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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just finished...

...reading Kings of the North, the next in the Elizabeth Moon fantasy series. Can't wait for the third book in the trilogy...she did a lot of 'middle movement' set up stuff that really keeps one wanting more.

I'm really liking these books, although readers of the original trilogy, watch for the continuity error. It's subtle, but it's there. Sorry, I caught it...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Update!

I am very please to announce that my short story 'The Skeptic' has been purchased by...


That's worth a woot.

So is the wonderful art of Jean Dedeaux, who was good enough to give me a sneak preview of a penciled panel from Stripped for my birthday. It's clearly going well on his end.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


When it comes to animals, people have expectations. To most people in the horse industry the words 'off the track Thoroughbred' have strong connotations.

One expects an 'off the track Thoroughbred' to be somewhat flighty, not overly bright and more likely to spook than the average horse. Many people believe that only an expert should retrain them. I've certainly met more than my share of ex racehorses who fit all of the stereotypes, including a horse who would spook at everything in the indoor arena. That he was ridden in every day. Put them up next to another horse and they're likely to forget they aren't racing any more and try to get ahead of them. They definitely like a good run on a regular basis and they are often not the easiest horses to handle. Even at 20+, they can be a handful.

That's the expectation.

Meet 'Wills'. He's 18 years old, about 15.3 or 16 hands (I didn't have a measuring stick handy), and a nice chestnut color. He's a little stockier than most American Thoroughbreds, but Thoroughbred he certainly is. Racehorses are identified with tattoos inside their lower lip in the United States, a traditional device used to prevent the use of a 'ringer' (these days they are also micro chipped, but Wills is too old to have been chipped). So, yes, Wills is an off the track Thoroughbred.

So, let's see...more spooky than most horses? Nope, he's close to bombproof. Fast? Not if he can help it. Not overly bright? That one's probably true.

In fact, Wills is moseying around at a lesson barn, being ridden by people who barely even know how to ride and pretty soon will be used to take people out on trail rides. People who *don't* know how to ride.

With a better rider up, he is completely push button...although you sometimes have to push the buttons slightly harder than with most horses.

He's what, in the horse industry, is known as a 'packer'...a horse that will carry anyone and do whatever they ask. I'd trust him with my husband's 92 year old grandmother.

And I never thought I'd think *that* about an off the track Thoroughbred.

Which just goes to show that you can't always go by your expectations with animals, who are bred to have specific traits (Thoroughbreds are the way they are because they are bred to do one thing - run fast). Then why do people think they can go by expectations with human beings?

Or anything else in life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cool science stuff...

In Nepal, tigers have worked out how to coexist with to use the same trails and the same hunting grounds. They aren't stupid, it seems, and have learned that humans are almost entirely diurnal. So, they just wait for the silly primates to go to bed and then come out.

Some guy in China found a half meter earthworm in his gutter. Dang.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


...I'm 39.

I don't want to think about how close that is to 40. I really don't. There definitely comes a point when you want to keep celebrating the birthday but just, casually, leave off the year.