Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dog in the Road

I hope you’ll forgive me for another post on an animal killed in the road.

My wife and I were returning from date night when we crested a hill and almost crashed into the back ends of about a dozen cars. They were all stopped in the three westbound lanes of Pioneer Crossing, Lehi Utah.

Moving erratically in the glaring beams of their headlights was a golden lab trailing a length of twine from his leather collar. The dog had a wide banner of blood painting his right shoulder and a leg he couldn’t use. By the time I made my way to him between the stationary cars he had collapsed.

I called to him from a few feet away. He looked up at me then tried and failed to rise. It was strangely silent there on the road. The rumbling of all those car engines seemed to emphasize the still of the  night, the harsh beams from their headlights the dark all around.

When I stood up with the dog in my arms I could hear him breathing, a bubbly sound. The stench of skunk rose from him. I carried him to the side of the road and the flow of traffic picked up and streamed off into the night. My wife pulled over and I put the dog in the back of our mini-van.

I started searching and calling on my phone, trying to find a vet that was open. The only place seemed to be in Orem, a good twenty minutes away. Before I could get hold of the hospital a mother and her son came walking up the road, the mother on her cell phone. They had been in the car that hit the dog and had come looking for him. The mother was calling the police dispatch. I told her I was taking the dog to an animal hospital and she asked me to call her to let her know how things turned out. She was obviously bothered by what had happened to the poor dog.

My wife and I were a good ten minutes on our way to Orem when I finally managed to contact the animal hospital. They were open but the woman told me they couldn’t treat any animals unless their owner’s were present. I assured her that I would pay for the dog’s treatment and sign papers to that effect if they wanted. Still no dice. She said, regret in her voice, that they legally could not treat an animal without its owner’s consent. My only choice was to call the police and have them send an animal control unit out to bring the dog to a shelter.

I was furious. I still can’t think of a good reason for such a law. But I had no choice at that point. They already knew who I was and that I was not the owner of the dog. So I called the cops.

They met us back where I’d originally picked up the dog. I went back to sit with the dog and found that it was no longer breathing. When the cops arrived they were unable or unwilling to put the dog in one of their trunks. So we followed the officers to the police station where they put the dog into the bed of the Animal Control vehicle where it sat in the parking lot. They thanked me for my trouble and my wife and I went home to clean blood out of my clothes and out of the back of the van.

The dog had been tied up with twine, presumably because it had gotten too close to a skunk. Stupid thing to tie a dog up with. There was no ID on the collar so no way to contact the owners.

It feels better having written about it. Thanks for listening.

Unforgettable Again

Well, it definitely did not go to hell. I liked this book.

Everything I liked about it in the first 8 chapters: Hard SF sensibilities, a cool central premise, the fast moving short story pace, were maintained for the entire novel. All good. Highly recommended.

And in other news, Eric James Stone’s story “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” has been nominated for a Hugo award in the “Best Novelette” category. Huge congratulations, Eric!


I haven’t finished this book yet, so be warned that it may go completely to hell before I get there. I don’t think it’s likely but I’ll let you know either way. So far though, (I’m up to Chapter 8.) it’s a rocking good time with hard SF sensibilities striking sparks off of a whimsical  and amusing central premise.

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, Eric James Stone, the author, is my friend. I like his stuff in spite of that though, and I don’t think I’m in the minority.


John Steakley, RIP

John Steakley, author of Armor and Vampire$, as well as quite a few short stories, has passed away after a five year bout with cancer.

I first encountered John Steakley when I read his novel Armor. It’s a brilliant science fiction piece about a troubled and driven man fighting as a soldier in power armor against an inhuman and terrifying enemy. It’s also about Jack Crow, a con man, and his marks. The two worlds intersect in fascinating and compelling ways. Brilliant.

I’ve been through more than a dozen copies of Armor, re-reading them until they fall apart or loaning them to friends who never return them.

I never met John Steakley, which I regret, and I wish mightily that he had written a few more books.

Godspeed, sir.

Blindly Writing the Elephant

So, I’m almost completely done with my second novel. This is the one I’m collaborating with Brandon Sanderson on. Working title: The Lurker.

I think I’ve smashed my face against, then managed to wrap my arms around, a writing principle worth sharing.

I started with a 10,000 word outline that Brandon wrote. We discussed the world and basic plot we would be working with for about four hours over two meetings before he wrote the outline.

I wrote my first novel with an outline too, a numbered list.  I can’t speak for Brandon on The Lurker but for me, coming up with an outline was a very mechanical process.

Arbitrarily I aimed for 120,000 words which translated neatly into 30 4,000 word chapters. My outline had 30 chapters in it. Three viewpoint characters translated to 10 chapters each. Three try/fail cycles worked out to three chapters per cycle per character, which I dutifully labeled as such on my outline.

Then I filled in the basic events for each cycle. What, exactly, were my characters failing and then succeeding at? What did their mini-arcs consist of and how did they fit into the big book-arc?  I already had a basic idea of what I wanted the book to be about and lots of cool scenes that had written themselves in my head and so forth. That made this process a mix of putting the pieces in their proper places and filling in the blanks.

The elephant tromped into the room when it came time to actually write the chapters so summarized on my outline. I stepped forward, hands outstretched, and started feeling that guy.

It was my book. I knew the basic shape.  So there was no, ‘Oh, this is a snake…’ garbage. But it was definitely a process of discovery as I wrote each chapter. Some details (a lot of them really) made themselves known, either springing from my subconscious or becoming obvious due to context. Others, also a lot, I had to forge and hammer out in the creative fires. And it was all fun to do.

Later I realized that things were much easier for me if I also outlined each chapter before I actually started in on the actual prose. In most cases, what I ended up with was less an outline for each chapter than notes on my brainstorming session for the chapter, roughly chrono-organized. Once I knew where I was going to that level of detail, getting there was almost all fun. The niftiest things pop up out of nowhere.

The principle?  Same as always. Just climb on and write.

My process is definitely more mechanical than a pure discovery writer, but less mechanical than some outliners. It’s mine, it works for me. It will probably change. And someday I fully expect to discover that it’s not an elephant at all but a bloody Tiger, and have to change everything.


Thus ends my very first POST ON WRITING.

Russian spies not actually that smart!

The Justice Department said the suspects were supposed to have recruited intelligence agents but were not directly involved in obtaining U.S. secrets themselves. They were charged with acting as agents of a foreign government,…

Well, duh. I am astonished. In a country that lived through so many years of a cold war you’d think journalists would know that ‘deep cover’ spies act as handlers rather than Tom Cruise-esque villains. ‘ Not directly involved with obtaining

US secrets themselves’ means they didn’t put on nightvision goggles and a catsuit in order to penetrate secure facilities with a thumb drive.  Nobody actually does that. Spies look for

disaffected/disgruntled/moneystrapped citizens of the target nation who already have placement and access to sensitive information. Then they pay those people to put papers from their desk into a briefcase and drop it at a pre-arranged location. The ‘drop’ is just about the most glamorous bit of espionage activity that actually happens in the real world.

Now, at this point I must say I am not impressed with the tradecraft of anyone who puts ’99 Fake street’ when buying a drop phone. Sure, when it’s your hundredth drop phone, I imagine one’s creativity could become strained. But ‘Fake street?’

It will be very interesting to see if any treason or espionage arrests come out of this busted spy ring. I hope none do. If you can level such charges and make them stick it’s likely already cost some American asset his/her life. Hopefully we caught these folks before they could do

any real damage. And, on the other side of the coin, I hope they were actually spies and that the charges are not trumped up bits of fluff designed to spur political change of some sort.

Russel Crowe as Robin Hood.

Wow, such a wasted opportunity.

I went into this movie with high hopes that had been slightly dashed by Eric D. Snider’s review. I actually find slightly worse for wear high hopes to be a good recipe for movie watching. It makes the slide into a comfortable watch, instead of a great one, easy and painless. Unfortunately, Robin Hood just kept on sliding.

*Major spoilers ahoy*

Once I reconciled myself to a slightly unglamorous telling of the tale I was wowed by the production values, and unlike Snider I found the twists and turns to be logical and the machinations believable, barely.  And then they got all feminist on us. Not sure who thought it would be a good idea for Maid Marian to show up for the final battle in full armor leading a band of naked orphans from the woods. (barely mentioned so far) It wasn’t. Neither was it a good idea to have her lift her helm and declare across the battlefield “This is for Walter.” (her murdered father-in-law) before heading off to engage the bad guy in swordplay. Cheese stacked on ridiculous does not make a good sandwich.

And for those naked orphans who turned into knife fighting ninjas taking out armored infantry? I do not thank you.

It got a little sillier when we cut to several different takes in a row of Robin carrying the armored Maid Marian in his arms, deeper into the ocean. What’s out there besides retreating French? And any hope of a satisfying ending? Sigh.