Venn Diagrams

I don't look forward to the day physicists figure out what dark energy is. Right now it's this "We know it's there, but we don't know what it is" thing, so writers can make it whatever they want and only "You can't do that with science" assholes will get upset. This must be like how it was when they had measurements proving microwaves existed but had no way to detect microwaves. Work progressed and we became able to measure them, but there was that gray area in between. I like playing around with dark energy because it's like a connect-the-dots drawing without any instructions telling you which dots connect to which.

I also like Venn diagrams. I can't really explain that one so much. Who doesn't like Venn diagrams? It gets a capital V and two Ns and that's just fun. Plus you can shade the overlapping areas in different ways. Different colors, combined colors, hatching, cross-hatching, who knows! Go crazy!

Then yesterday, looking at the platypus/keytar Venn diagram that pops up on Faceboom every now and again, I started thinking about dark energy. Because those things clearly go together. It's not the first time I've imagined dark energy being the energy of the infinite multiverse, the layers upon layers that are so close together as to appear singular but so far apart as to accommodate all the influential choices that a person might make. This time, I started imagining it visually rather than mathematically. If the universe is flat (which it is) and we looked at it as a horizontal plane and then zoomed WAY in so that all these levels of dark energy multiverses could be visible as parallel lines to our universe rather than a singular line, you would be able to see the gray haze of energy that connects them all.

The space between universes is effectively a Venn diagram, a mingled space of energy that can be colored or shaded or cross-hatched or whatever you want. And now imagine if things occasionally passed through that Venn diagram, slipping from one universe where it belonged to one universe where it didn't. It's a common thread in sci-fi (SyFy?) TV shows where you have an agency or secret organization that deals with the fantastical that doesn't belong.

But imagine if science had successfully measured and quantified the different universes (or at least some of them) and you had specialists dedicated to the oddities of each one. The government/secret organization has a building and each floor of that building is dedicated to a different universe. The secret isn't just keeping the truth from the public (X-files style), but keeping the truth from yourselves. The 6th floor doesn't fraternize with the 7th floor because the one deals with ghosts and the other deals with aliens. What happens when you go on a blind date only to discover the person you're with works on a different floor? What happens when you discover an outbreak from two floors at once? What happens when you discover a new universe that warrants a new floor?

This is as far as I got in the ruminating department, but it feels like it could be fun. I will explore it more in the future.


That Was a Little Terrifying

When I get up in the morning, I write. When I get to work, I spend all day in a cubicle on a computer. When I head home, I write. When I get home, I am often on a computer. I live the classic American sedentary lifestyle. I type 99 words per minutes according to quick brown foxes that jump over lazy dogs. Or at least I did until this past week.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably something most writers will deal with at some point or another and at varying degrees. For me it meant that holding the Chinese take-out bag sucked because pinching hurts. Or it meant doing hand stretches because of the dull ache in my hand at the end of the day. More recently it meant stalling for a few minutes at skate practice because I couldn't actually tie my laces. And then a few days ago it finally struck home. It meant I couldn't write, or at least I couldn't use the index finger on my right hand. Not that the index finger is an important digit when used on a QWERTY keyboard.

My word count dropped. My typos skyrocketed, and by the end of the day, I gave up writing entirely. Same went for Friday. My word count was zero. Zero word-count days are sad days. They're the days where the sun remains trapped behind clouds and everything looks gray and desolate. It was a little more terrifying than I let on, too. A couple tweets about it, just to share and maybe gather support, but no hands above my head, run in circles screaming. More just a "What have you done? Why didn't you fix this sooner? You've just ruined your entire life." silent admonition.

Clearly I'm typing today, so something's changed. My wife is a vocal proponent of chiropractics. I am not, having known a few that have made ridiculous claims as to the snake oil they could sell me. Also being forced to see one as a child so we could throw money at not fixing the problem. (A chiropractor found my dad's cancer--it was that far advanced--and my mother got it in her head that they could then cure everything, which they can't.) In this case, however, research shows that manipulation of the hands can actually alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms similar to more direct action applied by medical doctors. I looked all this up, and read about it on reputable sources.

It cost me more than I wanted to pay (to which I am still annoyed), I will have to go back repeatedly over the next month and spend even more money (to which I am annoyed but slightly less because that was expected), BUT I can type again. I had been waking up in pain every morning, but today I woke up just fine and here I am cruising along. I even wrote yesterday and hope to do so again if I can steal some time for myself.

So take care of yourselves people. Don't wait until it's too late. I don't know about you, but I think I would sound like an idiot trying to write with Dragon voice recognition software (and it would make writing on the train particularly awkward).

Another Epic Fantasy Discussion

What makes Epic fantasy Epic fantasy and not just traditional, urban, or any other sub-genre is a well-worn conversation. One that I'm kind of bored with, actually. It's been discussed enough that the informed have come to a general consensus (scope of setting/cast/stakes, etc), the uninformed bumble in that general direction, and the hair splitters try alternate arguments to come to the same conclusion. (No insult against hair splitters, as I've split many a hair myself.)

BUUUUT, as I was watching the most recent episode of Extra Credits, something new in the conversation caught my attention.

In my anecdotal review of fantasy fiction, I find the hero's journey to be incorporated more frequently into epic series than in traditional fantasy. Epic books by their very size allow more space to follow the many steps of the journey. And it made me wonder, is that an easy marker to distinguish between the two? Is a traditional fantasy more likely to skip over the refusal of the call than is an epic fantasy?


Ideas on Stuff

Two ideas that have been bouncing around my head that I wanted to write down.

I want to write a city whose nickname is the Ever-Blossoming City. Every time the monarch dies, the core of the city is torn down and rebuilt in a style dictated by the new monarch. In years of plague or political upheaval, this may actually mean buildings would be torn down before they were finished being constructed. How much of the city is torn down depends on how prosperous the crown is, so you may see a hodgepodge of disparate design styles, grids leading into crisscrosses and what not.

Also, I want to write a short story named HARVEST TIME that focuses on two characters, a royal steward and a ship captain that has recently returned with goods from a newly discovered continent. He gifts them to the monarch and among those gifts is corn. The monarch feasts on the corn at dinner. That night, the corn turns up in the monarch's chamber pot and it is decided that corn is actually poison and the ship captain has tried to assassinate the monarch. It is the steward's job to catch him (and depending on how it develops, may be the person who convinced others corn was poison) while the captain flees in an attempt to prove his innocence.

Really, I just want to write a story where the plot is predicated on the fact that corn is still solid when you poop it out. How does that not freak people out?

How Thick Is Your Skin?

So agent extrodinaire, Kristin Nelson, has a feature seminar she takes to conventions and the like. Participants bring their first two pages up to the mic and start reading. She tells them when, if they had submitted those pages to her, when she would stop reading and why. You might think, "How awesome! She's giving feedback!" but pause for a second and let it settle in. She tells you when she would stop reading. Not, she lets you finish and then tells you when she would stop reading.

What would it be like, to be up there in front of all those people and have an agent tell you stop after your first sentence? Not so exciting now, eh?

Oh, it is? Yeah, to me too. And how cool is it that she's offering that seminar directly through her new programs? Now you can knuckle down and muscle up even if you're not at a con. Payment is by paypal, so if you're set up to withdraw from your bank account, you won't have your payment processed in time. If you're linked to a credit card, you still could. It's this coming Wednesday at 8pm Eastern (6pm Mountain--I hope people realize the time is listed as Mountain). Submit two pages and see how you do!

I paused in my current wip and returned to PRINCE OF CATS. It's the only finished draft I have right now that I haven't previously queried. I have beta reader feedback, but I've been having difficulty figuring out how to incorporate it. Until Tuesday, which makes this seminar ideally timed. I've started revising the draft for querying AND for this seminar. I am both thrilled at the chance of getting great feedback (and maybe having all two pages read?!) while at the same time terrified at hearing stop after the first sentence. It's like bungee jumping, it's both terrifying and exhilarating.

So if you're interested, you should join in. Kristin rocks the house.


Before we begin, watch this. You can thank me in the comments.

Alright, now that you've watched that two or three (or twenty) times, let's continue, shall we?

I have a draft post that I've been working on for weeks. This isn't it. It's a picture of my bookshelf. When I envisioned that post last year, I had no idea it would take me so long to finish. That's how much I love you. I'm working hard on a picture post.

BUT, so that you don't forget I'm here, let's talk! Not about work. Work is busy. Stuff that was supposed to be turned over in December is turning over now, so I have to do a whole lot of stuff in a few weeks. Mmmm, publishing. Gotta love it.

But publishing isn't the only industry going through digital upheaval right now. Sure, CD vs MP3, DVD vs streaming, but those battles are actually old battles (just like ebooks are an old battle--the public just wasn't involved in the first part of it). The big deal now is mobile connectivity. And actually, this has been a big deal for years as well, but again, industry fights its own battles internally and then format adoption moves that fight out into the open.

Smart phone adoption is so prevalent now that I actually forgot not everyone has one. I use my phone more than I use my laptop (including for watching streaming movies). The only thing my laptop is really for any more is writing, because I write a billion times faster on a real, full-sized keyboard than I do on a touch screen. And, now we're getting 4G technology (a rant in and of itself because the G just stands for generation, which means companies hold onto technology until they've milked us for all we're worth and then they move on to the next generation to start all over).

Awesome phones, cloud-based services, and high-speed mobile connectivity. You know what that means? Science fiction is becoming science fact! Or it would, if we weren't limited to 2GB of data a month. For all the people fighting over self-publishing vs traditional publishing, I think the larger impact on us as a society is the control of bandwidth. The "all information should be free" justification for thievery is bunk, but there are some serious implications of a non-neutral, ratcheted internet. So many services are moving to a mobile interface. More over, those services are also going to a cloud system rather than a delivery system (to simplify it, if they don't give you an end product, everyone has to go to them and they make more money--same is true for ebooks which is why the "publishers don't want ebooks" argument is so stupid).

What happens is they take information and services and put it over there. Then they say you can get it over here on your phone. Pay for the service to get it from there to here. Oh, but now we're going to limit you because it is more profitable for us to restrict your access to the materials we've taken away from you than it is to increase our network to handle increased volume.

I left Sprint because of horrible customer service and a poor selection of phones. They're improving on both, I hear, especially the latter. Their bandwidth speeds aren't top of the line, but they still offer true unlimited. Verizon and AT&T charge over 2GB and with music and video going to cloud-based services, you'd be amazed at how quickly you can pass that mark.

How much, do you ask? I average 15GB of usage a month. That's how much. I'm considered a top-tier user in that regard and I'm doing it on purpose. I'm part of the grandfathered Unlimited Data customers from Verizon. If I were with AT&T, they'd ratchet my service so that anything over 2GB would be so slow that I wouldn't want to use it even though I could. Verizon will probably end up doing the same, and frankly, it's the wrong direction.

At some point, the majority of the digital goods we consume will be done through a mobile platform, and as long as our access to that material is constrained, it will only foster piracy and theft rather than inhibit it. More over, it will stifle growth and innovation. This is where the entire industry is moving and has been moving for years. The attempt to constrain that result now is like trying to turn the titanic. There will be a big ass crash when more people discover they're willing to use mobile solutions for high-bandwidth services.

There's a fight a brewing, and it's much more relevant than self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

What's the Frequency (Kenneth)

My attempt to blog more has been foiled by the arrival of the busy time of year. I know that seems obvious, given I've been busy, but that's been busy with other people's projects. Now I'm busy with my projects and other people's projects at the same time. WOO HOO!

Wait, no, that's not woo hoo. That's D'OH! Similar to woo hoo, only different.

So a quick note about frequency inspired by Nate over at Sometimes the Wheel is on Fire. His new son, The Professor, is like many a baby/toddler. When put in a moving car, he falls right asleep. I have many friends with many babies along with a ridiculous number of nieces and nephews and this has proven true in most cases. Something about a car's vibration and/or the white noise of travel puts a baby to sleep.

I experience something similar. Not that I fall asleep. (My wife is the one that falls asleep, requiring me to always be the driver on family holidays.) My mind focuses. Just before she falls asleep, the missus asks "Are you writing?" because she sees the look on my face and knows I'm working out a story in my brain. I also do the majority of my writing on the commuter rail down into Boston. Something about the vibration and the noise (barring crying babies, crazy people, and obnoxious people) lets me focus on the story and nothing else.

That's awesome, except when the train stops. Today the train broke down (which happens more often than it should). And it occurred to me after we started moving again that I did not write the entire time we were stopped. I checked twitter and fiddled on my phone. I looked down the aisle and out the window. I did everything but write. As soon as we started moving again, boom, started writing again.

Not sure why that is. Someone become a scientist and figure that out. *cough* Livia Blackburne *cough*