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 " 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 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.


Joining or Forming the Right Writers Group
By Rick Novy - -

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


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...