Coming to THE END


With this morning's edits, I have finished the pre-beta draft of "Goodbye Grammarian". All the plot holes are filled, the backstory is either spelled out or alluded to adequately, the Grammarian quested, suffered and prevailed. The exciting parts are exciting, the funny parts are funny, and the boring parts are gone.

Final stats: 22 chapters and 111,717 words.

The word count includes such phrases as "Chapter 13" as well as a bit of text like acknowledgments, expressions of gratitude to my beta readers and so on. I haven't written all that stuff yet.

I originally wanted this book to be ~90K, but have allowed the wordcount to drift upward. I expect that after beta, I'll be able to trim and rework. 111K isn't bad for a science fiction superhero book; that's well in line with industry norms.

This book isn't finished, not by a long measure, but I feel like I've successfully made the Olympic team. Once I make it through the prelim qualifying round, I'll be able to take it out into the marketplace and REALLY see how it can run.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

Red ink is your friend

I'm in the last 10K of revisions to "Goodbye Grammarian" (which I now
realize has to be just a working title). The section I'm chewing
through at the moment is taking a lot of rewriting. All the markup and
revisions I wrote on my editing hardcopy of the last draft were
perfectly transferrable for earlier sections of the book, but not for
this stuff at the end. These pages were covered in red ink, with huge
swaths of text struck through and marked "FIX THIS".

All that red ink denotes opportunities to write better; that makes red
ink my friend. I knew this part would take more time, but I'm eager to
see this draft finished.

Fortunately, though this is tricky stuff to wrote, I'm bringing out
the tone I want, even as I rewrite the climax. I added another 2K
yesterday, in a scene where the Grammarian confronts the mystery
villain who's been pulling strings the Grammarian didn't even know
were there. This is in resppbse to a note I left myself in the text as
I wrote it: "insert another scene here where G confronts X, learns the
truth". Maybe you write the same way?

I'm trying to avoid an infodump with a traditional villain monologue,
and I think it's going pretty well.

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#FridayFlash: At Last, We Meet

"You don't scare me," the old man wheezed, "you never have. I saw you take my Grandpa, you bastard. You, with your creeping ways and your red eyes... you don't scare me!"

Death crossed his legs and waited.

"Get the hell out of my house! I don't want you here! You have no right to come in here like a thief, taking the only thing I have left!"

Death said nothing.

"Don't pretend you never speak. I heard you. When you came for Mrs. Gulhaven back in '22, the old Dutch lady who lived across the street from us back in Springfield. I snuck around the back porch and heard you talk to her. Told her a bunch of nonsense about how she had nothing to fear. 'I am not here to harm you', is what you said, you liar. Yes, I call you a liar to your face! For ninety-one years I've been waiting to tell you to your face that you're a lying bastard, and now I have the chance!"

"And?" Death's voice was everything the old man remembered... warm and compassionate, but in the way that preacher's sermons were always funny and kind, just before he got wound up into fire and hellfire and damnation. What had that man's name been? Pastor Johnson? Pastor Jensen?

The old man shook his head. Fool! Getting distracted by memories. It had been happening so often of late, he could hardly keep the thread of conversations anymore. Even his daughter Jane didn't like coming to see him anymore. It was too hard, too frustrating.

Wait a minute, he thought. Jane? No, it was Joan. Joan, after his Aunt Joan. Joan? Joanne? My favorite aunt... she had the most wonderful lilac bush out at her farm. Aunt Jen? No, not Jen. Joanne? Joan?

He looked up from his thoughts and saw Death in the chair, sitting patiently. With a rush, the old man's fury returned and he remembered what he had been saving up for, what he had been waiting to tell the Dark Man when he came around.

"You are a lying bastard of the first water, sir! I have no need of your company!"

Death nodded, as if he had been expecting nothing less. "I see. It's very true, you know. Most people never see that."

"What is? Don't talk nonsense. I said you are a lying bastard of the first water, sir!" The memorized speech was one of the only things left to the old man. "I have no need of your company!"

"And yet..." Death trailed off, leaving the sentence hanging.

"And yet what? Why must you be so foolish! No one can ever say anything sensible anymore! Speak up! Speak plainly! And yet what?"

"I am a lie. I'm the second biggest lie in the world. In the universe, when it comes to that."

"The second biggest? What's the first? Come, sir, you introduced this... this..."


"This odious topic of conversation! What could be a bigger lie than death?"


The old man's mouth opened. His jaw worked as if to speak, but he had no answer for a moment. Finally, he said, "You talk nonsense. Why must you talk nonsense at a time like this? Why?"

"I am not here to harm you."

"Oh, yes, you are!"

"Truly, I am not. I'm here to show you the truth. Life and death are lies, half-truths at best. Behind them is the the truth. The one and only truth that we all move toward."

"Don't say 'we all', as though you have any share in our lot!"

"Ah, but I do. I've been allowed a glimpse, a peek behind the curtain. I know what the truth is. In return for having been granted this knowledge, it falls to me to see others safely on their way."

"To where? To see what? Come, man, talk sense! What is this 'truth' you keep talking about?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"Don't talk nonsense. I wouldn't have asked the question if I didn't want to know the answer. What is this truth?"

Death uncrossed his legs and stood up from the chair in the corner of the room. He crossed to the bed and extended his hand.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

Editing in the face of uncertainty

With this morning's today's editing done, I'm 88K 96K into a 110K book. The Grammarian had his ribs broken by a shockwave, but he still won the fight. Afterward, he projected a stream of nested subtending clauses around his ribcage to diffuse the intensity of the pain and numb the sensations. Before he then went on to find and fight Professor Verbosity, he edited each broken bone, smoothing out the rough edges and knitting it together into a smooth, strong, unified whole.

I titled this blog post "Editing in the face of uncertainty" because I have no idea what kind of audience there might be for this kind of linguistic legerdemain in a superhero book. For a long time, I let these doubts freeze me into thinking that this book might not be worth my time, that no one would want to read it, that I should abandon it and work on something better.

My Inner Critic insists that it's too niche, too weird, too obscure. It's not funny enough to be a funny book, not exciting enough to be an exciting book. The funny distracts from excitement, the excitement distracts from the funny and NOBODY is going to appreciate all of these word, grammar and language-based superpowers.

Well, tough shit, Inner Critic. I'm writing it anyway.

It's taken me quite a while to come to this point of realizing that the audience for this book is going to be a select one, to be sure. So be it. The audience for ANY book is going to be a select fraction of all readers.

Accept the uncertainty, keep writing, keep editing. If I'm having fun writing the book, I can only trust that that will translate into the text.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

Wednesday limerick: another 50 Shades of Grey

Each Wednesday, I compose a limerick based on the prompt from Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: cut, endanger, hazard  (it's more fun if you read it aloud - try it!):

Don't endanger your health or your life
by offering to spank your wife.
Though she reads about Grey,
there is no fscking way!
You'll just hazard a cut with a knife!

    ~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

OW, that hurt! But it felt good! And my inner goddess is singing!

Oh, wait... while the "BDSM with bad writing" thing is EXCELLENT book promotion for "50 Shades of Grey", it's not going to do much for a slim volume of my limericks, is it? How about this:

My book of limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday is FREE to borrow from Amazon:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

"They made me laugh, they made me sad, they made me think and squirm and reflect. ... Tony Noland has a way with words that is nothing short of astonishing" - Jeff Posey, Amazon review

That's right, FREE. Of course, if you're not in Amazon Prime, it still only costs $0.99. That's less than a coffee. And I'm not talking Starbuck's, I'm talking about the burnt mud they sell at the convenience store. It's worth the buck - you'll love it!

Don't have a Kindle? NO PROBLEM! Get one of the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and a host of other devices. You can read "Poetry on the Fly" (or any of my other great writing) anywhere you like!
===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

My greatest triumph as a writer

Over on Write Anything, I respond to the question, "What is my greatest triumph as a writer?"

Note that I don't answer the question... I respond to it.

Because I'm Tony Noland, and that's how I roll.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

My book trailer

I've been noodling around with an idea for a book trailer for "Goodbye Grammarian". I think it will look really great and capture perfectly the feel and excitement of my book.

The only problems are minor ones. I don't have a good video camera, the setting I have in mind is one I don't have access to, I have no idea how to get the props or costumes I need, I don't have any video editing software or a computer suitable for the task, I've never shot a video worth watching, I have no budget to work with and I haven't finished the book yet.

Aside from those bumps in the road, though, I'm in pretty good shape.

#FridayFlash: The Grammarian vs. TxtSpk

"LOLz!! Yr in my pwer now, G! ROTFLMFAO!!!"

The Grammarian sighed and sat down at a vacant terminal. He didn't reply to TxtSpk or make any move to disarm him. TxtSpk kept talking without waiting for a reply. It was several minutes before Lexicon City's newest supervillain even noticed that his taunts were going unanswered.

"2 superbad 4 U, G? Yr scarred to chllnge me? HA LOLz! N yr face, G! Cant stop me r evn touch me! TxtSpk FTW!!! FTFW!!!"

Giggling, TxtSpk moved his smartpad to one side, his eyes flicking from it to the Grammarian. On the screen in his hand, a stream of tweets, Facebook updates, Tumblrs, Pinterest posts, an RSS blogfeed and even LinkedIn news items flicked by, scrolling so rapidly that it resembled a flyover of some alien landscape. The shifting kaleidoscope gave TxtSpk a sickly cast, the changing colors and icons reflected off his pale, never-leaves-the-basement skin. The riot of color was in stark contast to the thirty static screens in the computer lab.

Again, the Grammarian merely sighed resignedly. He'd pursued TxtSpk to the Materials Science Building at Lexicon Polytechnic University, intending to stop his evil plan. Even though the hero knew what TxtSpk intended, he hadn't been certain of just how powerful the villain was. His methods, too, were a mystery. Why had TxtSpk broken into the Computer Science Building to work his scheme to take over the city's communications networks instead of the Computer Science Department?

Only after finally engaging in combat with him did the Grammarian understand the extent of the supervillain's true power.

"R U done yt? Done, like BBQ! BURN! LOLzzzzzz!!!!"

"All right, TxtSpk, all right... you win."

The young villain paused, disbelieving. "Wht?"

"I said you win. The world has left me and my abilities behind. No one cares about good grammar anymore; it has no place in the modern world of rapid communications."

In his chair in front of the computer, the Grammarian straightened. TxtSpk stepped back, wary and ready for a fight. The Grammarian said, "In fact, I'm tired of fighting. I know when I've lost, when there's just no point in carrying on a losing battle. However, if I'm going to concede defeat, I'll do it honorably. Honor may not be a concept that means much in this electronic, social media age, but it was a word we wrote on our blackboards every day when I was growing up."

"Blackboard? Whts a blackboard? Dont U mean whitboard? Liek in school?"

The Grammarian sighed again, a broken, beaten man. "Yes, just like that. Like I said, I want to go out with honor. Let me just log on to Twitter and I'll publicly admit defeat..."

"NO WAY!!!! TxtSpk FTW!!! Rulez! BURN! Lemme RT the shxnt outta tht! Honor SKS!!!"

With a blur of fingertaps, TxtSpk retweeted the Grammarian's surrender, crossposting to every social media and newsfeed site he could think of, including Fark, Google+ and  even to MySpace. His knuckles were white as he stared fixedly at the screen, waiting eagerly for the congratulatory RTs, Likes, and re-Pinnings. So rapt was he that he failed to notice the Grammarian's fist coming over the top of his screen.

A moment later, standing over the semi-conscious villain, the Grammarian said, "If you actually knew anything about computers beyond how to type quickly, you'd have realized that your plan was doomed to failure, TxtSpk. As soon as I realized you avoided computers that had real firewall security, I knew you wouldn't be much trouble."

TxtSpk groaned and reached for his smartpad. The Grammarian kicked it away. "I think you'd better get used to being offline for a while." With a piteous moan, the villain passed out in shock.

After the Grammarian called the LCPD to come pick up TxtSpk, he went back to the terminal.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

50 Shades of Grey: the limerick edition

Each Wednesday, I compose a limerick based on the prompt from Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: feel, shade, tangle  (it's more fun if you read it aloud - try it!):

Please be SURE that it's really just play
(not abuse) and you both feel OK;
Set a safeword and wrangle
the rules for your tangle.
Is one spank just one shade of grey?

    ~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

OW, that hurt! But it felt good! And my inner goddess is singing!

Oh, wait... while the "BDSM with bad writing" thing is EXCELLENT book promotion for "50 Shades of Grey", it's not going to do much for a slim volume of my limericks, is it? How about this:

My book of limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday is FREE to borrow from Amazon:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

"They made me laugh, they made me sad, they made me think and squirm and reflect. ... Tony Noland has a way with words that is nothing short of astonishing" - Jeff Posey, Amazon review

That's right, FREE. Of course, if you're not in Amazon Prime, it still only costs $0.99. That's less than a coffee. And I'm not talking Starbuck's, I'm talking about the burnt mud they sell at the convenience store. It's worth the buck - you'll love it!

Don't have a Kindle? NO PROBLEM! Get one of the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and a host of other devices. You can read "Poetry on the Fly" (or any of my other great writing) anywhere you like!

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

Bring on the Girls!

When the great humorist P.G. Wodehouse was writing Broadway musical comedies in the 1920's, he and his collaborators, Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton, had a string of huge hits. Wodehouse was one of the funniest writers ever, which certainly helped; he helped write such enduring hits as "Anything Goes" and "Show Boat".

However, they also understood the craft and the business of the theater. As the Wodehouse-Kern-Bolton team put their shows together, there would inevitably be snags. When the plot hit a big slump, a massive slowdown that took the energy out of the show, they followed a simple rule: "bring on the girls". They would re-write that part of the play to break up the dragging scene and have a rousing dance number with short skirts and high kicks. This advice is not so very different from that given by Raymond Chandler: "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

Last night, in my editing of "Goodbye Grammarian", I was faced with a long, tedious infodump, a big technical plop of backstory. Remembering the advice of Wodehouse and Chandler, I broke the scene up abruptly. After one character asked another, "But where did all this high tech equipment come from?", instead of continuing with the original infodump, I had the conversation break off abruptly, right on the jagged edge between question and answer. I rewrote the scene to lead them into the kitchen, where gracefully waving robot arms made a nice lunch and poured delicious hot tea.


The infodump about the backstory can still come later, but changing the subject and walking on some robotic razzle-dazzle breaks things up nicely. Leaving the questions hanging unanswered also makes the answers more interesting when they finally come a couple of pages later.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

The female character flowchart

After a discussion yesterday about the Bechdel test, which came from this 1985 comic by Alison Bechdel, I checked my WIP, "Goodbye Grammarian". I'm happy to report that there are indeed:

1. Two (named) women...
2. ... who talk to each other...
3. ... about something other than a man.

Originally applied only to films, the Bechdel test would seem to be impossible for a novel to pass if that novel is told from a male first-person POV. However, if the man is present in the scene but does not participate in or direct the conversation between two women about something non-man related, I'm going to deem that acceptable.

By the way, the "named women" thing is apparently to avoid "female character buys a cup of coffee at Starbucks, thanks female barista who tells her to have a nice day = PASS".

Anyway, wondering about your own female characters? Here's a handy flowchart from

Open in new tab to enlarge

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

#FridayFlash: The Sounds of the Material World

The lab was an oasis, a sanctuary... a temple. Was it any wonder Timmons preferred being in his lab to sitting in his office? He could focus on his work, let it all speak to him. In his office, amid the constant yammering drone of e.mail and office politics, he couldn't hear the whisper of the chemicals. The low hum of the aromatic amines, the buzzing of the short-chain oligopolymers, the happy chirping of the rare earth catalysts in the bioreactor... it was all music to him. He loved it all, even the sullen mutterings of those tricky synthetic bastards, the aerosilization substrates.

His lab was an orchestra and he was the conductor that led them all to sing together in wonderful, flowing, glowing, crowing harmony. Even though the beakers, tubes and microchannel pipettors were all empty at the moment, the air in the lab was still alive with the chemical calliope of experiments past.

In the corner of his eye, he saw movement. The sink drain began to boil with a roiling upsurge of ants. In their thousands and millions they came scurrying up, a clackering flood of tiny bodies tumbling over each other as they filled the wide stainless steel sink and spilled outward, flooding across the benchtop and raining down onto the floor. A chattering, crying, tearing, foaming mass spread over the lab, mounding high and washing towards him.

He closed his eyes and waited.

When the noises stopped, he opened his eyes. His lab was his again, clean and pristine. From their bottles and jars, his chemicals spoke to him, sang to him. In the refrigerators, the light-sensitive reagents hummed in their cold, quiet repose. The old favorites: aniline blue, acridine orange, carmine red... they were les grand dames ancient of the world of color, invited to the balls and cotillions of modern science, but purely out of familial respect, for they were never invited to dance anymore. Electroporated membrane permeability assays used tRNA activity stains, dull and ugly chemicals that lit up in brilliant greens, blues and reds under the right excitation wavelengths. And the plasmid-bound transgenic fluorescent dyes, the true beauties of the modern age...

Refrigerator 7A creaked open. A scaly, dead-white hand reached out to shove it open still further. Its nails were cracked and stained with dried blood, putrescence weeping from the broken skin stretched tight across the shifting bones. From within 7A, a moan of hunger and sullen rage rose in volume as the hand extended. The forearm protruded, the hand now turned to show a gaping, stigmatic wound torn into the wrist, tendons flopping and flexing as the dead, dead, dead hand reached out for him.

He closed his eyes and waited.

When the moaning stopped, he opened his eyes. The bank of refrigerators and freezers were once again patient, humming sentinels, guardians of the eternal secrets that only cold could keep. The lab sang to him, the rolling chorus of compounds and precursors, reagents and intermediary reaction products a chorus, an opera, a choir celestial. In the middle of the music, the gas taps exploded, sending gouts of flame slashing against the shelves and equipment. Bottles exploded, their contents shrieking in pain and fear. From the roaring inferno, a toxic wave of heat and combustion products rolled across the ceiling. The pipes and lights blackened and shattered, raining sparks and molten glass down onto him.

He closed his eyes and waited.

When the roaring stopped, he opened his eyes. The cool repose of the laboratory was undisturbed. All was as it should be. All was perfect and serene and wonderful. He sat in the middle of the best of all possible worlds, buoyed by the music of the material world.

The door to the lab opened. A heavyset woman entered, her gray rayon top singing to him of death and terror. Her upswept hair was an unnatural shade of brown, the faintest whisper of peroxyoctanoic acid crying out amid the organic dyes and surfactants.

"Dr. Timmons?" she said. "They told me I'd find you in here. I'm Helen Morits, from HR?"

Her voice was barely audible. In unison, his chemicals - his loyal, wonderful chemicals - lifted their voices to drown her out. Even the smallest of the microvials rang with the sforzando fortissimo explosion of sound.

"Dr. Timmons, I realize this can't be welcome news, but your appeal has been denied. Given the... well, the tragedy that took place with the clinical trials, the review board was working with a pretty overwhelming body of evidence." In her fat, horrid, devil's face, her eyes were solid black, shiny and dead... her eyes were lizard-like protruding and swiveling independently, looking for prey... her eyes were spider-like clusters, buboes of silver-slicked ocularity that stared at him from a hundred angles at once... her eyes were running masses of pus...

He closed his own eyes and waited.

"Look, I know how hard this must be for you to hear."

He opened his eyes again. She was still there, still talking.

"This kind of thing is never easy, either for the employee or for us in HR. But the facts are what they are. The board gave us very little wiggle room. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know exactly what was wrong with your work, but they were very specific. They cited your work with 'unstable aerosolized psychoactives' as the root cause of what happened with the volunteers. If I can be blunt, Dr. Timmons, the board was pissed off." The manila folder she held in her grasping, clawlike hand writhed and snapped, its edges rimmed with tiny, dagger teeth, like the inside of a carnivorous plant. They dripped with venom and honey, luring the foolish and the helpless to be digested and absorbed into its own monstrous body.

He closed his eyes and waited.

"I know this is hard for you to hear, but now that your appeal process is concluded, we need you to sign some forms. The board instructed HR to draw up an early retirement package for you, effective immediately. Now, I know the terms of it aren't what you would hope for. To be honest, they're not really what any of us would hope for in a retirement package, but believe me, you don't really have a choice here. It's either take this early out or they'll fire you for cause and you get nothing. Either way, there's a guard waiting outside the lab to escort you from the building. Your things will be sent on after. Please come sign the forms, Dr. Timmons. It's better this way, it really is."

He opened his eyes. She was still there.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

p.s. My thanks to Icy Sedgwick for the prompt: "An empty lab, and a lone scientist"

The Scrivener Heretics

In today's blog post, Icy Sedgwick discusses her recent experience with Scrivener, the much-touted, much-adored writing software package. Her verdict?
I don't think I get all the fuss about Scrivener. After everyone told me how fantastic it was, I downloaded the trial copy. I've still got fourteen days left, but if I'm honest, I don't think I'll be purchasing the full version.

Icy writes mostly in Word. The post is a good discussion of some of the finer points of organization, navigation and composition in small, medium and large documents.

As you all know by now, I don't use Scrivener, either. I use yWriter. Aside from having almost all the features of Scrivener (and some it doesn't), yWriter is free. In the grand scheme of things, $60 isn't going to break me, but why spend money I don't have to?

Scrivener had for many years been a MacOS program, so it was unavailable for Windows users. A Windows version is now available, but it lacks some of the features of the Mac version. Also... well, how do I put this delicately? I'm sure the native Mac version of Scrivener is graceful and delicate, a fey sylph that dances across the MacOS world. The Windows port, however, runs like an Abrams tank: big, powerful, slow. It made my netbook choke. yWriter, on the other hand, is minimalist. It's small and light, so it runs on my netbook just fine.

Scrivener, yWriter, Sigil, Word, Notepad++, GoogleDocs, pen and ink... use what you want, and use what helps you to be a great writer.

When it comes to software, woodworking or cooking, it's a poor craftsman that blames his tools. You should always develop your skills until you are being held back by your equipment. Then you should either learn how to use your equipment more effectively, or get more suitable equipment. That's called "continuous improvement". When it's done right, it's not just a corporate buzzword.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

Wednesday limerick: buffer, transition, unity

Gee, it's been a while, hasn't it? Never fear, though - the limerick is back. Whether you missed it or not, it's back.

Each Wednesday, I compose a limerick based on the words at Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: buffer, transition, unity

A buffer will make it look fine,
Give your minivan sparkle and shine.
The transition ain't bad
Trading "cool dude" for "Dad",
 And the unity helps your lifeline!

~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

I say we take off, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Oh, wait... I'm selling a book of poetry, not stopping a horrific alien infestation! How about this:

My book of limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday is FREE to borrow from Amazon:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

"They made me laugh, they made me sad, they made me think and squirm and reflect. ... Tony Noland has a way with words that is nothing short of astonishing" - Jeff Posey, Amazon review

That's right, FREE. Of course, if you're not in Amazon Prime, it still only costs $0.99. That's less than a coffee. And I'm not talking Starbuck's, I'm talking about the burnt mud they sell at the convenience store. It's worth the buck - you'll love it!

Don't have a Kindle? NO PROBLEM! Get one of the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and a host of other devices. You can read "Poetry on the Fly" (or any of my other great writing) anywhere you like!

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

"Write Anything" in the Top 100

I'm happy to pass along the news that Write Anything, the collaborative writing blog that I contribute to, has been listed as one of the Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs by

The "General" category is described this way: These reads cover a broad range of subjects concerning both novice and old-timer authors alike, making them particularly well-rounded starts to exploring the writerly corner of the blogosphere. Write Anything took the #2 slot in this list.

The team of bloggers over at Write Anything is a talented and insightful bunch. It's well worth putting in your regular rotations of blogs or adding to your RSS feed. If you like to read my posts at Write Anything, you can just click here.

Congratulations to Jodi Cleghorn, Paul Anderson and the entire team at eMergent and Write Anything!

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

I Answer 5 Random Questions

As I sometimes do when I can't think of a good topic for a blog post, I put out a call on Twitter, offering to answer the next five questions I got. Lame, but potentially amusing. Ready?

Question #1 comes from @daHob:

The obvious response is, "African or European?". This being Landless, however, I will instead note that the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow is equivalent to the velocipede aericity of an unswallowed ladle.

 Question #2 comes from John Hancock:

It's because people fail to understand that self-actualization is not a tension between the pressures of societal externalities and the innate yearnings of the internally co-created autochthon, but is instead a uncreated moving target. The self we are trying to appease doesn't exist, any more than the self we are trying to destroy. Whatever concept of self we think we understand, these are merely reflections in the mirror, signposts of the past which we have left behind. The self we should be working toward is the one yet to exist. Since it is within our power to create it or destroy it, it is the ultimate expression of our will, and is therefore the source of not only ultimate hope, but of ultimate fear. Fallible beings that we are, most people recoil from either, preferring familiar suffering to unfamiliar ecstasy. Or at least that's what your mom said!

Question #3 comes from Jim Breslin:

Ah, this one's much easier. On July 4, the day of the announcement, I wrote a blog post about the Higgs boson. It was hilarious. I had a nice little bump of visitors to my blog as people read it. So for me, the Higgs boson was worth a 700% uptick in daily visits.

Either they all agreed that it was a funny blog post about one of the great achievements of collaborative Big Science, or it was a national holiday in the U.S. and they had nothing better to do than read my blog.

Question #4 comes from Larry Kollar:

I see what you're doing there, Larry. You're trying to sneak a serious question into this dopey roundup. Well, I'm onto you, pal. You might ask a serious question, but I said I'd be as amusing as possible in my answers. Ha! Take that, smart guy! Why do we write? We write because writers get lots of oral sex and as much pepperoni pizza as they care to eat. We write because taking the time to craft words lets us be as funny, as wise and as attractive as we wish we were, but know we aren't. We write for immortality. We write to shove a pencil in the eye of parents who never loved us the way we needed to be loved. We write for the money. We write because we got tired of reading shitty books and thinking, "Damn, I could write better than this dreck." Finally, we write because we don't want to be left.

Question #5 comes from kaolin fire:

In order: OMNI, Scientific American, Penthouse Letters and the Journal of the American Society of Clinical Psychology.

Thanks for the questions, guys! Let's do it again sometime!

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Writing software

In her post at Write Anything, Jacqui Murray reminded me of this look at writing software for authors:

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When the computer dies

That old laptop, the one that's too clunky and slow for anything else, is perfect for writing. It fit on my standing desk set up wonderfully and did everything I needed a writing machine to do.

But then the keyboard started to fail. And the screen began to fade.

Without spending a lot of money, what did I do? Pop over to my blog post at Write Anything and find out.

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#FridayFlash: A Hero By Any Other Name

Now that I have come to the ultimate end of our journey, I can finally admit to myself that part of me is glad. Yes, glad we were never able to go home.

When it was happening, we wanted nothing else. Of course we did... we were heroes. Though we were thwarted and subverted again and again, we stuck to our noblest ideals and swore we would never stop trying. In our long journey, we supported each other. Like the friends and teammates we were and the family we became, we supported each other. At first, we were furious at how the Cosmic Randomizer had banished us into the infinite sweep of all possible things. We swore we'd use his Infinity Dice to return to our own timeline and set things aright.

But, as we kept searching, searching, searching...

Anger and anguish cooled to frustration and fatigue. We never knew just how much destruction was sown in our wake, how much suffering we failed to prevent back in our own timeline. The weeks turned into months and the months somehow turned into years. It was harder and harder to go on. We told ourselves that it was still possible to save Earth, that the timelines moved at different rates, or had different anchorage points in the timestream.

We told ourselves we hadn't lost.

It wasn't the humiliations we suffered, not at first, anyway. No one can make you feel inferior without your cooperation. We started out as heroes, with an adamantine confidence in ourselves and in each other that wasn't rooted in how powerful we were, but in the strength of our convictions.

Our powers waxed and waned with each different version of reality, but we were always twisted versions of the same team: the Lepton Brothers, Machine Gun McLean, Superior Girl, the Mystic Mistress, and me, the Black Knight with my Eldritch Blade of the Ancients.

I recall how the Leptons, Mu and Tau, always varied together. Instead of their nuclear-powered strength and speed, they shared other powers, complementary or opposite. Fire and ice as the Temperature Twins, light and darkness as Yin and Yang. Even when their powers were trivial, like the hyper-hilarious stand-up comedy routine of Martin and Lewis that only made criminals stop and laugh, they never lost hope. None of us ever lost hope. Or at least, none of us ever admitted to it.

Until we landed here.

After so many years of wandering, I think what finally broke our spirit wasn't the forms our superpowers took in this timeline. Believe it or not, we'd seen far worse. No, I'm convinced it was our guilt over what we could not accomplish. We couldn't know how long we'd been gone, but it must have been at least thirty years by the Mistress' calculations. Earth had to be a cinder by then, its population murdered or sold into intergalactic slavery.

Humanity was gone, and there just didn't seem to be any point in going on. We stopped trying to go home.

But where had our travels brought us? More importantly, what had it told us about ourselves? When you see so many thousands of versions of yourself, it's not that you lose track of who you really are, or at any rate who you were. You come to understand that the reality you started out in has no more or less meaning that any of the ones you pass through, or the one in which you finally come to rest.

Legion of Heroes, Band of Superfriends, UltraTeam, Buncha Cool Guys, The Friday Nighters, MegaPack... is any one of these names for us as a superhero team any more meaningful than another? Should we hold our heads high in one reality, but hang them in shame in another?


I'm glad we were never able to go home. A hero is a hero, no matter the powers possessed. Though long and brutal, our travels through all the realities we saw brought us through only the merest infinitesimal sliver of all the realities that exist. We all came to understand the true nature of the Infinite. Though we could not return to save Earth, we found a new home here, in this timeline, on this world.

Now, we defend our adopted home and all the life-forms it contains.

Here, on this world, we are the heroes known as Lunch Box: Mr. McNugget, Super-Size Salad, Mistress Macaroni and the Ato Brothers, Tom and Pot.

I am their leader: Sir Loin, the Blackened Knight. I wield my Shoulder Blade for justice, truth and honor, now and forever!

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Note: I am indebted to the Hufflepuffian Ms. N for the prompt she gave me for this week's FridayFlash.

Happy Fourth of July, Higgs Boson!

Today, July 4, 2012, scientists at CERN in Switzerland, announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, the long-sought subatomic particle that gives matter the property of mass.

In a wide-ranging press conference, the team explained the historic significance of this finding. "The Higgs boson is the means by which baryonic matter interacts with the Higgs field," said Hoorst Vedeveltignnen, project director of CERN. "That is to say, much as the tau lepton is the mechanism of electric charge, the Higgs boson is the mechanism of gravity. This is very, very exciting. While much work remains to be done, the Standard Model is alive and well."

Professor Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist for whom the Higgs boson is named, was on hand for the announcement. "I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime. To have such a definitive physical demonstration of theory is what physics is all about."
The Jetsons in a flying car.

Mass is the property that causes matter to be attracted to other matter, what we feel as gravity. Particles like protons, neutrons and electrons, which have the Higgs boson as part of their makeup, have mass and are attracted to each other gravitationally. On the other hand, massless particles like photons, which do not have the Higgs, and are not affected by gravity.

"But what will this discovery mean for the common person on the street?" asked Dr. Vedeveltgnnen. "How will society use the Higgs boson? Simple: flying cars. It's 2012, for God's sake, why don't we have flying cars yet? That's really what this whole thing has been about."

Professor Higgs agreed. "Flying cars? Absolutely. That's why I worked out the equations in the first place. Did you watch The Jetsons? So did I. Now, we're finally going to get stuff like that."

"The Jetsons" was an iconic 1970's television cartoon about a futuristic family that had a robot maid, computerized kitchens and, yes, flying cars.

Although the CERN team noted that significant technical hurdles remain before practical flying cars would be a reality, the discovery of the Higgs boson is the key to making them. But how? Particles can be attracted or repelled by electric charge, another property of matter which is conveyed by a subatomic particle. Having a tau lepton means a negative charge, while having an anti-tau lepton makes a particle positively charged. Particles without tau leptons are electrically neutral.

"To get massless baryonic matter, all we have to do is cook up some anti-Higgs bosons. So, when we expose normal matter with Higgs bosons to the stream of anti-Higgs bosons, we'll get matter that behaves the same way it always has in terms of tensile strength, opacity, electrical conductivity, and so on, but isn't affected by gravity," said Vedeveltignnen. "The theory also says that an overbalance of anti-Higgs will create anti-gravity. Now that we've made the Higgs, making the anti-Higgs will be dead easy. Both Star Trek and The Jetsons are now within our reach."

Professor Peter Higgs.
"Star Trek", the popular 1960's science fiction television show, has been the basis for movies, spinoff sequels and books. More importantly, many scientists and engineers cite "Star Trek" as the inspiration for their scientific achievements.

"Oh, sure, Star Trek was fantastic. Loved that show," affirmed Professor Higgs. "I never thought much of Star Wars, since it was more science fantasy, but Star Trek? That's right up there with The Jetsons."

Iishi Nakamoto, Vice President for R&D director of Toyota Corp., explained it this way: "Toyota broke new ground in the hybrid car market with the Prius, and we're hoping to do the same with the flying car market. We partnered with CERN to do just that. We're thrilled to be a part of this historic day."

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p.s. I know nothing about subatomic physics, but I want a flying car.

I Snot The Serif

I'm offline today. Enjoy.

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