Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

So what did I accomplish this year? It sure feels like it wasn't very much, but here are some milestones.

1. Thirteen short fiction works were published in some form during 2009.
2. My first stand-alone book, "Winter," was published by Sam's Dot Publishing, featuring my novelette Winter and a reprint of the IGMS story The Adjoa Gambit.
3. I guest-edited M-Brane SF issue #12, which was released as a collection called Ergospehere in trade paperback
4. I sold my second SFWA-qualifying story, Catalyst, to Flash Fiction Online.
5. I won NaNoWriMo on my first attempt, completing 52,000 words in 30 days.
6. I had my first audio fiction publication, Black Orchid.
7. I learned that Thrice Around the Moon and then Home, James will be included in Wondrous Web Worlds Volume 9.
8. I moderated my first (second, and third) panels at FiestaCon this past summer.
9. I completed several video projects.

So overall, I suppose it isn't a bad year, even if much of the actual writing did not occur in 2009.

I wonder what 2010 will bring? I won't have to wait long to see. It's 10:58PM on New Years Eve...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Still Staggering

I'm still on the mend from the cold I inherited. Nose is crunchy from all the runny nose activity but it's healing. I'm using the holidays to catch up on all the things that get lost in the shuffle during busy periods, things like balancing the checkbook. As the one year anniversary of the layoff looms in the not-too-distant future, I'll be managing the finances a lot more closely.

On the brighter side, Wisconsin went to Florida to play the Miami Hurricanes and basically had their way with them. Miami looked good on their first possession, but the cold *giggle* weather got to them. For Wisconsin, it felt like spring, and their offense played well passing and running the ball.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Staggering Back to Life

Over the past several days, I have been "enjoying" the cold my daughters brought home from school and gave me for Christmas. It's been a nasty headcold that I am now on the recovery end of. I feel pretty fortunate that it hasn't developed into a sinus infection (yet).

On the writing front, nothing much has happened. The loss of the computer derailed my momentum from NaNoWriMo, and now the whole family is home all day for the holidays, making it more difficult to slip away and spend quality time with a story. I have one partial that I have to finish within the next month, due for the M-Brane SF Aether Age anthology. Once I finish that, I want to finish the NaNo novel and get back on track. That should be easier as I get over this cold and stop feeling like I want to melt into the floor, with the cold weather the only thing preventing it.

//

The Cardinals got their tenth win yesterday, the first time in something like 35 years. they won, and the media is all over how they looked back in sync and played well. I disagree. The passing game looked a bit better, but the play was still sloppy. They should have wiped the mat with the Rams the way Green Bay did with Seattle. The Rams were still in the game until deep into the 4th quarter. They contained Beanie Wells, who also nearly fumbled once. Hightower looked like the ineffective running back from a few years ago, and there are very few passing plays with yards after the catch. That last item has been an issue all season.

The Cardinals still have an outside shot at the first round bye, but I doubt that we'll see the Bears beat the Vikings tonight. A Vikings loss still means the Cardinals need both the Eagles and the Vikings to lose in week 17. That combination is about as likely as a pool umbrella staying put in a dust storm.

So, we'll know by tomorrow, but I suspect we'll not see a lot of Warner or Rodgers when the Packers come to town to play the Cardinals. And probably, the Packers will just stay in town after that game since they'll likely be playing the Cardinals in round one of the playoffs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DVD Project Done

Last post was thursday not because I forgot to post, but because I have been very busy with playing catch-up after getting back my computer. I was busy finishing a video called Edel's Choice for my client, Carrick Ministries, and trying to meet their deadline despite the computer problems. I made it, just barely.

It was a tough job to work on because of the extremely emotional content of the video. A young woman who was drugged and raped goes public, giving her full story from the night it happened through the anguish she suffered, and finally to the birth of the child that resulted and her decision to keep the baby.

Obviously the clients have a pro-life message in the video. That is entirely the reason they wanted to make the video. But whatever your own opinion on the pro-choice / pro-life debate happens to be, you can't help but be touched by Edel's story.

If you want learn more about this young woman, a local news station followed her through much of the pregnancy and beyond. The video below is from that television station's news story, and it runs about five minutes. It's worth watching, if for no other reason than to appreciate the impact that rape can have on a woman's life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coming Back to Life

Due to the fact that I have lost 16 days I could have used to complete a video project, I spent the entire day today trying to get the job done. I am pretty much finished with the linear part. All that remains is to add the menu and associated tagging, then cut the proof disk. The project is a very emotional one for the client, and I'll be happy to finally call it a wrap.

My plans for the rest of the year, once that video work is done, is to add a crossword puzzle page to my web site. I have several puzzles that for one or more reasons can't be sold. I might as well let people enjoy them rather than let them collect digital dust on my hard drive. These won't be lame crossword puzzles like your third grade teacher made. I make real daily-sized crosswords that follow the guidelines for publication in the New York Times, the LA Times, and so forth. If people find them interesting, I'll try to post new ones regularly.

I also need to get back on the writing horse. I intended to take a day or two break from the novel to finish the above-mentioned video project. I lost both when the computer went down. Now the momentum is lost, too. Sigh.

The other main project will be painting some of the interior walls of the house.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breaking News...

The computer is home. There was some difficulty with the new video card, but I opened the box and re-seated it, then everything worked just fine. I have a lot of software to reinstall, and that's going to be some work. (I'm still working on the laptop for the time being.) The good news is that my NaNoWriMo novel survived. Backing it up was the very first thing I did. The report says they found 118 viruses on the computer. I wonder why Norton never found any of those, or was my crossword puzzle construction software considered a virus? Maybe firefox was a virus, too. At any rate, it's good to have it home again. I have a video project that is nearly late now, that will be my priority thursday.

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 16

Still no word on the status of the computer. I did not hear from Data Doctors at all yesterday. There are some impending deadlines that will be missed if I don't have the machine back today or tomorrow. Even with it back today, the video deadline will be very tough to make.

In other problems, the pool pump backwash valve manifold has a crack, and that needs immediate replacement. The service guy is coming this afternoon a few hours after I finish giving my last final (Brief Calculus, let the bleeding begin). They charge an obscene amount, something like 60 bucks for the first half hour and 30 every 15 minutes afterwards. Maybe I should go into business fixing pool pumps.

Russell is on the bus heading for a Tombstone, AZ. The 7th grade social studies students get a trip there every year. It's about a 3 hour trip each way, so they had to be on the bus by 5:15 this morning. That meant getting up about 3 hours ago. The sun is only now starting to rise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 15

Day 15 of the computer crisis. Still running on the old laptop.

I stopped by the place yesterday because I was driving past, and they were struggling with the operating system. Needed the key, they said, and the sticker isn't on the computer side panel. Well, of course not. I built the system myself and I put the sticker on the back. He didn't look there.

He got the OS validated and I sit here waiting to hear on the status again. Waiting. Waiting.

In other news, the Cardinals really beat themselves up last night. Monday Night Football has never been very kind to the Cards, and this week was no exception. 7 turn-overs. It's a testament to the team that they were only beaten by 15 points. Imagine the score if they had turned the ball over 7 times against the Vikings.

Hopefully, they got it all out of their systems and can make Detroit pay. Of course, everyone makes Detroit pay... The Larry Fitzgerald injury was the most frightening part of the game. Thankfully, he played in the 4th quarter. Of more concern is the injury to Neil Rackers. He is one of the best kickers in the NFL and without him, the Cardinals are going to be hurting bad.

Ugly ugly loss.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 13

Day 13 without the desktop computer. Data Doctors is closed on Sundays, of course, but then I'm usually distracted by football on sundays. Packers have the early game and Cardinals have the Monday night game. Russell's Chargers are on the afternoon game, but he's camping right now.

Anyway, there has been a lot of noise lately on whether semi-pro magazines are worthwhile for new writers to be published in. The issue started when SF writer John Scalzi hammered on a publisher called Black Matrix.

Scalzi has some salient points, which I won't rehash here. That's been done to death elsewhere on the blogosphere. That said, his point about aiming high is truly good advice. Yes, my first two published pieces of fiction were to a 4TL (For-The-Love) market. That happened due to a combination of ignorance and inexperience.

The first story I ever sold was to a small online market, and the one after that, too. Slowly I learned to start submitting to the big markets first, but it was a difficult lesson. With big markets often come form rejections. It's one of the phases of growth as a writer. But then, suddenly I was accepted at a major market, Intergalactic Medicine Show. And you know what? That was the very first market I sent that story to.

What a confidence builder. Since that sale, which pretty much solidified my confidence, I wrote a lot of stories, and I sent those stories to a lot of markets. Most of them drifted from the top down to the market where they finally sold.

The interesting thing is that I both agree and disagree with Scalzi. Some of the stories I've sold were to minor markets, but they were markets I sent the story to on purpose. Sometimes, it's because I have a friend who is the editor and I send a story to the market before it really should go there to give the friend some decent material. And it doesn't always sell there. Other times, I hear of a new market and I like to help bring fledgling markets into being. I don't always sell there either.

I don't mind the semi-pro zines because I have a lot of older material that has already seen the appropriate pro markets and most of these are such that I don't really want to revisit the story. And that's okay. I have made new friends and gained some followers with my semi-pro sales. M-Brane SF in particular has been a very fruitful relationship that started when my story "Road Rage" appeared in issue #1. M-Brane SF was the 24th market I sent this story, starting with F&SF, Analog, Asimov's and Jim Baen's Universe.

I got a lot of feedback over the course of those 24 submissions, much of it negative. Yet, I persevered because I disagreed with the comments, and because I wrote the story, I get to be the one who says the story is right. Christopher Fletcher agreed with me about the story and bought it. He also bought several more, and I got the chance to edit next month's issue for him. Dividends paid? I'm satisfied with the results.

With all that said, there does come a certain level where I won't submit a story anymore. Instead, I put the story away and wait for a new opportunity. That's especially true of my newer work. But then, we all learn as we go. I feel my unpublished work is more valuable today because of the track record I have built up. Regular sales do say something about consistency. Somebody was willing to pay for that work and for me, at least, it makes me aim for the next level.

And yes, sometimes the temptation is great, the temptation of sending a story to a sure thing market. But that's the hardest part of getting better, leaving your comfort zone. There are certain markets that for me are virtually can't miss. That doesn't make submitting there wrong, it just makes submitting there first wrong. Until that can't miss market becomes one of the big three, there is always something higher to shoot for. Aiming low is just cheating yourself. Aiming high and hitting low is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you aim high with next one, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 12

Went over to Fry's Electronics last night and picked up a new video card, an GE Force 9600 GSO. I took the opportunity to double the RAM up to 1 gig, so it shouldn't be all bad. XMX should be sending me a replacement for the 9500 that burned up. Not sure what I will do with it yet.

Finally cleaned all the leaves from Monday's story out of the pool pump. But, the backwash valve was tight and extremely difficult to move. I removed it to apply some silicone grease and discovered a damaged o-ring. I don't like to make due with o-rings. Remember, bad o-rings killed the Space Shuttle Challenger.

I dropped the boy off for his scout camping trip earlier this morning, and now I'm off to Corson's Pool Supply. They have an ugly store full of components and parts, not like Leslies that is prettied up with pool toys and other crap. Corson's may not look pretty, but they carry pretty much EVERYTHING and I have never had to order anything, it's always in stock. It's worth the trip, een if it's good 30-mile round trip. I shall buy more than one o-ring.

Then, it's off to give the new video card to the tech.

I did manage to put in 250 words toward a new short story for M-Brane SF's Aether Age anthology project. More about that another time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Still Limping

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 11.

Desktop PC still at the shop. found traces of viruses on the bootable drive, but I do scan regularly and with the situation of how I experienced the crash, I think a virus is not likely the cause. More likely the boot sector was corrupted by the abnormal shut down.

Data Doctors has been charged with the recovery task, something I'm starting to wish I had just taken on my self to do. Got a call from them this afternoon. My video card, which was working just fine before the crash, apparently was smoking when they tried to start up the system. It does look like some serious electrical overstress on the package of one of the power MOSFETs resident on the board. Having worked in the industry, I can recognize some of these things. The question I can't answer is how it happened. The component is in the middle of the board and it would have needed some serious current to damage the package and not just the silicon inside.

In any event, now I have some new questions. Did the video card cause the whole flap? Did the people supposedly fixing the problem damage the board? I have no reason to believe that, but there is always that doubt.

I did buy a new 500 gig hard drive to transfer the contents of the old one with bad sectors. The majority of my data should be salvaged. And, the good news is that I got some of my more urgent files off the image--grades for the classes I'm teaching, my web site offline directory, my Cactus Wren contracts, and other assorted items. The one thing I didn't find yet was my shared drive which held my NaNoWriMo novel's 5200 words, my customized David Gerrold spreadsheet, and the most up-to-date copy of my short ficiton tracking spreadsheet. Don't leave anything in a shared folder. Share the whole hard drive so you can see where your files live.

Getting back to viruses, I exchanged some emails with Jerry Pournelle, who is always up to date on all the PC goings on. He used to write a column in Byte magazine back in the day. Anyway, one perk of belonging to SFWA and hanging out in the lounge on sff.net is that a guy like that might actually recognize my name. Jerry and I have had occasional discussions on sff.net, including one on scouting.

I asked Jerry for his recommendation and he says that anymore, he only uses Microsoft Security Essentials. Which, I should point out, is free so long as you own a legitimate copy of Windows. Since I am very unhapy with Norton and with McAfee, I decided to give MSE a shot. So far so good. Cleaned 3 trojans off the computer the kids use attached to some of my daughter's mp3 music files.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Limping Along

The perils of not backing up are rearing their ugly head. My main computer crashed on tuesday while I was working some video. It left the computer utterly unbootable.

Last update, the computer was at Data Doctors having the 500Gig hard drive imaged. They report there are numerous bad sectors on that drive. That data is the utmost importance, holding family photos, all my video, and other files that are too large to backup to anything but another hard drive. It's something that I had been intending to do, but never got around to doing while I'm out of full time work.

Also on that disk is all my writing, most of which is backed up on a flash drive and several iterations of CD-ROM disks. The main file that isn't backed up turns out to be the 52,000 words of my NaNoWriMo novel. If that file is lost, I doubt I'll ever return to the novel because I don't know if I'm jazzed enough about the story to start from scratch. There are other novels I prefer to write instead. If the data is still there, I'll probably finish the novel then set it aside for a while before editing and trying to sell it.

Right now, I'm limping along on my 5-year-old laptop computer and recovering some other files that were backed up by virtue of the sent folder in gmail, including my resume and a couple of crossword puzzle submissions to the LA Times.

So, while I'm thinking about it, what are my fiction plans for the upcoming year? As mentioned, assuming my NaNoWriMo novel partial survives the computer crash, I will finish that. There is the M-Brane SF Aether Age anthology, which I'd like to be in, and I suspect Christopher Fletcher would like to have something from me included. I want to write four short stories in 2010, and want to either win Writers of the Future, or disqualify myself with sales to pro markets. Either outcome will elevate my SFWA membership from associate to active. I'm one sale short of that right now. After that, I want to go back and finish Rigel Kentaurus, which I've been working toward finishing on and off for about 3 years.

Anyway, if I can recover the data I need from the disk image tomorrow, I will fell much better about everything, even if it means I lost all my NovyMirror masters. The video I'm working on for somebody else still has the masters on the camera. Starting from a frest OS and software install would not be the worst thing in the world since I intend to stay with XP until I buy a new laptop computer. But, I suspect I will buy several hard drives, including a large external drive for major backups.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

M-Brane SF #12 aka Ergosphere

As announced several months ago, I guest edited issue #12 of M-Brane SF. Christopher Fletcher has announced the table of contents and produced a cover image. He also announced that in addition to the usual pdf version of the magazine, he is issuing the collection of stories under the name Ergosphere as a print-on-demand trade paperback.





And here is the lineup of writers appearing in this issue:


Pretty Maids All in a Row Caren Gussoff
A Single Shot Lawrence M. Schoen
Hard for Us Michelle M. Welch
The Mushroom King Michael Canfield
Humans in the Zoo Paul Williams
Becoming Connie Thea Hucheson
After Babel Joe Pitkin
Generation Cleansing Michael Andre-Driussi
The Secret Names of Buildings Maura McHugh
Havana Augmented Tim Maughan


These are some very good stories, and I had a difficult time selecting the one to lead the collection. I ended up selecting Caren's story because hers would match the style of the artist best. The artist, by the way, is my niece, Hazel Abaya. She is a manga-influenced pencil artist, and this is her first published piece of art. Anyone interested in commissioning her for zine art can contact her through me until she gets her own web site.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Has Been So Negligent

Wow, suddenly a month goes by and I haven't posted. It's just like the old days when I was working for Yertle the Turtle.

Gosh, we have some news now. November was National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I wrote 52,000 words in November, which is about 60% of the novel. That makes me a NaNoWriMo Winner! (Cue the Dixieyland band.)



That's probably a good chunk of the reason for missing a month's worth of blog entries.

Well, so here's some good news. My first SFWA eligible sale in a long time went live today. The story is called "Catalyst" and can be seen here, in the online zine "Flash Fiction Online."

So that's the good news. The bad news is that my main computer, the server that ties all the wireless network together and also holds most of my work, died today while I was working on a video project for somebody. Timing was bad. My writing is all backed up...all but the NaNoWriMo novel, of course. The video is backed up on the camera, but in raw form. I need the cpu power of the desktop computer to be able to process it.

I do keep all my data on a slave hard drive so it's completely independent of the boot drive. I did that intentionally to to prevent a total catastrophe in case something like this happened. That strategy saved my data once already, about five years ago. The problem smells like something to do with the boot sector because the computer is in an infinite reboot loop. It won't even boot from the operating system CD.

I took the computer to Data Doctors this afternoon. They should be able to tell me what the smeg is going on. Hopefully it's something easily fixed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Black Orchid

The Theme and Variation audio anthology went live last week. My story went live today. You can hear it here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Theme and Variation

Here is the cover art for the Theme and Variation music-themed audio anthology. It contains my story Black Orchid. You can also listen to the promo, and hear the theme music composed and performed by Michelle M. Welch and Jack Mangan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baby Picture

Aren't they adorable? Baby rye grass shoots. Aw!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Signing

Here is a picture of me at Dog-Eared Pages book store in north Phoenix today. They held a local author signing and here I am sitting in front of a rack of Romance novels signing my science fiction.

Novy MIRror #8

Interview with Dani and Eytan Kollin, authors of "The Unincorporated Man."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Overseeding 2009

One of the tasks I have to do because I live in the desert is prepare the lawn for winter. We use Bermuda grass here in the summer because not many other grasses can handle the extreme heat with 4 months above 100 degrees, and as many as 15 days over 110 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Unfortunately, the Bermuda grass goes dormant when it gets (relatively) cold and it stays brown all winter. HOA obligates me to over-seed with rye grass every October. There is roughly a two week window to get the seeds planted after the last 100 degree day and have new grass by Halloween.

The first step is to scalp the lawn, meaning to mow it as close to the ground as possible. It helps if you stop watering the Bermuda grass a week or two ahead of time.




This year I ran over a sprinkler head and ruined it. That isn't normally one of the steps in over-seeding. In fact, when I mowed the first loop around the edge of the lawn I was wise enough to go around it. When I came back for the rest of the lawn, I was not. Thus, I have an additional job this year--replace sprinkler head.


This is what the lawn looks like scalped.




The old sprinkler head has to come out. Fortunately, I happened to have a replacement in the shed. Unfortunately, it did not have a nozzle and I am sans vehicle because it is in the shop for a brake job. Details.





Sprinkler head replaced, it's time to finish the over-seeding job. There are four items I put on the lawn this year. First, I sprinkled some Bermuda grass seeds where I had some troublesome bald patches this past summer. From past seeding jobs, I am confident it will germinate in the spring. Next, I sprinkle Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer (21-0-0) on the lawn. Finally, the rye grass seed goes down. All my seed this year is leftovers from previous years. The Home Depot and Lowes have guys from the seed companies come in to advise you. They'll tell you the seed from last year is not good. Horse-hockey. The newest bag of seed I'm using this year is a year old. Others are even older.



The green stuff is Bermuda seed. It's about the size of a poppy seed. Tiny. The white stuff is the fertilizer. You can't see the rye grass seed, it looks like you would expect grass seed to look like.



Finally, the entire lawn must be covered in steer manure. It helps to fertilize the lawn. It helps to keep the seeds wet. Most importantly, it covers the seeds so small aviators do not eat them. It also stinks when wet, which amuses the neighbors. But it's under a buck a bag. I have 14 cubic feet for my lawn.



Once the BS is spread around the lawn, you are ready for water.


And we're watering...we're watering. This is what my sprinkler head spray pattern looks like without a nozzle. But, the lawn has to be wet. I'll have a nozzle on by this evening. Once I have my truck back and can get to the store.




In two weeks I should have a lot of little tiny grass sprouts.

Lunar Impact

Cool video of the Lunar Impact mission.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Halloween Story

Every year, Codex Writers Group has a Halloween contest where all the participants give a story seed to another participant, then everyone goes off and writes a story based on the seed. I finished mine today with 2--count 'em--two days to spare.

The contest voting will start in a couple of days. Until the results are in, the title and story seed are top secret. Details when allowed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Think Something is Wrong With Me

The boy came into the home office earlier today asking for help finding a scientist to write a report on for science class.

Dad: What scientists do you know?
Lad: Albert Einstein.
Dad: Everybody's going to do Einstein. Why not pick somebody else?
Lad: Like Newton?
Dad: You could do Newton, but he's pretty common also.
Lad: I don't know any others.

I reached back into my physics days. Everything is named after somebody. First one to pop into my head was Faraday.

Dad: What about Michael Faraday?
Lad: Who's that?
Dad: Well, he studied magnetic fields.
Lad: Okay, I'll do Faraday.
Dad: Why don't we look at a few more then if you still want to do Faraday, you can.
Lad: Okay.

So I pulled up a few more names.

Dad: Enrico Fermi was a particle physicist.
Lad: Maybe. Who is the guy who invented the atomic bomb?
Dad: Robert Oppenheimer?
Lad: Yeah, he has a cool name.
Dad: He didn't invent the atomic bomb, he lead the project. The Manhattan Project.
Lad: What's that?
Dad: The project to build the atomic bomb.
Lad: Okay, I'll do him.
Dad: Or you could pick Richard Feynman. He also worked on the Manhattan Project and he's an interesting guy, too.
Lad: Okay, I'll pick one of those two guys. Mom said if I want to go swimming I have to go now.

I decided to pull a few more names while he was in the pool. Last weekend I bought a used copy of Asimov's Understanding Physics (three volumes in one book version) because I could use a refresher course. I know enough to understand what is obsolete, so why not? anyway, I started looking through the index and found all these names that brought back memories.

Max Planck, Neils Bohr, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis Pasteur, Linus Pauling, Henry Cavendish, Paul Dirac, Werner Heisenberg.

He came back inside and I told him a little about them. I performed the Cavendish experiment as a senior (an exercise in patience). I told him I met Werner Heisenberg's son Jochen Heisenberg, a very amicable man with some incredible stories about hiding out in the German Alps during World War Two.

The boy finally settled on Louis Pasteur, but the digging back through all those names started me remembering all kinds of memories and missing the old physics days. I actually miss h-bar.
I miss solving boundary value problems with Bessel Functions. I miss Taylor series expansions. I miss the dirac delta function. I miss Maxwell's equations.
What is wrong with me?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Theme and Variations Anthology

Michelle M. Welch, who is editing a music-themed spec fic audio anthology released the list of contributing authors early last week. I will be joined in this endeavor by:

Keyan Bowes
Ernest Hogan
Elaine Isaak
Lejon A. Johnson
Jack Mangan
Lon Prater
Caroline Rhodes
Michelle M. Welch

Of this list, I have only previously shared a table of contents with Jack Mangan. That would have been in the oddly numbered issue 0x09 of Neometropolis back in June of 2006. That's way at the bottom of my bibliography, for anyone keeping score at home.

It is an exciting table of contents because I am familiar with the work of every single contributor and am thrilled to be sharing a piece of the project with each of them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

M-Brane #12 Update

My guest-editing experience for M-Brane SF has moved into a new phase. I have all but one story decided upon and the lineup for the issue is taking shape. It has been an interesting experience to be sure. I still need to provide Christopher Fletcher with introductions to each story, as well as an editorial. (I'm not sure if Christopher will also do an editorial.)

There are some very fine stories in the lineup. I had a lot of trouble deciding which story should lead. the story I originally wanted to open the issue with ran into some problems. The author apparently misread or didn't read my email and thought it was rejected. The author subsequently sold the story elsewhere, so I lost that one, and it is a shame because it was excellent. I had about 5 other stories that I would feel comfortable leading with. One of those was a novelette, which I think is too long for an opening, so I will be putting that one in the other power position, the closing story.

Ultimately, that still left me with four stories I could use to open, and none of them really had quite the impact as the story I lost. I finally did make a choice. I don't know if Christopher wants me spilling the beans on this yet, but it looks like we'll have commissioned cover art. Because I know the artist's style, I selected the story that best fit the style of the artist. That's all I will say right now because I have no idea whether the business end of the story in question is ironed out (read: contract signed).

Still, this is shaping up to be one issue packed with some really interesting stories.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11

It's hard to believe that 8 years have already passed since that day I came down from the bedroom to see on the television smoke billowing out of a hole in the side of one tower of the World Trade Center. We all know what happened next.

A month after the attacks, it was announced that Al Qaida was responsible and they were being sheltered in Afghanistan by the Taliban. That discovery put NATO to the test. I doubt anybody in Europe expected the treaty to go into effect because the U.S. was attacked. After all, NATO was formed to protect Europeans from other Europeans using the U.S. as the muscle.

Our NATO allies went into Afghanistan reluctantly, and some are still there with us. What is upsetting to me is that all through Bush's administration, all the noise from the anti-war crowd was centered on Iraq. Nobody had any beef with the American military operating in Afghanistan. After all, Al Qaida attacked us, and their Taliban allies provided a home base.

Fast forward to the present. The Iraq war is winding down. The Iraqi government is more and more able to handle their own affairs. All the while, Afghanistan was placed on the back burner. The commanders in that theatre struggled to do the job with less than adequate manpower. The Europeans only had (and still have) a token presence--just enough to say they are abiding by the NATO treaty, but it isn't enough.

With Iraq winding down, we should have the manpower to finish the job in Afghanistan. After all, in the War on Terror, Afghanistan is a must-win. Osama bin Laden is still there. Pakistan is unstable and has nukes that could be turned on our troops, our navy, or our nearby allies.

In 2009, after 8 years of silence, the anti-war crowd suddenly wants us out of Afghanistan? It's an inconceivable idea to me. We have been undersupplying our forces in the more important conflict for 8 years, just enough to hold the campaign to a stalemate. Now that the resources are being freed up, these people want to withdraw completely.

Let me remind you of the situation in Afghanistan before the U.S. arrived. Taliban destroyed ancient giant Bhudist statues, archeological artifacts, because they were not Islamic. The Taliban gave Al Qaida a country in which to operate openly and freely. Women were treated worse than dogs. People were maimed and killed for not practicing an extreme and distorted version of Islam.

If the U.S. pulls out now, things will not go back to the way they were in 2001. It will be far worse. The Taliban will take back the country, and probably take a good chunk of Pakistan with it. Al Qaida will have their base of operations back. Both the Taliban and Al Qaida have more motivation than ever to attack The United States on American soil.

Remember September 11, 2001. Remember watching all those innocent Americans and foreign expat civilians DIE that morning.

Pulling the military out of Afghanistan right now is absolutely stupid. After all, why not sacrifice of a few million civilians in a nuclear blast when it would save a few thousand soldiers from dying in an attempt to prevent it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Audrey on Saturday

Okay, so shoot me because it's been a week since I posted. this post is about my eldest daughter, Audrey. Seems she wanted to go the high school football game last night and intended to use oil-based acrylic paint on her face. Fortunately, Reanna (who owns the paint) caught her.

This morning, Audrey had her first cross country meet for the high school. Three miles in 26 minutes, which isn't varsity time but not bad for a freshman. she finished in the main population of the open heat. Fortunately, the rain from the remnants of hurricane Jimena missed her race and fell on the other races that started later.

I, of course, had to get up at 4:30 to get her out of bed and in the car. That would have been fine but I also had to get up at 3:00 to deal with a sick dog. I don't know how long I will stay awake.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Editing Observations

As regular "Frothing at the Mouth" readers know, I have been reading submissions for M-Brane SF magazine as guest editor for issue #12. It has been an interesting experience since until now, I have never slushed. While I haven't received any truly atrocious material like I hoped to read, I have received quite a bit of not-ready-for-prime-time stories.

Now, bear in mind that I am electronically networked to a lot of SF writers, I suspect the material coming in is a little bit more competitive than than what Christopher normally sees. That said, the story I expect will either lead or close the issue is from a writer I had never heard of before. I rejected five stories that I sent back to Chris for consideration in a future issue. In those cases, generally the main problem with the story was that it just didn't resonate with me the way others did. They were perfectly good stories and probably will appear somewhere with minimal to no revision.

As for the rest, the rejects fell into three broad categories.
1) I was not hooked--often because the writer started the story with an info-dump.
2) The prose was sloppy. Not wrong spelling or poor grammar, simply not the best story-telling technique on the microscopic level: adverbs, said-bookisms, and so forth.
3) Nothing of consequence really happened.

For case 1, not hooked, I pretty much stopped reading when the story lost my interest. there isn't much point on spending time with a story after I have decided I don't want it for the issue.

For case 2, sometimes the story pulled me through much farther than a case 1. With the right story, I might still consider it with some rewrites. At this late stage, the competition for a slot is stiff enough that I can fill the issue without having to do rewrite requests.

For case 3, I suspect the writers are still pretty new at this game and not enough of the story inside the writer's head is getting out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

All of a Sudden

So, yesterday I'm sitting in this very chair working on a short story when the phone rang. It was 9:00am. PVCC wanted to know if I could take on another two classes, the first of which started at 10:30. I had to drop everything and get ready to leave the house. The bonus work is welcome.

Today, had some discussion about a video project, so that front seems to be moving out of neutral as well. All I need now is for a publisher to demand I sell them the rights to my novel and life would be very sweet indeed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Novy MIRror Ep 7

Interview with David Lee Summers, professional astronomer, writer, and editor of Tales of the Talisman

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sundry Again

Episoe #7 of Novy MIRror is currently in post production. I hope to have it posted this weekend. Interview this time is with David Lee Summers, sf writer, editor of Tales of the Talisman, and professional astronomer. We talk about all three areas.

//

Anyone looking at Fundable to manage an online fund drive, please first read the experience of Mary Robinette Kowal. They picked the wrong lady to mess with, trust me on this.

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The non-soon monsoon this summer in Phoenix relented, giving us some much needed rain and dropping the temperature under 100 degrees before 10PM today. Mah-velous.

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Made a list of 7 items to complete today and I finished all seven. Not a bad way to end the week.

//

If you like SF and can read subtitles, I recommend a Spanish film called Los Cronocrimenes, in English Time Crimes. It's a very fun take on the possible effects of time travel. Much of the film has no dialog, so the subtitles are not such a big deal. Best of all, you can stream the film on Netflix.

Here is the trailer for the movie.

I removed the clip because it gave too many spoilers. If you want to see it, a google search will find it easily. However, it will probably ruin the movie for you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Winter Arrived

I received my author copies of Winter in the mail today. The three books crossed in the mail with a check for another 20 to sell at conventions and local bookstores. It's trade paperback, but more like a chapbook in thickness--it's only 67 pages including non-story pages. Still, it has nice-looking cover art and the same content I knew was coming. Feels good to finally have something to sell at conventions.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Winter Again

Finally heard from Sam's Dot Publishing and my copies of my trade paperback "Winter" were shipped late last week. I should get them this coming week.

The cover art for the book is really nice. I posted it in a previous entry (here). I don't think I mentioned that I contacted the cover artist and he said he really enjoyed the story. It's only fair because I really like the cover.

There is also a mug available that features the cover art. The beer stein looke pretty cool also. I do have to get me one of these.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Batman Forever

Batman Forever turned out not to be as bad as I feared. I gave it one more star than I gave Batman and Robin. I thought Jim Carrey made a decent Riddler, though it went over the top occasionally. At least this movie entertained me, however, I think it's a sad statement about these 90s Batman movies that they needed two bad guys to carry the film. Every one of Batman's enemies should be enough to carry the story. Even in the Adam West days the criminal mastermindes almost always worked alone.

OVerall, the 1990s Batman movies were too much like the TV show. I'm surprised they didn't splash the word "Pow!" on the screen. Jack Nicholson made the best enemy as the Joker in Batman. Poison Ivy was the worst baddie.

That said, I have very high expectations for Batman Begins and especially for The Dark Knight. I do hope they live up to the potential.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm...Batman

Despite warnings to avoid them, I still wanted to see all the Batman movies. In order to save the rest of the family some pain, I watched Batman and Robin online. Netflix 2 out of 5 stars--they guessed right. Really cartoonish. I have Batman Forever coming on DVD, currently in transit. I hear that one is a painful experience also. That will clear out the 90's version of Batman and sets the stage for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which I am told are both very good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

I finally woke up and get back to my IRA portfolio. My strategy involves creating my own mutual fund using a super secret formula I discovered hidden in ancient Havasupai rock carvings in the Grand Canyon. It's a good strategy that has served me well over the years. The problem is, whenever I put the strategy in place, it makes a splash. It's not that I buy enough stock to affect the prices. I'm not Warren Buffet. But some Karmic thing happens where whatever I buy will go down at first. It takes about 2 weeks before the splash settles and the market gets back to doing whatever it wants to do. It happens so often that I have to factor it into my stop-loss prices. I've been whipsawed way too many times. So, if you see the market fall in the next few days, you can rest assured that it's my fault.

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My trade paperback "Winter" was released in July and I have yet to receive my copies of the book. Sam's Dot is generally reliable if not a little slow with this sort of thing. It's a small press, so I can give them a break, but it's frustrating because I am supposed to be a major factor in the marketing effort. Since my strategy includes selling copies in person, not having any copies makes that rather difficult. Since I had planned to buy 20% of the print run, I find it strange that I don't yet know how to order them.

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Why has every catch that I have seen Larry Fitzgerald make this pre-season been with his feet out-of-bounds? Kurt Warner looks pretty good, but I have a sinking feeling that Matt Leinart will be starting before the end of the regular season. I hope he learned from watching Warner last season. Out of college, Leinart was on the fast-track to flash-in-the-pan status. He dated hot models and drank beer before big games, and his play suffered for it. Rumors I hear say that Leinart is a different quarterback than he was this time last year whenhe lost the starting position. I hope that's true, because it's always a good problem to have a Steve Young waiting to replace a Joe Montana.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Theme and Variation

Michelle M. Welch is a Phoenix area writer who has written several novels. (Details can be found on her website, follow the link.) A few months ago she announced a music-themed audio anthology to be called "Theme and Variation." Last week I signed a contract for my story "Black Orchid" to appear in the anthology.

I have to say, coming up with this story was rather painful. Writing to an assigned theme can often be difficult, even with a subject as broad as music. I think I started and aborted 5 different stories before I settled on the one I finished. Some of those abortions didn't have enough plot wrapped around the cool idea, and others didn't have enough to hold my own interest.

I finally finished writing "Black Orchid" and sent it off to Michelle a few weeks ago. It's one of my rare fantasy pieces, which are usually only marginally fantastical. In this case, the fantastic element is allegorical.

Michelle is planning to release the audio anthology on CD at this years World Fantasy convention in San Jose, California. I still need to record the story and any related bed music, but that should be a one-afternoon project and will probably take place after school starts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Finally Threw a Book Across the Room

I have always had great respect for books, so it comes as something of a shock to admit today that I threw a book across the room I was so disgusted with the content.

Rewind--Several years ago I had been reading books about Neanderthals as research for my first novel. I came across a book called Buried Alive, by an orthodontist named Jack Cuozzo. I don't have a problem with lay experts writing a book. Sometimes these can be the best resources because they present a different angle.

I stopped reading Buried Alive after about the first 50 pages because it became clear that the book was not a scientific analysis of the Neanderthal, but rather an attempt to use evidence some might be considered scientific combined with known facts presented in bible verses and creationist theories to prove that Neanderthals are a fraud. (And, incidentally, all of science is a conspiracy.)

I had occasionally picked up the book and read a chapter just for the entertainment value, knowing full well the book is a farce. For instance, a fact presented is that Jesus Christ never mentioned "sub-humans" (read hominids) in his teachings, and is used as part of the proof against evolution. This is part of a lengthy list of established "facts" with which the reader is assumed to completely agree, but in fact are interpretations of bible passages. Another example, "All of history must be divided into pre- and post-flood periods." This despite the flood being a fairly localized phenomenon.

But none of that was why I threw the book. In fact, those arguments were the reason I occasionally read onward. These proofs amuse me. It was at the beginning of Chapter 21 that I started to be insulted. "...I would like to establish the fact that the Neanderthals which I have studied all appear to have been post-flood people, mostly buried by relatives and friends." (we know the relationship of the pall-bearers to the deceased exactly how?) and "...you have a small, very worried and nervous group of people who probably thought they should have stayed closer to the Middle East." (near Mt. Ararat - RN)

And finally, the passage that did me in. "Neanderthal pre-history is made to look like 'square one' by all the museums, or perhaps square two or three if you take into account Homo erectus and the australopichecines (southern apes) in Africa. But that is not based on fact at all. Neanderthal history reflects man forced to live under harsh circumstances after the flood becaused of the wickendess on the earth before the flood."

That is when I threw the book across the room.

It actually started out as pretty good reading, chronicling Cuozzo being chased around France by scientists "afraid he would ruin the secret of their conspiracy." The bait and switch wasn't even subtle.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Interview with Your Truly

Issue #6 of M-Brane SF has a lengthy interview with me. You can read the interview here. Some people may find it interesting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest Editing M-Brane SF

I will be guest-editing M-Brane SF issue #12 (due out early next year). All stories submitted to the normal submission address from July 15th to August 31st 2009 will be forwarded to me and considered for my special issue.

The standard submission guidelines can be a little difficult to find, but I linked the announcement at the bottom of this post.. Unless memory and gmail archives fail me, the submissions should be sent in rtf format and emailed to mbranesf@gmail.com Christopher will forward the subs to me and I will evaluate.

There are several possible outcomes: (a) I will reject outright. (b) I will reject but think Christoper might like it. In this case it will be sent back to him. (c) I will hold it for second read (d) I will ask for some changes (e) I will accept it outright.

For options (a) and (b) Christoper will contact the writer. For (c), (d), and (e) I will most likely contact the author directly and copy Christopher.

Some hints--I prefer optimistic endings, but good story trumps all. You can take me to some very dark places, but lead me out before the end--unless your story is so good that I don't care if you leave me down there.

I have no theme in mind.

I love humor but it's very difficult to make me laugh with prose.

Cyberpunk is a tough sell but can be done. (I like Jack Mangan's stuff, for instance.)

Give me a reason on page one to continue to page two.

Here is the original post on M-Brane SF blog with more information.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I got into a discussion with Alethea Kontis today on Twitter when she mentioned something about needing sage to clean her aura. I told her I could send her garbage bags full of clippings by UPS. That led to a discussion of the cool plants that grow here.

Here is the sage picture that I posted on twitpics earlier. Compare it to height of the garage door--it needs trimming.


We go to chatting about what else I have. Below is my baby saguaro. It's about 8 years old now and stands maybe knee high. It was 9" tall when I bought it. They only grow around 4 inches a year and won't get arms until age 75.




The saguaro below is on community property across the wash from me. It's a tad bigger.'


Another front yard plant is below. This is a Sago. It looks like a small palm tree but it is not. You can see huge sagos at the San Diego zoo. Mine is much younger but this one has done very well for me. It sprouts 2 sets of branches a year when my other ones only sprout one.



Okay, this is a palm tree--a queen palm to be exact.



This guy is a small ocotillo. It is not a cactus but it does have very sharp thorns. It only grows leaves when it has received rain. I don't know why this one has leaves, maybe the dog watered it. They used ocotillo in "The Empire Strikes Back" as part of the foliage on Dagobah. I guess it's alien-looking enough, but it would rot in a swamp. This is a desert plant.



This guy is a barrel cactus. It's just a big round ball now, but it will grow to look like a barrel eventually.

Alethea's bane is below, aloe vera. I lied, I said I have three of these plants around the pool, but I have 4.


I don't even remember what this next one is. It's a succulent, similar to a cactus but no thorns. It consists of rigid fluid-filled spines that come out of the center. The thing came in a pot smaller than the wheel of the chair next to it, and maybe 10 spines. I don't really know how to cut it back.


At the risk of showing my crappy grass that grows where I don't want it, here are two more cacti inside the pool fence. The one in back looks like a saguaro but it is not. It grows way too fast. I think it's organ pipe but I could be wrong.



This is a palo verde tree. Notice how the trunk and branches are all green.



This guy is a prickly pear cactus. It is unusual in that it gets orange flowers. I planted just one paddle in the ground when the guy across the street cut his back. If you click to enlarge the picture you can still see some orange.


This is rosemary. I only have half the song. I have Sage and rosemary, but no parsley or thyme.


This is one of my mesquite trees. They grow like weeds and you have to cut them back before the monsoon winds rip them out of the ground. They grow slower and with deeper roots if you never water them, but most people out here water the crap out of them and those roots stay very shallow. I learned that the hard way, but the wood from the tree I lost made an extremely hot campfire.



This is the only citrus I photographed this time around. This is an orange tree with some half-sized green oranges growing. You can see them if you look at the enlargement. They will double in size by November and will turn orange when it gets cold out.

Novy MIRror Episode #5

Interview w/ Dr. Stanely Schmidt, editor of Analog magazine.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Spam Blog?

So I have been on Blogger since 2005 and now, in 2009 Google's spam bot thinks my blog has characteristics of a spam blog. WTF? I have yet to post a link to a penis enlargement device. I don't sell Viagra. I am not a Nigerian Prince looking to deposit two million dollars into your account in the United States. (I would deposit it into my own account in the United States.)

So what triggered the spam bot? Was it my hand-out on how to select a writers group? Was it the cover picture from my new book? Hmmm.

Hey, Google, I am a real person. Sometimes I even give you money on Adwords.

Racism Alive and Well in Philly

Okay, this is all over Twitter, but in case you don't, you know, twitter, then you should know about this. Valley Swim club of Philadelphia doesn't want to change the complexion of their club. Go read the article here then spread the word by blogging, tweeting, or joining a facebook movement. Let's show these people that it's not okay to be stuck in the 1950s.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Writers Groups

Here is the text of a handout I gave away at my "Writers Support Groups" panel at Westercon 62 this afternoon.

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Joining or Forming the Right Writers Group
By Rick Novy
www.ricknovy.com - ricknovy.blogspot.com - twitter.com/RickNovy


All writers need feedback, and not just any feedback. Writers need useful feedback. A writers group can be one way of getting that necessary feedback, but joining the wrong group can be worse than not joining one at all.

How does a writer go about finding the right group? In most cases, it is probably easier to find a group than to make one. Ask around at bookstores, libraries, and community colleges. You can often find writers groups from your home with a simple Google search.

But finding a group isn't the hard part, it's finding the right group that can be. Whether online or in person, make sure you check out how they operate, what your obligations are, and whether the other members are at the proper level of experience for you.

Some things to keep in mind:
•How often will you need to provide material for critique? Is it too often, not often enough, or just right for your schedule?
•How do the other members compare to you? In an advanced group, you will be all taking and no giving. In a group far behind you, the opposite is true and you give but never get. It is important to be with other writers near your own skill level.
•Is the group one-dimensional (all critique) or are there other aspects to consider, and is it what you want out of a group?

Online or in person really makes no difference. It is easier to communicate face-to-face but easier to find other talent online. But, if you still can't find a group you'll just have to start one. A beginner might take a class at the community college and invite some classmates to help form a group. A more advanced writer might be more selective and search for similar writers at conferences or conventions. For example, my own group is limited mainly to writers with a professional sale. It keeps the group small and focused on what we need and it works for us.

Keep in mind that while you are checking out a group, they are also checking you out to satisfy themselves that you will fit into their culture. My current group requires a new member to participate on both sides of a critique to ensure the prospect is honest as a critic and not hypersensitive as a writer being criticized. We do that to maintain a certain level of competency so that the group remains focused on what the members need. A writers group that doesn't meet the needs of its members will disintegrate.





Here are some tips on how you can use a writers group by experience level. This assumes you have already found some like-minded people to join.


Beginner (Complete novice)
•Adopt a writing book and work through it together. Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoints and Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction are two very good books that contain exercises.
•Create flash fiction challenges. One member chooses a trigger and all members write a story in 1000 words or less. Read and comment about them.
•Try to find more experienced writers to make guest appearances and talk shop.
•Be aware of emotional responses to any critique. Many writers at this stage are not ready to hear the truth.

Intermediate (Writing and submitting, but getting form rejections back)
•Start writing longer original fiction without a trigger and use the stories in a critique circle.
•Have story-idea brainstorming sessions.
•Continue with writing exercises. Your group may or may not decide to continue this as a group.
•Teach yourselves how to find markets and submit. You might still find more experienced writers to make guest appearances specifically to discuss this.

Advanced (Actively submitting and getting personalized response or selling occasionally)
•Go back to reading books. You are now in the target audience for most of them.
•Critiques should now be picking nits and finding subtle problems. Critiques start moving away from line-edits into more general statements.
•Create flash challenges occasionally. Have reading parties where you sit back and enjoy rather than critiquing.
•Trade important information on markets or techniques you might have learned from pros.

Neo-Pro (Have sold to a major market or attended a major auditioned workshop)
•At this stage, you will know what to do. Modify the list under Advanced to suit your needs.
•Discuss how to find first readers.
•Talk shop, trading information.
•Critiques should now be very specific in pointing out subtle problems. Be wary of criticizing style tendencies that you disagree with, but do mention them.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Westercon

So far, Westercon has been a blast. I have accumulated 4 interviews for my video podcast, including the editor of Analog magazine, Dr. Stanley Schmidt. I moderated two panels that included Eric Flint, and both were interesting discussions. Flint is a very intelligent and articulate man who I would hand-pick to be on any panel. He builds a very solid case for his opinions.

Today, only one panel--"All Things Tolkien." After that, evacuate to escape the Tempe Town Lake fireworks crowd.

And now, off to the con...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Winter Now Available on Genre Mall

My trade paperback "Winter" is now available at Genre Mall. Third section from the top (or just search for Novy).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Open Request to Fiction Editors

Writers get rejected all the time, and any writer with any kind of track record expects rejection and takes it at face value. While there is some value in rejectology--interpreting the verbage for deeper meaning--it's only worth spending so much time on it. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has an informal code to the rejection letters that indicate how far into the story an editor got before moving on to the next story. That little bit is helpful, but not really necessary.

With one exception I will address in a bit, I honestly don't mind any rejection letter, form or personalized. An editor must choose from mountains of stories and many of those are (I'm told) horrible. It should be intuitively obvious that a writer will not sell every story on first submission. Rejection is part of the game, and believe me, it's a numbers game. I have sold stories anywhere from first to twentieth submission. A writer needs a thick skin, which brings me to the one thing that does bristle me in a rejection letter--coddling.

It's one thing to tell me in a terse note that you can't use the story. No big deal--if you don't want to buy it, I want you to reject it quickly so I can send the story elsewhere. However, it's an entirely different thing to say you can't use the story, then go into all the reasons why a perfectly good story might have been rejected. Further, no need to wrap your arms around me and lay my weeping head on your shoulder. I don't need you to tell me to keep writing, keep submitting, maybe somebody else will buy the story. That talk is for rank beginners.

That rejection letter might be just what a beginning writer needs for motivation, but it makes an experienced writer's eyes roll. So please, please generate a second form-letter. If in my cover letter I list a professional sale, just tell me you don't want the story and move along. A 1/8 sheet strip of paper is plenty for that.

If you are taking the time to hand-write a comment, it means I was close. If you aren't going to do that, I really don't care why you are rejecting the story. Just tell me so I can move on to the next one in line. Don't try to coddle me, that is insulting.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Novy MIRror Episode #4

Interview w/ Cat Rambo, editor of Fantasy Magazine

Monday, June 22, 2009

Books for Breasts

Breast cancer is something that most of us face, either as a victim, or as a helpless bystander watching someone else we love become a victim. My own cousin is a survivor. Author James Maxey lost his wife to the disease.

If you like speculative fiction and care about finding a cure for the disease, James Maxey has a proposition for you. Make a contribution to the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation by going to this web site and clicking on the button that says "Support James."

You can get the details from the horse's mouth here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Winter

I just signed the contract for, and received an image of the cover for my forthcoming book "Winter." The book contains my novelette "Winter" packaged with a reprint of my short story "The Adjoa Gambit," which originally appeared in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicne Show issue #3. The publisher, Sams Dot, plans to release of the book next month.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Tobias Buckell

If you watched the below podcast of Novy MIRror, you may be interested in occasionally visiting Tobias Buckell's blog post to review the comments.

Novy Mirror # 3

#3 Interview w/ Tobias Buckell

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lenticular Clouds

Look at these weird stratified clouds we had today. They're called lenticular clouds.




Here's a link to a National geographic photo of the same kind of clouds. Unfortunately, all I had was my cell phone camera and I had to zoom in quite a bit to even see the clouds.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Diversity in Fiction

Somewhat timely as I discuss this very topic with Tobias Buckell in the next episode of Novy Mirror podcast, Vylar Kaftan posted this analysis of diversity in her own fiction. I decided to do something similar, just to see how I was doing. (Yes, I know it's just a way to procrastinate.)

I should point out that my statistics will be biased toward my own demographic because I often use myself as the main character--sometimes in disguise, sometimes not. If I were to remove those stories, I think the distribution might change. Also, recurring characters were counted as many times as the number of stories where they appear. This also biases the results some.

I counted characters that play a major role in the story, not just the POV character. I came up with a count of 154 characters across all my short stories and the completed novel. Work in progress is not counted.

Gender - heavily biased by my tendency to use myself as a point of view character.

Male = 67%
Female = 27%
Other = 6%

Race - Again, biased by using myself as a character.

Caucasian = 48%
Asian 7%
Divine 3%
Alien 12%
Native American 0.5%
Arab 0%
Hispanic 3%
Black 6%
Unknown 18%
Neanderthal 2%
Animal 3%

Using the assumption that characters default to white
White or implied white 66%
Person of color 17%
Unclassifiable 20% (= more than 100% due to rounding errors)

Sexual Orientation

Straight 40%
GLBT 0%
Unknown = 60%

By similar logic, characters default to straight. 100% No rounding errors here.

Age

0-17 12%
18-34 33%
36-65 33%
66+ 4%
unknown 20%
varies .5%

Social Class

Ruling 0.5% (FDR if you must know)
Upper 3%
middle 49%
Lower 19%
n/a 2.5%
Unknown 49%

Ability

Able 90%
Disabled 7%
Unknown 3%

Conclusions: The stories where I use myself as the POV character really skew the results toward my own demographic. I think I use race effectively, though I could improve. Gender tilts toward male for the same reason, but I did notice a tendency for my stories to use two males and one female. Often there is a male-female protagonist team against a male antagonist. However, in my novel the primary antagonist is female. Age looks to be almost a normal distribution, so not a bad use of various ages. I tend toward middle-class characters, skewed toward the lower middle class more than the upper middle class. Or, there is no indication of social standing at all. For disabilities, I think some of those I counted as "able" might qualify as disabled under Vylar's rules. In terms of sexual orientation, well, what can I say? I need to be more aware of this possibility in order to create realistic story people. However, I think that several characters in the "unknown" category could easily be gay. It's just that sexual orientation was irrelevant to those stories.

Another Delay

Just found out that my novelette, "Winter," slated to be released with a reprint of my short story "The Adjoa Gambit" was pushed back again. It is now scheduled to be released in July.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Blogs

Two of my local writer friends just started blogging. Take a look at Ernest Hogan's Mondo Ernesto and Emily Devenport aka Maggy Thomas aka Lee Hogan aka Emily Hogan's Em's Joie de WEIRD.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sold - How to Eat a Cobalt Bomb

Sold my story "How to Eat a Cobalt Bomb" to M-Brane SF. It's my 5th story sold to that market.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Novy MIRror Episode 2

Interview with 2009 Campbell Award Aliette de Bodard.  This is mostly audio with a few pictures, but the content is well worth a listen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Tradition

This is the sixth consecutive year that my son and I have planted flags above the soldiers' headstones at the National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend.



We got up at 5:00am and were headed toward the cemetery by 6:00am. Together with maybe a thousand other boy scouts and girl scouts, we put flags on something like 16,000 grave sites. This year, it took 40 minutes

To cap off the service day, once we finished at the cemetery, we drove over to Lake Pleasant where one of the boys in Russell's troop had his Eagle project going on. One trail had a steep slope and we installed some cinder block and dirt stairs on the slope. The project was maybe 1/3 to 1/2 done by the time we arrived, Russell and I both got hot and sweaty pitching in.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How is it done?

I was asked this in comments for Novy MIRror episode #1, but I thought the answer might be of interest to more than the person who asked.

The question asked how I did this (I assume the video effects) and what I am using for equipment, so here is my answer.

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I assume you mean the effects, particularly in the opening sequence. That gets a double dose of chroma key. The "mirror" is really a picture frame with a green folder inside. I suspended the frame with wire using my boom microphone stands and my light stands and placed the camera low to use the blue sky as background.

It was a windy day and cloudy behind the camera. The wind caused the suspended frame to move around. The clouds behind my back caused that smoky look inside the "mirror." That part was unintentional but works well in the end.

I did the blue screen chroma key first to get the background, then compressed the video and imported it back into my editing program. I then used the green screen chroma key to put images into the frame.

The beginning sequence uses sepia effects to make it look like old film. The galaxy inside the mirror rotates because I continuously rotate the entire image. You can see some bleed through if you look closely. That bleed through was the main reason I used sepia in that sequence, it is better at hiding it.

The theme music is original. I actually wrote it as the base part for an audio project I have been working on, but probably won't be seen publicly due to licensing issues. However, the keyboard bass riff is completely original.

For equipment, I'm using a JVC hard drive camcorder with AVCHD high definition record capability. I'm using Sony WSC-999 wireless microphones. (The offending microphone has been fired and replaced, I might add.) For software, I am using Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12. The theme music was played on a Casio WK-200 keyboard set to slow saw lead. I also transpose the keyboard into a Bb instrument. This is due to the fact that most of my sheet music is written for clarinet. The audio project uses a Bb fake book, so I transpose the keyboard and capo the guitar...but I digress. It was recoded on my Fostex 16-track hard drive recorder then imported into the video.

All of those tools have limitations, but you can still get some pretty incredible results with them. I haven't even scratched the surface of the potential. Still, some day I'll produce a "making of" episode whenever I'm thin on interview material.