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


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.