Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Aviation Night Before Christmas

I came across this some years back on a forum, and decided it was too good not to share again. I make no claim that it is original to me. Whomever the author of this piece is, he/she did a bang-up job! And, as tis the season...  enjoy!

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care,
in hopes that come morning, all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snog in their spots,
With gusts from two-ninety at 55 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
and settled down comfortably, resting on my butt.

When the radio lit up with a noise and a chatter,
I turned up the volumn to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
called for clearance to land, at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd sworn right away the call sign said "St. Nick"?
I ran to the panel to turn up the airfield lights,
the better to greet this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas 1, turnin' left base, to final".
And what to my wondering eyes to appear,
But, a Rutan-built sleigh, powered by eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glide slope he came,
reporting all the fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trixi! Now reporting Lincoln!!!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What Schnapps was he drinkin'?

The controllers were sittin', and scratchin their heads,
they phoned my office, and I heard it with dread,
they left their message, both urgent and dour:
"When Santa arrives, please have him call the tower".

He landed like silk, with sled skids 'a sparking,
His clearance was given; left on Charley, taxi to parking.
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh,
then stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho-ho...."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His helmet and goggles were covered with frost,
and his beard was blackened, from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled of pepperment, gone slightly stale,
He puffed on a pipe, but didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
and asked me to "fill it, with 100 low lead".
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, went straight to my work,
and filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, a sigh of relief,
then picked up the phone for his Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
these reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
he completed his pre-flight from front to the rear,
Then put on his headset, I heard him call "clear"!

And laying his finger on his push to talk,
he called up the tower for his clearance and squawk.
"taxi down Charley, the southbound direction,
turn right to three-two-zero, at pilots discretion".

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
"Your traffic's an RJ, inbound from the west".
I heard him proclaim as he retracted the skids
"Merry Christmas to all! We have traffic in sight".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Successfully Gain Me As A Follower 2

I originally posted this blog back on July 22, 2011, and it's time to update my list of Do's and Don'ts.


How To Successfully Gain Me As A Follower

I'm noticing an annoying trend on twitter. Maybe it's new, or maybe I've just now noticed it.

New followers who are spectacularly failing to receive my follow back.

This isn't going to be a rant. Think of it as a handy set of guidelines to tweet by. :)

I use Hootsuite to tweet with. On the profile page for a tweeter it gives me the option to look back through the last several tweets you've sent. After your initial profile in 200 characters or less, this is one of the major decision criteria I use for follow/no follow decisions.

It's not hard people. Seriously.

  • Be interesting - If all you tweet about is the ducks you fed at the pond, I'm probably not the follower you want. Ducks can be interesting (And sometimes even tasty!), but if you're just ducks 24/7/365, I'm going to go load my blocking gun. As I'm writing this, @JStevenYork just shared a fascinating youtube video with his followers about the design of the lunar rover, and how it fit into an empty 5ft tall x 5ft wide x 5ft deep wedge-shaped storage space on the lunar lander. THAT is being interesting, folks.
  • Be relevant to me - Okay, this one you CAN'T control, but it's really not too hard. I have lots of interests, you'll probably fit in one of them if you try. Just look at my log line for the blog for inspiration.
  • Interact with your followers - Put the SOCIAL in Social media. If you aren't talking to people, you're not being interesting to me, and probably less relevant.

  • Be a spammer - You're just asking to get blocked and reported.
  • Be a link whore - You links might be interesting, maybe even useful, but I'm not going to follow you. Obsessive re-tweeters fall into this category too. If all you do is RT, you aren't being "You".
  • Fill your tweets with quotes of famous people - If all your tweets consist of these, you're not going to have me following you. 
  • Don't have more than half your profile  filled with pictogram symbols. Seriously, I'm not going to spend the time to decipher what you are trying to mean by No.7 or a music note. If I wanted to spend my time deciphering symbols, I'd take up the study of hieroglyphics. Sure, it might mean you like music, but that tells me nothing about what KINDS of music.
  • Don't spend over a month on twitter and have only 3 re-tweets to show for it. You aren't being social, which is the point of "Social Media". That's a #TwitterFail to me.
    See? Simple dos and don'ts. Follow them, and I'm more than likely going to follow you back.

    Any tips for separating the wheat from the chaff? Feel free to share them!

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Pacing Yourself

    Technology. It's the sci-fi writer's best friend, and biggest cheat. We use it in so many ways, as settings, plot devices, a convenience and eye/brain-candy. But who can guess what will actually be available when that future time actually comes around?

    After Tuesday's blog, Leah Petersen and I were discussing about the difficulties of writers predicting technology far enough into the future to fit a story's setting. She mentioned that though her story is set 350 years in the future, most of her tech feels like something we could have in the next 20 years. This got me to thinking about some of the factors that affect tech development.

    One of the biggest factors I see is the problem of stagnation. Sometimes a technological innovation will undergo a period of dormancy while waiting for component technologies to mature, or for a new break-thru to push the boundaries of what's possible. Airliners were built out of aluminum as far back as the 1930s, and it's only within the last decade that the carbon-fiber skinned 787 is changing that. It offers more strength for less weight. Carbon fiber isn't new, it's been used for years in Formula 1 racing cars and in certain parts for airliners, but it's only recently that the technology has matured enough to attempt it's use in an airliner the size of the 787.

    And, sometimes what's possible isn't always practical or realistic for other reasons. Look at aviation again. We went from the Wright Brothers first flight, a 120 foot long journey at not much faster than a running pace, to the Concorde, an ocean spanning Mach 2 airliner, in a little over 70 years. However, Concorde ended up being too expensive and impractical, only carrying between 92 and 128 passengers at a time, while a 747 of the same period could typically carry up to 452 passengers in a little over twice the flight time.

    The oil crisis of the 70s effectively killed off the supersonic airliner from wider-spread use. Jet fuel prices are tied almost directly to the price of oil. $2 a barrel for oil? Sure let's build supersonic airplanes. When the price jumped to $10 a barrel? Fuel's too expensive now, we have to charge customers ticket prices they won't want to pay. (This sound familiar to anyone with a gas tank in their car over the last few years?)

    That's something that we writers should always take into consideration when designing tech (or trying to) for our stories: is it practical for the characters daily lives? Is it something that a character can do without, or is it something extremely vital for survival?

    Ultimately, it comes down to doing research, the writer's discretion, and what feels right. No two writers are the same, and neither well they share a specific sense of what's right.

    How do you handle technology in your sci-fi stories?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Don't Panic!

    ...he also had a device that looked rather like a largish calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words DON'T PANIC printed in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in fact the most remarkable of all books to ever come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
                                                   Chapter 3, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    Douglas Adams was a genius and a prophet, but that's true of any good visionary sci-fi writer. Call it a Kindle, Nook, iPad, Netbook, tablet, or Smart phone, today some form of portable electronic device that let's us access the internet. (which is very convenient, as Adams says in relation to a printed-version of the Guide, "an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.") Adams is just carrying on a long tradition of giving us glimpses into the future.

    Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were famous and celebrated for this ability. Submarines that can travel thousands of miles under water without surfacing? Sounded far-fetched in Verne's time (the submarine as a viable war machine was it's infancy during the American Civil War), but only fifty years after Verne's death, nuclear powered submarines were  in operation, the first one appropriately named Nautilus.

    More recently, tv and movies have led the way toward the future. Star Trek saw Kirk and Spock running around with flip-up communicators that allowed them to talk to the Enterprise from a planet's surface as clear as if both parties were in the same room. Now, people carry around cell phones that are not much bigger than a deck of playing cars, can reach around the world, and hold more computing power than all of NASA during the Apollo moon missions.

    Star Wars hasn't been left out of the act either. TIE fighters were famous for mostly being Rebel target practice. However the TIE part (Twin Ion Engine) is now a viable engine technology for spacecraft, scooping up matter from the front end, and ejecting ions out the back end to propel the craft along. And, remember the tank of pink goo (Bacta) Luke floated in on Hoth while recovering from the Wampa attack? Now there is a gene therapy gel in testing that speeds up the natural healing functions of the body by as much as six times normal - no scuba mask needed.

    Sci-fi writers are always looking forward, trying to imagine tomorrow, and the day after. Sure, there have been some miserable failures (I'm still waiting for my Jetson's car that folds up into a briefcase, personal jetpack, and my ticket on Pan Am's Lunar flights to the moon- thank you Stanley Kubrick & 2001: A space Odyssey) but there have been resounding successes. So, the next time you see some far-out concept in a book or movie, something seemingly impossible and outrageous, remember: DON'T PANIC! That just might be the future you see.

    Thanks to @LeahPetersen for inspiring today's blog post. You can blame her for this drivel. :D

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Something In The Air

    Stepped outside at 7am this morning and the temperature was about 62F. There was a slight nip in the air that felt soooo refreshing after the  blazing Texas Summer we've been having. There was something else in the air this morning. Anticipation of something that comes around once a year.

    It felt like NaNoWriMo.

    It's a good thing too. I've been drawing a blank as to what I was going to write for NaNo this year. It's really been hard to even think about November this year. Don't get me wrong, I have some ideas floating around in the back of my mind- I always do. I just don't know what I'm going to write.

    I should do the responsible thing and work on one of the novels in the Hunt Starfire series. Or, finish the first one and start on the second on. Those seven novels won't write themselves. Or, one of my other partial  projects. I've only got several laying around waiting for a storm of writing to happen upon them.

    I really keep thinking about a shiny I've been slowly putting notes down about, but I'm trying to behave and not start yet another new project until I get something finished.

    So, I'll let you give me some input as to what I write for this year's NaNo.
    1. A Hunt Starfire novel - the chronicles of a mercenary star-fighter unit.
    2. Finish "Thieves at Heart" - space pirates. Enough said!
    3. Finish "Jameson Hewitt Airship Mystery" - a steampunk mystery set on a transatlantic airship.
    4. Finish "Hammerfist" - A tale of three bounty hunters.
    5. Give in and  write the New Shiny Idea - lost science ship (this one needs a lot of planning first).
    There's your options. I'll keep the voting open until the end of the month, and announce the winner in October. Go Vote!

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    On The Map

    After three straight posts about social media, I decided to give that dead horse a break.

    Yesterday marked two months since this blog was started. Not an exciting anniversary, I know, but considering I figured this blog would get abandoned after the third post, it's a noteworthy occasion.

    So, what have I done in 2 months of blogging?

    28 posts (29 when you count this one), including: A six pack of book reviews, a post about a crashed B-17, a guest post by N.L. Gervasio to help promote her new book, a look at what the impact of airline deregulation can teach us about the current state of the publishing world.

    1706 views. I'm sure most of these are search bots, but I do appreciate my real human viewers. :)

    34 different countries I've received views from. This is a number that I am certain of, there maybe more. Blogspot's statistics are a let down here. The stats only list the top 10 most viewed from countries for any time period selected (now/day/week/month/all time). So, I started a notepad document listing any new countries I saw in my stats.

    In addition to the list, I started a Google map and pinned each country on the map. Anyone who knows me for very long has found out I have an interest in maps. I've made maps for critique groups before, to plot out who was located where in the metroplex, so we could decide on where to meet in a centralized location.

    My viewer map can be found here. If your country isn't already on the map, feel free to leave a comment with your country and I'll be glad to add you to the map.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Pandering, or why I don't FB.

    I am sick and tired of the pandering and pan-handling that goes on online. I'm not talking about scams by the Nigerian Royal Family, or winning the British Lottery (twice, the Australian Lottery three times last week, and Microsoft paying me for everyone I forward and email to, and for everyone THEY forward it to...). I'm talking about five little words that have become VERY damned annoying.

    "Like my page on Facebook".

    Facebook (yes I'm talking about you, you evil mountain of corporate snot) is now requiring users to acquire a certain number of 'Likes' to secure personal URLs or other 'perks'. One, this is a dumb-ass idea. Two, Facebook users are now having to pollute OTHER social media sites to beg and pander for 'Likes' on their FB pages.

    This is damned annoying, especially for the 5 of us in America who aren't on Facebook.

    Watch television. Most commercials for national products end with the Twitter or FB logo and "Follow us on Twitter" or "Like us on FB". It used to be "Connect with us on FB". Connect sounds less intrusive, more friendly - "Hey, let's get together and hang out".

    'Like me' and 'Like us' sounds so whiny and needy you just want to spend a Sunday afternoon holding them under water, for 20 minutes at a time.

    I know what's going on, and I don't like it. Facebook is pulling the old carrot & stick routine. They dangle a prize out there, like a personalized URL if a user receives enough 'Likes'. Then, they stick advertizing down the throats of everyone who comes to "Like" a user's page. Why? Because Facebook makes their money from paid advertizing.

    I know what some of you reading this are going to say - "Then stay off Facebook", and I do. I don't have an FB account. But I know people who do. I've seen enough to know how it works. It's about Facebook making money off of you and everyone who comes to 'Like' your page.
    If you're a FB user and you enjoy doing the 'Like' thing, that's fine. More power to you. The whole 'Like me' thing screams of high-school popularity contest stupidity to me. "If you're popular enough, we'll let you into our clique." Barf.

    My problem is, this stupidity is spilling over into other social media, with people begging for Likes. If you want/need likes on FB, push it on you FACEBOOK friends. Don't come to Twitter, or Google+ and beg for it. You're just clogging up my stream, and I don't want to see it.

    If you like what you see in this or any other of my posts, feel free to spread the word around. No one's going to make money off the traffic that comes into my blog. :D

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    You Are What You Tweet

    After Tuesday's cautionary tale, Miss X and I were discussing (Yes, she still talks to me after that experience) and she raised an interesting point. Not only did the warning I mentioned about giving out too much personal information in the social media blizzard apply to the sender, but it also applied to how one replied to others.

    How you respond can tell as much about you as tweeting personal information can. If you're constantly rude and biting in your tweets, you probably are as well in your real life. That broadcasts clearly. However, humor is a funny thing- funny-odd, not funny-haha. Even when you use 'LOL' or ':D' in a tweet, the reply you intended as funny and humorous doesn't always get interpreted that way by the reader on the other side of the tweet. You can *emphasize* a word for effect, but that doesn't always translate well either. A reader will process your tweet through their own set of filters of funny or appropriate. Not every uses the same set of parameters.

    Throw in cultural differences, societal movements, personal beliefs and you've got a recipe for potential disaster. How can you avoid insensitive replies? It's really, really *REALLY* simple.

    Think before you type.

    In this go-go-gimmie-gimmie-now-now social media age, communication is almost instant and permanent. Insert cliche about one chance at first impressions here. How you present yourself is generally how you will be perceived. Once you hit send, it's out there for everyone to see. Think about that the next time you're sitting in front of Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Social Media Safety

    Social Media - A Cautionary Tale.

    We all like to talk about ourselves on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and more recently, Google+. If there's a way to let others know "I'm going to the grocery store" or to send a picture of "This guy I just saw at ComicCon!", we are using it. Social media has permeated society on many levels - for good or ill.

    But do we really KNOW what we are telling the world when we use Social Media? Do we tweet, ect safely? The reason I ask is, you can tell something innocuous about yourself, but you never know what someone out there knows, and can find out about you from an innocent statement.

    Case in point. Several months ago, someone I follow on Twitter who lives in my local area mentioned she was leaving on a trip that afternoon, flying to a location in the Rockies for a working get-away. Later that same day, she mentioned there was a coffee location not far from her gate area.

    Now, anyone who's read this blog knows that I'm a fan of aviation. It's in the log line. I've written posts dealing with the subject. When she mentioned where she was going, my mind kicked in and wondered: "Which airline is she flying on? What type of airplane?"

    Armed with the scraps of information she'd given, I took to the web and after looking at two sites, I was able to tweet her and ask if she was at gate X on ABC Airlines flight XYZ.

    She replied that yes, she was.

    Now, I wasn't trying to stalk her, and I told her as much. That it was how my brain worked, and the curiosity she'd peaked. She understood and mentioned that she now had food for thought about what she tweeted to the world.

    Was I trying to change what or how she tweeted? Absolutely not. Did I feel bad about that, like it was my fault? Absolutely. For the next month I didn't see her tweet much, and didn't comment on anything she did send out.

    Which brings me back around to the point I was making with this blog. You never know what someone out there knows, what specialized knowledge they might have to dig into you. Be cautious what you say in a general broadcast to the world. Even in conversations between people on twitter, I'm always being surprised at which of my followers will pop in, that follow both of us already in the conversation. Don't go and get paranoid that everyone following you is out to get you, to dig into your life, but be careful when mentioning your personal life in social media.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    8-3 Check-in

    Well, the Streaks are over. Yesterday was a disaster - I picked up a 4hr temp job at a warehouse, and got too overheated. I felt drained, literally. Like you would after a sunburn, but I didn't have the pain or the heat coming out of me, just that same drained feeling. Very little writing happened. I tried to finish up this morning for yesterday and I'm still ..blah. I think my brain melted yesterday. The second WIP I wanted to write on just isn't coming. Maybe I need a break from word counts.

    So, it got me thinking. I think I'm going to adjust my goals, and  focus less on writing and more on editing & revising the first WIP. I really want to get that put together and out for initial reads.

    And this is the hidden beauty of ROW80 - it's flexible and can change when you need to.

    Saturday, July 30, 2011

    Sunday Check-in

    The ROW80 Streak continues. Had a productive Saturday night. 1618 words, I know it doesn't sound like much but it's my third highest word count for a day this year. Logan's story is complete- as far as getting to the end. I'm in the process of revising some earlier chapters, and building a complete first draft copy. Some things were written out of order, so I have to go back and insert them into the proper places. Once that's done, I know I have a couple of small things to add in to the story. Then I can look for my rough patches and see how much frosting I need to add to make it all nice and smooth. Then it'll be time to hunt up some betas/critique partners.

    So, for Saturday onward I switched WIPs and worked on that second novel that I wanted to complete draft 1 of. The words seemed to flow much faster and in larger chunks. Maybe the 29th Century C.E. agrees with me more than the 21st? :D I'm going to write on this one while I edit/revise/rebuild Logan. (We've had a Six Million Dollar Man, can I get money to rebuild Logan? The 6 Thousand Dollar Novel? Maybe? ;-) (I tried!))

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    TV Review: Legend Quest

    I saw this show promoted on the SyFy channel ahead of its premier, and thought I might check it out, it looked interesting. A guy going around the world searching for legendary artifacts. Sounds like a good formula right? Indiana Jones on a weekly basis.

    A friend on twitter (let's name-drop: it was Victoria Dahl )asked for an opinion about the show, she liked that sort of programing, but something seemed.. off to her about it. So, I promised I would check it out and see if I got the same vibe off of it she did.

    Something else that I watched was conflicting with the time slot though, so it wasn't until the third episode that I finally got the chance to watch the show.

    The Concept:
    A symbologist travels around the world on the trail of the greatest treasures and artifacts in history in two thirty minute segments in a hour formatted show. Think a cross between Dan Brown's hero Robert Langdon and Indiana Jones, in your living room for an hour a week.

    Okay, I'm down with this. The idea of the show is off to a great start.

    The Execution:
    Well, here's where the train runs off the tracks.

    The Cast:
    Ashley Cowie is the host. He's a real-life symbologist and adventurer. To me, he gives off a vibe like he's so much smarter than the viewer and that he's talking down to us. Not condescending, but, yeah. Condescending. Plus, he looks like a walking billboard for cargo pants from some adventure outfitter clothing line.

    Kinga Phillips is the show's field producer and Cowie's default side-kick. She's kind of cute, and makes for decent eye-candy. Her main purpose on the show appears to be to do the grunt work, such as setting up meetings with the locals, and to stand there and listen while Cowie explains things on camera.

    The Show:
    The camera work is too choppy. I understand that this is a documentary-type show, shot in the field without stediy-cams and the like, bit could be done much smoother. Shot could last longer than 1.2 seconds as well, to give the viewer more time to digest the imagery before cutting to something else. They travel often in vehicles, with Cowie driving and a cameraman in the front seat. This puts the camera lens much too close to the side of Cowie's face to be comfortable. The same could be achieved with a mini-cam mounted on the passenger-side pillar post or stuck onto the inside windshield. Really, this is what the guys on Top Gear do when they road test cars, and it's much better that way.

    The animation work used to illustrate the particular points of history Cowie is explaining to Phillips is very cartoon-ish, and poorly done. Figures with heavy black outlines. It looks like cheap, badly drawn anime. The early seasons of South Park with their construction paper animation looked much better than this.

    The format needs to be fiddled with as well. Two thirty minute segments jammed together in an hour format with Cowie standing in front of a black screen giving a bit of tie-in commentary to bind the two segments together. I think the show needs to change to a single artifact set up. 30 minutes (22 after commercial time is factored out) feels too rushed to adequately cover the history of each artifact and the journey. A longer period spent on each artifact would allow Cowie to build a case for his explorations, and avoid my next point.

    The host takes too many straight-line leaps of logic. I wouldn't jump over a crack in the sidewalk even if Cowie told me it was safe. He seems to jump from conclusion to conclusion in a straight line, without allowing for the possibility that other conclusions may be drawn from the facts. Whether this is due to the time constraint for each segment, I can't say, but it is an annoyance. It's like he's saying "I've figured this out, and it has to be this way because I'm so smart, and I'll tell you why I'm so smart after the commercial break."

    Another thing I've noticed, and this happened int he very first episode is directions. In the Mayan Talking Cross segment, Cowie keeps saying they are going west, or due west from site to site chasing the trail of the Talking Cross across the Yucatan. On the map, when the journey is displayed, the route shown clearly goes Southwest, and closer to South than West. Either Cowie can't read a compass right, or else his compass is off by 40 degrees.

    Nothing so far has ever been definitively found on the show. In six artifact hunts (three episodes), the closest Cowie and Phillips have come to finding what they were after was viewing a 6th century C.E. sword that "might" possibly be the source of the Excaliber legends. Other hunts have ended in walled off passages, or rubble filled caves.

    The Verdict:
    Kinga Phillips can fill out a tank top and a pair of shorts or jeans, but even that isn't enough to make me want to keep tuning in. I understand that this show is on SyFy, and therefor probably done on the cheap as much as possible. However, I've seen this type of program done many times before and much much better.

    Keep yourself questing on the trail for more legendary television.

    Comments? Opinions? Let's hear them!

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Wednesday Check-in

    Much like the heat in Texas, I'm hot. I've hit my ROW80 goals every day for 11 days now. (Haven't started writing today's yet) 11,112 words. And on my 1kx365d goal, a 10 day streak for 11,713. There's some free writing in addition on this second goal that's giving the difference in numbers. I've got two separate spread sheets going to track all this.

    Yes, I am being that organized for this. I blame the NaNoWriMo report card someone started several years back.

    Where are all these words going? Well, everything written for ROW80 has gone into finishing a novel I started 4 years ago. I have few scenes left to write, and then I have a completed draft zero for DEFAH. (My acronym for the current title) Once that's done, I'll need to add/adjust my ROW goals to include some editing/revision time for DEFAH. Logan, Miss Farnsworth, and the gang are almost ready to see the world outside of my head. they've been scared/tortured enough in my mind for the last 4 years.

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    ROW80 Check-in

    And ROW80 rolls on. I've been hitting all of my word counts, 1000/day this week. Since Sunday (750), with my ROW writing and the free writing I do after my ROW is finished, I've also hit my personal daily 1K for 365 days goal for a week straight. This beats my previous longest streak of 6 days. However, I'm still 164K behind on this goal. LOL On Monday the ROW goal goes to 1250, so I hope to extend that 1k/365d streak for the next two months. And catch up a bit!

    DEFAH is growing. I'm ramping up to the big fight scene. Logan has just been escorted into the Big Bad's lair, and is now being informed on just how badly he's been tricked. In video game terms, Logan has already dispatched of on the minor bosses, and he's about to face off against two level bosses, and the villain. All at the same time. And he's essentially got three bullets left in his gun, so his aim has to be perfect.

    What's in store for Logan today? That is yet to be written. It's time to gather all the loose threads together and thread the needle.

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    How To Successfully Gain Me As A Follower

    I'm noticing an annoying trend on twitter. Maybe it's new, or maybe I've just now noticed it.

    New followers who are spectacularly failing to receive my follow back.

    This isn't going to be a rant. Think of it as a handy set of guidelines to tweet by. :)

    I use Hootsuite to tweet with. On the profile page for a tweeter it gives me the option to look back through the last several tweets you've sent. After your initial profile in 200 characters or less, this is one of the major decision criteria I use for follow/no follow decisions.

    It's not hard people. Seriously.

    • Be interesting - If all you tweet about is the ducks you fed at the pond, I'm probably not the follower you want. Ducks can be interesting (And sometimes even tasty!), but if you're just ducks 24/7/365, I'm going to go load my blocking gun. As I'm writing this, @JStevenYork just shared a fascinating youtube video with his followers about the design of the lunar rover, and how it fit into an empty 5ft tall x 5ft wide x 5ft deep wedge-shaped storage space on the lunar lander. THAT is being interesting, folks.
    • Be relevant to me - Okay, this one you CAN'T control, but it's really not too hard. I have lots of interests, you'll probably fit in one of them if you try. Just look at my log line for the blog for inspiration.
    • Interact with your followers - Put the SOCIAL in Social media. If you aren't talking to people, you're not being interesting to me, and probably less relevant.

    • Be a spammer - You're just asking to get blocked and reported.
    • Be a link whore - You links might be interesting, maybe even useful, but I'm not going to follow you.
    • Fill your tweets with quotes of famous people - If all your tweets consist of these, you're not going to have me following you.
    See? Simple dos and don'ts. Follow them, and I'm more than likely going to follow you back.

    Any tips for separating the wheat from the chaff? Feel free to share them!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Wednesday Check-in and Experiment Results

    I'm still hitting my daily word count goals, which crept up again on Monday from 750 to 1000/day. Last night my main character Logan was down in the company's research & development lab, talking to Sir Isaac Newton about weapons to hunt demons & gods with. Someday you might even get to read this. :)

    In the experiment I ran on Sunday's check-in:
    • I had 48 views and 12 comments, which leads me to believe only 25% of my viewers are real people (or people that can be bothered to leave a comment - Thank you all!
    Among the commentators who played along:
    • 3 views from Google+
    • 7 came from the #ROW80 
    • 1 from the Linksy tools page
    • 1 from my Twitter bio.
    Onwards to today's writing goal!

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Row80 Sunday Check In And Experiment

    I finally had my first daily goal failure on Friday. It just wasn't a good day for writing. 168/750 that day. However, I'm still ahead on total word count by 1400+ words, even with my failure. So, it's all still in the black.


    Now, I'd like to conduct an experiment and I need your help!
    I'm trying to determine how many of my views are bots, and how many are actual humans.
    Leave me a comment down below and tell me how you came to this post, via
    • Me directly by a twitter or Google+ link
    • Someone retweeted my link (Mention who so I can thank them)
    • Or direct email notification.
    Results will be posted with Wednesday's Round Of Words 80 check in.


    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Boarding Call

    If we ignore history, we are doomed to repeat it. Or, something like that. What can we learn by looking back at history? Well, I can see an interesting parallel between the Digital and Indie Revolutions in the publishing world and the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s.

    Seriously. Stick with me and I'll explain.

    First, a little history to get you up to take off speed. Federal regulation of the U.S. airline industry can be traced back as far as the 1920s, and became serious with the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938. The government basically said who had the authority to fly which routes, and how much passengers could be charged.

    For example, from New York to Chicago, you might have had both United Airlines and American Airlines authorized to fly the route for a ticket price of $40 round trip. From Chicago, American could fly passengers to Los Angeles, and United to San Francisco, but not American Chicago-San Francisco or United Chicago-Los Angeles

    To stand apart from the competition on a route, airlines competed on services, like inflight meals (yes they did consist of more than a sandwich and yogurt/fruit snack), and passenger comforts (hot towel any one?). Anything to make your trip a pleasant and memorable trip, in the hopes of securing your future business.

    Most airlines at this time started out as small operations and grew into regional carriers. Some of these regional carriers grew into national carriers, with networks across the country, all connected by a backbone of a few connecting routes. Any Joe Millionaire could start his own airline, as long as he was willing to fly where the government said he could.

    Then 1978 and the Airline Deregulation Act happened. These long time controls were removed,and airlines now had the freedom to fly any route they cared to, for any price they thought passengers were willing to pay.

    New start-up airlines exploded all over the map. Expansion and market penetration was on the minds of every airline executive. Every major airline now had to compete under a vastly different set of rules.

    Some start ups clawed their way into markets, others flopped because of bad business plans. Many disappeared into the major airlines of the time through buy-outs, mergers, and consolidation over the last thirty years.

    Hey, wake up! History lesson is over. Still with me? Good.

    Now, you're asking yourself "What is this idiot talking about? What has this got to do with the publishing world?"

    Big publishing has long acted like the government, "regulating" who would be published and what they could be paid. This went on for decades, over a century.

    Then came the three-headed monster of The Digital Revolution, Social Media, and the Indie Publisher Explosion.

    The Digital Revolution gave birth to a new form of publishing for authors, the ebook. Social Media allowed authors to create networks of followers (potential customers). And Indie Publishing allowed authors the freedom to write whichever book they wished, regardless of 'market trends' and demand- if it is written, it will find an audience. Authors could now write, publish, promote and sell their own books for their own prices, without an agent or a publishing contract.

    In short, authors can now be their own airlines in the deregulated era.

    It's a chaotic, turbulent time for the publishing industry. Times are changing, technology is changing by leaps and bounds, and publishing is changing.

    Is it now still necessary to have Big Publishing involved to be a successful author? Not always. Authors have long had print and then ebooks available from their websites, basically a parallel to the versions offered by their publishers. Now some authors are taking the leap and going without Big Publishing.

    J.K. Rowling is going it alone. She has started Pottermore, the portal for all things Harry Potter, including the soon to be released ebook versions. How will her sales numbers turn out? It's entirely too early to tell, but any author with the smarts to grab on to the situation can have their own success without Big Pub behind them. Heck, 99.995% of authors with Big Pub backing don't turn out her numbers.

    Are agents and editors now lining up at the unemployment office because of the revolution? Not hardly. New publishing houses, literary agencies, and editing services are growing in this new age. The opportunities are out there. Authors can literally pick and chose the best fit for themselves. Big publishing, specialized small publishing, or inde, each is a viable path to success.

    What does this mean for authors now? Big Publishing hasn't gone anywhere, but it is in a state of change. The competition has increased no matter which route to publication today's author chooses. The author now has to work harder, be smarter about their business, and promote themselves more than ever to build brand recognition.

    The workload has gone up, but the skies are now literally the limit.

    Where would you like to fly to?
    Comments welcome.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Blog Lessons and ROW80 Check In

    30 days into blogging and I see a couple of points that are starting to become obvious.

    • No matter what time of day or night you post a link on twitter. you're going to get some hits on it. Hits yes, but very few (if any) comments. This leads me to believe that mostly I'm being read by bots. This would also explain why I've gotten so many one-off views from foreign countries.

    • I can't compare my blog to others. My blog is mostly personal and boring, and I know this. Still, it's having some kind of online presence, a platform. That's what publishers and agents want to see, right?

    • I don't have enough interaction with my human viewers. I'm not sure if it's the site design, some option I don't have checked, or if I'm just that boring with my posts (likely!). It's something I need to work on.

    • The other thing I know is that this post is over and I can go have breakfast!

    * * *

    ROW 80 Check In:

    9 days in, 9 daily goals exceeded. I'm getting writing done every day, but I'm finding that most of these goals are being met just under the wire! I seem to write better/more consistently at night than I do during the day. This makes it a challenge when you haven't written all day and it's 10:30pm, and you still have 750 words to meet your goal. May not sound like much to some, but I type slow. Word goal for every day this week is 750. Until Sunday's check in then.

    Comments always welcome. (hint hint!)

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Six Pack Book Review

    I decided to do a book review for today's post. I mention books as one of the topics I'm likely to talk about in my tag line, but I haven't really do so yet. Lots of writers/bloggers do book reviews. But, I thought, why just review *A* book? Why not review my favorite books for the first half of the year?

    What are my criteria? Well first, I had to read the book between January 1st and July 4th. Second, I only picked books that I rated as five stars on Goodreads. If you haven't tried Goodreads before, I've found it a fabulous resource to track the books I've read.
    So, armed with those two ironclad criteria, here is my first bi-annual "1/2 year Book Review".

    At the Queen's Command by Mike Stackpole (@MikeStackpole)
    Format: Print
    Available: (Print and Kindle) (Print and NOOK)

    What would Colonial America have been like with magic, and dragons? This is a book for any fan of fantasy, colonial history or just a good read! The quickest way to describe this book is The Last Of The Mohicans meets The Lord Of The Rings. Stackpole has a love of colonial history, and it shines through brightly in the foundation and attention to detail in the book. It was fun to read the book, following the heroes through the wilderness and try to puzzle out which parts of real world New England and Canada the action takes place in.

    Format: Print
    Available: Amazon (Print and Kindle, Kindle UK) (NOOK) Apple iBook Sony E-Reader Kobo Diesel EBooks Smashwords

    This book was a hoot from start to finish. Adam is an immortal who's just trying to get through life. Staying drunk for large chunks of it is his plan. But when you've lived as long as he has (and as many places!) you make a few friends and more than a few enemies. That's when his life gets complicated. Doucette fills this book with loads of humor and well written flashbacks into Adams past. I blasted through this book in a little more than a day. It's a quick reading page-turner that left me giggling in stitches the entire time.

    American On Purpose: The Improbably Adventures Of An Unlikely Patriot 
    by Craig Ferguson (@craigyferg)
    Format: Print
    Available: Amazon (Print and Kindle) BN (Print and NOOK)

    I read this book and the immediate question came to mind: How the #$%& did this man live past the age of 17?! I love "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson". Over the years he's given us peeks and stories from his life on his talk show. Now, the autobiography of a former blackout drunk gives us the stories that the CBS censors wouldn't let him tell on air. I howled out loud reading this book. WARNING: There is some graphic subject matter covered in this book, and it's not entirely safe for the faint of heart.

    Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
    Format: Print
    Available: Amazon (Print and Kindle) BN (Print and NOOK)

    This book fairly reminded me of Firefly. If you're into a misfit crew thrown together by fate or circumstance, each one with his or her own secrets to hide, this book will be right up your alley. The further you read into the book, more and more of each crew-member's story becomes exposed and tangled together. If there were one thing I would have included in the book would be a map of the world. Given that this is a story about a crew of airship pirates, a navigation chart would have been a nice touch. The good news is there is a sequel already. I can't wait to get hold of that book to continue the adventures of the Ketty Jay and her crew.

    Dead Barchetta by Kathryn Lively
    Format: Ebook (Kindle)
    Available: Smashwords Amazon (Print and Kindle) BN (Print and NOOK)

    I saw this title on a list of books in a blog tour for the Troops over Memorial Day Weekend. the first thing that I thought on seeing the title was "That looks like a Rush parody title." I am a huge Rush fan, so examined the book blog further. I am *so* glad I did. What I found was a mystery thriller written by a Rush fan for Rush fans. Hero Matt "Lerxst" Johnston plays guitar in a tribute band that specializes in Rush and Grateful Dead songs. This book is packed with sly references to both bands. The story sucked me in rapidly; Lively writes a lot of humor into the story, and enough plot twists to keep you guessing right up to the last pages.

    Format: Ebook (Kindle)
    Available: Smashwords Amazon (Kindle)

    This was a type of book not in my normal routine. In fact, I'm not sure how I would classify it: Action-Romance? Chick-lit-Thriller? Gervasio herself calls it Contemporary Romance, so that's what I'll go with. Again, outside of my norm. The characters were well done, and completely believable as three-dimensional people. Anna "Nemesis" Mussolini is an Italian Mafia Princess bartender who can sling drinks and snark with equal ease. She's been burned too many times by love and has given up on men. Then she realizes that she has the hots for the boss she's worked a year for, and does he have the hots for her too? Don't come to this book expecting some shy, retiring violet for a heroine. Nemesis is a thoroughly modern woman who can go toe to toe and shot for shot with anyone. Gervasio did an excellent job with the details in this book, I could see everything happening before me. Listen up, Hollywood. Nemesis would make a great movie. And the best part is, this is only book one of the Kick-ass Girls Club. I can't wait to see what Nemesis and the other girls in this club get up to.

    There's six book reviews for the price of one. Where else are you going to find such a deal in today's economy? Check them out, you won't be disappointed!

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Sunday Nothings and ROW80 Check in

    So, it's Sunday today. I've got nothing profound or prophetic to say today. So sorry to disappoint you all.

    Here's a few tidbits to tide you over until I come up with witty.

    NYT's bestseller James Rollins tweeted my Friday post to his 15,000+ followers on twitter. This paltry, little, nothing rag of a blog. To say I was surprised and shocked doesn't cover it! Thank you sir, big shout out to you!

    Speaking of Friday's post, I'm thinking about taking one of those random thoughts I shared and making a full entry on the subject. I need to do some research and hammer down all the nails first. Keep watching for it.

    * * *

    My Round Of Words 80 Sunday check in:
    I've hit my goals for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In fact, I've exceeded my daily goal (500 words) every day so far for this challenge. some days as by as little as 6 words, and by as many as 402 for last night! This last is encouraging, because on Monday the goal jumps from 500 to 750/daily.

    I'm already seeing that what I've written this week is going to need massive editing/rewrites/details filled in. I have a vague idea of what the scenes should be and how they fit into the story, but I'm mostly pantsing them right now. What the heck, it's a first draft right?

    Pantsing won't cut it next week with longer word goals. I need something a little more concrete to build on. I want to map out a route for the week this afternoon.

    Comments always welcome.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Brain Drippings De Jour

    The blog finally lives up (or down) to it's name. Very random posting today. You've been warned. If you bailed out now, no one could blame you. Certainly not me.

    Still there? Good. Buckle up, and return your seat backs and tray tables to their full, upright and locked position. It's about to get weird.

    There's a parallel to be drawn between the current state of the publishing world's digital revolution and the airline industry. For decades, the airlines were told what routes they could fly, and for what price. When the airlines deregulated in the late 1970s, it became a free-for-all. Airlines could fly wherever they wished for whatever price they thought customers would be willing to pay. Airlines that learned to adapt their business model to this new 'freedom' survived. Those that didn't disappeared. After deregulation, there were a slew of start-up airlines, anyone with enough money could have his own airline.

    Today, many writers are pushing out into new territory (e-books) with the same independent spirit of start up airlines. They aren't locking themselves into the traditional publishing routes of Big Publishing Houses and doing it themselves, through small indie publishers or releasing e-books thru their own websites. J.K. Rowling just announced that she's going at it on her own, with her own portal for the Harry Potter E-books. Today's indie authors are building networks of followers/readers/customers through social media.

    The digital revolution. It's the new way to fly.

    Irony Defined:
    "Captain America" movie promotion appearing on Canada Dry Ginger Ale products. It's not Captain North America. He's red, white, and blue - there's no Maple Leaf in there.

    Writing is to building as editing is to... auto-body repair?
    Yesterday a friend lamented the differences between writing and editing. Writing is a creative high, while editing? Let's face it, you're just fixing a car wreck.

    Team Work:
    There is no "I" in TEAM. However, looked at the right way, half of the team is ME. Think about that one. ;)

    Commitment To A Project:
    I'm always starting things and never...

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    ROW80 Update 1

    ROW80-3 Goal Update 1 - July 6, 2011

    Day 1: Goal 500 Wrote 839
    • Hit my ROW goal for the day, but fell short of my daily goal of 1K each for the year.
    Day 2: Goal 500 Wrote 543
    • See above, but missed daily goal by a wide margin. Need to do better on that.

    (This is the first one of these I've done. If anyone has suggestions for making this less BORING of a goal update, let me know.)

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Round Of Words In 80 Days Goals

    ROW80 is new to me. I've never tried it before, but I'm going to give it a shot. I've been woefully under-productive this year. So, I'm going to ambitious with my goals, and I need some or more of you to keep me accountable.

    My goals are many:
    • A progressive daily word goal- 500/day the first week, 750/day the next, 1000/day the third week of July and 1250/day the last week of July. August starts at 1000/day and progresses to 1750/day the last week. And for the rest of the challenge, I am aiming for a goal of 1500/day. An extra 250 words/day jump isn't big, but it adds up over time. I need to get better about being productive on a regular, daily basis. I can spew words out for NaNoWriMo, but the rest of the year, my productivity nose-dives. ROW80 may be the impetus I need to break that habit.
    • Finish the full first drafts of at least two novels. I have too many projects that are languishing in the 50-60K area that are unfinished, lacking only 30-40K to be complete. This has to end.
    • Fight the Curse of the Brand New Shiny. I CAN NOT write on anything new during ROW80-3. I can make notes, jot down character ideas, plot points, and the like, but I can not write a single word on a new shiny idea until Sept 23rd. (This is a hard one and is going to suck; I have ideas for 3 new novels in my head)
    • Start the editing/revisions on one of those finished novels.
    Can I really make these goals? We'll see.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Your Organization Is Touching My Chaos!

    Continuity is a bug-a-boo of mine in a novel series. Be consistent with your history & descriptions of a particular character or place or event. This is something I strive for in my writing, especially in the large series I am working on. If an author chooses to change a character's description, change hair color or the like, I can accept that.- provided there is an explanation for the change in the books. Don't make him sandy blond in one book, and have him dark haired two books later, without giving a reason why.

    TV shows and lesser movies often give no thought to continuity. This bothers me, but not nearly as it does in print. I've seen good and bad examples of continuity in published print.

    The Bad: I once read a book (which suffered severely from bad editing, or none at all. Really, it was a train wreck.) where the dog's name changed completely from one paragraph to the next. Not two dogs. One dog. Two names in two successive paragraphs. I keep this book as an example of what NOT to have printed with my name on the cover.

    The Good: The various Star Wars novels that have come out over the last twenty years (well over a hundred, closer to two hundred) have shared an amazing consistency, given the fact that they are written by dozens of authors. Added to that are the 6 movies, the tv series, and the video games the individual units of LucasFilms has released, it becomes an even more impressive feat.

    I've seen problems in my own writing. When you've got parts of a dozen different novels (or more, I lost count), plus several short stories floating around that are all in the same shared universe (and across a large span of time) it gets to be too cumbersome to keep everything in your head AND keep it straight. I have one alien species that I kept flip-flopping the ending of the species name from -in to -inian. Planet names that were written -ax in one piece, -axia in another.

    I don't have George Lucas' money to hire my own continuity editing staff. Yet. Until then, I have to do it the hard way- myself! To combat this, I started a document to track all the references, characters, ship names, locations, ect that were going into my series. This isn't an entirely new idea, other writers no doubt do the same, with character bibles, three-ring binders, and whatnot. I call mine a compendium, and I went a little more thorough with mine.

    I included things like a list of sector names (important because I give a header block for each new chapter giving the location, ship name the characters may be on, ect), a time-line of the major events so I can keep the history straight, and a reference guide for me to remind myself which projects use a given character, or reference. I broke all my references down into alphabetical order for easier searching. Here's an example page from the X-Corps Compendium:

    A genetically engineered species. Rhinocerosi were two meters tall, bipedal and weighed approximately one ton each. Jailen Devorax took a rhinoceros DNA sample from ancient Terra, and had the DNA manipulated to grow himself a private body guard force. (RP)

    Rowantree, Captain Rosina
    Captain of the Starcorp vessel Starcorp Merchant. Barely 1.5 meters tall, with mousy brown hair tied up in an efficient if not exactly inventive bun, Rowantree had been moved over from the Starcorp Accountant fleet to command of the Starcorp Merchant shortly before the ship was raided by the Chorros de Corazón. (TAH)

    RP Freight Line­
    Render Paxon’s independent freight company. (RP)

    - S -

    Sánchez, Captain Ramón Juan Álvarez de la Vega
    Captain of the privateer ship Chorros de Corazón. He was of Portuguese descent, with a darkly tanned skin that was a genetic gift from his ancient ancestors. He wore a goatee beard and a short pony tail of jet black hair that gave him a rakish, almost piratical air. A practical man, Sánchez operated on the principal that you never ruin that which you can raid again in the future. A stern but fair authority figure, Sánchez played no favorites and accepted no shirkers among his crew. (TAH)

    Sanchez, House
    Sanchez was the second smallest of the surviving houses to form from DrummondCo. Sanchez was named for Juan Raul Julio Sanchez, the head of the marketing division. House colors were white and orange. During Operation Telegraph the house was one of the major alliance members, pushing their spin-ward border well into former House Merker space, adding several systems to house control. (HSPP1,6,7)

    Schwecshheimmer, Fregattenkapitän Fritz “Quicksilver”
    Commanding officer of the Merker Navy aerospace fighter squadron Hell Hounds on board the carrier Cerberus during the first two years of the Fourth Border War between Merker and Donov. Fritz was killed in an ambush during a Merker attack on an unmanned border observation post in an uninhabited system. (HSPP1)

    I broke it down this way: Entries are alphabetical (by last names for characters). Ship names are alphabetical by the name of the ship, omitting 'The' from a title. The (parenthetical) bit at the end of the entry is my project reference code, so I can track and update references. Some entries appear in more than one project. For example, House Sanchez is mentioned in books 1, 6, and 7 of the Hunt Starfire series.

    I started this document for my own self-reference. It's grown into a document over12,000(!) words long at the moment. I'm sure that by the time I get all of these projects written, and hopefully published, the Compendium will be the size of a novel itself!

    So, there it is. There's my organizational tip for anyone who's doing extensive world building or writing a series. If you have any tips, feel free to comment and share them!

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Down Range: Pt 2

    Continuing the tale of Interstellar Hit-man Quint Grousch. Part 1 can be found here.
    Down Range (Pt 2)
    Lately though, after so many years in the trenches, it was getting harder and harder for me to keep the distance between my work and my sanity. Mountain chains eroded over time to fill in the valley between them, and such was the case for me. The gulf I’d maintained was slowly silting in to become an ever narrowing space- from a gulf one month to a bay the next week to a river channel. If I didn’t watch myself, I’d allow it to become a shallow stream trickling through a ditch. I always told myself I would quit the job when it started to get to me. Go off and be a sheep herder somewhere in a quiet mountain valley, where I could spend the rest of my days counting the herd and contemplating my navel.

    The day hadn’t come yet, but there were a few points in my life I always used to gauge whether or not it was time to buy those sturdy hiking boots.

    Whenever I let myself evaluate these points, I always did so in a pro-con fashion, like I was working through them on a ledger book, or some kind of karmic spreadsheet. It was in keeping with the whole dispassionate way I approached my work.

    The one job I usually turned to was a hit on a politician. The man was embezzling funds, but that wasn’t why his wife wanted him killed, just the reason she wanted it to look like one of his victims had had him killed.

    "Why do you want your husband dead, Mrs. Drebuki?"

    The other end of the commlink went quiet for a moment, and I thought she’s changed her mind and hung up on me until I hear her say, sadly and with great remorse "He’s a cheating bastard."

    It was a familial reason, then. I understood that. "Is there an insurance policy in play on your husband, Mrs. Drebuki?"

    "Yes. Double indemnity if his death is ruled as an accident. That is what I want you to make this look like, an accident. He’s been embezzling funds from the government. Can you stage it so the fingers all point to the local government taking him out as expedient method of reducing corruption?"

    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but she seemed more worried about the collecting the insurance money than about her husband’s in ability to keep his rocket ship stored in the proper hangar. "Shouldn’t you be talking to a divorce lawyer, not an assassin?"

    "I know what you charge, Mr. Voss. If you think I can’t afford to pay you, I can. In fact, I can arrange things so that a member of the government will contact you to perform this same job."

    She wanted me to double dip? That was a rare opportunity, at least in my experience. I normally was only ever paid once for a particular job. However, I wasn’t against taking a double payday in the right situation. It was now up to her to prove that this was one of those situations.

    "I have connections in the government. I can leave an anonymous tip about my husband with enough evidence to point the way to you." She really sounded determined to have her husband killed. Who was I to try to dissuade her?

    "Fine, Mrs. Drebuki, you’ve made your point." Actually, she’d beaten me over the head with it. I got it. "My fee for either interested party is the same. I’ll need some details from you. I’ll send you an information request tomorrow."

    That particular job turned into a boondoggle on several fronts, but I did get paid by both Mrs. Drebuki and her government to kill her husband, though for entirely different reasons.

    I’d had to infiltrate the local police department, establish myself as a bona fide police agent- I’d never been, but I knew enough about their methods and mannerisms to pass myself as a convincing agent. After that, it took several weeks to work my way onto their local SWAT team. During this time I of course was turning down other jobs, so the double paycheck I would collect on this was starting to look better and better with each passing day.

    The day for the hit was about as perfect as I could hope for. The weather was clear, calm breezes and the temperature was a comfortable degree, none too high or too low. That affects weapon performance for a sniper more than the average person would think. The SWAT team was covering the press conference for Mr. Drebuki, in case someone from the opposition party tried to be a nut and attack the platform. Little did they see the viper the unit had coiled to it's own bosom.

    I was perched high on a roof top on the southwest corner of the plaza, with a clear line of sight to the crowd- and, conveniently to the platform- for the rally. The unit was one man short of having paired spotter-trigger teams, so I volunteered to work alone. I’d spun some line about having grown up hunting alone, that I was used to working without another person to distract me, and the commanders bought it.

    Since I was alone, I switched out the ammunition in the police issued sniper rifle for something I used more regularly. I didn’t carry more than a couple of rounds of this ammunition on my, but it was easier to use their rifle than to bring my own and to try and explain why I was carrying two rifles on a call-out. I preferred to use my own rifle, as it was custom built, untraceable, and I was the most comfortable with it, but these are the little sacrifices I’d learned to make in the field. If it got me into position to make the shot and be inconspicuous doing so, I’d make do.

    The target presented his self onto the platform at the appointed hour, and began his speech. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but his wife had cued me into a particular gesture Mr. Drebuki liked to use in his speeches. It was an arm movement where he swept his right arm out to point in emphasis on some point or other. That was my mark.

    I watched the platform as I slipped a silencer onto the end of the sniper rifle. It would cost me range and I didn’t normally like to use one on a job, but this time sound suppression was necessary to continue my cover. The last thing I needed was for another SWAT Team member to notice me taking the shot and wonder why I’d hit Drebuki and not some nut in the crowd. Precautions were the name of the game in the assassination business. Cover your ass against all possibilities, or one of them would bite you in said ass when you least expected it.

    I lined up the shot on Drebuki, and waited. Time seemed to compress and expand as it normally did on any job of this stripe. Seconds stretched into hours lining up the target through the moment you nudged the trigger. After that time came crashing in again and everything seemed to happen in the same instant. Drebuki staggered back from the podium and fell to the stage floor. My assignment completed, I fell into my cover role as a SWAT sniper.

    "Where is he? Who saw the shot?" I called out over the radio, sowing confusion among the ranks. More subterfuge to cover my ass. It was a necessary and often useful skill to have in your arsenal. "I’ve got nothing on the southwest corner."
    *   *   *
    I never normally went into such elaborate preparations for a single job, but this one was different. Metering out personal revenge was always a minefield. Would the client change his or her mind, get cold feet, or chicken out? Each was a possibility. That’s what made personal revenge cases such sensitive animals. If it did, I was stuck, any preparations I’d made would be wasted, and my client was forfeiting a large portion of their deposit. That’s why I kept questioning Mrs. Drebuki’s resolve about the job she wanted to hire me for. She continued to be adamant about the issue. Which was fine with me. I could kill her husband any time she chose. I suggested she be out of town when it happened. The farther away the better. That was standard advice I gave to any client. The further away they were then the assignment was completed, the longer it took for them to return and hear of the news- feigning shock and surprise- and to then become a suspect in the inevitable murder investigation. By that time I was long gone. That’s the other reason I gave such advice to clients.

    I’d worked my way into the SWAT unit, and had actually been involved on a few calls around the city, which helped me establish myself with the unit, and gave me an inside look at how that particular unit operated in the local environment. I’d confirmed some universal truths during that period, and I like to think I might have learned one or two more.

    So, there were the good and bad points of that job. They didn’t exactly fit neatly on a spreadsheet, but there they were.
    *   *   *
    I ignored Aldo’s pleading and looked through the scope again. I didn’t like what I saw and I adjusted my aim. I let my finger find the trigger on its own accord. 
    "Quint what are you doing? Don’t shoot!"

    "Aldo, I’m doing my job. I was paid to assassinate the Butcher of Stromitz, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s called being a professional."

    My finger caressed the trigger slowly and without hurry, like the two were new lovers discovering each other for the first time. The finger touched the trigger, touched it, and tightened smoothly…

    Minister Mumbutu’ril took the round just below his right eye. Blood and brain matter splattered the steps behind him as the round created a large exit wound and buried spent itself on the stone of the steps.

    "Quint! You shot the Minister!"

    I didn’t answer him, not right away. Instead, I picked up my communicator and activated a small program I’d kept on the device in case I ever needed to lock an assistant out of my financial records. Now was the time. The program transferred all my credits to a separate account I’d held in reserve and never told Aldo about.

    "I told you, Aldo, I was doing my job. And now it’s done, and so are you. Consider this your pink slip. You’re no longer employed by me and I’m going to inert the security device. You’ll be free and safe to have it removed at your leisure." I paused, and decided to tell Aldo two more things. "There will be an extra ten thousand credits on your last paycheck, as severance pay. Good bye, Aldo."

    I wiped my prints off of the sniper rifle and anything else I thought I might have touched. I picked up my communicator, switched off Aldo’s babbled questions, and walked away. In my head were visions of a sheep ranch somewhere in an alpine valley.