NaNoWriMo Victory!

Winning NaNoWriMo has always been easy for me. The thing is, this year I had a different, much more important writing deadline. It’s official now, I failed to complete a draft of Munchies in time to slide it to Kij over winter break. The late push has been extremely fertile; just yesterday I wrote a scene that is both touching and gut-wrenching. I’d say more but then it would be a spoiler. Poor Agatha.

Meanwhile, there was NaNoWriMo. Really, you’re not supposed to extend an existing work, but that rule’s been largely ignored from the beginning. This year I also ignored that rule. The kids at NaNoCetral also suggest many ways to pad word count; I abused those suggestions and invented a new one all my own.

The ultimate result coming out of November: some really good scenes — a few even approaching publishable quality — but not a novel to ship. Those scenes, and a crapload of other words. I’m claiming victory this year, but it’s the first time in more than a decade that I’ve felt a little defensive about it. I didn’t win the way I like to win.

The Weight of Blood

Many of you who read these pages will be familiar with The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, a tongue-in-cheek series of questions every aspiring fantasy novelist should review. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, you should seriously consider pitching your story in the proverbial dustbin and starting over.

I have started reading a story, the first part of which is available for free from the iBook store, called The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs, Book 1), which accomplishes something I’ve never seen before. The title scores three points.

Other than The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy, what titles have you seen that proudly proclaim that no cliché is too stale to put in the ensuing story?

(As an aside, the story’s not bad so far. I’ll fill you in later. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.)

Note: if you use the above link to somehow pay for this free book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

Wrapping up Shadow of the Sun

As I mentioned previously, I picked up Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer for free as the first Kindle book I loaded onto my shiny new iPad. Her goal, I’m sure, is to get people to read the first volume and subsequently pay for the following volumes.

While I found the story interesting, I will not be one of those to pony up for the sequels. The pity is that some of the flaws in this volume could easily have been avoided. Others are more systemic.

I marked more than twenty errors of grammar or editing while I read. That’s not very good, but for very long passages that I read while working out, I was not able to mark the errors I found. It would not surprise me if there were fifty errors in this volume that a good proofreader would have found. A misspelling on the first page, for crying out loud, and the horrific offense of using setup as a verb happened somewhere in there.

The other way strong editorial guidance could have helped is with a long stretch of story that went: “I was so sad I thought I would die! Then I got SADDER and I really thought I was going to die from the sheer weight of sorrow. Then I got EVEN SADDER…”

All this piling of sadness on sadness, punctuated with backstory, got pretty old. Then the action begins! And ends! After a long action sequence earlier, this climactic one at the end of the book was over in a flash, and seemed like it was just to get us moved on past the parade of pathos and into the next book.

Ah, the next book. This volume actually did feel like something was concluded: Act One. We get a real sense that the main character is moving on (after a heartbreaking funeral scene). Considering how open-ended the ending was, It did provide some closure on what had gone before.

Meanwhile, there was an extra dude in this book, whose only purpose was to fulfill the rule that spunky female leads must have more than one alpha male hot for them. This character did absolutely zero in this book but be a nice guy who miraculously survives shit that blows away supernatural beings. In the teaser for the next book, we see he will play a much larger role. Note to Ms. Kreitzer: you could have just waited and introduced him in book two and no one would have thought twice about it. I think a good editor would have suggested that Nice Guy not be there the whole time.

Having said all that, I didn’t dislike the book. With more action (not just violence–nudge, nudge) and less moping it would have been a fun read and I might have been tempted to pony up for the next episode. As it is, there are just too many other more-tightly-written spunky heroines with multiple suitors, and some of them aren’t even Chosen Ones.

Note: if you use the above link to somehow pay for this free book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

Amazon Links Restored

Jerry Brown saw reason, and now people in California can be Amazon affiliates again. Hooray!

Actually, this happened a while ago, but I’m just now getting around to restoring all the links on this site to my affiliate account instead of the the other account that was cared for by someone in another state.

All is back to normal here, so if you’re going to be shopping at Amazon anyway, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d start with the link in the sidebar.

Thanks!

Intracorporeal Memo

To: Heart, Lungs, Legs
From: Brain
Re: Exercise intensity

Exercise intensity will continue to increase. Get used to it.

Note: Way to hang in there, knees. Keep up the good work.

A Budgetary Splash of Cold Water

The United States’ military is pretty frickin’ awesome. Consider this: Europe has gone 65 years without a major war, perhaps for the first time ever. It’s easy for us to take for granted now, but sixty-five years without a war between European powers is unheard of. Our boys on the ground over there have been a factor, for sure. NATO, which the United States anchors, not only answered pressure from the east but made war between Norway and England impossible.

Part of our success is that we have committed to making every infantryman* worth twice what any other country can field, through technology and training. This means fewer of our guys get killed to achieve a given political objective. That’s a good thing.

But.

Our military is really, really, expensive. Let’s go back to Europe for a moment. It’s easy to argue that without American commitment Europe would not have achieved the solidarity and economic integration it has today. Hooray! But now it’s time to say, “mission accomplished.” We just don’t have tens of billions of dollars to spend on the defense of Europe every year while they become an economic partner/rival to us.

In the price of every Cadillac (and every beer) is the cost of defending Germany from attack. The Germans put their taxes to use building infrastructure.

And then there’s Japan. At the end of WWII we required that they look to us to defend them. At the time it made sense, more or less. We wanted to ensure that they would not become an aggressor nation again. Well, they didn’t. Instead they worked their asses off and went from ruin to one of the world’s great economic powers. Rather than resent their rise, America should be proud of it. It wouldn’t have happened without us. What’s best is that they tied their economy entirely to ours. Sure we have our differences, but we have no ally whose interests are more tightly intertwined with our own. The United States and Japan are the world’s economic odd couple, but it works.

And still, the US bears almost the full cost of defending Japan. Ironically, over there, a lot of folks would like to see us go. There have been problems. Yet we stay.

In the price of every Ford (and every ice cream cone) is the cost of defending Japan from attack. The Japanese spend their taxes building their industries.

Meanwhile, we’re fighting two ground wars and trying to maintain a peacetime economy. Somehow people are still surprised at the difficulty of reining in ridiculous government borrowing. Sure there’s plenty of other waste in the government, but we’ve dumped a trillion dollars (a TRILLION! A fucking trillion!) into a war with no good possible outcome.

And still we dump, and good Americans die, the best soldiers the planet has ever known, the ones who can accomplish a political goal more efficiently than any other force in history, and they’re being dicked over at tremendous expense to all of us, for a political goal that has long since passed into irrelevance.

It is not with disrespect to the guys out there who have accomplished so much that I call for an enormous reduction in military spending. It is because they did so well that our allies are now able to stand on their own. The best thing our armed forces have accomplished is a dramatic reduction in war. Pax America, baby. It’s real.

But now it’s time to let the world take care of itself for a while. Europe’s good, and it won’t take long for Japan to feel secure. Taiwan, not so simple. Iraq, it doesn’t matter if we pull out tomorrow or twenty years from now; violence will ensue. May as well get it over with. Afghanistan, I think we stick there. Recognize that had we not gone off and invaded Iraq, we could have done right by those guys.

We can probably still afford one ground war, if it’s small.

—-

* In the end, it’s all about the infantry. Sure the airplanes the the cruise missiles kick ass, but sooner or later someone has to walk where someone else does’t want him to. All the stealth bombers and MOABs are just fireworks. You win when your guys are standing on the street corers.**

** Except, I have to add, that that’s when we lost Iraq. The victors were entirely unprepared to be police, and in twenty-four hours the US Army’s disregard for civil law and order was felt. America’s biggest supporters were looted into bankruptcy overnight, and the rest is history. Stop the looting right then and there, and you send a message: this is still a nation of law. Stay inside for a few days, let us know if you need anything, and we really hope your own police come back to patrol. If they don’t, we’re here. The law is here.
Even a passing mention to the advancing army that they were responsible for civil order might have averted a decade of futile battle. It’s even in the Geneva convention. “In war, plan for peace,” Sun Tsu advised. EPIC FAIL in Iraq. Trillion-dollar epic fail. Possibly the biggest blunder in US military history. I can’t think of a worse one.

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Nice View They’ve Got

Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of my favorite sites, but yesterday’s edition was even better than most. I’ve always wanted to see the aurora borealis, and I will, dammit, but now I also want to see the northern lights from space.

Can someone hook me up?