Every Single One Of My Titles

The Magic Bullet For Success

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It’s easy to find a 10-step guide to success on the internet.

The internet is crawling with magic bullets. I’m going to make some up, but they’ll probably replicate or be damn close to real ones: “5 Easy Tips To Unleash Your Creativity” “10 Great Writers Tell You How To Be A Success” “3 Simple Principles To Unlock Viral Fame”.

You know the stuff. You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve clicked on a few. Lean in close, I’ll tell you a secret.

Ready?

I’ve clicked on a few.

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Yeah, sometimes I read those things. Maybe you have never, but the odds say you have. They’re tempting. We all want to do the stuff we do better. Sometimes we’re pretty sure we’re doing it wrong. Sometimes we’re pretty sure that what we’re missing is simple, a little thing, something so obvious that we’re not seeing it like (we presume, because AFAIK nobody’s ever talked to a fish) fish don’t realize they’re swimming in water.

Also, there’s great advice out there. Granted, it’s usually not behind a headline like “7 Pathetically Simple Things Your Dumb Ass Can Learn In 30 Seconds By Reading This Article What The Hell Is Wrong With You”. Which is how all those headlines read when I’m feeling down. THANKS INTERNET YOU JERK.

The great advice, though, really is in little online articles sometimes. Or in tweets from some of the more entertaining and personable writers out there. Or in books like the ever-so-frequently-mentioned On Writing by Stephen King — his isn’t the only one, look for some in your home genre if you write and you’re looking for tips.

Y0u just never know where it’s going to show up.

But the “magic bullet” articles are generally 1 part obvious stuff and 9 parts crap. There’s not a magic bullet to make you an enormously selling writer (I mean, I don’t think so. I’m not enormously selling, so I could be totally wrong I suppose) or anything else. No magic listicle to unlock huge webcomic popularity or world champion marathoner prowess or being a better friend-spouse-whoever-you-are-to-someone-else, no magic bullet to jack your B average up to an A, no magic bullet to unlock the best lyrics ever from your songwriting pen.

If you’re really looking for magic bullets to success, you’re in for a sad surprise. They’re basically spells. Modern-day incantations and rituals. Do X,Y, and Z while saying A and writing B, and you’ll be the next Rowling.

Not.

How.

It.

Works.

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There’s magic in the world — and if you’re allergic to schmaltz, skip ahead a bit. There’s the magic of hugs and love and empathy and giving a damn about your fellow human being and babies and kittens and freshly baked cookies and waterfalls and walks on foggy beaches and blooming flowers and fat bumblebees and…

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You get the point.

But there’s no magic zip-zappity-poof now you’re at the top of your chosen field.

The truth is boring.

Always work to improve. Always be ready to hear constructive criticism. Always be ready to ignore trolls. Keep working. Keep looking for new opportunities. Keep on keeping on. And do read things that you think might contain helpful things for you. Sometimes you can find a bit of perspective or a tidbit that points you at a personal shortcoming or strength so you can improve or capitalize. Sometimes it will even be in one of those silly listicles. But mostly not.

Just don’t give up.

And maybe write something like this if you’re having one of those days when you, personally, feel like giving up.

It helps. Take my word for it.

 

Zombies Love Cultured Brains

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This story and the post following appeared first on my Patreon page — come say hello!

I’ve written about cultured meat before, here on Seriously Eclectic: seriously on the culinary potential of it, in the context of outrageous fast food gimmicks, and in the context of what 23rd century North American culture might become. This is definitely the first time, however, I’ve written about cultured meat as a way to save humanity from the zombie apocalypse.

It seems like a reasonable idea, doesn’t it? Keep the zombies fed and while you have an inconvenient mob of zombies nearby, they’re fat and happy and they leave your last redoubt of humanity alone. Hopefully. As long as you keep the feeding site a safe distance from your shelter – a catapult might be a good zombie feeding tool– and as long as you can grow enough brains to sate their unholy hunger. But that’s nothing different from a normal zombie story: survival always boils down to who has the brains.

Zombies aside, though: I write a lot about lab-cultured meat and it is a common background (sometimes foreground) detail in my stories. I write about it because I’m as sure as you can be about anything that hasn’t happened yet that cultured meat is happening. By which I mean I expect to see it in stores and widely popular before this century hits the halfway mark, and very possibly much sooner. Like the self-driving car, the question isn’t if, but when and how.

The emergence of cultured meat into the marketplace will be contentious, sort of like the emergence of margarine provoking (I kid you not) concerted attacks from butter producers. With the potential for inexpensive factory production of cultured meat beyond what any stockyard or meat packing plant can accomplish, cultured meat is likely to wipe most traditional meat production off the map – something that margarine never accomplished against butter, even at the height of its vegetable-oily power.

It needn’t be a zero-sum game between meat culturing upstarts and established corporate meat producers. The latter could easily invest in the former or create their own ventures which would be likely to succeed: with great funding comes great advantage. But I wonder: will the culture of the animal-raising-and-slaughtering business allow them to embrace slaughterless meat? I have my doubts, but perhaps there will be a standout, a meaty visionary in corporate clothing just waiting for the chance to make their mark with the meat of the future.

There are plenty of questions about how easily cultured meat can make that mark, how likely it is to become popular. Foremost is simple acceptance – will the average consumer be willing to eat a steak that wasn’t carved off a cow, a wing no chicken ever flapped? I think the answer is yes. Enough for cultured meat to gain a foothold, and that foothold will expand rapidly once the ice is broken. Sort of like “cars are a fad that will never replace horses” rapidly became “I want two cars, maybe three. Four would be nice, too.”

Weirdly enough, I think vegetarians and vegans may lead the way despite all the omnivores’ jokes about how annoying they can be (which is precisely as annoying as the vegetable-averse meat eater who won’t stop complaining about vegetarians every chance he gets). And that’s because many vegetarians and vegans are motivated by a concern for animal life. Cultured meat is created with no need for killing and no more animal pain than collecting a cell sample. A needle biopsy doesn’t exactly feel like a caress, but it’s a relatively small pain that passes quickly, doesn’t endanger the animal, and doesn’t involve a need for confining many animals in cramped or inhumane conditions. Those factors may lead many current vegetarians to be among the first people to purchase cruelty-and-even-inconvenience-free meat.

Other people either avoid or limit consumption of meat due to health concerns. They worry about fat content, antibiotics used in meat production, and unsanitary conditions. Cultured meat answers those concerns as well. If there’s a demand for fatless meat, you grow it fatless. Antibiotics aren’t needed – a roomful of culturing vats don’t come down with hoof-and-mouth or whatever. You’re not growing a whole animal, so you don’t need a bunch of growth hormone. As for sanitation, well, a slab of cells growing in a tank doesn’t poop. Poopless steak is one hell of a selling point if you have any slightest idea of how much poop ends up on traditionally produced meat. You can be sure that cultured meat sellers will tell you all about it. Seriously, if I was selling cultured meat “the competition has a bunch of poop on it” would be my first advertising campaign.

Cultured meat will almost certainly be cheaper than the competition, too. No need to keep animals alive, provide all the space they need (even the terribly cramped minimum possible), buy feed, dispose of all the animal poop, transport animals, dispose of dead animals, deal with sick animals, and so on and so forth. All those things cost money, money a cultured meat producer won’t have to spend. Lower price will overcome a LOT of concerns about eating cultured meat. Trust me, I’m telling you so from below the poverty line. Millions of parents will happily switch from cheap hotdogs full of ground guts and fat and scraps of dubious sanitation to even cheaper hotdogs full of clean and lean cultured muscle tissue. Millions of budget-conscious home cooks will happily switch from inexpensive ground meat and cube steak to inexpensive cultured New York strip. And will a restaurant or fast food chain hesitate to buy cheaper meat with a consistency of product and supply that ranching and chicken husbandry can’t hope to match? The answer’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

And of course there will be questions about the producers of cultured meat – what are you growing it in, are there harmful chemicals in the nutrient baths, and despite the lack of poop is it really being handled safely?

Those are questions for regulators. Whether the meat’s off the hoof or out of the vat, it’ll continue to be a worry as long as we underfund and understaff and undermine the FDA. No matter what the future of meat is, that’s in the hands of voters and their elected representatives. So I’ll end with a PSA: don’t just root for your damn team like politics are a sporting event. Ask yourself “how do we make a better society and world for our grandchildren?”

Hmm. Can we grow politicians in vats? Would cultured politicians be safer and better than traditional on-the-hoof politicians? We do seem to have an oversupply of uncultured politicians lately coughTRUMPcoughcough. Maybe I’ll write about that next.

(If you want more S.A. in your life, come say hello on Twitter @Tao23 or drop a line on Patreon!)

 

The Luna Moth Has Landed

Me & my two little ones (3&5) came out to grill. This was waiting for us:

Just hanging out on the handrail of our front step. Very cool.

So Luna is minding her business and we’re minding ours. UNTIL…

Uh… you shouldn’t be there…

No, don’t go MORE toward my back, what are you thinking…

SERIOUSLY WTF NOT THE BEARD 

…but she relented and returned to my back. Awkwardly and with great care I managed to take off my shirt with her clinging to it and transfer her to a tall potted pine.

And I draped the shirt over her refuge so birds wouldn’t see her. This last shot is from behind the shirt — it’s not so see-through seen from the other side.

Luna is safe for now… but I’ll be watching my back.

Hey, Your Earrings Are Ringing

The title comes from a tweet about Apple’s “AirPods” and my response on Twitter earlier today:

The explosion of itty-bitty technological gadgets that would make 1970s Q from James Bond movies turn radioactive glowing green with envy…

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Q is usually much more calm but you get the point

…has been absolutely amazing this last decade or so. It’s old hat to the teens and early-twenties set now but in my childhood my subsistence-earning roofer dad shelled out an unwise amount of money for a state-of-the-art Atari 2600 (it was 1978 if I remember correctly). Now… well. You know. Computer in the palm of my hand that outperforms everything NASA had for the moon shot in ’69 and I use it to feed virtual kibble to virtual cats and tweet smack about Donald Trump who severely deserves every word.

So I’d expect if Apple can make a wireless earbud that looks like what I wish I could take credit for thinking of but someone tweeted it to me before I could come up with the idea on my own…

…I’m sure that in 2 or 3 years you’ll be able to buy the same basic device as earrings. Earrings that aren’t even too heavy to wear. Pierced or clip-on. Another 2 or 3 years after that and they’ll probably look good enough that the more fashion-minded won’t be embarrassed to be seen in them. And then earrings will suddenly be all the rage and imagine how upset all the managers, teachers, professors, and parents in the world will be over their inability to tell when their kids are paying attention or listening to their earrings.

13 Word Story: Internet Of Fangs

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(This first appeared on my Patreon page a full week ago. Become a patron and see posts early!)

The internet of things and 3-D printing may soon combine to create a powerhouse of personal convenience. Kitchens that order groceries and cook them for their owners, printers that can print out many simple and some complex foods. It’s beginning now — pilot devices and services like instant-order buttons for staple items that work great until a kid gets hold of them or there’s a glitch and a pallet of laundry detergent or flour sitting in front of your door next time you come home.

3-D printers are already printing simple candies and pasta and breakfast cereal in complex shapes and colors.

Add in a household robot and you have a kitchen that orders starch cartridges and a robot that prints pasta when you run low and cooks it for you. Very convenient — or it may be in a few years.

There are, as I suggested above, some bugs in the process to work out.

Malware is a big one.

There has already been an internet of things ransomware incident, for example. Ransomware demands a cash payment or it will set your thermostat at 99 degrees F in 24 hours.

No reason it couldn’t do the same to your 3-D printer or kitchen or household robot.

But not all malware is ransomware. Some of it is malicious for ‘fun’. And occasionally it’s really vicious.

There is malware that wrecks your computer — which can set someone back some serious money, and cause less well-off households a serious crisis. If something like that hit our household PCs… well, I have no damn idea how my wife and I would do our online coursework from mobile phones, we couldn’t afford to replace the PCs for a good long while, I’d have a hell of a time publishing anything here or anywhere else much less submitting short stories anywhere. And perhaps we could accomplish some of those things at a local library. I’d love to plug passwords that control my Patreon and WordPress and Smashwords and Amazon and Google accounts into a public computer… you see my point.

Or more to the point of actually deadly danger, imagine malware disabling the brakes on your car mid-trip. (Here’s a second article with a slightly different angle on it)

Or, as the internet of things becomes more pervasive, malware may affect your home in different ways, as in this thirteen word story.

With great convenience comes great peril, Peter Parker might say. Or something like that.

Writing Longhand

I can get a bit… scribbly!

The more I write, the more I find that I prefer to write longhand instead of using the computer. (It’s worth noting that the computer RULES for editing, rewriting, rearranging, and otherwise molding a story into the right shape.)

I always start a story by hand. I scribble notes and write a page or two. Then, up until the last two it three months, I have always switched over to the word processor to type the following 90% of the story.

It’s fast as long as I know where the story is heading. And maybe you see where this is going if you happen to know that I hardly ever write a story outline, and even when I do it’s less than skeletal. More like a stick figure missing a stick or two.

The words are more likely to dry up after I switch to typing the story. I find myself stalling not just on what to type for the next sentence or paragraph, but on what the next scene is and where the plot is going.

Maybe it’s because when typing my fingers can travel as fast as I’m thinking. But writing by hand forces me to fix what’s coming next in my mind as I hurry to write down the words that bridge the gap.

Or maybe that’s not it at all and there’s a different reason baked into my brain.

Either way, lately I’ve been writing by hand more than I’ve been typing as I compose a story. The biggest challenge is deciphering my own handwriting and making sense of all the notes and additions I cram into the left hand column of the evidence pads I love to use. (Think steno pad, but full 8 1/2″ x 11″ size and with the  vertical rule one-third of the way from the left instead of down the middle)

 

(Edit, an hour or so later: composed this with the voice-writing function on my mobile — it didn’t do too bad, but left me a couple of things to clean up. Technology: the solution to and cause of all of our problems, right? Anything that’s still wrong, I blame on my lovable but very loud and distracting little ones. Oh, and I also clarified a couple of things in the third and last paragraphs.)

SciFi News Network 2428: Orbital Strike Burns Barbarian Fingers — Hands Off The Chicago Arc!

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(First appeared on my Patreon page 1 week ago, on the 18th)

Breitbuzz News – Chicagoland Arcology

Rushland Milouse, Jr.

23 April 2428

 

Shortly after midnight in the early morning hours of April 22nd a pack of barbarians thought to number over 1500 assaulted the Elgin section of the Chicagoland Arcology Wall.

The assault followed the breaking of a wave of heat and drought that commenced in early March. Temperatures outside the arcology wall had been regularly in the 110s F with 90s overnight, roughly 20F  above expected spring temperatures, with little precipitation.

The heat and drought withered barbarian crops, Lt. General Chip Thorson of the Chicagoland Armed Forces said in a prepared statement. It also drove away game, leading desperate starving barbarians to attempt a breakthrough with improvised munitions and assault vehicles cobbled together from junkyards and abandoned materiel salvaged from the 24th century evacuation of nearby Rockford.

Of course, most of us in the arcology didn’t notice the ineffective barbarian attack, enjoying our 24/7 managed environment, 75F days and 65F nights, refreshments swerved by our loyal bot servants, and fresh Lake Michigan water. All of our thanks to the Arcology Management Commission, the CAF, and the CAF Lakewall Guard!

The Barbarians used crude trebuchets, ancient mechanical siege engines from 1000 years ago, to hurl useless handmade bombs against Chicagoland’s outer wall. They did leave significant cosmetic damage, holing the outermost of five yard-thick reinforced armorcrete walls and exposing a buffer layer of sandbags.

A labor crew of a hundred bots defended by a drone air defense wing and a sortie of CAF infantry are expected to complete repairs by the 25th.

Once again, the barbarians have proven their hereditary unfitness. Their ancestors were too useless to rate a spot in the arcology a hundred years ago, and obviously their weakness has only increased with a century of inbreeding and disdain for education and hard work.

All 1500 attackers were wiped out by a launch of kinetic projectiles from one of Chicagoland’s man defensive satellites.

Scientists said the wave of heat and drought that spurred the barbarian attack were due to the continued advance of climate change. The outside environment is expected to degrade further over the next 300-500 years — this journalist says the sooner it wipes out the barbarians the better for all of us!

If you walk with a cane…

…your kids will want canes too. And then, when you look the other way, they will swordfight with them (not pictured).

Fair warning.

Planning A New Collection For December!

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Look, I’m thinking or something. Do I look thoughtful? I think I might think I look like I’m thinking.

I’d have posted a cover, but I don’t have one yet. I may make one, or my stepson Erik may create one. He did the cover for Isolation and Other Stories and it came out great.🙂

The working, 99.9% sure I’m using it, title is Closer Than You Think and I’m planning to have it ready for pre-order as an ebook in November and released in December in time for Christmas!

I have over 50,000 words of short stories and novelettes ready for it right now, and if a couple more stories come together I hope to release it at 60,000 or more. That’s on top of the serial I’m doing over the next couple of months. And tweeting too much. And my coursework in my second master’s degree (Communication / New Media — the first just wrapped up in June and is in, surprise surprise, English / Creative Writing). And Patreon pieces like SciFi News Network and thirteen word stories. And homeschooling our 3 and 5 year old sons with the help of my wife and adult stepson. And any work the ugly, rickety trailer all five of us live in needs to keep it from falling apart before we can move the hell out at some as-yet-undetermined date in the future which will be sooner rather than later if you are kind enough to buy, read, and review some of my stories or head over to my Patreon to help me improve my life and income and readership by establishing some reliable and significant income from this writing thing I’m doing.

Um, hint-hint. Seriously, if you can, do the stuff I just said. Because living in this little crappy trailer and having next to no money is stressful and makes it hard as hell to write anything at all because DISTRACTIONS and WORRIES and from the list of stuff on my mind in the previous paragraph I’m also WAY TOO BUSY but everything has to get done if I want to make sure MY FAMILY DOESN’T END UP LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER. *cough*

VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER

But I was supposed to be telling you about the collection so let’s do that: Closer Than You Think will focus on human stories on or near Earth. No aliens, no space travel. Just the future of humanity right here in our cozy ancestral home which we’re currently polluting and crowding up and apparently baking with this climate change thing we’ve done to ourselves.

The stories will progress roughly from near future to far future — from tomorrow to a couple thousand years in the future. There will be stories of failure, disaster, ambition, success, mistakes, and just plain weird futures where humanity has become something most of us would consider just a bit… alien. Despite the lack of “Little Green Men” in the stories.

It’s going to be awesome, and you’re going to love it.

Just wait.

 

My Patreon Patrons Are Getting A Serial…

…but you can, too! The first installment will be posted here as well as there. Subsequent installments of Broken Rice will be patron-exclusive on Patreon first, but will also appear in ebook form after a short delay! I explain it all over on my Patreon page — but before you click the link, please enjoy the cover art for Broken Rice below. I really enjoyed making it (even if some moments were kind of a pain in the butt) and I’m really pleased with how it came out.🙂

Broken Rice cover