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.