Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Anti-NASA

Here's an interesting question. What should children who are in middle school today study so they will be in demand when they get out of college?

That depends on what we do today. If we support a strong space program, both manned and robotic, now there are a few fields that will explode in a decade.

As long as we don't keep cutting NASA's budget, in the next decade we will need as many biologists as we can train. This will be from two things.

If will can maintain NASA's barebone budget we will have a few more unmanned landers go to Mars. Evidence of long term water on the surface has been found, if the composition of the soil in this area is as we suspect, it has a good potential for life to have developed. A few more landers and we will see if Mars ever had life.

If we find even fossilized remains of microscopic life that evolved on Mars, biology and life science will be revolutionized. What we know of biology comes from observing life on Earth, it all evolved together. The extremophiles, life that lives in the extreme places like volcanoes and the Antarctic have taught us a lot about the borders of biology, but it is still life that evolved on Earth next to all other Earth life.

If we get a sample of life that evolved somewhere else, we can see what things evolved because they are necessary and what just worked well enough and were held over. Having two examples of life that evolved differently will give biologists an incredible amount of new information. That will lead to new discoveries and filter out to new medicines and medical treatments here on Earth.

This alone will make biology and life sciences a hot field for the next decade.

The second way NASA, at current budget levels, will make biology and life sciences expand is a manned expedition to an Asteroid. Asteroids have amino acids on them. Amino acids are the building blocks of life. Several types of amino acids found on meteorites don't exist on Earth. Studying these in their pure form is bound to lead to new discoveries. Combine that with biological exploration of Mars and life sciences will be making new treatments for decade.

Already if the life sciences division of NASA were independent and the money from its patents went back into its budget, it would be profitable. That's just from the field of zero-gee biology. Private Space companies will tap into this and that research will explode. With a continuation of NASA's programs the explosion will be huge.

Just continuing NASA's budget at current levels means todays middle school students will have a field they can enter and be in demand for the next century. And NASA's budget is tiny. If we spent as much money on NASA as we saved just on air conditioning by withdrawing our troops from Iraq, NASA wouldn't be able to handle that large an increase. 

So to everyone who is against Space Exploration, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, even the tiny amount of the budget we are spending on space now will make sure that the kids in currently in middle school will have a field that they can go into where they are in demand for the next century. The advances that will be made in biology and life sciences alone will more than pay back the investment we make now.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fear Poll

My last poll on which Leviticus approved sex position to use was mixed. I'm sure if I included an all of the above option it would have been a slam dunk.

On to my next poll:

I'm having great fun with my Vekman series. He goes around the country helping people battle scary monsters. So far he has helped Brian battle a succubus, Nomi battle Alien Reptile Overlords and in my latest work in progress he is helping Alexander battle Cannibal Nazi Zombies. I was wondering which is do you find the scariest?


Alien Reptile Overlords

Cannibal Nazi Zombies

Here's some cover art to help.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Mitt Rmoney

Have you ever watched a movie and had that feeling you've seen it before? You know how it will end, you all the twists and turns. Halfway through you realize you are watching a cheap remake of different movie.

I had that feeling when I watched Mitt Romney on a video was posted on Youtube where he showed his true feelings about America. In it he said:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

I've heard those same feelings expressed by business owners right before their companies went down the tubes.

This is very similar thoughts of some business owners who have managed to have a good idea, nurtured good employees under them and built a strong company. Then when things go south start blaming the bottom rung and make the problem worse driving the company to ruin.

What a real manager knows is responsibility is a two way street. In a company a employee comes in and gets a paycheck so they don't starve. Get paid for their work. Hopefully are rewarded for doing more than the minimum. In return the employee does something that makes the company money. The responsibility goes both ways.

When things go well there is the human tendency to pat yourself on the back and employers aren't immune from this. Hopefully the employers remember they didn't do it on their own and reward those who helped.

Then something goes bad.

A good manager will try and find the problem. A bad manager will look for someone to blame. The employees at the bottom are easy to blame as they can't fight back they can only leave.

Just like Mitt Romney looks down on all those people that work hard to keep the country going.

This always leads to ruin.

Mitt Romney never operated a real business. He found successful businesses and smashed them. He made the lowest employees pay for the huge debt he piled on these companies and made a fortune out of the rubble.

The greatest insult was the federal government paid him to do this.

In 2011 he paid 14.1 percent on an income of 13.7 million or $1.9 million. If he had claimed that as income it would be taxed at 35% or $4.8 million. That's $2.9 million the government gave him. He would say he is entitled to that money for making risky investments.

If the country benefited from Mitt's investments (it didn't) that would be great, but the country also benefits from the work done by those 47% that Mitt looks down on.

Small business owners benefit from food stamps. If an employee doesn't get enough to eat, they can't work. Without minimum wage jobs all the people that depend on work done by the minimum wage workers would suffer. If you like eating, you are dependent on someone who uses food stamps.

If you like not being invaded, you are dependent on the troops whose combat pay is exempt from federal income tax.

If Mitt Romney had run a real company he would know about the symbiotic relationship that is needed to make a company succeed. A good company needs good workers, good workers need a good company that rewards, or at least recognizes their talent. You can't have one without the other.

So to Mitt Romney, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, not only are you looking down on the people you need to live your life now, but you are looking down on all the workers your dad's company, American Motors, whose work put you through school, helped your dad to become governor so you could build up a network of investors, and gave you the means to be in the position you are today.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, September 17, 2012

Leviticus Poll

In my last poll I asked how readers rank fake reviews. 75% gave them a Brown Dwarf Star, the dimmest possible star. Knowing that readers rank them so low will certainly make people stop doing that.

On to the next poll:

Evangelicals protesting gay marriage point to Leviticus 18:22 saying, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." I'm not quite sure what that has to do with gay marriage (or as most of the world calls it: Marriage). When I read those words from Leviticus, it seems to be a comfort issue. I can see how it might be uncomfortable for two dudes to do it missionary style without the help of a few pillows. I sure anyone with an Internet connection can see it as well if they want.

If you really wanted your sex to be Leviticus approved which would you choose.




Using a sex swing

Not sure why anyone would use Leviticus as a sex counselor, but oddly curious about what people think the outcome would be.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: The war on Math

The Chicago Teachers Strike is in the news. Here's a few facts about it:

The teachers in Chicago were offered a 16% raise, 3% this year and 2% for each of the next three years. The math teachers said no. It's almost like math teachers know basic arithmetics.

But the primary reason for the strike is not over pay, it's over teacher protection. Some teachers feel that their job is to teach students the basic skills they need to survive in the world. That means some parents will object to their children being taught this. The unions protect them from being fired over doing their job. On the flip side some “bad” teachers manage to get protected as well.

I can remember a really “bad” teacher in my high school. He had been teaching there forever. He was a few years from retirement and was just punching the clock waiting it out. He picked up the chalk twice in the year I was in his class. That was just because a student teacher was in to observe. Oddly he really knew his stuff and how to explain it. He just wasn't motivated the rest of the year.

Okay, lets consider him a “bad” teacher. All he did was babysit us. So he should be paid what a babysitter makes, right?

A babysitter charges $5 an hour to babysit a kid. $5 an hour times 40 students is $200. Times that by 6 hours a day is $1,200. Teachers work around 180 days a year. So this “bad” teacher is worth about $216,000 a year for being a babysitter.

So it is horrible that the unions protect these “bad” teachers and allow them to make $71,000 a year when they are only worth $216,000 a year!

The most important thing that the Chicago teachers are striking over is the standardized tests to “measure” teacher performance. I wrote about standardized tests and rote learning two and a half years ago. 

What standardized test do is encourage the “bad” teachers to teach the easy way through rote learning, the process of having someone repeat something over and over again so they can spit out the answer with knowing the concepts behind it. It also punishes the “good” teachers, who actually care about making sure their students learn the subjects they are teaching.

The Chicago teachers strike shows the dedication of teachers. What they are asking for is to be able to do their jobs. They don't want to have their students grow-up to think 9.8% is 16% or that $71,000 is greater than $216,000. Unfortunately they are butting heads with people who not only don't understand the concepts behind what they were taught, but are determined to impose that way of thinking on the next generation.

So to everyone who is against letting the Chicago teachers actually do their jobs, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, just because you've learned things the wrong way doesn't give you the right to enforce that on the next generation.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing Wednesday: What does it mean?

This is a simple thing, but too often writers forget. In a story everything means something.

The character you are focusing on when an event happens needs to react to what ever just happened. If the event didn't inspire a reaction it doesn't need to be in the story. I realize that almost sounds like a rule and it probably is but its a very flexible rule.

In MIND THIEF, I had a problem character. This girl Debbie was just there until the her major scene. The problem wasn't her, it was my main character's reactions to her. He didn't have any. She humiliated in public then apologized his first draft reaction, “That's nice”. Final draft reaction, “Well that takes some guts”.

Later when she slips out of her accent he laughs at his paranoid thoughts that her losing her accent makes her evil. (it does).

The reactions don't have to be huge but they have to be there.

In an pure action story the reactions are simple. Something happens and the character can attack it or use it for an attack later.

One scene I am always remembering is in the original (worth watching) Wayne's World. The driver for Mr. Big's Limo pulls Wayne and Garth aside and explains the communication rig set up in the limo. Wayne asks why he is showing it to them, the driver says, “You might be interested in it later.” Later they use that information and Wayne says, “Gee, at the time I thought it was just extraneous information.”

If it's not a comedy you should probably make it a bit more subtle, but the same rule applies. Wayne didn't just absorb the “extraneous information” he wondered why it was being given to him.

If the character doesn't react to what you've put in front of them the reader won't react either. If the reader isn't reacting long enough, they will react by putting the book down.

The reactions don't have to be conclusive, most of the time it's better if they aren't. Wondering why is a normal reaction. Jumping to the wrong conclusion is a reaction. But the character has to react.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, September 10, 2012

Buying Book Review Poll

First off I'd like to thank everyone for naming the world's newest Supervillianess. With Commando Cuddle on the loose no lap is safe from being plundered. And all the cries of “Don't tread on me!” won't stop her from treading.

On to the next poll:

There has been a lot of talk about buying book reviews and using false names to give competition lower reviews.

I have a confession to make. I gave my minions a can of tuna to give my books good reviews. This would have been more effective if they: A) could write. B) had a computer. That would have been a waste of a buck if they didn't pay me back in hugs.

As far giving the competition bad reviews through fake names. I've been tempted to make a bunch of fake accounts and tell that hack William Shakespeare: Enough with the Iambic Pentameter already. And, When are you going to write something new? But A) I'm too lazy. B) With millions of books out even if you keep someone from reading one book you've only changed your odds to 1 in 999,999 that a person will read yours.

There is being an unethical business-person, and then there is being a shitty person. Trashing someone's work for a tiny increase in the odds, is using unethical business practices to justify being a shitty person. Not the greatest justification.

So how do you rate fake reviews?

A) 16 stars out of 5
B) 1 Brown Dwarf Star
C)Negative Infinity
D) Couldn't Care Less

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Four Years ago

In his convention speech, Mitt Romney asked, “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” I don't know if Mitt is better off, seriously I have no idea, he won't release his tax returns from 4 years ago.

Romney sees absolutely no problem asking something that he won't personally answer.

For me four years ago really sucked. I found out what my house was worth at that time, Zero! I found out what a 850 credit score was worth then, Zero!

As a former Vice-President of an Oil Company, I can't claim to be an unsophisticated investor. But when ALL the financial advice was pay down your mortgage and build a high credit score that way you can get through rough times, and that turns out to be wrong at the moment I needed it, something is amiss.

Still there were somethings better four years ago. Not much traffic, no one had any place to go.

The factory workers had lots of free time. The massive lay-offs hadn't yet began, but unpaid vacations and half shifts were all the rage. The unemployed had an extra time. I remember one Sunday in the fall of '08 when the major newspaper had a one page employment section, that was with the non-classified ads. In the 90s I had to run ads in that paper and they were $40 a line and it would take me 15 minutes to find my little ad.

It was nicer going into a store in '08. The clerks were glad to see a human being. They didn't care if you were a customer, they were just glad you had a pulse.

And of course, Bin Laden thought things were better four years ago, he was running a terrorist operation then, now he's fish food.

So to the idiots who ask, “Are you better off now than four years ago.” I say, “Shut-up Stupid, if you can remember that time at all you know the answer is 'yes'.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Revision Edition

In my morning reading of writer's blogs I was struck by the number of writers who are in the stage of rewriting where they are totally frustrated. Since I'm still on a high from finishing my rough draft of SHOWGIRLS AND ALIENS and finished the final draft of MIND THIEF a month ago. I'm in a good state of mind to talk about revisions.

One thing that gets writers down about revisions is not having a plan. It doesn't matter if you wrote the first draft as a plotter or a pantser, for the revision you have to break it down into manageable chunks.

I do this in steps by answering questions.


If you answered because of my great characters, great plot, incredible prose, or anything else that most of my Literature Professors talked about then you've got a problem. That's not why a reader invests their time in a book. The reader needs an emotional investment in your book.

To give them emotional investment you need something happening to them. Something that keeps raising the stakes throughout the book.

I've talked about my three P's of writing before. Peril, Ponder, or Polar Bear. In the two books that I just finished up I had all three for different characters.

In MIND THIEF, Howie, the protagonist, was hit by the Polar Bear, the WTF moment, throughout the book. Why was he dreaming of living a different life? Why did it seem all the people around him were lying to him? Why did he have these horrible visions?

In every chapter with Howie I made sure these WTF moments showed up and were prominent. He spent the first two thirds of the book asking “What is going on?”

The Antagonist, Joe Harriman's P was the Pondering. I made sure each chapter showed how he made a decision that changed his life. His deciding to kill a football player to get into the Navy's flight program. To kill millions to advance his research. To kill... Okay his decision were always to kill people but he did have to ponder them.

In SHOWGIRLS AND ALIENS Nomi's life was in peril. So I needed to raise the stakes constantly. At every turn she needed to defeat the bad guys only to have them come back stronger.

So in one revision look to see what is influencing the characters. Are they in danger for most of the book? If so make sure it's mentioned in each chapter.

Do they need to make decisions on which course of action to take? If so it should be in every chapter.

Are they trying to make sense of a world gone mad? Again, every chapter.

It will make the reader continue reading.


Character need to battle themselves as much as they need to battle the bad guys. My character Nomi was an Olympic level gymnast. Her parents devoted everything in pursuit of that goal. After they were killed she couldn't perform. In order to beat the bad guys she needs to use all the skills they trained her. So she has a internal conflict going on. She has to trust herself when all her life she just trusted blindly in what her parents told her to do. In order to win she must grow up. Something she resisted.

In one revision go back through and find every major character's internal conflict and make sure it is not only shown, but that it relates to the external conflict that is going on. By amping up the internal conflict it makes the external conflict more powerful.

Those two steps bring out your character, now how about the plot?


Every book has a theme. An overriding message. What's the theme of book? Write it down in one sentence.

MIND THIEF – True love conquers all.

SHOWGIRLS AND ALIENS – Believe in yourself.

Look through your book and find what that overriding theme is. Then go through make sure that theme comes through in actions your characters take. Throughout the books twists and turns make sure that theme is there.


After doing those three revisions the book suddenly isn't hard to edit anymore. It has clear powerful characters and a clear path from start to finish. Sure there are some points that seem impossible to fix. Those will come, sometimes out of the blue, but they will come.

In MIND THIEF I spent a year with a huge plot problem. Howie was in extreme peril. He had less than two weeks to live. That's peril! The problem was only the bad guys knew that fact. Over and over I wondered, “How do I show the reader the peril he is in?”

Out of the blue it hit me. Start with the bad guys POV. They know that Howie is in danger, they are planing on taking his life. Sometimes major plot problems are that simple to fix.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Two Words

There are two words that fill a writers heart with emotion: THE END

I just finished the rough draft of my latest book. A fun little novella that takes place in An Extra Topping of Horror's universe. Here's a little hint what it's about:

One problem I had in writing the ending to An Extra Topping of Horror was the man in the trilby hat should have popped up at the end with all the others. But he was way too pushy. He could either have just a paragraph or another full adventure. He wouldn't settle for half measures. So I ended up leaving him out.

He kept bouncing around in my head asking for another adventure. Then I was talking to my wife about bad movies. Everyone has their own list but here's mine:

The Star Wars Prequels

Batman and Robin



My wife said that Showgirls was in a class by itself because nothing could save it. Challenge Accepted.

I said, the producer could have sent the script to Hunter S Thompson and Chris Carter and have them hammer out a workable script.

Her reply was, “That would be...Awesome!”

I had my concept.

Stealing liberally from other bad films I came up with a novella that had me laughing my ass off as I wrote it and gave the man in the trilby hat something to do and he even got a name. Vekman.

I was surprised how much “character” I could give my heroes Nomi and Vekman in a short little novella. It was supposed to be a light action comedy but those two really captured my heart.

That's why typing THE END is so hard for me. I love that the book is done. They saved the world and all. But at the same time I'm saying goodbye to the characters I've known and loved for a few months.

Luckily I'll be spending time with them in the rewrites. And I left this one open for a sequel. So whenever the world is in danger and can only be saved by a crossbow wielding man in a trilby hat and a drug using stripper named Nomi they will be back.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE