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Confirmation Bias May 4, 2014

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One of the hats I wear at this time of year is working on the editorial staff of a four-play of great fantasy football magazines. One of them won best fantasy football magazine of the 2013 (beating out such also-rans as Sports Illustrated and Rotowire <g>). One article that just passed through my computer this year takes the usual fantasy selection process to a new level by discussing confirmation bias.

This started me thinking about how confirmation bias enters into fiction writing overall. In a nutshell this is (subconsciously) looking for information that supports your own beliefs.

Everyone filters what they choose to read simply because there isn’t time enough to read everything. If I write a book a month and you can read it in a day, you have 29 or 30 days free–but there are hundreds of authors also publishing a book to take up that schedule. Read 3 a day–there are more than that being published. And I’m just talking f&sf. Throw in mysteries and westerns and romance and nf and all the rest, you’d have to read faster than the speed of light. So of course you need to pick and choose (call it discriminate, if you will). You read space opera with a touch of other sf? You still have to figure out how to best spend your time. Favorite author? This is music to my ears if my name is on that mental list because it means I write what you like.

Here is where confirmation bias can be both good and bad. It’s good that you read for enjoyment what entertains you. It’s stupid to force yourself through a book that isn’t delivering the groceries. All you have in life is time and you must make the most of it. The same goes for being a writer. I pick and choose what interests me to write. Confirmation bias supports my choices since I need look at only the bits and pieces that reinforce my foolish belief I can sell what I write. Would something outside the box (I am beginning to hate this cliche) be better? Maybe, but not if it doesn’t spark my interest. I love reading about physics and my bias is in that direction. That’s not to say civil engineering wouldn’t add to my store of info, but mostly I don’t care about asphalt roads or designing parking lots or see how a story about them would be fun to write. I would rather find another article on the Alcubierre warp drive.

Confirmation bias supports my beliefs in fiction reading and writing. Making decisions that involve life and death situations certainly require examining your beliefs to be sure they aren’t doing great harm or are just not right. What if the accepted mass of the electron was wrong, maybe just by a tad? Such “absolutely known” numbers need to be verified and are never “accepted science” in real science.

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Merry Christmas y Feliz Navidad December 24, 2012

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Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from along the Cenotaph Road. Thanks for being alongside this past year and may we continue for a long time into the future.

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Your Only Excuse For Not Being There Is Winning the Lottery June 12, 2012

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I am talking about the Albuquerque Comic Expo, of course. You should have been there and you missed out big time unless you were collecting the big Powerball prize.

The guests were super, the exhibits topnotch, the costumes were many and varied. And here is the booth Scott Phillips and I shared.

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And through Scott’s myriad connections in the indie film world, I managed to get a booth babe to help out this year. Ashley Bryce spent the day Saturday drawing in potential book readers. Some of them might even have diverted their eyeballs to the printed word, but I don’t fault them if they didn’t. (Ashley on the left, Sarah on the right).

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Meeting fans such as Luis makes such a weekend worthwhile. Talking with all the artists and watching the guests go about their work amazes me. Jim Kelly was indefatigable. Katee Sackhoff was everywhere, on the floor talking to fans when she wasn’t signing pictures. Dean Stockwell was an unannounced guest, but I only saw him once. Guests, even last minute ones, ought to be advertised. Comics mainstay Stan Lee let folks take his picture out on the display floor. I just wasn’t fast enough or close enough to get my picture taken with him, alas.
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Marvelous costumes abounded but my skill using a cellphone camera are nil. Here are a few that actually turned out ok.

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The one costume that blew me away I didn’t even get a blurry shot of. If anyone can supply a good picture, I’ll send you an autographed copy of Steampunk’d. The lady had on (obviously from the prize) a steampunk outfit, mostly white motif with red highlights, with an incredible lens over right eye/cog face piece. I told her I’d get her picture when she returned for a copy of Steampunk’d. She never came back and I missed a final chance Saturday to snap a picture as she probably rushed out for the costume contest (which I understand was incredible but unfortunately missed–there are downsides to manning your own table)

Tonight begins the Western Writers of America conference (and this morning I got the great news that I’d sold 2 more westerns–this makes the remainder of 2012 very very busy). I leave you with more pictures from ACE 2012 and high praise for Greg, Mike and Craig for putting on such a fun convention.

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Strategy vs Tactics and Knowing The Difference in Writing May 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, money, Uncategorized, writing.
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Marketing stuff. Writing stuff. How do you keep them separate? Ans: you don’t. You shouldn’t. VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) means you’re doing it all, so it is one huge stewpot. But knowing the difference between what goes into the stew and the pot itself is important.

A VIPub author needs to create a brand. A reader has to look at a title, see your name and think “good experiences before.” The brand is like that pot. It holds everything together. That’s your strategy, to create the brand. This is the all encompassing purpose of your career. The big picture. The brand.

How do you mix up the stuff in the pot? That’s the tactics. The little stuff all added together to be confined by your brand/strategy/stewpot. What goes in can be a lot of different genre, though it is likely you ought to make smaller pots (strategies) for different ones. This is one reason I sue pen names. A reader of a Karl Lassiter or Jackson Lowry title shouldn’t expect science fiction. The branding should cry out “Lowry writes damn fine western fiction!” Holding it all together are the tactics of short stories and novels and autographings that give the taste to the reader. Not sure if it is possible to have a strategy that works without good tactics. IOW, good branding is accomplished by producing good writing.

But good writing isn’t enough. You need that strategy of how to market, where to market, who ought to be your market to best sell what’s boiling around in the pot. Without the strategy, a writer without a surprise “fairy godmother time” breakout book won’t get noticed–the brand hasn’t been established. Consistently good work is the goal but this is only a tactic on the way to branding.

Know what you’re aiming for. Strategy for an overall writing career is necessary; your name becomes a brand. Getting to this point requires tactics. A solid body of work, ways of finding your audience and enticing them to read your work until branding is achieved–that’s tactics. Twitter and FB and Goodreads and autographings and all the rest are tactics.

Set your sights on the goal (strategy) and start firing (tactics).

On Geekery June 8, 2011

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I am at a loss to explain why people (good friends, even) like Big Bang Theory. It’s about geeks, right, and we’re geeks? SF fans are geeks and this is about us! I don’t see the show that way (though I admit I have only seen 3 or 4 eps, mostly waiting to see something good).

That the show is about geeks seems to be all that matters to people liking the show. I find it unwatchable since it is a “laugh at the geeks” show like you’d laugh at the antics of a monkey at the zoo. It wouldn’t surprise me if one BBT episode wasn’t about throwing poop at their inferiors.

So are there good geek shows? Definitely. Check out Eureka. The geeks aren’t freaks, they are real people who do smart things to correct things that go wrong and are more competent. In the case of some of them, they are *a lot* smarter. Who wouldn’t want to hang with Henry? This guy can do anything and is a super genius. He’s better than Tom Swift Sr and Jr rolled up and tied together with duct tape.

Even the laugh at ‘em crazies like the now gone Jim Taggert were competent and people you’d want to call if you had trouble.

SF in the early days (ok, the pulp era) piled on the competent geeks. They were super geniuses pitted against super evil geniuses–and they won. The Lens series is an example (of the lot, Worsel is more human but he’s still a geek). You didn’t laugh at them because they were smart or competent, you rooted for them because of that.

BBT brings out a superiority “I may be dumber, but look how Asperger *those* fools are” response. You don’t want to be like them because you pity them, feel superior in spite of them being smarter. That’s not a good thing.

Give me Eureka any day. Who wouldn’t want to actually know Tess or Allison, Zane or Chris or, yes, even Fargo? You geek, you.

Beautiful Apocalypse July 4, 2010

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As followup to last night’s fireworks watching, I went out again this evening. Big show at the Balloon Park. They were supposed to have a balloon glow of about 20 ‘loons and then launch the aerial stuff. Nice, pretty, but the country club to the north of me had better (closer) stuff and somebody right across the street had some pretty amazing bottle rockets that exploded 30 ft above my head.

Loved it. The smell of gunpowder (now laying in a thick pall over the city) is wonderful. Like burning leaves, this is one of my favorite odors. It’s a good thing I’m not a pyromaniac, but then the smell of “stuff” burning can be awful. Only certain things. Leaves. Fireworks. Mesquite.

As last night, I had my mp3 player rolling. Some strange stuff came up. A lot of Civil War songs but when the city display started, “In the Hills of Shiloh” began playing. Later on, the aria out of Madame Butterfly, which always brings a tear to my eye. And the Moody Blues “watching and waiting…”

And Green Day’s “Holiday” which seems more appropriate now than when (and why) it was first popular.

But pretty fireworks, pretty music, cool night and quite enjoyable. I now return control of your TV…

Happy Fourth of July July 4, 2010

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Last night (the 3rd of July for those of you educated in American schools), I went to the top of the retaining dam just south of my house to watch for fireworks. Lots and lots of great stuff. Some small amount in the neighborhood but one city display, low in the sky, went on for about 20 minutes. A much larger display at the Sandia casino out on the rez was nice but had to be viewed between air conditioners due to the angle. Best of all was the display from the isotopes game. This went on for about a half hour and was gorgeous.

I’m not sure what/if there will be actual fireworks displays tonight or why so many displays have been moved from the actual date. Like LBJ moving all the holidays to Monday? “When was Martin Luther King born?” “Monday.” I’m not sure they shouldn’t make a clean sweep of it and move all the holidays to Monday so my trash pickup is always screwed up. Xmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Kwanza. Move ‘em all to a Monday so we can have a long weekend. (As if, in my case).

Anyway, I am looking forward to trooping back to the high spot this evening to look out over the city. The Balloon Fiesta Park might be the city venue. If the city hasn’t sold it off to pay its bills. Somehow, red fireworks seems appropriate this year reflecting the red ink we are drowning in. This spot is situated in such a way I can see the stars by blocking out city lights or see the city lights on the western side of the dam.

Happy birthday, America. And for your musical and visual pleasure

KISS June 4, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in death, fantasy, gummint, space, Uncategorized.
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Keep It Simple, well, you know. What prompts this line of thinking right now comes from having my car worked on for the past couple days. Big $$ but talking with the mechanic after cringing and paying is what bugged me. He was giving me a “you think you’ve got it bad” talk about how he had fixed one car that had electronic motor mounts. They failed. This took out the gizmo that controlled the emissions valve and that burned out the computer. The computer alone was $850–he said the total repair was over $2500. Because some idiot designer had put electronic motor mounts in (and didn’t bother putting a fuse in the line). Some things are better done with “primitive” technology. Mechanical technology rather than computerized.

The more complex a system gets, the more likely it is to fail. I am still amazed that only two shuttles have bit the bit one. And as far as stats go, the Macondo well is to be expected. There are 35,000 deep sea wells and this is the first to blow up so spectacularly. Drilling in shallower water or on land where crews could work without a mile of water intervening makes it KISS. Shutting down a quarter of all our domestically produced oil is hardly the solution (nor is not building nuclear power plants–there have been some dandies to use as bad examples. The 1961 SL-1 Idaho meltdown has not been repeated in the US. Windscale hasn’t been repeated in the UK. Who knows what the Russian reactors are like after Chernobyl (probably no different–ie, without containment vessels) The idea is to learn from your problems…and if you can, make the solution simpler.

I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to say everyone in the US is a tax cheat–because the tax code is so complex and has such contradictory regulations it is impossible to follow it. Simplify.

KISS but when you have to have complex systems, make them as understandable as possible. Of course, this takes away the jobs of those entrusted with…making things complicated.

I remember with some fondness Frank Herbert’s Bureau of Sabotage. The protagonist was supposed to keep things from working too efficiently. And Arthur Clarke’s City and the Stars had a similar idea. The domed city was so tightly run, without outside irritant/mistakes/jokes being introduced the system would eventually fail from lack of evolution. I suppose those aren’t sf stories as much as they are fantasy.

Ilya Prigogine won a Nobel Prize explaining how it seems that humans (and life itself) violate entropy by becoming ordered systems instead of increasingly disordered. It might be time for someone to win a Nobel prize for finding a way to simplify until nobody knows what’s going on.

Or have we reached the ultimate complexity?

Filling the Aether April 26, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, podcast, sci-fi, science fiction, Second Life, Uncategorized, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Yesterday was a busy day all around. Lots of mss to edit/correct and need to get them into the mail today. Also (yea!) Contracts. As happens from time to time, I turned in the book before I saw the contract. Can you say trust? Thank you Mr. Rogers.

I also went into Second Life as my avatar Goran Draconis for an interview. Through the miracles of modern technology and the wonderful folks at Radio Riel, here is the link I sound weird but I realized somewhere through it that the reason Art Bell tells his callers to turn off their radios is the 10 second delay. Weirdness is hearing what you’ve just said echoed. I was on Skype and a few seconds later the voice came out in Second Life.

But wait, as they are so fond of saying, there is more. I’ve mentioned Michael Zapp’s wondrous Legend Maker program for turning your dull, lifeless manuscripts into sparkling ePub and Kindle files. Here’s a write up about the program that gives the lowdown. Sure, you can do all the work yourself. But Legend Maker gives consistent output and makes sure you’re not to overlook that one little code that can drive you nutso trying to find and correct.

I have also launched my online store after much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Or is that whaling and noshing? The original store was hacked and I had to move it from the server to prevent the insidious climb from my ebooks all the way to the server root and disastrous hacking on a lot of other good people. Leif is a good guy and didn’t deserve to worry about this on my part. The new store’s been in the works for weeks so is still a bit skittish in places. Let me know. And sign up for the newsletter while you’re logged in. I intend to offer free fiction (on occasion), discounts (on occasion) and other goodies to nl subscribers.

To work. The wild wild west beckons.

Not Fade Away March 7, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in death, sense of wonder, Uncategorized.
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Ever since I was 12 or so and found that stuffing cotton in my ears didn’t work to reduce sonic blast from an old H&R .22 pistol, I’ve had ringing in my ears. Tinnitus it’s called (and no, I don’t want “quietus” to cure it. I prefer to continue living, thank you). Over the years I’ve found it more difficult to differentiate a voice if there is a lot of white noise in a room. Talking in a restaurant or crowded con, for instance, makes most of what I should be hearing just…disappear. Lost in the Johnson noise.

Couple observed fact with everything on the Internet is factual. Right? Right. I am nonplused, bemused and bewildered by this, then.
Supposedly only those possessed of good ears can hear it. I can.

So, I pressed on and found this.
I can hear it, too. Quite well, actually.

This is almost enough to make me rummage through the trash and find one of those free hearing test coupons and see what the people who sell hearing aids say. But then, never ask a barber if you need a haircut.

The question is: are those online hums bogus? Missed the actual frequencies? Are my crappy computer speakers that good? Will Don Diego arrive in time to free Reina from the railroad tracks where Estebar has cruelly tied her?

I shall endeavor to further ruin my hearing with earbuds and an MP3 player cranked up to drown out ambient noise (this does not work on an airplane–I’ve tried it and no volume setting is enough).

Until then. Hummmmmmmmmmm.