Sunday, October 21, 2018

Cover Design

Over at Mad Genius Club Cedar Sanderson is talking about cover design.

She's got a List of Seven Rules, and they're good ones:

  1. Book Covers are Marketing Tools
  2. Clearly Readable at Thumbnail
  3. Fits into Genre Conventions
  4. Use Legible Fonts
  5. Choose Good Art, or at least Clean Backgrounds
  6. Make the Author Name Bigger
  7. Never, Ever, Use an Unfiltered Photograph on Fiction

The last one seems a bit obvious to me and it makes a person wonder what happened to turn it into a specific rule.

Covers are scary to do, though, if you're doing your own.  They're probably scary if you're trusting someone else to do them too!

Here are a couple that I threw together for NaNoWriMo.  These really are just meant to be placeholders thrown together.   Here's my last years cover:

 The picture is from Pixabay and I've rotated and cropped it.  The font was probably one on my Adobe Photoshop/Adobe suite program (which I no longer have).  I love this font.    I really like this cover.  Love it.

It's not a good cover for a couple of reasons.   As marketing it doesn't represent the subgenre of the novel.  I think it says "science fiction" but a bit more literary than it really is.  And the font reinforces that.  And the title refers to one of the groups in the novel but they aren't the focus of the novel, so the title has to go, unfortunately.

What I'm hoping for is figuring out how to get some retro-SF custom artwork, something that harkens back to Frazetta with blasters and tentacles and stuff.

But it sure is a pretty cover, isn't it?

This is this year's cover.  I want my old font back.  I don't like the little serifs on the font.  I just want to cry, "Why?" But this is what was available on the Microsoft Paint that came with my new computer.  The background and the figure are from Pixabay.

I like the background and I sort of like the figure... she needs tobe much more prominent, golden and shining.  As is, she about disappears into the nebula behind her.  But the posture was exactly what I wanted and the colors match nicely and she will have to do.  Probably does better than I should have expected to find and throw together so I'm not complaining.

This also represents the story (as it is conceived so far... it's this year's NaNo so it's not written yet) better than the first one.  It probably needs an exploding spaceship back there, though, in order to be good marketing.

If I could make her glowing and golden and get a font I liked and an exploding spaceship, I might even want to keep this one. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Sami people

Saturday, January 27, 2018

All Art is Propaganda

I wrote a thing.

The last week or so there seems to be a rash of commentary to the tune of “all stories are message stories” or “everything in life is political” or a few other variants of the same idea that it’s impossible to separate message from art or even life.
On the surface of it, it appears obviously true.
Until one examines what these statements are meant to answer.

Check it out.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

"The Science Fiction is Settled."

 But if we are all in harmony and agreement, where do the new ideas come from? Where do the debates and intellectual discussions come from? Where is the future in looking at ourselves in the now?

Somewhat related to personalities in science fiction.  Trooper will recognize names, certainly.  But this essay by Dr. Mauser is an excellent, reasoned and sane examination of a process repeated over and over in every area of our society.

Check it out.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Planetary Fiction, Jupiter - Submissions Open

I'm editing my very first anthology.  It will be the volume of Planetary Fiction, Jupiter, for Superversive SF.   Stories should ideally play with Jupiter related themes of power, authority and leadership.  With a stronger thematic connection the story itself doesn't need to be set at the planet Jupiter.  Hard science fiction or Space Opera, even fantasy is acceptable if it is a great story.  I've said that there will be extra points given for including diamond snowflakes so long as the crystal structure and physics are reasonable.  I maybe should not have said that (though it's true) because sticking snowflakes in every story would get silly very quickly.  I might end up having to pick between them.  So please, only do that if you're carried away by the idea and can't resist. ;)

I am also open to a bit of poetry or non-fiction science, mythology, or historic pieces about Jupiter, though non-fiction should be on the short side of short.

I don't know yet what the plans for cover art are. With all the amazing pictures from Juno it would be a shame not to use them.  Payment is going to be royalties based on sales, in the event anyone buys the anthology.  I don't have a idea of the schedule for publication at this time but submissions will close sometime this fall.  I don't believe in leaving people hanging longer than necessary.

Please send any questions to   If you've got a story to submit, please send it as an attachment to an email with the subject line "Jupiter", with contact information in the body of the email, to   If either of those don't work (they are new) leave me a note here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Flash fiction

“The legumes aren’t setting nitrogen.” 

The head botanist stood in the door of the colonial governor’s office. She thought she saw the papers in his hand tremble. “How?” 

“The.. the symbiotic bacteria are all dead.” 

“This is a problem?” 

“Yes!” the botanist took a few steps into the room. “Plants don’t grow without nitrogen. We’re all going to die.” 

“Horse shit.” 

“What do you mean, horse shit? It’s true! Dear god, didn’t you attend 5th grade!” 

The governor took a deep breath and sighed. “Horses… shit… nitrogen.” 

The botanist blinked a few times and turned red. “We’re all gonna die… and then you’ll be sorry…” 

The man left and a few moments later the door to the governor’s office was filled by a young woman. 
The papers in her hand trembled…

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Proof of concept...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Maybe it will work next time...

I drew this.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"I could have been her friendly acquaintance but she wouldn't allow it. She didn't have any of those."

When my kids were young and we homeschooled I met another mother at one of our "park days". As our children played we introduced ourselves and began to chat.  Very early on, as part of her introduction actually, she shared a very interesting fact about herself.  "People either love me or they hate me," she said.  She laughed as though this strange fact was a happenstance of fate.  People either thought she was wonderful or hated her.

Read more »

Monday, April 18, 2016

All of Her Fathers

All of Her Fathers

The Ship was all that Malene had ever known and she knew it very well.  As an infant she learned its sounds, the motor hums, droning fans, snaps and pings.  The constant low vibration of the main drive sounded to her as the blood coursing through a mother's arteries sounds to the unborn.
In toddlerhood she learned the spaces, the nooks and crannies.  She learned the places of safety and the places of danger and what to never touch.
As a small child she learned to read and to understand, to use the computer consoles, to tend the plants and protein vats.  She learned where her fathers went when they left, and she learned where the new fathers came from.  The placard next to the door said, "Cryonics Bay."
She went there now because she missed her old fathers.  If she stood on her toes she could see their faces through the small window in each plasteel and ceramic cylinder.  She had no memory of the first two fathers, but she'd asked and found out who they were.  Ensign Joshua Davis and Master Sergeant Drew Matthews.  She looked at their stiff cold faces, one and then the other, and tried to imagine them warm and moving and talking to her, holding her in their arms. 
She remembered the next two fathers.  Sergeant Wayne Butter was in the first row next to the door.  He was a stern and unhappy memory, angry words and yelling.  But her other father from that time had been funny and played games with her.  Father Wayne hadn't liked the games.  So now father Bernie was gone.  She'd found his cylinder, warm and empty.  She passed a sad hand over it and moved on.
Her next two fathers were beside each other toward the back of the long room.  Corporal Ted Butler and Lieutenant Frank Mark.  Father Ted taught her to read and to write.  Father Frank taught her to fight, to kick and to punch.  He taught her about privacy and modesty and the need to be alone some times for some things.
Two more warm empty cylinders.  Sergeant Mark Schneider was up in the control room where she had just had a lesson about reading system displays.  Later he'd drill math and astronomy.  He was kind and liked to tell stories.  Sergeant Vlad Jones was waiting for her at hydroponics to explain the cell structure of plants.  She didn't think father Vlad liked her much, but he was also teaching her more about fighting and she did her best for him.
Soon.  Soon it would be time to get new fathers.  There were six more fathers waiting.  She went from one little window to the next, staring at the gray, frozen faces.  Who would it be?  Would they be nice or stern?  Would they know how to help her through puberty, whatever that was?  She'd heard Vlad say to father Mark that he was glad to have missed that part.  She hadn't got up the nerve to ask what it was.
Father Mark talked about the cryogenic process and how each cylinder had to be matched with the physiology of the person who would be in it or the person would die.  For the first time she asked why she did not have her own cylinder.  Father Vlad explained that this kind of ship, a military ship, didn't usually have any children on board and that was why.
She'd been about to ask him why she was on the ship, if military ships didn't carry children, but his face was closed and cold and she knew not to ask any more.
"Malene, child, there you are."  Father Vlad's voice broke through her reverie.  "I should have known where you'd be off to." 
"Father," she asked. "Who is going to be next?  And how soon?"  He seemed in a good mood and it made her bold.  "I have so many questions that I want to ask."
"And you can't ask me?" he said.
"Well," she hesitated.  "You sometimes get mad when I ask too many questions."
He began to frown at her but instead he managed to smile.  "I... you are right.  I'm sorry.  But please ask anyway.  I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to miss your growing up--frozen in here.  So I'll try, even though I'm not very good at it, Okay?"
"Well, okay."  She looked at him very seriously.  Her fathers had talked often of where they were going; a green planet called Verdal with millions and millions of people where there were unbelievable wonders around every corner.  "Where did we come from?  Where did this ship start out?"
"It started out at Verdal." 
"Then, if children aren't usually taken on military ships, why didn't you just leave me there?  Why did you take me along with you?" 
"We didn't take you with us," Father Vlad said softly.  His eyes looked far away. "We found you. Come with me."  He held out his hand and she took it.  He looked grimmer and grimmer as they made their way up to the control room until she was frightened and regretted asking him, but too late now.
Father Mark smiled at them when they came into the control room then looked at Father Vlad.  "What is it?  Did something happen?"
"Bring up the remote visual displays Mark, let's have a look at the cargo frames."
Father Mark's head jerked around and he stared at Father Vlad.  Malene stayed very still.  Father Vlad was gripping her hand too hard.  She bit her lip and tried to wiggle her fingers.
The visual display was as tall as she was and twice as wide.  It stretched across the bulkhead above the chairs and consoles of the duty stations.  Father Mark entered the commands and the display became a star field.  Malene picked out the brightest stars and named them to herself.  Then the star field slid in a great blur.  The bright fire of the star drive pushing their ship through space washed the stars away for a moment and then dimmed and she could see the great bulk of the ship itself.  Then the display slid again and she was looking at the cargo frames of the ship, just like the schematic diagrams she had memorized, except that something nestled between them.  Another ship.
Father Vlad finally dropped her hand and she walked over to the controls.  Father Mark moved from the seat and she sank into it.  Her feet almost touched the floor.  Malene pushed the controls without thinking.  It was as natural to her as walking and she flew the remote camera around the little ship examining it from all angles.  Finally she backed away again until she could see the entire cargo frame surrounding it.
"This one isn't in the data catalog."  Her clear girl voice spoke into the silence.
Father Mark shot a questioning look toward Father Vlad.  "You are right," he said.  "We've never seen a ship like that before.  We don't know which colony made it."
"You found me on this ship?"
"Can I see inside?"
"I'm sure that Father Mark can set that up for you."  The two men looked at each other for a time in that way that meant they didn't want to tell her something and then Father Mark nodded.  Father Vlad smiled grimly. "And aren't you supposed to be showing me what you know about the nutrient uptake of Soybeans just now?"
Malene rose obediently and with a single glance back followed Father Vlad out into the corridor.  After that her lessons included learning as much as she could of the new ship.
A short time later she said good-bye to Fathers Vlad and Mark and watched alongside her new fathers, Captain Chuck Castway and Lt. Otto Sams as the warmth bled from her old father's faces and the Cryo-tube's windows acquired a hint of frost.  She cried alone, later.
Father Chuck was the one who ended up having to explain what puberty was and why, though it didn't actually become an issue until her next set of fathers.  Father Otto liked to set her puzzles to solve and taught her to play chess.  Without knowing he taught her the trick Father Mark had used to limit her explorations of the inside of the strange ship and she discovered the chamber where the bodies lay frozen in neat rows. But the little ship had no Cryonics Bay.  Those frozen people would never wake to take their turn as fathers, and now that she understood reproduction, as mothers.  To ask which of the bodies were her first parents would have given away her secret, so she didn't ask.
She visited those frozen dead almost as often as she walked through the Cryogenics Bay to run a hand lovingly over the frosty cylinders there.  Her next fathers were Sgt. Axel Trent and Pvt. Robert Strong.  Father Robert liked to play games on the large display.  Sometimes they flew fantastical ships and tried to blow each other up.  Other times they explored enormous virtual worlds filled with strange monsters.  Sometimes they appeared as costumed people who fought hand to hand.  And sometimes Malene even won.
The one time she tried talk about the changes in her body Father Axel became so embarrassed that she determined to rely on Father Chuck's explanations and the files he'd marked for her in the data catalog, and deal with it on her own.
Her next fathers were Corporal Travis Brownsburrow and Major Albert Jorgenson.  She freely explored the data catalog these days and her fathers only occasionally checked to see that she was studying her Calculus.  She knew more than they did about the hydroponics systems, though Father Travis led her through and made her memorize every part of the ship's environmental recyclers.  Major Albert was a difficult Father and she mostly avoided him.  Though she admitted avoiding him might be partly due to her second secret.
She had found the visual recordings of the day they had found her on the small ship.  Major Albert had almost caught her looking at them but she switched at random to another visual file that turned out to be a movie of men and women naked together that made Major Albert very angry when he saw it.
"We haven't allowed you to watch most of the recordings in the library because we didn't want you to be confused," he explained when he'd calmed down.  "You don't have experience to know which parts of them are real and what parts are made up."
But what she had discovered was most certainly real.  Included in the visual record of that day was Major Jorgenson arguing that they were not equipped to care for her. That whoever stayed awake to care for her would lose irretrievable years of his life. He even suggested that it might be best to let her die. And she would have hated him for that except that some of those who had agreed with him in the recording had been the kindest of fathers and had helped her the most.  She felt a profound sort of insight could be hers if she could find a way to understand why that was so. She watched that part of the record again from time to time.
Her favorite part of the visual recordings, though, were those of a frightened Ensign Joshua Davis sent to secure the passages of the ship.  His voice quavered as he reported each corridor secure, his helmet light shining a beam through the darkness.  When the beam crossed one of the dead crew he would jump and the picture displayed on the screen would jerk around.  It made her laugh.  She counted his steps, that portion of the record memorized, as he came into the cabin where he found her. 
A woman lay dead on the bed and Malene gazed at her with warm affection.  This would be her first mother, who had prepared for her when she'd known help was on the way but would arrive only when there was no air left to breathe. 
Ensign Davis' step woke the baby within the bubble next to the dead woman on the bed.  That's me, Malene thought.  The crying was weak.  The visual angle changed as Joshua crouched down for a better look.
"I've found someone alive."  The frightened quaver was gone.  He sounded quite calm and rather awed.  "Do we have the atmosphere check yet?"
A voice came back.  "No pathogens, all clear there.  Not enough oxygen but the pressure is fine.  What are you up to Davis?"
"Tell the Captain I found a baby."  There was a click and a soft alarm began to beep as he broke the seal on his suit.  A hand slid into the sleeve and glove that were part of the bubble and touched the squalling infant.  Ensign Davis' hand.  He rummaged around in the blankets and came up with a bottle and popped it into Malene's open mouth.
Later he would be the one holding her as the other men argued about what they would do.  He was the one who hotly declared that he'd stay awake himself for the whole trip if none others cared to lose years.
When they reached Verdal she would be the same age as Ensign Davis. She realized that Ensign Davis was kind and would certainly be her friend but that he hadn't spent the last three years falling in love with her as she had with him.  And after a while she even accepted it.

She continued to visit her fathers in their frozen sleep.  She gazed at their faces and touched the windows fondly, tall enough now to do so without stretching.  But when she was done visiting her fathers, she also visited her friend.

Monday, September 07, 2015

All my message fic is short...

“I’m going to give them a piece of my mind!”

Tully sent a worried look toward his sister.  “They have security.  What are you going to do?”

“Something no one else has the stones to do.  What are our elected officials good for?  The police?  I’m going to tell those thieving monsters what the people really think is what I’m going to do.”  Bellit stuffed her arms into a ragged jacket to ward off the dock-side chill and checked the coins in her pockets.

“They have immunity, Bellit.  They could just shoot you.”

“That’s exactly the problem,” Bellit snapped.  Tully followed her out of their appartment and waved his hand over the lock to secure the door.  

Bellit called out to friends and neighbors, “If you’re tired of being taken advantage of,” she shouted in a ringing tone, “come with me!  The Jaholoway merchant ships just landed.  They can intimidate our governor but they can’t intimidate us!”

The size of the crowd that Bellit gathered wasn’t apparent unless one knew the usual patterns of traffic on the dock-side streets.  The size was also disguised by frequent forays down side roads and into shops.  There were Jaholoway crew members in groups of three and four on the sidewalks.  Inhuman faces and strange gaits marked them as surely as their identical-except-for-rank ship uniforms.  Neither Bellit nor any of the others following in her wake would recognize the Jaholoway commander by sight, though she’d been prominently featured on the news programs, but they all knew that her uniform would have three starbursts on the collar and gold braid on the cuffs.

They found the commander on one of the higher end side streets, naturally, about to enter a pricy restaurant.

“The People,” Bellit shouted in her impressive voice, “have something to say to you!”

The Jaholoway commander turned slowly, one hand raised palm down in a gesture to her body guards.  A local fat-cat started toward Bellit before cowing and retreating at a mere glance from the visiting merchant lord.


The oxygen seemed to leave the street.  The pink of the sky burned into Bellit’s memories of the moment.  The crowd that had dogged her steps coalesced around her, blocking traffic.  Everything stopped.

“Indeed.” The commander repeated.  

Bellit gulped and then firmed her shoulders.

“You come to steal from us,” she said, “to steal our labor, our goods.   We give.  You take.  People here need the food that will be loaded onto your ships.  Our people are starving and you’ll take what little we have.  And you refuse to follow our laws, as if you’re better than us!  You’re not better than us.”

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s what I know.” Bellit had reached her stride and pounded her chest on the word know. “They made the announcements so that we would all know the evil deal you forced on our governor and on the port.  You could shoot me, kill all of us, and never pay.”

“And yet,” the alien commander purred in perfectly understandable dockside patois, “here you stand.”

“My sister is very brave,” Tully announced.

The commander’s strange yellow eyes turned to rest on him.  He shivered.


“You admit it’s true?  You don’t have to obey our laws?”  Bellit took a step forward and thrust her chin toward the alien.

“That we don’t have to follow your laws?  We have our own laws, child, and I’ll not allow my crew to walk the streets of a strange port defenseless to the whim and caprice of the locals.  Would you?  Do you know how many ports would arrest you for what you are doing this moment?”

“They are dictatorships and horrors,” Bellit said with a snap.  “We are a free nation that respects the rights of all citizens to speak!”

“But it would seem, not to be educated.”  The commander betrayed agitation, or so it seemed to the humans present.  

“We have universal education!  And that is why you can’t deceive us with pretty words about how it’s actually good for us to be stolen from.”

“I have contracts.  Goods to deliver and goods to load.”

“To line the pockets of fat cats like him?” Bellit sneered and spat the ground in front of the cowering local.  “Thieves doing business with thieves.  You should all go home!  And he,” Bellit snapped at the human in his fine clothes, “he should actually contribute to the community instead of taking from it.  Do you see anyone here dressed as well?  He lines his pockets with other people’s wealth.”

“I see.”

The alien merchant commander turned to one of her bodyguards and launched into a series of alien words.  The bodyguard gave a very human nod and turned away, repeating much the same sounds into a radio.  The commander turned back to Bellit and stepped within a few inches of her.  One gray hand came up to cup the soft human cheek while yellow eyes searched human gray.

“You will receive your wish, though I suspect that even then you’ll blame me for the consequences.”

And then they were gone.

The commander and her entourage melted into the crowds.

“What just happened?”  Tully put a hand on his sister’s arm.  Bellit blinked a few times.

“I think we won.”

Not an hour later the Jaholoway ship cast off its moorings and thundered into the sky.

Aboard, the commander gave orders to navigation for a large port on a small continent on the other side of the world.  She retired to her office for a cup of tea and to wait.  The call came in before she had a chance to finish her tea.  The human official that appeared on her display was flushed and disordered.

“You can’t mean to default on our agreements on the word of a loudmouthed activist child! We gave you everything you wanted.”

“Of course not,” the Jaholoway commander agreed.  “But upon returning to the ship I reviewed records other than our own communications.  You seem adept at giving people everything they want.  I applaud you.  However, it makes doing business here impossible.”

“We’ll arrest the girl.”

“I’ve no doubt about that.”

“Return to port, we can work this out.”

“No.”  Gray fingers caressed the edge of the tea cup and yellow eyes searched the face of the human governor.  “You’ll arrest the girl to cover your own failure.  You’re the one who gave her an enemy, someone to blame for the poverty I saw on your streets.  You deftly turned her discontent outward in exchange for her vote.  For your political position, to put it bluntly.  Can I do business with someone who sells the future in order to win office?  You’re a skilled speech giver.  The girl is as well.  She’ll come out of prison to take your place, eventually.”

“We. Need. Your. Business.” The human leaned forward toward the video pick-up until his nose enlarged and his face distorted. “Those poor people need the goods you brought.  They need what trade will bring us.  We need the outside capital.  You’re making their lives worse.  If this port doesn’t become an active trade hub, the whole region will suffer.”


“You’d hurt all of those people out of spite?”

“Ah,” this time the alien actually smiled. “You should go with that one during the next elections.  I anticipate your success.  Good evening, Governor.  I have some dirty nasty commerce that requires my attention.”

With the touch of a button the connection closed.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Saved for future reference.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

"... but I don't trust humans in general..."

I'm putting this here so I can find it back.  This was part of a comment from someone arguing for gun banning.

"... but I don't trust humans in general ..."

See now, this is what is sad and this is why we lose our freedom.  This is how laws are passed that assume that adult people are really children and need to be controlled.

The most salient fact of the existence of the 2nd Amendment is that it declares all citizens trustworthy adults who the government MAY NOT decide are too untrustworthy to be armed.  

Throughout History, in every culture on every continent, those deemed trustworthy go armed and those deemed untrustworthy are disarmed.  Full citizens in one culture after another signify their full citizenship with weapons.  The very names of some cultures are those of the weapon that full citizens carried. (ie, Saxons).  Subordinate people, serfs and slaves, were disarmed because (and for good reason) letting them have weapons was dangerous to the ruling class.  A significant portion of Asian martial arts are directly derived from people learning to fight with things that were not weapons, but mere tools, because the common people were systematically disarmed.  The rulers?  The rulers always have weapons.

The primary "message" of the gun control in major US cities is... we do not trust law abiding black adults.  This lack of trust is a direct statement that the people subjected are subjected and therefore a threat.   Now maybe in other countries people are used to having rulers and a ruling class but we're not supposed to have rulers here, and our whole society and philosophy, the whole notion of democracy, is that citizens are trustworthy.   When we treat the average law abiding guy as a threat... we've violated that idea of equality and self-rule in a fundamental and profoundly damaging way.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Who'd have thought that "underground" involved so much UP!

We climbed about 600 feet, not counting the down and back up parts, to nearly 7000ft at the top.  In between we crawled (part of it was crawling) into the Galena King Mine.  I went on this trip last fall, too, but this time I got better interior pictures of the crystal bands above our heads.  The pretty blue is Fluorite.  I'd been asked by someone to look for Wulfenite and the bright orange *might* be, but it was too far above my head to see for certain.  The only minerals of interest to our class (and to long ago miners) were the Fluorite, Galena, and Barite.

looking up... men could stand
on those logs, and did.
The blue is fluorite, but what is
bright orange and pink?

Pretty darn good for a phone camera.

Outside, 7000 feet up.  "Nellie Mine" shaft in the middle
distance.  They dug up a lot of nothing and left a hole.
 Mt. Taylor in the far distance.