Thursday, January 31, 2013

Apple Users Like Me (They Really Like Me)

I find this very interesting.  According to this website, 78% of personal computers run Windows while just 3.7% are Apple Macs. (No idea what the remaining 18.3% are, can't all be Linux I would think).  So when I look at the statistics for this blog, I see this interesting pattern:
That's 59% of my lifetime page views are from Macs, 24% from Windows, and 3% from iPhones (with the rest other various systems; I wonder who the four BlackBerrys were).

Maybe artistic people are more likely to use Macs and more likely to come to this blog.  Maybe I have fans who have Macs.  Maybe the sample size is too small and it's a statistical aberration (seems unlikely with n>2,500).  Maybe I should ask my cousin who's a statistics graduate student to ponder the significance of that.

Oh, and just to let you know, I use a PC (Dell laptop) but have an iPhone, so I have divided loyalties.

Bonus points for figuring out the allusion in this post's title.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life the Universe and Everything

Got thinking today about extraterrestrial life.  That is, technically, life off of Earth.  So it could be on the Moon, Mars, in the asteroids, on Saturn's moon of Titan, or floating in the band of Jupiter's clouds where water is a liquid.

Extraterrestrial life does not have to mean little green men.  Or big, carnivorous, enslaving cat-like beings.  It could mean . . . bacteria-like life.  Or fungus.

Now here on Earth, we have found bacteria growing in places where we never, ever thought life could flourish: under the ocean where volcanic vents make the water over 200 degrees, under the ice in Antarctica, inside hot rocks.  These "extremophiles" can live, for example, where their environment is so acidic it will melt steel.

So if we have found life on Earth in places we never thought we could, why couldn't there be bacteriods out there in the universe?

Unfortunately, finding bacteria, while qualifying as life, isn't quite as exciting as Green Orion Slavegirls.  But it would be life.  Give it a few billion years and you'll have someone to talk to.

Now, that's another problem, how to communicate with a species that evolved completely separately from humans?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing Lessons: Words

This is the first blog post where I will share with you my secrets for good writing.  There will probably be about five of these, posted occasionally.

From a novel I recently wrote, comes this passage (that I've modified for this lesson):

Phillip held the gun's grip in his hand, his finger on the trigger.  His palms were sweating and his heart was beating hard.  He looked down the ally, concentrating.
The zombie surprised him, coming from behind some boxes and moving fast.  Phillip, startled, shot twice almost without thinking.  It probably saved his life as the zombie cried in pain and blood leaked from its body.  That also stopped it long enough for Phillip to shoot it in the head twice resulting in more blood. 
How does that paragraph make you feel?  How does it hit you in the guts?  Not very hard?  That's because of the words I used (or didn't use) in the paragraph above.

There are three things you can do to punch up your writing: 1) use "power words" and "power phrases," 2) use adverbs to modify verbs, and 3) use adjectives to modify nouns in both cases to convey emotion, feeling, or paint a picture.

What are power words and phrases?  "Power words" and "power phrases" are words or phrases that don't just tell what happened but show and tell and often relate a feeling.  You want your reader to see, hear and feel with your characters.  For example:

Joe tripped and fell.

Joe stumbled and was slammed to the pavement.

("Stumbled" paints a picture and "slammed" is a power word, much more visual and evocative than "fell" and then "to the pavement" again paints a picture.)

And if we add rule #2 above (adverbs):
Joe stumbled and was slammed painfully to the pavement.

(For some reason I like that better then "painfully slammed" I think because first you get the "slam" then you get the "pain.")

And rule #3 is added:
Joe stumbled and was slammed painfully to the hard, cold pavement.

(Don't worry that it's now twice as long, your reader won't care if it's written well.)

So let's looks at the paragraph above (about Phillip and the zombies) as I actually wrote it (changes are in strike out and bold):
Phillip held clutched [power word] the gun's black plastic [adjectives] grip hard [adverb] in his hand, his finger on the trigger.  His palms were sweating and his heart was beating hard trying to jump out of his chest [power phrase].  He looked peered [power word] down the dark [adjective] ally, concentrating.
The zombie surprised him, coming from behind some boxes and moving fast with alarming speed [power phrase].  Phillip, startled, shot twice almost without thinking.  It probably saved his life as the zombie cried roared [power word] in pain and black [adjective] blood leaked  mushroomed [power word] from its pale [adjective] body.  That also stopped it long enough for Phillip to shoot it in the head twice resulting in more blood a spray of dark viscera [power words (spray and viscera) and adjective (dark)]. 

And if you want to read that clean, here it is:
Phillip clutched the gun's black plastic grip hard in his hand, his finger on the trigger.  His palms were sweating and his heart was trying to jump out of his chest.  He peered down the dark ally, concentrating.
The zombie surprised him, coming from behind some boxes and moving with alarming speed.  Phillip, startled, shot twice almost without thinking.  It probably saved his life as the zombie roared in pain and black blood mushroomed from its pale body.  That also stopped it long enough for Phillip to shoot it in the head twice resulting in a spray of dark viscera. 

Compare and contrast to the first version of the paragraph.  They both tell the same basic story.  But one tells the story much more emotionally and vividly. 

Class dismissed.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wow! Thank you!

I woke up this morning and opened my browser and bam, got a nice surprise.  This blog had exactly 2,500 pageviews.  I was impressed.  I started this blog in August of 2012 so it's only about seven month old.  Now I know some blogs get 2,500 pageviews a day.  But I'm happy with my 2,500 as of today.

So thanks to everyone who has come to my blog to read my ramblings!

By the way, have you bought any of my books yet?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Six: Space Didn't Kill Frank

Today Sunday Six from Chapter Four of Rock Killer:

"Okay, really," Charlie said softly.  "I loved Frank; we were going to marry."
"I know."
"But life in space is dangerous.  We all accept that," she added with conviction.
"But space didn't kill Frank."

(Frank died here.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Driving as Fast as I Dare

In winter I've noticed a phenomena, at least with my driving.  When roads or slick or conditions not ideal, I drive as fast as I dare.  This could be 35 mph on the Interstate but it is as fast as I dare.  Then, suddenly, road conditions approve and I keep driving as fast as I dare and quickly I'm doing 85 mph on the Interstate (where the speed limit around here is 70).  This happened to me coming back from Portland one time.  I was driving in the Columbia River Gorge on the north (Washington) side and it was very foggy, so I was driving as fast as I dared for the foggy condition which was well under the speed limit.

Then the fog lifted and I forgot to stop driving as fast as I dared.  I think I was doing 72 (in a 60) when the cop got me on radar.  Luckily he didn't give me a ticket (my luck ran out two years ago in June when I was doing 48 in a 35 on a country road that has, in my opinion, a too low speed limit, anyway).

Or, the roads will be bad for weeks so you really get in the habit of driving as fast as you dare, then suddenly they're clear and you're speeding everywhere (because, by and large, speed limits are set too low, anyway).

Other times, during the summer, I drive as fast as I dare and hope there's no cops around.  I'll plead the fifth if asked how fast I go.

Do you drive as fast as you dare?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Six: Kimchee

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Three of Rock Killer:

Out of one of the multitude of small dishes on the table, Alex used chopsticks to select a slice of kimchee and put it in his mouth.  He followed the pickled cabbage with a gob of rice.

"I suppose," Kirsten chided playfully, "you expect to sleep in the same bed as me after eating that."

Alex nodded and swallowed.  "All you have to do is eat some and we'll cancel each other out."

Kirsten made a face.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I don't go to the movie theater a lot.  Last movie I saw in the theater was The Hobbit in late December but before that it was February 2012 and before that was April 2011 and before that it was 2003, I think (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).  I do most of my movie watching at home using Netflix (don't get me started on dealing with Netflix).  So I just last night got to see Tim Burton's animated film Frankenweenie.  And I highly recommend it.  It was nearly perfect with wonderful style and great direction.  Even when I thought they were going to do a cheap rip-off of Jurassic Park, they didn't.  It was clever, original, and well made.  And laugh-out-loud funny.  Only two things die (well, that aren't already dead).  The ending maybe be a bit scary and intense for younger kids (like under 12).

Another movie that was (surprisingly) laugh-out-loud funny was Ted.  Definitely not for children but very funny.  Most "comedies" the jokes are either lame or I can see them coming a mile away.  Not so with Ted.

But I digress.  If you want a fun time that your teenagers can watch and enjoy with you, then Frankenweenie is a good choice.  And if you like stylized movies where every frame seems to be a piece of artwork, then Frankenweenie is also a good choice.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dot Map

I saw this last night on Cartoon Network during Adult Swim watching "Family Guy" because my local Fox station had blocked programing from Dish (my television provider) for about five weeks and Cartoon Network was the only place to see the new Family Guy episodes.  Okay, that's probably more than you wanted to know.

Here is a map with one dot for every person in the U.S. and Canada according to U.S. and Canada census data.  As the website state:
This is a map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots - one for each person.
And you can actually zoom in to see individual dots.

What I find fascinating is, starting at the splotch in Texas that I assume is San Antonio, you can almost follow a line north (a not quite straight line) to what looks like Winnipeg, Canada.  East of that line there is almost no empty space and a lot of dark smudges.  West of that, there's a lot of empty space and almost no smudges until you get to the West Coast/I-5 corridor.

I think a lot of people living in the crowded eastern half of the continent don't realize how much empty space there is out West.

And I think a lot of people living the the West don't realize how packed the people are in the East.  We take our open spaces for granted.  I can hope in my car, drive an hour, and be where you can't see anything human-built (except the road).

Anyway, fun map that somebody wasted a lot of time on.

Monday, January 14, 2013


I do some volunteer work in my community.  This has helped me get freelancing jobs and I enjoy the community contact and service.

So one organization I belong to is thinking of hiring a fundraising firm.  I just looked at two of the proposals.  One was twenty pages, the other five.  Guess which one got a more careful reading?

I am amazed that someone can say in 20 pages what it took another person to say in five.  Yes, there were a few more details in the longer proposal, but there was a lot of "filler" and jargon and sales pitches.  It just got old.

So remember, brevity is what your readers want.  Well, at least some readers.  Like me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Six: Dinner

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Two of Rock Killer:

Dr. McConnell was about 65 and balding.  His grizzled mustache moved in an undulating motion when he chewed.  When he didn't have food in his mouth he puffed on a cigarette, oblivious to how his guests felt about the noxious fumes.  Mrs. McConnell was a dumpy woman who needed to do something, anything, with her short, gray hair.

The meal was a vegetarian delight.  Alex had just spent almost six months in space where meat was rehydrated, tasteless, and expensive as hell. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cold but Clear Day for a Drive

Today where I live it is cold by clear.  The sun is shining and, best of all, the roads are bare and dry.  So I took this opportunity to get out my fun car and drive it.  I accidentally hit 90 pulling onto the interstate (hey, I haven't driven it for over a month; I forgot how powerful it is).  Feels good to be able to drive without being paranoid about how slick it might be or might become.

I remember one time a few years ago I was driving to Seattle (over Snoqualmie Pass) in the winter and the roads had snow on them but were not too bad.  Then I saw flashing lights ahead of me so I slowed way down.  And sure enough, for about a mile, the road was sheet ice.  The flashing lights were cops and emergency vehicles that were there due to the accidents that already happened.  But what if you were the first person to some across that ice?  You'd probably end up in the ditch (if you were lucky).

So driving today with no fear of ice (even though temps were about 36) was so nice.  And it was nice to drive my fast car which has sat in the garage for over a month.

The picture above was taken by my wife as I drove down the interstate today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guest Post: Voss Foster

Today we welcome Voss Foster to our blog.

I’m so very grateful for you letting me share your blog space today.

I’m a music freak. I sing, I play trombone, and I belly dance. And then there’s the writing—every time I sit down to plan out a book, I put together a playlist. While the Tartaros playlist went the way of the floppy disk when my computer died, I did want to share some Tartaros sort of music with y’all. So, ten songs that I think speak on the themes, feelings, characters, or some other element of the book.

  1. Better Dig Two by The Band Perry: There’s so much timeless love in this song, it has to go with this book.
  2. Otherworld by The Black Mages: specifically, the version with vocals by Kumi Koda. It deals with time travel and kidnapping and general darkness.
  3. Circa Mea Pectora from Carmina Burana: It’s sort of a love song. Well, love and sex. And it’s very grandiose, which helps.
  4. Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars: It’s a love song, but there’s so much deception, and this sort of uncertainty in the lyrics. Plus the stunning vocals don’t hurt.
  5. Down with the Sickness by Disturbed: I know, it’s sort of cliché, but, when someone decides to make Tartaros into a movie, I want this to be Lilith’s song. Or the song of the Horsemen.
  6. Hurt by Johnny Cash: Just for the raw, emotional content. I don’t think anyone comes out of Tartaros unscarred.
  7. Lichtgestalt by Lacrimosa: It’s a song all about insanity, and the duality of a person. A darker side and the ‘normal’ side.
  8. Love the Way You Lie by Rihanna: Another dark, twisted romance song.
  9. Unseelie Self by Alexander James Adams: Another very dark piece. And it’s spoken word, which I have a very big soft spot for.
  10. River Lies by Seanan McGuire: More deception in the love. That’s sort of the aesthetic here, I’m seeing.
A demon hunter, Daniel Tartaros is sworn to slay the denizens of Hell and, for over a decade, he has. He’s kept the world, and his girlfriend, safe. But, one night, the demons cross the threshold to his home. His girlfriend is taken, possessed by a powerful demon. Too powerful for him.
But the horror increases when he finds out the truth: it’s not just a demon. Lilith, the Queen of Hell, bound herself into a human body to be with him. But, broken free and without the restraint of a human life, she still needs him, and plans to use all of her power to keep him. She’ll do what it takes to keep him, even if it means the end of life.
They should pull apart, should, by all means, abandon their relationship. But something powerful pushes them together, something so subtle neither notices until it’s too late to turn back. With Earth hanging by spider’s silk, the tiniest ripple from either Daniel or Lilith could send it swinging into the fires of destruction.
Voss Foster lives in the middle of the Eastern Washington desert, where he writes speculative fiction from inside a single-wide trailer. When he can be torn away from his keyboard, he can be found cooking, practicing photography, singing, playing trombone, and belly dancing, though rarely all at once. His first full length work, Tartaros, is out now through Prizm Books.
Twitter: @VossFoster
Google +:
Thank you, Voss! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Six: Death on the Moon

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter One of Rock Killer:

Pump, FIRE, Pump, FIRE, Pump was DeWite's whole existence.  Another figure crumpled, spouting blood.  Then the bullets ripped into DeWite.  Blood flowed like a fire hose.  FIREDeWite could no longer stand, even in one-sixth gravity.   He sank to the floor and died in a puddle of his blood that was boiling and freezing simultaneously.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hammer of Thor Free!

This weekend (January 5 - 6) Hammer of Thor will be free on the Kindle or your Kindle app on your favorite device.  The first novel in the Adepts Series trilogy, tells what happens when Hitler steals the Hammer of Thor and Thor comes back for it (hint: bad news, either way).

This is a limited time offer so get your copy today.  Hammer of Thor is an epic adventure spanning continents, cultures, languages, and decades.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

It's January 1, 2013.  And I'm not living on the Moon.  What's up with that?

I wonder in 1013 they considered 13 to be an unlucky number.  Will this be an unlucky year?  I don't really adhere to triskaidekaphobia so I'm not worried.  In fact, in my Adept Series novels (see here, here, and here), 13 is a lucky number (for adepts).

There are, according to this website, two Friday the 13ths in 2013: 9/13/13 and 12/13/13.  How unlucky is that?

Are you worried about it being 2013 and being an unlucky year?