Zombies on my Shoulder

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a gun that I could give you
I’d give to you a gun that’s just like mine
If I had a torch that I could light for you
I’d light that torch so you could see it shine.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a car that I could drive for you
I’d weld on armor and a big plow blade
And if I saw you bitten by a zombie
I’d cut your f*ckin’ head off with a spade.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.

Zombies almost always make me fearful, mmmmmmm….
Zombies always want to make me die….

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It’s Spring!

Four to six inches expected and it’s snowing like a hamster right now.

Happy Vernal Equinox, y’all!

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A Special Hell

So there I was, listening to The Dinner Party on NHPR, specifically Episode 243: Pharrell, Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen, and Much MØ , where we learn of musical ice cream, a Broadway show called “The Moose Murders” (that closed after one performance) expressed in the form of a cocktail, and Stonehenge.

But that isn’t what I’m going to talk about. Later on in the program we got an Etiquette Advice segment. And right around minute 34 we meet Jordan, from Greensboro, North Carolina, who has a problem. When he’s watching movies at home with his wife, she “multitasks.” She spends the time talking on her cell phone.

“…you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.”
– Shepherd Book (Firefly)

The advice-to-the-etiquettely-challenged folks said that it was no big deal, that different people enjoy movies in different ways, and he should just get over it. After all, “You’re spending time together.”

My instant reaction was: Divorce her. There is no future in this marriage.

Supposing that he can’t divorce her (it’s against his religion; her father owns the company where he’s pulling down an executive-vice-president salary just for showing up), he has two choices: either watch movies alone, or get a mistress who knows that talking during a movie is just Not Done.

Which gets us around to today’s Grammar Trivia: when do you capitalize the first word following a colon?

The rule is this: Colons separate sentences. The second-and-subsequent sentences explain or illustrate something in the first sentence. If only one sentence follows the colon, its first letter is not capitalized. If two or more sentences follow the colon, the first letter of each sentence is capitalized.

Examples (taken from our own works; the permissions weren’t terribly hard to get):

Harlin turned the switch patching the EDS to Records, and closed out the comm log on the transmission: time, date, duration, frequency, signal strength.


Here’s the thing: It’s written in no known language, in no known alphabet. It’s illustrated with pictures of no known plants, and with star charts showing no known constellations.

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The Supernatural Found

Today let’s look at the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hillbilly Hare” (widely available on DVD). Leaving aside the very 1950s attitudes toward the South and toward rural poverty, this cartoon is best known for its long Square Dance sequence. It has also been extensively censored for its violence. But what do we notice?

  • Bugs Bunny is playing fiddle, and the fiddle is known as “the devil’s instrument.”
  • The brothers, Curt and Punkinhead Martin, are clearly terrified but unable to resist following any square-dance call, no matter how painful, degrading, or potentially fatal. They are under a geas.
  • Curt and Punkinhead are unable to cross running water (they make it half-way across the bridge, then re-emerge from the water on the same side that they entered).

And when does all this start? After the Martins vow, “We’ll get that critter ifn it takes until Doomesday,” in the Greenwood. Anyone with a basic knowledge of folklore would know that swearing an oath like that either in the greenwood or on the ocean (see, for example, Peter Rugg the Missing Man of Boston, the Flying Dutchman, and numerous other examples) would have a bad outcome.

I suspect that Sam and Dean Winchester should investigate that Wascally Wabbit. They’ve already met The Trickster. They know what to do.

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This coming week, 2-8 March 2014, is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

2013 was a pretty bad year for weather events:

In 2013, there were 7 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event, and the western drought / heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. Further data and figures on individual events will be announced later in the year.

2014 isn’t starting off too well as far as severe weather goes, with blizzards and severe cold. The rest of the year … anyone’s guess.

Which is why I’m going to suggest that y’all make your plans now and get your supplies together now. I’ve put together some inventory lists for go-bags, and written extensively on emergency preparedness elsewhere.

One other note: If you have a carbon monoxide detector (what do you mean you don’t?! they’re just twenty bucks! go get one…) and it’s going off, what you do is find out why, not disable it. We recently had a very sad case here in New Hampshire; three found dead, one hospitalized, and the batteries had been taken out of their CO detector.

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“Like a Wasp to the Tongue” in Asimov’s April/May Issue

Originally posted on ~ fran wilde ~:

Hooray! The April/May double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction is on its way!

My story, “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” joins tales by my delightful Philly neighbor Michael Swanwick, the wonderful James Patrick Kelly, M. Bernardo , William Preston, Robert Reed (I loved his story “Katabasis” in Fantasy & Science Fiction last year), Matthew Johnson, K.J. Zimring, and Joe M. McDermott in the latest issue.

Rumor is the e-book version is already out. WHEE.

I’ve loved this magazine since I was a kid. It’s where I’ve found some of my favorite authors. To say I’m delighted and honored to be on the same table of contents with the writers above is an understatement.

Asimov’s is available in hardcopy from Dell Magazines. It is also available from multiple purveyors of e-magazines, including: Barnes & Noble | Amazon (kindle) | iPad | Kobo | Magzter | Google play

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On Old Things

You know how it says in the Bible “Of the making of books there is no end,” and “there is nothing new under the sun”? It’s true.

The furniture and fashions differ, but as I’ve said before (and will say again) “The oldest engines haul the heaviest freight.”

While on my way to and from Boskone I listened to an audiobook version of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. And while down in Connecticut the past couple of days I watched The Wings of Eagles and 3 Godfathers, both directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. I had never seen either film, nor read the book. I found them diverting.

Times change, fashions change, furniture changes, but a story doesn’t need to be new. It just has to be new to the reader.

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On Marketing

Marketing is more or less telling people that you’ve written something and maybe they’d like to read it.

At a commercial publisher about half the staff will be in marketing. (Any time you hear someone say that commercial publishers don’t (or no longer) market their books and authors, you can discount anything else that person says … they don’t know what they’re talking about.)

Marketing consists of advertising and promotion. Here’s how to tell the difference: Advertising costs money. Promotion doesn’t. Thus, authors may do promotion but shouldn’t do advertising.

Here’s how to tell if you, as an author, should bother with marketing: If you enjoy it and do it well, you can market your books. If you enjoy it but don’t do it well, you shouldn’t market your books. If you do it well but don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t market your books. If you don’t enjoy it and don’t do it well, you definitely shouldn’t market your books.

What should you do instead? Write another, better, book and publish it at the best place you can. The number one reason anyone buys a book is that the reader has read and enjoyed another story by that same author. All the other reasons fade into single digit or fractions of percentages.

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My Boskone Sked

This weekend I’ll be at the Boskone science fiction convention.

Here are my panels:

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Friday 17:00 – 17:50

When we finally meet the aliens, how will the encounter affect the Earth’s religions? Does their sentience guarantee a soul capable of salvation? Is it likely that they will be creatures of faith? Will they adopt our creeds? Will we convert to theirs? Will they deflate old beliefs, or inspire new ones? How have SF writers handled these questions so far? What frontiers of faith have yet to be explored?

Guy Consolmagno Janice Gelb, James D. Macdonald

World War I and the Literature It Inspired

Saturday 11:00 – 11:50

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. How did the war affect literature, including SF and fantasy? What topics and stories have come out of it? Panelists discuss not only the history of WWI, but also the literature inspired by it — including alternate histories that explore what might have gone differently.

Tim Szczesuil (M), Myke Cole, Tom Shippey, Michael F. Flynn, James D. Macdonald

Writing Workshops: What’s Right for You?

Saturday 12:00 – 12:50

Thinking about attending a writing workshop or an MFA program? Wonder how to pick which one is right for you? Once you do, then what? There is no magic formula to elicit an acceptance letter, but a solid application is a good place to start. Join representatives from various writing programs and learn how to present the best of what you have to offer as a student.

Jeanne Cavelos (M), Alexander Jablokov, James D. Macdonald, Theodora Goss, Shahid Mahmud

Autographing with Debra Doyle, James D. Macdonald & Darrell Schweitzer

Sunday 11:00 – 11:50

Reading by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald

Sunday 13:30 – 13:55

I hope to see y’all there.

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On Not Being Scammed

I might as well bring this up now: I have another rule: Yog’s Law: Money Flows Toward the Author. While information wants to be free, entertainment wants to be well-paid, and we’re part of the entertainment industry. “Show business” has two words: “show” and “business.” Despite some hilarious efforts by notorious scammers and bottom-feeding vanity publishers (who have even gone so far as to set up web pages trying (vainly) to “disprove” Yog’s Law), it’s held true ever since I formulated it more than twenty years ago.

“But wait,” I can hear you saying, “how about self-publishing? The author pays for everything there!”

Only, not really. Even if the author is the publisher, the publisher still pays for all the editing, formatting, cover art, advertising, distribution, and so forth and so on. The author collects royalties from the publisher. This may be money moving from one pocket to another in the same pair of pants, but it’s moving from the “publisher” side to the “author” side. If you can’t afford to take 15% of the cover price of each copy sold and put it into a fund labeled “Royalties” (or “Retirement,” or “Vacation,” or “Groceries”), may I suggest that you can’t afford to self-publish? Not including “author’s royalties” as a line-item in the business plan is the #1 error I see among self-publishers. (For those who are interested, I’ve been self-publishing since 1978 and 100% of my income since 1988 has come from writing; I like to think I know what I’m talking about.)

That self-published work is still available (for values of “available” that may not include “able to get a copy”) here.

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