#FridayFlash: A Little Peace and Quiet

"Can I ask you something?"

"I guess."

"Why are you so drawn to rooftops?"

"I dunno. The quiet, I suppose."

"But it's not very quiet, is it? Between the traffic on Lexington and the wind whipping around up here, it's actually pretty noisy. Haven't you noticed that we both have our voices raised? It would be quieter down in your apartment."

"Then it's the view. Or maybe it's the fresh air."

"There is no view... just other buildings. And with all these pigeons up here, the air smells like -"

"Who gives a fuck why I like it up here? What the hell is it to you, anyway?"

"OK, OK, you don't have to get pissy about it. I was just curious, that's all."

"Don't be."

"What do you mean? You mean don't be curious about why you like freezing your ass off up here? Or don't be curious about anything at all, ever again?"

"Go downstairs."

"Why should I? There's obviously some kind of super secret thing that's up here, right? Something so cool and freaky and fucking awesome that I'm not even allowed to be curious about it? Sounds like it's exactly my kind of shit. So what is it, huh? What's the big fucking attraction up here on a gravel and tar roof that smells like pigeon shit, cheap Chinese food, and diesel fumes? You come running up here practically every chance you get. Why the fuck you pay for cable and Netflix, I don't know. Not with the whole goddamn beautiful universe to soak in up here on the fucking roof."

"Fuck you."

"Hey, let's freeze our asses off while we look at the stars! OH! WAIT! There ARE no fucking stars, because we're on the corner of Lex and 123rd. Bet I can give you a great deal on some streetlights, though. Whadda ya say, buddy? Nobody else ever comes up here, just you! The whole damn sky is yours for only four easy payments of $129.99!"

"Will you just shut up and leave me alone?"

"Why? So you can commune with nature? So you can look at the ass-end of five different buildings? So you can enjoy the peace and fucking quiet? You've always been a goddamned weirdo about shit like that, but coming up here NIGHT after NIGHT after NIGHT after NIGHT! It's not NATURAL to want to be alone so much, can't you see that? Just get your ass downstairs and watch TV like a normal person, for fuck's sake, willya? Find some porn on the internet, read a fucking book, I don't care! Just GAAAAKKKKKK! ..... GHUUURRRkkkk.....  ........ ......"

"All I wanted was some peace and quiet. Is that so much to ask?"


"Sorry? I couldn't hear you over all that traffic. Well, that and the knife in your throat. I'm gonna want that back, by the way."

"pppppffffffkkkk....... ......"

"See? It's not so bad up here."


"Pretty nice, actually. Once you get used to it."

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Waiting for Amazon

After successfully submitting "Verbosity's Vengeance" to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, I now have nothing more to do on that front than wait. Of the 10,000 entries, 400 will be selected in each category based on the 300-word pitch (mine was 297 words). Of those, 100 books in each category will be selected based on the 3000 - 5000 word excerpt (mine was 4200 words).

Those 500 books will be read in their entirety by reviewers, with five books in each category sent along to Amazon's editors. Of those 25, one from each category will be selected for the final judging by Amazon's customer base. The excerpts will go up on the website, the public will read and vote. The one with the most votes gets a big advance and a publishing contract; the other four get smaller (but still five-figure) advances and a publishing contract.

I started this blog post because I wanted to talk about my chances, how I feel my novel might fare in this contest. This is not a random distribution series of events, so it doesn't make sense to look at the numbers up there and say that the Grammarian has a 0.01% chance of coming out on top. My novel is 1 out of 10,000, but it doesn't work like that.

A breezy adventure novel about a superhero who has grammar and punctuation as his main weapons will be sorely outmatched if this is to be an Octagon of Orotundity. I suspect that emotionally freighted coming-of-age stories will, alas, provide more toothsome fare for editors and publishers looking to wrench a tear from the eye of the sensitive reader.

And yet...

I'm proud of my novel, come what may. Advancing into the next round would be nice, but I have a plan for going forward regardless. No, it's the presence of my work out in the marketplace that is the point of this exercise.

There comes a time when you have to take a deep breath and go ask the girl to dance. When you have to shake on the de rigueur loser-buys-the-beer and start the game. When you have file the papers that say you want the job.

I'm hardly the first writer to take this step. Countless people have written and published books. As I think about them all, I feel a little silly to make such a big deal about my first novel. Others have trod this path before me, others will follow me. That's OK, though. Long before I did it, other people have fallen in love, been punched in the face, bought a house, stared death in the eye, found God, and done every one of the thousand other intense experiences of life. That doesn't diminish the intensity of my own experience.

So, the Grammarian and I will wait for Amazon. Results of the first round are announced to the 10,000 hopeful writers on February 13; once I get the news, I'll let you know what happened. Wish me luck.

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#3WW: Drab, Pulsate, Tendril

Today's words for Three Word Wednesday are: Drab, Pulsate, Tendril

It's drab, but only to lure
Unwary in close for a skewer;
With poison pulsate
Through tendril of hate.
Killer plants: more. Victims: fewer.

I really tried to use these words to include the phrase "tendril is the knight", but "A Killer Alien Plant In King Arthur's Court" is impossible to pull of in a limerick.

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The Copperplate Killer - Part 1

The Copperplate Killer
Part 1

Two mugs of the saloon's honey-and-creosote scented beer weren't enough to wash away the trail dust in his mouth, but they were a good start. Justification Thyme contemplated the last swallow, a half-inch of dark amber swirling around the bottom of the glass. It was unusual to find beer of this quality in the middle of the Kansas territories, but this was several rungs up from the usual watering hole. Clearly, Hofstaeder's Beirgarten was the gem of this part of the prairie. If the leaded glass windows and the green velvet card tables didn't give it away, the beer would have.

Thyme guessed that people didn't get killed much at Hofstaeder's. Cheated out of their life savings, perhaps, but not killed.

He downed the dregs of his beer and stood, not too quickly, but still quickly enough to make the room tilt a little. A small smile played across his lips before he could quash it. It seemed that Herr Hofstader knew his business when it came to brewing his beer good and strong. That's a German for you, he thought, in the Black Forest or on the Black River, they know their way around a keg.

The room tilted again as he leaned over to lift his hat from the back of the chair opposite. He took a firm hold of himself and walked toward the doorway. Coming in here on an empty stomach wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever done; it was downright foolish to get even a little drunk while on the trail of West Texas Thomson. A low born, half-breed killer like him couldn't afford to stay in a place like this anyway, and he wouldn't have been interested in Hofstaeder's high-class whores, not when regular working girls did basically the same job twice in a row for the same money. No, if he was in this town at all, Thyme's quarry would be holed up in one of the rumpot joints closer to the tracks and stockyards.

Thyme fixed his hat in place against the afternoon sunshine and unhitched his horse. He'd led him away from the rail and was about to mount when a man waved to him from the sidewalk. Tall hat, Colt .45 in a worn holster and a sweat-stained leather vest with a bright brass star. Thyme took his foot off the stirrup and re-tied his mount's lead to the rail.

"Sheriff." Thyme touched his finger to his brim.

"Afternoon." The sheriff nodded, but left his thumbs tucked into his belt, hidden under a good-sized belly. He looked Thyme up and down, from his boots to his beard. "It's a warm day for a ride."

"It's been unseasonable," Thyme said, "but I think there might be some rain before the week's out."

They eyed each other across the space of half a dozen planks of the sidewalk, Thyme in the sunshine and the sheriff in the shade of Hofstaeder's.

"So... you have some business here in town, friend?"

Thyme scratched his chin, as if considering. "I may have, Sheriff. I may have at that."

The sheriff nodded, as though it was the answer he'd expected. A shadow flickered between them. Without stopping to think, Thyme spun to his left, raising his arm in time to block a heavy coil of knotted rope.

Instead of falling around his neck and shoulders, it landed heavily across his forearm. He twisted his wrist around it and pulled, hard. At least one hundred and seventy pounds of deputy stumbled forward, right into Thyme's right fist. The deputy's nose crunched flat and his arms dropped slack. Blood spattered outwards from his face, spraying onto Thyme's chaps as he let the man's unconscious dead weight and momentum carry him down, face first into the dirt. Thyme crouched to get a grip on the man's shoulders.

"Leave him alone, you bastard, or I'll kill you where you stand."

Thyme looked up at the sheriff. Or rather, at the barrel of the sheriff's Colt. Without moving, Thyme said, "Let's all just take it easy. I was just going to turn him over, Sheriff. It don't do a bloody nose much good to have it in the dirt like that."

"I said leave him alone. Stand up and put your hands on the rail."

"Sheriff, all I wanted to do was -"

The flash of the Colt registered in his mind a fraction of a second before the sound hit him, shockingly loud. He felt a sharp tug at his left shoulder that turned into a burning slice of pain. With a yell, he clapped his right hand over it and hopped backwards, swearing. When he pulled his hand away to take a look, he saw that his shirt was torn along the outside, and everything underneath was covered in fast-welling blood.

"Goddamn it, what'd you do that for? All I did was punch him in the nose! For that I get shot across the shoulder?"

... to be continued...

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#NaNoReMo, Day 1

National Novel Reading Month begins February 1st. The rules are simple:
1. Find a classic novel you've never read, preferably one you've been meaning to read for a long time.

2. "Classic" is up to your definition. If you feel Beloved is a Modern Classic, you read it.

3. Between February 1st and 28th, read the book.

4. Join in on Twitter, blogs and Facebook to discuss your journey through the classic. You're even welcome to come back discuss the books in comments threads on this post.

 ... so began John Wiswell's post to kick off NaNoReMo this year.

As of this writing, 14 people are in, the list of whom I've copied from John's post. Why not pop over to John's site and add yourself to the list? So far, the canon classics being read range from Victorian drama and modern lit-fic to science fiction and fantasy.

#NaNoReMo Readers List
1. Catherine Russel: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
2. Danielle la Paglia: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
3. Tony Noland: Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
4. John Wiswell: George Eliot's Middlemarch
5. Andy Hollandbeck: T.H. White's Once and Future King
6. John Gray: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
7. T.S. Bazelli: Toni Morrison's Beloved8. Eric Krause: Edgar Rice Burroughs's Princess of Mars
9. Beverly Fox: Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby 
10. Paul Philips: BOTH Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives and H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man
11. Janet Lingel Aldrich: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
12. Katherine Nabity: Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
13.  Ross Dillon: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
14. Maria Kelly: Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles

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#FridayFlash: The Only Clinic in South Dakota

Soon... very soon... but not yet. The shooter ran his thumb across the safety of the bolt-action FN 30-.06 rifle, thinking. It was on SAFE position, just as it had been for the past two hours. Invisible inside his deer hunting ghillie suit, he shrugged his shoulders, trying to stay loose in the cold. Eyes burning with purpose and with a clear field of view, there was no way he could miss the baby killer when he came out. The protests, the placards, the praying - they were all well and good, but he knew that God and the angels acted through men of courage, not through signs and speeches. It was a damned shame that the fine old 1954 heirloom rifle had to be sacrificed. However, it was one of the last guns in his collection that had no papers associated with it, no ballistics on file anywhere. It would do the job that needed to be done. Afterwards? The oak stock would be burnt to ashes, the rest of the rifle melted to slag in an electric arc furnace. Sad, but worth the price.

He peeked down through the scope and turned on the Red Dot sight. The batteries were fresh, but he didn't want to take chances, not with it as cold as it is. Inside the 16X lens, a glowing red reticle lined up on the wing mirror of the baby killer's silver Audi. Lying prone, with the stock resting on a beanbag, he knew he could put the entire five round clip through a quarter-sized target at that distance. All he needed was for the murderer to hold still for the first shot; after that, he'd be still for the other four rounds whether he wanted to be or not.


Soon... very soon... but not yet. The doctor ran his thumb across the button of his remote starter for his A4, thinking. There was more paperwork to do, just as there had been for the past two hours. Stifling inside his overheated office, he shrugged his shoulders, trying to shake off lethargy in the heat. His clients were scared, his nurses were nervous, he was overworked; he never thought he'd miss the noise of Chicago when he came out here. The protests, the placards, the praying - they were all bad enough, but he knew that medicine and the law acted through men of courage, not through legislators and letters to the editor. It was a damned shame that the constitutional rights of these women were being sacrificed to the religious mania of the wingnuts. However, the last fights had been fought in the papers, as there were no more lawsuits to file anywhere. He would do the job that needed to be done. Afterwards? His HMO stock would be in ashes, the rest of his portfolio melted away. Sad, but worth the price.

He peeked through the blinds and keyed on the car. The remote starter was new, but he didn't want to take chances, not with things as hot as they were. Inside the A4, the white dome light came on, then dimmed away, everything normal as could be. Standing up, with his briefcase resting on a chair, he knew he could be blown to bits, that he was a target for a car bomb. All he needed was to keep moving, keep ahead of the lunatics and fanatics; after that, he could provide the medical care that his patients needed, wanted, and deserved.


Soon... very soon... but not yet. The sheriff ran his thumb across the focus ring of his night-scope binoculars, thinking. There were more officers on alert, just as there had been for the past two months. Shivering inside his frigid cruiser, he shrugged his shoulders, trying to stay focused in the night. Muscles cramping from sitting too long, he missed the quiet normalcy of burglary, rape, and domestic abuse he'd left behind to come out here to watch a man be killed. The protests, the placards, the praying - they weren't nearly enough. He knew that fear and hate acted in men, be they doctors or the devout. It was a damned shame this abortion clinic ever opened, that the relative peace and quiet of his town had to be sacrificed in a war between the baby killing liberals and the hellfire and damnation pseudo-Christians. However, it was, at last, down to the papers the FBI had sent along, as the credible threats they'd identified left no more doubts anywhere. His force was called on to do the job that needed to be done. Afterwards? His reelection chances would be in ashes, the rest of his professional life slagged. Sad, and not at all worth the price.

He peeked through the binoculars and turned up the gain on the night vision. The situation was new, but he didn't want to take chances, not with that shooter as itchy as he was. Inside the clinic, the doctor moved behind the bulletprooof glass. Sitting quietly, with his hand resting on the dashboard switch bank, the sheriff knew that the lights and siren would take the shooter's aim off his target. All he needed to do was to move his finger when he saw the man take off the rifle's safety; after that, he could bring him in to justice and go back to waiting for the next shooter. And the next. And the next.

Or... he could move his finger just a moment too late. He'd still bring the shooter to justice, but without a baby killing doctor, this damned clinic would go away. Things would go back to normal. He could go back to upholding easier laws.

The Audi was running, the shooter was shifting, the moment of decision was approaching.

Soon... very soon...

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Three words that describe me

In this article, Jeff Goins describes the process by which a blogger can find his or her voice.

The first step is to describe yourself using three adjectives. Taken seriously, this is a more introspective action than it first appears. I could do male, Caucasian, and sexy, but aside from being only 67% true, it doesn't capture the uniqueness of me.

How about this: articulate, funny, and hopeful. Does that do it? Would you say that those describe me pretty well? If not, what three words would you use to describe me? My perception of myself is necessarily (and inescapably) aspirational. Your perception of me is more objective.

After you've described me with three adjectives, how would you describe yourself?

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Guest post: Larry Kollar on publishing co-ops

I'm happy to have a guest post today by my pal Larry Kollar. He's got a double release right now, working with a team of writers, editors and artists. For this post, I sent him this question:

"I'd like to get some info on how your publishing co-op is going. These books are among the first books to come out of it, yes? Can you talk about the logistics of sharing skill sets within the co-op?"


That’s something I can talk about! Yes, Accidental Sorcerers and The Crossover are two of the first books out of the gate with the Green Envy Press imprint. Learning on the job has been a lot of fun.

It’s even more fun when you’re trying to thrash out production issues while trying to build infrastructure. A common rejoinder when someone asks a fairly simple question is, “Google is your friend,” followed by a link. When you’re trying to start up something like Green Envy Press, Google is definitely your friend.

First off, services like Gtalk (or any other IM service) let you communicate with your fellows in real time. This is especially invaluable when thrashing out things like a title or cover art, or figuring out what we want to have on the website. Every once in a while, we'll use Skype for an audio-conference. Still, there's a lot of ad-hockery going on as we wing our way through these first few projects.

For things that don't have to be done in real-time, like sharing skills or just thrashing on a pitch or blurb, we have a Google Groups mailing list. That's where I expect a lot of the action to happen, once we really get under way.

One particular example might come out in a post toward the end of the blog tour. Stay tuned!

Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals—some of which may have been fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal, the Were-Traveler, and the anthology Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2. He is a regular contributor to #FridayFlash, and contributes to #TuesdaySerial as both a writer and staffer. His first novel, White Pickups, is available at most eBook outlets.

Larry can be found in various places around the net, including Twitter as @FARfetched58, on Amazon, on Goodreads and at his blog: http://farmanor.blogspot.com/, which he describe as "strange fiction, and even stranger reality".

He also gave me a link to the Rafflecopter giveaway associated with this book launch. Click on the link to join in.

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Teaser Trailer Tuesday

Hard to say whether the game will be any good, but the trailer is well done.

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My next book

Various things are happening with "Verbosity's Vengeance", so I really need to turn my attention to my next book. I thought NaNoWriMo would give me a jumpstart on it, but that didn't happen.

After writing the opening of a sexy adventure novel featuring vampires as victimized underclass who rise up to overthrow their cruel human masters, I realized that I don't write sexy adventure very well. I trashed it and reworked the plot to be  a conspiracy adventure novel, still with the vampires as victimized underclass, but now with less sex, much more double-dealing and hidden agendas.

After a stumbling start, that book went nowhere, too. Spending time on twitter and in the writerly blogosphere, I heard lots of complaining from agents and editors about all the damned novels flooding the slush pile that were jumping on past successes. No more teen wizards! No more dragon trainers! No more zombies! No more coming-of-age-while-sharing-a-lifeboat-with-a-tiger! And above all else, no more vampires!

It's hard not to lose confidence in a book when you read that kind of thing.

Since then, I've been thinking about what book to write next. Different ideas have struck me, with varying levels of novelty, enthusiasm, and promise. None have been enough to dislodge me from this sense of aimlessly casting about in the foggy darkness. I don't lack for ideas; I just haven't gotten one big idea that I could build a novel around.

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January 18 is Thesaurus Day

Today is Thesaurus Day:

Of course, here at Landless, every day is thesaurus day. In celebration of it, eschew the pedestrian vernacular and embrace the poesy of rarefied declamation!

Thanks to Andy Hollandbeck for the tip-off.

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#FridayFlash: Play For Me, Slave

Caius Publius Livinius stood under the shade of an awning and sipped a mug of wine while he waited for the slave to gather his things. He assumed that was the cause of the delay, since it was unlikely the man had to break off any romantic or familial attachments with any of Marcus Secondus Flavius's other slaves. Caius Publius could afford to be generous with his time. Besides, since the slave was a musician, he was probably packing his instruments. That kind of thing always took time.

With a raised finger, he called the wine seller over. "Fill a fresh skin and take it over to my driver. Take him a mug to drink, as well. No, not the red. It's too hot a day for sweet wine. Make it the white."

The wineman knuckled his forehead and dipped a long ladle into one of the amphorae. He filled a large mug with cool wine then took several ladles to fill a skin (not as new as Caius Publius could have wished) and stoppered it. Both of these he walked out into the blazing mid-day sun toward the chariot that stood near Marcus Secondus' house. The driver stowed the skin under the dashboard, out of the sun. He took the mug in both hands and turned to the shady winestall to bow his head in thanks before he drank from it. Caius Publius took care of his driver because he was a good slave. His driver, in turn, did his work well and showed proper respect because Caius Publius was a good owner. He'd never had any trouble from his slaves, unlike Marcus Secondus.

Delicately, Caius Publius ate another honeyed date and licked his fingers clean, waving away the flies that gathered around.

The neighborhood was tolerably fashionable, or at least not intolerably unfashionable. Caius Publius knew Marcus Secondus from the poetry readings, religious observances and other social functions of their class. They were friends of a sort. Caius Publius owned a fair amount of land and a small estate up in the hills. No longer a farmer himself, he now had slaves work some of his land while the rest he leased to freedmen and yeomen. Grain and grape, pigs and poultry, it all came to the right side of the ledger. He rarely had to tell his tenants what to do. He had a talent for making unproductive land yield up more than other men. They saw the abundance his unorthodox methods coaxed from the rocky soil and they copied him. Or they did not and were ruined. Several of his slaves had formerly been freedmen who'd sold themselves into servitude to pay off their debts.

From the portico of Marcus Secondus' house, the musician slave emerged with his bundles, blinking in the bright sunlight. Caius Publius had known about Marcus Secondus' looming cash flow problem even before Marcus Secondus. A mild plague had swept the lower parts of the city in recent weeks. It was enough to bring shipping to a halt while the sailors puked and voided themselves in dayhouses down by the docks. With much of his stock of spices sitting in warehouses, Marcus Secondus could have weathered the crisis, but, like a fool, he'd recently been speculating in wines.

For over a year, ever since he'd heard him play that one particular song at the Feast of Jupiter, Caius Publius had been waiting for a chance to buy that particular slave. Now, to gain some time with his creditors, Marcus Secondus had been glad to take a decent price for the man. Any decent, respectable house had a musician or two, but the house of Marcus Secondus had ever been known more for the quality of its fleshly comfort slaves than for any real refinement. And for the wine, of course. Of late, the wine had been quite good.

Caius Publius ate the last date and drained his mug. He took a silver coin from his purse and gave it to the wineman, receiving two coppers in return. Holding a shielding hand over his brow, he crossed the street and stepped into the chariot next to his driver, noting the carefully wrapped bundles that had been stowed up front. Lyre, flute and a small set of drums, judging by the shapes. He turned and looked down at his new slave, the man who had been the chief subject of his thoughts this last year.

"What's your name?"

"Master, if it pleased you, my name is Ferro."

"Ferro. That will do, I see no need to change it."

"Thank you, master."

"Let us understand each other, Ferro. You belong to me now, no longer to Marcus Secondus Flavius. I like an orderly house. Do your work well and I shall treat you well. Shirk or resist and I shall beat you. Come the day I determine that you are more trouble than you're worth, I shall sell you off for what I can get for you. Is that understood?"

"Yes, master, thank you. I shall work hard to please you."

"I know you will, for I shall see to it that you do. We have a journey of some distance. My driver will set a steady pace, so don't dawdle. I will require you to sing at least part of the way."

"Yes, master. Shall I begin now?"

"No, wait until we clear the city."

"Yes, master. May I ask if the master has any particular favorite? A foreign song, perhaps? A song of yesterday? Or a song to make a man twist and shout?"

You sly bastard, thought Caius Publius, you know, don't you? You thought I was from the future, too, but you had to be sure - that's why you played "Eleanor Rigby" on your harp that night! All this time, I was waiting to get you, but you've been waiting to come to me!

"Hold songs like that until we get out to the estate. For now, play something... unobtrusive."

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Being funny... on purpose!

Over at Today's Author, I'm talking about being funny. Or rather, about what it's like to TRY to be funny, to WANT to be funny, but failing miserably.

Is humor writing the kind of thing that can be forced? What happens when you edit it? And which is funnier: a cat or a dog?

Go read the post and let me know what you think.

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Thoughts on the Amazon Breakthrough

Yesterday was the opening day of the submission period for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I read the contest rules closely and considered what the contest might mean for my book. The criteria for the various stages of judging, the numbers, the dates and windows, the total pool probabilities, etc.

In general, I'm not really one to submit to writing contests. Other people see them as a necessary part of career development, but I've always been more skeptical about their value. Since I was feeling especially conflicted about my writing yesterday, this sharpened my considerations about ABNA. In the end, however, I submitted my book to the ABNA. Amazon is a force in publishing now and will only increase in influence in the future. Putting my book in is as much an act of confidence in my work as it is confidence in the process.

The maximum submissions accepted will cap out at 10,000. By purely random chance, if it's all just marked poker chips in a hat, my book will have a 0.01% chance of being selected. It's not random, of course, and my particular book is a genre piece that will appeal to some, be repugnant to others. Any forward progress will be welcome.

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A pretty multi-tool for women

What the hell?

I appreciate the dearth of pocket space in women's jeans and the often excessive heft of purses. I also appreciate the satisfaction of DIY. Believe me, I'm a DIY guy from way back.

But this?

This is a DIY, homebrew multitool with various bits and pieces in the lipstick body.

For some reason, this strikes me as a bit silly. For the lady in MY life, I bought a small swiss army knife with scissors, nail file, tweezers and a few blades.

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#FridayFlash: Elegy On A Biopsy Needle

Loving woman, loving wife
All devoted, through long life
No temptation e'er so strong
To make her stray, nor siren song

Yet her virtue falls at last
By fingers' probe: hard and mass'd
She that held her body pure,
Penetration to endure

Her breast caressed so long ago
That first touch by her first beau
Now clamped down tight, tissues held
In plastic grip of iron weld.

No lover's hand, gently led
Nor warm softness, silken bed
But hard and sharp, stainless steel
Deeply stabs her, cold ordeal

Virgin again, second pain
Fear, not passion, fills her brain
Blood flows freely, bandage draped
Biopsy done: needle raped

Afterglow all born of hell
Dressing again o'er the swell
And now, as then, waiting begin,
What new-born life grows within?

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Twitter "Favorite" is not the same as Facebook "Like"

Something I've noticed lately is that some users are treating the Twitter "Favorite" function as equivalent to the Facebook "Like" function. They may seem equivalent, but the functions have important difference.

Favorites and Retweets on Twitter
When you Favorite something on Twitter, it's a designation that is for your use. Twitter allows you to sort out your Favorited tweets in a separate list. In that regard, the Favorite function behaves like a bookmarking tool. From a personal usage standpoint, this is quite convenient, as it lets you keep track of people, links, comments and other tweet material that you found valuable and want to keep track of.

However, when you Favorite a tweet, that designation is made known only to you and to the originator of the tweet. For example, on my Interactions page, I can see that many people Favorited some of the hashtaggery tweets I sent out. I can also see that one of those tweet was Retweeted twice. Consider this from the standpoint of the rest of Twitter. While I'm pleased and gratified that my tweets were worthy of being Favorited, the rest of Twitter doesn't see that. They can't see your endorsement of my slivers of wit unless you Retweet them.

"If you want to laud and promote someone on
Twitter, use Retweet. On Facebook, use Like."

In contrast, when you "Like" something on Facebook, the world can see that you liked it. The world can also see how many other people Liked it. This is, in the parlance of social media, a form of crowd-wisdom vetting or endorsement. For example, this post by Monica Marier (author of the "Must Love Dragons" series and generally delightful person) has 23 Likes (at last count), with 6 comments. Monica can see this level of endorsement, just as she could see Favorites on Twitter. Additionally, however, anyone else reading their Facebook timeline would see right away that, in the opinion of these 23 people, this post has merit.

Likes and Shares on Facebook
Also in contrast to Twitter, if someone were to Share this on Facebook, that wouldn't be apparent by looking at the original post. The Shared post would have a "via X" designation over on the other person's timeline, but simply by looking at this post, I can see that 23 people Liked it, but I can't tell if it went any further than this.

Why do I care about this difference between a Twitter Favorite and a Facebook Like? Why should you?

The coin of the realm in social media is amplification. Telling the original author that you enjoyed their work is a good thing. Telling other people that you enjoyed that author's work is even better. Facebook combines these in the Like function. Twitter combines them in, not in the Favorite function, but rather in the Retweet function. If you've Retweeted something, the endorsement is implicit for the original author.

To summarize: If you want to laud and promote someone on Twitter, use Retweet. On Facebook, use Like.

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Wednesday limerick: AutoCorrect nightmare

Today's words for Three Word Wednesday are: focused, pair, vacant

Your eyes faded to vacant stare
To see "pare" become "pair" and "pear"
Consumed as by locust,
Your text now not focused,
Fork this dimmed spellcheck nightmare!

I'll be honest: I couldn't make "AutoCorrect" work in the last line, since it has four syllables. I used "spellcheck" instead. Sue me.

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The #OverlyHonestMethods compilation file

The #OverlyHonestMethods hashtag has been pretty funny for anyone who wants to see how scientists work.  This link is to a Word file with more than 1700 of these tweets. These include such gems as:
RT : You can download our code from the URL supplied. Good luck downloading the only postdoc who can get it to run, though #overlyhonestmethods

RT : incubation lasted three days because this is how long the undergrad forgot the experiment in the fridge #overlyhonestmethods  

RT : We cried for days when we got a p value of .051 #overlyhonestmethods 
Enjoy! For Science!

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Don't say "No". Say "No, thank you".

Here are some easy substitution phrases for you to use when next faced with a "situation":

Don't say... Instead, say...
Do I know you? I'm afraid I can't recall our last meeting.
Why are you asking me to do this? I'm flattered that you think I can help you.
This sounds like a waste of my time. I wouldn't be able to give this my full attention.
You are crazy for taking this on. You certainly have a passion for this project.
Fuck you. Pay me. I've had to prioritize my paid and non-paid work.
No one is ever going to read this or care about it. What did your market research tell you?
Why would I work with you? You're an asshole! I really think our working styles are incompatible.
You're not my boss. How are things over in your chain of command?
You think I'm stupid enough to do all the work... This division of labor wouldn't work for me...
...and leave you to take all the credit. ...but at least the feather will be in YOUR cap.
Don't ever ask me to do this kind of thing again. I still have fond memories of when I used to do this.
Get the fuck out of my office. Thanks for stopping by!

Shooting a photo for cover art

I have a story that I'm going to post on Amazon. Soon, you will be able to drop a buck and read a potent little 4K gem.

But first, I need a cover. I have an image in mind, so I just need to line up some assistance in shooting the photo. I'll do that with my own camera, taken at high-res. Through the miracle of software technology, I'll spruce the image up: crop, recolor, enhance, sharpen, focus/blur, re-light, shade, bend, fold AND mutilate.

After that, I'll reformat to a 1:1.4 ratio, downstep it to 300 dpi, overlay with the title (big letters) and attribution (smaller letters) in a suitably cold-hearted, vicious font, give it a 3-pixel-wide universal dark-charcoal gray border (so it will show up well on Amazon's white background).

Post the story, post the cover art, set the price to $0.99, write up blurbs and a description, then release into the wild.

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#FridayFlash: Land, Ho!

"Why Madrid and Wellington? Not that I have anything against Spaniards or Kiwis, but a connection like that isn't nearly as useful as, say, New York-to-Tokyo or London-to-Beijing. Why not run the line between bigger cities like that?"

"Because those site-pairs aren't antipodal through the center of the earth. The chronospatial displacement beam won't work if it isn't perpendicular to the gravity field."

"Why not?"

"You need the graviton density of the Earth's core to stabilize the beam with respect to the timeslip. Otherwise, instead of the material being displaced backward in time by thirty seconds, it might be as little as one second. That's not enough time for the Earth to move out of the way along its orbit. We can dump matter backwards if it's going into the vacuum of space, but a one second displacement dumps it on top of another part of the Earth. And since two atoms can't occupy the same space -"

"A billion tons of rock and iron will turn into energy, blowing up the planet in a displacement explosion."

"Exactly. So, we need to have land on both sides of the planet, and that really limits the placement of our transfer sites. It can't be land-to-water; it has to be a land-to-land. And if they aren't near a major population, we'd have to build up too much infrastructure to make the project economically feasible. After energy walls of the Madrid-to-Wellington tunnel are stable, we can do Shanghai-to-Buenos Aires, Quito-to-Kuala Lampur, Santiago-to-Xi'an. We could also do a Honolulu-to-Botswana and Mongolia-to-Cape of Good Hope, but there's not much point, economically speaking."

"I'm surprised the Americans aren't insisting on doing the Honolulu-to-Botswana tunnel first."

"Oh, their noses are out of joint because there's nothing on the other side of the continental U.S. except the Indian Ocean. There's no infrastructure in Botswana and getting materials in and out of Honolulu doesn't really do much for you, industrially speaking. You're still in the middle of the Pacific Ocean."

"Hey, wait a minute."


"You said we had to wait until the energy walls of the tunnel are stable, right?"

"Sure. Why?"

"Without the repulsor fields, the tunnel collapses, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, they're the only thing holding back the superhot material at the core. It's like 9000 degrees down there. Without the repulsors anything sent through the tunnel would be burnt to a crisp. So?"

"What happens if we de-collimate the repulsor fields? Not enough to make the tunnel collapse, but just enough to make the walls a little unstable. What would happen?"

"Don't be an idiot. The pressure at the core would force the molten nickel-iron into the tunnel. It would be unusable."

"Right, but then what would happen?"

"Huh? You'd have a geyser from both ends, shooting a million tons of... molten... metal... oh my god."

"Exactly! Wherever it emerges under the ocean, you'd have a brand new island made of solid iron. You'd have a mess to clean up on the other side, but it's all high-grade metal. Once the new island cools sufficiently, you level it off, build a seaport on top of it and shoot a tunnel back through the other side."

"You, my friend, aren't nearly as dumb as you look."

"I've been telling you that for years. Get the Americans on the phone."


n.b. I used this website in writing this week's story: "Tunnel To The Other Side Of The Earth"

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Does this poem make me look stupid?

Today's Three Word Wednesday words are: idle, nagging, pace

I feel around this room
A nagging sense of doom.
An idle pace
Makes anxious space
Must get to work: VA-VOOM!

Now for the question: do you think less of me because I write limericks? Are these bits of doggerel not merely neutral, but harmful? Are they diminishing me in your eyes? I could write something deep and soulful with them, instead:
Sunlight on the idle grass, green yet not
growing. No warmth in winter's day to stir,
quicken the pace of blades not yet
The food of life for grass and for me
showered upon us as we try to ignore
the nagging falseness of cold light, both of us not yet

Is one any better than the other? True, the second poem is crap with respect to content, but so is the first one. The first one at least has the benefit of adherence to the meter of the limerick form. I write limericks because I like the form, not because I can't write anything else. However, why do I feel it necessary to say that? What does that mean? Why should I concern myself with how other people judge me based on the kind and quality of poetry I post here?

Well, that's a pretty dumb question, isn't it?

Musings about poetry on a bright January day... not quite the most auspicious way to kick of a new year of blogging.

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New Year's Resolutions

My resolutions for this year include the usual stuff about diet and exercise, but for the purpose of this blog, I'll list a few writing-related resolutions for 2013.

1. Publish "Verbosity's Vengeance: A Grammarian Adventure Novel". This book is out on queries to agents and publishers right now, mostly because it needs editing and a pro cover before it can be the kind of book that I know it can be. Relying on a publisher for those services avoids a big cash outlay up front. However, thanks to a significant vote of confidence (and monetary investment) from someone who has read the book as it now stands, things are different. Pro editing and a pro cover are now something I can swing as a one time service-for-hire rather than having to fold the cost of them in as part of a percentage of sales forever.

2. Finish an outline, rough draft, revised draft and polished draft of my next book.

3. Rework my writing schedule to get more done, and refocus my efforts so that the things I'm getting done are what I need to be getting done.

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