Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I think it’s pretty easy to ensure there’s a story worth telling. Just start with:

1. Two characters.
2. With conflicting goals.
3. Who can’t just run away.

At some point, they’ll meet, then they’ll fight, then one will win (or both may win, in a genre like romance). Story over.

If there are interesting characters in an interesting situation, something interesting is going to come out of it.

I do have a bunch of half-written novels, but that’s just because I easily get distracted by the New Shiny and start writing something else even though I shouldn’t. I’ll get back to the others sooner or later.

Writing to an outline bores the heck out of me. In the last novel I published under this name, I had an idea of what the end would be when I wrote ‘Chapter One’, but didn’t even end up sticking to that. The novel before, I had a vague idea that the main character would be robbing a bank half-way through the book, but he went off and became a suicide bomber instead (just not a very good one).

That said, in some other genres I write under other names, it is nice to know that the genre has defined the basic structure and I’m just finding an interesting way to get from ‘Chapter One’ to ‘The End’ within that structure. It does eliminate some of the banging-the-head-on-the-table moments writing SF and horror.

It’s really not that hard to tell whether a romance book is supposed to be in an SF category, in most cases. Taken by the Alien Alpha Barbarian is not Military SF just because it’s set in space and the barbarian beats up a few people.

If the romance is central to the story, and the spaceships just a backdrop, it’s a romance, If the romance is a subplot and the spaceships are the focus, it’s sci-fi. I’m not sure why this is hard to understand. Just think about which part of the book you can remove without destroying the story, and it should be pretty clear which category it should be listed in.

Yes, there’s a grey area where you’re exploring romance in a radically different sci-fi world. But those stories are a) relatively rare, and b) probably sci-fi.

No-one’s complaining that there are girl cooties in SF novels (well, OK, a few nuts might be). They are complaining that they go to the SF bestseller list and find that 50% of them are romance novels in spacesuits. I stopped bothering to check the list a year or two back, because it was so stuffed with romance books that there was no point any more.

And, as others have said, a large part of the problem is that Amazon use the keywords to pick categories, rather than just letting authors do so. If you put ‘space barbarian’ in the keywords for your romance novel, it will probably end up somewhere in SF. If you put ‘romance’ in the keywords for your Military SF novel because there’s a romance subplot, it will probably end up somewhere in romance.

Apparently trade publishers are forcing writers to submit their books to ‘sensitivity readers’ so as not to offend people. But every time they tell a writer ‘you can’t write that character like that’ and force them to change, I suspect they lose more readers than they gain.

I think there is a place for a service to help authors make characters more authentic. For example, I have a half-finished novel set in a small community in the North of Canada, and I stopped writing when I realized I needed to do a lot more research into the lifestyle up there before I could finish. I wouldn’t be averse to paying someone who knows more than I do to read through it when it’s done and let me know what I got wrong so I could fix it.

But we all know that’s not what’s going to happen here. They’re trying to build the new Soviet Socialist Realism, where only approved ideas with approved characters can be published (and have nothing to do with Realism).

What moron decided to switch a LAPTOP screen to portrait mode with an arcane key combination? Particularly one that’s RIGHT NEXT TO CTRL+ALT+DEL?

What possible reason I would have to switch a laptop to portrait mode, when the freaking keyboard is attached to the bottom of the screen? All it achieves is to leave people wondering ‘WTF just happened?’ and trying to figure out how to use the mouse sideways so they can open a web browser to return the screen to the right damn orientation.

Hint for anyone who found this through Google: its CTRL+ALT+Arrow keys.

I so hate the tabletization of computing. And I absolutely despise Windows 10. There’s a reason our last remaining Windows machines run XP and Windows 7.

Spacesuit on barren landscape

Condemned cover

Finishing the first draft of the first book of a new SF adventure series. Should be out November or December, with any luck.

Lesbian Posed As Cancerous Latino Man, Accused of Sexual Assault With Strap On

Do you hate your readers? Do you think they’re thieves? Would you rather they downloaded the book for free from a pirate site, so they can read it wherever they want, rather than be restricted to using the Kindle app?

If so, add DRM.

I’m in the process of uploading my books to Google Books. Spent most of the afternoon writing scripts to automatically convert my LibreOffice files to .epub and .pdf for Google, and it’s now pretty easy. I’ll upload the ones that aren’t Amazon-exclusive over the next couple of weeks.

Wow… I hadn’t seen this video before, showing IR footage of the Falcon-9 first stage re-entry.

So there I was today, driving home from my day job, rolling along in a rush hour traffic queue. On the left was some piece of junk with a cloud of smoke billowing out behind it, alternately passing me and dropping behind as the queues moved at different speeds.

Then we passed the last of the stop lights and were able to get up to nearly the highway speed limit. The PoJ GTi passed me, followed by a minivan. Which proceeded to drive about six feet behind it at 80km/h.

Now, tailgating is stupid at the best of times, but what kind of brain-dead zombie would drive that close to a car that’s burning more oil than gas, with the combustion fumes going straight into their air intake? I’d already switched my car to recirculating the air because I didn’t want it full of burning oil smell.

Do people think at all on the roads around here?

Please can we get some Global Warming up this way, soon?

As the title says.

My plan this year, if my day job allows, is to publish something new at least every month, and at least two novels, preferably more. We’ll see how that goes.

Temperature dropped below -10C for the first time since the spring. At least there’s no snow yet.

And no, I’m not posting about Star Trek again.

Chekhov’s most famous advice for playwrights was that if a writer shows a loaded gun in act one, it should be fired by the end of the play.

It’s good advice.

But it’s also backwards.

What it should really say, is if you need a gun to be fired in act three, you should hang it on the wall in act one.

While that may sound the same, it’s not. One of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve read on the Internet from a published writer was that when he wrote a murder mystery, he had no idea that the butler would turn out to be the killer. He didn’t look at the clues he had put in the story and reliase at the end that the butler did it, he decided at the end that the butler did it, then went back and wrote in the clues required to prove that.

So there’s no need to get everything right as you’re writing the story. When you realise you’ve missed some essential setup, you just go back and add it.

Why is it that a hamster prefers eating scraps off the floor of his cage to whatever fresh food is in his bowl?

Most times when I clean his cage I dump out the remains from his bowl onto the floor afterward and fill it with fresh stuff. When I put him back he says ‘ooh, look at all that good stuff on the floor’ and goes foraging. Yet it’s the same food he was turning his nose up at a few hours before.

OK, I understand the fundamental reason — it probably is a natural foraging instinct being triggered — but it’s still amusing.

Houdini eats corn

Does this count as foraging?

Snow, snow, snow. We must have had more snow so far this winter than we had in the whole of last winter. Please hurry up and warm us up, thanks.

Back in the 80s, when I was a kid, the BBC made a mini-series about ancient Egypt and the intrigues of its kings and queens. It then vanished, and the BBC seem to have been quite embarrassed about it ever since. It was mostly infamous for the number of topless slave girls, I suspect that more bare breasts have rarely been seen on the BBC in such a short time.

Fortunately someone has now uploaded all the episodes to Youtube:

The Cleopatras

I’m only half-way through the second episode, but so far it’s rather entertaining. They’re busy conspiring, fighting, marrying their brothers, sisters, fathers and uncles, and murdering everyone when they can get away with it.

My favourite part so far was when they were driven out of Egypt, which went something like:

“We must leave. The mob are storming the palace to kill us because of what I did yesterday.”
“What? Because you burned down the school?”
“No, because I didn’t let the people out first.”

I must admit, though, that I still have some trouble seeing the gay uncle from Withnail and I as an Egyptian king.

Apparently a gene has been found that controls regeneration of chromosomes:

e! Science News

Let’s hope this brings immortality another step closer.