A Hundred Ways to Blog for This Crowd

First a state of the writer short update – for those of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the edited Witchfinder – it is coming.  I am halfway through my edit, which I unfortunately can’t outsource.  Because it was written piecemeal there’s “beats” missing and internal inconsistencies and–  You know.

What I found is that I tried to edit it early on, and it seemed a hopeless mess.  But I picked it up again last weekend, and it reads surprisingly clean.  As a note to self, clearly getting more distance helps.  Now my instincts are on.  I still need to do this part myself.  Then it will go to a professional editor for probably two weeks.  Then back to me to page-proof.

I have contracted for a cover.  Depending on how long that takes – but the artist said something about three weeks – we should have a book both electronic (and going free to those who paid in advance and the high subscribers, in epub, mobi and/or RTF – sorry, I’m not going to do the weirdest forms of ebooks.  If you have a really niche reader, you probably have become intimate with Calibre by now, anyway.)

Curiously, I needed this time too to see what the cover HAS to be.  I’ve had ideas before, but they weren’t right.

Meanwhile, sometime this week I’ll start re-releasing the backlist.  (Whee.)  Probably first up will be No Will But His.  I’m trying to find a cover, and wondering if I should do a pastel for it.  We’ll see.  Dan had a brainstorm and thinks I should re-write all of Henry VIII’s queens, to keep poor Kay Ho company.  I don’t know.  I’d only be re-writing Jane Seymour.  The rest didn’t fall to my lot.  But yeh, I could.  The problem is time.  We’re trying to figure out how to deal with that.  We’ll see if it works.  (Yep, we got a tardis.  How did you guess?)

RES in the comments of the post from two days ago made snippety snap comments about saving me the indignity of buying 100 blog topics – for the record, I didn’t buy them.  I got the 100 free ones.  Good thing, since I could only use one and only sort of sideways.  Of course, at least half of his topics I can’t use.  I watched Star Trek because my husband loved it, but I don’t think I care enough for it to analyze its politics (which at any rate seem incoherent) or to discuss its economics (why do they allow people to write who can’t understand the basics of life as defined by economics – and that economics is a basic function of being human, no matter where or when – if I read one more novel where the main character has astonishing magical powers and yet is very poor, I’m going to hurl.  Actually I never read those.  I hit the telling point and the book goes against the wall in a bouncy bouncy sort of fashion.  Ditto for universal replicators.  Why work? Why have credits?  What limits replicators?)

He also suggested Buffy and redemptive female love because he’s a BAD man.  Of course the series is full of that mythos, and I’m thinking I’ll watch it from beginning in the next 100 or so ironing sessions.  It should help with the YA too.

I have three posts sketched up for next week – which means I need a few more, of course.  Even counting the fact that I do Rogue Magic on Fridays.

So, if you guys want to throw topics at me, go ahead.  Just remember I’m a total ditz when it comes to television shows (as in, I’ve watched about half of Stargate while ironing, but still haven’t got around to watching the rest of it.  Also, I only watch Big Bang Theory when I happen to be in the room while the guys are watching.  Seems fun, but I’m not a “watcher” – if I’m not doing some handwork, like sewing, or some housework, like ironing, I can’t sit still long enough to watch a full episode, let alone a series.  The only reason I watched Buffy was that I was profoundly depressed after 9-11 and it was in re-runs and/or we bought the tapes (I don’t remember now), so we watched ALL of it.  But when I’m not depressed, I’d rather be writing or reading.  It’s somehow more vivid in my mind.

To open the bidding on this “come on, throw topics at me, come on!”

-How does narrative technique in books differ from tv/movies.  What are the advantages of books?

-When is the last time you’ve read really transgressive work, one that said something that shocked you because you never see it anymore.  You know, stuff like “men have their own strengths, and civilization couldn’t exist without them.”  Or “Humanity is good in and of itself and worth fighting for.” Or “western civilization outcompeted all the others because it provides best for society?”

-Would you like that as a blog topic, or would you like me to blog on the statements?

-Civilization is built on what we don’t do.  Requiring internal barriers is a characteristic of civilization – any civilization.  They’re just different in primitive civilizations.  How much is man a creature of “this you do not do?”  Is it necessary for us to be human.

-Is that a blog topic or two?

-How my life has changed since I went indie.  Look up at the beginning of this post – I’m contracting cover work.  It blows the mind.  Five years ago, covers were something the publishers did, and if I didn’t like them, I had to lump them.  There’s other stuff.  Like, when I come up with an idea the question is “where do I put it on the calendar” not “will my agent send it out?”  Of course, this means the poor calendar is bursting ta the seams, so I’m arranging to make time – yeah, I know.  Deal.  I’ll explain if it works. Also there’s a rumor eventually the kids will move out, we can downsize, and our life will be much simpler.

Anyway, shoot topics at me.  I’ll put them in the topic notebook TM and do them – if they appeal.

And now I’m going to do litter boxes, which don’t appeal but have to be done.

UPDATE: I have updated subscriber content.

314 responses to “A Hundred Ways to Blog for This Crowd

  1. Sturgeon’s Law applies to Indy too. How to make sure you’re not in the 90% of everything that’s crud, and then, how to get other people to realize that.

    • Ah, but you know the answer to that, mah dear Mauser. One man’s 90% is another man’s fillet mignon. As for how to reach your target… um… learning.

      • Yeah – the people who love grey goo aren’t going to like meat & potatoes. But there probably are things that are necessary to successfully work the Indy trade. Off hand and knowing nothing about the issue, I would guess a good first chapter and clean text (free from obvius errors of spelling and grammar) are essential. It is probably useful to make clear from the start what kind of book you’re getting (Correia’s first Monster Hunter book, with its extended battle mano-a-mano with the werewolf is an example of this: the reader knows the book is about monsters, action and a MC who doesn’t stop to ponder why werewoves don’t like us except as tasty snacks.)

        Because Indy doesn’t come with the imprimatur of a publisher or editor or other elements of a pre-defined brand, it is necesary for the writer to establish and develop a brand on her own. A discussion of ways in which to do that might be worthwhile.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I have to bow to the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. I would NEVER be able to come up with a title that convoluted and pretentious.

          Incidentally, did you misspell “obvious” on purpose*?

          * I tried to spell on porpoise once, but they wouldn’t let me.

          • Intentionally misspell obvious? No. My wireless keyboard for the laptop (I like keys sized to my fingers) seems to occasionally send commands to the laptop in not quite the order I type, plus several keys are now, through excessive use over time, nearly blank, with the result being that my vowels are frequently a trifle loose.

            Keyboard (and whatever habits of hand) also frequently result in any -ion formation getting an extra “i” — like so: -ioin. I have learned to watch for this but never how to prevent. I attribute it to the contrariness of the universe as a penalty for being just so gosh-darned awesome that otherwise envious mobs would hunt me down and stone me.

            • “…. with the result being that my vowels are frequently a trifle loose.”

              You were trying to sneak a pun past me, were you not?

            • In my case, I very frequently switch g for c and vice-versa, and also frequently misspell against as agaisnt. On the other hand, this ancient Logitech wireless keyboard has an excellent feel (Although nothing will ever compare to the old Apple ADB “Saratoga” for tactile feedback) but even better, if you unscrew the bottom with the circuit board, you can actually clean it by running it under the faucet, and blow all the cat hair out of it with compressed air (from a real compressor, canned air does nothing).

          • Hmmmm, a story about mermaid witches who can only cast spells while riding their familiar porpoises?

            • Reminds me of a story I heard once. A marine biologist stumbled across a way to grant immortality to dolphins that very improbably involved extracting various substances from seagulls. Having netted some, he returned to his lab, only to find a lion sleeping on his doorstep. He very gingerly stepped over the lion, and was immediately arrested for Transporting gulls across a staid lion for immortal porpoises.

  2. Okay, you said:

    why do they allow people to write who can’t understand the basics of life as defined by economics – and that economics is a basic function of being human, no matter where or when

    It made me think the same sort of thoughts about politics. I went to a Houghton College, a Wesleyan school where the sociology professors were moderately liberal (not flaming anyway), but during my term they somehow managed to hire a conservative political science professor.
    He introduced me to this book “In Defence of Politics” by Bernard Crick. The main these of the book was that the activity of politics is essential to genuine freedom. To quote:
    “Politics, then, can be simply defined as the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole community.”
    and
    “A political system is that type of government where politics proves successful in ensuring reasonable stability and order.”

    1) I recommend reading the book, if you haven’t already.
    2) I must have mentioned at least 10 different blog subjects in that compact yet long blog comment.

    As always, whatever you write will be enthralling. 😉

    • It does beg the question, what happens when one faction of government achieves sufficient power either from popular support or through chicanery to suppress opposition? Seems to me you would quickly degenerate from a republic into authoritarian rule. And if the faction in control was mistaken in their fundamental assumptions the house of cards they built would eventually crumble. And that would not be pretty.
      Any part of that sound at all familiar?
      Anyone else ever heard the term “The Chicago Way?”

    • why do they allow people to write who can’t understand the basics of …

      They allow it because a) editors and publishers are even more ignorant of such things (see also: guns, sex) than the authors and b) people buy it.

      The important question is why do readers not throw more books against walls, nor join angry mobs eager to lecture offending writers about economics.

      • because our educational system has been debased. I wasn’t calling for laws forbidding certain writing. Rather, I was referring to the readers as “allowing” it.

  3. masgramondou

    Here’s a subject. The mindsets involved in Ehrlich & Ehrlich* vs Kelly

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/08/02/ehrlich-ehrlich-can-a-global-collapse-of-civilization-be-avoided/

    *Yes those Ehrlichs.

  4. Wayne Blackburn

    I watched Star Trek because my husband loved it, but I don’t think I care enough for it to analyze its politics (which at any rate seem incoherent)

    Yes, they were incoherent. This is because Roddenberry (which I didn’t know until just a few years ago, after watching an interview he did once) was actually a big Lefty, but when he was originally pitching Star Trek, the climate for getting anything produced was a lot different. You can see progression of his politics through the movies, then Next Generation, and finally that abomination that was Earth: Final Conflict.

    • E:FC didn’t come out until after Gene died. It may have been based on his notes, but the lion’s share of the abomination rests on Majel’s head.

    • This is confusing to me: Roddenberry as lefty. I was 14? when I read The Making of Star Trek, and learned that R liked Ayn Rand and her model of the hero. Off I went to read Ayn Rand. She’s not a lefty. So, I’m confused. Anyone know what that was about?

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I don’t understand that, either. Unless he changed his own memory of his motivations and goals later in life, the interview I mentioned implied that when he created Star Trek, he made it the way it was so he could get it past the producers, then he could sneak in his social commentaries in bits and pieces, and the kinds of things he was saying in the interview put him solidly in with the socialists.

        • William O. B'Livion

          He’s a *lefty*. Inconsistency is *not* a bug, it’s a feature.

        • Maybe he liked Rand purely for her depiction of the heroic man. This is an ancient memory, but I think I remember something about how Kirk and Spock represented two sides of man’s nature, the heart and the mind.

          • Originally, Gene Roddenberry believed a lot more in libertarianism (or libertinarianism, in his case) and “classical liberalism,” which was practically right-wing compared to lefties these days. But I think Ayn Rand appealed to his “I am a self-reliant GEEEENIUS” side. (And Rand approved of men sleeping with women and treating them badly, as long as they were the correct genius men.) And Roddenberry was a Navy guy and then a policeman, so again, he was right-wing by instinct, as regards issues like self-defense and national defense. However, he also knew what he was supposed to believe, as an enlightened modern man of the left, and strove hard to believe it more as he grew older.

            He was a mess, politically. You couldn’t trust him on a lot of things, personally, especially if you were a woman. But he did do some great things. People are weird like that.

            • Rand’s views on love were a little idiosyncratic and clearly did not require long-term fidelity on the part of either gender. I re-read Atlas Shrugged right before part 1 of the movie came out a few years ago. Dagny Taggart was the one who kept trading up (“up” in the philosophical, not the material sense). I’m not sure that there wasn’t a single, right-thinking male who wasn’t waiting for her. That which happened between her and Hank Rearden was a prime case of story being sacrificed to philosophy, and really annoying on this last read. It’s still an amazing book.

            • Mike Williamson says it was when Paramount took over – ie, the movies and TNG, that the hard left turn took place – he corroborated others who’ve pointed out that Roddenberry was more libertarian than left, with some populist and “classic” Progressive ideas….ie, pre-1968 DNC ideas.

    • and you can see the major departure from his politics in DS9, and their continued putting down of capitalism in same…

      • Some considered the Ferengi to be an anti-semetic stereotype. But I do find it interesting that DS9 forced the Trek universe to invent a form of Currency.

        • As originally represented, the Ferengi are an anti-Semitic stereotype. But pretty much anything can be an anti-Semitic stereotype, so the important point is they did not remain so. Instead they gave root to one of my very most favorite lines in any Trek episode:

          “[T]hey shamelessly clothe their females, inviting others to unclothe them. The very depth of perversion.”

          • When they first appeared I recall reading about a campus race hustler who tried to claim they were an anti-black stereotype, and another student wrote a reply, ticking off the Jewish stereotypes, and then commenting that the fellow had to go re-take stereotypes 101.

            • Ferengi as anti-Semitic? Really? When I first saw them, my instant response was the trading habits of the Dutch. They still have some major companies that sell food and goods around the world i.e. Beatrice Foods. (American company, my *ss) It was owned by the Queen of Holland– and business is the first thing the princes and princesses learn there. 😉

          • I must, however, point out that lust was a favorite trait among anti-Semites. Like the film Jud Suess that I brought up in the other thread

            • “They’re after our women” is a primary provoker of inter-group hostility, whatever group.

              N.B., the depiction of the Ferengi — excessively long fingernails, bad posture, furtive movements, bald — incorporated elements common to medieval portrayals of European Jews. I am not saying it was deliberate, except in the manner of Freud’s lingerie.

              • Seriously– I read Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock and… I didn’t even connect it with the Ferengi. Still don’t — I looked at the actions… It might have to do with personal experiences with dealing with folks from the Netherlands. Great people– but you were careful when you traded with them. 😉

                • As someone hereabouts recently reminded, Thomas Sowell has long noted that “Middleman” cultures — traders — are frequently objects of dislike. Many and various reasons go into this, not least being that no matter how good a trader you are, they’re pro-effing-fessionals at it and do more trades in a year than you likely will in your entire life.

                  It also seems a deep-seated element of human psychology that we harbor suspicion that trades can be “lost” as if they were a zero-sum game rather than a win-win transaction.

    • I kind of thought that his TV show Andromeda had some libertarian/conservative leanings, but when it aired in my area, I was watching it over the air on a fuzzy station late at night and had to keep the audio down so younger siblings could sleep — so I may have not understood a lot of it. (It would air Saturday night/Sunday morning, either before or after some TV show that featured three young women that were supposed to be ex-con government agents.)

    • Have you ever heard the theory that Star Trek is in fact the propaganda put out by the Federation in — hmmmm, IIRC, Blake’s Seven?

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Haven’t heard anything about that. Never read Blake’s Seven, so I wouldn’t be able to tell.

        • British TV series, somewhat cult status (emphasis added):

          Blake’s 7 is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC for broadcast on BBC1. Four 13-episode series of Blake’s 7 were broadcast between 1978 and 1981. It was created by Terry Nation, who was also creator of the Daleks for Doctor Who. The script editor was Chris Boucher. The series was inspired by a range of fictional media including Passage to Marseilles, The Dirty Dozen, Robin Hood, Brave New World, Star Trek, classic Westerns and real-world political conflicts in South America and Israel.

          The series is set in a future age of interstellar travel and follows the exploits of a group of renegades and convicted criminals. Gareth Thomas played the eponymous character Roj Blake, a political dissident who is arrested, tried and convicted on false charges, and then deported from Earth to a prison planet. He and two fellow prisoners, treated as expendable, are sent to board and investigate an abandoned alien spacecraft. They get the ship working, commandeer it, rescue two more prisoners, and are joined by an alien guerrilla with telepathic abilities. In their attempts to stay ahead of their enemies and inspire others to rebel, they encounter a wide variety of cultures on different planets, and are forced to confront human and alien threats. The group conducts a campaign against the totalitarian Terran Federation until an intergalactic war occurs. Blake disappears and Kerr Avon then leads the group. When their spacecraft is destroyed and one group member dies, they commandeer an inferior craft and a base on a distant planet, from which they continue their campaign. In the final episode Avon finds Blake and, suspecting him of betraying the group, kills him. The group is then shot by Federation guards, who surround Avon in the final scene.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake's_7

          Sample clips are available on Youtube

  5. Ugh! You had to mention the litter boxes.But, breakfast first. And coffee.

    But about Buffy. I could see a whole master-level course in writing built around analyzing the storytelling, the characterization, the dramaturgy… The dialog.

    But HOW would you do it? Maybe the design of the syllabus could be a blog post, or a series of them.

    M

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Coffee!

      I always forget to make coffee at home. I get it at work, so I don’t think about it at home.

  6. Sweetie, it’s bated breath. Baited breath has an entirely different connotation. Unless of course you were intentionally going with that whole dead fish theme that seems to be so popular in these parts.
    Since chancing upon your blog I have yet to encounter one of your posts that has failed to interest and inform me. Much the same observation goes for the motley crew of miscreants and reprobates who hang about and comment here. As a long time Baen Barfly I have felt very much at home from the first. Trying to say that whatever you choose to write about works for me, just keep up the good work. But if you insist, here’s one thought.
    I am by nature and training a systems engineering sort so it’s all about the process for me. I am most fascinated by the whole indie publishing thing and would love a step by step description of how you take a finished piece of work and place it before the buying public. Back in the day self published and vanity published were more or less synonymous so legitimate indie is something of a switch for me.
    Spent many a year drafting various documents and would agree completely with your observation that an author must distance oneself from their work in order to do a reasonable edit. When you’re too close your mind blots out the mistakes. Back in the day we would print out the text and position each page at an odd angle just to make it look different to the eye, or scan back to front. Anything to break the connection between creator and product and impose that ever so important distance. Time is even better when you have it to spare, but we were generally on a tight deadline. In fact the running joke was: “of course we need that today, if we’d needed it tomorrow we would have given you the assignment tomorrow!”

  7. IN DEFENSE of my suggested topics … there is no defense. The idea was to start a discussion and poke a couple of the miserable miscreants (we know who we are) in the snout. Buffy, well, we all know what is going on in there but we loved it anyway; surely that is worth a blog or two: how to feed your readers oatmeal and make them like it.

    Themes from Shakespeare would probably suit better than Star Trek, but I wanted to recognize the Lefty incoherence from back in a day when Lefty’s could admit America, flaws and all, was worth loving. Avon’s Bard wrote stories (um, well – stole plots but did a really good job of filing off the serial numbers, repainting them and refurbishing their interiors) and filled them with characters that keep them fresh to this day. How’d he do that? He was also writing in a time that actually was politically repressive. Shakespeare Thursday could dedicate one day a week to discussing one of Will’s plays, themes or characters and give you some additional use of the knowledge of Victorian England you’ve accrued.

  8. Transgressive books…_Systems of Survival_ by Jane Jacobs. A couple of opinions expressed therein I disagree with, but the basic thesis was interesting and her description of the USSR as a moral abomination (and by extension, all socialist systems as such) much like the Mafia, made the whole thing worthwhile.

    For something even more transgressive: The Case for Father Custody. I haven’t read the whole thing, and it gets a bit ranty in places, but the thesis, that custody should default to the fathers rather than the mothers, and that the current habit of valuing mothers more than fathers is destructive of civilization, was one that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. It’s basically a long paean to patriarchy, which is about as transgressive as one can get nowadays.

  9. Yes, civilization is a worthy topic for a SF blog. How to build, how to describe, how to make credible, how to sell. How ti strip mine History for civilizations to refinish.

  10. Blog topics:

    80% of Americans experience poverty at some point in their lives and 15% are living below the poverty line. The poverty line in the US is $23,050 for a family of four. — consider another of your “Immigrant’s perspective” pieces.

    Pluses and minuses of “Living wage” laws.

    Non-writing income streams for writers, why you don’t do ads on your blog, why you don’t put amazon links to your indie works on your blog.

    You frequently use the phrase “except for Baen” or equivalent. In what ways is Baen different, and why?

    More on raising healthy boys in a feminist culture.

    Thoughts on techniques to teach kids economic realities while young.

    You have so-far avoided the topic, but you live in Colorado while the recall elections are going on. Perhaps the “California-ation” of Colorado?

    Convincing your family and friends that when you work at home you’re actually working.

  11. Anyway, shoot topics at me.

    I’ll take that as a standing invitation.

    At threescore years and five, I have seen questions resolved which in my youth appeared to be unassailable. The Four-Color Problem and Fermat’s Last Theorem come to mind. (Not that I understand the things needed to understand the things needed to understand the solutions.)

    So my suggested topic—category, really—is What development(s) would you most like to see before you die?. Answers like humongous wealth & health for me and immortality and utopia are too obvious to be interesting.

    Excluding the above, my top-of-the-head answer is discovery of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I’m not too sure about immortality. It seems like if you could not die, that would be a problem, eventually. Also, I’m thinking it’s generally agreed that Utopia is not going to happen without unwanted modifications of the human psyche.

      As far as intelligent extraterrestrial life goes, even if you include just-emerged ones (that is to say, the first specimens able to think in the abstract manner we consider to be indicative of intelligence), you’re not talking about a very large time window to find them.

      • I would be satisfied if intelligent life were discovered via their interstellar signals.

        If they somehow had evolved, or showed up, in our solar system, wow.

    • Near the top of my short list of developments would be some form of energy storage that had roughly the same energy density as liquid hydrocarbons. The equivalent of Heinlein’s fictional “shipstones.” Assuming the transfer mechanism to be efficient and cost effective this one invention would revolutionize energy availability and consumption throughout the world. With this capability green energy would actually make some sense.
      Also high on the list, a better space drive than our current chemical rockets which are already at the bleeding edge of their theoretical capabilities. Until we get past ballistic transfer orbits and develop the capability for constant thrust space vehicles we will remain for the most part Earth bound. Constant thrust of even a tenth G would give us the entire solar system.
      As for extra terrestrial intelligence, prove to me that they have not already found us and placed us in quarantine for our own protection. Look at our own recorded history to to see what happens when a superior culture encounters and interacts will one less developed. Despite it’s many other faults, the prime directive as described in Star Trek does make a great deal of sense from a moral perspective.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        The reading on this page is a bit long, but the short version is that there is a system being developed that will allow Hydrogen to be stored in glass microbeads which are small enough that a mass of them can be pumped like a liquid, the Hydrogen can be released by heat, then the used beads pumped into a different reservoir.

        According to one article I read, it will take minor alterations (well, relatively minor – a whole lot less than buying a new car) to allow existing IC engines to use the Hydrogen fuel. When refilling, the used beads will be pumped out into a storage tank at the station, then returned to the manufacturer for recharging, while the other tank is filled with full ones.

        This allows the use of power plants more efficient than IC engines to separate the Hydrogen, plus all of the pollution control can be done at the plant, rather than in the engine.

        • Tell me about it.

          At the conference I was recently at, NASA glenn made it clear that they were designing most of their interplanetary missions around it, and are testing what they can without actual nuclear material. (Electrically heated elements in a lab to test the hydrogen/ceramic interfaces of a nuclear thermal engine, etc).

    • The Four-Color Problem

      My middle school disproof of a 5 color situation in a 2d simply connected non-periodic region seemed pretty good (to a middle schooler) until some smartass started pulling Weirstraussian monster curves out of the lovecraftian end of Platonic space to destroy all sane notions of a connected boundary.

      Those things are cheating, I tell you! 😛

    • What development(s) would you most like to see before you die?

      1) An energy source that will get us off this rock, sustain civilization at industrial levels indefinitely, and allow us to seriously tackle the space colonization problem (which involves a lot of turning rocks into useably seperated elements – very energy intense processes).

      2) If we don’t discover other intelligence in the universe externally, then it would be fascinating to see us develop the ability to create it ourselves. AI, animal uplift, etc.

      3) Immortality would be nice.

    • Here’s a potential topic:
      The original colonization of the new world was driven by many things – easily stealable wealth, trade, acquiring vast areas of attractive land.

      One of the things that the science fiction future of space colonization (at least within our solar system) is criticized for is that space isn’t very much like any of that. There are no natives, so there is no wealth to cart away. What is there is in almost maximally difficult forms to use (variations of oxidized rocks. Oxygen, far from being a luxury, is an overabundant annoyance.) It seems to me that any settlers of the solar system, rather than going after the pre-existing riches of a new world will have to approach the task with the goal of creating their new world – as everything that they can fill that void with will have to be an artifact of their own creation.

      How do you see this, and how would you see it affecting a space-faring civilization’s culture?

      Another tangentially related topic:
      In the limit of vast abilities, and no sufficiently interesting external stimulation, are there any important distinctions between discovery and creation?

    • A device that detects whether you are lying or telling the truth based on your brain activity.

  12. Yes, on narrative. Expand to include adapting narrative technique from other media to the novel.

    It occurs to me that one could write an “Ace Double” exploring the use of perspective in narrative, each side telling the same story. One version would be “His” and the other “Hers” — revealing the ways in which each party is the hero of their own tale and how one believes he (she) is perceived is not necessarily accurate.

    • The film “Rashomon” already did that.

      Still, it’s a nice idea.

      • As I typed it I had thought of the novel(s) and film(s) Mr. & Mrs. Bridges, but I don’t think the technique has been applied to adventure fiction, making each the hero of his/her own story.

        Although, the variant viewpoints in the Magical British Empire stories (or Sarah’s Musketeer Mysteries employ the technique within a single novel.

        • Haven’t seen it done in prose fiction, but I have seen it done in a video game. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. It’s quite exciting, too.

          • Which brings us back around to adapting story-telling techniques from other media/genres, doesn’t it? (Makes it easier to file off the serial numbers, and even when caught doing it it can be sold as “innovative” rather than derivative, under the rubric that it is homage rather than swiping. See: Q. Tarantino)

            • This technique is well-known; look up “Captain Ersatz” and “Spiritual Licensee” on TV Tropes.

              And it’s always good to learn narrative techniques from other places.

        • And more so Rogue Magic, I think… And Witchfinder.

  13. The social function of transgressive works. How to approach and respond to them. (And what your definition of “transgressive” says about you — for my money, Thomas Sowell is the most transgressive writer working today: T. Sowell, Exploding Liberal Heads For Decades!)

    • For writers’ purpose, make this how to use “transgressive” attitudes to reveal character (e.g., Baron Harkonnen’s pedophilia in Dune, although that is largely a “black hat” fillip; perhaps a better example could be the S&M predilections of the lead in Ringo’s Kildar series.)

      • Nowadaysk, a better example would be remaining virginal until marriage and faithful thereafter. That would be transgressive.

    • Don’t forget that “transgressive” changes with the times.

  14. I actually emailed this to you, but that happened just around the time of your alone time with your husband so that probably got buried somewhere. But, if you have any ideas how to stay sane when one’s face to face friends are all people who believe in big governments (as in the government being responsible for almost everything – and if something doesn’t work we just need to vote in smarter people), and most rather green tinted… okay, they are all nice people, and I’m not all that political (and neither are most of them, which is probably one of the reasons, these are people who have been too busy with their own lives to really think much of the bigger picture, and things do work reasonably well here, so far, at least for those who have a job and work for somebody else, and this is still also a pretty safe country, so they seem to see politics mostly as images, they seem to vote for what sounds nice and not bother to try figuring out the nuts and bolts part, as in would that nice really have a chance to work in real life, or how it would affect something else when implemented), and I can easily spend most of the time discussing fashions and local SCA and cats and cooking and their kids and so on, but occasionally it gets to me a bit. Ideas would be welcome. Searching for more alike thinking people is of course one alternative, I just have no bloody idea where from. Almost everything I’m interested in and can afford seems to have mostly university educated folks, and the majority of those seem to be rather hopeless.

    Besides, I do like the ones I already have, just remembering to avoid certain subjects can get somewhat wearing at times. They do know, most of them, how I think so I’m not worried about getting shunned or anything like that, but most have also made it more or less clear that they’d prefer if I avoided politics. So I do.

    But as said, this can also be rather frustrating at times. So: how to stay sane when living with green leftists? 🙂

    • Move, it is what I did.

      • Family. I’m an only child, didn’t want to leave my father.

        • So am I, I just moved my parents after me. But yes, that probably doesn’t work for most people.

          • My mother died when I was 26, and some years later he remarried. No way he would have moved.

            And I guess the idea of leaving him did feel worse because I had lost my mother at that age. Especially since it was not sudden, she had gotten sick when I was 16. Made me, in some ways, rather security seeking.

        • plus this: university dropout, and I wasn’t quite sure for years what was wrong with me (SAD). I was worried I’d not be able to do any better anywhere else (if I’d be even able to move legally anywhere else…). Which might have meant I’d never be able to visit if I left. So I thought about it, but never quite dared. In hindsight, yes, I should have.

          Now, I’m past fifty with a rather dismal work history (low level manual jobs, which I can’t even do well anymore), and dad is ninety. Doesn’t look good.

    • BTW, one thing that matters when it comes to the belief in governments, and politicians, letting them run everything, seems to be the thought that they are the experts. That the whole thing is complicated, and common sense does not really apply, and somebody like me can’t really have a valid opinion because I don’t have a degree, and even if I did unless it was in anything connected it wouldn’t really matter. That you need to be somebody who does have a degree in something, preferably something like political science, or else maybe have been involved in politics from about high school before you can really understand the intricacies of running a country (or how something as big as a country, much less in the biggest scale, global anything, functions), and since the people who do run the country are the people who mostly have that training they are the ones we should trust. Because they understand what is going on, and most of us, the ordinary citizens, don’t.

      I don’t know if it’s like that in your country and with your leftists, but that’s the impression I have of mine, and why so many here really do want to let the government to have most of the power. It’s the idea that you should always leave everything, at least everything important, to the experts.

      • No, you’ve hit it on the head. The idea is strong here among the left that credentialism is the only qualification. The idea that completely unaccomplished people who just happen to have graduated from the “right” school are qualified to make policy. Our current President is only the most recent and most extreme example of that ludicrous idea.

        Its especially infuriating as its a completely un-American idea.

        • Birthday girl

          Yes and yes. And the clique of “right schools” is getting smaller over time.

        • Note that being a graduate of Yale and Harvard didn’t win George W Bush any respect (although it probably went a long way to making him doubt the expertise of experts. When you can recall seeing a classmate puke out the car window it diminishes your willing acceptance of his Middle East analysis.)

          • When you grow up knowing all the details of formal place settings and seeing the horrible messes the wealthy can make of their lives, it removes the mystique of wealth very nicely. But I have friends who bootstrapped their way into the Ivy League from the lower middle classes who were mesmerized by the trappings, and couldn’t get past that.

            Experience does matter, esp.in diminishing the claims of status & credentials.

      • As with so many of Life’s travails, accepting that there is really very little that you can do about the circumstances is about the only option. It is rather like being the only person who thinks the Earth orbits the sun rather than vice-versa: even if you could convince everybody around you it just wouldn’t matter. As is, there is very little you can do that would convince them, so accept you will be out of step on this and satisfy yourself with holding to your integrity and slipping in the occasional comment to remind them that this is not the natural order of things. That way, when alternatives appear they may be less quick to dismiss their proponents as crazy.

        Work within their belief system to prepare them to accept change, because any direct challenge will be self-defeating.

    • It’s really a case of two options. You either agree to disagree and simply avoid certain subjects, or roll up your sleeves and engage them in a healthy knock down drag out debate.
      The true downfall of the liberal progressive mindset is that they believe with a firmness bordering on religion in the narrative, and that narrative will invariably at some point diverge drastically with reality. I purposely avoid getting into the weeds on subjects. I wait for the other side to take a position that can be destroyed with a simple recitation of verifiable facts.
      My own area of expertise is Second Amendment issues, and it generally comes down to the other side spouting assumptions and questionable statistics based mainly on feelings and rampant hoplophobia while I respond with official crime statistics from government sources. Gotten to the point where some dear friends will avoid the subject at all costs even leaving the room if someone else brings the subject up. It’s either that or accept that their cherished beliefs simply do not hold up under the spotlight of facts.

      • Since gun rights are something that matter to me I have searched quite a bit of your country’s statistics – USA tends to be the scary example people bring up in these parts, you know, the place where a huge number of people die yearly, small kids and foreign exchange students who tried to ask for directions shot on driveways and all that. Your MSM may pick certain types of stories for the big news, ours pick the cream of that crop. The only stories involving guns from your country you ever see in our media are the ones which involve something like a spree killer, or some thoroughly irresponsible gun owner getting some innocent killed (if it can be told like that). And we don’t have anything like Fox news among our own media so if you stick to ours you are going to get a rather skewed picture of things.

        Well, personally my biggest problem is that I can’t have an amiable discussion here about subjects like that. It will either turn into an argument, or the other person will perhaps listen politely for a little while and then change the subject at the first possible moment. It would be really nice to be able to do something like occasionally call a friend when I see something interesting or irritating on the news, or maybe after I did some checking and found out that once again half of the facts were missing, just to talk a bit about it, without getting either of those reactions.

        • The right wants to engage in a debate of logic and ideas. The left believes in feelings. There’s really no way to make the left care about a debate of logic and ideas — it’s all secular religion to them. It’s part of why they always seem so childish — you don’t try to reason with children, because you assume it’s pointless.

          I’ve given up trying for conversions. The intellectual lack of interest that I see as shameful doesn’t even register.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Facebook is acting up for me right now, so I can’t find the link, but have you seen this study that says people are up to 5 times more likely to be a victim of gun violence if there is a gun in the house? I was arguing with people for two days on that one. I’d like some counter-resources if you have them available.

        • I would guess they are counting suicides as “gun violence,” as well as folks breaking into the house.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Yes, they were. I think it said that a person was 10 times as likely to commit suicide with a gun if there was a gun in the house. Problem was, the question cited in the study, regarding guns in the house, would have included not only gang-bangers, but people who had bought a gun specifically to kill themselves.

            • *wry* It’s very hard to be shot if there isn’t a gun in the house, other than through a window or door or something.

              The important thing is, will you have the gun– or the home invader? You can only control half of that equation, and I know what I choose.

              • “*wry* It’s very hard to be shot if there isn’t a gun in the house”

                Yep, a more useful study would be compare percentages of violent deaths in households with guns (of household members, while percentage of home invader deaths would be an interesting statistic it should be counted separately) compared to those in households without guns. And suicides should not be counted, an absence of guns does not cut down on suicide, but it might cut down on it in the home, due to them being more likely to decide on a different method such as jumping off a bridge or running their car into the ocean, both of which are remarkably hard to accomplish in your average American household.

                • I do remember that by the FBI’s statistics, more folks die from childbirth than gun accidents.

                • Once upon a time, in Great Britain, they used coal gas in stoves and heating. It contained lots of carbon monoxide and was good for committing suicide — just let it run — and accounted for about half of all suicides.

                  When they brought in natural gas, it was less good for suicide.

                  Suicides fell by a third.

                  Yes, access to a method of suicide can increase the risk.

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    The only problem with that is, how can you tell that they were suicides, and not just screw-ups?

                    Natural gas is a very easy way to commit suicide, Long ago, it wasn’t hard to defeat whatever safety mechanisms there were. Takes a little longer, but it will kill you just as dead.

            • The most infamous of those silly studies did not prove guns to cause violence. The stronger correlation was whether there was a felon in the household. Google “Kellerman study discredted” or variations.

        • For scholarly works check the research done by John Lott. He started out as anti gun until he took a detailed look at the facts then did a complete turn about.
          A free e-book “Gun Facts” filled with data to counter the typical anti gun myths being commonly quoted can be downloaded at gunfacts.info.
          A truly excellent article on the myths and errors of gun control by Baen author Larry Correia’s can be had at his wordpress site:
          larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/
          As to the specific study you mention, those kind of numbers are generally gotten by selectively cherry picking the raw data. For example, when discussing defensive gun use the anti gunners refuse to include any case except where the attacker is shot and killed. If they are frightened off, often without a shot even being fired, it doesn’t count. In actual point of fact the mere presence of a firearm is believed to be responsible for preventing or stopping between 800,000 and 2.5 million crimes a year. The lower number is the official FBI statistic and only includes cases which actually generate a police report. The larger number is an estimate based on a typical ratio of reported to unreported crimes.

  15. You mean, if I want to write Appealing YA< I have to watch Buffy? *shudders* the idea has merit, though, as my eldest went through the entire series on Netflix last year, including pulling me in and forcing me to sit and watch her favorite episodes.

    • No! Of course you don’t have to. But I enjoyed it when I was so depressed (whether I will now, who knows?) and it seemed like a good idea to reconnect with “high School age” now both terrors are out of it.

      • I like Spike. Though, I think that’s in large part because he’s a genuine agent. Spike does things – horrific and heroic – because he chooses to. He’s not destined into it like Buffy, or cursed into it like Angel.

        • Rick Boatright

          Spike’s agency is one of the great themes of Buffy. He -chose- redemption and not only did he execute it, but was aware of the consequences and risks.

          On the other hand, as much as I utterly love Joss’s work, and as much as I think he’s the best working in SF in current TV and film, as much as I loved Firefly (and Buffy pfhhhhht…) there is one consistent thing that Josh does that makes me scream.

          He will NOT allow a bonded loving couple to remain together. Buffy’s true love flies away into the night. Angel’s true love — oh dear, that’s better not described. Xander and Anya, Willow and Tara.

          and in Serenity, after the series had FINISHED and they came back and did a movie, knowing full well that the chances of a second movie were essentially nil, even if the movie was fantastically successful, he had to kill Wash because allowing a happily married couple to exist in the fans minds forevermore would violate Joss’s internal rule of “no lasting true love” — there was no other reason for Wash to be the one who died.

          And Dollhouse…
          And the Avengers
          And ….

          I absolutely love Joss’s work. I believe no one else could have done the Avengers successfully, but I wish just ONCE he would let a long term relationship exist.

          • One thing for which I respect Whedon is his willingness to stay true to his characters. He may kill them, he may force them to do terrible things, but he does not force them to be inconsistent with their character. He is able to distinguish between his politics and his characters’ politics.

            • Look, no. I still haven’t forgiven him for making the geeky girl a lesbian. And it wasn’t needed.

              • Oh, right. That one I’ll give you. Gratuitous and a break in character.

              • Ditto.

                Also: thanks for nothing, dude; like I didn’t already get called homosexual for being a geek, way to push the “geeks have sexual quirks” trope.

              • Birthday girl

                Yes. It’s obvious from the way it was handled that it was an after-the-fact “good idea” add-on. All the other characters were scripted to be so surprised and they kept saying “not that there’s anythign wrong with that.” Sorry, not convincing for California characters of that age. My kids and their culture … it doesn’t phase them. A non-issue. There is no “not that there’s anything wrong with that” attitude. So the scripts came across as false for that reason.

                • Yep. My kids too — mixed groups to prom and some couples are not hetero and no one cares.
                  BUT again, as the not-socially-clued geek girl who got suspected of being a lesbian, I didn’t appreciate the reinforcement of this idea. It’s like this TV program about how if your three year old girl likes to play with trucks, she’s probably a lesbian. And I’m screaming “WTF? She’s not anything. She’s a toddler.” Besides, I liked all the guys’ toys (I liked dolls too, but dolls didn’t have batteries or tracks. Okay. At least no doll I’d seen) but round about 11 I realized guys were uh… INTERESTING. I had no clue what they were interesting for for a god long while after that, but the interesting was there.

                  • What do you mean Barbie doesn’t have tracks? Have you rolled her sleeves up lately and checked.

                    • No, but my complaints to my mom that dolls didn’t do anything got me a wind up crawling doll… which I took apart and put back together, only there were some pieces left over, so the doll would crawl forward, raise her right leg for a few seconds, crawl again… I was… three? Four? I couldn’t understand what the adults found so funny.

                    • ROFL I somehow missed this comment last night, but I’m glad I had just finished my coffee before reading about your doll hiking her leg on the furniture.

          • He does great until his philosophy tells him that the story needs to do X or Y.

            Love his story telling, it draws him to the truth– but his philosophy {basic decency violation here.}

        • I like Spike too. Angel is… wet.

          • Which Start Trek (later series) episode was it where the actor that played Spike was a cool Klingon? (I think it’s the one where Whorf has a child.) I think the character persisted for a couple of episodes, at least. Loved it.

            • A quick check of the James Marsters listing at IMDb reveals no Star Trek appearances … but does offer a reminder of his delightful appearance on Torchwood.

              Unlisted there, but he is the reader for the Harry Dresden audiobooks. I have yet to sample one of his readings but doubt it will disappoint.

              Three appearances on Hawaii Five-0???

            • My bad — I meant the late unlamented Andromeda series. He had a guest role as Jaguar. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0025886/quotes

              Tyr Anasazi: What would you like, Jaguar?
              Charlemagne Bolivar: The usual. Hundreds of grandchildren, utter domination of known space and the pleasure of hearing that all of my enemies have died in terrible, highly improbable accidents that cannot be connected to me. And you?
              Tyr Anasazi: [Laughs] The usual.

        • Why Spike is popular.

  16. Birthday girl

    Yes, Buffy is great comfort for enduring dark times. I claim to be a Christian, yet I find more comfort in Buffy than in the Bible. I don’t know what that means about the state of my soul…

  17. I never watch TV, and seldom movies, so I understand where you are coming from there. While I read SF what little I do watch is almost never SF*, because I don’t enjoy it on screen, I guess my imagination just works a lot better with words on paper than with pictures that don’t look realistic.

    *I did download and watch the episodes of Firefly and Serenity a short time ago, since so many had recommended it. I enjoyed Firefly, but found the movie really bad, it didn’t live up to the show at all.

    • Keep in mind that the movie was, essentially, the entire second season of Firefly compressed down to (Serenity running time)

  18. Dorothy Grant

    What is the difference between a scifi story with a romantic subplot, and a romance that has scifi setting/elements?

    • Rick Boatright

      Because I favor an open definition of SF, I include the J D Robb novels, but what books, series do you know that skate the edge or go over it?

    • Mostly, it has to do with genre conventions. Is the point of the story to get Boy and Girl together, or do Boy and Girl flirt with getting together while the issue is X, where X = treasure hunt, alien invasion, military action, galactic rebellion, what-have-you. In romance, there are certain beats that have to happen. I view this as kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, as I don’t know (or care, really) whether the beats are actually required for it to be a romance, or the audience has been inculcated into expecting those beats, and so will feel betrayed if they aren’t there. It’s the notion of knowing the audience for whom you’re writing. Scifi has different beats – though I’d argue that scifi beats vary more by subgenre – than romances do. The audiences just expect different things.

      Along those lines, a series of Know Your Genre or Know Your Subgenre posts could prove invaluable, explaining the beats and conventions that different audiences expect, and then how to twist them to fit your own nefarious purposes.

      • Oh. Sure. I can do that. I read — sigh — EVERYTHING.

      • This would be very helpful. There are a great many things that I understand intuitively in writing but that I don’t know how to explain, and things like pacing and story beats are part of that. It causes me problems when I want to tell a client they need to fix something, but I don’t know how to explain what it is they need to fix.

        • Start with a glossary so that we all understand what story beats are (For that matter, so we understand what a plot is — I have my doubts about several contemporary authors*, no matter how successful they are become.)

          *Yeah, Martin, I’m talkin’ ’bout choo.

        • I understand that there are such things, but I’m pretty bad at recognizing them, in my writing or in others’. I’ve spent so much time marinating in scifi/fantasy that the tropes just seem normal. I can actually recognize them in mysteries, thrillers and romances, but not in SF.

    • ah. That one is actually easy. A sci fi sctory with a romantic subplot makes sense. Most romances with sci fi “futuristic romances” make about as much sense as Star Wars and less than Star Trek.
      Technically, though, the definition is “which one is given more importance and takes longer to tie up. OR simply, which one is solved LAST” Of course by the technical definition, AFGM is a Romance with futuristic elements. And I’m not sitting down under that.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Silly – the woman always takes longer to tie up. You have to make sure you don’t get her hair caught in the rope… what? Oh, you meant something else? Uh, never mind.

  19. I know this is generally a politics free blog /looks innocent/ but you might consider doing a post on politics. Those usually enliven much interest and comments.

    • It’s a politics free blog? WHEN?

      • The politics come free with admission?

        Actually, a post on how to incorporate politics into your writing, why politics matters (and where it doesn’t — I cannot comprehend Matalin & Carville, but they seem happily wedded, if only based on longevity.) There are (undoubtedly) honest and dishonest ways to insert politics, just as there are things which politics ought not affect.

        • Keep in mind that every story has a worldview, though. The line between this and preaching is extremely thin, though, so be careful.

        • That’s a good topic. Considering how much Firefly has been mentioned on this page, note that Joss Whedon has said that he and Malcolm Reynolds would disagree vehemently on political topics.

          Which makes Whedon somewhat of an anomaly: a left-liberal who can write a convincing conservative/libertarian.

          Actually, that’s a topic I’d like to suggest, after RES’s idea is covered: Writing the (political) Other.

          • I second the topic of writing the political other. I tried it in a short story, but I’ll likely never put it up ’cause it’s just too snarky. The MC had the chance to learn, failed, of course, and didn’t get to go to Mars.

            • I’m stuck with doing that because my character starts as a true believer in a future form of the French revolution. But it can’t be that difficult. Although I was always considered “right wing” (for there. I.e. I wasn’t a communist) I was raised in Europe so I was by default raised a liberal. Actually given my anti-authority instincts (in Europe both right and left are authoritarian in general) I was a political mess till around 30

          • I remember long ago reading that the original Avengers were intended as a spoof on cool, competent spies, but that audiences ate it up for all the wrong reasons. They liked the heroes.
            Maybe it’s just as an artistic truth that cool, heroic guys are competent with a sense of personal responsibility and the strange view that they can influence, if not shape, their own destiny. That they can do something.

  20. Dorothy Grant

    How do you cook low-carb with cats around? At least most things that hit the floor, they can eat.

    Kilima !Njaaro has discovered that if I make egg drop soup and slip a few wontons in, and if she puts a paw on the back of my knee right as I’m ladelling the wontons out, I will fumble one. Given said wontons are sized like a large mouse, boiled in chicken broth and stuffed with meat, she’s currently batting the “corpse” around the kitchen and eating the “guts” out between playing with her food.

    This is not good. I think I’m going to be in for a lot more trouble as we do meat, cheese, and cream-filled dishes.

    • You see, Dorothy actually knows the true secret of blogging success.

      Cat blogging.

    • Birthday girl

      I love it. Lucky cat!

    • My mind went straight into that catchy parody of the Harry Chapin song, “The Cat’s in the Kettle at the Peking Moon.”

    • You realize I haven’t yet seen pictures of this cat? I don’t believe she exists.

      • Dorothy Grant

        I’m going to try to send another picture to you – but Oleg was over last night, and upon seeing the cat and greeting her with scritches, immediately asked if he could come back with lights and camera and get pictures. So there’ll be much better quality pictures sometime.

        • ooooh. I really have to find a way to make it out there.

        • Oleg Volk? I am soooo jealous.

          It looks like Erin Palette is going to get her photo taken by Oleg for a fund raiser.

          • Dorothy Grant

            Oleg’s a great guy, and an awesome photographer. Me, I’m just his catsitter. Which means I’m tripping through, bringing fresh veggies from the farmer’s market, meeting some random people who come and go, and occasionally going “wait, who was that? And what is this thing on the kitchen table, and how do I clear it so I can move it aside and sit down for a cuppa?

    • And I used to make Rissoles (google) and will again if I can figure low-carb batter. Pete ALWAYS stole at least one, and would bat it around, kill it, disembowel it with his back claws and eat it with much enjoyment. What it did to my poor kitchen floor is best left unsaid. 😉

      • Egg-wash, shredded coconut and nut meal could do. I’ve used it for a successful pan-fried cod picatta, though not for deep frying. Worth an attempt, though. I didn’t find the shredded coconut (unsweetened: very important) to impart much of a coconuty flavor, for those not enamored of such a thing.

        • It’s not THAT part — it’s the… pastry like shell.

          • A mixture of mashed sweet potato and coconut flour?

            • It’s what is called in Portuguese “massa tenra” stretchy and ductile. Made by boiling flour with butter and kneading till it’s elastic and pliable. I haven’t figured out yet how to do that without flour.

              • I don’t think you can. You’d be lacking the gluten in anything else, which is what’s going on there. I’ve tried making a roux (roughly same principle) with gluten-free flour, and with coconut flour. The former sort-of works, at least for gumbo. The latter more or less doesn’t.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Speaking of coconut: For many years I disliked coconut intensely. Then I got the crazy idea one year to make homemade truffles around Christmas (not likely to do THAT again – way too much work), and one of the recipes called for rolling the truffle in shredded coconut. So, since I was doing this all from scratch, I bought a coconut, shelled it, shredded it on a cheese grater, and toasted it in the oven. When I tried some of that, it was nothing like the stuff I hate from the store. I even found I like it some, raw.

          • It makes a huge difference. Whole coconut milk (the light stuff is a travesty, and against the Geneva Conventions. see also: skim milk, pasteurized-process cheese-flavored product) makes a good creamer in coffee. Chock-full of medium chain triglycerides, an good source of energy.

            • I put the lite version in the curry last week, and it came out looking curdled. Tasted fine, but not attractive.

          • Coconut– well, I have had it fresh and store-bought… and I still didn’t like it 😉 But, I learned that I have an intense reaction to it when I used it in place of milk for a recipe. I was vomiting for the entire day afterwards. I learned my lesson… I can have it in small doses– (it still gives me gas)… but not as a replacement–

            ***I hope I am not double posting *sigh

          • Toasted coconut is just dreamy. I make a coconut cake with unsweetened flakes, and you toast them before putting them on the cake. Some are almost black, most are golden, and if you leave a few mounds on the baking sheet, some flakes are still snowy white. It’s from a Cooks Illustrated recipe, but make a custard filling for the layers and keep the buttercream frosting just on the outside. Of the cake.

          • The only way I like coconut is in German Chocolate cake frosting, coconut milk might be an acceptable milk substitute in recipes (although you might need to cut down on sugar, but I doubt it would be better, so unless you live in some place where you can grow your own, why bother?

            • German Chocolate is my traditional birthday cake. Num!

              They make marshmallows that have been rolled in toasted coconut, and in the store they SMELL so good, but the actual taste is a supreme disappointment.

              • Yep, for years growing up we got German Chocolate cake twice a year, on my birthday and on my dad’s. Because dad and I loved it, while mom (who did all the baking) didn’t, but she would make it for us on our birthdays.

              • German chocolate cake has been a favorite for the Oyster Wife and me for a long time. We actually had a German chocolate wedding cake, which seemed to surprise people. I mean, what *else* would we have had? 🙂

                • What my wife and I had: German Chocolate groom cake and Orange bridal cake.

                  From what I’ve seen, chocolate is the groom cake tradition which is why the surprise.

    • I have to cook lo-carb (grain allergies) and I have quite a few cats around. I just say “No” firmly and “Wait your turn.” On the whole, that seems to work. They grumble a little, but they are polite.

      I always have kibble down since my schedule is irregular and I have two diabetics, so I am not usually dealing with very hungry cats. That helps too.

      • Dorothy Grant

        Hmm. Dinner tonight was spaghetti squash bacon carbonara, and somebody was on my feet about three seconds after I opened the fridge, and occasionally meowing in frustration as the bacon cooked. She has good taste, I’ll give her that…

  21. Clark E Myers

    Suggested topic – what to hope for from learning to shoot lessons followed by what to hope for from shooting to live lessons combined with reviews of CD’s on the subject and TV shows like The Best Defense or why I still need lessons or some variation.

    • You’d have to find someone else. I’ve yet to have shooting lessons…

      • So, then, they are necessary authorial research, right? Makes them tax-deductible.*

        *Tax-deductible in this case means they are an expense that can be charged against writing income. You will not, for example, be able to deduct them from income earned picking up cans from the side of the road.**

        **This assumes you are not having to kill your own cans. If you are hunting down cans and shooting them in order to redeem their pelts, the gun lessons are deductible from that income.***

        ***This illustrates why, even though I am a fully trained accountant, nobody lets me do their taxes.

        • I don’t know why not, it sounds like you would be very good at hunting down deductions. Possibly because this would allow you to deduct your own ammunition costs?

        • That’s an interesting thing. I have a friend who runs a sword school, and we’re scheming to set up a Sword Camp where authors get their publishers to pay the shot so the writers can come learn how swords actually work. And write. And meet other writers. Could be fun.

          • The publishers won’t pay, but writers might.

          • Keep us all posted on that – it sounds fascinating! I’d love to go if possible, and I could certainly pass word along to those of my clients and friends who don’t hang out here.

            • And, might it be that your friend is in Maryland? she asked hopefully.

              • No, actually. Michigan, but it might be possible to arrange such a thing here at my place, for a smaller group. We’ll see what develops. There will be discussions about this at the end of the month. Also, about whether we’re tossing WorldCon next year in favor of that party in Atlanta at the same time.

      • Clark E Myers

        That’s the point – what would a novice look for or hope for or expect? Given that the hypothetical ideal of an orange ticket from Gunsite awarded by John Dean Cooper himself isn’t possible what would/will you choose when time and money combine? I’ve already suggested such things as viewing Michael Bane’s DVD on concealed carry as a possibility what intrigues you as potentially worthwhile and worth prioritizing?

        Might even consider non-English language – LES PISTOLETS LES REVOLVERS ET LEURS MUNITIONS de JOSSERAND (M.h) inspired an imitator in English as a general rather than specific introduction to the subject.

        • Its tough developing that kind of advice as people’s needs differ so greatly, both in terms of what they want to accomplish/prepare of and of where their skills begin. As mentioned below, a basic NRA firearms course is a good start.

        • OK you appear to have narrowed the scope to shooting for personal protection and concealed carry. I never had the opportunity to take a class from Cooper, but one of my teachers/mentors in my field of audio was also a certified instructor at Gunsite while Cooper was still with us.

          Cooper and his students taught us many valuable things about the mechanics of shooting and how to “win” a gunfight. Unfortunately in today’s world you might “win” (the bad guy was stopped and you and yours are still alive) yet have your life totally ruined by the legal and social aftermath. One of the foremost teachers today who not only teaches “shooting” but also the legal and social aftermath and how to survive those is Massad (Mas) Ayoob. His classes, books and DVDs are highly recommended. He is a prolific writer having written for many magazines. Read his archive of articles for Backwoods Home magazine on-line for free. I have taken 3 of his 40 hour courses and highly recommend them.

          Anyone who is carrying a gun for personal protection should consider joining the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network. Among the benefits is a set of DVDs by lawyers, Mas Ayoob, and Marc MacYoung.

          Another good resource on situational awareness, and how NOT to get in a fight is No Nonsense Self Defense, Marc MacYoung’s website. I have taken classes from Marc, and again recommend them.

          Lt. Col Dave Grossman is a retired West Point psychology professor, who teaches civilians, police, and military about why people kill. I consider his “Bullet Proof Mind” course a must. Highly recommended.

          For women in particular, I just learned of Kathy Jackson’s Corned Cat classes. She comes highly recommended. My wife will be taking her course next weekend. I will see what she thinks after having taken the course.

          • I swear I read the post over a couple of times before posting it. I intended to write “Kathy Jackson’s Cornered Cat classes” (as in fight like a cornered cat). Did not intend to imply this was a class on cooking cats.

          • There’s also a lawyer named Andrew Branco, who was guest-blogging at Legal Insurrection on the Zimmerman trial. He wrote a book called The Law of Self-Defense and conducts seminars around the country wherever enough paying customers can be found.

            I’m reading the book and it’s full of good stuff.

            • His commentary was great. I’ve got his book on my Amazon wishlist but haven’t picked it up yet. I still think Mas Ayoob’s “In The Gravest Extreme” is good even if the equipment advice is pretty dated.

      • Hmm. If somone here could do it, it could be a guest post. For when the daily post interfers with other duties.

    • Learning to shoot. There are probably as many reasons for wanting to learn to shoot as there are people shooting. Personally I find shooting handguns a fun hobby. Some folk are very much into hunting. Others into various sorts of shooting competitions. Some folk think mad max is in our near future (I hope they are wrong) and want to be ready. Others are concerned about personal protection in these crazy times.

      IF one of your reasons for learning to shoot is personal protection, then you better consider not just shooting but surviving the legal aftermath of a righteous shooting.

      For the very basics of firearm safety, and how to shoot a given type of firearm, the NRA classes are excellent. Just understand that they are intended to teach basics and not much more. Where you go from there in terms of training will depend on your interests.

      What are your interests? What do you hope to get out of the training? I might be able to make suggestions once I know more of your goals.

      • Remember how much fun it was as a kid to be able to poke holes in something far away with a long stick? It’s a lot like that, to start with.

        Later we add body counts…

        • Clark E Myers

          Yes I feel into the bad habit of thinking that my target guns were paper punches; my hunting guns were sporting firearms and only my fighting guns were weapons.

          I still cringe at folks who call everything a weapon when it should be sporting firearms but after a couple negligent discharges I’ve become more safety conscious. I saw Bill Jordan shoot exhibitions and have an autographed copy of No Second Place Winner but the best of shots have had negligent discharges with nasty results.

      • Clark E Myers

        My objective is to hear from a novice

        – not implying that I have nothing to learn but I have been at this for a while with a pretty fair library and DVD collection as well as some practical experience in different ways at odd times and places.

        I’ve taught hunter safety, I’m a benefactor member of the NRA, I was at the Cincinnati meeting for folks to whom that is meaningful

        – I’d like to see a baseline of hopes and reasons for learning in the general area followed by an after action report from somebody who can cover the subject well and express it better than well.

        And as invited I thought it might be a general interest topic and a useful method of journaling and exploring the time management aspects of setting objectives for exploring the subject – be it from a prepper or civil libertarian or a gamesman or a bushido or just an excuse to get outdoors and have fun perspective.

  22. Ever so slightly off topic, but of interest is this: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/10/help-from-heinlein.html.

  23. As to the ridiculous, ignorant economics of Star Trek…. Actually in the original series, the replicator and transporter were just cinematic conveniences, and clever ones at that. Still, those things depended on the rare dilithium crystals, so there was such a thing as scarcity. When TNG tried to take the transporter and replicator seriously and ignored scarcity and death, the entire Trek universe became incoherent. Look at those poor Bajoran refugees, let’s replicate them some blankets. How about giving them a replicator, and letting them live total lives of ease and luxury!

    Voyager must have been truly written by teenagers. Oh, you’re lost on a voyage that will take you 75 years to get home? We could send you back instantly if you just tell us your stories. Oh we can’t do that. That would mean you’ve appropriated our cultural heritage! It was hard to throw the TV against the wall, but the Star Trek knob was permanently disabled after that.

    • We could send you back instantly if you just tell us your stories. Oh we can’t do that. That would mean you’ve appropriated our cultural heritage!

      What the *bleep!*? Seriously? I only got halfway through the first season of Voyager before saying “This is boring and not worth my time”, so I had no idea what later parts of the show were like. Sounds like I dodged a huge stupidity bullet.

      • Any reasonable crew would have mutinied and thrown Janeway out the airlock almost immediately.

        They also did one of the WORST “Let’s do the Time Plot Again” stories, that by the end of the episode simply didn’t happen.

        And they created a prey species (Kes) that only reproduce ONCE, with a single child. Mathematics much? With a gestation process that leaves them immobile and defenseless? They should have died out before their numbers declined in a convergent series.

  24. You could do a topic in which you asked us to tell what the Huns’ favorite webcomics were.

    Or websites on some them.

    It would even be quick for you.

  25. HATE HATE HATE bloody HATE with an uppercase HATE Big Bang Theory. Star Trek TOS serious meh, Babylon 5 gets libertarian points, as does Firefly, but then I haven’t owned a TV for 25 years…

  26. Here’s one I’d work with, but can’t for obvious reasons:

    “The Perfect Lovecraftian Movie has been made — and it’s _JAWS_.”

  27. Tipsy (birthday so I’m celebrating with a wine cooler. think it’s the first time this year I’ve had alcohol aside from a sip to verify that, yes, I still don’t like beer).

    Trying to think is difficult right now.

    BUT.

    It’s been of interest to me lately how approaching writing from a different angle makes me more aware of the styles of storytelling I like. Of course, for me, it’s been running tabletop rpgs for others. Obviously, having a story in mind and setting it out for 3-5 other minds to run with leads to unexpected places. It’s exciting. But also some of these games has got me thinking in different headspaces. One of the game systems we’re using is heavily drama-tv based, so the use of filming terms is rampant. We often mention the camera zooming in on someone’s face. Or tilting crazily before orienting itself, focusing on something, and then panning. Haven’t put it to use much yet in the writing front, but I feel it pushing the walls of my mind around a little and making new pathways for me to access to telling the story. It’s pretty cool.

    The topic embedded in there is, “things outside of reading a book that have changed your perspective on writing or gave you new tools to do so”.

    Last week, my brother got a contract to clear out a house. Rough part of town. I wasn’t allowed to go after they’d seen where it was. Creepy place. Too tipsy to go into detail, but one of the creepiest things that came out of there aside from the part of a man’s jaw (I mean, they were sort of dentures, but not really – the photo did not look like it should have if part of it weren’t real) was that everywhere around the house there were photos of a man in a coffin. Tucked into papers. Pinned to the insides of cupboards. Different photos. One of them had a toy truck on his shoulder. I think they said something about a rose in his hand. Every time someone talked about the photos, either something fell or someone got bit by an ant or a spider. It was one of those sorts of places.

    And I was thinking how cool it’d be to use some of those things to write a story but thought: everyone says “truth is weirder than fiction” but pretty much people roll their eyes at fiction with something that sounds like it “would never happen”.

    There’s a topic in there about “truth is weirder than fiction (except no one really believes it when it is)”.

    I know this post is sort of a retrospective on your writing. I know you’ve done a few. But I think you could do another sometime (probably in a few months, I mean, once you’ve got your first indie novel out and it’s had some time to get out there) as to how the freedom has changed your perspective on writing.

    YEP got nothing head is too spinny. Sorry I haven’t got back to you. May be Tuesday night before I can. Aside from actual birthday-ness, we’re having actual family birthday tomorrow and I may finish off the other two wine coolers tomorrow night and such.

    • I’d consider that to be a Pratchett Principle: specifically that people see bizarre or unbelievable things ALL THE TIME, but convince themselves they didn’t, as they’d then have to fit it into their particular metaphysics. And since most everybody really just wants life to be more or less predictable (tomorrow like today, today like yesterday) and to experience little to no pain (another Pratchett Principle, and arguably the most dominant), the truly strange things are explained away as swamp gas, or a dude in a gorilla suit. Also, since phenomenon X doesn’t ever happen where I am, and I’ve never experienced it, it’s obviously something those (stupid/canny/shifty/untrustworthy/other) people from Thattaway fabricate/believe/whatever to attract attention/make fun of us righteous folk.

      • I actually have seen that outside of Pratchett. I’ve lived through some pretty unbelievable things, both in the sense of “that can’t happen” and “that’s so out of character for so and so” and then seen people write it out of their memories, and rewrite to fit.

  28. Blog post fodder – how about: Villains and Villainy – how far to go in writing the bad guys as internally consistent, understandable, even sympathetic, enough to avoid cardboard-cutout-mustache-twirler-he’s-bad-because-I-said-so-look-he’s-male-and-wearing-a-suit/tie/black-hat, while retaining the underlying perspective that the bad guys of the piece are in fact bad, and while the reader hopefully thinks they are real people, also hopes they lose.

    • This is something with which I’ve been struggling a little in the back of my skull. It’s a pretty common trope in scifi for villains to be conspirators seeking to up-end society leaving themselves on top. Similarly, in fantasy, the same types operate in the same way, but to destroy/usher in their Dread Lord. But then people shriek about “unbelievable” villains. Where’s the line? Is there a line? Does it actually matter if you tell a good enough story? I think this goes back to the desire for simple stories: good vs. evil, save the world or destroy it, etc. (In part, this goes to the above discussion of genre/subgenre conventions, i.e. when is it appropriate for the bad guys to be orcs? When is it right for the genre in which you’re writing for the villains to be brutes directed by a Himmler-esque figure bent on the destruction of everything the heroes hold dear, for little more reason than that?)

      The more I think of the books I’ve really loved, the villains are evil, at least to an extent. The Good Men may have started off human (arguably) but by DST, any genuine humanity has been erased from their makeup. The bad guys in the MHI series are – for the most part – demonstrably nonhuman, but also completely inhuman: monsters seeking death (and food) or working to make themselves completely dominant over existence. Even in more distant-future series, the Peoples Republic of Haven is run by those intent on maintaining godlike power, and then those looking to cleanse with flame and sword (not to mention the Mesans and corrupt Solarians, the monstrous Masadans, etc.).

      Yeah, I think I’m going to expand on this a bit for my blog. This could get long.

      • I don’t know, Rob Pierre is shown as being human with good if twisted and wrong intentions. He is intent on maintaining his godlike power not because he wants the power, but because he thinks he needs it to accomplish good for all the little people that don’t know what is good for them. (dang that sounds familiar)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, in Rob Pierre’s case, the “little people” want to stay on the dole and he wants them off the dole. They’ve been taught that the “world owes them the dole and anybody who tries to remove the dole is evil”.

          His “nastiness” comes more from *how* he does things than from his motives. In many ways, he’s a tragic figure which IMO what makes him a “good” villain.

        • I was thinking specifically of the Legislaturists, and to a lesser extent the secondary and tertiary villains in the Pierre regime (StateSec, and the kommisars). I wasn’t going to touch on Rob Pierre, as his example is pretty complex, but you may have just made my point for me. However, to turn things around and look at it from the perspective of the faceless goon crewing a PRH ship (I was dubbed Thinks-Too-Much early on in my career, why do you ask?) the revolution was a good thing for the common Havenites. In the immediate to short term, at least. At least until St. Just’s excesses. When in living memory could a Havenite with no real patronage achieve anything in that society? (of course, I’d argue that said period was just an odd eddy in the deluge, and they simply exchanged a neo-feudal patronage system for an outrightly bureaucratic on). I’m books behind on the Honor series at this point, but I think Thiesman(sp?) may be the best choice: someone honest who doesn’t actually want the job, but is ruthless enough to get things accomplished.

      • Oh Weber is good at picking out the one Mesan/corrupt Solarian/Havenite to show as the exception that proves the rule. Come to think of it, this is a common trope itself, to make all of X evil…except this one.

        • Which is also important for writing: the reality is that no institution is monolithic. There are decent people in every bureaucracy, every temple to the Dark God has some little acolyte who’s uncomfortable with torturing virgins. The trick is to show them as sympathetic while at the same time confirming to the reader that the featherplucker does indeed need to be burnt to the ground. And since Americans (of any nationality or political entity of origin) love an underdog, get said drone or novice to stand up to the loving, red-hot-pincer-weilding entity at the top of the heap.

  29. I think a wonderful topic for you. This quote from a non-living author:
    Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. – Mark Twain