Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Patty Jansen's promotion: ALL BOOKS 99 cents

Patty Jansen was gracious enough to include Cities of Mars in her end-of-the-year promotion, so now I'm doing my part to get the word out.  Every book included is 99 cents.  Just click the image or type in the URL:


So go check it out.  Lots of different flavors of SFF to choose from.  Who knows?  You might find your new favorite author, and for just 99 cents.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cities of Mars is on sale: 99 cents

It's December, and Santa Tanyard comes down the digital chimney bearing gifts.  For the rest of 2017, you can get Cities of Mars for $0.99.  Ho, ho, ho!  :D

Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting my work.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


I've finally got this battle scene at the bridge finished.  I've been wrestling with it for a few days, and it's been slow going.  I initially had Shariel using a Reliant rifle (with bayonet) in the fight, but I switched that out for her usual Felid sword and an Agrarian rifle.  I also ended up changing some tactics and movements.  I ended up adding a couple thousand words, I think.  Anyway, it's done, and there's now a nice heap of mutilated bodies at the bridge, so I can move on.

In other news, Alasdair Shaw has announced the theme for his next anthology.  It's "The Renegade."  I already have an idea.  Once I finish this second draft of Mind Games, I'll work on the first draft of the short story I plan to submit to his anthology.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Keanu is the real deal

I recently watched John Wick for the first time.  Yeah, I know... I'm late to the party.  But I've seen it now, and seeing John Wick 2 is definitely in my future.

It was interesting to learn that Keanu Reeves has done some 3-gun training for the movie.  For those who don't know what "3-gun" is, it's a variety of shooting sport that involves pistol, rifle, and shotgun shooting on a timed course.  I've never done it myself, but it seems to be one of the more popular shooting sports nowadays.

Here's Keanu training 3-gun style:

Nice shooting, Mr. Wick.  Looking forward to the sequel.  :D

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Progress report

I'm still working on the second draft of Mind Games, the second book of Wheel of Fire.  I'm on page 167 of a 208-page file.  (Those are OpenOffice pages, not book pages.  The finished product will have a much larger page count.)  I've run into a delay, though, because I've decided to re-write a portion of a battle scene.  I still hope to get this draft done within the next week.

After that, I'd really like to start on the first draft of the next book.  That would give me some time away from book 2--which is good for objectivity--and then I could return to it after the new year and make the final revisions and proofreading and whatnot.  I'd like to get Mind Games published before January is over with.

Of course, these plans are very optimistic, and life has a way of interfering.  So no promises.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Guardian is now live

My short story The Lattice is one of eleven stories featured in Alasdair Shaw's anthology The Guardian.

It's available at a number of retailers, and it's only 99 cents.

If you decide to give it a try, then I hope you enjoy it.  Thanks for supporting the work of independent authors.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Life imitates art

I've only just recently written and published The Lattice.  In the short story, the main character travels into space via a homemade spaceplane.  The craft was assembled by hand from parts made on 3D printers. 

Today, I happened to come across an article about a man doing something similar:

Hughes is a 61-year-old limo driver who’s spent the last few years building a steam-powered rocket out of salvage parts in his garage.

On the one hand, I think this is a terrible idea that is fraught with all sorts of danger, not to mention the various legal risks.  On the other hand, I'm a bit envious.  Good luck, Mr. Hughes.  :D

Saturday, November 18, 2017

R.I.P., Malcolm Young

The rhythm guitarist for AC/DC has passed on.  :(

For those about to rock... but also for those who, like Mr. Young, have rocked in the past but shall rock no more... we salute you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Updates galore!

Not from me.  From Microsoft and Mozilla.

First came the Fall Creator's Update from Microsoft.  So far, so good.  I got a notice saying some audio-related thing had been disabled since it no longer worked with the new windows, but my speakers still work, so I don't know what that's all about. 

Next came the Mozilla update, the dreaded Firefox 57.  I knew this thing was going to break some non-zero number of my addons, but I didn't know how extensive the damage would be.  Luckily, it's not so bad.  Ghostery, uBlock, and AdBlockPlus still work, and those are the important ones since they keep out a lot of the malware from third-party ads.  Thumbnail Zoom broke, but I've found a suitable replacement.  Same for Flagfox.  I'm still not quite sold on the replacements for Context Search and gtranslate.  All in all, though, this update wasn't nearly as destructive as I feared.

So it looks like I'm still in business.  Yay, me.  Now, back to Mind Games...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Lattice will be appearing in an anthology

Alasdair Shaw has accepted my short story The Lattice for inclusion in his upcoming science fiction anthology, The Guardian.  It goes live at the end of the month, but one can pre-order it now.

Here's the cover:

Pretty cool, huh?  Yeah, I like it, too.

Here's the blurb on the product page, just to give you an idea of the common theme of the stories:

Guardians are defenders, carers and guides. Some look after individual people, others whole planets or universes, but all share a strong belief in their responsibility to protect their charges.

The anthology includes the following stories:

Awakening, by Alasdair Shaw
The Lattice, by Jeff Tanyard
Biting Shadow, by C. Gold
Gate of Dreams, by Rick Partlow
The Following Star, by Elizabeth Baxter
The Renewal, by Zen DiPietro
Stowaway, by Benjamin Douglas
Baptism of Fire, by Cora Buhlert
Sleeping Giant, by Andrew Vaillencourt
We Have the Stars, by J.J. Green
Warning Signs, by Edward M. Grant

Here's the link again:

Only $0.99.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Maybe a diagram would help

I'm still working on the second draft of Mind Games.  I've just sent Lieutenant Gray's Wolf Platoon towards the river.  All hell broke loose, the convoy was scattered, and now I'm trying to keep track of everybody.

This is one of those things that's really easy to screw up.  The "scene" is several different miniature locations, and the platoon's squads have been separated.  I've got a bunch of sergeants and corporals to keep track of, as well as their locations, and I'll have to keep a close eye on things to make sure I don't accidentally use the wrong name.

So I'm thinking about making a diagram in MS Paint.

By the way: the word count of this book is currently just over 89k.  That's about 10k more than the first draft, which I expected, since I always end up adding more material during revision.  I'm hoping to break 100k by the time I'm done with this draft, and I think I should easily accomplish that.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Progress Report

I'm about half-way through the second draft of Mind Games.  It's slow going because I've had to stop and think about some things.  I've decided to beef up the first chapter, and basically re-write it from another character's POV.  This character wasn't planned to be in the book at all--he was scheduled to first appear in book 3--but I figured it wouldn't hurt to introduce him here, even though there's not much for him to actually do.  He'll get the first chapter and then a wrap-up scene at the end, I guess.  Like I said, I'm still working on that.

Struggling with tone.  What seemed the way to go in draft 1 is not looking good in draft 2, so I'm altering the tone a bit.  It's frustrating, because I feel like I'm hanging on to this story by my fingernails.  Hopefully it will all snap together in the end.

I've got a rudimentary outline for an urban fantasy novel.  :o  I have no idea when I'll actually get around to writing it, if ever.  Depends on how sales of the Wheel of Fire go, I guess.  If the series doesn't sell well after I've got three or four books out, then I might abandon it.  But that's looking way too far ahead.  The series might take off after book 3 like Timothy Ellis's series did.  There's simply no telling.  But I'm committed to Wheel of Fire at least through book 3.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Lunar Gambit - free promotion

Benjamin Douglas's The Lunar Gambit is temporarily free.  Click here to get it.

Here's the blurb:

His ship is wrecked. His missiles are gone. And he's been thrust into command on his first tour. What could go wrong?

Lucas Odin seems like a qualified first officer--on paper. But his only battles so far have been simulations, each one a miserable failure. He just isn't a "take charge" kind of guy. To be honest, he'd rather spend his first tour gaming on the ship's modded sims than dealing with real people. But when the Starship Fairfax is waylaid by pirates, Lucas inherits a mission already doomed to fail. If he wants to keep the ship flying, keep his crew alive, and take back what was stolen, there's only one way:

By taking charge.

I've read both Totaled, the prequel, and The Lunar Gambit, book 1 in the series.  My impressions:

The series is sort of like Star Trek crossed with The Expanse.  The hero is the ship captain--not by rank, but in a de facto sense--and the action takes place in the outer part of the solar system.  There are space pirates, and competing governments, and seedy underworlds full of mafia-style figures. The hero is more of a shy nerdy sort than the bombastic James Kirk from Star Trek, and I think that's a good thing.

Tone: there are no cuss words, nor is there any graphic content.  It's family-friendly.

Cool factor: inhabited asteroids.

The books are short, which means you don't have to invest a lot of time, so give them a try.  The promotion for the first book is only for a few days, so get it while it's free.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Hitler... in 1955?

As part of the recent JFK-related document dump, this little nugget turned up:

I'm not convinced that Hitler was alive in Columbia in 1955, but still... crazier things have turned out to be true.

And once again, I'm reminded of the old saying: The difference between fiction and real life is that fiction has to be believable.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Progress report

I'm currently working on Mind Games, the second book of the Wheel of Fire series.  I'm about a third of the way through the second draft, though I still want to go back and do some major changes to chapter 1.  My hope is to finish this second draft before, say, mid-November, and then put it aside until after Christmas.  Then I'll use the second half of November and all of December to start on the first draft of the third book, Fever Pitch.  Then I'll return to Mind Games in January, try to polish it up, and hopefully publish it that month.  I'm sure something will happen to interrupt this plan.  Life tends to do stuff like that to me.  But I'm attempting it anyway.

I've submitted The Lattice to Alasdair Shaw in the hopes he'll include it in his next anthology.  I hope he does, since it was his call for submissions that inspired the story in the first place.  *fingers crossed*

I'm getting a steady stream of sales of books 2 and 3 of the Free Space trilogy.  Amazon and Apple are both delivering, but Apple is still leading.  Thanks for your support, Apple readers.  :)

For the Wheel of Fire, I've tried to keep the world-building at a minimum.  I simply can't handle a Robert Jordan-esque cast of characters and places and whatnot.  Even so, my lists of characters, ships, and planets is bigger than I thought it would be.  There's a lesson there: aim small, because "scope creep" is a thing.

I've been thinking about what I want to do after the Wheel of Fire is complete.  I'm still undecided.  Options include another SF series, perhaps with aliens this time; an urban fantasy series; or an epic fantasy series.  The epic fantasy is the least likely, since that requires extensive world-building.  I've also got an idea for a standalone SF novel, so I may go with that.  Anyway, nothing's decided.

Now, back to Mind Games...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Just hit publish

Just published The Lattice, a 6300-word short story.  Should start appearing on all retailers over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mysteries of space

The more we learn about the universe, the more questions arise.  There is, quite simply, a lot of weird stuff out there.

For example, Jupiter has auroras, but they don't behave in the same way as Earth's auroras.

Jupiter has the most powerful auroras in the solar system, so the team was not surprised that electric potentials play a role in their generation. What’s puzzling the researchers, Mauk said, is that despite the magnitudes of these potentials at Jupiter, they are observed only sometimes and are not the source of the most intense auroras, as they are at Earth.

Saturn has a big hexagon on its north pole.

There's the infamous Tabby's Star.

Astronomers have hypothesized that the objects eclipsing KIC 8462852 could be parts of a megastructure made by an alien civilization, such as a Dyson swarm, a hypothetical structure that an advanced civilization might build around a star to intercept some of its light for their energy needs. According to Steinn SigurĂ°sson, the megastructure hypothesis is implausible and disfavored by Occam's razor and fails to sufficiently explain the dimming. However, he says that it remains a valid subject for scientific investigation because it is a falsifiable hypothesis. Due to extensive media coverage on this matter, KIC 8462852 has been compared by Kepler's Steve Howell to KIC 4150611, another star with an odd light curve that was shown, after years of research, to be a part of a five-star system. The likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence being the cause of the dimming is very low; however, the star remains an outstanding SETI target because natural explanations have yet to fully explain the dimming phenomenon.

And, most relevant to me, is the mysterious Hoag's Object:

I say "most relevant" because Hoag's Object was the inspiration for the Wheel of Fire galaxy.  I saw the photo, and then I started to wonder about it, and, well, the rest is history.  Or the future, I guess, since most of the series has yet to be written.

Added Hostile Planet to the sidebar

It hasn't gone live at all retailers yet.  I'll add those links when they are active.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

Free Space trilogy readability scores

I ran the texts of all three books through this site.  Here are the results.

For Clouds of Venus:

For Caverns of Mercury:

For Cities of Mars:

None of those results are surprising.  I already knew Buddy was written at the fifth-grade level and Mr. Wilson was written at the fourth-grade level.  Basically, I write at about a fifth-grade level with some minor fluctuation.

I consider this a feature of my writing, by the way, not a flaw.  People read genre fiction for pleasure, not pain, so it's in the writer's best interest to make the reading experience as effortless as possible.  My goal is to write in such a way that the reader forgets he's even reading a book.

Free advice for authors:  Impressing the reader isn't about writing big words and convoluted sentences.  It's about the story behind those words and sentences.  Come up with an awesome story first, and then write that story in the most easily readable way you can.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Promotion results

On Tuesday, October 3, I ran two promotions: Freebooksy and eBookBetty.  I got the spike in free downloads I wanted for Clouds of Venus.

The horizontal line represents a thousand units.  I had 1400 downloads on Tuesday and nearly two hundred on Wednesday.

I also received 140 downloads across all D2D retailers on Tuesday.

Sell-through has been a little disappointing, but not surprising; lots of people download free books but don't get around to reading them soon, if at all.  A few sales of books 2 and 3 are trickling in, though.  Apple and Amazon are neck-and-neck as far as income is concerned.  I've had a slightly higher number of sales via Apple, but D2D takes its cut, so the money is basically even.  I'm still "in the red" as far as this trilogy goes, but I'm making progress.  If momentum holds up, I'll be in the black in a matter of weeks.

(FYI: Expenditures = $120 for covers, $105 for copyright registrations, and $94 for promotions.)

So that's where I'm at after two weeks.  For my first real "planned" launch, I think I've done pretty well, considering.  I plan to publish Hostile Planet this month.  I may publish a short, too; we'll see.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Clouds of Venus on The Book Speaks Podcast

Benjamin Douglas was gracious enough to read a chapter from Clouds of Venus for his podcast. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Trilogy launch: first week's results

I won't lie.  This past week has felt more like a month.  Launching a new book is stressful.  Launching three books at once is a nightmare.  It's one of those things I'm glad to have done but won't ever do again.  Anyway, the books have been live for a week now, so let's see what we can see.

Biggest surprise: Apple iTunes.  This retailer is almost keeping pace with Amazon on the free downloads of Clouds of Venus, and it has exceeded Amazon in paid copies of the other two books.  I didn't expect that at all.  Let's look at the numbers.

Here are the figures for all three books across all Draft2Digital outlets:

Here is the breakdown by retailer:

Yeah, Apple.  :D  I've got $12.50 in royalties due from Apple from seven paid sales.  That's net; D2D's already taken its cut.

Those two sales at Barnes & Noble are free downloads of Clouds of Venus.  Here's the interesting thing about that: the book's "overview" hasn't even appeared yet.  There's no blurb on the product page!  No reviews yet, either.  The purchasers either downloaded it on the basis of its cover alone, or they downloaded it because they were fans of my previous work.  Or maybe they're Kboarders who have seen my posts there and decided to give my book a try.

Now let's look at Amazon.  I've had over two hundred free downloads of Clouds of Venus, but fewer paid sales of the other two books:

Over time, I hope to see some sell-through as people actually get around to reading the free book they downloaded and decide to purchase the next two.  For now, though, the also-bought algorithms have kicked in, and that's good enough for one week's results.

These are all very early results, and they will probably change radically over the next few weeks.  In the long run, there's no telling how things will shake out.  But I've got a new soft spot in my heart for iTunes now.

To any of my readers who might be reading this: thanks for giving my work a chance.  I really mean it.  I appreciate you all, and I hope you'll stick with me.  Space opera is coming soon.  Sword fights, plasma rifles, space battles... all kinds of cool stuff.  So enjoy the Free Space trilogy, and I hope to see you in the Wheel of Fire.  :)

Also-boughts have kicked in for Clouds of Venus

I'm getting a little love from the algorithms:

Hopefully this stuff will snowball and more books will appear there.  Come on, 'zon algos.  Don't let me down!  :D

Bknights results

Ran a promotion with bkights yesterday.  Here are the results:

Each horizontal line represents 100 free downloads of Clouds of Venus.  I moved 173 copies yesterday, as opposed to the 26, 14, and 16 copies of the previous days.  So the promotion gave me an added 150 or so downloads.

Now we see if any of those translate into sales of books 2 and 3.  *crosses fingers*

Blast from the past

In today's Bookbub email was an old favorite: Forging the Darksword, the first book of the Darksword trilogy by Weis and Hickman.  It's been, what, thirty years since I read it?  Published in 1988 according to Wikipedia, so yeah, almost thirty years.

I'm afraid to read those books again, though.  The things we love as kids often don't hold up when we revisit them as adults, and I don't want to spoil the memories.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Running my first promotion

Clouds of Venus will appear on bknights tomorrow.  :o  Hoping for lots of free downloads, some good sell-through to the other two books, and having some also-boughts appear on Amazon.

Another promotion is scheduled for Tuesday, October 3.  And a third promotion is in the works.

UPDATE:  Two promotions scheduled for Oct. 3: Freebooksy and eBookBetty.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The trilogy has fans :D

Books 2 and 3 made their first sales on Amazon yesterday.  Awesome.  :D  No sales of those two yet via D2D, but many free downloads of Clouds of Venus.

Still no reviews yet.  :(  Hopefully I'll get some good ones soon.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ready, fire, aim!

That's my process, basically.  Like Dale Kinmont, I never get anything right the first time, so I shoot first and adjust my aim later.  *sigh*  I've already altered the blurb for Clouds of Venus a little.  And then I realized I left an extra paragraph return in the blurb, so I had to go back and remove that.  The good news is that the book is perma-free on Amazon.  Across all retailers, a few dozen copies have already been downloaded.  No sales of books 2 or 3 yet, but it's still early.

Next up: ad blitz.  I've got a few places I want to submit to.  I'll do that tomorrow, though.  I'm kind of tired, and those ad people probably don't work on the weekends anyway.

The good news is that I'm now in full Wheel of Fire mode.  I've started the third draft of Hostile Planet.  I hope to finish it in a week or so.  After that, I'll re-read it in epub on the computer for final proofreading.  And I'll need to finalize the cover.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Getting it all sorted out

Publishing three books via three different platforms, all in one day, is a draining experience.  Not only did I upload each book to Amazon, Kobo, and Draft2Digital, but I also filed the copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Doing all of those things was a several-hours-long grind.  I don't recommend it.  From now on, it's one book at a time.

I've added links to the blog's sidebar.  Still waiting on Scribd.

I've bookmarked the books in my browser.

I've sent out some free copies to a few friends.  I've also made three sales of Clouds of Venus already.  So at least, uh... *counts on fingers*  ...eight people have the book in their possession now.

I've posted links in the "Make it Free" thread on kboards.  I've also contacted KDP and asked them to price-match.  With any luck, it'll go free tomorrow or over the weekend, and I'll be applying for promotions on Monday.

I've added the books to Goodreads.

Oh--almost forgot--another author asked if he could read a chapter from Clouds of Venus for his podcast.  I agreed.  Planned for Sep. 29.  I'll post a link when it's up.

That's all for now.  And, frankly, it's enough.  lol

UPDATE:  All three titles are now on Scribd.  I'll add the links momentarily.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Published today

All three books of the Fee Space trilogy.  Book 1 is free everywhere except Amazon, and I'll try to price-match it as soon as I can.  The rest are $2.99.  Books are available at the same places as my short stories.

Took a few hours, and it was a bit tedious.  I uploaded to three different places--Amazon, Kobo, and D2D--and the files are slightly different in the back matter, so it was a challenge keeping everything straight.  The next few days will be spent trying to get these things stood up, updating the blog sidebar, and getting advertisers lined up and whatnot.  I'm looking forward to moving on, though, and getting back to the Wheel of Fire.

For now, though, let's see some covers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton has passed away

He was 91.  He was a great character actor, and he livened up everything he was in.

R.I.P., Mr. Stanton, and thanks for the excellent and memorable work.  :(

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I survived Irma

I was never in much danger, being in north Georgia, but, just the same, I thought y'all would like to know I'm okay.

Power was out for about fifteen hours.  Internet was out for a few hours longer than that.  A neighbor had wind damage to his roof.  Leaves and limbs were everywhere, but nothing destructive happened nearby.  A tree fell on a nearby road, but that was it.  The birds didn't seem to notice the weather.  They congregated at the feeders in spite of the rain and wind.  Tough little critters.

As far as writing goes, I didn't make any progress on proofreading Cities of Mars.  I've been using my Kindle to read the book for this purpose, and my Kindle was low on battery power.  My laptop was fully charged, though, so I used it for the only thing I could: writing a draft.  I rattled off about 2500 words like it was nothing, and I finished the first draft of Silver Mountain, a 7k-word short story.  So "yay" for that.

I haven't done much today.  After a day without internet, I just felt like getting online and doing some old-fashioned internet surfing.  Lazy, I know.  What can I say... I'm a flawed man.  :(

So that's that.  Goodbye, Irma.  Be gentle with Alabama and Tennessee, and please don't circle back.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Migraines suck

It's been a while sine I've had one, but I had one tonight.  They're pretty crippling, and I can never get any writing-related stuff done.  I just can't think well enough, even when I'm not nauseous or shaking, and I just can't trust myself to make decent decisions.

It's mostly subsided now, which is why I'm capable of using the computer at the moment.  But the final polishing of Cities of Mars will remain postponed until tomorrow.

I had hoped to release the trilogy this week, but I might wait until this hurricane stuff has passed.  I want to release at a time when I'm fairly confident the power won't go out.  My location in the northern part of the state means I'm not in any real danger, but the power goes out around here every time a squirrel farts, so a little caution won't hurt.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Not sure...

...what Buzz is wearing on his head.  It looks dangerous, though, and possibly illegal in some states.

But he's Buzz Aldrin, so as far as I'm concerned, he can wear whatever he wants. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jerry Pournelle has died

One of the living legends of science fiction has passed away.  He was 84.  He was a brilliant man, with actual scientific accomplishments to go along with his literary ones:

He worked in operations research at The Aerospace Corporation, and North American Rockwell Space Division, and was founding President of the Pepperdine Research Institute. In 1989, Pournelle, Max Hunter, and retired Army Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham made a presentation to then Vice President Dan Quayle promoting development of the DC-X rocket.

I've only read a couple of his books.  I always meant to get around to reading The Mote in God's Eye, but have yet to do it.  Some day, hopefully.

R.I.P., Mr. Pournelle.  :(

Not sure about Pale Moon :(

I made the switch to Pale Moon, and I added the add-ons I wanted.  I've got it configured.  Unfortunately, there are still issues.  I can't embed youtube videos on kboards.  Also, PM seems to hang more often than Firefox.

Will I switch back for good?  Hard to say.  I'm on Firefox right now, but I've still got PM set as my default browser.  :|  I just don't know.  If the developers can get my favorite add-ons available as WebExtensions, then that would be great.  I could stick with Firefox.  At the moment, though, it looks like most Firefox add-ons will self-destruct in November.

I just don't know what to do.

A generous move by Audible

They're offering free audiobooks to victims of Hurricane Harvey.  They'll still pay the authors, though.  :D  Here's the email I received from them:


My colleagues at Audible, ACX, and I watched the terrible news about Hurricane Harvey with the same sense of "What can we do to help?" that so many others had. We've noted publishers making books available to schools, libraries and shelters in the area and applaud their efforts. We wanted you to know that we've contacted the tens of thousands of Audible members in the greater Houston area to let them know their memberships are on Audible for the next three months and that they won't be billed during this time. Our hope is that this makes life a little bit easier for our customers who are impacted by Harvey. We did something similar after Hurricane Katrina and try to extend the same spirit of "do the right thing" in working with school kids in Newark (more on that soon).

While we won't be billing our Houston-area members for their audio over the next three months, we will continue to pay you your royalties on their selections. We've already gotten a few notes from members in Houston who are grateful for our offer. Let's hope that listening to some high quality audio may brighten a bleak situation for some people.


Beth Anderson
EVP & Publisher
Audible, Inc.

That's a nice gesture, guys.  Cheers.  :)

Monday, September 4, 2017

SF themes according to Clare Winger Harris

Mrs. Harris was an early 20th-century SF writer.  In 1931, her list of "themes" was published in Wonder Stories, one of several pulp SF magazines of the day.  Here's the list:

1. Interplanetary space travel.
2. Adventures on other worlds.
3. Adventures in other dimensions.
4. Adventures in the micro or macro-cosmos.
5. Gigantic insects.
6. Gigantic man-eating plants.
7. Time travel, past or future.
8. Monstrous forms of unfamiliar life.
9. The creation of super-machines.
10. The creation of synthetic life.
11. Mental telepathy and mental aberrations.
12. Invisibility.
13. Ray and vibration stories.
14. Unexplored portions of the globe; submarine, subterranean, etc.
15. Super intelligence.
16. Natural cataclysms; extra-terrestrial or confined to the earth.

Let's see... Buddy only hits one of those, and that's 8.  And possibly 9, depending on what "micro-cosmos" means.  Mr. Wilson hits 1, 2, and 4.  It also includes 8 if one considers time dilation to be a form of time travel into the future.

Yet-to-be-published works: The Free Space books hit 1, 2, and 9.  The Wheel of Fire books hit 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15.  Lol... Looks like I'm sort of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Wheel of Fire.  :D

I think Harris's list is a pretty good one, and surprisingly still relevant all these decades later.  Here's one of Mrs. Harris's stories, "The Fate of the Poseidonia."  It's about Martians trying to steal Earth's water.  Man, you just can't trust those darn Martians.  Free to read at the link.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hummingbird activity has increased

They're always territorial, but their behavior has picked up recently.  That's typical--it's late summer, and they'll be migrating soon.  They have to store up energy for the long flight to Cuba, and that means they're constantly chasing each other away from the feeders.

Still, though... it seems like it's cooler now than it should be.  Tomorrow's high is only going to be 84.  But the hummers are frantic, and the poplar leaves have started to fall, so I guess summer's reaching its end.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I see a Pale Moon arising

I'm in the process of making the switch from Firefox to Pale Moon.  I'm typing this blog post in the Pale Moon browser right now.  I've imported my bookmarks and logins, added some addons, and even loaded a theme.  So far, so good.

Why am I doing this?  Simple.  Mozilla has decided to go to WebExtensions exclusively.  When that happens, the enormous library of Firefox addons will become largely worthless.  And it's those addons--the ability to almost limitlessly customize one's browser--that made Firefox worthwhile.  Take that away, and there's no reason to stick with it.

My hope is that Pale Moon updates will be fewer and further between than Firefox updates.  I further hope that Pale Moon updates will be less likely to break my addons than Firefox updates tended to be. 

I like my addons.  That is all.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

MuseScore 2

This is a fun little program.  If I'd had something like this back in high school, I might have seriously considered a career in music composition.

Just to try it out, I decided to write out the notation for Siegfried's leitmotif.  Here's the official version as written by Wagner:

You'll notice it's in 6/8 time and the key of E-flat.

Well, I didn't just want to duplicate the notes.  I wanted to play around a little.  So I transposed the leitmotif to the key of G and changed the time to 4/4.  I know... I'm so bad.  *evil grin*  Here's what the notation looks like in MuseScore:

The result was bright and cheery and totally cheesy.  Completely "non-epic."  Lol... Don't take my word for it.  Listen for yourself:

Online recording software >>

Anyway, it's a fun little program for those who want to play around with scoring their own tunes.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Surviving the apoc-eclipse and other news

There was a total eclipse of the sun the other day.  You may have heard about it.  I don't live in the "totality" zone, but I looked directly into the inferno anyway with my cheap sun specs.  It's okay, though, because if you can't trust your vision to cardboard welding glasses that you got for a buck at the local supermarket, then who or what can you trust?

Some people on the television were talking about the eclipse being a "spiritual" event.  Well, no... it's astronomy.  It's Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei.  It's a cool event, but that's not reason enough to go all cargo-cult about it.  But, hey, whatever.  Live and let live. 

I went to the post office this week and procured a post office box.  This is necessary in order to have a physical address for one's spam er, author newsletter.  Then I opened an account with Tinyletter.  They let you have up to 5,000 subscribers, no charge.  Awesome.  I'm calling my newsletter Sword & Plasma Rifle.  Pretty cool, huh?  I thought so.  Weapons are always cool.

I've formatted the Free Space books and will do a final once-over to look for goofs.  That's the problem with making changes--if you change something in one book, then it might affect something in another book.  And then making that second change might have ripple effects of its own, and so on and so forth.  It's like Hercules with the Hydra.  This is why I've decided that outlining a book as thoroughly as possible before writing it is the best way to go.  My outlines are more like synopses at this point.  The idea is to not have to think about plot or anything, and just basically write in a paint-by-numbers fashion.

After the trilogy is ready to go, it's all Hostile Planet all the way.  I'll be able to focus all my attention on the Wheel of Fire, and that will be great.

So there you go.  That's where I'm at.  Onward and upward!  :D

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Working on the Dying Breeds outline

I needed a break from Clouds of Venus.  Line-editing that thing was getting tedious, and I was having a hard time staying focused.  So I decided to take a couple of days--or three--and work on the outline for book 4 of the Wheel of Fire series, which I'm calling Dying Breeds.

My preliminary outline--I've got one for each of the eight books in the series--was about 1800 words.  My goal for each book is to have an outline of at least 8000 words.  That's how I know I have enough material for a novel.  So I had some work to do.

The outline for Dying Breeds currently stands at 5295 words.  I'm getting there.  I'm adding in some gut-wrenching stuff that wasn't there before, too, and I think it'll help give the book more of an emotional punch.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dolly had braces

I'm not normally a victim of the Mandela effect.  Even in cases where I don't remember correctly, like the whole "mirror, mirror" thing from Snow White, I'm not wedded to the version I remember.  I can view the actual (magic mirror) version, give a dispassionate shrug, and go on with my day.

I have The Empire Strikes Back on both VHS and DVD, and have seen the movie many times, and I've always known it was "No... I am your father" instead of "Luke, I am your father."

I never thought Mandela died in the 1980s.

Berenstain, Berenstein... who cares?


But there's one thing upon which I will absolutely not budge, and that's the matter of Dolly from Moonraker.  She had braces.  I don't care about all the evidence to the contrary.  The girl had braces.  And I'm not just inventing this memory ex post facto, because it dates back to the 1980s when I first saw the movie on TBS.  The whole "connection" between Dolly and Jaws was the fact that both had mouths full of metal.  Otherwise, the relationship makes no sense.  Well, it makes sense for Jaws, because Dolly was gorgeous, and it's easy for a man to be smitten with her.  But it doesn't make sense on Dolly's end.

So, assuming I'm correct, what's the explanation?

My theory: the version of the movie that aired on TBS--which is where a lot of us saw a lot of movies for the first time back in the day, because other channels didn't share Ted Turner's tastes--featured a braces-positive Dolly.  The braces were later edited out for VHS and DVD and whatnot, and for reasons I can only guess.  So perhaps Ted Turner has the answer.

This isn't the first time that I remember something from a movie from the 1980s that would later get edited out.  Throughout the 1990s, I distinctly remembered the sentry guns scene from Aliens, yet none of the videos or televised versions had that scene.  It wasn't until the Youtube era that I found that scene again.  It had been deleted, and was only reinstated for the director's cut.  When I first saw the movie back in the 1980s, it must have been on laser disc or something--some pre-edited version.  I remembered the sentry guns, and my memory was correct.  Same thing with Excalibur.  In the wedding scene, Merlin tells Morgana that she'll "have to do better than that" to convince him of her prophetic gift.  In the deleted scene, she goes on to predict that Guinevere will cheat on Arthur with Lancelot.  That line is missing from the movie now, and I can't find it anywhere.  But I know it was there once upon a time.

So Hollywood has a history of messing with us.  I think something like that's the explanation for Dolly's missing braces.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another delay

I'm looking at the file for Clouds of Venus right now.  It's the first time I've looked at this book in about a year.  And it's not ready.  :(

So I'm going through it and doing a little line-editing.  I hate it, and I'm ready to put this trilogy behind me and move on with my life, but I'm not going to publish something until I'm convinced it's ready.

It's always something.  *eyeroll*

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Adventures in formatting

I've started formatting the Free Space books.  It's not hard, just a little tedious.  The tough part was trying to remember how to make hyperlinks in OpenOffice, but it eventually came back to me.  The trick is to make a chapter heading a bookmark first, and then go back to the table of contents and make the hyperlink.  You have to have an existing bookmark for the link to point to.

I also had to delete a lot of spaces.  I learned to type back in the day, and part of that meant putting two spaces between sentences.  I'm still in that habit, and it's something I still do because it's way too much trouble to try to break it, especially when we have tools like "find and replace."  I just tell OpenOffice to find two spaces and replace them with one.  I actually have to do this twice due to typos--in a few instances, I accidentally had three spaces between sentences.  But it's a quick and easy thing to fix.

I had to change the paragraph formatting.  I write in block paragraphs because that's the best way for me to "see" the story in a sort of big-picture sense.  I plan to publish using traditional indented paragraphs, though, so I had to change all that.  Adding those indentations knocked my chapter headings and asterisk breaks to the right a little, so I then had to go back and delete those indentations.

Page breaks between chapters had to be added, and the spacing made consistent throughout.

So there we are.  I've done two of the books.  One left.  Then I'll load them on the Kindle and go over them one last time.  Then the only thing left is setting up and testing a mailing list.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bluegrass and science fiction

In my short story Mr. Wilson, there's a part where the ship captain plays the song "Sittin' On Top of the World" over the cabin speakers.  In the story, it's an up-tempo bluegrass version of the song.  Historically, though, the song has been performed in a variety of styles.  Wikipedia gives credit for the first recorded version to the Mississippi Sheiks, a blues band.  Here's their version:

 Another blues version, this time by the wonderful B.B. King:

The grand old man of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, performed a bluegrass version featuring his usual "high & lonesome" singing voice.  This one's from a 1957 album.

Here's Earl Scruggs and friends.

 The always entertaining Jerry Reed:

Some big-name artists from the rock world have covered it, too.  Here's a slower-than-molasses version done by Eric Clapton and Cream:

Here's the one by the Grateful Dead:

Here's a recent version done for the movie Cold Mountain, but it sounds ancient.  Which is appropriate, given the movie's time period.

In my story, I envisioned the song sounding similar to this version, but a little faster, and in a lower key:

Those guys are playing it in C#, which seems insanely high to me.  I think B is the standard for bluegrass versions of this song.  (Not sure; could be wrong.)  Those fellows definitely did a nice job, though.

So, next time you re-read Mr. Wilson, you'll have an idea of what the ship's cabin sounds like.

Jeff Tanyard: putting the bluegrass back in science fiction.  :D

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I love it when a plot comes together

I've got a partially written short story on the hard drive that's been languishing in limbo for a few months.  It wasn't coming together, and I knew it subconsciously, but I couldn't put my finger on why.  Well, last night, I finally realized what I needed to do.  In about a half hour, I had about 700 new words cranked out.  It's still mostly unwritten, but at least now I know where the story's going and how to get there, more or less.  It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's slowly coming together

I'm still working my way through Cities of Mars.  It needed more line editing than I thought, in addition to a few other changes.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through.  Once it's done, I'll take one last look at the other two books, do some final formatting for all three, and then send them off into the ether.

This has been a strange year so far.  All sorts of distractions have gone on, and my productivity has been poor.  I'm hoping I can make a strong push and finish 2017 out on a high note.

Monday, July 24, 2017

I hope I never...

...write anything as ridiculous as a love scene involving a eunuch.  :(

I'm talking about Game of Thrones, of course.  Grey Worm and Missandei got it on.  Somehow.  :|

Of all the facepalm moments in the show--and there are many--this one is probably the facepalmiest.  The whole point of making eunuchs in the first place is to make an adult male who's devoid of sexual desire.  Eunuchs were traditionally used as harem guards because they could be trusted to not have sex with the harem girls, even when those eunuchs were only castrated but were left with intact penises.

Grey Worm can perform oral sex on Missandei, but it should be perfunctory only.  He shouldn't be having any sort of desire for her.  That's just not the way it works.

Fun experiment: google "eunuch" right now and see how much GoT-related stuff you get.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Deleted" was the right choice

I saw the "Director's Cut" version of Alien today.  I'd seen the theatrical version many times, but never this version.  It's basically the same, except for an added scene: Ripley stumbles upon Dallas after he's been taken by the alien and cocooned.  He and Brent are being turned into eggs.  He begs her to kill him, and she does.

Here's the entire deleted scene:

I think the original decision to delete this scene was the correct one.  It adds confusion, since we don't know much about the species at this point, and providing this sort of info this late in the movie slows the pacing.  And for suspense purposes, it's better if we don't know anyway.

Another issue is that you don't really want your story's hero intentionally killing any good guys.  It muddies the waters, morally speaking, and it brings the hero down a few notches in the viewer's estimation.  Sure, Dallas begged her to do it, and yeah, it was a mercy killing, and necessary, but still.  Heroes don't fry good guys with flamethrowers.  This scene did more harm than good, so it was wisely cut.

So I won't be watching that version anymore.  Just the theatrical version.  Which, of course, is pretty awesome, and almost as cool as the sequel.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Darwinian internet

The internet is rapidly becoming unusable.  Website designers continue to load them up with popups and ads and autoplaying videos, stuff few of us want.  They have to monetize their sites, and I get that, but this ain't the way to do it.  It's my bandwidth, not yours, and I don't want to watch your video.  Also, many of these third-party ads are infected with malware.  It simply isn't safe to not use an adblocker.

(I've gotten malware before from what should have been a completely safe site.  I was lucky, and was able to recover the data, but it still scared the crap out of me.)

Then there's the fact that designers are trying to make their sites work across a wide variety of devices, and you've got a recipe for disaster.  When you try to be all things to all people, then you end up serving none of them well.

Some sites won't let you visit without turning your adblocker off.  Well, I'm not doing that.  I don't need to read your site so badly that I'm willing to risk malware.  Instead, I'll do more things like what I recently did: install Ublock Origin in addition to AdBlockPlus.  I'm using both simultaneously now, and the combo seems to do the trick.  Except for the stockcharts.com website, which gets stuck in a never-loading loop.  Still haven't figured out what to about that yet.

This Darwinian struggle won't end any time soon.  Sites and users will be in a never-ending struggle with one another, similar to how militaries constantly come up with new weapons to breach an opponent's defense, which then requires new defensive innovation, which then spurs the need for better weapons, and so on and so forth, forever.

Is there a solution?  I don't know.  All I know is that the internet was pretty uncluttered back in the 00's, and I'm kind of nostalgic for it, even taking into account the relative lack of content.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I seem to recall...

...a leather-bound version of The Lord of the Rings available in bookstores.  It was a single volume, not split into a trilogy.  I've tried googling, and I've seen a few different editions, but none look like the one from my memory.  đŸ˜•

I'd like to have a really nice version of the novel some day--I've currently just got the paperbacks--but I haven't seen any that I think are just fantastic.  And it would need to be pretty awesome, since this would just be a vanity thing.  I'm thinking burgundy leather, with gilded lettering and maybe some deep-set stamped runes or something.  It would also be cool if it came locked and the only way to open it is to say the word "mellon."  But that might be asking a bit much.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jerry Miculek is not human

Don't take my word for it.  See for yourself:

At a thousand yards, that balloon is less than 1 minute of angle wide.  :o

Jerry's youtube channel is full of such circus-stunt shots.  He's the best shooter in the world, hands down.  The man is a robot.  It's the only logical explanation.

It's kind of depressing, really, since I know I'll never be as good at anything in my life as he is at shooting.  But it's inspiring, too, because it reminds us that the ceiling of human accomplishment might just be a lot higher than we thought it was.  So be like Jerry, and aim high.  :D

Friday, July 7, 2017

275 years ago today

Georgia colonists gave the Spanish Empire a bloody nose:

The British advance party, in pursuit of the defeated Spanish force, engaged in a skirmish, then fell back in face of advancing Spanish reinforcements. When the British reached a bend in the road, Lieutenants Southerland and Macoy ordered the column to stop. They took cover in a semi-circle shaped area around a clearing behind trees and palmettos, waiting for the advancing Spanish having taken cover in the dense forest. They watched as the Spanish broke rank, stacked arms and, taking out their kettles, prepared to cook dinner. The Spanish thought they were protected because they had the marsh on one side of them and the forest on the other. The British forces opened fire from behind the cover of trees and bushes, catching the Spanish off-guard. They fired multiple volleys from behind the protection of dense forest. The attack killed roughly 200 Spaniards. The ferocity of the fighting at Bloody Marsh was dramatic, and the battle took its name from the tradition that the marsh ran red with the blood of dead Spanish soldiers. The floor of the forest was strewn with the bodies of the dead and dying. A few Spanish officers attempted in vain to reform their ranks, but the Spanish soldiers and their allies fled, panic stricken, in multiple directions as they were hit with volley after volley of musket fire from behind the foliage. Barba himself was captured after being mortally wounded. The Battle of Bloody Marsh blunted the Spanish advance, and ultimately proved decisive.

There's a plaque at the site commemorating the battle:

This battle was an important one for Georgia.  The first European explorers here were Spanish, and the British didn't set up their colony until 1733.  By the time the War of Jenkins' Ear broke out, the colony's border with Florida was still disputed, and it wasn't certain whether the recently settled city of Savannah and its surrounding lands would remain British or fall to the Spanish.  Most of Savannah's Jewish community fled to Charleston, South Carolina, fearing the Spanish Inquisition.  They would later return to Savannah, though, and are still there today, one of the oldest Jewish congregations in America.

After the Revolution was won, and the national focus on the British had subsided a bit, some of the old hard feelings towards the Spanish returned.  France and Spain went to war with one another, and French ambassador GenĂªt wanted America to invade Spanish Florida.  General Elijah Clarke, one of Georgia's heroes of the Revolution, was only too happy to oblige, and he raised an army of local militia for the purpose.  President Washington caught wind of the plot and promptly expressed his disapproval.  Georgia's governor sided with Washington and told Clarke to knock it off.  Clarke was disappointed, but he obeyed.  He took his army and invaded Creek Indian country instead, setting up the short-lived Trans-Oconee Republic.

The threat from the Spanish Empire ended for good in 1821 when Spain ceded Florida to the United States.  But the turning point for Georgia was the Battle of Bloody Marsh, fought 275 years ago today on St. Simon's Island.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Progress report

The revisions based on advice from beta readers are complete.  I'm now putting the finishing touches on the three books of the Free Space trilogy.  I hope to publish them this month.

It's been a long time coming, and I'm really looking forward to releasing these books into the wild, if for no other reason than that I can move on without that particular monkey on my back.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The 4th of July celebrations have begun

Actually, it started last night.  A few fireworks could be heard here and there.

Tonight, though, things got cranked up to eleven.  It sounded like the Normandy invasion around here.  The good news is that it's done nothing but rain the past couple of weeks, so the prospect of wildfires is slim to none.

It seems like every year this stuff starts earlier and earlier.  A few decades from now, I suspect it'll be fireworks every night between Memorial Day and the start of football season.

While we're at it, here's the reason for all the explosions:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Georgia's signers of the Declaration: Button Gwinnett, George Walton, and Lyman Hall.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy Birthday, Canada!

150 years old today.  Here are some fun facts.

As an American, I think we're darn lucky to have them as a neighbor.  It could have been worse.  A lot worse.  Just look around the world for examples of testy border relations.  For that matter, look no further than the U.S.-Mexico border.  All sorts of shenanigans go on down there, and in both directions.

So thanks for being a pal, Canada.  :)

I also found this on Wikipedia:

Today there are close cultural ties, many similar and identical traits[13][14][15][16] and according to Gallup's annual public opinion polls, Canada has consistently been Americans' favorite nation, with 96% of Americans viewing Canada favorably in 2012.[17][18] According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, 84% of Americans view their northern neighbor's influence positively, with only 5% expressing a negative view, the most favorable perception of Canada in the world. As of spring 2013, 64% of Canadians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 81% expressed confidence in then-US President Obama to do the right thing in international matters. According to the same poll, 30% viewed the U.S. negatively.[19] Also, according to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 86% of Americans view Canada's influence positively, with only 5% expressing a negative view. However, according to the same poll, 43% of Canadians view U.S. influence positively, with 52% expressing a negative view.[20]

So we like them, but they just sort of tolerate us.  Lol...  Oh, well.  Can't win 'em all, I guess.  No hard feelings, though, guys.  :D

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