Simply Swapping Favors and the Barter System

Photo by Michael Ging

There was a time when, especially in rural America, most “commerce” was done not by exchanging cash money for goods you wanted but by trading something you had and could spare for something you needed.  Many rural General Stores were simply barter centers where families who had chickens would bring eggs and trade them for butter and milk brought in by another family or for flour ground by the mill up the road.

These stores would have cloth, pots, pans and farming implements brought in from the more industrialized East, thereby being able to supply most of the needs the local families had.  Cash transactions were accepted of course, but a large part of their trade was done through barter.

Rural life is still a lot like that.  Swapping favors is one way we can help one another get things done without depleting our bank accounts.  This goes beyond rallying around a friend who has something heavy to move because we know when we need help he will return the favor.  For instance, I have the equipment and skills to do high end woodworking, Tim has a truck and trailer.  Tim has often delivered my furniture pieces going “out East” for me, and I have built him furniture.   Continue reading Simply Swapping Favors and the Barter System

Whence Blows the Wind?

Photo by Allan Douglas

As the orange orb of the sun slid down behind English mountain, splashing the sky with rose, vermillion and mauve, the day’s heat began to wane.  The air started to move; a cool caress of their faces as they sat in their rockers on the porch before it drifted off to play among the trees.  The rustling leaves were like soft music.

The breeze wafted first from the south, then paused, and resumed again from the northwest, paused and swung back again as though it were playing a game.  “I wonder what makes the wind change like that.” She sighed.   Continue reading Whence Blows the Wind?

Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road

If you’ve been around the Internet for very long – more than a day or so – you will have encountered the advice that social media is a great way to promote what you’re selling.  In our case, books we’ve written.  And among social media, Twitter is a favorite.  Some of the marketing gurus make a case for following anyone and everyone you can find so they will follow you back, and you will develop a huge “audience” very quickly.  They often make it out to be a simple matter of follow, follow, follow the tritter brick road to riches.

   Continue reading Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road

Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise

Fountains of Paradise, review, book, sci-fi, A.C. ClarkeArthur C. Clarke’s 1979 Hugo and Nebula Award winning novel, The Fountains of Paradise is Science Fiction’s definitive novel about the “space elevator,” or “Skyhook”.  This concept enjoyed a brief period of enthusiastic interest among SF circles in the early 1980’s. The concept deals with an elevator (more like a monorail train car actually) that stretches from Earth’s surface to a space station in geosynchronous orbit, which would in turn serve as a construction, servicing  and  launching facility for ships voyaging to the moon, planets and even deep space.  A primary plus was eliminating the need for expensive, inefficient, and environmentally unfriendly rocket launches from the ground.  The whole idea seems incredible but is not outside the realm of engineering possibility.  Clarke makes a strong case for the feasibility of such an unconventional project within the context of a completely engrossing story set mostly in the 22nd century.   Continue reading Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise

Book Review: In Her Name – Empire

In Her Name, Empire, Michael HicksThis is a review of the eBook version of “In Her Name: Empire”; the first book of the In Her Name series written by Michael R. Hicks.

On a five-star scale, I’m giving this one four stars.  It probably deserves five stars, but I’m snatching one back simply because there were parts of it that made me, personally, uncomfortable.  If this were a literary review I would not do that, but this is me telling you how *I* felt about this book.

***No Spoilers***

This is an exciting, well-crafted read. It embraces a number of genres as the story goes along, but I’d classify it primarily as Sci-Fi.  The initial chapters are definitely Sci-fi as remnants of a defeated human population try desperately to fend off an alien invasion of their planet.  Our protagonist is a boy caught in the devastation.  The second scene is an orphanage planet established for youths like our protagonist who lost their families in the war.  It is a harsh environment, an alien place run by petty bureaucrats who think nothing of exploiting the children in their care.   Continue reading Book Review: In Her Name – Empire

Steampunk – What It Is, What it’s Not

I have been a fan of Science Fiction since I was old enough to pick up a book and read it for myself.  Normally I prefer hard science Sci-Fi to any form of fantasy.  However I have been captivated by the old Wild, Wild West television show and movies such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and books like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and From the Earth to the Moon, H.G. Wells’s First Men in the Moon and The Time Machine.  All of these combine a Victorian environment with high-tech achievement but without high technology.  Confused?  So was I when I first heart the term “Steampunk”.

The ‘punk’ part misguided my brain onto thinking it was some urban-new wave sort of stuff and I paid it no mind.  But as the term was bandied around more, I became curious, and found that it is in fact that odd, red-headed  stepchild of Sci-Fi with which I was so fascinated.  But I still was not clear on what the rules were; where are the boundaries.  Then I came across this PBS mini-documentary that cleared it up nicely.  If you are less than certain, I hope it will do the same for you.

Continue reading Steampunk – What It Is, What it’s Not

Watch What You Say…

I suppose these days, what with people sitting around in restaurants and wandering through stores talking loudly on their cell phones about Aunt Geraldine’s latest visit to the gynecologist or Cousin Sam’s messy divorce, people probably just tune out everyone else when in a public place.  Except me, I have a hard time ignoring loud talk and find it quite rude to be exposing everyone within 50 feet of you to the intimate details of your life.

However, I too was caught up in a similar situation once.  It was long ago, I was collaborating with a woman named Ann on a murder mystery novel.  This one day it turned out to be more convenient for us to meet at a restaurant for lunch and discussion of our progress.

It was getting noisy, as the place filled up and we found ourselves having to talk louder to hear while we discussed various plot twists and character attributes.  One particularly tricky bit finally flashed into inspirational focus for Ann and in her excitement she fairly shouted, “…and we could have the gardener kill Mr. Murdle and throw the body down the old well!”

We noticed immediately that the place was unusually quiet.  Looking around, all eyes were glued to us in shocked amazement.  Some were thinking about calling the police: we could see it in their eyes.

“It’s OK; we’re writers,” I explained, “we’re working on a book.”

Most of them gave us an “Oooohhh, I see” sort of look and went back to their meals.  A few, however, kept casting sidelong glances at us and seemed to be trying to listen in.

That was the only time we met at a restaurant to discuss our work!

Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit on Twitter

Photo by tychay

It’s like running a race; you’re hitting your stride, settled in and making good time.  Suddenly out of nowhere, a block pops up out of the track, you trip over it and end up stumbling and twisting all around trying not to end up face down in the dirt.

On Twitter you’ve been tweeting good stuff about you and your work, sharing interesting links, retweeting things for others and your following has been steadily building up.  You found another great person to follow and clicked the button.  But suddenly a window pops up and says “Looks like you’ve hit a limit” and it won’t let you follow this great tweep.  Why NOT!?  Continue reading Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit on Twitter

Jedi Mind Twits: Messaging

twitter, peeps, shout-outTwitter is all about sending brief messages to others, but what you send, how you send it and why can be tricky to learn.  Here are some pointers starting with the basics and moving into some lesser known tid-bits.

Twitter offers two types of message: a tweet and a Direct Message (DM).  Tweets are visible to the public DM’s are private communications between two users.

Direct Messages

Direct messages you receive from others are listed on the Messages tab on your Twitter home page.  A chronological list (newest on top) is displayed on the left, a reader panel on the right.  Click a sender to read the direct messages to and from that sender. 

In the Account Settings (click your name in the upper right hand corner of the screen, then Settings, then Notifications) you may choose to have a copy of your DMs sent to your e-mail address.  These include a link that will take you back to Twitter to reply to the DM if you like.  Continue reading Jedi Mind Twits: Messaging

Guest Post for Damyanti

Pen and PaperJust a quick notice to let you know that I’ve again been asked to do a guest post about eBooks and how they are produced.  This one will be hosted on Damyanti’s blog Writing on Writing and should be live today, Saturday, August 20th.  The title is Converter, Formatter, Printer – Who is For Real?  Please pop in, give it a read and comment there if you care to.  Thanks!