Editors Hate This Woman! Find out how she got a three book deal using this old trick!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

You won't believe Step 2, below!

1: She wrote a manuscript.  It was an idea she'd had, and it seemed like it would be a whole book so she wrote it by placing words into a document sequentially so they formed sentences.  Eventually, she had 60,000 of them that seemed to make sense in a relatively sensible order.

2: She edited and re-wrote the living shit out of that manuscript.  Draft upon draft.  Until it screamed every time she came near it.  She worked until she could hardly stand to be around the manuscript, taking occasional advice from trusted readers, and making each sentence as perfect as she could make it.

3: She did a lot of research and found an agent who seemed like they might want to represent her.  She found out how that agent liked to be approached and sent in an outstanding covering letter and the information that the agent had asked for.  Then she didn't mind too much when the agent rejected her.  But she didn't quit.

4: Eventually, an agent agreed to represent her and managed to get a publisher interested in the book.  By this time, she had written a second novel and was at work on a third.  Because she's a writer, and writers write.

5: Rinse.  Repeat.  Never Quit.


A Spat on Twitter

Sunday, June 14, 2015

First of all, a little disclosure.  
In the past, I have made a little money telling fortunes.  I learned to read cards, and learned some cold reading techniques, because I was interested in psychic phenomena and because I'm interested in confidence tricks.
The end result of this is I'm very careful about what I believe and what people tell me, because I have told people up front "I'm a con man", given them a tarot reading and watched them walk away swearing I had psychic powers.  People generally believe what they're told if they're told in a nice enough manner.

Second, my "opponent" in this teacup storm: Lonnie Hicks.  @Lnnie is someone I've followed on Twitter for a while.  He collates and disseminates all sorts of interesting information and presents points of view that run largely counter to my own.  Why follow him?  Because it's important to be exposed to points of view that are not yours.  Sometimes it's irritating, but you do it because you don't want to live in an echo chamber.  You can't shut out dissenting views.  Lonnie is, in my experience, a nice guy with an open and welcoming attitude who presents points of view that he attempts to support with evidence.  The other night, I called him ignorant.  He'd tweeted that scientific method was little more than trial and error, and he'd not really dealt with my counters to that point.  Instead, he said:

 Ignorant. Have you read anything? If so what? See my website I sum up the different points of view on these issues. Gotta read.

He's entirely right, you do have to read.  And I'm not well versed in physics or maths, facts I readily admit to.  One thing I'm good at, though, is reading.  So when the next tweet arrived...

 Seldom called ignorant. Here some of my essays you might want to take a look at to see where I am coming from. Have u written?

...I had a bit of a giggle.  Here's the thing.

Any idiot can write.  The guy who owns the Time Cube website can, and has, written.  The act of writing proves nothing.  Now, if Lonnie has written for something like Nature, or New Scientist, then I'm being really dumb and I'm going to have to apologise quite hard.

Being the guy he is, Lonnie then provides a link so I can go read what he's written.  Cool.  That link in full is: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewshortstory.asp?id=60829&authorid=121255

OK, so now my Spidey sense is tingling a little bit.

Lonnie's essays are collated or curated blog posts in which he pulls together links from other places and talks about what that information might mean.  We end up with stuff like this.  I've put quotes from his essay, which you should read, in bold italics.  The essay in question is: 


Why did Einstein make the claim that nothing can travel faster than light in the first place? What was his argument and rationale?
It might surprize you when you get the answer.
Here it is.
Nothing can travel faster than light, Einstein says, because to do so would require an object to have infinite energy. Moreover, to approach that speed and attain it, objects would have to acquire infinite mass as well.
Well there you have it.
What is wrong with this statement?

Let me just bring this to a screeching halt.  What's wrong is that Einstein says nothing travels faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.  The speed of light changes in different environments.  This, to quote the Dothraki, is known.

He also says that the energy required to accelerate something to the speed of light increases as it gets faster.  He says the mass the thing has will increase, and that the jump from 99.99% the speed of light to lightspeed would require infinite energy.  The reason for that is the object would be gaining mass at the same time, so the amount of energy you need to accelerate it is always going to be a bit more than you currently have.

This is basically special relativity.  I'll nick the sciencey explanation from CERN:

And now, for all of us non-scientists, my attempt at understanding Albert Frickin' Einstein:

The faster you make an object move, the harder it is to get it to move still faster.  In order to get anything to do anything, you have to impart energy.  The amount of energy you add has to be sufficient to overcome what the object is already doing.

In science dunce terms, when you get close to the speed of light (let's call that c because everyone else does) the object you want to make move faster starts to acquire mass.  That makes it harder to move, it's heavier.  For every increment of energy you add, the object gets slightly heavier and therefore requires more energy to increase the speed. You can take this pretty far.  According to special relativity, you can crank something up to 99.999999999% the speed of light, but the next step - from there to c - requires more energy than you can possibly have.  More energy than exists, apparently.

First objects traveling faster than light would be invisible to us. Light is not being transmitted so an object would not be seen.

Not strictly the case.  Objects travelling faster than light are visible, but in the same way that objects travelling faster than sound are audible.  

Light is being reflected, but by the time we see it, the event or object they are reflecting off will have happened/gone past us.  Just like you'd see a jet moving faster than sound, but the noise it makes would happen moments later.

(Sounds like black holes and dark matter doesn't it?)


Secondly, since infinity is not possible then nothing can attain that state.

Do you mean light speed or infinity?  If you mean light speed, yes.  That's what I understand.

But note that at CERN particles are being accelerated to 99.9 percent of the velocity of light. Are we seeing there infinite mass and energy? 

No. As stated in the graphic above, they're cranking nearly massless subatomic particles up to 0.999999991 c and we don't mess with the whole infinite mass/energy thing until we try to make the jump from 0.999999999 to 1.0 c

If so, is this similar to conditions to what has been described as the beginnings of the big bang?

Is there danger here? See the video below. The answer as to CERN's dangers lies in whether Hawking was right or whether Einstein was right.

Humm, perhaps that is why we are not hearing much talk about it. Sounds too dangerous?

No. Go read the link.  This is covered on page 10 and, under safety concerns, page 54.

Third, note that in science, infinity in an equasion means zero, or no solution possible. 
Thus the rationale for the speed limit on light has some logical problems as well and mathematical ones too.

There isn't a rationale on the speed limit on light, because that isn't what Einstein was saying about the speed of light.  Light isn't limited to a speed, photons are massless particles and they are the fastest moving things we know about.  The speed of light, of photons, in a vacuum, is the universal speed limit.

  In any event Physics is in real trouble and should not, in my view, be fooling around with forces it poorly understands which if they are wrong, such an experiment can destroy the planet.

My issue is that Lonnie appears to not understand physics.  I know I've cherry picked a connected series of statements that I can find fault with, but here's the thing.

I don't understand physics all that well, I have no qualifications in it.  I don't have a strong grasp of maths.  I was tested recently and my maths is about as good as a high school graduate.  This means it's better than it was when I graduated high school. (I didn't, I'm a Brit, I quit maths at 16).

If I can take a statement made by someone who claims to have majored in physics and who cites their own essays as evidence to support their scholarship, and pull it apart, how well is that person doing?  How much do they really know?

Special relativity still works, the LHC isn't going to destroy the world, and science is a damn site more than trial and error.  If you want me to respect your views on science, on the basis that you have written, please be published in a respected - and preferably peer reviewed - and don't construct arguments that someone with education in that field can pull apart after literally 30 minutes on the CERN website and ten minutes with Google.

Lonnie, I've read and I've written.  That makes us even.  I've also unfollowed you because the way you present information makes all my con-man radar light up.  I don't think you're a con man.  But honestly, I question the level of understanding you have and your reasons for promoting your work.  

Consequently, I've unfollowed Lonnie.  He doesn't just write on science, and over the months he's said a lot of challenging things on equality, poverty and many other subjects.  I invite readers to have a look at his feed and his works, and judge their value for yourself.  Don't take anyone's word about anything.  Do the reading.


What the hell is Eurovision?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sixty years ago, a group of people got together and said "Well, it's been a while since the last war and we're doing pretty well with this peace lark, but how can we help give that peace a real chance to grow and develop?"

Someone else at the meeting said "If only there were a way to show all the nations of Europe that they have common ground, and a medium by which we could handily transmit this message!"

And someone else said "What about a song contest?  And we could put it on that new fangled medium, television!"

Thus was born the Eurovision Song Contest.  It was initially bankrolled by Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy- now known as The Big Five, the nations who do most of the donkey work involved in the competition.

The rules are simple.  Each year, the member nations enter a song.  The Big Five go through to the final automatically, as does the host nation, and everyone else sends their tune to a knockout round (the Semi Finals). It never used to be this way, but there are now 40 member nations and that results in a four hour TV show.  

The final is kind of a big deal.  Different nations treat it a little differently, so I'm only going to write about it from a UK perspective.

Why do we watch?
This boils down to the following basic reasons:

1: I want to pass comment on the acts and be sarcastic or witty.
There's more of this since the rise of social media, and Twitter especially is a terribly entertaining addition to the proceedings.  Some of the Eastern European nations have the reputation for sending in material that is earnest and forthright and, to Western European eyes, occasionally batshit insane.

2: I'm watching ironically, at a party organised by people I know who aren't watching it ironically.
See below.

3: It's fun.
Eurovision, like the Oscars or the Superbowl, is a chance for people to organise a party.  Watching the show is a lot more amusing when you have friends close by who can share your witty commentary on the songs, or just join in the singing once everyone has worked out the chorus.  Very few parties are dry affairs, so the alcohol flows and us Brits indulge two passions at once: camp, and getting drunk.

Over the last couple of years, the European pop scene has got better, stronger and a lot more interesting.  There's less earnest pleas for world peace and environmental responsibility, at the price of less sheer mind-popping fun, and more credible pop music.  Eurovision is a chance to see what other countries think is decent music.

What's the politics about?
Essentially, you're supposed to vote for the best song.  You can't vote for for your own entry, and in the UK the vote is decided by the public - a phone vote contributes half the decision - and a committee of music industry professionals.  I have no idea how other nations do this.

What inevitably happens, though, is that blocs form.  

Each nation votes for 12 songs.  The most popular gets 12 points, the least popular gets 1.  Songs that don't make a nation's top 12 get zero.  It is possible to get a final score, after all nations have voted, to get the dreaded "null".  This year there were 40 participants.  So that's pretty humiliating.

The blocs are based on regional politics or shared culture.  The Scandiwegians (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland) tend to vote for one another.  The Eastern bloc tend to give Russia decent marks and vote for their neighbours too.  Cyprus and Greece usually award one another 12 points.

Often, the Big Five get very low scores.  Since they go straight through to the final, they can send any old nonsense (and the UK has, frequently, demonstrated that we treat the whole thing as a joke).  This year France, Germany and Austria (the host nation) got very low scores.  Germany got zero.

In the last couple of years, the audience has started to boo Russia.  This has nothing to do with the song they send and everything to do with the fact that Eurovision is hugely popular with the Gay community.  It's been the campest thing in the world for a very long time, but it's also been seen as a very accepting and open environment.  Last year's winner, Conchita Wurst, is a bearded Trans woman who is also (from a heterosexual point of view) worryingly hot as well as being a talented vocalist.  Europe, which is a fairly progressive place on the whole, occasionally uses Eurovision to send itself messages and that was a pretty clear one about acceptance and equality.

The sending messages bit?  Yeah.  Member states routinely ignore the European Parliament, so Eurovision sometimes behaves like the continent's social conscience (and very occasionally it's subconscious).  Because it's arty and outgoing, and a lot of Europe isn't, you get all kinds of news from Eurovision.  This year, for example, quite a lot of nations are NOT happy with Mr. Putin and votes that should have been 12 points to Russia went elsewhere.  The UK is repeatedly warned that Europe is worth taking seriously, and we should join the family instead of behaving like a teenager and standing outside the party pretending to smoke while desperately wanting to be in the middle of it all.

If you look at the Twitter activity across the evening, the UK was the most vocal.  We care more about Eurovision than anyone else in Europe, or we're more prepared to sit around tweeting about it.

You're projecting a bit, there, Dave.
Yep.  It's still true, though.  As much as I love America (and I do), politically there's no point trying to be Uncle Sam's favourite.  The USA doesn't play the game that way, everyone knows it and it's time we stopped trying to be the same.

What happens when you win?
You host the show next year.  The act that wins gets pretty famous in the bits of Europe that aren't the UK.  Other than that, I'm not sure.  It's been a while since the UK won.

Why are Russia, Israel and Australia involved?  They aren't in Europe!
Neither are quite a few of the other nations.  Long story short?  Politics.  Apparently it got shown in China last night, so it'll be interesting to see what the Chinese audience made of it and we'll see if they decide to get involved in any capacity.


Christmas Roundup

Saturday, December 27, 2014

OK.  Christmas is done for another year.  Here's how I spent mine.

Christmas Eve - a coach to Oxfordshire, carols around a village Christmas tree in the early evening and the midnight service in a church that I'm pretty sure is a couple of hundred years old.  It was an Anglican service, and if you don't ever go to church outside of marriages or funerals and so forth, that means a bit of ritual, a lot of singing and a workout for your knees.  I went to pretty much the same service (with the same hard working staff, but at a different church) the next morning.  It was my second time in church in 24 hours, the vicar's fourth.

Christmas Day was all about family.  This year, we did a Secret Santa thing and I got a gorgeous carved Rhino from Kenya.  It's a beautiful, tactile piece of carving and I love it.  We ate, we drank, we played some games, we sang carols, we sat around making things and talking to each other.  No one did anything to excess, no one had a row and the whole thing was really, really fun.  I learned to play Irish Snap, and worked on my poker face with a couple of rounds of Cheat.

All of this was with the In-Laws, who have been gradually teaching me all of the important things about Christmas.

I've also read some books.  Pocket reviews ahoy!

Ya Gotta Read

The Martian by Andy Weir

Quick guide: man stranded on Mars attempts to survive.

My verdict: Awesome book. I couldn't stop reading it.  Funny, intelligent, engaging, fascinating.

You should read it because: You'll learn a lot.

I'm Currently Ploughing Through

Sniper One by Dan Mills

Quick Guide: True story of sniper operations in Iraq.

My Verdict: I am a total sucker for this kind of writing and this sort of real life story.  I'm fascinated, but unless you like books written by soldiers about their experiences, you might not.

You should read it because: you've got a yen to learn about the British Army.

Optional Reads

Closure, Limited by Max Brooks

Quick Guide: more Zombie stories by the man who brought us World War Z.

My Verdict: Mmmm.  It was okay.

You should read it because: you're a Max Brooks fan or completist.


A Sword into Darkness by Thomas A. Mays

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I've always had a soft spot for military SF.  I blame Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for this. The Mote in God's Eye and Footfall are still two of my favourite books, even though my tastes in literature have moved on.  Whatever your general preferences, reading those two books, and the novels of Tom Clancy if your tastes run to more real world fiction, you run into stories that catch you up in their narrative and pull you along with them no matter where they go.

It's been a while since I read any military SF, but Thomas Mays took part in The Writer's Arena and his story was thoroughly interesting.  I wanted to read more, he seemed very proud of his book and it was available on Amazon for the Kindle.  I bought it assuming I'd be taking a trip through some well worn tropes and treading a familiar path.  I wasn't entirely correct.

The story has a strong narrative.  It's a story you want to read and want to get to the end of.  You want to know what happens to the characters, even if you think you know at the outset.  Then you get grabbed by the author's intelligence and almost palpable joy at playing with fringe science concepts and, dammit, his enthusiasm is infectious.  This is the sort of science fiction you give to people when you want them to come to you later saying things like "so, how far are we away from a pebble bed reactor, exactly?"

That's a kind of fun you can only have with science fiction.  If books like this make people go and investigate what we're currently capable of or nearly capable of, you've got a book that inspires.  It's something that only science fiction does.  I love the work of Nick Hornby but his books have never once made me wish I was better at maths or less colour blind.

Are there down sides to the book?  Yeah, kinda, sorta.  It might be a bit gung ho American for a sensitive European audience, but frankly we see worse from Hollywood and since the main characters are American and more than a few are serving in the various Armed Forces you should expect a bit of respect for the flag and some patriotism.  Is it in many ways a bit of cheerleading for good old American rugged individualism and know how?  Yeah, kinda.  It doesn't get in the way of the story and the book doesn't lecture (although there were a couple of dialogue exchanges where a european lefty part of my brain started sighing and rolling it's eyes, I told it to shut up and let me get on with the narrative).

There are a couple of decent female characters - I'm sort of fond of Kris Munoz, even if she is the kind of brilliantly intelligent alternative lifestyle female engineer that we've seen quite a bit of in NCIS and Criminal Minds.  She seems like a well drawn character and is actually a lot more rounded than some of the men.  I think the author made an effort to ensure she wasn't just someone's love interest and, as a reader I appreciate that kind of thinking.

There are aliens, and they are impressive.  Their motivation is interesting and I'm not going to talk about it because I want you to go read the book.

For me, the big thrill of the book is that the author knows what he's talking about and can transfer that interest and enthusiasm to the page.  This is the same buzz that I get from Charles Stross, Ben Bova, Niven and Pournelle and half a dozen others.  I want to see more from Mr. Mays, because even though A Sword into Darkness treads familiar ground it does so with a lightness of step, a disarming grin and is excellent company on the journey.  Recommended.


New Phone

Friday, October 3, 2014

I'm a fan of Android phones.  I've used an HTC and a Samsung Galaxy S3, and enjoyed both of them.  At upgrade time this year, I thought my choice was probably between the HTC M8 or the Samsung S5.

I was surprised to find that I went for a Windows phone.  The Nokia Lumia 930, in fact.

The phone itself is an improvement on the S3.  It feels heavier, which is oddly reassuring.  The design and construction shows almost Apple levels of attention to detail, to the point where although I have the phone in a protective case I'm finding reasons to remove the casing so I can enjoy the build quality.

Windows 8.1 works well.  It's noticably faster than the last edition of Android I used, but that's because the technology in the phone is beefier too.  The interface is nice - the live tiles finally make sense! - and it's simple to navigate.  So far, so good.

My biggest concern is the number of Apps that I thought I couldn't live without and which don't have an equivalent in the Windows store.  As it turns out, there are just two Apps I'm missing: a good Gmail client -  because I've got used to the way Gmail filters incoming mails into Personal, Social and Promotions - and an App I used to store e-tickets for the local bus company.

The mail client that comes with the phone is fine.  It's done a good job of repogramming me out of the notion that any old spam is perfectly acceptable because Google hides it away in the Promotions tab, which I can ignore.  I'm now evaluating which companies I really want to hear from.

Of course there are Gmail clients available, but I'm actually pretty happy with the native client on the phone now.  It's a nice, clean interface that I've rapidly adapted to.

My favourite feature is Cortana.  The Windows digital assistant might officially be in Beta, but it's already an important part of the phone for me.  Cortana has already worked out where I live and where I work, so I can ask her to set alerts and reminders for those locations.  The search results are from Bing, but Cortana seems to be pretty good at sorting those by relevance and location, which makes any results I get more immediately useful.  I can also allow Cortana to handle calls and texts for me when I set the phone to Quiet Time.  If I can work out how to set Quiet Time for any time I'm at work, I'll be delighted but it's not exactly burdensome to switch it on manually.

I've never used Siri, so I can't compare them directly, but I was speaking with a couple of iPhone users this week and they told me that Siri has a distinctly passive aggressive streak, which Cortana seems not to display.  Cortana's notebook is also accessible to me so I can find out and ammend what the assistant has learned about me.  So far, I'm using Cortana a lot more than my Apple based colleagues use Siri and this is earning me some envious looks.

Something else I'm really pleased with is the power management feature.  I've managed to keep the battery life on the phone to around 50% for a day - double what I was getting from the S3 which needed charging by late evening.  I suspect I could get two days out of a charge if I really needed to.  I've installed things like WhatsApp, which normally kills a battery, but told the phone that WhatsApp can check for new messages when I turn it on rather than when it wants to and this seems to have curbed it's energy appetite.

The switch from the Samsung to the Nokia was less problematic than my original switch from an HTC to the Samsung, and a lot of the two years I had with the S3 I spent trying to make it behave like the HTC had.  With the Lumia 930, I feel like I've got my first properly grown up smartphone.  A large part of that is that I'm actually using the digital assistant for stuff other than cracking jokes and finding easter eggs, and haven't bothered installing any games.  If that persists, I can see myself sticking with Windows phones for the next few upgrades.  Obviously, a lot of that depends on what happens to HTC and how Windows fares, but I'm already hearing good things about Windows 10.

But, look, back in the day I read scifi stories about people talking to technology and having it do useful stuff.  I'm living that now.  No, it's not solving any world problems and yes, there are some real issues to deal with.  Countless issues, in fact.  But just for right now, I'm living in a science fiction story and that's got to be worth celebrating even if it's just for a minute.



Celebrity Photo Leak/Hack

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

This hasn't been a good week to be a female celebrity.

I've been thinking quite hard about all of the things that have been said about it this week and here's the conclusion I came to:

The whole thing is about consent.  None of the women who had their content shared consented for that to happen.  And that makes looking at the pictures distinctly creepy.  I do not want to be that kind of man.

In the extremely unlikely event that any of those women were to decide to send me a picture of themselves, they've consented to me seeing it and that is the bit that makes it sexy/erotic.  Without that level of permission, I might as well be a peeping tom.  That would be enough to put me on some kind of offenders register, which is also not the sort of man I want to be.

Yes, lessons learned about cloud storage.  No, that doesn't really matter as much as some people think it does.  Yes, it's an issue, but it's a secondary one.

Let's deal with it: nothing people build is perfect.  There's generally a way into everything if you look hard enough and are prepared to dedicate time to it.  We trust the things we trust because we kind of have to.

People, on the other hand, have a choice about how they behave.

Side note: I kind of got a little bent out of shape recently when I heard, for the eleventy billionth time, a fellow straight white male being described as a CIS-Shitlord.  I didn't say anything, because I'm trying to be better at social media and that means thinking about responses instead of just posting.  I eventually decided that while describing ALL CIS white males as Shitlords is unfair, it might be justified in specific cases.  It turns out that, after this week, there are an awful lot more of those people than I thought and I am deeply unhappy with the way my gender has represented itself.  


Just so you know...

I don't know what this bit is for. Perhaps I should give it a purpose?

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP