we are not alone. (No, I don't believe in anal probes and cattle manipulation). With each discovery it becomes easier and easier to accept. If we ever do have proof, though, how will that change the human spirit?

Personally, I think it will change us for the better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking Unworried Steps.

I know a lot of writers who worry about the next step. About the next submission, about taking things to the next level.

Too many of us piddle around only sending our stories to the smallest markets, afraid to send anything to the likes of Analog or Glimmer Train. Or we're afraid to submit to a big New York agent or publisher.

Do that for too long and you're wandering around in circles.

The day comes, though, when you just have to stop doing that. On Sunday, I took my trainer's Thoroughbred out of the arena and onto the trails for the first time in his life. This was definitely a worrying moment! He's a Thoroughbred and, like many of his breed, reactive and high energy.

So, what did he do? Moseyed along the trail on the buckle, looking around at everything, but casual about it, completely relaxed. In fact, he's already one of the best trail horses I've ridden...sure footed, forward going and clearly loving every minute of it.

Let your stories out of the arena and onto the trail, without worrying about it, and they might just surprise you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When tragedy happens...

...we're expected to weigh in. It's become part of our culture that everyone has to have an opinion on what happened, on why it happened, on how to stop it from happening again.

Truthfully, I'm not going to weigh in. I'm not going to speculate. I could say a lot of things - about gun control, about mental illness...about all of it.

I'm not.

This is all I'm going to say...because it's all been said and because there's no sense hashing it all over again, just like last time, just like next time.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Got a lot of work done today on a new mini-series that will hopefully be published in a collaborative project. (Any artists out there willing to take a risk on back end pay?)

The Dark Stars Anthology, containing my flash story Raphael, should be available by Christmas. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that, anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is a hack?

I've had it said to me that anyone who takes money to do a specific, assigned creative task is a hack. (Usually, they're referring to media tie-ins).

I've also heard that anyone who expects to make a living from writing is a hack.

Here's my definition of a hack.

A hack is somebody who takes money for a creative task despite having no actual enthusiasm for the task concerned. Because they have no enthusiasm, they then do a substandard job.

An actor who takes a role she thinks is insulting because she needs the work and then phones it in is a hack.

A writer who agrees to do a media tie-in for a video game they think is completely stupid and then puts in a half-hearted effort is a hack.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Enough already! I know humans like repetitive numbers, but...besides. This one isn't even a palindrome (it doesn't read the same way in both directions).

Of course, now I'm trying to work out when the next palindrome will be. I want to say 12/1/21?

Also tired of the 'Mayan apocalypse'. People, the Mayans have not predicted the end of the world, so saying they're wrong is as bad as saying they're right.

At a basic level, we have a calendar that counts the years up from a significant date. Right now, that's the 'birth of Christ'. In the future, we might decide to come up with an all new year zero. We only have three cycles in our calendar...four if you pay attention to lunar months as opposed to calendar months. Day, month, year.

The Mayans were great astronomers and astrologers. They seem to have grasped the cyclical nature of the universe. First of all, they measured two years. The secular year, which was solar, and used by farmers. The sacred year was the thirteen month lunar year, used by priests to determine when festivals would be held. So, we have two years, lunar months and, of course, days. Oh yes, and they had calendar months as well. Now we're up to five cycles.

The two years produce a sixth cycle...the cycle between instances of the solar and lunar new years coinciding.

On top of that, they had a minor obsession with the planet Venus, which they associated with a major deity. So, this adds a seventh cycle - the Venusian transit/Venusian year.

So, it's gotten really complicated. I'm not going to do the math on exactly how many cycles the Mayan calendar has. However, on December 21, all of those cycles will hit 'zero' at once. All of them (assuming scholars have done their math right and it isn't actually December 23). Now, if your calendar is cyclical and everything hits zero, why bother having a new calendar beyond that? You can just start again with the old one.

No Mayan prophecy of disaster at all. Just a kind of super uber duper New Year. I have to wonder just how loudly the descendants of the Mayans are laughing at us from eastern Mexico right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Women in fridges

To be blunt, the history of women in comic books...isn't much to write home about. Most people think the first female superhero was Wonder Woman.

Actually, it wasn' was Miss Fury, a forgotten character...created by a woman. Sadly, she didn't start a trend. A glance over the comics shelf will see names like Bendis, Gage, Lee, Morrison, etc. All men. If asked to name female creators most fans will go 'Uh...Gail Simone. Uh...Devin Grayson'...and that's where it stalls out. (I'd also give a nod to experienced colorist Carrie Strachan).

Comic books are, on the whole, written by men, for men. Female characters are used as sex symbols, dismissed, even found dead in fridges (the incident that is most often quoted as a sign of how female characters are abused). Some exist solely to be love interests to the male heroes.

When they are heroes in their own right, we are often left wondering if they intend to distract the supervillains with their breasts...Wonder Woman wears more or less a monokini, Power Girl has her notorious boob window, Catwoman actually does unzip her suit to distract men with her assets on more than one occasion. And just about every superheroine is drawn with D cups or 'better'. Now, to be fair, lots of male superheroes wear revealing outfits too...tight spandex, the Martian Manhunters briefs, the speedo worn by Beast on a number of occasions.

But seldom is one given the impression that any man in comics (with the possible exception of She-Hulk's former fiance Wyatt Wingfoot) exists solely to be a love interest or to be attractive to the opposite sex.

There's often a lot of talk that all of this means comic publishers don't care...or set out to alienate...female readers, but it might be something far simpler.

Comics are written by men, for men. The target audience of the big two is men in their twenties. Most comic creators start out as comic fans.

That perpetuates the male dominance within the industry. In most cases the writer of a comic is male. So are the artists. So is the letterer. So is the editor and his assistants.

I've actually begun to wonder if the fridge problem is a lot simpler than we think. Most comics go through the entire creative process and to print without any female eyes ever seeing them. This theory is strengthened by the improvement I've noticed in certain Marvel books that can directly be traced to Lauren Sankovitch's rise from editorial assistant to co-editor with Tom Brevoort (According to Bendis she's also great to work with). Sadly, I can only think of two other female comic editors - Wacker's assistant, Ellie Pyle, and former WildStorm editor Kristy Quinn, from and about whom I've heard nothing since DC closed the imprint.

So, here's a challenge to comic creators. Find a woman. Have her read your script. If you don't happen to have a wife or a girlfriend right now, surely you can find a reliable woman somewhere. Let's get some female eyes on the activities of Wonder Woman and the Wasp...before female fans see all of the mistakes that come when men write for men.

And please. Let's see some more female creators...female writers, female artists, female editors. That way we'll get more female fans...and I am sure we can do it without losing the men on the way.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Once more...

...I'm hoping nobody's monitoring my internet usage. I mean, I was looking up removing bodies from morgues and breaking out of morgues. (Hey, it's perfectly legitimate...really...) I can't say any more as it's a potential spoiler for a still-under-wraps project.

But days like this I'm glad I'm not a mystery writer and only look up criminal stuff...sometimes. Okay, often. Ahem.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday updates


New RPG project is in the works, but still at the discussion stage.

I've seen the proofs for the Dark Stars Anthology, which I have a flash piece in, but no news on an exact release date. Christmas would be nice, of course.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Things we know and don't know

There was somebody walking through the lobby of the building today carrying what seemed to me to be quite obviously a Maine Coon...a huge cat with lots of fur and slight ear tufts.

However, when I congratulated him on his gorgeous Maine Coon, he went 'What?' He'd got the kitty from the shelter and didn't know the breed...and, of course, being from the shelter, it might not be a pure Maine Coon anyway. Sure looked like one to me.

I like playing guess the breed with pets, especially dogs. I'm often right. Sometimes I'm wrong and that's fine too. It's okay to be wrong. It's also okay to admit that you have absolutely no clue. That's something a lot of people find very hard to do. So they make ridiculous guesses just to avoid admitting it.

At least this guy admitted he didn't have a clue. (The cat didn't look too happy. I think they might have been coming back from the vet. Shudder).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Demographics and Futurism

You know. I've been thinking. And a news article today triggered more thoughts. Apparently, French sperm counts are steadily declining.

There's a trend going on across the planet right now. White people are having fewer children. The rest of humanity are taking up the slack. White people are likely to become a minority in huge tracts of the United States in the not too distant future.

When we, in the west, envision the future, we populate it with white people. Now, as time goes on, the other ethnicities will also slow their breeding. It's a natural result of longer life spans, better medical care and higher standards of living.

But it got me thinking. Where will the colonists come from? Space X plans on charging $500,000 for passage to Mars. That limits it to reasonably wealthy people, a lot of whom will be white. However, the Chinese are working on their own colonization efforts. The future 'Martian' is likely to be Asian or an Asian-white mix.

Meanwhile, taboos about ethnic mixing are breaking down. A study in Washington, D.C. indicated that a substantial minority of teenagers were showing a preference for dating outside their own ethnicity, indicating an increase in interracial relationships. Some of these will end up long term and produce children.

If humanity spreads out to the stars, then we may leave our miscegenation taboos behind. On top of that, some planets that we colonize may give advantages to different ethnicities. A higher level of UV, and you may want your colonists to be black. Then there's gene therapy. If it's good to be black on a certain planet, then might people who move there not have themselves made black? If nanomedicine and gene therapy allow skin color to be changed at will...then we may finally leave racism behind.

Ultimately, the future of humanity is probably multi-colored, not white. And that is a very good thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apparently... publisher, Musa, has a lot of carrots. Because they've attracted a very big bunny indeed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Well, hey...

I'm still British enough to let out a tiny little squee at the prospect of another little royal - yeah, Will and Kate are expecting their first.

And sympathetic enough to feel sorry for Kate, who apparently has morning sickness so bad she had to be hospitalized and given fluids. Blech. Poor woman. I've been pretty sick from food poisoning, but never that sick.

(And yes, I know, most of you don't care, but it does still matter to me).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Updates

Support indy comics - check out this website: www.JOHNNYJAYE.WORDPRESS.COM. I might be involved in his 'Gods & Cattle' anthology. We need artists!

I posted a guest review post on - of an awesome web comic by a great creator. Check it out here:

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Sometimes people say the most ridiculous things. Often, they say them because they don't have direct experience with the issue.

The latest example that came up is sexual harassment. Somebody tried to tell me sexual harassment was not 'damaging' to a person, whilst physical violence was.

As somebody who has been sexually harassed although never, thankfully, sexually assaulted, I know which one makes me start to tremble in fear. You can get over a black eye or a broken nose. You never quite get over being sexually humiliated. It sticks around.

Thinking about this makes me finally understand why people are less worried about violence than about sex in their media. Violence may do more damage than a bit of fun in bed, but sexual violence is worse than 'regular' violence.

As writers, we can't hope to avoid everything that makes somebody uncomfortable. One person might shudder to read about a character trapped in a cave-in, another might not be able to keep reading if giant spiders show up. You can't legislate for that.

But you can show respect for the fact that what is 'not damaging' to one person might be deeply so to another. That one person's 'just a kiss' might be somebody else's flashback central. That some people really are terrified of spiders, or snakes, or hornets, to the point where they can't read about them. And that this means there will be people who will not be able to read and enjoy a certain piece...or your entire body of work. Accept it and respect it. If you use rape as a plot device, some people will not be able to handle that. (If you glorify rape, then I don't have much respect for you).

Respecting your reader does not mean taming everything down to what will offend nobody. It means not getting upset when somebody gets offended.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Projects, projects...

How did I end up with seven short stories that I want to write? Oh, right, because I insist on spending time looking for markets and keep finding these wonderful theme anthologies.

Part of the business is that not every story I write will be bought by the market I write it for. Most, in fact, won't. A lot of writers don't like to talk about rejection. Personally, I don't like to hype stories until I know when and whether and where they will be published. (Sometimes I get wary even then, having had more than one project fall apart between acceptance and publication, which is also part of the business).

I keep my Friday updates to things I'm comfortable about hyping. (Hoping to add a little something to the list soon). But I actually have around 30 projects that are in the queue...either being worked on or planned for. More projects than time, in fact.

Which is also part of the business. People worry about other writers stealing their ideas, to which my response is: 'I already have too many. Why would I want yours?'

I think that's the same for all of us. Now, excuse me, I have a script to edit, a short story to edit, another short story to write...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Misuse of Passive Income

I'm kind of tired of this.

People...usually about 'passive income' all of the time. They claim income from their blog is 'passive income'. Or royalty income from a book they've written or contributed to, or income from article sites.


'Passive income' is money that comes in without you doing anything at all to earn it. If you write a book, you have to keep telling people about it or it won't sell (marketing). If you write a blog, you need to update it at least a couple of times a week, same with article sites. It's not passive at all.

The correct term for income that comes from doing work once and then selling it multiple times is 'residual income'. In the movie industry this is often shortened to 'residuals'. (My husband is still owed $10 from an indie movie company that was supposed to come out of residuals that never materialized). Comic publishers and creators talk about 'back end pay', to mean the same thing.

Residual income can keep trickling in years after you actually do the work, but it is not passive and you aren't doing nothing to earn it.

It's writers who make this mistake - and shouldn't we all know better? I think it's in danger of turning into one of those misused terms that eventually takes on the incorrect meaning. However, in this case, the wrong meaning is very misleading and gets people to assume they can just post their book on Amazon and forget about it.

That is not, remotely, true.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just a mini-vent...

That dang Thoroughbred is lame again. Same leg. Once more, we can't find anything wrong with the leg.

So, now, he has a chiropractic appointment scheduled. Rather glad it's not my horse and I don't have to pay for it. My theory, based off of the fact that he's started going for me when saddled again (just as he did right before the last time this happened) is that the poor guy has a wither spine misaligned. (Yes, they do have spines under there...what creates the wither 'bump' is spines that come up from the vertebrae). The shoulder muscles are anchored to the withers, which means a misalignment there could cause the intermittent high leg lameness we can't find...can't find a problem with the leg because there's nothing actually wrong with his leg.

Hopefully I'm right and we can get the problem *fixed* this time. Horses. And I'm still crazy enough to want my own...

Friday, November 23, 2012


Still in holiday mode here, so no updates until at least next week. I ate far, far too much yesterday anyway.

Yeah, even after telling everyone else not to.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Don't eat too much turkey.

Oh...who am I kidding. Eat too much turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Supporting Writers and Artists

Right now, there's a lot of buzz about supporting writers, artists and creatives. Especially those who don't work for big publishers and other companies. I can only really speak from the writing side, but here are a few things you can do if you want to support somebody.

1. Buy direct from the publisher or writer if possible. True, many self published writers only sell through Amazon. If the publisher or writer has an e-store on their website, however, they get a lot more of the cover price of the book if you buy from them. (Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to buy ebooks from a device-specific store for them to work on your device). Also, Smashwords is better than Amazon. And if you do buy from Amazon and the writer has links on their website, use those links. They likely have them set up for Amazon Associates, which gives the writer a little more.

2. Leave reader reviews, Goodreads reviews, or reviews on social media. Reviews make a huge difference to sales. Even bad reviews can actually help. In general, try to avoid leaving five star or one star reviews as those are the ones that tend to be scrutinized...people tend to assume five star reviews come from friends and one star reviews from enemies.

3. Follow your favorite writers and artists on your preferred social media, letting them know you're a fan. Believe me, we appreciate it. Or comment on their blogs. Writing in particular is a lonely profession and it helps to know you connected with somebody out there.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


It's officially fall. Thanksgiving is this week (and sadly, that also means the closing of the seasonal farmer's market. I really wish this neighborhood had a good specialty butcher and a good specialty baker...and this is a wealthy neighborhood).

Oddly, our landlords haven't emptied the pool yet. Which is weird...and not smart as its now full of dead leaves.

In truth. I'm a spring and fall person. I used to be a summer person then I moved here...and summer is just a few degrees colder than hell here, and even worse in the true south. Fall is a soft falling off of things. This year has been quiet. Next going to be another matter (I may have as many as three major projects come to fruition). I'm nervous about it, to be honest.

Actually, I sort of like winter too. My husband keeps threatening to haul me up to Minnesota in the dark middle of winter so I can learn what winter is really like. Several feet of snow. Shiver.

The seasons define our life in a way, outside the tropics. One has to wonder how lives might be defined on other worlds. What sort of culture, for example, would develop on a world with no axial tilt, and thus no seasons?

Brian Aldiss' Helliconia addresses life on a world where each season lasts several human lifetimes. And, of course, winter IS coming in A Song of Ice and Fire, where the world has variable-length summers and winters, but each lasts a few years. (Of course, ASOIAF is fantasy, so Martin can get away with never really explaining how this comes to be, but one has to guess it's related to the magical disasters of the past).

What kind of seasons do your fantasy worlds have?

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Guilty Secret

We all have our entertainment 'guilty secrets'. Things we love even though everything about them says we shouldn't. Or things we don't want to admit to loving because of society's stereotypes and ideals (when was the last time you heard a straight man admit to reading traditional romance novels?).

Well. Mine is...Bond, James Bond.

Because, really, should a progressive, feminist and definitely female science fiction author go for a testosterone-fest like that? Besides, the movies are all the same and run together. They're one trope after another.

When you watch a Bond movie and see a walkway over a pit or a tank containing some kind of carnivorous animal, you know that at least one minion of the villain is going to be eaten by said it a crocodile, a shark, a shoal of piranahs...

When Bond meets a young, attractive woman who is either A. The girlfriend and essentially the property of the supervillain, B. An agent of another country or C. Out for revenge against the supervillain because he killed her father...Bond will sleep with her at the first opportunity.

Oh, and Bond never gets any older. Or he does, and it's forgotten...along with most of the rest of movie. No continuity, no realism. Strict rules, yes, but not ones that make sense in the real world.

So, what is it that makes this woman incapable of resisting the appeal? Maybe it's because I was watching them before I was old enough to get the bad pickup lines and sexual puns ('I thought Christmas only came once per year' stands out the most). Maybe it's because you really do always know what to expect. Maybe it's even because Bond is a British institution.

I personally think there's something purely addictive about a more or less mindless thriller that does stick to its own rules, as strange and quirky as they are.

And if you have been a Bond fan since your father's knee (literally, I remember watching them when I still fit on his lap), and you haven't watched Skyfall yet...get to the nearest theater.

I'm not going to say any more because judging by the crowds, there are still crowd-dodgers who haven't seen it. (I almost wish I'd waited another week myself). But Skyfall manages to both tug at the heartstrings of long-term fans and set everything up beautifully for new ones.

And judging by its $518.6 million worldwide haul since it opened in late October (US opening weekend was $87.8 million, the highest for any Bond movie), the old dog still has plenty of new tricks in him.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekly Updates

Everything's plodding along. I do have a new project, but I'm keeping it under wraps until it's closer to completion. It's a lot of fun, though.

If all goes well, Transpecial will be released in the spring of 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Planetary Disruptions

Pay attention to science news and you might have come across a couple of interesting titbits.

First, and being well reported, is the isolation of a 'rogue planet' as part of a group of young stars. Given its location and the fact that it is a gas giant a few times bigger than Jupiter, it's probably a very small failed star.

Far more intriguing is the idea that a rogue planet forms around a star and then, well, leaves. Another group may have found as many as ten Jupiter-sized rogues. That seems unlikely for the 'nomad planet' theory, and I suspect many of these wandering gas giants are failed stars.

What could, though, cause a planet to be ejected from its home solar system? The answer lies in planetary formation.

Planets form when matter around a star coalesces, thanks to gravity, into lumps of varying sizes. These lumps tend to attract other lumps during the early 'bombardment' phase, when objects are whizzing around all over the place. If two big lumps come too close to each other late in this era, one or both may be gravitationally ejected, sailing out into interstellar space. If the system is in a cluster with other systems, the rogue planet may be captured by another star, resulting in weirdness such as orbits that don't match the plane of the rest of the system, planets orbiting in the wrong direction, etc. A lot of rogue planets, however, will simply vanish into the darkness.

Could a well-developed world end up as a rogue? Do we have to worry about being knocked out of orbit as a possible end of the world scenario?

The answer is...possible but very unlikely. The most likely cause of 'late' rogues would be an encounter with an extremely massive object as the solar system orbits the galactic center. There's some evidence that if a double star system gets too close to the black hole that acts as our galaxy's gravitic 'anchor', one of the stars might slingshot off at massive speed. Planets in the system might also be ejected.

One possible scenario would be a collision between two solar systems. Two stars that passed too close to each other could 'trade' planets and planets could easily be ejected...or destroyed. Isaac Asimov's classic late novel 'Nemesis' deals with this idea. Another idea for a good story might be a less close passage...the two systems not actually colliding, but a habitable planet temporarily coming close enough to be reached without FTL. Would you colonize it or not?

The chances of such a collision are currently low. However, they might increase as we pass through a major spiral arm in the course of our orbit around the galaxy. How often does this happen? About every 100 million years, with a transit time of 10 million. Probably not anything to worry about.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mini Vent

Every time my landlords fix the leaks in the rains again and they find more.

Seriously. They've now been fixing the roof, on and off, for about two months. This is really tiring...some days it's been so loud it's given me a headache. I'm not one of those people who can write with a lot of ambient noise, so I've been working on stuff that requires less thought.

Here's hoping they get it all fixed soon.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Following instructions

I had an interesting one today - a new ezine asked for a picture of me with the submission. This is pretty unusual. Usually, editors only ask for pictures, if they plan on using them, at signing.

Truth is, they're probably trying to save time later by not having to ask for pictures. Or perhaps eliminate writers who are uncomfortable with providing them.

Many editors, however, include things in the submissions guidelines that seem strange initially to see if writers will follow instructions. They don't want to sign the writer from hell (although I speak from experience when I say that you can't predict a personality clash between writer and editor by any means), so they do a little might be an unusual font, or a specific requirement for scene breaks.

It's always best to follow instructions, even if they initially seem silly. And it's not like anyone on social media can't find a picture of me anyway.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Red Poppies...

Red poppies for those who stand in the path of tyranny.

Red poppies for those who fight for what they believe in.

Red poppies for those who protect our freedom.

For some reason, though, this Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day, as I still think of it, having spent my formative years in England) I am thinking about Malala Yousefzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for sticking up for her right to get an education. Amazingly, she survived and recovered.

We tend to think about the soldiers at this time, and believe me, I support soldiers. I support what they go through, I try my best to understand. But sometimes it's also worth giving remembrance to those who are not soldiers but who, nonetheless, risk...and sometimes give...their lives for freedom.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Updates

The Skeptic - galleys have been checked and sent back. I can't confirm which issue it will be in yet, but am told we're most likely looking at April.

Hoping to have more soon - keep an eye on G+ and twitter feeds.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some cool stuff.

Let's start with the best candidate yet for a habitable exoplanet. It's in the life zone, orbiting a very stable star, not tidally locked and 'only' seven times larger than Earth. That means it could even have a gravity humans could stand with training...or at least with technological assistance. And it's 'only' 42 (where have we heard that number before?) light years away.

Geek points to the paleontologists who found a new T-rex sized dinosaur and named it Sauroniops pachytholus. Why, yes, the first part of the name does mean 'eye of sauron'. Because its known only by its eye socket, of course.

And, apparently, the ancient opposition of cats and dogs isn't exactly absolute.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hope and change

So, it's over for another four years...the campaigning, the craziness, and then the nailbiter well into the night. And we have four more years of Barack Obama. Who spent his first campaign talking about hope and change.

From the headline you might think I'm about to talk about Obama. I'm not. I'm personally glad Romney did not win - his economic policies resembled ones that have demonstrably failed in Europe, his social policies were borderline Dominionist and I personally think he would have been a foreign policy disaster. But I'm not talking about that.

I'm talking about my hopes for change in this country. I've been worried for a while about the state of this country. We have the Tea Party, which went from a movement to limit government to, as far as I can tell, a movement to limit other people's voting rights. Occupy put people on the streets. It's never a good sign when people take to the streets.

Yesterday people took to the streets again. Bizarrely, some media outlets are insisting turnout was down from 2008. I have no clue where they got their figures. Early voting in Florida saw lines of four to five days. In one precinct in New Jersey, where one would think turnout would have been slammed from the storm, they had more voters in the first hour than they had in the last primary...altogether. One county in Iowa recorded over 80% turnout.

As for me. In 2008, when everyone was going on about record turnout, I went to the polls at 10:30am and there were four people in line ahead of me.

Yesterday I went to the polls at about the same time. I got there at about 10:15am. I cast my ballot at about 1:15pm. Somebody, perhaps because of Sandy, had prepped paper ballots as a backup, or I would have been there even longer. (Thank you to the unknown people wearing no identifying buttons or clothing who were handing out water and chips. I have no clue who you are, but believe me, it was appreciated). There was almost no complaining and many loud statements about it all being worth it.

Americans. Not complaining about standing in line for hours to vote. Okay, some people were reading books or messing with their smartphones and one was working on a laptop. But nobody saw the lines and left...and if they did, I bet they came back later.

What happened to our famed voter apathy? I think something started, perhaps with Occupy. People are waking up and realizing that they do have some power in this country. That they do live in a democracy. That voting is an immense privilege...and a heavy responsibility. I am a lot more proud to live in America and carry a United States passport than I was on Monday.

A lot more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I'd say I'm glad the election is over, except it isn't. What I'm glad is that voting is over.

Turnout in my area was so high that the precinct pulled out paper ballots to supplement the machines...and I still had to wait three hours to vote. I'm happy that turnout was so good, but...three hours. Yeah. (Note that I chose the paper ballot - there are multiple reports of voting machines glitching and flipping votes, so if you can get a paper ballot, take it).

Ah well. I decided that as I've always said if I employed anyone they'd get the day off on election day that I'm not going to worry about getting actual work done today.

If you haven't already - vote.

Monday, November 5, 2012

So, Life on Mars?

Curiosity's inability to find methane might be a blow to the idea that there is any life on Mars. (It might also mean that the gas is trapped underground and/or only in the atmosphere very locally before boiling off into space).

I think that we keep clinging to the idea of life on Mars because of the romantic image of the canals, even though there are many places in the solar system far more likely to harbor it (Titan, Io, even Venus is more likely than Mars). Mars has always been the place the 'other people' live...malevolent in War of the Worlds, benevolent and strange in Stranger In A Strange Land and Out of the Silent Planet and, of course, just like us on John Carter's Barsoom, with all of the same problems and conflicts.

We want there to be life on Mars so badly that we ignore any and all evidence...and if we can't find it, then we have a strong desire to put it there. Perhaps even to put ourselves there - and it's true that Mars would be the easiest place to plant a colony.

Even I can't quite let go of the hope that we'll find something, even if it's only bacteria. Mars is simply part of the common imagination of western culture. We want that planet to live.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I have returned.

The storm knocked out my power for 30 hours, by far the longest outage we've ever had here.

Then it set up a cascade failure that knocked out my internet for 48 hours...oddly, starting 24 hours after the END of the storm.

I'm back. I have learned a few things. Such as, if you have digital voice and are reporting outages, use your cell. Otherwise they may knock you off the line trying to fix things...oops.

And no damage otherwise. No updates other than Stripped still being in production. I should have more soon, though.

Monday, October 29, 2012


It's not bad here...yet. But it's pretty miserable and although I have power now, I don't know what the situation will be for the next few days. So, don't be surprised if I don't post for a few days. And don't worry. I'm not in a physically dangerous situation. Just hunkering down and waiting for her to go away already.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Progress Report

First of all, my short story The London Incident should also now be available on Amazon in Japan. (It's also available through Smashwords and I do prefer people go there, but it's nice to have another country available through Amazon.

Earthbound Books just contacted me about the Dark Stars Anthology, which will include my flash fiction piece 'Raphael'. Did the few edits they asked for. No release date yet, though.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


You know, I am usually one for laws that protect people, but the one that basically forced my landlords to turn off the a/c ten days ago is rather annoying me right now.

It is, once more, almost too hot in my apartment to be able to work. Ah well. Getting stuff done anyway.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Back it up!

My primary business computer is an iMac I bought in February of 2011. A couple of weeks ago I noticed an occasional click-click-click from its innards. Uh oh. That be the sound of a failing hard drive, but I have to admit I went into a bit of denial. I have NEVER had a hard drive fail that quickly. Then, last Friday, I got an email from Apple.

Yup. My internal hard drive got recalled. And Apple handled it very well, even though it was technically the drive manufacturer who called for the recall. They actually sent a technician around so I wouldn't have to lug the system to the store (Believe me, a 27" iMac is not the lightest thing ever made).

So we switched out the drive. While we were at it, I cleaned my fans and motherboard (iMacs take forever to open because of the way they're designed).

Then? I inserted my USB drive into a USB port and did a full system restore from backups. Except for my local wiki, which rolled back a little, I could NOT tell I had switched out the drive at all after the system restore had run.

And this is why I am never running again without a proper backup system. I've always kept backups, but I've never used a properly designed backup system before.

Use one. I got drive got replaced before it failed. And I've never had a catastrophic hard drive failure. But too many people don't bother running backups until they do lose everything. (I also recommend keeping off site backups of your most important data - financials, your novel manuscript, your wedding photos, etc).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Demonizing Science

If you pay attention to science news, you'll know about this.

If you don't, then you should.

Back in 2009, three hundred people were killed by a significant earthquake in the Italian town of L'Aquila. Sadly, these things happen. Earthquakes can do a lot of damage. I'm lucky...I've never been in a bad one. The largest I experienced was the 5 point something that wrecked half the repointing on the Washington Monument. (And a good part of the repointing on the building I live in). Disturbing and annoying, but only property damage.

Three hundred deaths is a lot. That's a mass casualty incident by the standards of everywhere but certain overcrowded third world countries. When these things happen, people investigate and they try to work out how to fix it. And sometimes they look for people to blame.

Which is exactly what happened in Italy. Six scientists and a government official have been jailed for six years for failing to predict the earthquake. It was, perhaps, unfortunate timing - they had just said a major quake there was unlikely.

But here is the thing.

We can't predict earthquakes. Not yet. It's hard enough to predict the weather, on which we have far more data. The best we can do is point to places where they are more common and places where they are less common. (There is no place on the planet that is immune to earthquakes. Even if you don't live in an 'earthquake zone', you can still get an earthquake, although they tend to be smaller...but also shallower and affecting a larger area). The most warning anyone has ever gotten of a quake based off of science was a matter of a few minutes.

So. Now we have a government throwing scientists in jail for...well...I liked the comment of the Christian Science Monitor on the matter...'not having a functioning crystal ball'. And they aren't in jail for fraud or lying - no, they have manslaughter convictions on their record for the rest of their lives.

I cannot imagine anything more chilling for young people considering going into science than the threat of jail time if they get something wrong that almost nobody has ever gotten right.

I don't know what right of appeal these men have, but I do know that anyone who believes in science should be speaking out for them. Was the earthquake a tragedy? Yes. But it was not a tragedy that was anyone's fault and I thought we gave up putting our sins on a goat and chasing it out of town many, many years ago.

Monday, October 22, 2012

People on fire...

...are only funny in fiction.

Seriously, how do you screw up a sunscreen so badly that people *catch fire* after using it?

It's a Banana Boat continuous spray. I've never liked continuous sprays (and prefer not to use any kind of spray if I can avoid it, as a lot of them contain toxic chemicals and the like). I'll stick to lotion.

On the other hand, the captive white whale who has learned to mimic human speech is fascinating. Especially as he's probably giving himself laryngitis every time he tries it.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Stripped - art still in production. Sequential art is hard work and I have every respect for all artists and the time they put in.

The Skeptic - got the counter-signed contract.

Hoping to have some more news on a couple of other fronts soon. Been sick with this cold all week. Then yesterday my doctor talked me into getting the adult whooping cough vaccine. Yesterday morning. The injection site is still sore. Apparently this is normal - so take warning. (It beats getting whooping cough, of course).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Adding to the coolest inventions of 2012

Or at least to my personal list: The new flu vaccine.

Some smart person working for a pharmaceutical company came up with an intradermal flu vaccine.

The nice thing is that you can't see the needle coming. It honestly looks like a hypospray, although it does still prick a little bit. And for the first time EVER the arm I got the shot in isn't aching afterwards. (Some people do still report muscle aches). They do say there's a slightly higher risk of swelling or itching at the injection site.

The other really cool thing is that the new vaccine requires 40% less of the active ingredient than the normal shot. Which means you can make more of it...and given issues in the past with flu vaccine shortages.


It really is the closest thing to a hypospray yet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I just love 3D printing.

Latest development? A 'filament' for 3D printers that prints off items that look, feel and even SMELL like they're made out of real wood. (It's made out of recycled wood and a polymer).

Another researcher is working on a system for forms. The idea is to be able to transport viruses from lab to lab without having to move them through the real world and also to disseminate vaccines more rapidly in the case of an epidemic. Of course, this could also do some real damage in the wrong hands.

Personally, still holding out hope that by the time I get old old they'll be able to print me off new organs when I need them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I've been thinking a bit about communication today.

We have all kinds of different 'modes' of communication these days. Writers have to be conversant with all of them.

For example, I calculate that, on average, I send 45% of spec subs by email and 50% through online web-based systems. I prefer the latter...they're generally more reliable. The remaining 5% go through regular mail. It was 10% or so not that long ago. (I do not submit to magazines that charge for electronic submissions, especially as most try to say it costs them $3, $3.50 or even $4 to process an e-sub).

Most post-contract communication tends to be via email, but I also communicate with publishers via Facebook. I also use Google Docs a fair bit for collaboration.

Phone calls are very, very rare, and I generally do not give out my cell number except to people I have a very strong relationship with, so I don't use texting for business...but I do use it a lot for personal communications.

Now. People go on about having their preferred means of communication. Some people, for example, don't want to send anything important via email because they don't trust it. I admit I've lost stuff before. a freelancer I need to be willing to communicate with clients and publishers by whatever means they prefer, even if it isn't something I'd normally do. (Heck, it's a big reason why I still use Facebook...because some people prefer to use it as a tool for communication). You have to be flexible, and being set in your ways can be an obstacle to getting, and keeping, work.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Stuff

First of all, I'm sick. I seem to have picked up a nasty little cold from somewhere. Here's hoping it leaves as rapidly as it arrived (Honestly, I was fine when I went to bed and then woke up with it two hours later).

This means I don't have much energy to write. I'm hoping to feel a little better and get at least some stuff done, though.

You know, I generally don't hate Mondays. But I do hate being sick. Sigh.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Progress Report

Blitzed submissions this week...will let you know if any of them pan out.

The art is progressing steadily for Stripped. It'll still be a while because we also have coloring and lettering to worry about. Comic books are a very complicated thing...almost as bad as movies. But it's going to be just plain awesome. QEW Publishing will be at Bellingham Comicon on October 20th.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The energy-food crisis

Ah, petroleum, our boon and our bane. Common wisdom has it that oil will run out fairly soon...there's a limited supply of it.

Because of this, people are turning to alternative fuels. There are two major alternative fuels: Ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol is made out of, generally, corn. Perfectly good corn. Corn that we could be eating or feeding to animals. And herein lies the problem. Encouraging biofuels is causing farmers to sell their corn to ethanol manufacturers for a higher price. That means food prices have to go up...and up. Not just corn prices, but meat prices too, because corn is used as a high energy food to fatten up cattle and pigs and is a major component in poultry feed. So, the use of ethanol means less corn and what there is costs more.

And all of our food prices go up.

When third world countries get on the ethanol bandwagon, then people start to go hungry. People start skipping meals to save money and then they start starving.

So. Ethanol, at least in any large quantities, is bad. What about biodiesel?

Biodiesel causes another problem...Brazil chopping down the rainforest to plant soy beans to make it. However, it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, for normal street cars (diesel is not suitable for race cars and very high end sports cars), as well as for trains, trucks and farm vehicles, biodiesel is the IT fuel. Why?

First of all, biodiesel can very easily be made out of cooking oil. Used cooking oil. McDonald's started the trend in 2003. McDonald's, as you can imagine, uses a lot of cooking oil. Enough to fuel all of their vehicles...and that's the eventual plan. Smaller restaurants now often sell their used cooking oil to biodiesel manufacturers. This means that the used cooking oil doesn't end up in landfill or the sewer system and, instead, is turned into clean burning, renewable fuel. (It's also possible to modify a diesel engine to use vegetable oil, although used oil still has to be cleaned...and the engine will still run on regular diesel or biodiesel).

On top of that, to make ethanol, you need a still. To make biodiesel? More and more people are 'homebrewing' their own biodiesel (some recipes require ethanol, but it's easier to make with methanol, which is generally made from natural gas...a fossil fuel, but one which can be made from waste and will likely, thus, be with us for a long time). Biodiesel can also be made out of animal fat, which can come from renderers (renderers process carcasses that are unfit for human consumption, generally horses and livestock that have died of natural causes or disease).

Finally, plants are experimenting with creating oils for biodiesel from algae, fungi and yeast. A 'bioreactor' contains, generally, fast growing algae in a plastic tube, through which water primed with nutrients is pumped.

So, perhaps, one possible answer to the food energy crisis is to make your next car a diesel. Or, better yet, a diesel-electric hybrid, many of which have shown up this year. Any diesel engine can run on up to 20% biodiesel without modification and many new vehicles can run on B100 from the factory.

So...ethanol bad. Biodiesel good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The world is changing

The world's first humaniform factory robot was announced last month.

Now we have more sophisticated agricultural robots.

How long will it be before most mundane, tedious jobs are done by robots? A lot of science fiction writers have touted this as a step to utopia. And I admit, I love robots. I adore robots. Robots explore our solar system. A robot is about to become the first human artifact to leave it.

But here's what people don't answer. What happens to the workers?

We have 8 percent unemployment, and official statistics tend to skew low. That also doesn't count the number of people who are under-employed...most of them struggling to survive on part time income with no benefits. These people then have to take second jobs, exacerbating unemployment further.

In this country, if you lose your job, you lose your access to affordable healthcare. Getting insurance as an individual is expensive. I and my husband were once quoted $2,000 a month because they decided he had a 'pre-existing condition'. (Something so minor that you'd laugh about it). At that point, obviously, it's much cheaper to self-insure. (Obamacare doesn't fix all of the's a hodgepodge of compromises few people like).

Unemployment benefits run out. People end up on the streets, and not that long ago we had people *taking* to the streets.

In our economy, you have to work to live. That's how capitalism works. And every alternative to it that has been tried is worse. Communism? Doesn't work. People hate it and then have to be fenced in. It's working somewhat in Cuba, because all the people who care enough about hating it to cause problems are now living in Miami. It's not working in China, and the only reason we haven't had more trouble there is because the government is smart enough to keep tweaking the system and perhaps a little because the Chinese brand of Communism incorporates a lot of the much older philosophy of Confucianism which is thoroughly imbedded in their culture. Even so, the current Chinese regime isn't really Communist any more.

Obviously, none of us want to go back to feudalism. Techno-feudalism is, in fact, a common dystopia...and the likely end result of libertarian-anarchist systems. (I'd love to get behind libertarian-anarchy, but I don't see it working).

So, what is there? What do we do when there is a labor surplus? Some of the apparent 'surplus' is a mis-match of skills...and that could be fixed, except that who wants to pay to send thousands of people back to school? We already have enough short-term pain.

I know I've written on this before, but I can't escape the question in my mind. What comes after capitalism? Assuming Marx is wrong and communism is not inevitable, which after the vast social experiment of the Eastern Block, seems highly likely to me...what does come next? Are we going to find out after a revolution, or can we plan for it now? I'm a futurist...and I'm stumped.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dragon In Flight

Turns out SpaceX's Dragon rocket...let's just say, if I was going to go into space, I'd be heartened by the fact that this rocket can lose an engine and still make it to orbit safely.

Follow this link for the video. SpaceX are saying the engine didn't actually 'explode', but there was an 'anomaly'. (In other words, they don't know exactly what happened until they finish analyzing all the data). However, all of the backup and safety features cut in just as they were designed to do.

This is the level of redundancy we need if we're going to start sending regular people into orbit, although I'm still convinced traditional rockets are not the way to do it.

So I'm going to give SpaceX a kudos. Engines fail all the time...that's why jets always have at least two of them. (These days, there are very few four engined planes, mostly because modern jets are much less likely to fail than twenty years ago, and perhaps the successors to the Dragon will have fewer than its current number of nine). You can't design on the assumption this will never happen - and they designed on the assumption that it would.

Keep it up.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Marketing Yourself

I've been thinking about this a fair bit lately. I can be blunt, I have very strong opinions, and sometimes I wonder if I should moderate them. I do want to be somebody people want to buy from, after all.

However, I think it is very important for authors to be genuine. I don't mean we should all act like the infamous Harlan Ellison, but mincing around and being 'politically correct' just makes you fade into the background (something I'd long to do - I'm shy - but know I can't get away with).

Be yourself. Talk about what matters to you. It's probably good to be careful about politics and religion...but not too careful. Remember that a political viewpoint will probably attract as many readers as it puts off. (And some people won't care what your politics are, anyway).

I think you need to be genuine, accessible (not saying you should put your entire life out there, but letting fans have some contact is a good idea) and polite, don't insult people even if they really ask for it. Everyone is a potential fan and a potential customer, even the people you think are being idiots. (And we all think people are idiots on occasion, and are thought of as idiots, that's just part of human nature.

Oh, and be confident. That's another thing I struggle with. But if you don't come over as thinking your work is any good, then how are readers going to think it's any good?

Friday, October 5, 2012


...nothing again. I know, I'm slipping. Starting a new project today that should be fun, but it's on spec, so I don't want to talk about it just yet.

(I get far too embarrassed to admit something got rejected).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: The Evolutionary Void

Finally got to the third book in this trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.

Like most of Peter F. Hamilton's work, it's a fusion of cyberpunk with space opera - uploads and downloads mingle with spaceships and everything is on a galactic scale.

His world is well realized and his politics are still human...even when dealing with entities that only *used* to be human. I love his aliens.

Sadly, the book is deeply flawed. At risk of spoilers, there is a distinct lack of an important element of story: Character development.

His major characters end the book essentially the same as they began the trilogy. Things happen to them, but there's no internal sense of change or growth. (Or if they did change and grow, then that turns out to be...well, that WOULD be a spoiler). Everyone goes home to live happily ever after...with things from their past.

Really. It's a shame...I wanted to like this book. I really did want to like it, but I like my protagonists to learn from what happens. Oh, and I also like my villains to have redeeming qualities...this isn't a CCA approved comic book. The bad guys don't all have to be inhuman monsters.

It's still enjoyable and it IS nice to find space opera these days, but it's not what it could be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writing Tip

Stuck in the 'tell not show' rut? It's something I struggle with...especially when switching between scripts (where you are trying to be clear with stuff the end reader won't see) and prose.

Here's a good...but tough exercise: Draw your story.

Take plain paper, split it into panels, and just draw out a very short story...without using one single word. (Don't worry if you can't draw to save your life - stick figures are fine). By banning yourself from words, you engage the more pictorial side of your brain and are restricted to what an observer 'sees'. (Not that you can only write what is seen, but by focusing on what is seen and shown, you'll break the 'tell' rut).

Sketching can also help break through writer's block.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Some guy named Dean O'Malley was playing with a jet pack.

For four and a half hours...from Newport to Catalina Island. This is an unofficial new record for a jet pack flight in both time and distance.

Of course, this isn't exactly a superhero flight, for all that people keep using it as an example - the water propelled jet pack only works over water and has a ceiling of 30 ft...the length of the tube that pulls water up into the system. Still, it's a pretty cool toy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Drama and Politics.

Yes, a political post, sort of.

I'm saying this here as well as G+. I'm tired of the extreme partisan politics in this country and particularly tired of the way conservatives and liberals see each other as 'enemies'.

I've talked to a lot of conservatives. Most of them are perfectly sane, reasonable people. A few are complete nutjobs. Guess what? The same's true of liberals. The brand of nuttery is different, but the basic root of it is the same: An inability to tolerate the views and opinions of the 'other side'.

There are people who say liberals can't be intolerant by definition...but many are. They're intolerant of people who hold firm religious beliefs, in many cases, for example.

Now, it's true that 'liberal' views *should* leave the freedom to hold conservative ones. Allowing same sex marriage does not affect the ability of opposite sex people to marry. But many liberals would want to take away the freedom to oppose same sex marriage in one's own community, circle of friends and church. There are people out there who want to sue churches for discrimination.

I'm not a Christian, but I AM a religious person. I don't want my religious freedom taken away, and I refuse to touch anyone else's, even if I disagree with them.

So, I'm posing the question here as well: How do we bring the two sides together, how do we build a society in which there is freedom for everyone, not just those 'just like you'?

I'm serious here. I'm really tired of the intolerance and hate being spouted all over the place. Oh, and could we have some respect for the office of President. Please?

Friday, September 28, 2012

No real news...

Well, can't do my regular Friday update post because everything's in 'waiting on somebody' status.

Still plodding along, though, and hoping for something to show up. Which is often what life as a writer is like.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keeping your 'scamdar' active.

Writers are often victims of scams...but so are the rest of us.

Here's a few things to bear in mind.

1. Never give your credit card number to anyone over the phone if they initiated the call. Even if they say they're your bank or your credit card company.

2. If somebody is trying to charge a fee so you can receive a prize you 'won', then it's probably a scam.

3. If you can't remember entering the contest you just 'won', it's probably a scam. As a tip...if you do enter contests or sweepstakes, make a note of them and what the prizes are. Then you have the quick ability to verify and cross reference whether you really entered or 'registered for' a prize.

4. If the person telling you you just won a prize doesn't know what you entered, either it's a scam or they're not very competent.

5. Be extra wary if the prize is a free cruise, especially if it's a 'free cruise plus resort stay' (A couple of Florida timeshare companies pull this one as an unethical sales tactic). Especially if it's a Carnival cruise...for some reason Carnival is a particularly common company for scammers to pretend to be.

6. If the person saying you won the prize doesn't identify who they work for, then be wary.

7. Buy everything you don't buy face to face using a credit card. That way you can reverse the charges if you don't get the goods. (I would note it is fine to pay cash once you have the item in hand. I've even paid cash for hotel stays can be the only option in small guest houses in Europe that might not take credit cards and can only deposit checks in their country's currency...but if you're paying for ANYTHING in advance, use your card.)

8. Don't make a major decision without sleeping on it. This includes accepting what sounds like a really good prize. If they are legitimate, they WILL accept 'I'll call you back tomorrow' and give you a number. Legitimate operators understand that there are scammers out there and will respect you for doing your due diligence.

Just a few tips for today. Hopefully nobody will get 'nailed' any time soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do I...

...have 'writer' written on my forehead?

A random person walked up to me in the complex gym and asked me if a novel really had to have 24 chapters. (Not sure where he read this, but it was part of somebody's 'formula for perfection').


Who walks up to a stranger and asks for writing I'm thinking I need to find a way to take business cards even just to the gym. That's the lesson - take business cards or bookmarks everywhere.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Science Tuesday

Just sticking with one today. Why?

Because, seriously, this guy sounds just like Doctor Who if you read the entire thing. (He's talking about making space-time crystals. No kidding).

I love it. There is no technobabble like Whoverse technobabble...except this Zhang guy is for real.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stolen Ideas Part 2

Somebody on social media responded to my comment on my first stolen ideas post. What they said was that 'two people working from the same base material are likely to have similar ideas' doesn't just apply to writing.

Let's think about that for a moment.

The flip side is that two people working for the same goal are likely to have similar ideas. In writing, this is not always a problem. Theme anthologies work because if you tell 20 authors to write a story about zombies set in the Old West, you WILL get 20 quite different stories.

However, what if the same goal is something specific? Like, for example, the most efficient UI for a mobile phone.

People will have similar ideas. Heck, people will have the same idea. Big deal?

Sadly, yes. We all know that pretty much all of the smartphone companies are filing lawsuits on each other to stop their competitors from selling products, because they argue that patent A covers innovation B. Usually, they insist that the copying is quite deliberate.

'They stole our idea' is a cry that echoes all around. Who actually suffers from the patent wars? The consumer. When a smartphone model goes off the market for no better reason than because somebody thinks it copies somebody else, the price of remaining phones goes up. And all of the companies end up looking like they're going for some kind of legal monopoly. People start wanting to boycott every single one of them.

Maybe it's time to apply some reasonable standards to patents. Time to accept that people will have similar ideas and recognize what is infringement and what is competition.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Not much to say this week.

Sent an electronic, somewhat edited copy of The Skeptic to Analog. (Fixed the stuff Schmidt asked me to change, but not sure whether Quachri will have more tweaks he wants to make to it).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stolen Ideas.

I'm going to talk a bit about fanfic. And about 'feature-based' RPGs or RPGs based in somebody's world.

Some authors hate fanfic. Some are terrified that a fan writer will sue them if something too similar to a 'published' piece of fanfic shows up in the original authors' work, resulting in authors demanding nobody ever write fanfic or, in at least one case, game in their world or, more commonly, in authors publicly declaring that they will not read any fanfic set in their world or using their characters. They can then use 'I never read it' as a defense.

I admit. I do the RPG thing. I don't write and post fanfic...I have enough ideas of my own not to have to base things off of other people's, but I am a gamer. And sometimes I game in published worlds.

Over ten years ago I was involved in an online RPG and created a character who was a close relative to a comic book character.

Today I opened GLC #0. There, on page 3, was my RPG character in a cop uniform. Same appearance. Same name. Different relationship to the original character and different role...but those differences were timeline differences. MY Gloria Gardner was Guy Gardner's daughter and successor. Theirs is his cop kid sister...but it was recognizable immediately as the same character.

Am I going to go after DC for stealing my character? Heck no. I started this blog post when I finished laughing about it.

The chances of anyone at DC knowing about my version of the character are slim. And obviously Guy's daughter and his sister are likely to look a lot alike. The name 'Gloria' is an obscure in-joke only long-term fans will get, referring to an early obsession Guy had with the Silver Age character General the same name? Not likely a coincidence.

And, above all, these things happen. It's frustrating if somebody publishes a comic with a character that has the same costume, codename and powers as one you were about to make, as happened to somebody I know.

But I certainly have no moral claim to Gloria even if I *did* come up with her first. Morally, a fanfic writer or gamer has *no claim* to what they create using somebody else's world. Now, you can file the serial numbers off and publish the story as original...and even have a lot of success. (Fifty Shades of Grey started out as fanfic). Being inspired by other people is no crime.

Going after an IP owner because they 'stole your idea' that you made using their property...that's the kind of thing that gets people to decide they won't sell the RPG rights to their books and will send nasty legal letters to teenagers. If you're playing in somebody else's sandbox, have the respect to acknowledge that it is their sandbox and your work would not exist in its form without that.

And accept that sometimes two people working off of the same basis might come up with the same idea completely independently. There's a reason you can't copyright *ideas*.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We've had some spectacular storms lately, most recently yesterday, which blew branches down into the parking lot. Half of the farmers' market vendors chose not to turn out in the conditions and half of the remainder moved their stalls under the slight overhang of the building.

And this was tornado watch #2 for us, although unlike the Saturday before last we didn't have anything on the ground. Tornados in the middle of a major city on the east coast just...don't happen that often.

And no, I don't blame 'global warming' or 'climate change'...we always get big storms this time of year. This year, we've had a lot fewer of them, but it seems like they contain the same amount of energy as usual. Might be connected to the heat wave. Hopefully things will settle down into some kind of equilibrium before any more of our friends have trees fall on their cars.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The robots are taking our jobs. No, really.

And mathematicians have now discovered a potentially feasible configuration for an Alcubierre warp drive. It relies on making the drive ring a slightly different shape than past theoretical designs, but reduces the fuel requirements down to...well...down to manageable quantities. Of course, we still don't have an actual power source.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Small Press Expo

A lot of fun...if very crowded. (It seems they had a surge in attendance and not a corresponding increase in available space...the con was bursting at the seams and panels were standing room only).

Good place to go if you want to get your hands on 'spandex free' comics - very few of the books available were in the superhero genre, although I did find one possible gem. Not sure until I get around to reading it. I'd say the most popular genre was comedy, followed by realistic comics, many of them 'action' comics set in east coast cities...quite a few people from New York and writing work set in New York. Quality varied from stuff clearly made in somebody's garage to work that was visually indistinguishable from what the major publishers put out. Some of which was amazing - I have to put a particular shout out to Sarah P. and R.M. Rhodes for Starseed...some *amazing* talent there. (Is it a surprise that it's an erotica comic? Likely not...I've found that people in the romance and erotica world put a lot of effort into their work and are almost invariably highly professional). Oh, and particular amusement is aimed at the cat comic writer selling hand crochet catnip mice. I guess she knew her target audience...the cats.

All in all, not a waste of time and if you have a comic, definitely look into exhibiting there. Quite a few people were selling out of books and the con drained all three ATMs in the hotel by halfway through the afternoon. And if you just want to find weird comics (giant monster fighting hardcore porn, anyone? Horror comic about a creature that's half gull half man? Or how about a story about how the monsters of England come back in the 21st century and Merlin calls the knights in to save the country...except, well, think about who gets knighted these days...) Gotta love it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Update

Stripped - been talking to the editor a bit this week. So far, so good...things are progressing on that front.

I'm going to be attending (but not exhibiting at) the Small Press Expo tomorrow...hoping to meet up with a few folks and do some networking and maybe find out about some cool comics.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharing for you all.

A little bit of a microfic fragment. Enjoy.

He Loves Her

He etched her name into his flesh. In Gothic font, with curlicues, his arm read 'Mandy'. Each summer day his devotion true showed. Below it, red and blue, Cupid's arrow pierced his vulnerable heart. The first time, she smiled. He loved her, deep and true. Now each summer day she sees it, the record of the heart she has bound to herself. He loves her. That is why she is afraid.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Dark energy is real. But we have no clue what it is. My mind keeps going back to ether theory.

Some species of wild snake are capable of parthenogenesis, previously observed in lizards, sharks and some birds. As reptiles have Z and W chromosomes, females can produce both females and males this way, although in many cases of captive 'virgin births' the offspring are not viable.

And in Australia, an obscure species of wasp turns out to be very useful indeed...its parasitic on the extraordinarily poisonous redback spider...and it might be that releasing a few wasps will turn out to be a good way to deal with an infestation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sticking My Neck Out On The 'YA' Fallacy

I have a feeling some people are going to turn just a little red at my next statement:

'The Hunger Games is not young adult fiction'.

What? It's published by Scholastic, the same company that published Harry Potter. It's being called YA, shelved as YA, marketed as YA. What business does some crazy writer in Virginia have in saying that it's not YA?

I'm calling out the industry and saying that it is not young adult fiction.

Okay, why? Some of you are probably thinking I'm trying to say it's, what, too good to be YA? Bullshit. I adore Harry Potter. I absolutely love Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, which is as YA as it comes. I love good young adult fiction and am not embarrassed to be caught reading it on public transportation. (Or comic books, for that matter. I had a good laugh at 'Read Comics In Public Day'...for me that's otherwise known as 'Wednesday').

Okay, so on what am I basing my insane assertion?

'The Hunger Games' is not young adult because it is not about young adult things. Maybe that's one way to put it. Uglies, for example, is emphatically about struggling to grow up, wanting to grow up, and the shallowness of beauty and (in the fourth book, Extras) fame as goals. As for Harry Potter - it follows the grand tradition of the English 'school story' - books set in boarding schools and about growing up. A good mundane example of the same would be Enid Blyton's Malory Towers stories. J.K. Rowlings simply combined the school story with the hero's journey and classic good versus evil fantasy.

The Hunger Games is not about growing up. Katniss is already an adult in all the ways that count at the start of the stories. She does not start out a child and become an adult, as both Harry Potter and Tully Youngblood do. She IS an adult. She's a provider and a breadwinner, she's the 'man' of her family. What is it about?


It's about the price and cost of war. On society. On the individual. Even 'just' war. The war between District 13 and the Capital is completely justified. But by the end of the third book, the characters we are about are pretty much all either A. dead or B. suffering from PTSD. Even the children. But then, haven't we always sent our children off to fight our wars for us?

The Hunger Games is not in the same subgenre as Uglies even though they are both shelved as 'Young Adult Science Fiction'...and even though they are both set in post-apocalyptic future America.

It IS in the same subgenre as another classic novel that may or may not be made into a movie next year:

Ender's Game.

Ender's Game is about the horror of child soldiers. It was originally published as a novelette in Analog in 1977. It won a Hugo and a Nebula. It's recommended reading...for marine officer candidates, or at least used to be. And although it did win an award for teen reading, if you look at it in Amazon it's shelved as 'space opera' and tagged as 'military science fiction'...which is where it should be shelved. Most people do not think of Ender's Game as YA because it's not packaged that way. Weirdly, it was cut from NPR's Best YA Fiction Poll as not being YA. But The Hunger Games made the cut. Card himself said outright that Ender's Game was never intended as young adult fiction, although he doesn't mind that teens read and enjoy it. It's published by Tor, which is not a young adult imprint.

The Hunger Games is intense. It's so intense that on finishing reading it my husband said he was looking forward to Elizabeth Moon's newest military fantasy (highly recommended) as something lighter and more cheerful. I found Mockingjay a roller coaster ride of emotions and a full understanding of the trauma of war (it's a complete coincidence that I'm posing this on 9/11 - I was waiting for the husband to finish the book to get his opinion). War destroys innocence, literally and metaphorically...and the tributes are a metaphor for that, as is what happens to the victors. War does nothing good and positive and in the end, as justified as District 13 was in fighting, they too fall into the trap of the victor when they propose one final games. War destroys minds. It tears people apart.

It's my opinion that The Hunger Games and its sequels are the best anti-war novels of recent time. They deserve to stand next to Joe Haldeman's Forever War (a different take on the fate of the veteran). I hope that the popularity of the film will pull the books out of the young adult ghetto and put them in the hands of the parents. On the other hand, perhaps it IS the children, the future leaders who need to read it.

So. Why the heck has The Hunger Games been classified as young adult? It's actually fairly simple. It's a sad fact of the publishing industry at present, and something I've seen myself, that if your protagonist is under 18, the industry classes your work as 'young adult'. I've written pieces not intended as young adult but with teenage protagonists and I inevitably get told 'send it to a young adult magazine', so I've seen this myself.

And this has to change. Not every book with a young protagonist is suited to teenagers and will be enjoyed by them. I don't know for sure whether Suzanne Collins did intend the books to be adult fiction and was funneled into YA by industry suspicions...hopefully one day I'll have an opportunity to ask her. But I'm afraid that is exactly what happened.

In the mean time, if you haven't read the books, read them. Enjoy them. And take heed of them. We live in a world where people are quite willing to send other people's children (sometimes literally in parts of Africa) to fight for causes that are far less just than getting rid of a form of slavery. And there are so many times when the underdog has won, and promptly set up the next oppressive regime. The 'one final hunger games' is never one and it's never final.