My A to Z challenge: tools of the trade

I've decided to join the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I hesitated about this, since I already talk about my writing so much, I was concerned that I wouldn't have enough interesting things to say. Also, to be honest, I didn't want to turn people off with an A to Z list of my favorite metaphors, or a list of things or people you'll find in the novel I'm currently shopping around.

This morning, however, Icy Sedgwick suggested the idea of blogging about a different topic, one that is outside the usual scope of the blog.


After considering a few of my non-writing passions to highlight this month, I've settled on woodworking tools as the theme for this month. Instead of the usual 80% brain, 20% hands ratio that goes with my writing, I'll be showing you some of the things I use in my 20% brain, 80% hands woodworking hobby.

I'm still selecting items for the entire month, but the first week's items are chosen. Since it would be boring to pick obvious tools (D = drill, H = hammer, etc.), I'm going to present some of my more unusual tools. Hopefully, you'll find that more interesting.

It will be strange writing about these things. They are all so familiar to me, it's odd to think of using a few hundred words to introduce them and explaining what they're for and how to use them. I can point to all the items I've fixed, all the things I've installed, all the furniture I've built, etc., but I rarely point to the tools I used to do any of it.

This feels like it'll be fun!

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My take on the Hugo nominees

The 2013 Hugo nominees are out. The nominees include books, authors, etc. I recognize, as well as books, authors, etc. I don't recognize. For that matter, the list includes authors I like and authors I dislike. Shows you how well/poorly my tastes match those of the voting public.

Interesting point: only three stories were nominated for Best Short Story. Of the 662 nominations, only these three garnered the minimum 5% of total. This means that the pool of nominations was a lot of stories, few of which were of note.

Conclusion: the short story is dead as a recognized form. However, the novel, novella and novelette (whatever the hell that is) seem to be doing just fine, with 1113, 587 and 616 nominations, respectively. Said novelette nominations include “In Sea-Salt Tears”, by Seanan McGuire. This is (I believe) the first self-published work nominated for a Hugo. Congratulations, Seannan!

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Protection From the Elements

"Naomi! Time to go!"

Mrs. Wentz's call to her daughter went unanswered. She continued packing a couple of carrier bags, shaking the sand from the beach towels before folding and stowing them. Towels, her magazines, the empty pop bottles - one item after another was picked up, shaken off, and stuffed in.

"Naomi! Naomi Wentz!"

From two hundred yards down the deserted beach came an answering call: "What?"

"It's time to go! Come on back and get cleaned up!"

The girl's voice was windswept but clear, carrying easily over the flat, open distance. "OK, I'll be right there."

"NOW, Naomi! We'll come back tomorrow." She turned back to her packing, expecting to have to go enforce the departure order once everything was ready.

"Mom! I found a bug! It looks really cool!"

"Well, don't pick it up. It has germs."

"Aw, you think EVERYTHING has germs!"

"Everything does, especially bugs. Leave it alone. It's time to go."

"Just five more minutes?"

"NOW, Naomi Ruth. We'll come back tomorrow and you can see your bug again."

"Promise we'll come back tomorrow?"

The woman stood with hands on hips, facing the child across the open expanse of sand. "Of course we'll come back. What else is there to do around here? If we'd gone to the beach by Atlantic City like I wanted to, we could go to an amusement park tomorrow, or spend the day on the boardwalk eating popcorn and ice cream. We could even go to a casino and see what THAT might be like, God forbid we should have so much fun. But no, your cheapskate father wanted a nice, open beach where he wouldn't have to fight the crowds. Which is why drove fourteen hours so we could spend two solid weeks in Lake Moosejaw, Maine. We already saw the lumberjack museum AND hiked in that mosquito-infested forest, so there is nowhere else for us to go tomorrow EXCEPT right back here. Now will you get your little self OVER here so we can go back to the cabin? Whether or not he actually read any of that book he brought up here, I can guarantee that your father has his precious 'local' beers cold by now. If we're lucky, he also remembered to thaw the hamburger patties."

"It's Musajanaw."

"What is?"

"The name of the town. It's Lake Musajanaw, Maine. That's the Algonquin word for sunrise."

"Naomi, I'm warning you - I have a headache."

"All right. Let me say goodbye to my bug."

"You do that. And don't pick it up. Bugs have germs."

The little girl bent over to the bug and whispered, "I'll come back tomorrow, OK? You be good until I come back. I'll bring you some more Cheez-Its, OK?"

In the shade of a driftwood log, a long, thick millipede paused in its mastication of a stack of orange crackers she'd piled on the sand. For a moment, it almost seemed as though it understood. Then the moment passed and it went back to eating, ignoring Naomi.

"I'll be back tomorrow. I promise. I love you, bug." She stroked a finger along its iridescent blue-green back. "I love you."

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Everything goes better with Wolverine

I'm feeling pretty low and anti-social this morning, so I'll just post the Wolverine trailer for ya. What happens when the man who can't be hurt, who can endure anything, suddenly finds himself... vulnerable?


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Composing poetry

Today's three words for Three Word Wednesday are: cooperate, lame, terse

This limerick you read is quite terse;
It's lame, but it could have been worse.
It has "syncopate"
and "cooperate",
two words that enhance any verse.

Did you know that I wrote a whole book of limericks based on Three Word Wednesday prompts? It's true. You can find it over at Amazon. Feel free to go grab a copy... that is, unless you WANT these puppies to die.

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Quadcopters are domestic drones

If you think law enforcement agencies, intelligence-gathering agencies (foreign and domestic), and military-industrial complex type folks of all stripes are NOT slavering over the snooping possibilities inherent in quadcopter fleets, then you are a more trusting person than I.

A low-power packet-sniffing antenna mounted on one quadcopter could easily relay data from node to node to node, back to a base station. Such low-power transmissions would not be detectable on the ground. Hell, they might even be able to use line-of-sight laser transmissions in the node links back to base.

When one quadcopter runs out of gas, send another back up for station-keeping. You can even refill in the air from a tethered balloon, holding a fuel tank aloft. The quadcopters are more than nimble enough to manage the air-acrobatics necessary for a refueling.

This is why I wear a tin-foil hat.

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I'm not missing you

It was a struggle finding time to write a FridayFlash yesterday. I've been pretty well swamped lately with demands on time and energy. I hardly have time to write this blog post on what (in another universe) would be a quiet Saturday morning. Since I'm so double- and triple-booked, mentally and physically, why did I write a FridayFlash? After all, as John Wiswell noted, there will be more Fridays. Why not take a week off?


I haven't missed a week since I posted "Nearer Comes The Moon", way back in September of 2009. I've posted ~180 stories, with no gaps in the run. The stories have changed, gotten happy & sad, oblique and obvious. Some have been experimental tone-poems, some have been goofy-assed shaggy dog stories. Some have been stunning in their power and beauty, others were clumsy crap. Some have gotten thirty, forty, even fifty comments, others have gotten one or two. They've been depressing and angsty of late... maybe the funny & happy ones will come back soon, maybe not.

The point is, everybody always stresses that you have to MAKE the time to write, that it has to be a commitment, that it has to come first. I keep this weekly appointment so that, even when the world is crashing down around me and I am fighting off ravening hordes, arms aching from swinging the bloody scimitar... I still have time to stop and light a fresh candle that will hold back the final darkness.

Keeping the flame alive is easy when times are good. It's when life wants to snuff it out that you have to be willing to fight for what you believe in. That new novel is coming to life at hardly a hundred words a week, but the FridayFlash is the unmoving pole star.

So, the answer is "no". I'm not missing you, FridayFlash. Not this week, not next week, nor the week after that.

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Flash Flash Fiction

You know that old "pick two" joke? It hung behind the counter at every three-man auto repair shop, right next to the calender with a funny cartoon designed to sell premium spark plugs. Before that, the calenders used to have trashy pin-up girls selling premium spark plugs, but even the greasegunners bowed to the inevitable winds of change.

Winds of change...

But the joke - you know it, right? "We can do it right, do it fast, or do it cheap - pick two!" It's funny because it's true. Wrapped up in that joke is the essential truth of the world you live in. Laugh if you want to. Ha ha ha.

The dangerous thing about truth, though, is that it's only funny in small doses. Start to think it through and pretty soon you're not looking at a funny little truth; you're looking at a scary-assed big truth. And if you keep looking, it becomes a universal truth, and you'll weep yourself to sleep every night for the rest of your life.

"Pick two."

I didn't even get to make the decision as to which two. Not that it would have mattered, since I can't believe that I would have chosen differently, even if I'd been able to make the choice, or if I'd known that a choice was being made. Me, being who I am, I always would have wanted to be a hero. What else would I be?

Think about it: the lighting hit that rack of lab chemicals, ionized them all and dumped them on me, engulfing me in a reactive plasma field. Why didn't it just kill me? Just the exploding bottle of boiling 10N sulfuric acid should have burnt me to the bone, but that witch's brew of reacting solvents? Plus a hundred thousand amps from the lighting bolt? Dump acid on yourself and stick your finger in a light socket, see if you get superpowers. The fact is, I should have died.

Another fact is that I wish I had.

When I did my hero stuff, I did it right and I did it fast. All well and good, sure... but nobody told me that I wouldn't be able to do it cheap. The price wasn't apparent right away, but that's always how they get you, isn't it? They let you run and run and run, never telling you how much debt you're accruing. And they damn sure never tell you up front what kind of "interest" you'll have to pay. Now, as  the centuries, the millennia, the eons roll on and on, the price I've paid weighs on me so heavily that I can hardly move.

Everyone is dead. Iris, Bart, Hal, Bruce, Clark, Diana... no one is left. I am a ghost, wandering through a world of strangers, barely recognizable as human anymore.

I realize now why I didn't die. Across a hundred million billion trillion infinities, that lightning bolt and those exploding chemicals killed me. I died fast and I died slow, died from acid in my lungs, died from glass puncturing my throat, died from electrocution, died from a broken neck as I tripped backward. I died silently and I died in screaming agony. I died in every single universe... except this one.

In this sliver of reality, I lived because the multiverse needs an anchor point. There has to be one place where all the infinite entropies of space and time come together, one empty line on the balance sheet where a single entry can balance the books.

My speed was never anything more than an illusion, a side effect of all the discontinuities coming home to roost within my body. I didn't move fast... the world's frame of reference slowed around me. In that respect, I didn't even get to pick two. I didn't do it cheap or fast. And did I do it right? When the world I "saved" so many times is centuries dead, what did it matter? Did I do right? Or did I do nothing? All I did was make the equations come out right for the rest of the multiverse.

Right. Fast. Cheap. Pick none.

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A cat may look at a king, right?

In this morning's blog post over at Today's Author, I take it upon myself to question my betters:
I saw it here on the Today’s Author website and was all set to write a blog post discussing why writers should always be on the lookout for this, why you should check your own work to make sure this doesn’t crop up. Then, to my chagrin, I saw Neil Gaiman do it and it gave me pause. Here’s a guy who CLEARLY knows how to write, someone who has autographed more books than I’ll probably ever sell… but there it is. He did that thing I was all set to tell people not to do. A cat can look at a king, but who am I to edit Neil Gaiman?
What piece of das ist verboten writing advice am I talking about? Click over to find out. Don't forget tell me if you agree or if you think I'm off base.

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Nothing will cure you

There is no pill to make you stupid.
There is no pill to make you smart.
There is no pill to make you pretty.
There is no pill to make you brave.
There is no pill to make you happy.
There is a pill to make you thin, but it contains a tapeworm.
There is no pill to make you taller.
There is no pill to make you rich.
There is no pill to make you successful.
There is no pill to make you Neo, but the red pill will give you a chance to prove yourself.
There is no pill to make you talented.
There is no pill to make you confident.
There is no pill to make you empathetic.
There is no pill to make you the size of an ant, no matter what Henry Pym says.
There is no pill to make you white.
There is no pill to make you black.
There is no pill to make you different from your parents.
There is no pill to make you straight.
There is no pill to make you gay.
There is no pill to make you finish writing that damn book.
There is no pill to make you start writing that damn book, either.
There is no pill to make you funny.
There is no pill to make other people take you seriously.
There is no pill to make you see past the cultural blinders you wear.
There is no pill to make you better.

There is no pill that will cure you, because the things that you want to change about yourself aren't cured by pills.

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A Super Secret Project

Let the record show that I was urged to follow up on this idea that won't leave me alone. Let the record further show that Danielle "@Dannigrrl5" La Paglia and Larry "@FARfetched58" Kollar agreed to beta read it when it's done.

I've been resisting writing this idea out because... well, I'm not going to tell you why I've been resisting. Suffice to say, this is not like anything I've written before and I don't know how it will turn out. On your heads be it, guys.

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A Geeky St. Patrick's Day

For all you beer-drinking geeks - Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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#FridayFlash: Night driving, alone

"Five bodies... where the hell am I going to dump five bodies?"

The night had no answers. In fact, the night didn't give a shit about him any more than God or people or the rest of the universe. All he wanted was to be left alone. Was that so much to ask? Now he had five bodies to get rid of.

At least he had plenty of gas. He'd filled up the tank before coming into the city.

When he drove out of the city, everything was blurry. All that saved him was the fact that he could have taken 95 to 76 to 476 in his sleep, driven it with his eyes closed. After a while, when the frantic slamming in his chest slowed into individual pounding heartbeats, the floodlights overhead had come into focus, but were pulsing redly, the highway in front of him telescoping in and out to the rhythm of his heart as though he were looking down a dim, shifting tunnel.

He knew this was no illusion. He knew that it was a result of spiking blood pressure, pressing on his eyeballs, deforming them with backpressure on every beat. His panic, if that's what he was feeling, was literally reshaping the lenses through which he saw the world. He knew his eyes were bulging in and out, in and out, in and out, just like in the cartoons. He knew that his eyes, his pale skin, his trembling, his sweat, his smell... all of these would damn him before a Philly cop or MontCo Sheriff or PA State Trooper shone a light into the backseat.

He had plenty of gas. He had E-Z-Pass for the tolls. He didn't need to stop for anything. He drove north at eighty miles per hour, staying in with the traffic on the northeast extension of the PA turnpike. He was another car. He was nobody. He was nothing special.

He had five bodies to dump. He had three bodies in the trunk (the bleeders) and two in the backseat (the broken necks). The broken necks smelled like beer and sweat and piss and hair gel. They didn't smell like blood, though. The other smells he could handle, deal with somehow at a self-serve car wash. Drive through, wash and wax the outside, then hose out the inside. It would soak the upholstery and the floormats, but heat lamps and fans would dry everything. Let the water flood it all away, let the light and heat restore his car to cleanliness again.

But where to dump them?

If he'd gone into center city looking for a fight, looking for a bad fight, one where people ended up dead, he might have made some plans. But all he wanted was a movie and some drinks. Was that so much to ask? A quiet night out on the town by himself? He was tired of going to the movies at the multiplexes, tired of eating at the chain places, the quirky places, the here-today-gone-tomorrow upscale places. He wanted to see a movie and eat some decent food for a change and have a couple of drinks. Didn't he deserve that much? Didn't he deserve a couple of quiet hours of watching the people around him live their stupid fucking lives and having their stupid fucking fun?

The road began to telescope again, in and out, in and out. He made himself not think about the world around him, the world that didn't give a shit about him and the stupid fucking piece of shit bastards that populated that bleak, horrible world.

His heart slowed again and the road settled down.

See a movie, have a few drinks, go to your car, get jumped, kill the five guys that jumped you. It was like clockwork, wasn't it? Same old shit, the same goddamned shit that always happened when he just wanted a quiet night out.

But it had never been five before. Three was the most. Before tonight, that is. He had every right to park his Audi in a dark alley, didn't he? Was it his fault that a car like his in a place like that attracted guys like the bleeders and the broken necks? Was it his fault? No it was not. It was not his fault they'd come around. They did that on their own.

Knife flash, duck and dive, spin-kick down and elbow up, crush this one's larynx, stab that one in the eye, twist this one's head around and use it to crush that one's face in... the close combat training never left you, burned into your brain and nerves forever, became the lenses through which you see the world.

The alley was so blurry when he loaded the bodies, he had to pull the tarps over by touch. He could barely see anything, drove out along the familiar streets by memory and by instinct.

Five bodies... where? Where?

He got off the northeast extension onto 80 and headed west.

There were lakes up here. Deep lakes, mountain lakes. State game lands, state parks, private land... places nobody gave a shit about. Deep lakes with deep water.

He looked over at the passenger seat, at the rolls of plastic fencing, nylon rope, plastic buckets filled with quick-set cement. Bodies rot into little pieces. Metal, even the galvanized wire and fencing, eventually rusts into little pieces. Down in the cold, the world eats away at everything. Metal, flesh, wood, everything.

Everything except plastic. Plastic is forever. Plastic is untouchable. He remade his heart and brain out of plastic After She Left. The world sneered and laughed and spit on him After She Left, but who the fuck cares about the world, anyway? He just wanted to be left alone.

He cracked the window and let the night air, let it roar in his left ear in as he drove.

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For the sake of a brand...

What would you do to protect and foster a brand? Would you get a tattoo of your favorite online streaming video service? Would you promise not to compete against or bad-mouth the purveyors of a product or service?

Would you misrepresent the company you work for? Would you misrepresent yourself as an agent of that company? Would you pretend a product is good when you know it isn't? Would you exaggerate the health of the underlying fundamentals in order to attract investors? Would you pretend that everything is fine when you know just how very, very far from fine it all is?

Questions like this are on my mind today.

The conclave of Cardinals is deciding which of them will be Pope, taking over the church at "a difficult, challenging time", as the newscasters say (see UPDATE). Politicians in Washington D.C. are putting out competing budgets, arguing over how to rearrange the deck chairs while the ocean liner sinks underneath them.

And I'm still scribbling away, fitfully writing unimportant spasms of flash fiction while I dither about the novel I wrote, the half-novels I never finished and the proto-novels I haven't written yet. Plots and characters flash by, none yet engaging enough to strike a spark in kindling that I hope is not completely sodden.

The only saving grace about this situation is that when I call myself a writer, I can point to the things I've written as evidence. When I call myself a novelist, I can point to the novel which is now being pushed into finding a place in the world.

I'm not obligated to add any falsifying modifiers to those nouns. No "brilliant young writer" (which is amusingly untrue in so many ways), no "prolific novelist", no "inspiring author", etc. I don't need to lie about being bestselling, beloved, successful, respected, controversial, cutting edge, breakthrough or standard-bearing.

I just have to write and keep writing after a disappointment. All of this is for you, dear reader - or at least for those of you non-TLDR folks who've read this far. I'd hate for you to think I was misrepresenting myself or censoring myself for the sake of the Tony Noland brand. I'm not a wonderful, prolific writer, but neither am I protecting those who molest innocent children or destroying countries with mindless demagoguery.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, Archbishop of Buenos Ares Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elevated to the papacy, taking the name of Pope Francis. I wish him well - between the Catholic church as it exists now and the way it should be lies a tremendous amount of contrition and soul-searching.

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#ABNA - congratulations to the 3rd round

From the Grammarian, Professor Verbosity and myself, congratulations to all the writers whose books are moving on to the 3rd round of the ABNA! I'm not among you, but it was fun and exciting while it lasted!

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A limerick to pass the time

While I'm waiting for the next round of ABNA to be announced, I'll compose a limerick. That always makes the time pass more easily.

The list ain't out, but searching
Pays off for hearts a'lurching.
I know it makes me surly
Seeing winning books named early,
But on the "Reload" button I'm still perching

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Advances vs. working on spec

Over at his Whatever blog, John Scalzi has a post about advances and what they represent. Every author would like to have a fat advance as part of a great contract, but what does a zero advance contract mean?
This is why advances are a good thing: They put the author at the front of the line to get paid. Which, given that the publishing industry is all about selling what the author provides, is where the author should be. If a publisher doesn’t have paying the author first as its default, then it tells me something very significant about what they think about authors — and what priority authors are in their publishing scheme.
The whole post is informative, as are the comments. Well worth a read. Scalzi's summation - that an advance puts the author first in line to be paid - clarified a lot of muddy water for me. Well done you, Scalzi. However, what about other forms of compensation? Monetary or non-monetary? Up-front or delayed? Guaranteed or conditional?

What I do here at Landless is monetized through only one horrifically ineffective mechanism. Although I certainly expect to be in a situation where I and my agent/lawyer will review and consider a publishing contract which will address the subject of advances against earnings, I'm not there yet. My knowledge of novel publishing is analogous to a virgin's knowledge of sex: purely theoretical, based on avid research. So what's my take on advances?

When it come to being paid for my fiction, I've written for payment (i.e. one check up front, no royalties), written for exposure (i.e. for free, with no expectation of royalties), written for self-publishing (where I bore all the costs of production & got the majority of sales revenue) and written on spec (where I bore none of the costs of production & got a small fraction of sales revenue).

Of these, by far the worst monetary ROI was the "on spec" writing. Sales are driven by promotion and publisher organizational ability. Where I have skin in that game, I work. If I've already been paid, or don't expect to be paid, my work is to write, submit and move on. Where my payment is tied to sales, my effort is proportional to my expected reward. Self-publishing pegs my share of the gate at anywhere from 35-70%. My percentage for "on spec" jobs ended up being considerably lower than that.

I haven't made any formal calculations of this, but enthusiasm for promotion of any one item starts to crap out below the 10% level. Busting your chops to sell $100 in product in order to get $10 is getting close to the point where I'd make more selling washing machines at Sears.

A low percentage is offset (to an extent) by leveraging the same amount of promotion to sell multiple products. When BUY MY BOOK! becomes BUY ALL MY BOOKS!, then $10 can turn into $20 or $30 - a much better ROI. If the percentage is too low, though, even that doesn't help. Under those circumstances, it's better to take the lessons learned, walk away and go do something more productive.

An advance against sales means the publisher is willing to put itself in the hole based on confidence that there will BE sales. The bigger the hole, the more commitment to the project. For any book I've written, I'm already in the hole for my blood, sweat and ink. I want my partners to be right in there with me.

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#FridayFlash: What more?

"What if I have nothing left to give?"

"You will always have something left to give."

"But what if I don't? What if they've taken everything?"

"If you're able to ask the question, 'What more can I lose?', then you still have something left."

"What? My life? I should die?"

"No, that serves no purpose. They don't want you to die. What would they gain from your death? Nothing."

"I don't understand."

"After you have given everything you possess, after compatriots, friends, family, children and spouse have all be sacrificed, after you are naked and exposed and helpless... that's when it all truly starts. The normal trappings of a normal life are merely that: trappings. Peripheral, inessential."

"If everything is gone, then what more can I give? Tell me."

"When you are brought so low that every moment is wailing dread, when every breath is pain and every eyeblink is a half-second escape from unrelenting gray despair, you still have something to give, something they can take away."

"And that is? What would I still possess at that point? Hope?"

"No, hope will be long-fled by then. They would have rooted hope out of your soul and left only a raw wound in its place."

"Then... what? If I'm lying in frozen agony, rotting in the mud and beyond all hope and reason, what more could they take?"

"You've answered your own question. If you are still capable of feeling anguish and despair, then you must still possess a memory of what your life used to be like. Even if it's only the animal consciousness of the sensation of not-pain, a lingering body-memory of 'a time before this', they will want it. They will chase it down the corridors of your mind and demand you give it up of your own volition. Until you are no longer able to feel anything at all, physically or psychically, you still have something in your possession."

"I... I see. And when I reach that point? Is that when Eternity will be open to me?"

"Eternity. Chaos. The Void. The Timeless Beyond. It goes by many names."

"But will it be open to me?"

"They will open it to you, yes. But you will lack the will to go through. The price of your transport to the Great Doorway will have robbed you of the ability to accept your prize. It is the way of things. You, like every other being who has sought Eternity, will hang on the lip of the pit, alive but unmoving."

"No. This is where you are wrong. I will NOT be like all the others. On my father's grave, I swear: Eternity will be mine to command. Spill the blood and burn the leaves, old man. Summon them. I am ready."

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The Semicolon Bounce

After GrammarGirl tweeted a link to "Ode to the Semicolon" on Monday (Grammar Day, in case you missed it), I saw a nice bounce in traffic to that poem's page:
The red semicolon marks the bounce. Click to enlarge.

I included the "Pages per visit" metric to show that hits to a single post don't necessarily translate into a lot of traffic to other pages. Still, I'm happy.

An English teacher contacted me after reading the poem and asked permission to use it in class. She's doing a unit on poetry and, coincidentally, on the proper use of the semicolon. The Ode is a perfect teaching tool for that kind of thing.

Nice to see that this poem is still fun for people.

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Unexpectedly, I write

Over on Today's Author, I talk about what it feels like to be THAT GUY. You know... the one who didn't study writing in school, didn't start off wanting to pursue a career as a writer and who often feels three or four Presidents older than most of his writer cohort.

Go take a look. Comment if you feel so moved.

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You can't teach writing

Today's Three Word Wednesday words are: brutal, grope, transfer

A metaphor brutal begins:
"Transfer old wine to new skins"
Critics will grope
For this tired old trope
To stab writing teachers with pins

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The Copperplate Killer - Part 6

The Copperplate Killer
Part 6

"Sheriff Roxborough, Deputies, on behalf of the federal government, I'd like to thank you for your assistance in capturing this man." Thyme indicated the unconscious Thomson, bandaged and strapped to a stretcher across three folded-down seats. "It's a damned shame about that poor girl in the saloon, but a mad dog like this has no respect for laws of common decency. Even to the last, he's nothing more than a heartless killer."

Roxborough let fly a stream of tobacco juice towards the spittoon in the corner. "Let him hang, I say. With the whore, how many does that make for him? Killed, I mean."

"A store keeper, a railroad inspector, a clerk in an assay office and that girl last night. Plus the two marshals. That's six that we know about. Plus thefts, arson, and his other crimes. He'll get his trial, Sheriff, and then he'll get his just reward. Oh, and speaking of rewards, I've already wired ahead about your assistance. You can expect a letter of credit for the five hundred dollars in reward money to arrive at the Farm and Seed Bank in a week or so."

"Aw, hell, Thyme," Jeremiah said, "all we did was come in after we heard the shooting. Since we didn't even hardly do anything, it wouldn't be right to -"

"That's right friendly of you, Justification, and we appreciate it." Roxborough placed a hand on Jeremiah's shoulder as he spoke over him. "A man like that, a desperate killer and all, the thing could have gone any number of ways. We were happy to be of assistance. The sooner you get him on back to face the hangman, the better off we'll all be."

Thyme smiled. "Sheriff, I couldn't agree more."

All four men climbed down from the coach. As they shook hands in farewell, Charlie gave Thyme an extra bottle of opium tincture. Doc Vincent had patched Thomson up well enough to survive the long trip to Washington D.C., but he'd agreed that the man would be easier to handle if he were sedated the entire time. Thomson came around when the doc was fishing the slugs out of his arm and leg. He'd been shouting like a demon, promising bribes in gold and silver if the doc were to let him go, and promising vengeance in fire and blood if not. Needless to say, the doctor was happy to be rid of him.

The engine whistle sounded. With a last wave, Thyme climbed back aboard the passenger coach. Attached as a special to the 7:05 freight train, it was going to be a bumpy and slow ride to Topeka.

He watched out the window as Highwater disappeared down the tracks. Then he turned to Thomson, drew back his fist and punched him hard, right on the massive wrapping of bandages that covered his upper arm. Thomson moaned and rolled his head.

"Still too far gone, huh?" He pulled out the bottle of opium tincture and regarded it for a bit before putting it away again. "We've got all day, you 'Copperplate Killer' son of a bitch. I can wait for you to come around."

At the end of the day, Thyme thought, after he's told me where he hid the gold, I'll give him a drop or two. It's gonna be worth listening to his screaming all day just for the look on his face when I tell him I'll get a promotion for finding the money.

He settled into one of the seats, arranging himself for a nap. It had been a long night. From under his hat, Thyme took one last look at his man, trussed up and bleeding afresh where he'd punched him. He snorted.

Play your cards right and I might even let you live to see Washington. Maybe.

The End

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10 More Rules of Writing

This follows last week's post.

  1. If your MC is sympathetic, don't make him sound unsympathetic in your book promotion. It's misleading.
  2. Even if you have personally seen people put mustard on pretzels, don't assume your readers will believe that's a real thing.
  3. Grammar is the servant of communication, not the other way around.
  4. People use cliches when they talk. If your characters NEVER use cliches, how realistic is your dialogue?
  5. If your intended audience doesn't already know what's wrong with the phrase "Jedi mind meld", don't make them feel stupid for not knowing.
  6. The YA market is hideously overpopulated. So is every other market except Westerns. Don't let that stop you.
  7. If it's funny to you, it will be funny to 5% of your potential readership. That's good enough.
  8. Rather than bitch and moan about Microsoft Word, either learn how to use it properly or learn how to use an alternative.
  9. Nuggets of writing advice on the Internet don't mean much from an objective standpoint, since they often contradict each other. However, from an objective standpoint, green eyes are just as attractive as brown, blue, gray or black. That doesn't mean your heart doesn't race at one vs. another.
  10. Thinking about what you read and how it relates to other things you've read will ALWAYS pay off when it comes to writing.

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