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What is ‘too stupid to live?’

I live with a first responder. My husband (known here as Spooky Man), is a veteran living with disability. He has been a caregiver for the developmentally disabled, a correctional officer, a correctional emergency response fireman, and an army medic.

My father was a communications specialist for the Boise National Forest, and he was involved in the original formation of the National Interagency Fire Center (then known as the Boise Interagency Fire Center). He was a first responder, too. My family never took summer vacations, because my father was always on wildfires all over the West.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?

Years ago, a reviewer accused Tasha Ocasek of making a too-stupid-to-live decision at the end of The Valmont Contingency. My response then was laughter, because I knew immediately three things about the reviewer:

  1. He/she was not a first responder
  2. He/she had never lived with a first responder
  3. He/she does not (and might never) understand a first responder’s way of thinking

The recent anniversary of September 11, 2001 made me think about this again, and it took a few days to get my thoughts in order.

Obviously, Tasha Ocasek is a first responder, who becomes a respected trauma surgeon by the time of The Ocasek Opportunity’s main action. But the mindset came long before the training, the residencies, and the board certifications. She’s the kind of person who runs toward danger, because she knows she has the ability and the responsibility to protect others.

I know about this mindset because of the first responders in my life. (Me, I’m a lab rat; I’ll wait for them to bring stuff to me and then I’ll tell them what’s in it, thank-you-very-much. Adrenaline gives me a hangover.)

Tasha refuses to be protected from the space zombies — no, just because the Republic Navy has their best minds working on the problem it doesn’t mean that she’s not going to work on the problem; she gets lucky and find the source of the problem, but she doesn’t find a solution. Then she walks into her worst nightmare because she knows the source of the attack on the ben Khalids and, guhdammit, She. Is. Going. To. Fix. It.

Yes, complications ensue and she nearly dies (a couple of times), but her determination and conviction that she can make a difference never wavers. That’s a first responder.

If she’s too stupid to live, so is every fireman, police officer, EMT, or other hero who runs into a burning building to save a kitten, wades into floodwater full of sewage and pollution to collect a house-bound hurricane survivor, jumps out of a perfectly good airplane with a pulaski and parachute to put out a raging inferno, or charges into a building with an active shooter inside.

Thank heavens there are people out there who are too stupid to live. And if you’re one of them, thank you for everything you do.

Vacation!

It’s close enough now that I’m starting to believe it…Spooky Man and I are going to the Oregon coast for a week at the end of August. This will be our third vacation in nearly 26 years of marriage. The last two times we went on holiday, I was unemployed at the time; this year that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve got the dog and indoor cats (on their special diet because they are somewhere between heftychonk and megachonk) scheduled for the kennel, a house sitter lined up, and my special login for work. Yes, I will be working for a few hours because I have translations coming back that week, but I’ll be doing it over coffee from our hotel, looking out onto the ocean. I’ll also be working on Kindness of Strangers.

In closing, this is Flynn (formerly Lord Minamoto, Samurai cat), Spooky Man’s latest stray (abandoned by a neighbor’s temporary roommates last year), both deep in contemplation and in mid-yawn:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because cat pictures. And because he is a fluffy beast.

 

Grumpiness

Cutting 10,000 words of a work in progress designed to be 35,000 words long — because you noticed a plot hole the size of…a very large plot hole — is extremely annoying. Plus, the predicted high for today is 104F (40C) and 107F (damn near 42C–42C!) tomorrow.

To quote my cat: Do. Not. Want.

That is all.

Okay, okay, I’ve got one more thing: Kindness of Strangers (see paragraph one, above) might not get finished this month, but it will get close.

That is all.

The Unique Solution is for sale!

Muppet flail! Because it’s no longer a pre-order, it’s out and proud and for sale.

Wanna see the cover? Here it is:

Want to buy an ebook (sorry, trade paperbacks are coming, but not for about a month)? Here are links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apple

This is me happy dancing all the way to the day job.

Want to find out when the next book is out?

You can sign up for the new releases mailing list in the upper-right corner of my home page (http://www.valrobertsauthor.com if you’re reading on Twitter or FB).

I don’t spam or send giant newsletters full of “extra content” (good lord, who has the time?) or sell your personal information (squicky).

When I have a new book out, I send you an email with links to purchase, should you be so inclined, No muss, no fuss, and easy to delete if you’re not so inclined.

Okay, my crass commercial message is over, you can go back to your regularly scheduled activity (or, you know, sign up for the new release notices). Should you be so inclined. 🙂

Thanks,
Val

 

Next on the Agenda

Just wanted to drop a note to let you know I’m not resting on my laurels (they’re actually kind of scratchy) now that I’ve finally got Talyn’s story finished and up for preorder.

I’m currently working on the story of Rahmsin Singh and Chandra Ramasamy, the third in the Ganymede Survivors Romances. I’m calling it Kindness of Strangers as a working title.

With a little luck, it will be ready for prime time in September, but every time I’ve given myself a deadline, something happened to completely throw it out the window–so don’t quote me on that.

Back to work….

Change in the Air

The evil day job and I have parted company (and it wasn’t evil at all, I quite liked that job) and I’m looking for work in western Oregon and Washington. The reasons are varied and, well, personal. My point is that there is likely an interstate move in my future, after fourteen years in the same house.

So I’m working on that, and I’m editing The Unique Solution (the long-awaited sequel to Blade’s Edge; that heroine has been a pill–a pill, I say) and working on the third novella in the Strike Force series, “Kindness of Strangers.”

Kindness will set up the second trilogy of Strike Force stories, what happens with the ‘ghosts’ — those strikers whose bodies didn’t survive the friendly fire incident: Captain Dressler, Whisper, and Grimtoo and LC. Here’s a hint: they find that special someone.

It also starts the process of connecting the Strike Force Stories to the Human Diaspora universe, which actually was a bit of a surprise. Apparently my subconscious likes connecting storylines. Speaking of the Human Diaspora series, Tetsuo and Akiko’s story is next on my to-do list.

In non-writing, non-day job news, all the furbabies are happy and healthy, and Spooky Man has a new project cat, a completely gray intact male shorthair known as Shadow. As soon as he’s domesticated enough, we’ll get him fixed. He’s still too shy for me to get a decent photo, so stay tuned.

 

Update — No, I have not entirely abandoned my website

After recovering from the breast cancer reconstruction that refused to cooperate (no, I will not go into details as I don’t want to freak out anyone; let’s just say I burned off some bad karma), I dove into The Ocasek Opportunity, the story of Tasha’s little brother and how he saved two civilizations from the boogeyman aliens.

Currently, it’s resting before I start editing the first draft into a book.

Now I’m fighting with Kindness of Strangers, the Ganymede Survivors story of Colonel Singh and the elusive Chandra Ramasamy.

And I’ve got one more editing pass on The Unique Solution–the redemption of the evil twin from Blade’s Edge–before I can get it published.

I’ve written more in the last year than in the previous several, just none of it on my website/blog. So now you know.

Thanks,
Val

The Importance of Syntax

Way back in the nineteen-mumbles, I took a programming class. I was in the very last class at my university that started Fortran programming on punch cards. Yes, punch cards. You can buy them on Etsy as antiques. The professor thought we should know how bad his generation had it so we would appreciate dumb terminals (insert eye-roll here).

At any rate, the mini-mainframe system was so amazingly primitive that your program output might be a single sheet of paper (with tractor-feed margins still attached, of course) that bore the message “Syntax Error”. Which meant you had screwed up in punching one or more of your cards and the resulting code would not compile correctly, let alone run and give you the results you had to turn in for a grade.

It’s an excellent catch-all message that can be used to describe so many grammatical errors in English:
“Try and do it” = syntax error
“Graduated college” = syntax error
“Happened on accident” = syntax error
“Your so right” = syntax error
“I could care less” = syntax error

Luckily, English is extremely redundant and the human brain is highly resilient (unlike computers). We can interpret statements full of syntax errors, although a personal opinion of the speaker/writer’s intelligence might be revised down in the process. Unless English is not his or her first language, of course; syntax can be tricky to port between different grammatical systems.

For example, French uses postpositions, positional-descriptive words that are placed after a noun phrase, as well as prepositions. When French is transliterated to English, you sometimes get sentences that sound like Yoda came up with them — full of syntax errors…in English.

Genre fiction publishers are reluctant to include semicolons in books, because they believe (or so my editors have said) readers can’t understand them. Not fair, really, to either readers or the semicolon, but there it is. The result, if the writer is using the punctuation correctly, is unnecessarily choppy prose or (shudder) comma splices without appropriate conjunctions. In other words, syntax errors.

Many syntax errors are so common they’ve become idiom (a nice way of saying everybody does it so grammarians have given up), which is why idiom is almost untranslatable — it didn’t actually make sense in the first place, so moving it into a different language is tricky at best.

Study your syntax, be aware when you’re using idiom. Control it; use it for effect and not just because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Just because everyone is doing it does not make it right, or good, or readable twenty years from now when idiom and syntax have moved on.

If you do that, you’re less likely to include the word “hassle” (origin in the late 19th century, rarely used before 1950) six times in a Regency romance novel.

Back to the word mine….

Val

So, Breast Cancer Came Back

Ductile carcinoma in situ calcifications turned up on a mammogram in February, looking like someone got dust on the negative. Only it was a digital picture. Sigh.

One closeup mammogram, one needle biopsy and three doctor appointments later, the left tata became medical waste. It had thought about killing me twice, so it had to go. And on April 8, it went.

Luckily, it was just starting to think about it (ductile carcinoma is sometimes called Stage 0 cancer, because the body is walling it off with calcium so it hasn’t started to spread yet), which means no chemo. Since chemo is nasty no matter how you look at it, this is A Good Thing.

Right now I’m an Amazon who isn’t good with a bow, and my pendant watch keeps hanging funny, so I’m starting reconstruction on August 18. They’re going to sneak a little muscle from my left shoulder blade area, along with some skin, and put in a tissue expander, which is like an adjustable breast implant. The muscle is to help hold it in place.

The tissue expander starts out kind of flat and they add fluid once a week until you get the size you want — in my case, to match the other side. Then they take it out and put in the permanent implant. And I go buy a t-shirt that says, “One of them’s fake, because the real one was thinking about killing me.”

It’s nice, living in the future. Cancer is annoying and expensive, but it’s nowhere near a death sentence anymore. Also, after the initial wave of terror passes, it’s boring. As a result, this is probably the last you’ll hear about it from me, unless I’m complaining about surgical drains.

So do your exams and get your mammos done. It’s a lot cheaper and less awful if you catch things early. 🙂

Val

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