Thursday, January 31, 2013

This weather... for the birds, or something. Mid sixties yesterday, mid forties today. Oh, and storms.

I didn't even get a proper night's sleep last night. There are downsides to living on the top (twelfth) floor of a tall building surrounded by houses. Trust me, there are.

First round of editing is done. Editor is doing the second round right now...things are going pretty well. I can't wait to see the finished product.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I found this article today. As humans, we do anthropomorphize things. We like to think, for example, that our pets have feelings.

Could you switch off a robot that was pleading not to be turned off? Apparently, yes, you could...every participant did eventually "kill" the begging robot.

But as robots become more sophisticated, I wonder if our attitude will change. Now I'm wondering if we might end up treating robots the way we treat pets or working animals. (This is all leaving aside the issue of robots that might be our intellectual equals).

When I work with a horse, I'm very careful not to anthropomorphize. It causes problems. Horses are not humans. Their minds work differently and their intellect is probably that of a human 3-5 year old. Certainly, the way they try to manipulate their handlers is very reminiscent of toddlers - I'm dealing with one right now who is faking being terrified of random stuff to try and get out of work. If you want to understand what's going on, you have to think "horse." You have to keep in your mind the fact that they can't grasp long-term consequences and struggle immensely with change of any kind.

Now, the difference with robots is that they come with operating manuals that very specifically state what they are programmed to do. For now.

What if we find that as we start to move into quantum computing our robots and computers demonstrate quirks...real ones, not the ones we tend to imagine? What then?

Will we be able to turn off the robots of the future?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Water on Mars

The evidence for "ancient water" on Mars is growing. It's a little hard to see, but check out the picture attached to this article. Kind of looks like sand on a beach, doesn't it. Between that and some of the stuff Curiosity has found...the real question now is where did the water go.

Good progress is being made on the Transpecial edits. I had to stop for the day before I started hating my own book (trust me, that's a hazard of the editing phase). The really tricky problems have been identified and fixed, though. I'd say the bulk of the work is done at this point - I hope.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Man am I buried in red ink. I am, however, making great progress on the Transpecial edits. I think we're on target, if not ahead of target, although I am being my usual procrastinatory self and leaving the tough stuff to the end.

Now I just have to learn to deal with the pre-release jitters. Because I don't need to be having pre-release jitters yet, darnit! That's not supposed to happen until release week. Right?


Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Updates

Edits for Transpecial are proceeding well. I should come out of this with only a couple of grey hairs.

Unsettling Wonder #1 is available in .mobi and .epub as well as as a paperback from the British publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Unfortunately, Pill Hill Press has gone out of business. As of right now, Amazon still has Twisted Legends in stock, but there's no telling how long that will last before the book goes out of print if you don't have a copy, snag one quickly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Humans, birds, dung beetles?

Dung beetles. A pretty humble creature - albeit one sacred to some cultures because their rolled balls of dung resemble the sun.

And they always roll their balls in a straight line. During the day, presumably, they use the sun. At night...the moon? But what when there's no moon...

This is the only known instance (so far) of insects using stellar navigation. Pretty cool little guys.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another tip...

I just noticed an agent on Twitter with a reminder that's very important for new writers.

Sometimes in non-fiction you can get away with querying an incomplete manuscript. This is not the case in fiction (unless you're asking your current publisher which idea to go with or whether something is worth pursuing).

Always finish the book then try to sell it. Of course, you should be aware that your finished may not be your publishers' finished, but the words 'The End' should have been written. Oh, and the manuscript should be edited to the best of your ability. No, you should not do the final edits on your own work, but one of the Writerly Sins is 'Premature Submission' (or 'Premature Submitulation as the wonderful Lynn Price loves to call it) - submitting something that's just not ready. Writing a book takes time - don't rush it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Got tagged for this one by Nobilis Reed. (Warning, text on this page is NSFW, just in case you don't know that Nobilis is never SFW).

My Next Big Thing is my debut novel, "Transpecial", which will be released this year.

1: What is the working title of your book? Transpecial

2. Where did the idea for the book come from? Initially, I had the idea of a being that was transformed from one species to another, hence the title. That mutated into a bridge between species - a diplomat.

3. What genre does it fall under? Space opera

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hrm. In an ideal dream world: Summer Glau would play the main character, Suza McRae, a high functioning autistic and linguistic genius (she does the not-quite-normal thing so well). Warren Taylor, the expert who tries to mentor her is a tough one. Maybe Ralph Fiennes, except now he's M to me forever. Haniyar would have to be CGI anyway.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? After humanity started the war, one young woman is tasked to end it.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? It will be published by wonderful e-publisher Musa Publishing, under their Urania imprint.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft? About forty days.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Tough one again...I'm not very good at title comps. I like to think there might be a little bit of classic Heinlein in there (except without the inability to write women well). And I'm probably daydreaming.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? Honestly, it started with a random idea and the title.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

A lot of books are written about fighting wars. I like a good slice of military science fiction myself. The twist in Transpecial is that it's not about the people fighting the war. It's about the people trying to end the war. I jokingly call it 'diplomatic science fiction'.

So, now I need to do some ongoing tags.

+Tim Dodge - because we haven't talked in too long.
+Rebecca Blain - because she's doing crowdfunding and needs all the publicity she can get for that.
+Michael Shean - because his first book was pretty cool and I want to find out what he's doing next.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Updates

April Analog is out! And yes, my story is in there...with a great table of contents and the first part of a four-parter by Edward M. Lerner. I haven't read the entire issue yet, but it looks as awesome as ever. (Although I feel kinda sorry for Trevor Quachri having to write the editorials - what an act to follow).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dealing with Editors

One of the scariest things about being a writer is being edited - especially if your work comes back with a ton of red ink on it. Here are a few tips.

1. You're on the same side. You and the editor have the exact same goal - to sell as many books as possible. A good editor will take the raw diamond of your story and make it shine.

2. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you and the editor have a difference of opinion on the Oxford comma...well.

3. Know when to stick to your guns and when to fold. If you're really uncomfortable with something an editor wants to do, tell them. In most cases, they'll respect that. (Not always, but that's another topic). Picking your battles will keep the relationship on an even keel.

4. Always be polite. Always. Even if they have you wanting to tear your hair out. Treat the editor as you hope they will treat you - with respect.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nook Security

So, I got a Nook for Christmas. Well, we got a Nook. (I have a feeling this is rapidly going to be 'we have two Nooks').

I'm going to pass on something the average person might not notice. Once you register your nook, it automatically sends purchases, with no further confirmation, to the credit card linked to your B&N account.

The way the default settings are, anyone (like your children, for example) could buy books on your Nook and they would automatically charge your credit card. And, unlike Amazon, B&N does not allow you to return ebooks.

Please, if you have a Nook, go into device settings, then shop, then check 'Require password for purchases'. Especially if you have kids...or are a bit of a klutz and might accidentally buy something while browsing (it requires two clicks, but I've had my hair touch the Nook screen and click on something more than once...oops). Much easier than trying to clean up an unauthorized purchase mess later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Yesterday, I got my Analog contributors' copies. (They go out slightly ahead of subscriptions, I suspect because they don't go through a distributors' service).

Be warned that the April issue is the start of a four parter by Edward M. Lerner, so if you only want to get it newsstand, you might end up hooked. Then again, I think all science fiction readers should get themselves hooked on Analog. It's not that expensive an addiction, really.

Next step: Getting my novel out there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Horses and Mint

Chocolate is to humans. Mint is to horses. I have empirical evidence!

A child offered a pony a carrot and a candy cane. He took the candy cane.

(Ponies and little girls. Always adorable. Sorry, every so often I do go into female squee-at-cute mode).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Updates!

Contracts have been signed and mailed for all three of the short stories I've sold recently.

The RPG is solidly in production, at least on the writing side of things (got a bunch of stuff planned on it today).

Working on three more shorts to submit to various markets.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Moving Forward

There's a lot of feeling lately that our civilization is in crisis. For that matter, I feel it myself.

Too many people, though, have answers that involve moving backwards. For example, they say we, as a society, should stop helping those who have fallen on hard times except, possibly, through grudging 'voluntary' charity.

Or they say we don't need any more technological development. Should not explore, should not reach out. (Exploring and reaching out, for the sake of it, is a human trait to be nurtured, not abandoned).

I've believed my entire life that the solution to our problems lies not in going back to the past, not in abandoning anything, but in continuing to move forward and to learn. Technology and science are good things. We are a technological species, have been since the first member of genus homo worked out how to create and command fire.

We always will be, unless we evolve into something else. I believe that if we do, however, we will cease to be, in any meaningful sense, human.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: The Radiance by John Robinson

Two disclaimers here - Musa is my publisher and I got the book in a giveaway.

My first impression of this book was that it reminded me of Poul Anderson's Brainwave. This impression did not go away (to be fair, Brainwave is an older book, written before I was born, and I suspect a lot of people have not read it). The plot is essentially similar - what happens when humans (and everything else on the planet) experience a sudden jump in intelligence.

At a personal level, it centers around two brothers - Travis is a veteran and former pastor turned farmer and his brother, Cale, is a successful businessmen. Both react to the phenomenon in different ways, but are intimately entangled with one another. It's a slower-paced book, working at a very human level even as the world changes...perhaps too slowly, but the change is definitely there.

The book is 'clean' (I only recall one typo, and that a very forgivable one) and easy to read, the characters are well put together and their motivations remain very consistent throughout. My only quibble is that I found the ending less than satisfying, although I can't quite put my finger on why, or explain further without spoilers. With that caveat, it's worth a read if you like your science fiction 'soft' and human-centered.

It's available here direct from the publisher in PDF, ePUB, Mobi and PRC. (The pdf at least is DRM-free).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Taking It Personally

I've talked about this before, but one of the biggest traps new writers fall into is taking things too personally.

It starts with rejections. I get rejected all the time. It was really hard not to take them personally to start fact, one of the reasons I started my serious writing career 'late' (in my thirties) was because I took rejections too personally. They hit me where it hurt.

Then, there's reviews. Hard not to take those personally too. We put so much of ourselves into our work that when somebody tells us its no good it feels like they're really saying we are no good.

Most experienced writers will just tell you to 'grow a thick skin'. I have a more productive answer.

Keep all of your acceptances. Keep all of your rejections that have positive comments on them. Keep all of your good reviews.

When you feel that your work sucks, pull out one of those positive comments and re-read it. Trust me, it really does work. And there is nothing wrong with basking in adulation when you can get it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Words with bother me.

I've already said how I feel about 'exposure'.

Here's another word that keeps bothering me: 'Entitlement'.

This is a word fiscal conservatives (I consider myself a moderate fiscal conservative, but compared to some people...) have been pushing into the mainstream to call any kind of welfare. By calling it an 'entitlement', they turn it into something negative, something we shouldn't be expecting, asking for, or giving people.

With over 10% unemployment in some places, we need to help people. Voluntary charity can't do it when the middle class are afraid to give up their own money in case they need it tomorrow...and is there anyone, right now, who actually feels they have financial security?

This made me think about 'double speak'. (If you haven't read 1984, you probably should). By changing 'welfare' to 'entitlement' we change immediate perceptions.

As we transition to new economic systems, we need mechanisms to prevent people from starving during these difficult times. No civilized country lets their poor go naked, hungry, or die from completely preventable diseases. No civilized country should have 'working homeless', either. But moving to new systems, held back as it is by the American fear of anything resembling 'socialism', is going to take a long time indeed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Updates

First sale of 2013 - "The Voyage of the Fool" to new fairy tale-based ezine 'Unsettling Wonder'. Already got the edits, so this should be going forward pretty quickly. (It will be in issue 1).

Production is still ongoing on the Renaissance-era RPG project.

Everything else is pretty much in 'holiday lull' still.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Asteroid herding?

NASA has the goal of trying to land astronauts on an asteroid.

They just got real ambitious. Instead of taking men to an asteroid, they're considering bringing the asteroid to the men. Putting one in orbit around the Earth is risky, so they're going to put it in orbit around the moon (because really, what's one more crater on a dead rockball if things go wrong).

This is actually very important. An asteroid catcher, if we could perfect one, could allow the diversion of an asteroid that IS on course for hitting the Earth. It could also allow for mining of asteroids for resources, most especially gold and platinum (the latter has a number of industrial uses and is extremely rare on Earth - we're running out).

So. I'm hoping this one works. Just flying to an asteroid is a little gimmicky. Steering that's big.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Genre and Gender

I like old books.

I'm actually a bit of a nerd for them. I don't just like to read old books, I like to hold them, feel them and smell them.

One of my Christmas presents this year was a 1943 reprint of Zane Grey's 'The Rainbow Trail', printed on that awesomely weird wartime paper. The original copyright date on this book was 1915.

Zane Grey was perhaps one of the best writers of westerns, but 'The Rainbow Trail' is called, on its frontispiece, a romance.

Now, I'm not a big fan of modern romances but I enjoyed this one - despite the fact that it's unrealistic in ways I can't go into here in case anyone else hasn't read it. What struck me, though, is that this was a romance that was not written exclusively for women. Or by a woman.

The modern feeling is that romances are by women for women. It's nice to have a reminder that that does not have to be the case...and that genre can actually change over time. (Particularly nice for female writers of science fiction...although writers of thrillers still often have to use male names...)

Maybe we can change things so that we can have works in all genres written for either gender, both, or everything in between.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Another year in the can - and it was an interesting one. Mostly in the Chinese curse sense - superstorms,  elections...

For me, a quiet year, but next year should, I hope, be interesting in a much better way. I'm looking forward to 2013...are you?