Space for Sublease

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Although business is doing quite well at the dojo, I now find myself managing a rather large building… that sits empty most of the day. I’d like to turn a dormant asset into revenue. Maybe you need space for your own micro business. If so, we should talk.

My facility has one 2400 square foot main room (40′ x 60′), separate men and women’s restrooms, separate men and women’s dressing rooms, and a waiting room with a nice window into the main room. It’s perfect for fitness classes. It would also work wonderfully for home school classes or other educational events.

The facility is already in use on weekday evenings, Sunday mornings and afternoons, some Saturdays, and from 8:30 to 9:30 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Otherwise it’s wide open for scheduling. If you need a large space but only part time, and you don’t want to pay full rent for a large facility, this is the place for you!

I’m flexible on pricing, and I’m willing to work with you if you’re just getting a business off the ground. Drop me a line if you’re interested. The building is at 1604 Slaughter Rd in Madison, Alabama. Contact info is in the flier below.

Appendix N

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Contrary to popular conception, fantasy stories didn’t begin with J.R.R. Tolkien. The fact that much of modern fantasy imitates the master obscures decades of great work that came before him. In perfect honesty, I was somewhat ignorant of this fact myself. Until, that is, I began reading Jeffro Johnson‘s magnificent blog posts on Appendix N.

The somewhat bland title hides a treasure trove of fantastical stories. But to be fair, the title fits perfectly with the subject – and its source. It references the original Appendix N – as written by Gary Gygax in the original Dungeons and Dragons game.

Once more, popular conception assumes that the game is a Tolkien knockoff. Later editions of the game certainly seem to be. Yet Gygax built the original version around far more than just the works of one British linguistics professor. Appendix N of Dungeons and Dragons lists every single work that Gygax considered an influence in the game.

Jeffro’s masterpiece of the same name includes critical reviews of each and every single work in the original Appendix N. Much of his work – some of which I read in the original blog posts – also details how these stories relate to the final product that D&D became. It’s a somewhat nerdy tome, to be sure.

But for the fantasy connoisseur of a younger generation, it’s invaluable. Even in its early stages it pointed me toward a number of authors I had never even known existed. I have not yet delved into this final version, although Jeffro was kind enough to deliver me a free ebook edition of it via e-mail yesterday. But the works in progress were strong enough to earn him a well deserved Hugo Award nomination for “Best Related Work.” I look forward to the final product with great anticipation.

Get your ebook copy at Amazon today. If you prefer killing trees, a print version should be available within a month or so. Either way, I highly recommend it.

Think About Your Goals

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I received the following message over Facebook this afternoon from a loose acquaintance.

At how many tweets per hour of [redacted] who threatened to blackball me from the industry for trump vote about how Hillary Clinton “actually won” and how she’s “so scared” should I dump an industrial sized bag of salt on her wounds by replying?

My first answer: please don’t send me this kind of question. No offense, but as a general rule I don’t care about your personal fights – even if they involve politics, and even if I’m nominally “on your side.” [Aside: I’m not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side. Except my wife.] Yes, I just waded into a personal conflict – because it directly touched on my business interests. But as a general rule, I stay out of them.

However, I did find the question interesting. Also, I found this question deeper than it first appears.

Put aside, for the moment, your own political leanings. Imagine the scenario reversed, if you need to.

The obvious answer that most of my real life friends would give is, “no, of course you shouldn’t troll.” On the other hand, the immediate response from most of us would be an intense emotional desire to do exactly that. What should he actually do?

The answer is that it depends, and that’s where nearly everyone fails. Most of us fall into one of two distinct categories. Many would just give into the emotional desire to “get back at” the other person. Others would live by an intense code that doing so is simply wrong. Neither person has stopped to actually think the problem through.

Engage your brain for a moment. The first question is the most important. What is your actual goal? Or, more often, what are your actual goals? Only once you truly understand that can you decide which action leads you closer to that goal.

In this case, I only have partial information. I don’t know the history between the two parties, or their current circumstances. And I don’t know what my acquaintances actual goals are. But I do know a bit.

The person he wishes to troll seems to no longer have the ability to retaliate in a meaningful way. The redacted information makes it clear that she once had financial influence over him, and power over his career. It also makes it clear that this power is now gone. That’s important. If she still had direct power over him, the answer is definitively no. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.

Given that, as a general rule I tend not to troll people unless there’s a purpose. Here we’re talking about Twitter. Will it raise his profile on Twitter, and help him gain publicity? Perhaps a little, with a certain sub group. But probably not much in this case. On the other hand, it probably won’t do him much harm, either.

But from the tone of the message, he probably just wants to rile her up. Sometimes you actually want to do that. An angry opponent makes stupid decisions. But if you’re not actually engaged with someone in a strategic way, what’s the point? If it’s just to get his rocks off, then my advice would be simple: don’t do it. It will just make you look petty.

2016 Planetary Awards Nominations

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Planetary Defense Command has opened nominations for the 2016 Planetary Awards for the best science fiction and fantasy writing of 2016.

We’re doing only two categories this year:

  1. Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
  2. Longer story (novels)

Injustice Gamer stunned me this evening by nominating one of my stories, Edge, for the Shorter Story category. The story is available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. My story travels in good company. His nomination for Longer Story is a very worth entry indeed – Brian Niemeier’s The Secret Kings. Brian – I promise my review is coming soon!

I’ve read quite a bit of amazing fiction this year, and finding only two works to nominate is a daunting task. But at the end of the day, I think it must come down to the following.

Shorter Story

Between the Wall and the Fire

Between the Wall and the Fire

Here I have to go with Negev, by Joshua M. Young. The story is also available in Between the Wall and the Fire. This tale of a Jewish family struggling with superintelligences is one of the absolute best works I’ve ever published at Silver Empire. I enjoyed writing Edge, but I must humbly disagree with Injustice Gamer and declare Negev to be the better overall work. But watch out, Josh – Cheah Kai Wai will give you a run for your money when we publish We Bury Our Own this spring in Lyonesse!

Longer Story

Here I have to go with Mr. John C. Wright’s Iron Chamber of Memory. This was also a tough call. Brian’s work was, indeed, fantastic. But Mr. Wright is a true grandmaster, and this is one of his absolute best works. My own review is available here. Brian, there is no shame at all in coming in slightly behind this book in my estimation, and I hope no offense is given to my friend.

These are two truly wonderful works. Whether they win or lose the 2016 Planetary Awards, I heartily recommend them and hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. But don’t stop here. 2016 was an amazing year for science fiction and fantasy writing. There’s plenty to read, and I hope that you explore them all!

Dispersion of Force

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There is a principle of force that I teach my students. It’s very simple to grasp, but the implications often take a while to sink in.

If I apply a given amount of force over a small area, I create more pressure than if I apply the same amount of force over a large area.

This is easily expressed in a simple and common law of physics: Pressure = Force / Area (P = F / A).

For those who don’t like formulas, a simple example can help. If I apply a 100 pounds of force over an area of 100 square inches, I’ve applied a pressure of 1 PSI (pound per square inch). If I instead apply that same 100 pounds of force over one square inch, I’ve applied a pressure of 100 PSI.

Even if we don’t do the math for every application of force, the inherent relationship is intuitive. Even small children follow it easily when I explain it to them. And some applications of it are equally simple. When we strike, we want to make our strike contact point as small as possible. Every karateka knows to hit with the two big knuckles when you punch. It does more damage that way. On the flip side, every judoka knows to splay out as much as you can when you breakfall. It spreads the force out and does less damage to your body. These two very different scenarios are simple applications of the same core principle.

But the principle isn’t just physical in nature. It also applies in warfare. Concentrate your forces and hit your enemy in one spot. It’s much harder for him to defend against you that way. It also applies in social situations. Put a lot of pressure on the weak link of a group and the whole group finds it harder to defend. Or apply it to an individual emotionally. Pick at someone’s sore spot and they’ll break far faster than if you pick at everything.

This is an absolutely fundamental principle of the martial arts. Every student of combat must learn it. But it’s also an absolutely fundamental principle of human dynamics in general. Fail to understand it at your own peril.

Sad Puppies Meet Regina George

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Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green over at the Mad Genius Club have declared to one and all that Silver Empire author Declan Finn is not one of the “cool kids.” Evidently he’s so uncool that they can’t even name him over at their blog, making it difficult for him to even defend himself.  Yet nobody seems to have any doubt who they’re talking about.

On the surface, Mr. Finn stands accused of trying to assume the mantle of “leader of Sad Puppies 5.” The evidence? He wrote a blog post entitled, “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” The post includes such damning gems as:

  • ” I don’t know how SP5 will be laid out” – surely a strong claim of ownership.
  • Not one but two direct links to the blog post detailing who is running SP5, where she lays out what’s going on for SP5. I mean, come on, that is some damning evidence.
  • Mr Finn now includes a giant disclaimer – IN ALL CAPS – at the top of the post that he is NOT in charge of SP5. In a fantastic feat of doublespeak, Ms. Hoyt & crew consider this denial as evidence that he’s trying to claim leadership. I am as baffled as you are.
  • Evidently he also said some things in private – super secret things that we little people are not meant to know. But they’re Horribly No Good Terrible Things. They promise.

I find the case unconvincing.

Sad Puppies 4, in theory, opened the puppies up to everyone. Indeed, they specifically called for others to solicit recommendations:

So, SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out. SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.

To that end, this thread will be the first of several to collect recommendations. There will also be multiple permanent threads (one per category) on the SP4 website where people can make comments. The tireless, wonderful volunteer Puppy Pack will be collating recommendations.

[Emphasis is mine.]

This is exactly what Mr. Finn did in his post. Only they now inform us that he’s violating some sort of unwritten code in doing so. May anyone join in? Or may only those approved by the club gather suggestions now? Evidently some animals are more equal than others. I love the way they keep the spirit of Sad Puppies alive here.

The actual charge, reading between the lines, is of Supporting Sad Puppies Over-Enthusiastically While Being Uncool. Let’s examine the evidence here.

Mr. Finn has indeed enthusiastically supported Sad Puppies for quite some time. His novel Honor at Stake made the SP4 Best Novel list. He’s written more blog posts on the subject than I can count. He even published a satirical take on the whole affair, Sad Puppies Bite Back – first as a series of blog posts and then later in novel form.

I rather like Mr. Finn, and I even signed him to a five book publishing deal. Even so… I must confess that he is, in fact, a bit socially awkward. But then, he’s a science fiction and fantasy author. It kind of comes with the territory.

On this more honest charge, then, I must reluctantly find the defendant guilty.

On the other hand, any reasonable person would settle for a far lesser sentence – even were he actually guilty of the charges as stated. The appropriate response here is to issue a post noting that he is not in fact part of the SP5 leadership. Then, perhaps, drop him a note quietly behind the scenes and ask him if he can be a bit more clear in the future.

Instead, they chose to write no less than 3400 words between them (I counted [OK, I had Word count for me]) insulting Mr. Finn. They felt it necessary to inform the entire world – at length – of exactly how uncool he is. They chose to behave very unprofessionally, punching down to an author quite a bit further down the list than themselves. In a word, they chose to be cruel.

Their behavior is uncalled for. In fact, it’s ridiculously overdramatic. Mr. Finn deserves an apology.

Which Blog Post Will Hit It Big?

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It’s very difficult to predict if any given blog post will hit it big. Sometimes you can kind of call it. I had a pretty good idea that my Women of DragonCon 2016 post would be big. Even so, I didn’t expect it to account for a full 9.25% of my 2016 traffic. But I expected my post on choosing a niche for your blog to do better than it did. And I had no idea that my Shady Rays sunglasses review would become so popular.

But let’s focus on the two popular ones for a moment. That will help us understand two factors – out of many – that help make a post popular.

The popularity of the Women of DragonCon post needs little explanation. Sensationalism and titillation sell. That post has a bit of both. Even better, it has pictures of attractive women in interesting clothing. Bingo. I also posted links to it in several relevant forums. That earned it a lot of attention.

The Shady Rays post has a simple explanation, too, although less obvious. As of this morning, that single post has brought in more traffic than this entire blog earned in all of January last year. That’s right – nine days of one blog post generated more traffic than the entire blog did in a full month in a comparable period. What happened?

Google.

Key in a search for “Shady Rays review.” That post is currently the number four result – and number one is the Shady Rays web site itself, with numbers two and three being YouTube videos. How on earth did I achieve such a feat? Well, I used the “Yoast SEO” plugin for WordPress to optimize the post for search engines… but I do that for every post. Why was this one special?

Because there aren’t very many product reviews for Shady Rays yet. I know. I looked for one before I bought mine. The Internet let me down. I found a very small handful – but I couldn’t be sure that they weren’t plants from the company itself. My sunglasses broke again, so I needed new ones – and I took a chance. Then I wrote a review about it, and now my post is one of the top results for that term.

It will probably stay there for some time. This sort of thing tends to be self reinforcing. Other people looking for Shady Rays reviews will find mine and share it with their friends. Because I’m early, I have a head start on the link building game. It’s too bad they don’t have an affiliate program – I could probably make a bit of money this year off of referrals.

Even so, ranking high on the search results doesn’t guarantee a lot of traffic. I have other posts that rank high on search results. My post on Ted Cruz’s Asperger’s Syndrome ranks highly as well. But while that post does bring in a steady stream of traffic from Google, it’s a small stream. The difference is that Shady Rays is advertising heavily on social media, and they’ve got a good sales pitch. People are interested in the product. What they’re missing is a solid set of user reviews to seal the deal – but people are looking for that.

So although I may rank high on the search phrase for quite some time, the traffic will probably ultimately level off. I can’t rely on that forever. But sooner or later I’ll write another post that does equally well – or better.

There’s a lesson here, and it’s worth pointing out. This is why I write a general topics blog rather than a niche blog – and I recommend that you do the same. You never, ever know when you’re going to write that tiny throw-away post that blows up big and doubles your traffic – and you never know which post it’ll be. That’s also one more reason why quantity is so important. The more posts you write, the more traffic draws you have.

What are your biggest surprise hit posts?

Week Two at the Gym is the Worst

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I’ve spent many an hour at the gym over the course of many years. Like anybody else who has a decades-long exercise habit, I’ve faced my share of downtime. We closed the dojo for the last two weeks of December, as we always do over Christmas. My plan had been to spend those two weeks hitting the gym hard to get a head start on the new year.

Alas, reality intervened. I caught bronchitis over Thanksgiving. It took me a few weeks to get rid of that. And then I caught a sinus infection two days later. So instead of spending those two weeks working out hard… I spent them doing next to nothing.

I managed to kick the sinus infection right before the New Year, so I did what I could: I hit the gym on December 31st, and at least got some head start on the new year. My normal lifting days are Tuesday and Saturday… which means that yesterday was officially day 1 of my second week back on track.

As I learned years ago, week two sucks.

Week one is good. You feel great, your body is pulsing with energy, and have no problems staying motivated. Then week two hits and your body reminds you that you’re not used to this anymore. Your energy levels sag, dragging your motivation down with it. And then the soreness sets in.

By week three these problems will all pass. The soreness will diminish. Your energy will return, restoring your motivation as well. You’ll start to settle into a routine, and things will finally pick up.

But you have to survive week two, first.

Quite a few people will begin their week two over the next few days. Many of them will quit, thus giving up on their New Year Resolutions before January’s even out.

Don’t be one of them. Week two will pass. By early February, you’ll feel awesome – and you’ll want to keep going. Push through. Persevere. You’ll thank yourself later.

Like it or Not, Mexico Will Pay for Trump’s Wall

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Mexico likely will pay for Trump’s wall. The mechanism has been bloody obvious ever since the idea was raised. Instapundit sums it up in one sentence:

DUDE, ALL IT TAKES IS A TAX ON REMITTANCES: Vicente Fox to Trump: When will you understand that I’m not paying for that f***ing wall? And you think there’s a political downside to taxing money sent from the U.S. to Mexico?

Mexicans working abroad sent $24.8 billion home in remittances in 2015. That’s more than their oil industry earned in the same year – an industry that once generated 80% of the Mexican economy. Let’s be honest: we all know that most of that comes from the United States. Slap a 10% tax on that and it’s more than $2 billion dollars a year. That’s plenty of money to pay for a wall – a big wall. And Mexico can’t do a thing about it, no matter what Vicente Fox says.

As Instapundit notes, it’s hardly going to be an unpopular tax. And when it’s done paying for the wall, American citizens (you know, the ones who can actually vote) will continue to find it popular. Why? The only reason anybody ever likes any tax: because it will tax someone else.

Interestingly, from a policy standpoint, the tax also helps with another issue. It discourages illegal immigrants. Remove the incentives and you reduce the behavior. Forget for a moment whether you agree with the policy or not. In terms of implementation, this kills two birds with one stone.

The new Congress has already found a legal mechanism to build the wall. The tax to pay for it is coming soon – mark my words.