Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wake Up!

Jeff's problems may have been deeper than simple exhaustion.

The biggest problem with an opening is all the pressure that is on it from the start. You have to introduce the reader to a compelling character (not necessarily the MC, but still compelling), ground the reader in the setting, and entice them to read on. That's a lot to cover in a short period of time.

A waking character may actually be the best way to start things, but keeping in mind the checklist of items we have to cover to create a story that people will want to continue reading, it OFTEN (not always, just mostly) isn't the best way. No one is at their best when they wake up. They may not be at their worst, but usually they're groggily grasping for a reality while trying to figure out how, if not why, a non-existent cat coughed a hairball into their mouth. Waking up also suggests that this is just another day in the life of that character. Unless the world is already well-established, and the character is well-liked, it's unlikely anyone wants to stick around while Rob has his morning Monster energy drink (because he hates coffee) brushes his face, shaved his teeth, and whatnot. If you handwave past that, because it's not important, than why didn't you handwave past the waking up too? If something exciting is happening upon waking, then it's more likely you could have just slipped ahead to that, rather than going through the effort of creating a realistic, albeit boring, wake-up scene.

A "rude awakening" might work, but you have to couch it carefully, otherwise it becomes exactly what it is: an attempt to create tension and conflict when it doesn't actually exit in a world readers don't know with characters that aren't fully-formed yet.

So, yeah, a "wake up" scene isn't necessarily the worst thing that you can write, and if you can write it well and meet all the opening criteria, then go for it. The writing will stand for itself, and any decent editor/agent will see that. You do run the chance the an editor/agent even slightly off their game will read the first few lines and send you your rejection notice.

Monday, June 11, 2018

MoviePass and the Case of the Ticket Stubs

The Force is NOT strong with you!

Dear MoviePass:

Taking pictures of ticket stubs is an unnecessary burden for those of us using the service as intended.  If there are issues with fraudulent behavior, tag those accounts and require THEM to take pictures of ticket stubs.  Cancel or place those accounts on hold.  Contact those account users and try to ascertain what the problem is.

Alternately, just FIX your system. 

What you don't do is place the burden of multiple extra steps which can cause all kinds of failure points on your users.  This is just like when Netflix tried to divide their streaming from their DVD service.  You're placing multiple barriers of entry on users who aren't abusing your system, and just want to go see a movie.  If you truly are interested in making MoviePass "sustainable for the entire community" then definitely don't threaten "irreversible termination of your subscription" of users when no suspicious activity has ever been noted.

Thank you for your kind attention!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wedding Cake Confusion

Let them eat cake, just not from Masterpiece Cakeshop!

I keep having to repeat this, so I’m posting this to my blog with all the necessary details for my own benefit.  

This is not an invitation to argue.

Yesterday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a ruling on a case between a baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig.  His stated reason is that making a cake for a gay couple is a violation of his religious beliefs.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

It seems pretty straight-forward.

However, SCOTUS decided in favor of Phillips.

This makes it seem like business owners can now discriminate against people if something about them goes against their religious convictions.

It does not.

The decision was incredibly narrow, threading the needle between the legality of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and Phillips’ First Amendment right to religion.  The Colorado Commission, when executing its anti-discrimination law, came down so heavily on Phillips that it created an obvious bias.  Legally speaking, they weren’t wrong, but they were so extreme in the application of the law, that according to the majority decision written by Justice Kennedy, “[Phillips] might have his right to the free exercise of his religion limited by generally applicable laws . . . [but] the State’s obligation of religious neutrality” is still required.

That is, the State has to at least make the appearance of being impartial when walking the line between anti-discrimination and Constitutional exercise of religion.  This does not mean that businesses can discriminate, but rather that the State of Colorado erred when showing extreme hostility toward Phillips.  Kennedy’s decision also affirmed that that the protections for same-sex couples remains in place and enforceable under various state laws like those of Colorado.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tristan is 8


Hey, my man, my Tris-tan!  You're eight today, and I'm thrilled to see the boy you've become and excited for the person you will be  This is my favorite photo of you (so far)!


Perfect day, perfect model.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Technically, I'm Not Famous

Except I'm not NEARLY that attractive!

Years and years ago, so many that even historians have now lost count, I helped administrate  an online forum community.  The moderator staff was great, and I would buy any one of them a beer if I ran into them.  That was never the problem.  The joy of discussion with interesting, like-minded individuals from around the world quickly waned as I had to deal with all kinds of blah-blah and drama and hate (even a few threats) on every level.  Finally, a minor issue arose and it became the straw that broke my back.  I was bleary-eyed and sallow-skinned from so many hours inside, on the keyboard, explaining yet again that calling other people names is NOT a valid argument strategy.  After the dust settled, I resigned my position.

Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I went outside, and discovered the sun still shone, birds sang, children played (and not just with electronic devices).

I vowed to never administrate another online group!

Well, that worked really well for about ten years.  After I published my first group, I joined all kinds of Facebook communities to try to learn, gain assistance, and (hopefully) promote.  I stumbled into a group—Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers—and . . . nothing.  The group was kind of dead.  There were a few stalwart members, but nothing of note was occurring. There was no drama, no hate, no angry arguments dealing with the Nth degree of pedantry. Days or even a full week would pass where no discussions happened.

The thing was, there were a couple of very smart, very dedicated, even professional, writers in the group.  If I had a real problem, I could post my question, and count on them to actually answer it!  The only trouble was that the guy running the place wasn’t the original founder, and he didn’t really have time to manage it effectively.

One day, he posted that he was going to shut it down.

This never gets old.
I wasn’t too heart-broken.  There wasn’t much community to the group and there a ba-jillion other groups where similar information can be had—after sorting through all the folk who tell you why it can’t be done the way you want to do it.  But I did like the intimacy of posting and receiving a direct answer.

I made a mistake.  I spoke to the guy directly, offered some of my administrator advice and lessons-learned.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  The guy offered me a job.  I’m pretty certain I turned him down flat the first time.  He offered again.  He talked me into it, the jerk.

That was some four years ago, almost to the day.

This morning, as I was going about my duties, checking flagged posts and whatnot, we suddenly had an influx of nearly 100 new members.  That never happens.  At most, we get twenty, and that’s if none of the other moderators have done any work over the weekend.  Turns out, we’re internet famous, and it’s exactly how I would want to be described:

Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers
Are you into Sci-Fi and world building? Then you’ll love the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers group on Facebook. You can post small pieces of work for critique and exchange ideas with other like-minded writers. You’ll get valuable feedback without ridicule or sarcasm. They like to focus on the actual writing part, not on promoting themselves to the group. Spam and promotion are anathema, so only join this group if you’re a serious Sci-Fi / Fantasy writer who wants to learn the craft from other, more experienced authors.

It's not me.  I can assure you.  Anyone who knows me will attest to this in court.


It’s all the hard work and dedication of the other moderators that we’ve added over the years, and the core of dedicated writers who work very hard to answer questions that are being asked.  It’s a really nice feeling to be part of something that has been recognized in this way.

Friday, April 6, 2018

And Jesus Said, WTF DUDE!?

Cherry-picked for your convenience!

This keeps coming up, and rather than re-write the same argument over and over, I’m putting it here so I can more quickly reference.

This meme is making the rounds and while the Bible quote is correct, it is also cherry-picked completely out of context.  Jesus explains his reasoning for buying swords in the next line, which, for some unfathomable reason, always gets left out. After ordering the purchase of the weapon, Jesus says:

"It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." 
Luke 22:37

And clearly, the swords were only procured for that reason, as they come back with just two.  Two swords against a mob, let alone Roman soldiers, is a recipe for suicide and massacre.  It’s clear, that’s not Jesus’ thinking at all, as when they show him the swords Jesus says, "That’s enough!” (Luke 22: 38) Meaning any weapons found among Jesus' inner circle would be enough to make an accusation against him so he could be taken and the process of his sacrifice could begin—which is exactly what happened.

But for those who remain unconvinced, there is the later incident when Peter actually draws one of the swords and strikes.  Jesus sharply rebukes him, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:52

And that’s where we get that line from, which is in concert with Jesus’ previous sentiments throughout his ministry.  Consider his Sermon on the Mount, and his explanation of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9).  It has been pointed out that there is sometimes a peace that can only be found on the other side of war, but that’s clearly not at all what Jesus was talking about, and what Matthew was writing about.  The rest of Matthew 5 is a message of non-violence, culminating in the oft quoted:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5: 38-39

And finally, lest we have any doubt whatsoever, Jesus addresses the entire concept of violence carried out by any of his apostles/disciples in the use of their “armament”:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? Matthew 26: 53

Anyone who doubts that Jesus preached peace should probably review Matthew 5 in its entirety, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 44.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pooh On You Too!


I see it's been awhile . . . Mr. The Pooh.
A couple of years back, I ran across a piece of “Calvin & Hobbes” fan-fiction that really got me—it got to me enough that I re-worked it for my own edification.  Either I’m getting older and all nostalgic, or the impact of a beloved character is truly impressive.

Maybe both.

I took my boys to see A Wrinkle in Time and I’m not going to offer any opinions on the movie just yet.  But as we were watching the various trailers that accompanied the film, one started that I thought for certain was Mary Poppins Returns.

It was not.

It was this trailer for Christopher Robin:



Winne-the-Pooh appears for, maybe, ten seconds in the entire trailer, but DAYUM if that wasn’t enough for me.

Pooh and I go back quite a ways.  Not as much as Christopher Robin, but he was certainly there when I was a babe-in-arms.  As my mother tells it, I was being quite a handful at the local theater in Hawthorne, NV.  The unique thing about this particular theater is they had built in a “cry room” for parents with children such as me.  My mother can probably tell you what movie they were there to see.  I was less than one at the time, so my own thoughts are a bit . . . vague.  Still, as my mother tells it, the short “Winne the Pooh and Tigger Too” came on, and I was immediately hooked.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong affinity for A.A. Milne’s character, but I certainly can relate to him, and his various adventures.  Seeing a grown-up Christopher Robin, played by the excellent Ewan McGregor, who is only a few years older than me, is . . . yeah.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t know why theaters can’t keep invisible, onion-cutting ninjas out, but they had all massed near my seat.

Well done, Mr. Milne.  Well done, Mr. Disney.