Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sunset Clauses

I was reading something on Writer Beware which reminded me of this.

Don't sign a contract without a sunset clause. A sunset clause means your rights revert to you after a period of time. Normally, the sunset clause specifies both a time limit for publication and when your rights revert after publication.

With short stories, it's common to have a perpetual non-exclusive contract with an exclusivity period. That's perfectly fine for shorts. It's hard to sell reprints and the contract does not interfere with you, for example, putting up your backlist on Smashwords. Exclusivity clauses range from three months to two years, and some publishers will waive if the story is wanted for a Best Of anthology or similar.

With novels, a sunset clause should specify that you get your rights back 2 to 5 years after the date of publication. They normally contain an option to extend (so if your book is doing fine with that publisher and still selling, you can just renew).

Never sign a life of copyright contract on anything except a work for hire piece (And you should charge well for work for hire). Never sign a contract that does not return your rights to you if they don't publish it.

Oh, and never sign a contract that includes all subsidiary rights unless you are getting a lot of money. You want to be able to pocket that movie option if you happen to be amazingly lucky and get one.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


We have all of this technology and somebody uses it to broadcast screams in space? I'm geeky enough to love it.

(Hey, I write science fiction. That's how many geek points right there? Oh, and I wear glasses. That's worth a few too, even if it's not exactly by choice.)

And I'm a Trekkie.


Yeah. I'm a geek. So I love random Alien references, but still... In all seriousness, the smartphone as a satellite core is going to significantly reduce the costs for certain applications.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Lois McMaster Bujold is rightly well known for her Miles Vorkosigan stories - the little guy with the physical handicap who leaves a trail of chaos behind him wherever he goes and always comes up roses.

Through a lot of that, Miles has a sidekick, Ian Vorpatril, who's the Watson to his Holmes in many ways. Not dumb, but often looking so next to his genius cousin, Ian is always getting in trouble with or over women.

Which is pretty much the entire premise of Ian's first solo book. It all really does involve a girl. And Imperial headquarters. And moles in several senses of the word. It's not a particularly deep or thoughtful book - in fact, I'd call it a caper novel - but it's a lot of fun...even if I found parts of the plot horrendously predictable.

I still recommend it if you like your science fiction more to the sci-fi end of things and a good story.

4 stars.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga)

Monday, February 25, 2013


I love George R.R. Martin...although not quite as much as my husband, who genuinely believes he's the best currently active speculative fiction writer in the world.

My love affair started before I knew who he was. I don't go for romances. I don't really like love stories that much. Or even love songs. There was one notable exception. A little American show called "Beauty and the Beast". (My nostalgia for it is such that I can't bring myself to watch the remake). That show was amazing. Beyond amazing. But I didn't know who to hold responsible for it until my husband handed me "Windhaven".

From then on...hooked. I might not go quite as far as Greg does, but I do think he is a quite excellent writer. I just finished reading the second volume of his "Dreamsongs" collection.

So, why am I tearing my hair out?

Windhaven, in collaboration with Lisa Tuttle, was up there for his best work. Possibly better than A Song of Ice and Fire - although hard to compare. Tuttle has done nothing I've found worth mentioning since.



He and Lisa started a sequel to Windhaven.

They didn't finish it!

Apparently it was a combination of Tuttle having another project and Martin's chronic Too Many Ideas Syndrome. (Why is ASoIaF taking so long to finish? Hint, it's not just because he's slow).

Don't worry, George. You still get a drink if I ever bump into you in a convention bar.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Still working on getting Transpecial finalized. Yeah, taking slightly longer than expected, but every time we think we've caught all the problems - the line editor found a couple of plot potholes I had to fill in.

Also working on the RPG. Which I swear will have a formal title soon.

The art is done and sent in for the graphic short for the Gods & Cattle anthology.

Also, I have a couple of slots available for proofreading - please let me know and I'll give you a quote, which will likely be lower than standard because I need the work.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Contest "Scam"

I've seen this twice in the last month. I don't know whether it's intended as a scam or whether these people think publication in their magazine is really worth enough on its own to constitute a "prize."

The trick is this. They host a contest with a decent first prize...the last one I saw was $150 for a flash fiction, which is a good prize.

Then they state that "runners-up" or "honorable mentions" will receive publication.

Thing is, they don't compensate the "honorable mentions". So, the magazine gets five or six hundred dollars worth of content for that $150 prize. Which in some cases they're recouping from entry fees.

Don't fall for it. It's not quite as bad as rights to publish all entries, but it's close. Always read contest rules carefully. It's not uncommon for them to hold hidden traps like this.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The more things change...

I wish I had a cat, but it's really unfeasible in this apartment.

Of course, if I did have a cat, it would be on my keyboard when I'm trying to write and probably end up locked in the bedroom.

That's probably what happened to this cat.


Cats haven't changed. Nor has their relationship to humans. Nor, perhaps, has the tendency for writers to own cats.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The big cosmic question: What came before the Big Bang? Personally, I've always been a huge fan of the cyclical universe.

Check out this article about how it might all work. And don't worry, it won't happen for billions of years. We hope. (Why am I flashing back to Peter Hamilton's Void triology now?)

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Inevitable

At about 9:20am local time this morning something space types had been worried about happened.

A good-sized meteor plunged into the atmosphere at a shallow angle and exploded in a fireball above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The largest piece created a twenty meter crater near the city's reservoir (another, smaller piece, made a circular hole in the ice on the lake itself).

The shockwave from the fireball shattered windows. Over a thousand people were injured, mostly from flying glass. A zinc factory was seriously damaged. Many residents of Chelyabinsk were left with shattered windows in the cold of a Russian winter.

This is the first known incident, in modern times, of a meteorite strike in a populated area. As natural disasters go, it's nothing to write home about. No deaths have been reported (although the combination of broken glass and Russian cold is worrying). The meteorite is believed to have been a chondritic (stony) asteroid - not either a comet fragment or, as was first believed, a nickel-iron asteroid core.

We've all been saying this was going to happen, somewhere, sooner or later. This was not that large a meteorite, but it packed a punch far higher than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima (although without the radiation - background radiation levels remained normal). Bizarrely, it hit on the same day that a much larger asteroid came uncomfortably close to our planet.

Take homes?

1. The sensors set up to detect atmospheric explosions as part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty do a good job of measuring meteors blowing up too, if they're large enough to do damage.

2. The flash from the fireball reached the city about three minutes before the damaging shockwave. If the sky lights up, run for an interior room. Chances are you'll have time to get there and then you'll be safe from anything short of a direct hit.

3. The primary damage done was from the shockwave. This can apparently affect a fairly large area.

4. We need to get serious about space defense. We really do. As my husband joked earlier: At least we're not in the alternate reality in which the other one hit...

Updates, because I do owe them, but couldn't not talk about a meteor strike:

Transpecial - developmental edits are DONE and the manuscript has been passed to the line editors.

Gods & Cattle - five of six pages inked and all six pages penciled. Finally.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

...for those with a reason to celebrate.

Hugs to those who wish they had one.

And pleasant spring to those who would prefer to be alone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Playing Well With Others

Writing can be a solitary profession. Writers are, in fact, often notorious for their lack of social skills. Harlan Ellison comes to mind.

People outside the industry have even more of an image of the writer as somebody who sits at a desk for a few hours a day and doesn't interact with anyone.

It's not entirely accurate. True, I do spend my work day at a desk in my home, but during the course of the day I may interact with editors, artists, collaborators, writing buddies, clients...

It's actually very important that a writer learns to play well with others (especially if you have any inclination at all towards writing scripts). We have to be able to deal with all kinds of different personalities. In the past, agents handled a lot of it for us, but agents (and advances) are like meals on airplane flights - you only get them in first class.

For me, working with others has always been the hardest part of writing. I'm shy and a little socially awkward. I hate talking to strangers on the phone. Heck, I had an anxiety dream about Balticon last night - I dreamt I was wandering all through the con and could not find the panel I was supposed to be on. I used to get terrible stage fright, but managed to get rid of it. I still get the pre-jitters, though. I've been found crying in restrooms twice before "going on" to do something. I like interacting with people. I just find it hard. I think that's not atypical for writers...I think that creative and storytelling types who thrive on being on stage and under a spotlight don't write. They act.

Learning to treat everyone well, learning to face a crowd - these things are actually important, but again, often neglected by writers. (I'm told Toastmasters can be very helpful if the idea of giving a reading makes you want to go find the nearest hole in the ground). It's especially important for spec fic writers who have to do con stuff.

Oh, and get good moral support. Your spouse/partner, a friend, heck, if you can get away with it, your dog...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Language defines culture and culture defines language. The Rosetta Stone software has long been used as a means of allowing people to learn a language outside the classroom.

Now archaeologists have found another use for the software - it's so good at constructing language that linguists can use it to put dead languages back together and back to life. I hope that this new use can also be made available to ethnic groups who's language has been lost, allowing them to resurrect that important part of their culture.

A living language, of course, evolves. Shakespeare and Chaucer both spoke English - but it takes practice to learn to read Chaucer in the original and some people struggle with Shakespeare. English is changing pretty rapidly right causes rapid language change as new words are constantly needed and old words gain new uses. For example, we talk about books being "in print" - even if the book is only available as a digital download. In a couple of centuries our descendants may have as much difficulty with what's being written now as we do with Shakespeare. Or even Chaucer. Still, the ancestors of our living languages can be traced.

Dead ones are another matter, and it would be nice to see some of them come back.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Miscellaneous Stuff

When I saw a tweet about the Pope resigning, I thought it was a joke. Apparently, he really is...on the advice, I suspect, of his doctors. I'm not Catholic, but the church has such a great influence on social issues that it can't be ignored. We have to pay attention to who controls the Vatican.

Second edits on Transpecial were sent to the editor today.

Oh and Happy (Chinese) New Year. Hisssssssss.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly Update

Sold a flash story, "Contact," to Mustang's Monster Corral.

My Amazon author page should now be visible on as well as

Everything else is proceeding mostly as "planned." If anything in a writer's life is really planned.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Electric Vehicles...and nostalgia?

Uh...that's an odd combination. Well, I just stumbled across this.

Manufacturers have been toying with electric engines for a long time. In fact, in the UK, electric engines have been in regular, routine use for decades. Since the 1950s, in fact, although you don't see them very much any more.

For me, though, there's a strong association between battery electric power and one of these. And a strong sense of nostalgia. I remember when, in my parents' neighborhood, the milk floats stopped coming. Everyone went to the supermarket for their milk.

Why were milk floats electric? The truth is that these vehicles, with a top speed of about 20 miles per hour, were perfect replacements for horses. They could go so slowly that the drivers would routinely hop out, grab somebody's delivery, hop back on...and never actually stop the float. Also, they were all but silent, so people would not be woken up by 5am deliveries.Of course, they were also so slow that people driving normal cars hated them.

But it's odd. I am dealing with an influx, thanks to the images of the Detroit car, of nostalgic memories. The milk came in crates full of glass bottles. The night before milk day, we would leave the old crate and the empty bottles out. In the morning, as if by magic, we'd have fresh much as was placed in our standing order. The bottles would be sanitized and reused as many times as possible before they chipped or cracked. (What. Recycling's a new thing too, right? Nope).

And for all the jokes about people having affairs with the milkman, I wonder if we haven't lost something.

Well, maybe not. Some people still get their milk delivered by float, as this page proves.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Copyright stupidity

Games Workshop? You are dumb. Assuming this is true. I am really tired of overly-obvious patents, copyrights...and really, you have NO grounds for claiming ownership of the term "space marine". It's generic. Apparently, this has been going on for a while with toys and games...but now they're going after science fiction writers.

I have confirmed that they somehow have managed to register "Space Marine" as a trademark - despite the term predating the establishment of their company.

Here are a few more ridiculous terms they've somehow been allowed to trademark:

Black Flame, Blood Angels, Citadel, Dark Angels, Codex, Dark Future, Fire Warrior, Inferno, Inquisitor, Talisman.

Look how generic those are. I've talked about ridiculous patents before. Looks like we'll have to do some talking, at the very least, about ridiculous trademarks. Seriously? You can't own the words "citadel" and "inferno". (Admittedly, it's context dependent, but still).

Embarrassingly, their headquarters is in my home town.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Again. AGAIN with the roof repairs. It's hard to be productive when enveloped in massive noise pollution and I have a flash fiction and a graphic short that need to be finished this week.

Last year, the repairs totalled three months. I'm starting to think they're never actually going to be done. Sigh. Normally, I love living on the top floor...

Excuse me while I go find some ear plugs.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Modern mythology

You know, we sometimes think ancient people were somehow primitive and delusional to have their mythological heroes...and completely gloss over the fact that we most certainly have our own. Here's a few:

Superman - in a study a few years back he was more recognizable globally than Jesus.
Sherlock Holmes - written, rewritten, you name it. Everyone loves to play with the great detective.
Nikola Tesla - who's even a real person! The original mad scientist. And somebody else everyone loves to play with. Hero or villain? Depends on the writer.

Let's have some more?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday updates

First of all. I am officially going to be a guest at Balticon this year. I don't have a schedule yet, and won't for quite a while, but it will be posted once it's available.

Got the returned contract from Steve Berman for my story in Shades of Blue & Grey...tucked into a random (and intriguing) ARC. Apparently he likes to give out presents...and I'm not going to be complaining.

First round of Transpecial edits are done. As far as I know we're still on target for a spring release.