Monday, June 26, 2017

I sort of want one

Talking about toothpick crossbows:

Despite its tiny size, a toothpick launched by the crossbow is powerful enough to pierce an aluminum can from 20 to 66 feet, according to toy packaging shown in a video by China's state broadcaster CCTV.

I think it would be more fun to build one, though, than to buy one.

And on that note, I've always thought it would be cool to build a ballista.  Should be easy enough with materials from Home Depot.  Maybe some day...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stephen Furst has died :(

The Babylon 5 curse has struck again.  Stephen Furst, who played Vir Cotto on the show, has passed away at the age of 62.

I suppose most people will remember him for playing Flounder on Animal House, but he'll always be Vir to me.  His character was an uncertain, sort of nervous fellow, and could be taken for a wimp at first glance.  And that's exactly how most of the other characters saw him: as a spineless butterball.  But there was a core of iron in Vir.  He was one of the few to resist Mr. Morden's tempting offers.  He assassinated an insane, murderous emperor, and later became emperor himself.  He was a good, honest, noble guy, very different from his fellow Centauri.  One might even say he was the conscience of the show.

And he was a patriot who didn't take any crap from the Drazi:




In an early season--the second one, I think--he meets with Mr. Morden, as each of the main cast did:




Later, in season 4 (I think) Vir gets what he wants:




Stephen Furst lost a lot of weight at some point in the series, and it shows in these two clips.  You can see the difference in his face and build.

It sucks that he finally lost his battle with diabetes, and at such a relatively young age.  He was a fine actor, and, from what I can tell, a fine man.  R.I.P., Mr. Furst.  :(

Big, Bad, and Blue!

One of my favorite DCI shows of all time is now on youtube in its entirety.  It's the Blue Devils' Big, Bad, and Blue show from 1992.

The clip ends right at the end of the performance, so you don't get to hear the crowd reaction and the commentary from the announcers like you would have if you'd seen it on the live broadcast.  But the crowd loved it, and one of the announcers called it, "Sultry, sultry stuff on a Saturday night!"

It was indeed sultry, and the finale, When A Man Loves A Woman, was pure sex.

It looks like DCI has uploaded a bunch of videos in the past few days, so if you're into those old shows, there's plenty of new content on their channel for you to watch.

Anyway, without further ado, here's Big, Bad, and Blue:




Friday, June 16, 2017

And now for some bluegrass

I browse youtube occasionally, and sometimes I find some good stuff.  This video isn't the best quality--probably a cell phone--but you can tell those fellows can play.  The guitarist's voice is pretty good, too.





I just wish the cameraman had kept the focus on the banjoist for the whole of the banjo break.  Always focus on the soloist!

Anyway, nice job, guys, and keep on picking.  :D

For comparison, here's Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys performing the same song back in the 1980's:



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thanks, Tennessee!

There's been a lot of tension here in Georgia recently due to the escape of a pair of convicts.  The two men, Ricky Dubose and Donnie Rowe, killed a pair of guards during the escape and took their pistols.  That's a real "point of no return" thing to do, because it means you are armed and have committed murder, and if the cops find you, they will shoot you if you don't surrender immediately.  Dubose and Rowe knew that, and that means they had nothing more to lose, and that made them very dangerous.

Not only were a number of law enforcement agencies involved in the manhunt, but ordinary citizens also became a bit more wary than usual.  People who don't normally carry guns started toting their AR-15s around their farms while feeding the livestock.

But it's all over now, thanks to the good folks of Tennessee.  Dubose and Rowe made it as far as the Shelbyville area before their luck ran out.  They tried to steal yet another vehicle, but the brave homeowner confronted them and held them at gunpoint until the cops could arrive.

Anyway, I'm glad it's over, and thanks to the people of Tennessee for putting an end to it all without any further loss of innocent life.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Wars of the Roses

Those wars were the inspiration for George R.R. Martin's series.  Here's a brief comparison of the wars to the tv show Game of Thrones for fans who might be interested.  Check it out:



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Michael Sullivan chimes in about audio rights

There's a thread on kboards about how Michael Sullivan wasn't able to negotiate audio rights as part of standard contract negotiations.  Apparently, audio is non-negotiable as far as trad-pub is concerned.  The thread goes on for a few pages of speculation before Sullivan himself shows up to clear up some of the confusion.  It's some "good to know" stuff, so check it out:


Sullivan is the author of the Riyria fantasy series.  (And yes, I totally misspelled Riyria on my first attempt.  I had to look it up.  Lol...)

The takeaway from his experience: trad-pub wants All The Things from authors who don't know any better, and they're less likely to negotiate now than they were a few years ago.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thinking of Jerry Reed

A recent thread on kboards got me to thinking about Smokey and the Bandit, and that, naturally, got me to thinking about the music of Jerry Reed.  Here he is with Chet Atkins:




And again, a number of years later:




Jerry Reed also wrote and performed some of the music for Smokey and the Bandit, such as this intro song:




Jerry Reed died in 2008.  I hate the fact that his last acting role was as a villain in an Adam Sandler film.  He deserved better than that.  But them's the breaks, I guess.  Life is what happens to you while you're making plans.

Anyway, I was thinking about Jerry.  Man, what a talent.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quick and dirty monsters

I heard once that science fiction is basically just horror with an engineering degree.  I don't completely agree with that, but I'll definitely agree that components of horror can play invaluable roles in SF.  The whole point of genre fiction, after all, is to provoke an emotional response in the reader, and fear is a powerful emotional response.

The great thing about SF is that we can invent all sorts of cool monsters.  One way to do that is to take an ordinary creature or object from Earth and make it a lot bigger and more malevolent.  For example, consider this little cutie:




Aww...  Adorable, right?  Now let's make him bigger and meaner:




Yikes!  Same critter, basically.  Both are excellent predators.  But one is cute, and the other will eat you.

The problem with big cats is that, while dangerous, they're also kind of ordinary.  They usually don't make for good villains, though there are some rare cases.

So it's better to go with something extraordinary... something with which most people aren't familiar.  Like single-celled organisms.  Imagine this creepy white slime-mold stuff:




...but on a much larger scale.  That's basically the plot of The Blob, by the way.  The blob was just a large amoeba that had an appetite for man-flesh.  And it was pretty horrifying, too.  When I saw that movie, it scared the crap out of me.  I was just a kid at the time, so maybe I'd have a different reaction seeing it as an adult, but still...

Here's a real-life amoeba feeding on a couple of doomed single-celled organisms.  Watch the poor victims thrash with pain and terror, and imagine they're humans:




The cool thing about protists is that there are all kinds of different types.  You can mix and match their characteristics and come up with something completely new.  You could start here, for example, and let your imagination run wild with the possibilities.

Now, taking small things and embiggening them is hardly a new idea.  In fact, the B movies of the 1950's were full of such monsters.  And they were often cheesy as hell.  But that's a flaw of execution, not principle.  The special effects simply weren't there to do it right, and the scripts and acting were often sub-par.  Compare the giant spider of Tarantula with the one from Return of the King:






Big difference, right?  A giant spider doesn't have to be cheesy or campy.  It's all in the execution.

So there you go.  Quick and dirty monsters.  Take the strange, and make it big and bad.  And then twirl the tip of your mustache and laugh evilly, because that's what good monster-makers do.  :D

Thursday, May 18, 2017

One last black day

Chris Cornell, front man for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died last night.  He was 52.

I remember being in college and seeing the Black Hole Sun video on television and thinking it was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen.  Disturbing, actually.  And I still think that.  But there's no denying the appeal of the music.  The Superunknown album--and the bulk of grunge music, to be honest--was dark and depressing and full of angst at a Baby Boomer world that hadn't left much room for Generation X.  And that was why we liked it.  It struck a chord in our souls that the rock and metal music of the 1980's did not.  I didn't appreciate it at the time, but as the years have gone on, it's grown on me.

Cornell's voice was fantastic and distinctive, one of the best in rock history.  He was the first male American to do a James Bond theme song.  His cover of Billie Jean is haunting and completely non-pop, making it very different from the source material.

Here's Chris Jericho discussing his death:




Cornell had long suffered from depression and substance abuse, and it's a shame his demons finally got the best of him.  But we still have the music.










R.I.P., Mr. Cornell.  :(

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

...to any mothers who might be reading.

KFC is getting in on the celebration, too.  They've published a romance novella featuring Colonel Sanders.  It's called--and this is not a joke--Tender Wings of Desire:




Go to the Amazon site and read the reviews.  They're priceless.  An excerpt:


I have already gifted this to myself, pulling up to the Amazon drive thru and hurling it through cyberspace to my Kindle. Having begun to dig into this bucket of love, my breasts are already heaving at the tender way the words just fall off the bone of this manuscript.


Lulz...

One has to wonder, though, if the romance genre was really the best way to go.  I mean, mothers read a variety of things, not just romance, so why not publish, say, a mystery?  Perhaps Colonel Sanders is a hard-boiled private detective working the mean streets of North Corbin, Kentucky.  By day, he's a chicken seller, but by night, he's a lone crusader, a pursuer of justice for those who have no other recourse.  Instead of a gun, he carries a pair of trusty drumsticks with which he batters (heh) his enemies.

Or maybe science fiction would be better.  Colonel Sanders is a starship captain in the Extra Crispy Navy.  He's also a cyborg, a creation of KFC Labs, made for one purpose: to defend the Chicken Republic from the invading hordes of the Beef Empire.  There can be no coexistence, for Emperor Burger is determined to eliminate the consumption of chicken from the galaxy.

How about fantasy: Harland Sanders is an amateur wizard.  One day, he gets a call to adventure: a more experienced wizard has offered him a deal.  Harland agrees to use his most powerful spell--The Secret Recipe--in exchange for access to the wizard's customer base.  Together, they work their magic in a wondrous land called Utah, hoping to demonstrate that a chicken restaurant can in fact bring joy and peace to the world, in addition to being financially viable, so long as one has the eleven herbs and spices in the proper proportions.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.  KFC writers, get to it!  :D

And Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere.  :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Delayed

I've got an insect bite on my finger.  Happened Monday.  It itches like crazy, and the area is swollen and red.  I think it was just an ant, but I don't know.  Whatever it was, I've been applying ice to it, which means I haven't been writing or editing or anything because I can't do that stuff with an ice bag on my hand.  This short blog post is about the extent of my capabilities right now.  So that's where I'm at.

In the meantime, here's the awesome and admirable Bob Ross and his happy little trees:




Saturday, April 29, 2017

Human head transplants

This isn't the first article I've read about it, just the latest:

Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero will undertake the first human head transplant later this year in China, the doctor told German magazine Ooom in an article published Thursday. And, following that effort, he will revive a cryogenically frozen brain and transplant it into a donor body within the next three years.

First of all, it's not really a head transplant.  It's a body transplant.  After all, our personalities and cognitive functions are located in our brains.  Our heads are what make us "us," not what's below the neck.  The person getting the transplant is the frozen-brain guy.  And if the surgery succeeds--highly unlikely, but let's speculate for a second--then I suspect he will wake up both angry and insane.  He will probably become homicidal very quickly.  Mary Shelly was an optimist.

As for the story potential...

On the one hand, this is fertile ground for science fiction authors, and it's been explored by them for a long time.  There are all sorts of psychological possibilities here, not to mention the purely physical stuff.  A clever author could write some really bizarre stories in this arena.  And clever authors have.

On the other hand, the idea of human head transplants just creeps me out.  I don't really want to read such stories, and I don't really want to write them.  The stuff in Buddy is about as far as I'm willing to push the human biological envelope, and that was pretty tame by comparison.  So, yeah, as fascinating as it all is in a way, don't expect to see body transplants in my fiction any time soon.

Unless it's done to aliens.  Then it's different.  :D

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Amazon has it all

We know they sell just about every kind of product under the sun.  But the categories!  That's where the real amazement lies.  For example:





Let's look a little closer:




Yep... "Bat Supplies" is an actual category on Amazon.  In addition to a variety of bat houses, the category also sports bat attractant spray and ultrasonic bat detectors.  You can even buy a bat!



A little inspiration

From Buzz:




Also, I just realized I don't have anything in Cities of Mars named after Buzz.  :/  He's a big-time Mars enthusiast, so I might have to change that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Another reason to love Calibre

I already loved Calibre.  Not just for the ebook management and sync-with-kindle stuff, but also for its ability to convert a book into other file formats.  I add a .odt file to Calibre's library, and then I can turn that into a mobi or epub.  Easy-peasy.

What I lacked was a decent epub reader.  I'd been using a Firefox add-on to read epubs, but I wasn't really happy with it.  Recently, though, I discovered that Calibre had a built-in epub reader.  Not an editor, mind you, but a dedicated reader.  (This is either a recent upgrade, or an old feature I simply hadn't discovered it yet.  Who knows...)  So I set it to be the default viewer for epub files.  Now I'm happy.  :)  When I double-click on the Buddy epub, here's what it looks like:




So thanks again, Calibre.  You guys rock.  :D

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Titles

When making one's own covers, title placement, font, and size are things one must consider.  For this reason, I've found it's best to stay flexible on titles until after you've started making the cover.  Because you may decide that some words work better than others.

I'm still playing around with titles for the Wheel of Fire series.  The second book, Neutral Ground, is now Mind Games, but I'm thinking of changing that to Mental Games for reasons relating to typography.

Book 1 is still Hostile Planet, and that won't change.

Of course, this is less important for standalone titles, because then you don't have series-wide branding issues to consider.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Update

Been a little under the weather lately.  I'm coming out of it, though, and I think I'm back to normal.  *fingers crossed*

In the meantime, I've progress a little on revision for the trilogy, and I've completed the outline for the third book of the Wheel of Fire series.  I've been playing around with covers, too, trying to see if I can make 'em good enough.  Jury's still out on that.

I usually prefer writing in silence, but sometimes I like a little background music.  It needs to be peppy, though, not relaxing, and it can't have lyrics that distract me.  One thing I like to put on is this:




Completely serious.  Somehow, the lyrics don't bother me.  Whatever the case, I actually write with ten hours of He-Man singing in the background.  Insane, I know.  I have no explanation for my apparent descent into madness.

Less concerning is this:




Yeah.  \m/  Though the robot voice that speaks up a couple of times is kind of lame.

So that's where I'm at.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cities of Mars is out for another round of beta reading

Now I'll focus on Caverns of Mercury and try to get it ready for prime-time.  And I'll have to revisit Clouds of Venus, too, to make sure it's set.  The trilogy is slowly coming together.

I'm also working on the outline for the third book of the Wheel of Fire series.  I have a basic outline for each of the eight books, but those outlines aren't anywhere near good enough.  After writing Hostile Planet, the story's universe has crystallized, and now I know what needs to change in the outlines.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sharknado is real?!

Seems to be:

A massive shark was discovered in the middle of a road as floodwaters receded following a devastating cyclone that battered Australia.

You know, just when you thought it was safe to go outside, nature goes and dumps sharks in the road.  As if there weren't already enough land-based critters waiting to bite, claw, sting, or otherwise ruin your day.

And, of course, there are man-made disasters, too, with which we must occasionally contend.  Like, for example, an interstate highway bursting into flames and collapsing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

No, thanks

Found this at the Passive Voice:

The AP Stylebook now allows writers to use they as a singular pronoun

Lol... whatever.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lost in Migraine Land

I had a rough few days.  The details are disgusting, so I won't elaborate, but I was basically useless for a few days.  Migraines are the devil.  >:(

But I'm feeling human again now, so all is well, I guess.  It just sucks as far as productivity goes.  I feel like I've done next to nothing for the entirety of 2017.  It's just one life-interruption after another.  My plan to publish the Free Space trilogy in April is obviously out the window.  I'll publish it some time this year, but that's all I can say for now.

On the plus side, it's supposed to be 79 degrees tomorrow with an afternoon thunderstorm.  That means it should be nice and humid for the whole day, rain or no rain.  In other words: perfect weather.  :D  The dry air of winter is horrible, and the increased humidity of spring is always a welcome relief.  I blame my British ancestry for my body's sensibilities.

I've settled on a name for my epic fantasy series.  I won't spill the beans yet, because these things have a way of changing, but I'm starting to flesh out a world.  Actually writing this series is still far in the future, of course.  I won't even start it until after the Wheel of Fire is finished.  So it will probably 2019 at the earliest before I start writing book 1.  But this stuff takes time to percolate in my brain, so I'm easing into it now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A victory for the Oxford comma

Saw this at The Passive Voice.

Oxfordians everywhere, including yours truly, celebrate a triumphant win in court:

...the judge observed that labor laws, when ambiguous, are designed to benefit the laborers, the case was settled.
"For want of a comma, we have this case," the judge wrote. 
 
Ambiguity is the enemy of clear communication, and the Oxford comma reduces ambiguity.  It's as simple as that.  If you want to be a sophist, then that's fine, but do it in academia or politics or something.  Don't do it in labor contracts, and don't do it in genre fiction.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Some freaky stage effects

Weird, but totally awesome.  It's the scene from the Ring cycle where Wotan is summoning Loge to surround Brunhilde with a ring of fire.  Check it out:




I was familiar with the scene, but I didn't expect the stage to start transforming like that.  For several seconds, I wasn't sure what I was looking at.  I didn't think it was actually slanting upwards like it was, because that would put Brunhilde in danger of sliding down the thing.  Lol... Obviously, she was anchored to the stage somehow.

For a nice summation of the whole operatic cycle, here's a documentary:




And the whole thing in 2.5 minutes:



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Simple English Wikipedia

How am I just now discovering this

It's a wonderful thing.  Necessary, too.  I can't tell you how many Wikipedia articles I've read and come away clueless.  There have even been times where I was already quite familiar with the subject in question, but found the article on that subject to be incomprehensible.  It's as if the authors were purposely trying to obfuscate everything.  Maybe they were, for reasons of ego or something; who knows...

I've got a pretty decent vocabulary, and I can formulate complex sentences.  But I rarely flex those muscles to their fullest extent.  The primary goal of writing--whether it's fiction or non-fiction--is to effectively communicate some idea.  The key word there is "communicate," not "lecture."  And the best way to do that is by using plain English, not SAT words and Lovecraftian sentence structure.  It's a two-way street.  You must take your reader's sensibilities into account.  Otherwise, you're just trying to show off.  And no one likes a show-off.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I shouldn't have started this

I've been reading the Wheel of Time re-read.  I'm presently in the middle of the commentary for book 4, The Shadow Rising.

Yeah, it's a time suck.  Yeah, I should be writing/revising my own stuff instead.  Yeah, I'm a total nincompoop for getting drawn into this thing.

But I can't... stop...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Meanwhile, in Florida

Gator catches a fish and goes for a stroll across the golf course.

I guess when you're an actual dinosaur you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Spring... or not?

Freeze warning in effect for this area.  Lol... I knew it.  These early springs never pan out.  There's always some arctic blast ready to swoop down from Canada.  The flowers and new shoots of spring are never safe until April.  And now they'll pay the price for their premature sprouting.  But it could be worse.  Much worse.

On the other side of the continent, for example, things are far more dire...

The Oroville Dam is in pretty desperate condition, and warm weather will send an ocean of melted snow running down the mountains and into Lake Oroville.  Here's the footage from a few days ago:




And here's California DWR's latest video:




The flow down the spillway has stopped, but it hardly seems to matter.  When you've got a backhoe moving a single vehicle-sized boulder at a time, and you have anything less than several hundred backhoes working simultaneously, then you've got a real problem.  They'll never get this thing anywhere close to fixed in time for the spring thaw.  The only real questions are how much of the mountainside is going to erode away and how bad will the flooding be downstream.  If I was a resident there, I'd be packing my stuff and getting out while the getting-out was still good.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Game over, man

Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery.  He was 61.  :(

I wasn't just a fan of his because I liked his movies, though I did.  I mean, what's not to like?  Aliens, Tombstone, Terminator, Apollo 13... he was in all kinds of cool stuff.  But he also seemed like a genuinely good guy.  He was humble and self-effacing in interviews, and always seemed to enjoy being around whoever was in his presence at the time.

He brightened our lives, even if just for a couple of hours at a time.  And now he's gone, and the world is a duller place.




Rest In Peace, Bill.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Amazon responds to Walmart

Walmart recently introduced free shipping for customers who purchase at least $35 worth of stuff.  This undercut Amazon, whose price floor was $49 for free shipping for non-Prime members.

Amazon has responded.  They lowered the floor back to $35.

Walmart still has one edge, though: their free shipping is of the 2-day variety for all customers, and Amazon only offers free 2-day shipping for Prime members.

I'm encouraged that Walmart seems serious about competing with Amazon in the online retail space.  I'm equally encouraged by Amazon's response to Walmart's moves.  These sorts of things are what make for a healthy marketplace, and the customers are the real winners.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spring has sprung

On the one hand, I like the warmer weather.  And I like seeing everything green back up.

On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that winter is done for the season.  I fully expect a cold snap to come along in March or April and kill off all the flowers and new shoots.  In fact, the forecast for Saturday morning has a low of 29, so it may happen this weekend.

We'll see, I guess.

In the meantime, I'm having a real hard time with motivation.  I don't know if I'm just burned out or what, but I need to find a way to slap myself into gear.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Update

I think I've finally got my domain email sorted out.  I was getting notifications from Zoho about DKIM and SPF being unvalidated or whatever.  It's a bear trying to figure all that nonsense out.  Hopefully I've got it surrounded this time.  Lol...

Still working on Cities of Mars revision.  After that, Caverns of Mercury revision.  After that, Hostile Planet revision.  And I'm going to keep playing around with cover designs for Hostile Planet.  I may purchase a stock photo or two.  Haven't decided yet.  But I tried making my own spaceship from scratch, and it just doesn't look right.

Made a sale last month.  Not sure which story, and not sure which store.  I'll get that info later.  But D2D will be depositing another sixty cents into my bank account at some point, and that's pretty cool.  :D  If that purchaser is reading this: thanks, sir or madam for your support.  *fist bump*

And I still get a warm fuzzy feeling from re-reading that fan email I got last fall.  Fan mail is awesome, and I highly encourage it.  Send your favorite author some fan email at the next opportunity.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The twist

No, not the dance.  I'm talking about the literary device.  The thing that makes you go "whoa" like Keanu Reeves.









It's not that difficult of a thing to pull off, but you have to know how it works, and you have to plan ahead.  You can't pants your way to a good twist.  Not without revision, anyway.

So what makes for a good twist?  Two things:

1.)  The twist must come as a surprise to the reader.  Duh.
2.)  The twist must appear inevitable in hindsight.  You want the reader to slap his forehead and say "I should have seen that coming!"  (This is the hard part.)

Fortunately, it's not as hard as you might think.  You just have to have your ducks in a row.  Here's what you do:

1.)  You hint at the twist early in the story.  You want the reader to suspect the truth.  Or, if he already suspected, you want to affirm his suspicions.  You want the reader to feel like he's outsmarted the author. 
2.)  You then discount the truth.  You want the reader to believe the twist ain't the real deal after all.  This opens his mind up for the misdirection.
3.)  You spend the bulk of the story chasing red herrings.  You scramble the reader's brain to the point that he has no idea what the truth actually is.  All he knows is that it's not the twist, because that's already been ruled out.  Finally, at the end, you come back to the original concept that you hinted at in step 1.

Let's do an example.

Mr. Smith lies dead on his living room carpet.  Mr. Noir, the local detective, shows up to investigate.  He quickly learns that the only one who could have entered the house at such a late hour was the butler.  Mr. Noir interrogates the man.  But, alas, he has a rock-solid alibi.  The butler couldn't have done it.  Mr. Noir must delve deeper into the murder and look at other suspects.  He spends the rest of the story chasing down lead after lead.  Finally, he obtains a crucial clue.  He then gathers all the suspects in Smith's living room and says he will solve the crime.  He reveals the hitherto-unknown fact that the butler was chummy with one of Smith's old enemies.  The butler lent him his housekey and then attended some event or other in order to establish his alibi.  While the butler was out, the old enemy entered the house and whacked Mr. Smith.  Later, the butler eliminated the assassin in order to cover his tracks.  The butler did it!  Well, the other guy performed the actual killing of Mr. Smith, but the butler was a co-conspirator, so he still did it, legally speaking.

This sort of thing is standard fare in mysteries.  If you know the formula, you can predict where some stories are going to go.  A clever writer will provide two or more possible twists so that highly perceptive readers don't know which telegraphed ending is the actual one.  He'll try to discount all the outcomes that he think the reader might suspect.  But that's a lot more work, and usually not necessary.  For most readers, the simple twist formula will suffice.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Space princesses

Goodreads sent me a new question asking me about my favorite fictional couple.  I decided it was John Carter and Dejah Thoris.

I like space princesses.

What can I say--I grew up on Star Wars.  Every American boy of a certain age wanted to be one of two things when he grew up: a Jedi knight, or an archaeologist.  And I'm pretty sure Leia in her golden bikini jump-started an awful lot of puberties back in the day.  (R.I.P., Carrie.)

But Leia wasn't coupled with the hero.  She was into Han Solo, and he was the anti-hero.  Poor Luke ended up alone.  :S  So, for the Goodreads question, I went with a space princess who did end up with the hero.  And, frankly, Dejah Thoris is more fascinating anyway, what with her being a red-skinned Martian and running around naked all the time.  Burroughs describes her thusly:

And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life... Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

John Carter, you lucky devil.  :D

Having said all that, I doubt I'll ever write any such characters.  The "space princess" archetype would be difficult to pull off nowadays.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

D2D keeps getting awesomer

I love the guys at Draft2Digital.  They are constantly making their site better.  No resting on laurels for those folks.  I got an email from them announcing their new payment policy.  No more ten-dollar minimum before paying out.  Now they pay the pennies.  :D

Monday, February 6, 2017

Yeah... it hurts

The Falcons had their chance and they blew it.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

:(

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wrote some stuff

For a short story.  Rattled off 1500 words, just like that.

I should be revising Cities of Mars, but I'll take this in the meantime.  At least I was productive for a little while.

It's tough to get back in the swing of things.  The holiday season always leaves me zonked.  It's great to be with family and give presents and eat a lot and all the other stuff, but it's distracting, too.  I can't work when all that's going on.

These 1500 words are encouraging.  Maybe it's a sign I'm getting my groove back.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Remembering Challenger

January 28, 1986 was a "snow day" for schools in the Atlanta suburbs.  A cold spell had swept down from the north, bringing with it a few inches of frozen stuff.  Most of the eastern seaboard had been freshly blanketed.  The accumulation stretched all the way to Florida.  We would later learn that a good bit of ice had collected on the launch pad.

I was in fifth grade, but due to school being canceled, was home watching television.  "The Price Is Right" was just about to start the "Showcase Showdown" portion of the show.  During the commercial break, the network broke in to broadcast the shuttle launch.

They never went back to The Price Is Right.

Upon seeing the explosion, I immediately thought the shuttle had blown up.  Then the people on tv started wondering what had happened, and I started to doubt myself.  I started thinking maybe what I saw was supposed to happen, or maybe I simply didn't understand what I was seeing.  I suspect many others, children and adults alike, had similar thoughts.

After a few minutes, though, it seemed to dawn on everyone what had happened.  We all learned, once again, that space flight is dangerous, and that the astronauts are putting their lives on the line every time they strap into their seats.  Let us never forget the brave men and women of Challenger, and let us never take space flight for granted.

R.I.P., John Hurt

I always enjoyed his performances.  :(  From Yahoo:

John Hurt, the esteemed British actor known for his burry voice and weathered visage — one that was kept hidden for his most acclaimed role, that of the deformed John Merrick in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man — has died, according to reports from several British newspapers. He was 77.

Here he is getting his chest ripped open:




And here he is as the villain in King Ralph:




Yeah, I liked King Ralph.  So sue me.  :S

Rest in peace, Mr. Hurt.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Update

I'm working my way through Cities of Mars and making revisions based on a beta reader's comments.  When I'm done, I'll send it to another beta reader.  Then I'll get back to Caverns of Mercury and try to polish that up.

I went ahead and bit the bullet and bought some covers for the trilogy.  I had tried making my own, but the self-doubt was crippling, and I just had to delegate it for the sake of my own sanity.

I was productive earlier in the week, but I've slid into a rut the past couple of days.  Trying to get motivated, but it's tough.  Some days the words just don't come.  :(

When I finally publish the trilogy, I'm going wide right from the start.  No KU.  Too many shenanigans involved with that.  I'll make the first book perma-free as soon as possible and try to line up some promotions.  I intend to do as much as I can for the trilogy while the books are on the HNR list.

If I break even, I'll call it a win.

Monday, January 23, 2017

FastStone Image Viewer

I wasn't pleased with the Photos app that comes with Windows 10, and I didn't want to use Paint, so I searched for an alternative.  I just wanted an image viewer; nothing fancy.  The first thing that came up on Google was the FastStone program, a free program, so I gave it a try.

I love it.  It's pretty awesome, and I've already set it to be the default program for opening pics.

The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl!

It's the second Super Bowl in team history.  The first one was a loss to the Broncos.

I have higher expectations for this one.

The Patriots are no slouches, of course, and the game won't be easy.  But the Falcons are peaking at the right time, the team is as healthy as any NFL team can be expected to be in the playoffs, and Matt Ryan has looked a bit more "driven" of late than usual.  The Patriots will probably be favored, but I like our chances.

Let's bring the Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta.  :D

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Beauty of History

They say truth is stranger than fiction.  They are correct.  History is full of all sorts of wild, crazy stuff and out-of-this-world characters.

As an example, consider the following people:

Black Agnes of Dunbar

In 1338, when Patrick Dunbar was away, the English laid siege to Dunbar Castle, where Lady Agnes was in residence with her servants and a few guards. However, she was determined not to surrender the fortress, and is said to have declared:
"Of Scotland's King I haud my house, I pay him meat and fee, And I will keep my gude auld house, while my house will keep me."
Women were known to take charge of castle or manor business while the husband was away in the Middle Ages, but the stand of Lady Agnes is one of the best remembered instances. Salisbury’s first attempt at taking the castle centered on catapulting huge rocks and lead shot against the ramparts, but this was met with disdain by Lady Agnes, who had one of her ladies-in-waiting dust off the ramparts with her kerchief.

Jenny Geddes


The first use of the prayer book was in St Giles' on Sunday 23 July 1637, when James Hannay, Dean of Edinburgh, began to read the Collects, part of the prescribed service, and Jenny Geddes, a market-woman or street-seller, threw her stool straight at the Minister's head. Some sources describe it as a "fald stool" or a "creepie-stool" meaning a folding stool as shown flying towards the Dean in the illustration, while others claim that it was a larger, three-legged cuttie-stool. As she hurled the stool she is reported to have yelled:
"De'il gie you colic, the wame o’ ye, fause thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?" meaning "Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?".

David Leslie

David Leslie, 1st Lord Newark (c. 1600–1682) was a cavalry officer and General in the English Civil War and Scottish Civil Wars. A son of Patrick Leslie, 1st Lord Lindores, he fought for the Swedish army of Gustavus Adolphus as a professional soldier during the Thirty Years' War. He had entered Swedish service in 1630, serving as a captain in the regiment of Alexander Leslie (future Earl of Leven).
David Leslie was one of the Scots who transferred from Swedish to Russian service under Alexander Leslie of Auchintoul (not to be confused with Leven) in 1632 to participate in the Smolensk War and was mentioned by name in Auchintoul's testimonial.

Scottish history in particular is full of such colorful characters.  George R.R. Martin's Red Wedding, for example, was inspired by the Black Dinner.  Lots of crazy things have happened in Alba.  And that's just one country.  If you draw inspiration from many different countries, and then mix and match for your story, then you can come up with some wild stuff.

When I get around to writing my epic fantasy, I'm definitely going to have some characters inspired by the three I just mentioned.  They're simply too good to not be borrowed from a little.

So look to history for some ideas.  You'll find more than you know what to do with.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bring on the Packers!

It will be the final game in the Georgia Dome.  *sniff*  Let's make it a win for the home team.  Go Falcons!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Multi-author speculative fiction promotion!


http://andreapearsonbooks.blogspot.com/2017/01/multi-author-speculative-fiction.html


All books are 99 cents, including a short story by yours truly.  :D  So browse around and see if anything catches your eye.  You never know; you might find a new favorite author.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Snowmageddon (?)

The weather people are predicting frozen precipitation for these parts on Friday night.  That's right... the "S" word... the great white horror... the crystalline demons of an icy hell.

SNOW.

One to three inches of it, if you can believe such a thing.  Three inches!

*gulp*

I'll be right here with you guys all the way.  We'll get through these difficult times together.  And when the meteorological nightmare is over, we'll be better men for it.  Stronger men.  We'll be freakin' heroes of legend, like Hercules and Achilles and Duke Nukem.

See you on the other side.

Names of companies

I hate trying to come up with names for businesses.  I'll think I've come up with a good one, and then I'll google it and it turns out to be an actual name for an actual company.  So I can't use it, because I don't want to cause any trouble for them or open myself up to legal challenges and whatnot. 

The result is that I'll end up googling a couple dozen names before finding one that both doesn't suck and isn't currently in use.

What the internet needs is a business name generator.  There are plenty of character name generators out there.  Let's get one for corporations.  The generator needs to only produce names that aren't currently in use by some business somewhere in the world.

Tech guys, get on it!  :D