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  • Tablets, typos and broad shoulders

    Many of us bemoan the fact that society seems to have at times simply given up on the English language.
    The prevalence of spelling and grammatical errors in all print media is appalling. And then what do we do? We repeat it.
    After all our protestations, something similar creeps into our own work. Be it blog or book or other article, suddenly we are stung.

    So what do we do about it? do we cry and throw a tantrum? NO! We fix it, as quickly and as quietly as we can, with copious thanks to the gentle souls who brought it to our attention.

    Now you are reading this and thinking to yourself “where the hell do tablets come into this?”
    No, it has nothing to do with taking a chill pill, though I appreciate the almost humorous (but not quite) double meaning.

    I am referring to tablet PC’s, be they android, ipad, windows based (yes they exist, and are cool as I can play my normal games on them) or some other variant. Everybody uses them in some form, whether it is their baby cousins the smart phone, or full blown tablet addiction. And everybody that uses them is familiar with the notorious misdeeds of the autospell function. It helps enormously when my fat fingers are unable to correctly hit those tiny touch screen buttons, but when it guesses the word wrong it can be funny, or it can just make you look plain stupid.

    This is where the broad shoulders come in. You will notice a few blog posts back I commented it was my first post from my tablet. That was an interesting experience I tell you. I spent a very long time on that post, going through it looking for those comedic wrong guesses on the part of the machine. I recently received a very kind note from a reader about a subsequent such occurrence, and it got me thinking. The tone of those kinds of messages is very gentle these days. I think that is wonderful, and perhaps it is the awareness of the imperfections of technology that has driven it, but I believe it has had another effect as well.

    With our awareness of our autospell problems, we react better when a typo is pointed out. With a shrug, and a quiet apology or thanks, or both, we correct the painful pride dent, and continue along with a promise in our hearts to check one extra time on our next post. In essence, yes, we are getting broader shoulders about this kind of thing being pointed out to us, and as a result, reacting kindly when they are, resulting in kinder approaches the next time.

    So that begs the question: Is the devil known as autospell actually making us into better people?

    Something for you to think about as you head into this glorious weekend. Where I am, the sun is out, the birds are tweeting, and spring is in full measure on the lawn. That includes the dog poop – I must dispose of that. I hope for you, the weekend brings pleasure even for those stuck in a cold part of their year. And next time you see a funny autospell error, have a chuckle. There are loads of them all over the Internet. By the way I left at least one in this post, I am fairly certain of that. Comment if you find it!


  • New Content on SuspendedEarth.com

    Hi everyone. Just a heads up.
    I have added content to the site, and in so doing I have modified the menus above. You will now see a separate menu for ‘The Universe’ which features information about places, species, and organisations. In there you can now find the history of the Banshick Armada, and information about the kinship system of the preeacsil.

    I have also begun to add more character profiles. They aren’t much yet, but will grow. There are four there now, so have a read.

    The old book shop has now morphed into the special deals page, and will contain any deals I set up from now on, so remember to keep checking it for any possible savings on my books!

    This is all in addition to the changes I already mentioned, but this time its actual new content. I will continue to put up new stuff, so don’t forget to check back later!


  • Secret order of the International Reply Coupon

    Today I bring you something silly.

    I have been reading a few SF mags in the last couple of years and decided to submit a short story to a well known and respected one in the US. They don’t take electronic submissions and required return postage. Going to their forum after sending I found a thread about forgetting your SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) so I posted a slightly exaggerated version of my day’s adventure. I will reproduce that post here for you now.

    Well I submitted today, with the SASE, and it was an adventure I tell you!

    I needed that pesky International Reply Coupon, which, according to Australia Post employees in three towns, does not exist. I made several of them very angry while debating this myth with them, and spent an entire tank of fuel. I drove for some hours in my quest until, finally giving in and seeking bread and milk, I stopped at the post agent/store of my village where I live.

    “oh, don’t know about those, but I’ll just ring the post people in Sydney for you,” the lady in the shop said.

    She found out about them, and then rang around various town’s post offices till she found one. A goal in sight and my first solid lead in hand, off I went.

    Some more driving and a lot of time later, the lady that finally sold me the thing looked at me in suspicion as we completed the secret handshake.

    “I haven’t used one of these in thirty years. What on earth is anybody doing using this ancient stuff?” she said in amazement that I was, indeed, qualified to enter into this secretive transaction.

    She disappeared into a secret room through a magic door that materialized in the wall behind her, and returned with a dusty cardboard envelope thing. Now when I say dusty, This had at least two inches of greasy, mystical, forgotten library skin flakes and dead flies encrusted on it.

    She blew the grungy crusted mankmeat from the envelope, and it flew every where, to carry its TB ridden pollutants out into the freedom of the outback Aussie air.

    As the dust left the cardboard, it began to glow in an almost mystical way as the magical certificates of postal depravity inside fought to escape their long time prison. She picked up a golden fly swatter and held it at the ready.

    Opening the cardboard, she swatted down as several glowing blue certificates fluttered out at supersonic speeds, seeking freedom. She managed to catch two of the blighters with that swat. Picking up her +4 stamp of taming, she struck at one, right where its markings indicated such a spell would be most effective. She handed me the now mollified beast and I dropped it carefully into my package, sealed it up and paid the postage.

    It cost $3.30 for that certificate valued at US98c, which I assumed was hazard pay, and happily handed over, my quest finally at an end.

    I apologize in advance to the recipient if it zips out and bites them on arrival. I know that taming spell might have a time limit, and I’ve seen how anxious those things were to escape. I hope the post lady managed to catch them all again.

  • FTL travel, impossible you say?

    This short post is a sort of extension on my post from a couple of weeks ago about skeptical readers. In that post I talked about people who had been talking about SF elements as unbelievable, and as such a bad thing to have in a book. This was to the extent some of them were getting quite nasty about writers who include things like FTL (Faster Than Light) travel. FTL was in fact one of the most highlighted “utterly impossible” things these people were abusing. I already mentioned a few others in my prior post.

    Well, we have all heard recently of the confirmation of the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle by scientists at CERN. This was yet another thing that a small number of those naysayers, these doom and gloom negative nancy all is absolutely fixed fanatics, said was never going to happen. Well bravo CERN for shutting them up.

    It seems now NASA is set to shut them up once and for all, with talk of actual laboratory experiments into a method of FTL travel that doesn’t even break the rules of Special Relativity that those naysayers worship so strongly. Keeping in mind that special relativity is based on THEORY, their assertions were always rather foolish. Strong theory, respected theory, accepted as fact theory, but theory nonetheless. A theory is always open to new facts, new modifications. We know that time and space can be bent. Black holes do it. And now, NASA hope to do it too.

    Even should the experiments not achieve fruition in our lifetime, this throws the gauntlet down, and demands attention from the naysayers. It commands attention and acceptance that, regardless of your convictions otherwise, nothing should be seen as impossible beyond belief without any attempt to go there. Should it eventuate that something IS impossible, then work around it so that the impossible factor becomes irrelevant. Humanity has intelligence (believe it or not), it has tenacity, and it has innovation. As surely as we clubbed each other on the heads in millennium past, we will club the universe on the head (figuratively) in order to continue our advance. And as long as there are scientists who dream, nothing will ever be truly impossible.

    NASA experiments with FTL

  • Festivals about books and the joy of reading

    Yesterday I attended the Griffith Readers’ Festival, where I spoke about my work and gave a reading of the opening scene from Shades of Farthrow, my upcoming novel. I am pleased to say this was received very well by all those in attendance, and I enjoyed my time there immensely.

    This was a rewarding and positive experience, with some interesting people in attendance, both authors and publishing types. I would like to take this opportunity to humbly thank the organisers of the festival for giving me that opportunity to speak before this group. If there are festivals about books, reading or writing in your area, please support them!

    We need all the events we can get, to keep the interest in books, reading books, and the people who write them thriving in our communities. Literacy is a privilege that we can not allow to be squandered. There are places where literacy is tragically low and those people would cherish any opportunity, yet in the wealthier parts of the world, we often allow literacy to be wasted on ignorance and on a disconnection to the intellectual stimulation that reading provides.

    We should not allow literature and literacy to be so devalued as it is by the teaming throngs who say “tell me when it’s a movie, I don’t read books”. We must strive to support the world of literature, and help it to become perceived as “cool”. We should not be content to allow people to continue saying “reading is just for kids” or “reading is boring.” If reading is boring, you’re doing it wrong! If we all do our bit to support those brave and dedicated individuals who struggle to bring this kind of event to life, our world will be a better place for it.

    The occasional book goes viral, and regardless of what you think of those books, at least they are increasing the number of active readers in our society. Hopefully some of them will realise, as each fad passes, that they are enjoying reading for the sake of the joy it brings, and not just as another fad to be a part of. Even if you loath the Harry Potter books, or the Twilight series, you must admit that they achieved this for millions of young people, and countless adults as well. The recent 50 shades phenomenon might do this in time also, in which case, bravo!

    Promote reading, promote books, support your local book store and support the writers in your area, as well as those all around the world. They are creating, out of love for the written word, vast worlds for your imagination to explore. Join them in their journeys, and follow with your imagination as their characters come to life through your reading of them. With so much fun to be had, it’s sad to be missing out on your share of the joy isn’t it? That would be like sitting in the back of the bar sleeping while your biggest idol dances on the pool table. So if you know somebody who refuses to read although capable of it, ask them this: Do you really know what you are missing out on? And please, drag them along to the next book related festival in your area, they just might begin to see what all the fuss is about.

    Till next time,

  • Fake Reviews? ick!

    Recently, the internet has exploded with shocking revelations regarding a number of successful authors exposed using false identities or other tactics to provide themselves with many fake positive reviews, and in some cases posting negative reviews on their “competitors”.

    I have been appalled and disgusted by much of the behaviour I have read about.

    There is a lot I could say about this, but it has already been said to death in recent weeks. If you want to know about the controversy, you can find it soon enough. But importantly, it is NOT all writers who are involved, and it is NOT all reviews. I remain proud to state I have never solicited a review in any way. Every review my books have received to date has been written by a genuine reader/reviewer with no prompting, no payment, and absolutely no other skulduggery. Even though often seen as a marketing tool, reviews are first and foremost a product intended to assist readers.

    The innapropriate reviewing practice of a small handfull is casting doubt on the millions of honest reviewers, the works they review, and the value of the reviews to the readers they inform. This can not be permitted to occur, and as such, gestures like this: http://nosockpuppets.wordpress.com/ are important as they send a message to those considering the wrong path. The more people who make known their aversion to such tactics and those resorting to them, the less people will be tempted to behave with such dishonest disregard for their readers, and their writing colleagues.

    I am a Science Fiction writer. If you write SF, you are never my competition, you are allways my colleague, my fellow SF writer, and perhaps even a reader. I respect my readers, and I respect my colleagues. I will never participate in dodgy practices such as those that have recently been exposed.

    Thanks for reading.

  • You have to love your editors

    This topic is a great excuse to try posting from my tablet for the first time. Let’s see how the typing goes lol. I witnessed some editor sledging recently and thought it sad.

    How do you treat your editor? We all know of a time somebody may have reacted badly to criticism. If what your editor says is bad enough for that, perhaps you need to listen harder. Your editor is there to help, and has an interest in seeing you succeed.

    Whatever a true editor tells you, it should be seen as constructive. They are professionals, not trolls or scammers. (Though i admit there are some of those who claim to be editors). Your editor is tasked with seeking ways to improve your book, not ‘simply proof reading’.

    The thing is, even if it is tiny things to tweak, it all helps you make the book better. If you have to argue with your editors, by all means do so, but when they speak, always listen. Listen closely, listen properly, and listen well. Then, if you assess the merit of their words and don’t believe the input works for your vision, ignore it. But usually there is a gem at its heart that is something your closeness to the work would not let you see.

    You almost have to love your editors, even if it means loving to hate them. They are the ones who are standing in pit lane with the cleaning rag, who are hoping to make that car shiny and appealing above and beyond simply being a vehicle to display your driving prowess.

    You don’t have to agree with them, you don’t have to worship them, you don’t have to feel they have a greater knowledge than you. Regardless of what kind of expertise your editor has, regardless of whether you love or loath their work, and their input, regardless of whether you are receiving a weaker effort from an inexperienced intern or are getting top shelf from a modern day Dickens, There is one thing you must always do for your editors.

    Value them and appreciate them.

    Without them, god knows what you might end up with. Learn from them. Learn from their input. If the input is not great, learn from their mistakes. You will both grow as professionals if you can achieve a working relationship where this is the case. Is your editor not good enough? Help them to be better, it’s what they would do for you.

    We all have too much to lose by fighting with our greatest assets. An editor can make you look great if you let them. They need your help to make you look bad.

    Thank your editor today.

    By the way, i think it is quicker to find the laptop and post from that after all!

  • Sceptical Readers Vs Speculative Writers.

    I have read some interesting discussions recently about science in SF novels, with readers talking about what they see as ridiculous, in some instances ‘deal breakers’ that cause them to dislike any given book that features those things that they see as impossible. This post is a response of sorts to that mentality.


    I think that I agree with those who speak of internal consistency. That is essential. Even then, I prefer the ‘science’ to have what I will call ”logical plausibility within context.” In other words, it must always have a theoretical rigor at its heart, even when it is total fantasy. It may be that current theory places a barrier at light speed. We have theories that are discussed in scientific circles which talk about how it might be passed (or at least worked around), but the generally accepted paradigm currently places the limit at light speed. So? if science can’t change it’s mind sometimes, it will never progress.


    There are strategic problems within a story regarding travel, etc. so a writer must choose the path they will take to address the problem. Some will employ generational star ships, some will employ worm holes, hyperspace, etc. I don’t have a problem, provided there is science and logic behind it. They don’t have to tell me the detailed physics of the thing with equations etc as long as I can see that logical plausibility in the way it is written.  Some modern writers may have failed at this, perhaps leading to the aversion some have to it.


    Science Fiction is the genre of ‘what if’, so if we use something that reaches beyond current understanding, we are in fact creating exactly what SF is here for. So if a writer has faster than light technology in their fictional universe, and that is consistent with other aspects, within a pseudo-historical progression of technology that they have applied to the work of fiction, AND that technology is internally consistent and follows a stream of logical thought in its operation, including consequences of improper operation etc, then there is no problem.


    We don’t have fusion generators yet. There are barriers we have been unable to overcome. Scientists are still working to find a way to create a reliable fusion generator, and they will continue until they do. It may not be front page stuff, but they are trying. They are also trying to prove the possibility of FTL movement (as seen by the recently debated maybe it went faster maybe it didn’t experiments with the large hadron collider). There are even fascinating things in the last decade or so looking at methods of teleportation, and yes some of those experiments have had fascinating and promising ramifications. This stuff IS being studied, it IS being experimented on, and perhaps one day they will break through the barriers and bring us astonishing new technologies. To deny that something is possible because we did not do it before? well that’s stupidity right there.


    Science has an exploratory curiosity at it’s heart that means at any given time, if you say “it’s impossible, it can not be done, this barrier will stop you”, somewhere a scientist or three will take that challenge and still try to break through that barrier. Heinlein said never underestimate the power of human stupidity. I say never underestimate the power of human ingenuity. In fact I strongly believe that to underestimate our ingenuity is to give a prime example of human stupidity, and sadly by staying positive and optimistic about the whole thing, I fear I am forgetting Heinlein’s sage advice!


    I can not say and will not say that nothing is impossible. Some things are at this time. However while we still do not know all that there is to know, I can not say that any single thing is not possible, given the appropriate conditions.


    The future has untold promise – bring it on!

  • Got a different brand e-reader?

    Continuing from the post about Kobo from the other day, I have been wrestling with their systems for a while now. The upshot is this:

    If you are a reader who owns an E-Reader device that is NOT a Kindle or a Kobo brand device, you may now be able to buy DRM books and read them, no conversion or other shenanigans needed.

    What will you need?
    First, check your device supports Adobe DRM. Your device will have the red adobe logo on it or its packaging somewhere usually, but check the user guide if unsure. I have the old first version MiGear device, which is about as cheap as they come, and it supports this. The majority of the super cheap readers are based on the same hardware and software. If your device does not, check your manufacturers website for a firmware upgrade (a little program you run that will add this feature) as many of them have provided these in the last twelve months to take advantage of the possible new legal sales channels opening up.

    Second, you need to download the Adobe Digital Editions software to your PC or Mac. Think of this as Itunes for your ereader. Get it here

    Third, you will need an account with www.kobobooks.com (that’s right, you are going to buy books from kobo)

    What do you do?
    Before trying to get any books, you need your Adobe Digital Editions software to be registered to you, and synced with your ereader. To do this, load the software, plug in your ereader device to the PC with a USB cable, and follow the prompts. If you buy and download a DRM protected book before you do this, you may not be able to access the books after.

    Once that is done, you are ready to buy. Go to kobobooks.com, and find the book you want (or follow a link from the bookshop page here if it is one of mine – I will work on getting them up soon). Log in and buy the book in the usual manner.

    Click on the words “my library” at the top right of the kobobooks website. You will find a list of books you have purchased, each with a blue button labeled either “adobe DRM Epub” or “Download Epub”. Click the button for the book you want.

    A box will likely pop up asking whether to save or open a file. Open it. This will open the Adobe digital editions software, download the book to it, then open the book for viewing.

    In the top left of Adobe Digital Editions is an icon that looks like a few book spines on a shelf. Click that. You will see your library on the right and a list on the left. The bottom of the list is your ereader (if it is plugged in to the USB port of your PC). Find your book, click and hold the mouse on the book, and drag it to your ereader. The book will be placed on the device, and you are all set to read it anywhere you like.

    Many of you with sony and other cheaper brand devices may already be using places like Smashwords to source ebooks, but some ebooks are not released to sites like those that do not support DRM – and until now you may have been stuck with major hassles sourcing or ‘converting’ those ebooks. If you go this way, you can expect a lot of those books in coming months to arrive at Kobo, and you will have access to them on your ‘other brand’ ereader.

    As I said before, given that I have already had to tackle pirates in relation to my books, I am reticent about using smash words or other non DRM sales avenues. The ability to distribute in a DRM format to all ereaders is very tempting for that reason! (and note the adobe digital editions does have a lending system like the kindle does, but I am not sure how it works at this time)

    Anyway, I hope some of you find this information useful, and enjoy many good reads as a result.