Sunday, December 8, 2013

The black dog got me

Got me good.

Coming back fine now.  I was actually feeling a bit better last night.  Went out to run some errands.  What awaited me at the post office?  A rejection letter, like it was 1993 all over again.  The good news, I still rate personal rejection notes.  The bad news, they are rejection notes.

Many thanks for submitting "A Pawn's Life," but I'm going to pass on this one.  I like the characters here, but I've got one sorcerer's apprentice story in inventory at the moment and this take on a similar theme didn't quite win me over, alas.  Thanks anyway for sending this fantasy my way, and best luck to you with it.
That's a writer's life.  Mostly it sucks, except for the creative part, which is always fun.

Another little treat for me this evening, Bio is running a mini-marathon of Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.  I love this series.  The first seasons of the show aired originally in 1997-1998, good years for me.  I was finding a lot of work as an adjunct professor, I sold several stories to magazines, and, most importantly, my dad was back in good health.  He had about three or four good years, from around 1997 to 2001. Those good years come back to me every time I watch this show.  In addition, I was fascinated by magic and magicians as a child, and even though we weren't well off when I was a child, I had a wonderful childhood.  They brought the show back for two years starting in 2008.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Friday, December 6, 2013

So much for that hare-brained scheme...

The little intellectual experiment I've engaged in over the last few days will bear no least no OBVIOUS fruit.  DC Comics doesn't accept submissions by any means fair or foul. You gotta show up at a fucking convention for one of their "talent searches."  I guess you know what I think about that.  I'll keep my hardboiled version of Bruce Wayne in the back of my mind at present.  Who knows what I'll do with it.

They certainly are appealing characters, up for many adventures...under other names.  Maybe.

Trying to think of new, unusual, and non-malignant ways to self-advertise.  Nothing yet, other than certain vague ideas in the back of my head.

I hear the black dog knocking. I'd better have a snack - keeping my blood sugar levels stable is part of chasing the dog away - plus, I need to put out a few bear traps for him if he gets inside.  If you don't know what I'm talking about and you suspect I may have flipped my lid, do a google on "black dog churchill" and you'll understand.

Night all.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I lost a story and yet more on Batman re-imagined

I say I've been a professional since 1989 - minus the many, many years I worked as a caregiver to my parents. I wasn't kidding. Going through an old hard drive, I found something I must have written on one of my DOS machines from way back. It's a CV for a possible job as a graduate teaching assistant. It lists a short story sale...fuck, I can barely remember the title, I can't remember selling it. I'd look through my old books, but hey, almost every one of them was destroyed in the tornado. I supposedly sold "Firmware Revolution" to an anthology called Future Tech Wars back in 1992. I can't find a copy of this story on my old hard drives and my physical story files were destroyed in - you guessed it - the Greensburg Tornado. I can remember writing a story with that title, but I don't have a clue as to what it was about. If anyone runs across this anthology, read my story and tell me what it's about. Thanks.

Just how do I have old hard drives?  The computers they were in were destroyed by the rain, motherboards are very sensitive to moisture, but the hard drives survived in the rubble.  I took a little of the insurance money and bought a couple backup drives and copied all the files over before the original ones failed.  My laptops did survive.  Their exteriors were banged up, but they booted and ran well for years.  I eventually gave them to a cousin.  They may still be running.  Toshiba laptops.  At least their 2003 laptops were sturdy.

 Back to Batman Improved.  The bad guys are there, though much altered from their more flamboyant origins.  Two Face's face isn't burned, he's called that by other drug dealers because he is so untrustworthy.  The Joker started out life in the comics as a gangster, so let him return to that, a Whitey Bolger of Gotham.  Even Superman's in this universe.  He's not a son of Krypton, he's a soldier-assassin used in covert ops by the government.  Shades of Marshal Law!  Poison Ivy has a big makeover.  She's the girlfriend of Alfy.  She's mostly harmless, except...well...she mostly destroyed her sanity through over-use of her own designer hallucinogens.  Alfy, Bats, and Catwoman have to rescue her from mental hospitals on a regular basis.  She also has a bad habit of "enlightening" nefarious local politicians and rich folk through the use of certain herbally-based psychoactive substances.  But mostly she's a good guy.  Think a kinder-gentler female version of Rorschach from Watchmen.  Gordon's still a good cop troubled by the political corruption in his city.  Bruce, Alfy, Selina, and Ivy make some of their money by running their own collection/repossession agency.  Other than that, they mostly prey upon the rich and the corrupt.  They've been known to pay off the car loans of poor people, especially after Catwoman and Batman steal a few Bentleys.

I'd love to write this, but just how could I do so?  I'd have lawyers crawling up my ass forever if I tried to sell it - and I'm not about to write fan fiction for free at this point in my life.  Sure, I wrote some fan fiction when I was caregiving, as a way to entertain myself and keep my mind alive, but now?  Nope.  Maybe I'll make it into a proposal and send it off to DC.  Who knows, they might like it.  Weirder things have happened.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


The one thing every writer must learn

I have many regrets in my life, especially in my college years.  Life would now be so much better, so much simpler, if I had made the right choices early on.  But my mom and dad had not a clue as to how to help.  He was a machinist, she was a grade school teacher.  Their advice about life was invaluable, but as far as writing or an academic career, they had nothing.

I should have known many things, but I was a kid, what the fuck did I know?  Someone in those first college years should have told me what I needed to know.  But no one did.  Shit, maybe even my professors didn't know enough to realize the things a kid needs to know.

First, don't assume your high school teachers were correct about anything.  My mother's extreme competence as a teacher made my juvenile mind think all teachers are that way - not hardly.  My life would have been much different than it is if I had known one thing: my idiot of a high school math teacher did not know enough math to actually teach it correctly.  I was taught algebra concepts that only existed inside her head.  It took me years to discover this and correct it, and by that time, well...part of what I should have been had passed me by.

Second, my creative writing and English composition instructors never told me the most important thing a writer can know.  What is it?  WRITE EVERY DAY.  That's it.  Keep writing, don't stop, and read as much as you can.  Those are the real secrets to being an author.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Can't think about revisions all the time! Back to Batman re-imagined.

I have to admit, my version of Batman resembles more closely a hardboiled crime novel than classic Batman.  Even Miller's Batman was an insufferable moralist.  I didn't say "fascist," which has been an accusation leveled both at the overall Batman mythos and specifically at Miller's Batman.  He isn't.  Classic Batman does share a few similarities with 1930s fascists, but there are also major dissimilarities.  He doesn't kill, for instance.  Though it may not look like it, Batman has sympathy for the devil.  He wants to reform him, cure him, not kill him. Things like genocide, forced sterilization, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of free speech - none of the fascist playbook is in him.  He uses a few of the "tools" of fascists, street violence, terror, vigilantism, but the core of fascist doctrine is absent.

Where does that take me in my re-imagining of Batman?  First, a little story about FDR.  He grew up in the progressive tradition of the Roosevelt household.  Teddy, the first progressive president, was a cousin.  But he was still a rich kid.  Teddy's sojourn out west tamed him of some of the nastier habits of mind the rich are prone to, but nothing like that happened to FDR...until the polio struck.  Several of his biographers credit his paralysis, the many hours spent in hospital wards and spas with fellow sufferers from the lower classes, as being the defining moments of his life.  After, he was different.  Nothing in Wayne's life compares.  "He lost his parents to violence!" you shout.  He was still rich after that, protected by his wealth, kept safe by it, humored by it.  What he does with his grief, his anger, he acts out a rich boy's fantasy of revenge.  He surrounds himself with fabulous martial toys in what is essentially the basement of his parents' house, cared for by a butler.  There is very little in classic Batman to suggest the mental transformation that took place in FDR's mind, Teddy's mind, or Thomas Garrett (Who? The action hero of the Underground Railroad.), or any number of people.  My favorite transformation took place inside the head of Stanley Hollis.  This kind man was a dispatch rider for the British Army in World War II.  Not especially interested in combat, I gather, until he stumbled across the bodies of French villagers massacred by Germans.  After seeing that, he became a hunter of men, one of the elite killers of military history.

Nothing like that happens to Batman.  He becomes a rich man playing at revenge.  So let's transform him.

As I said before, my Bats was orphaned when his parents were killed in a robbery attempt at their little mom & pop convenience store.  Bruce is sent into the unkind hands of foster care. To escape that, he joins the Army at seventeen and is sent to Afghanistan.  Alfred isn't an older guy in my version, he's a young SAS commando who saves Bruce's life.  After Bruce's enlistment is up, he heads over to London to camp out in Alfy's flat.  The two get up to a great deal of trouble, bar fights, women, booze - they end up working off the books for a repossession firm specializing in high-class merchandise.  Bruce and Alfy get into fights with British gangsters, drug dealers, financiers, members of the upper class, all in the line of duty, repossessing expensive cars, jewelry.  A very expensive repossession job takes them back to Gotham, Bruce's old home town.  During the attempt, Bruce meets Selina Kyle.

"What's with the cat costume?"

"I like costumes.  I like cats.  It's the perfect combination.  You don't like cats?"

"I like cats.  I like the women who like cats."

"You should wear a costume."

"Any suggestions?"

"You like the night..."

"'I am the night.'"

"Why not a bat?  It rhymes with cat."

Alfy likes Gotham.  Bruce likes Catwoman.  They decide to stay.  Many adventures ensue.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

The fun of formatting

That's what comes next, formatting the text file of Contravallation after I load it into Word.  There are some nifty little tricks using search and replace if you write in a text editor but edit for kindle publication in Word.  First, you can edit out the extra spaces by doing a global S&R for the number of spaces your text editor uses instead of tabs.  Next, if you learned typing old school, you'll need to edit out the extra space after the end of a sentence.  Same approach for that.

Second, set up the rough structure of the document: title page, copyright page, and table of contents.  You can add the bookmarks and hyperlinks later if you want, but it increases the speed of the task by adding them to the chapters as you go.

Third, begin pasting in the chapters.  This is straightforward.  It helps if you have the Windows shortcut keys memorized, like shift-ctrl-end, ctrl-a, ctrl-c, and ctrl v.  If you use dashes, you might want to replace the short (-) for the long em dash.  You can do so using S&R.

What your paragraphs look like depends a little on where you are publishing it.  Usually you want a short paragraph indent and justification.  I like the look of 1.2 spacing in finished kindle books.  Set up the chapter headings, then format the text.

Now, do that a bunch of times for a 190,000 word novel.

I might say that perhaps long novels as self-published kindle books may not be the best, at least for a short-term response from your readers.  Short novels might be the way to go.  We'll see how Causality and Contravallation do over the next six months.

That's all for tonight.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Not much tonight

I finished my "phase one" revisions of Contravallation.  I submitted a chapter from Suzie's Technical Support in a query letter to an agent. I played with the cat. I exercised.  I may work on a short story for a few minutes.  Then it's a midnight snack for me and bed.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 29, 2013

More on Batman reimagined and Essa's pricing

First up, Essa.  iTunes has it at its new price, but kobo and B&N have it for free, so does Amazon.  It will take a few days for the price change to work its way through the internet and Amazon's price-matching software.

Now to the new and improved Batman of my imagination.  I originally toyed with the idea of making Bruce's uncle rich.  Out of guilt for throwing the kid into foster care after Bruce's parents died, he gives his fortune to Bruce, who splits it with Alfred and the two of them decide on a vigilante life.  But that defeats the fun of keeping them...if not least not rich.

The fun of not being rich?  Sure!  Think of all the complications if Batman doesn't have his rich-boy toys, if he had to make everything himself, repair everything himself.  I'm inspired in this by the Spider-Man of the late sixties through the eighties.  He had to make everything himself, sew up his costume, make his web shooters, the goo for the shooters - he was the ultimate in self-sufficient superheroes.  Hard to work up sympathy for Bats when he needs a new toy.  By making Bruce poor, and maybe a bit of a shady character - Catwoman is his girlfriend, after all - it increases interest in the character, the fun of Batman.

Another benefit to this, Batman's devices break, we expect them to break.  He has to rely on his wits and his friends more, which means more interactions.  They're always short on money, too.  This leads to some nice criminal fun, wherein Bruce, Selina, and Alfred teach us just what they will do and what they won't.  They're still heroes, of course, just the kind who let the rich and the criminals finance their war on crime.  Also maybe a little Robin Hood mixed in.

All of this is of course merely an intellectual exercise, since no way would DC let me anywhere near the Batman franchise in real life.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Essa now has a price: $1.99

After giving away about 2,500 copies of Essa, I decided that now is the time to start charging.  Other price and availability changes are in the works for the new year, but for now, $1.99, available everywhere.

In the new year, I'll raise the price to $2.99 and make Essa a kindle exclusive.  Why?  Of those 2,500 free copies, 2,000 of them were from  That's where the readers are.  I can do them favors with Kindle Select books that I can't with widely distributed books.  For one, I can offer routine bargains and even free book days.  Can't do that elsewhere.  Yeah, I'll lose the three reviews I have at smashwords and the one review I have at B&N, but I have 24 reviews at Amazon, with a average 5-star rating.  That's where the readers want me, that's where I'll be.

More later today, maybe.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Musings on Thanksgiving eve - Batman reimagined

I'd love to put some real edge back into the Batman storyline, especially Bruce Wayne's back story.  I can't be the only one bored to death with the poor-little-rich-kid meme at the heart of Wayne's saga.  Why does he have to be rich?  Why does Alfred have to be his butler?  Why does Alfred have to be old?

Keep the tragedy.  Wayne loses his parents, shot during a hold-up of their little mom-and-pop convenience store.  Young Bruce is sent off to a hell of foster care, until he escapes by joining the U.S. Army - little known fact, you can join at seventeen.

But he needs Alfred.  He meets Alfred in Afghanistan, when a member of an elite SAS unit saves the young soldier's life.  They form a strong friendship.  After his tour is up, Bruce ends up in Alfred's flat in London, where they carouse at bars and generally get into fights for no apparent reason.

Haven't worked out just why Alfred and Bruce end up back in Gotham, but I do know a little bit of their life after they arrive.  One, somebody asks Alfred what his job is, he replies, "See that young gentleman over there, I'm his butler."  Said as a joke, but it sticks.  Two, Selina Kyle is Bruce's girlfriend.  That's right, in my version, Batman and Catwoman hook up.  She lives with him, sharing a bedroom in the apartment he rents with Alfred.  Three, they do good things, fight street crime, bust the heads of "supervillains," but they are definitely NOT good guys.  For one, they're thieves, preying on the rich and the criminal class.

That has edge.  I don't expect anyone to ever dare to do something this transformative with the Batman mythos, but it would be nice.  A guy can dream.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

After Contravallation, then what?

I'm at a bit of a loss about which project to pursue next.  Here's a list of probables.

Rewire.  This is a novel I wrote a couple years ago.  It's in need of serious revision. Rewire could be described as a "near-future science fiction love story crime novel."  There are no gun battles or fire fights, there's a lot of neuroscience included, and when I say "love story" I mean "love story."

Suzie's Technical Support.  This is a straight-up crime novel, with aspects of hardboiled fiction, featuring my favorite crazy woman with a gun, Suzie.  The rough draft has been written, just needs a few weeks worth of revisions.

Polya.  This is a fantasy novel, with somewhat the same texture as Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories. That is, a dark, mean-spirited world in which a slave girl named Polya finds a way to game the system to achieve her freedom.

A Pawn's Life. This is another fantasy novel, involving a boy who becomes a pawn in the supernatural battles between magicians.  It's about as far from Tolkien as one could get.

The Anmang.  This is a science fiction novel featuring the struggles of the last of the Anmang clan, outlawed, on the run throughout the solar system in the distant future.

I'll probably - maybe! - finish up with Suzie and Rewire, then write Polya.  I might write another crime novel.  Haven't made up my mind.  If my In the Realm of the Gods books have some success, I'll write Rust.  If not, who knows at this point?

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The fun of revision, part 2

Yet more snippets from Contravallation.  If I seem obsessed with this work...well...I get that way during the final revision process.

       "Touma's almost here," Makvosh told Inabat.  They had stopped on the next level down to peer into the a endless set of corridors.  Makvosh was uncomfortable leaving the ramp.  What they could see from the light of their flashlights was enough to take his breath away.  It was heaven, or maybe hell depending on the interpretation, heaven for a miltech junkie like Makvosh.  Endless lines of combat exoarmor suits stood ready for soldiers who would never come, they faded back into darkness.
       "Someone was preparing for war."
       "I wonder who the dead god wanted to fight."  Inabat turned to greet the big dark-skinned man.  "Hello, Touma.  What is all this?" he asked the big man.
       Touma pointed out bent-back-legged exoarmor shells that did not seem to have room for a human body.  "Those are hoplite power armors, combat cyborg bodies."
       The further down they went, the more worrisome things became.  Dense, hardened power-armor suits stood in long rows....they were not of godly manufacture.  Makvosh called up a weapons database on his datacuff and ran the search images through his database.  A chill went through his body.  "Be careful here, Touma.  These are Humanality weapons.  I have no knowledge of them."  Makvosh reached out a hand to grasp Inabat by the arm.  He prevented the boy from following after Touma.
       Touma could not help his feet, they moved him down turning stone corridors lined with the terrible weapons of the ancient nonbelievers.  Devices, guns, launchers, rifles of unknown capability -  they were on shelves, stacked in protective polymer bags, lined up in endless rows, seemingly ready to be picked up at any moment, ready to be used.  Multi-armed power-armor shells, deactivated killing machines of uncountable barrels like hedgehogs made of cannons, combat robots with guns for heads, clear-sided canisters holding spherical spiked attack drones, long rifles with metal legs, and more guns than he had ever seen before - pistols, rifles, shoulder-fired manpack weapons of unknown function, finned things, rifles with lenses instead of barrels, and deeply black shapes that absorbed all the light his flashlight put on them....the tools of those so talented at the art of war, they defeated gods.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The fun of revision, part 1

It really is fun, especially for a very large novel.  I finished it months ago, so in reading parts of it I have embarked on a voyage of discovery.  I kinda forgot exactly what was in the thing.

Here's a little snippet from chapter twelve.

       "We're after snowcones," Nineteen said.  This time Wan shoved him for interrupting Tensile.
       "What's a snowcone?"  The skinny one asked.
       [[You started this, you explain,]] Tensile 'phoned Nineteen.
       "Literally?"  Nineteen replied.  "It's a sweet winter treat, a food.  But I was using it as a metaphor for the - "
       "What kinda treat?" the big one asked.  "You got any?"
       "Ah, no," Lesech said.  The big one did eat a lot, the contents of two food packets so far.  "It's - "
       "Is it something from Urbesh?"
       "Who knows?"  Nineteen said.  "I'll tell you what it is if you shut your mouth for a second."
       "What's a 'metaphor'?" the skinny one asked.
       [[-=sigh=-]] Nineteen 'phoned the pictogram for exasperation to the rest of the Hana present.  "First things first.  A snowcone is literally a treat made from snow, which is formed into a ball and sprinkled with sugar or flavored syrup."
       "What's 'snow'?"
       Tensile was sick of it.  "It's a type of frozen water that falls from the sky in cold weather.  You don't have it around here.  And snowcones aren't usually made from snow, but shaved ice."
       "What's 'ice'?" the tall one asked.
       The skinny one turned around to look at his buddy.  "You know ice, from before.  Frozen water.  Didn't you ever have iced drinks when you were a kid?"
       The tall one shook his head.  "I was too young when I was taken.  I can't remember it."
       The skinny leader smiled at his friend.  "It's not important."  He turned around to look at Nineteen.  "What's a 'metaphor'?"
       "It's where you imply one thing by using another word for it.  I was referring to preserved corpses.  We have briefing reports on this planet from people who were here long ago.  The best stuff's always lying around those frozen corpses.  Also, medlabs on developed worlds will pay for ancient corpses, especially the ones in those clear capsules."
       "Don't let the Urbeshi catch you with any, you'll go to their prison.  They forbid the trade in corpses."
       "Yeah, we know that.  We figured guys with a severed head on their APC wouldn't be as particular."
       The scavengers all laughed.  The one further back in the shadow of the ancient overpass heard the laughter.  "What's so funny?"  He shouted at them.  "What'd I miss?"

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

At least they're online now

Magazines mostly take online submissions...correct that...some of them do.  Each magazine's site has different rules.  Gotta upload it as a rtf file, a doc file, a pdf file, or as a text file.  No standards.  In the old days, there were simple rules for producing a manuscript that everyone respected.  Editors online will even require one font over another, or ask the writer to convert the work into an e-reader format.

Gotta put up with it.  I make it sound like a great burden when it's only a mild annoyance.  After the first few times, it becomes easy to do.

One thing I miss from the old days - I say old days, I mean fifteen years ago - they always told you if they rejected your story.  Now, silence.  A few will send a canned email response.

But a few things stay the same.  The short story is still a dying art form.  You'll be paid by the magazines at the same rate Harlan Ellison was paid in the 1960s.  So it's a joke.  Write short stories for yourself, for fun, not for any commercial purpose.

The Dilemma of Cover Art

I always listen to my readers.  One of them put up a couple reviews of my work just today.  She liked the books - five stars - but she questioned whether I made the right choice in cover art.  She thought perhaps something a little more "old school" might work better.

I don't know.  I like Marc and his work.  Like me, he's a big fan of Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel AlitaAlita isn't exactly bleeding-edge, she's been around since 1990.  Holy crap, if someone had been born at the same time as Alita, he'd be out of college by now.  But my reader does have a point.  Should I, at some point, move Marc's work completely inside the books and commission more...conventional cover art?

I don't know.  Her's isn't the first criticism of the "comicbookish" appearance of the covers.  Another fan mentioned the same thing.  At some point after Contravallation is released, I'll either have to perform an experiment or two...or poll my readers.  This isn't like Marc and I won't ever work together again, we've discussed doing a graphic novel.   Even if I do change covers - big if - Marc's work will still be on the inside.

We'll see, still don't know what I'll do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How can anyone be certain of anything?

I'm serious.  If one were to view theology and religion as faith-based subsets of cosmology, and looking at cosmology through the lens of relativity, string theory, and quantum mechanics, just how could anyone claim to know the answer to any of the BIG QUESTIONS of human existence?

Take the existence or non-existence of deities.  Given that deities may not exist now, who's to say they won't someday exist?  If they are brought into existence in the future, might they immediately become transfinite and exist in all time frames, past, present, and future?  This idea of creating gods is something I've been exploring in my In the Realm of the Gods series.  What might not exist now might exist in the future.  If it is properly configured, once it begins to exist in the future, it will then exist now.

You think that's weird?  We know about relativity.  It's been tested in astronomical observations and in particle accelerators.  This is something we understand, so we KNOW that, if one stood in a certain location in this galaxy - there are actually several of them - that person would effectively live forever.

That's a known phenomenon.  Humanity currently does not have a clue about what makes up the bulk of the universe.  We know dark matter exists, we can see its gravitational effects, but what is it?  Fairy dust?  Who knows?  Same with dark energy.  We can see that the expansion of the universe is slowly accelerating. Why?  Who knows?

We can't even be certain of how many dimensions the universe contains, four, eight, eleven, fourteen?

The small bits of the reality are constructed in a way that precludes certain knowledge about where particles are, how fast they might be going, or even if they currently exist.  It gets even worse when we think about electron tunneling or quantum entanglement.

How about time?  Just why does time go in only one direction?  Is this an illusion?

Too many questions, not enough answers.  What's wrong with embracing that instead of certainty? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fun Facts About Memory

Memory is tricky.  For one, there are multiple types of human memory, not just one.  Some of these are the same things, just defined differently: short-term memory, working memory, sensory memory, long-term memory, episodic or narrative memory, traumatic memory, declarative memory, and procedural memory.  Memories are stored differently depending on what they are.  Procedural or implicit memory is stored one place, narrative memory stored in multiple locations, working memory in another place, and traumatic memory is kept in yet another location in the brain.

I'm reminded of my Headstart computer.  It had a unique motherboard, designed to be easily upgradable by jacking new modules into it.  The basic model was a 286.  Jack in a module, it became a 386SX. Jack in another module, it became a 386DX.  Swap the 386 module out for a 486DX. The maximum RAM could be exceeded by inserting yet another module.  But it didn't stop there, because it also had the usual expansion slots.  Add a network card, add a modem card, add even more memory.  Once everything was upgraded, it wasn't the fastest machine on the block.  Everything was on a separate part of the motherboard, so the bus had to work overtime, which chopped into the system's overall efficiency and speed.  But it worked, and it could work from the start, just like our brains.

I suspect this is the reason why we have so many different types of memory in so many different locations of the brain.  Our brains couldn't lie around waiting to evolve into what we have now, they had to function in the meantime.  We're so redundant inside our heads, a teenager can lose half of her brain and eventually return to full functionality.  Doesn't work so well after about twenty, the brain's decided on what it wants to look like by then.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Intermittent Thoughts on Writing 1

Everyone thinks they can write. Depends on the meaning put to the word "write." Any literate person can put two words together or explain a problem, expound on a solution, or describe something.  But that is not what's usually meant.  What people who speak about writing mean is this: writer == author.

Much more difficult to do.  Because author == I F Stone, Steven King, George RR Martine, etc.  They are not referring to a memoirist or an historian, both occasionally very hard jobs.

So we've narrowed the discussion.  writer == fictionalist.  Everyone thinks they can do it.  Everyone can hold a wrench, too.  That's the least part of being a master mechanic.

Part of the problem with this societal hallucination, it's fed by writers themselves.  Look over any reference section in a bookstore and dozens - if not hundreds in a well-stocked store - of books on writing pop out of the shelves.  I've bought them.  You have, too.  Be honest, you have.

What have I learned from these books?  What does anyone learn from these books, besides certain basics involving language use and a few hints on plot and characterization?  How to write like the author who wrote the book.  Read Steven King's book on writing and learn to write JUST LIKE KING. Read Bradbury's book on writing, a nice one it is, too, but once again, it will teach you how to be Bradbury.  Syd Field's books on to be Syd Field.  Buy Save the Cat, learn to be Blake Snyder.

A novice can pick up meaningful advice in these books.  They aren't useless, only of limited worth.  How does one become a creative writer, a fictionalist?  How does one become a good computer programmer?  Through study and practice.  That's it.  Study and practice.  No secret handshakes, no deals with the devil, and no unique knowledge.  Study fiction, read and read and read.  Work at reading.  Write, and then write some more, then write even more.  But work isn't enough.  Banging away at a range all day ain't gonna turn you into Carlos Hathcock.  Hathcock was trained to shoot and embraced his training - internalizing it.  The writer must do the same.  Self-criticism is the best tool a writer has.  When combined with study and work, it is an unbeatable combination.  Being well-read, the good writer will intuitively compare his work to the masters, judge it, and make corrections during the writing process.

Lastly, for today anyway, the good writer realizes he is human, prone to error.  No one can be perfect.  Try to correct one's faults, but be prepared for the occasional failure.  Remember, Shakespeare wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again as each of his plays was staged.  He saw what worked and what didn't, accepted the failure and corrected it.

Not that I know anything about anything, just my opinion on the matter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ghost towns and ancient Greek Gods

Albuquerque is quickly turning into a ghost town, at least my part of it.  As quiet as a night alone on the high plains.  The university has of course closed up for the duration.  My complex resembles the abandoned buildings in Half Life 2.  Creepy.

For a reason known only to my subconscious mind, today was a day for the Greek gods.  First came Hephaestus, the blacksmith god.  Athena was next, gray-eyed, friend of humanity, who gave us jury trials and human rights. Hygieia, who led me to her father, the man-who-became-a-god named Asclepius.  Lastly, though immortal and as powerful as a god, yet not a god, Prometheus, the Titan who gave humanity fire...and according to some myths, the being who created human beings in the first place.

How this fits in with Thanksgiving, I have no idea.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yet more on Almost Human

It's "okay," but it will only every be just "okay." For one, no one involved in creating science fiction on a regular basis is involved in the show.  How do I know?  Ask yourself as you watch this show from week to week, "Why are they driving?"  If you can build a bot as sophisticated as the ones in the show, why can't the cars drive themselves?  It's all right to have them driving occasionally, or handle it the way the Ghost in the Shell series handled it, by making a comment whenever someone went manual in their vehicles...I, Robot handled this aspect very well (the movie, I mean - and yes, I've read the original stories, I can remember doing so as a child).  It's a cop show with a few mildly interesting curves thrown in.

Which then brings us to the influx of bad ebooks.  Smashwords is finely bollixed up by an infinity of ebook authors trying to "cash in" on the self-publishing craze.  The "premium status" requires a review...apparently the rush has screwed up their system.  What took a couple of days is now into weeks.  I'm not troubled.  The hobbyists, the quick-buck people will come and go, most of them without a whimper.  I play a long game.  This is true even of my ebook releases.  I try to put in the time and effort to produce quality product.  What I care about, the success I seek, is six months to a year downrange.  There is no fast money in writing.

Just a reminder:

You'd better get Essa now, after I release Contravallation, Essa won't be free any more.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Phase Two is done

Last night, I deployed - tired of "uploaded" - the revised version of Essa containing the Causality chapter.  I should also say that Causality already contains sample chapters from Essa and the forthcoming Contravallation, just as Contravallation will have sample chapters from Essa and Causality, thus tying everything together in the mind of the reader.  Any short stories I give away or sell will have the same.  It's a series, this is necessary to stress that.

Essa definitely has over 2000 readers now.  I finally was able to get the activity logs from my web site and the various ebook venues to cooperate.  It's confirmed, we're over that mark.  Not to be pushy about it, but these 2000+ readers need to buy Causality.  Partly because I need the money, but also because...if they liked Essa, they are going to flip over Causality.

Not rest for the wicked, I need to complete my revision of a story tonight.  I'd like to submit it to a magazine tomorrow.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Phase Two starting soon

I have an updated version of Essa I will be uploading later today or tomorrow. It will contain a sample chapter from Causality. Hopefully as the update promulgates through the devices of my readers, they will become more aware of Causality. Of course, these aren't the only stories from the Realm of the GodsContravallation is the next big novel - it's already done, awaiting revision and cover art. There are short stories, too. I have to remember to insert sample chapters in them as well.

Work, work, work, work!  Oh, and I also have a bunch of short stories out at magazines - the old-school way of getting published.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'll be glad when this health care debate goes away.  Please understand, I want everyone to have good health care, but me, I've lived most of my life blissfully unconcerned about my health...until now. I'm dreading my coming access to health care. What might they find? Am I doomed? I don't feel sick, other than the cold I'm getting over. Up until the cold, I exercised over an hour a day. I was losing weight. My blood pressure is down to around 125/78. I don't have night sweats. My appetite is good. I eat healthy. I feel...fine.  Ah, but the unknown, it's creeping me out.

My revision of Contravallation is going at a good pace. If Marc can come up with the cover art as scheduled, I think I might have a nice December gift to my fans.

Have you bought your copy of Causality yet?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

     I guess I'm not done with blogs.  I can feed this blog into my author page on, which makes this somewhat more useful than I had previously thought.  Here is the link:

To anyone reading this outside of my author page, here are the links to my novels:

That's it for today.