Friday, February 28, 2014


The Future Embodied anthology, containing my story "For The Children," will have a print release on 3/15/2014. The ebook will be two weeks later.

I'm in the process of putting together a "micro-collection" of reprint stories with a scheduled release of 3/15/2014. The anchor story will be my Analog story "The Skeptic." So, look out for "The Skeptic and Other Glimpses" to appear on Amazon and Smashwords on that date.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing To Sell?

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is thinking too much about what sells when they sit down to write.

The worst mistake is to sit down and write something "like" the current best seller. Novices often think that by jumping on the coattails of Harry Potter or Twilight or the Hunger Games they have a solid winner.

Here's the problem: It takes a good amount of time to write and publish a novel. Publishers and agents aren't looking for more of the current fad - they're looking for the next fad. (It's a little different if you're self publishing, as the cycle is a bit shorter). And because so many people do it, inboxes and slush piles become overloaded with whatever the fad is and agents and editors start screaming "Stop!"

There's nothing wrong with considering marketability when deciding what idea to work on next. Writing something you don't enjoy because you think it will sell, though, is likely to produce a low quality book. Following a fad is just going to leave you behind.

Write something you enjoy and make it as good as possible - there's luck involved, of course, but you still have a better chance than by blindly following trends.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere

We've found it on the Moon, it's probably on Mars. Ceres has a metric ton of it. Now we've found it in the atmosphere of Tau Bootis b, one of the first exoplanets to be discovered.

Water may be more commonly found in the universe than we thought. Water is, of course, necessary for our form of life (and possibly at least some other forms of life). It makes the best radiation shield we currently have for astronauts traveling long distances. It can be split into hydrogen and oxygen to make fuel.

Water is vital for space exploration, and we keep finding it. And the more we find it, the higher the chances of bumping into recognizable life - perhaps even intelligent life - out there.

What form that life will take? We won't know until we find it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Women in Fantasy and Fandom

Thanks to the guy on G+ who handed me the inspiration for this.

The classic D&D world has a lot of things - multiple races, monsters and, of course, women in chain mail bikinis. Gamers want female adventurers. Gender equality (or close) is a standard feature of many fantasy worlds - especially those built by a group of people around a table. Even if a world in which women have fewer rights is built, GMs always include loopholes to allow for those beautiful, striking warrior women. Maybe they're unusual. Maybe they come from a fringe culture. Maybe a major theme of the world is the conflict between the cultures in which women fight and the ones in which they don't.

In real Medieval history, very few women fought. Most of those who did disguised themselves as men. You find more warrior women in some parts of the ancient world - think Boadicea. Joan of Arc was considered unnatural and burned as a witch. But this reality isn't reflected in game worlds. It's sometimes reflected in fiction, but not always. Modern sensibility says that women should not be property, second class citizens, left at home tending babies, etc.

Here's the disconnect. I hate to say it, and it's less true than it used to be, but often those very same guys who sit around a table insisting women in their fantasy worlds should have rights and equality and a sword or dagger - are the same guys who won't get their eyes off a woman's breasts at a con, talk about finishing the game so they can go ogle Felicia Day (in front of other women, to boot), slut shame women in chain mail bikinis or accuse us of being fake geeks there to pick up guys.

They want equality in their fantasy worlds, but seem a little unclear about it in their real world. I do think things have improved a lot and are improving a lot. There are definitely more women at cons than there used to be. But all of the behaviors I've listed still happen. Is it that equality is more desirable in the abstract? Or are they just after the chain mail bikinis...

Monday, February 24, 2014

RIP Harold Ramis

I'm not a big comedy fan - especially not American comedy. My off-beat sense of humor tends to clash with what most people find funny.

But nobody can deny the influence of Harold Ramis, who died early this morning at the age of 69. He's probably best known for co-starring in Ghostbusters - but most of his work was as a writer or director - Animal House, Meatballs, Caddy Shack, Analyze This, Groundhog Day...

A very funny man, by all accounts. And sometimes we have to appreciate all art, not just that which touches our personal funny bone.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Astronomical Odds

Third Flatiron has revealed the cover and TOC for the "Astronomical Odds" anthology.

Find all of the good stuff here.

The book will be released on March 15 in both electronic and print formats.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


...come with data caps and overages. Actually, I have unlimited data, but it's about at dial-up speed.

And the situation is only going to get worse. Some kind of technical breakthrough is needed to keep up with the growth in devices and the growth in high-data applications such as streaming video.

A startup called "Artemis" thinks they may have the answer. They've come up with a way to use interference instead of avoiding it and claim that it will make your phone so fast it seems like you have the network to yourself.

Another idea, being supported by QUALCOMM and several wireless providers, places little mini cell towers in your home. Before you say "What?" it would most likely be an added function to your wireless router or an even smaller box. (I don't know how much this would help with data - is there anyone who doesn't switch their phone to wi-fi when they get home?)

Anyone got any other thoughts on how we can deal with the cellphone bandwidth crunch?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Have To Say It

Johnny Weir is fabulous.

Okay, we already knew that - his coming out was perhaps the biggest non-event in the history of coming out. But man, the guy can commentate.

And Tara Lipinski?

We need these two to be our regular figure skating commentators. NBC, what about it? Other channels that show figure skating? More than one person has said they actually understand figure skating for the first time - and they got me to notice male ice dancers wear heels. (Yes. They really do - it's important for presentation for the man to be taller than the woman).

So, yeah. Can we keep Johnny and Tara. And guess who's wearing a sparkling suit? Hint. It's not Tara.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wearable Technology

It's pretty much here. If you've been watching the Olympics at all, you'll have seen the hype about the Nike Fuelband. It's a thin wristband that connects to your phone. An app on the phone then triggers various functions. It'll remind you to get up and stretch every hour, track your workouts, track your sleep - and it's a pedometer. Oh, and it's a watch as well.

Another company, Cuff, is targeting a different market: Women. Some of us might be happy wearing a men's watch or an activity band, but Cuff is a little chip that can be inserted into various pieces of costume jewelry - pendants, bracelets, keychains, etc. The purpose is also different - it's designed to alert all of your friends who also have Cuff to your location - whether it's to meet up for lunch or, well, for more emergency purposes.

Or how about the Netatmo June? It tells you how much UV you're getting - and pings you when you want to get out of the sun or apply more SPF 50.

The field's getting crowded and we'll see what ends up happening. Most of the wearables right now are essentially smart phone accessories, but who knows for the future?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ice Dance

I have a thing for it. It doesn't really fit the rest of my personality. (Really, honestly, most of my favorite sports involve people going as fast as possible via various means of transportation).

But it actually makes sense. I was raised just outside Nottingham, England - the home town of Torville and Dean. I wasn't the only person in love. My entire country was. But I cried when I found out they were married - not to each other! How could the most romantic couple, the prince and princess of winter, not actually be married? (Yeah, I was a little girl. I did have a few typical little girl moments in amongst the tomboy).

Furthermore, I had a childhood friend who was a figure skater. She tried to get me into the sport and hauled me to a handful of skating lessons before giving up on me as hopeless (I was). We skated on the rink. And it wasn't a very good hockey rink. It was what there was.

It was where Torville and Dean started their career. It's gone now - when they became filthy rich from skating in ice shows they paid to tear the place down and replace it with a state of the art ice center (with a proper hockey stadium!)

But I can't quite get away from liking ice dance. Do you have anything you like because it had an impact on your childhood?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Updates.

Uh...nothing to report, really. I'm snowed in-ish. Well, yesterday I actually was.

So, lots of white stuff and no real news. I don't mind the white stuff, but I have been warned it's horribly slippery out there...and I can't not go out in it. Gotta go buy food.

Hopefully I'll have more actual news soon - I don't like it being this slow!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

One Step Closer: Fusion


We really are one step closer to fusion. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, led by the wonderfully named Omar Hurricane (Seriously, has to be a mad scientist) have... more energy out of fusion in the lab than they put into it. That's a turning point. It doesn't mean we're going to have it tomorrow, but it means we are a lot closer.

Fusion would give clean, renewable energy - if we can "tame the sun" we are close to the ultimate of taming fire - which many consider part of being human.

What they have not achieved is "ignition" - self-heating nuclear fusion. But this is a big step closer.

Congratulations, Livermore and Mr. Hurricane.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Really, NBC?

I've always enjoyed watching winter sports, although my attempts at trying them were disastrous. When I tried to learn to ski I fell off the lift and I am so glad my try at skating (on the rink Torville & Dean once trained on) predated cell phone videos. I'll stick to horses.

But I remember when I was a small child being really annoyed that men got to do ski jumping and women didn't. My annoyance only increased when somebody told me it was "Because it's too dangerous." I guess my feminist sentiments started early.

Women's ski jumping finally became an Olympic sport this year after decades of struggle - and women suing the IOC. The gold was won by a German, Carina Vogt.

Finally. Finally women got to jump in the Olympics, erasing a 90 year old gender inequality.

NBC showed the ski jumping during the day. They then promised to show at least highlights during the prime time show.

Then an American won a gold medal in luge...and this historic moment, fought for for decades by sportswomen and feminists was preempted. To show luge. The decision was made at 8:05pm.

NBC, you have let us down - for the sake of "patriotism." There are things more important than your country's medal count.

Pre-empting something this important broke a promise. It also sent a message that you don't care about the achievements and battles of women. Do you think feminism is something from the past, something no longer needed?

Or is it just that patriotism is more important than anything else to too many people?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Experts and How You Write

I'm rereading a writing book right now. Specifically, Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434.

It's pretty specifically aimed at screenwriters (but a lot in it, except for specific formats, applies to comics - and even to prose).

In fact, this book is packed with advice. So, how much of it am I going to apply? Not much, in truth.

Lew Hunter is an expert. He's a leading teacher. He's worked for everyone. So, why wouldn't I try to write like him?

Simple. Hunter is a heavy outliner who practically uses the Koontz method. He writes, then polishes, then writes some more.

I'm a pantser who needs to let work "rest" between writing and editing. I've had to learn to outline for comics - just like in script work, you have to put together a treatment - but for my prose work? Not happening. And if I'm editing a novel, I need to let the dang thing sit for a month.

If I tried to write like Hunter, it would be a disaster. That doesn't mean there's not stuff I can learn from him.

If Hunter tried to write like me, it would be a disaster.

Don't write like anyone. I always advise newbies to try all of the various methods - try outlining, try not outlining, and work out what works for them. You have to work with your own creative process, not somebody else's.

No matter how much of an expert they are.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Thoughts on the Olympics

And no, this isn't another post about Russian politics. I promise.

I'm watching the Olympics. That means I'm watching a bunch of highly-skilled athletes doing things I'll never be able to do. (Believe me. I suck at ice skating and my one attempt at downhill skiing was a complete fiasco. I'll stick to horses).

Here's the thought that came into my mind.

The Olympics aren't fair.

What? It's people showing dedication and hard work to get to the top. Or am I accusing them all of taking drugs?

No. I'm saying...the Olympics aren't fair.

If you want to go to the Olympics as an athlete then, yes, you have to have dedication and hard work. But there's a few other things you need too.

In most sports, you need to have a body type suited to the sport - and that boils down to your genes. Female gymnasts need to be short. Track runners benefit from a higher than normal lung capacity. Top swimmer Michael Phelps has unusually large feet - a huge advantage in swimming. (In fact, Phelps is put together pretty much ideally for a swimmer). And before you mention the Paralympics - it's true there too. Not everyone in a wheelchair has the right body to be a wheelchair racer at the highest level.

Then, you need to come from a country where the sport your body is most suited to, well, happens. For example, Britain has never had a medal in downhill fact, yesterday the country earned its first ever medal in a sport that takes place on snow. Why? Because the country's mild climate means they don't get the right kind of snow to ski. That's just an example. If the sport isn't available to you as a kid and isn't something people in your country and culture do, then it doesn't matter how good a body you have.

Oh, and then you need money. Quite a lot of money. The days of Olympic athletes being true amateurs are over. An athlete getting a full ride at college is not an amateur. If you're poor or your country is poor or both, you probably aren't going to make it to the Olympics.

Finally, you need, well, luck. You can do everything right. You can be in your physical prime, have a great body type, have put in awesome scores all year, and you can still be, say, Heidi Kloser, who completely blew out her knee in a crash in the warm-up, and had to finish the opening ceremonies in a wheelchair (She tried to do it on crutches). Or you could have a family problem the day before that wrecks your concentration, or catch airplane crud, or...


The Olympics aren't fair. Because life isn't fair. And when we try to tell our children everything will be fair for them, we do them a disservice...because the only way you'll ever get an Olympic medal, or anything else worth having, is to work out the ways life isn't fair in your favor and embrace them. Accept that you will be good, even great at some things, and lousy at others. And be the best you can be at whatever it is you are fortunate enough to be good at.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Censorship, Identity, and Reclaimed Words

Throughout history, humans have used words to belittle the "Other." Modern English has a fair collection of "bad words" or slurs that aren't considered appropriate as a way of addressing or referring to another human being. Unless, of course, you're the type to deny their basic humanity.

Here's the thing. Language evolves. And some members of oppressed groups or minorities are taking advantage of that. "Reclaiming" words means to use them of yourself, in a positive manner, in order to reduce their power.

Some people don't like that. They think it sets up a double standard. It's okay for a black person to use the n word (Which I would cheerfully use in this explanatory context, but I don't want to risk falling foul of Google), but not a white one. It's okay for a lesbian or bisexual woman to use a certain word beginning with d.

But it does reduce the power of the word. If you make a word part of your identity, people can no longer use it to hurt you. It works. When you reclaim a word you take power away from that word and give it to yourself.

Which is why censoring these words is a problem. It really is. When you tell a lesbian or bisexual woman she cannot call herself a "dyke," you take power away from that woman and give it back to the word. You threaten that woman's power over herself, control, and identity. The same for any other "slur" that people have worked hard to reclaim.

It's not a double standard to say people can call themselves by whatever words they wish, no matter how derogatory they may be or have been in the past. It's granting those people power over their own identity.

As a bisexual woman, I am far more offended by this than I could ever be by somebody calling me a dyke as an insult. Far more.

So, if you find yourself saying certain words should never be used: Think. Think about context and who is using them. Because when you say a word can't be used, you give more power to that word, you give power to the people who use that word that way, and you take it away from the people to whom the word actually refers.

Just think about it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Not much of a post today, because I'm sick. Yeah, woke up with a rotten cold. I'm hoping from how quickly it hit me that it'll decide to leave quickly too, because I don't want to be sick. Who does? I'm considering not even trying to write today because I read "Torn" as "Tom" earlier. In a context in which Tom made no sense, so clearly I'm not with it.

*goes off to curl up in a corner, miserably*

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: Living Shadows

This collection was one of the free books handed out to all Capclave attendees this year - and it was an interesting choice.

Interesting because John Shirley claims not to be a genre writer - and his foreword admits that half of the stories in this volume contain no elements of the "fantastical" (used here to also cover science fiction). Which is true, but I would call all of the stories here horror, of varying kinds. Horror does not have to be fantastic (in fact, some of the most scary horror movies are not fantastic. Silence Of The Lambs, anyone? The Hand That Rocks The Cradle?)

Call it horror, then, for want of a better term. Unfortunately, I've had to come to the conclusion that I don't like John Shirley. He has a very distinctive and vibrant voice - which I simply happen not to like. Not his fault, but I'm only human and can only review on my own reactions. He's too literary for me, too wordy.

There was one exception. The second to last story, "My Victim," really drew me in - in the highly disturbing way of the very best psychological horror. It was worth plowing through the rest to get to that one.

My comments don't reflect on the quality of the book. They reflect my personal taste - and because of that I'm not giving this volume a star rating but rather a "judge for yourself."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thinking About The Olympics

The Sochi games starts on Friday - amid heightened security, controversy, and bad fashion sense. The last is pretty normal for the Olympics. (The US team looks like they're going to an ugly sweater contest, the Norwegian curlers are either a barbershop quartet or circus clowns, and the volunteer uniform makes me suspect the designer is going to end up in Siberia or smuggled out in somebody's ski bag).

The controversy: A draconian law against "promoting homosexuality to minors" which has criminalized gay pride events.

Some activists are boycotting Olympic sponsors such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola - to which I would point out that the games were sent to Sochi well before the law was passed. The IOC has also spoken out against the law.

Athletes are in a difficult situation - the IOC has asked the Russian government to suspend the part of the law that would deport foreigners, but it's unclear whether it will be enforced or not. The Olympic charter also bans athletes from making any form of political, racial, or religious statement - and rightly so. Johnny Weir, who is now retired from competitive skating and will be commentating, has already said people should shut up and worry about winning medals.

The law specifically says that they can arrest and detail any foreign national suspected of being gay or "pro-gay." The laws also equate homosexuality and pedophilia - an inaccurate and irresponsible viewpoint. There has been violence.

It's unlikely that the Russian authorities would dare arrest athletes, members of delegations, commentators, etc. Spectators, however, may have no such protection.

I'm interested to see what might happen. The Olympics are the very center of the world stage, and perhaps this controversy will start to bring some real change in countries that are still in the Middle Ages where sexual freedom and gay rights are concerned.

But. None of this is going to stop me watching the games.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thoughts on Diversity

America The Beautiful is a very popular patriotic song. It's also traditionally played at naturalization ceremonies - at mine I had to sit through it accompanied by a video highlighting the amazing geographic diversity we have - being such a huge country.

That's probably why Coca Cola chose this particular patriotic song for their Superbowl commercial - which featured representatives of various ethnic and religious communities singing lines of the song... their own languages.

Isn't that gorgeous and beautiful?

Not in everyone's eyes. Some people have objected to the commercial. Why? Because this is America and, dang it, we all speak English here. (Actually, guys, spend some time in England or just watch a few episodes of Doctor Who and you'll realize you really speak a closely-related language, let's call it, I don't know, American).

Brown people singing in brown languages bothers these people. Even if they are doing American things like riding horses, surfing, eating in a diner, ten pin bowling...and, of course, drinking coke. And it bothers me that in this day and age so many people are willing to make racist comments all over the internet.