Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Redeeming A Villain(ess)

Talyn Penthes is an evil twin, or she was in Blade’s Edge. However, having all her worst fears come true has started a process that will end when she restructures the clone hegemony of the Garnford system and within the Hauptmann multicorp cartel.

Who knew an evil twin was exactly what they needed to pull their heads out and stop treating the non-clones (they call them Uniques) like second-hand citizens? It helps that she has a background in leadership, negotiating from a weak position and that she’s both a Unique and a clone — identical twins, after all, are the original clones.

There’s a lot going on in this story: politics of sex and power; genetics and epigenetics, or why a clone isn’t necessarily identical; innovation vs. repeatability — something about disruptive technology here; when does something cease to be art and become a commodity…okay, my plot is a big, fat mess right now. Surprise! Why don’t you look surprised?

My plan was to have the first draft half written this month, but I currently have…wait for it…5,000 words written, spaced all over the plot. Sigh.

I’m going to have to write this in threads, the way I wrote Blade’s Edge: the romance part, the intrigue/thriller part, the science fiction part. And then I’ll have to weave them together, which is actually easier than it sounds (or at least it was the last time I did it).

It just illustrates how different every book is. The Valmont Contingency (its first working title was the Valois Contingency, but I couldn’t decide how to pronounce “Valois,” which made it a rotten name to foist upon readers) plot threads came together with relative ease. It had other problems — I flopped the protagonist and antagonist roles, which required a rewrite of the second half when I realized the heroine had the most changing to do. Insert big forehead slap here.

In this one, I know the heroine is the protagonist (earning redemption is a biiig arc), but I’m getting lost in the minutiae of fraying telomeres and stem cell body modification, DNA-based glass ceilings, DNA-based predestination, first-runner-up clone nihilism, and — and — and…you get the idea. Time to focus.

Talyn is one bad girl who’s gonna have to save the world to earn her happy ending. Well, technically there are two planets, so she’s going to save both worlds of the Garnford system. Not bad for a big-fat-loser evil twin, huh?

What’s in a Name? You Have No Idea

Dear Creative People Who Must Make Up Names of Chemicals, please stop doing it wrong.

There are naming conventions to these sorts of things, and IUPAC, the International Union of Physical and Applied Chemists, won’t let you name an element Chemical X. Element names end in -ium, so you’d better try, say, Elementium first. Not familiar with the element Chemical X? There’s an entire Periodic Table of Imaginary Elements.

And don’t start with the “But gold, silver and mercury…” because those aren’t their real names. Remember, most of the elements were originally found by alchemists, who spoke and worked in Latin. Gold, silver and mercury’s real names, Aurum, argentium, and hydragyrum (ever wonder why their symbols are Au, Ag and Hg?) conform to the convention.

Lead (Pb) is plumbium. Carbon (C) is carboneum. Hydrogen, mother of all elements, is hydrogenium in Latin. Got it? See, I knew you simply needed to know the rule. You’re very bright people.

From the venerable kryptonite (which is named like and appears as a mineral but is always referred to as an element), to the simply ridiculous “unobtainium” (another name that would cause IUPAC to collectively sneer), to Clive Cussler’s strangely self-contradictory “anasazium” (it’s an element! it’s a compound! it’s a catalyst! it’s inert! it’s explosive! — wait, what?), made-up chemicals apparently don’t need to follow the physical laws or naming conventions of this universe.

This is why supposedly respectable journalists can get away with referring to working aerospace scientists and engineers as “eggheads” on network television, which a reporter for CBS did a couple of days ago when referring to the asteroid that passed between Earth and Luna.

Those would be the same “eggheads” you would be begging to save you if the asteroid were a couple of hundred thousand miles closer to the planet, wouldn’t they, Mr. reporter? Perhaps a bit of courtesy and respect for someone else’s profession might be in order.

Scientific names aren’t trademark-able marketing tools, like the drug names on TV commercials. They mean something. And when you make up crap names, you insult the people who have to deal with the fallout of sealing Han Solo in the “element” carbonite (another mineral name — why can’t they call it a mineral? it’s the same number of syllables).

You know those long ingredient names on the back of shampoo bottles? If you understand the rules, you can draw the molecule from the name, although you might have difficulty reading it aloud. But you’re not supposed to read it aloud, you’re supposed to be able to visualize the molecule and what it does. That’s the point of a descriptive name.

For example, Claritin ™, generically known as Loratidine(tm), is really ethyl 4-(8-chloro-5,6-dihydro-11H-benzo[5,6]cyclohepta[1,2-b]pyridin-11-ylidene)-1-piperidinecarboxylate. Who knew it had that many rings in it? Well, anyone who passed the first semester of organic chemistry, but they were all studying to be doctors and scientists — you know, eggheads — except for that one, very odd, art major…but I digress.

One more thing…don’t invent an element when you really need a molecule. How often do you see an element all by itself without a lot of man-made intervention? Here’s a hint: not often, and they tend to be considered quite valuable. So when you’re thinking about making up an element and ending it with “-ite” or “-ex” or “-ia” — just call it a mineral. Or a compound. Or even a molecule; I’d be okay with molecule if I squinted and gritted my teeth.

Hey, Starforgers is Out

It’s here: http://amzn.to/w36zi3 and here: http://bit.ly/s7qfWE, but not at our local Indy’s (Rediscovered Books) Google bookstore, yet. @KenMcConnell (follow him on Twitter, he’s cool) needs to get on that.

In other news: furniture

Today, I bought good living room furniture. It was time. Besides, I had to.

Spooky Man is having his deviated septum fixed in a few weeks, and we’ve been sitting on an Early-Marriage Parental Hand-Me-Down sectional for 20 years. He needs something comfortable he can sleep on in a semi-sitting position while he heals.

So…new living room furniture, including a leather recliner, AKA “Papa’s Chair” (his term, my eye roll; I love him, but still….). I have two more pieces of Early Marriage furniture to replace (1970s “Spanish” style dresser and rickety dining room table/chairs), and then we’ll officially be grown-ups.

See, you know you’re a grown up when you own real estate, you have legal papers filed in a real filing cabinet, and you chose all your furniture because you liked it, not because it was free. Having your car paid off and money in the bank is bonus points. I’m (we’re) almost there.

Now, back to the redemption of the evil twin from Blade’s Edge.

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