An Early Opportunity

Dr. Doyle's Blog

In honor of Nanowrimo, and of the onset of the winter heating season,† I’ll be running a seasonal sale on editorial and critique services from now through the end of Thanksgiving weekend. My usual rate of $1500 for a line-edit and critique on a standard-weight novel goes down to $1000 for the duration, and rates for epic-sized doorstops will be similarly discounted.

As always, you can purchase a gift certificate – as a gift for a friend, or for yourself – to be redeemed at a later date.

The snow that fell last Friday? Is still here.

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A Not Entirely Disinterested Public Service Announcement

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Fantasy writer Jo Walton is running a Kickstarter for Scintillation, a small convention to be held – provided the Kickstarter succeeds — in 2018 in Montreal.

Jo (who deservedly often has Homeric epithets like “acclaimed” and “award-winning” affixed to her name) ran the Farthingparty convention in Montreal from 2006 to 2014, before time-management issues and the stress of worrying every year whether or not the convention would draw enough members to break even brought the run to an end. She’s coming back now with the new Kickstarter model, which she explains in detail on the project page.

I really really want this Kickstarter to succeed. (Yes, I’ve already thrown in my mite, and will throw more as more becomes available.) Farthingparty was the closest convention to where we live,† and I think we made every single one of them, even the one which we had to do as a…

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Magic in Vermont

Where to find me this weekend:

James D. Macdonald, Steampunk Magician


Friday I’ll be in Bradford, Vermont, for the Midnight Madness.  I’ll be doing street magic from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Saturday and Sunday I’ll be doing walk-around at the Vermont Steampunk Expo in South Burlington, VT.


Come find me, say “Amaze me!” and I shall.

Posted in Conventions, fantasy, magic, science fiction | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Health Insurance

The sad fact is that people who don’t have medical insurance don’t get medical care.

Today is the first day of the Affordable Care Act open enrollment program.  Go sign up.  Today.

See also:

Doing My Part for ACA Open Enrollment Awareness




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Mars Attacks!

Due to the recent storms in the northeast and massive power outages, the scheduled Podcast UFO for tonight has been delayed.  I’ll let y’all know the rescheduled date as soon as I know it.


UPDATE 02NOV17: New date will be Wednesday the 29th of November, 8:00 pm Eastern time.  The place is Podcast UFO.


This Islan Earth

Posted in Emergency Prep, fantasy, history, New Hampshire, Science, science fiction | Tagged | 2 Comments

Keep Watching the Skies

This coming Wednesday, November the 1st 2017, from 8:00-10:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time, I’m Earth vs. the Flying Saucersgoing to be a guest on Podcast UFO. The subject is going to be Betty and Barney Hill.  Those who want to prepare might read this paper:  Amabile, JD, MD, Phyllis E. and Jobe, MD, Thomas H. (1987) “Hypnosis in the Criminal Case: Facts and Fallacies,” Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry: Vol. 5 : Iss. 1 , Article 3.

Or, as they say in the small fishing village where I was raised, “Klaatu barada nikto.”


UPDATE 01NOV17:  The podcast has been delayed due to weather.  I’ll update you when it’s rescheduled.


UPDATE 2 02NOV17: The rescheduled date is Wednesday, the 29th of November, still 8:00 pm Eastern time.

Posted in fantasy, history, magic, New Hampshire, science fiction | 2 Comments

Doubling Down

All too often these days we read or hear in the news, “[Name of politician] doubled down on his earlier remarks…”

So what does it mean to “double down”?

The term comes from the world of gambling, specifically from the game of Blackjack (AKA “Twenty-one”).  The object of the game is to draw cards so that their combined value is a) equal to or less than 21, and b) higher than the dealer’s hand (such that the dealer’s hand is also less than 21).  Spot cards 2-10 have values equal to their nominal values; face cards are all valued at 10, and aces can be either one or eleven, at the player’s discretion.  The players are dealt two cards, generally both face up; the dealer initially gets two cards, one face down and the other face up.  After all the players draw the cards they desire, the dealer reveals his or her down card, and must draw cards according to a strict set of rules (which may vary from casino to casino).

The full rules of blackjack are available many places.

So, what is “doubling down”?

Doubling down is this: after you have already seen your hand, and you know the dealer’s visible card, you may double your bet in return for drawing one, and only one, additional card.  No matter what that card is, you must stand with the hand you have at that point. You have the chance to make some serious money by doubling your bet, with a lot more information in your possession than you had just a moment before

So when should you double down?

If you’re counting cards, follow your system.   If you aren’t counting cards (and why aren’t you?):

Consider two cases, one a hard hand (i.e. it doesn’t have an ace) or a soft hand (it does have an ace):

Hard hands:

Hard eleven (e.g. seven and four), regardless of what the dealer is showing, double down.

Hard ten, (e.g. eight and two), and the  dealer is showing a 4,  5, or 6, double down.

Hard nine (e.g. six and three), and the dealer is showing  a 5 or 6, double down.

Soft hands:

If you have an ace and an 8 or higher, do not double down.

If you have an ace and a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7, then:

If the dealer is showing a 2, or the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, do not double down.

If the dealer is showing a 5 or 6, then double down.

If the dealer is showing a 3 or 4,  and the sum of your non-ace card plus the dealer’s up card is nine or less, then double down.

Don’t play hunches.  Follow the math. Quit while you’re ahead.  And know the house rules.

So why do we talk about politicians “doubling down”?  It’s an imperfect metaphor.  Perhaps because doubling down is something that beginners know is possible, but if it’s done unwisely they can lose a lot of money in a hurry.


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A Brace of Peeves

I saw it in the media that the medium is the message. So, in media res, I got a hamburger, cooked medium.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Because sometimes they come in matched sets.

Peeve One:  Criteria is a plural, dammit.  The singular is criterion.  (The word is Greek in origin – the –on ending is a clue.)

Peeve Two: Data is also a plural.  The singular is datum.  (This one is Latin.  Again, the ending is a clue – the –um is a neuter singular ending.)

Both of these words are, as is the way of language, in the process of slowly morphing into singular nouns, but they aren’t there yet, and until they get there, some people, like me, are going to bristle up at the usage.

(In principle, I’m a descriptivist.  In practice . . . well, in practice, I get peevish sometimes.)

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Some Useful Thoughts from Outside the Field

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Eric Owyoung is a composer and musician who performs with his band as Future of Forestry. Like many another creative type, he also does teaching gigs (hey, my co-author and I have done them; it’s a way to even out the income stream), and he blogs about a recent one here. It’s got some good insights, not least this one:

Do you have a creative goal like making an album of ten great songs? If so, the worst idea is to try to write ten great songs. Set a goal to write 60 or more songs… no matter how bad they are, just barrel through them. Chances are that 10%-15% of them might turn out pretty good. Learn from your mistakes.

Handy advice, I think, for the sort of writer who tends to obsess over crafting the perfect sentence in the perfect paragraph in the perfect story, only…

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Peeve of the Day

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Listen up, people.

I keep reading bits of narrative lately where a character who’s walking around aimlessly or randomly is described as “milling about.”


Milling about is not something one person does, or even two people. Milling about requires at least a small crowd. The “mill” part of the verb comes from the idea that the random circular motion of such a crowd resembles the rotary action of a mill wheel.

One person alone pace, or might wander about, but they aren’t going to be milling, even if they’re doing it with a friend.

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