The Mage Chronicle Audio book is here!

The Mage Chronicles, with Narration by Georgie Leonard is now live on Audible and Amazon!

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I think Georgie did an incredible job of bringing the story to life and I’m thrilled to have this on the market.

Check out the retail sample for yourself:

Blurb:

It has been a centuries-long golden-age for the empire, a time of peace and prosperity. Mary, a mage class healer, is content to live an ordinary life in one of the rich central worlds. Her old master Ashely La’Margin wants her to do more with her magic, but Mary has little use for riches or power.

Now a border dispute in some distant province threatens to become war, and there are rumors of Juggernaut, super warriors that can’t be killed. The civilian council of mages sends Mary to stop it, but what does a healer know of war?

On the way she will confront a harsh medieval world unlike the central worlds she has known. If she is to save this empire she must discover untapped powers and face the ghosts of her past, especially the boy Martin and the orphanage that she left behind as a child.

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The Back Up Game

How often do I back up my work?

It’s like the game.

And you just lost the game.

If you don’t know the game, do yourself a favor and don’t start. But if you must:

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/the-game

If you think about the game, you lost the game.

If you are thinking about doing a back up of your work, do it.

Simple.

So I got startled awake this morning. It was nothing. But the first thought I had was not about my own safety. It was that my laptop was in the front room. I don’t care if a burglar runs off with my TV or whatever other valuables they can find in the front room, but don’t dare take my stories!

Remember the writer who ran back into his burning house to rescue his laptop. I think we can all relate.

http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/crime_police/article_62593cd4-7b61-11e6-a9b6-971ab1e197c9.html

So make a back up.

New to back ups?

There are are many options for both where to make your back up, what to back up and how.

There are three common places to store your back up:

Hard copies

Personal devices

The cloud

Hard copies

The old school solution is a hard copy. That means printed on paper for the younger writers. I know, it seems so antiquated. And in ways, it is.

My old hard copies.

Where you store your back ups say a lot about what you fear happening to your precious writing. If you worry about theft or hacking, hard copies are safest. No thief is carrying off reams of paper from your house and hackers can’t get to it.

If you are worried about a fire or some other disaster, you hard copies will be as vulnerable.

If you are paranoid, do a hard copy and then another version.

Personal device

Personal devices can range from a simple thumb drive to your own personal cloud device. They can range in price from a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars for a top of the line external hard drive.

A USB drive in the wild???

Again it depends a lot on what your biggest fears are. An electronic device is easily put in an out of way place, and won’t likely be sought out by a thief. But it won’t survive a house fire or similar disaster.

They can be invaluable in the event of a catastrophic computer failure, though. Unlike hard copies, which require you to retype thousands of words, you can plug the thumb drive into a new computer and copy all the files with the click of a mouse.

How far you want to go depends on how paranoid you are, and believe me I won’t judge. About once a year I back up everything to a thumb drive and put it in my lock box at the bank. But that’s my low grade paranoia at work and probably excessive.

Heck you might even want to shove an extra thumb drive in your bug out bag in case you are forced on the run by the zombie apocalypse. The survivors, trapped in some bunker somewhere, will make great beta readers! 😉

There might be beta readers, um, I mean survivors inside.

And I’m only half joking. My paranoia for back ups does include thinking about a major disaster. I don’t think the zombie apocalypse will happen, but a natural disaster or war could turn you into a refugee. Be prepared.

The Cloud

Many of my writer friends, being luddites, fear the cloud. They shouldn’t. It’s the best, easiest way to ensure the safety of your work. “The Cloud” is really just a fancy way to say storing stuff on the internet. Or at an even more basic level, storing stuff on someone else’s computer.

“The Cloud” includes many options, including some household names. Google Drive and Dropbox are both cloud services. Amazon offers a similar service.

The cloud is about the easiest, safest way to back up your work. Big companies spend a huge amount of money and effort on back ups and protections. The odds that Google or Amazon’s data farm crashes and takes your writing with it is infinitesimal compared with the odds of your laptop doing the same. If and when you laptop or home computer crashes, it’s as easy as signing into Google Drive or Dropbox and syncing your files to get them back. If you should have a house fire or similar disaster, you don’t have to go hunting through the wreckage for your thumb drive either.

What about hackers? Hackers are an ever present threat on the internet. But I think the average writer has an overblown sense of caution about this.

People don’t steal writers ideas, or their writing. Unless your name is J. K. Rowling, no hacker is interested in your new novel.

(If your name is J. K. Rowling — Oh my god, I can’t believe you are reading my blog! I am such a huge fan!)

The rest of you should get your head out of the clouds, and your writing into it. An unpublished novel takes so much work to publish and market that no hacker is interested in it. If you already have a successful career, they will be interested in your bank account, not your writing.

That said you should take reasonable precautions, things like strong passwords and two factor authentication. But beyond that I don’t think writers need to take special precautions around their writing. And the benefits of having it safe outweigh the slight risks.

Formats

There are literally hundreds of possible formats you could use to save your work and build an archive. I will recommend one and dis one. You can research other options if you are not satisfied with my opinion.

I have an archive folder on Dropbox, in Google Drive and on my Amazon cloud. (I’m not really that paranoid. I happen to have an Amazon cloud, so it’s easy. I use the other two regularly.) I compile my writing out of scrivener as an rtf file.

Why rtf? Because I am old and I am cheap.

I don’t use word docs for my archive because I am old. I have a pile of floppy disks from last century in a drawer somewhere. I don’t have a floppy disk reader. Who does these days? And they are very old doc formats.

Which is the real problem with doc formats. Word changes its format every few years and they have little backwards compatibility. Which means that even if I had means to access those old files, I doubt Word would read them anyway.

Rtf is an older but far more stable formate. There isn’t a word processor, text program or writing program that can’t read rtf. So I stick to it.

Besides I’m cheap. Rtf is so stable because it strips the majority of the formatting and extraneous code from the file, leaving just the words. Because of that, rtf files tend to be small files, even if there are a lot of words in it. For example I have a hundred and some thousand word novel that is a mere 626 kb rtf file.  The scrivener file is several megabytes.

That might not seem like much, but as your writing grows it adds up. How much does it add up? My documents folder is just over one gigabyte. My archive is closer to 65 mb. That’s a pretty big difference. Using rtf I can comfortably stick to free options on most sites even with other files (like pictures) in them. (One of the reasons I use multiple sites, they are all free. So I can have extra back ups at no cost.)

So that’s it. When you think of the game, you lose the game.

When you think of back ups, check them. It’s an relatively easy process to set up a dropbox folder and check it regularly to make sure everything is there. If you use scrivener it’s a matter of minutes to compile an rtf. And if something should happen to your computer or your home it will one less worry.

Shoshone Station #7: Homecoming Out Now!

When Sophia’s sister Shaelynn arrives on Shoshone Station, she finds herself being dragged back to a life she thought she’d left behind, the life of Zach. But what can she do, her mom is dying. Unless Sophia can help her.

Kleppie thought he would return to Texas a hero. He’d been part of the famous USS Cambridge crew. He’d been to space. But he quickly finds that doesn’t mean much to those left behind.

Shoshone Station: Less than a year ago, they arrived over earth’s sky. They call themselves the Galactic Consortium and they are human, or at least, simian — from the same genetic line as humans. They claim to have terraformed this planet centuries ago to serve as a base for their exploration of this galaxy. What happened to the settlers, why none of us remember this, remains a mystery.

For America the concerns are more immediate. Will the Consortium accept our independence?

Shoshone Station is the first joint enterprise, a solar power, space station parked in geostationary orbit over Denver, Colorado. Its been “gifted” to America, but as Sherman Lannister takes command he wonders just how much control the new American crew will really have. After all, what do they know about running a space station?

For Sophia, a homeless transgender youth from Denver, and many like her the station is a second chance at a new life. But what will she do living amongst the stars?

This is an ongoing monthly serial

Shoshone Station #6: Africa Out Now!

Blurb:

The day after Christmas, Jake King fights with his mom. He knows how hard it is for her, raising four kids with no help. But it’s not like there are jobs in Caspar, Wyoming. Not for a young man like Jake, not that pay decent. What can he do? Two days later he finds himself in Bamako, Africa, part of the Consortium’s African Administration. Is this the new reality? Commuter jobs halfway around the world?

Fox planned a relaxing vacation with Nara Suun in Southern Africa. But the fates seem to have other plans, he runs into the last person he wants to see, Gerald Klempke. The man he helped put into a Consortium Penal Colony for rape. Klempke says he wants to talk, wants to turn over a new leaf. But Fox isn’t sure he trusts him, but what can he do?

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A New Short Story From R. J. Eliason

I am part of an anthology!

Changeling Ward is a collection of three short stories/novellas from local Iowa Authors. All the stories are fantasy and all are based around the theme of changelings.

My story is A Knife in the Dark and it’s set in the Gilded Empire world. (The same world that Mage Chronicles is in, though the characters aren’t the same.)

The ebook is currently available as an Amazon exclusive. That means if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it free for a short time. Check it out today!

And as always, if you want to stay up to date on the latest from R. J. Eliason, sign up for my email list:

Shoshone Station #5: Adam Out Now!

I was starting to worry I wouldn’t get it done this month, but here is the next installment in the Shoshone Station Serial adventure.

It’s Lannister’s first Christmas on the station. For once he has the room and time to play host to for the family Christmas celebration. His plans are complicated by the arrival of his run away niece, now an out trans man.
The arrival of a human woman with a squid child places Zeta is an awkward place. Her job demands she investigates, but how can she put another person through the same hell she grew up with? And what if she refuses?

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Esperanto 2: What’s the little Idea, or Why Should I Learn Esperanto?

In the last post we discussed what Esperanto is and hopes to achieve. I call this the Big Idea. Today I would like to present the Little Idea, why you should learn Esperanto even though the Big Idea is still far in the future.

Why should you learn Esperanto?

The Flag of Esperanto

Number One: You want to learn a second language but it’s hard. So learn an easy one.

You are right on both counts.

Numerous surveys show that people wish they were bilingual. But there is a better reason to learn a second language than just desire. Being bilingual has health benefits. That’s right, learning a second language has proven physical and mental benefits.

But it’s hard. Even a relatively easy language (like Spanish) takes a couple of years of consistent study to reach any degree of fluency in it.

Meanwhile the time to master Esperanto can be measured in months or even weeks. It’s still a lot of work, but far more manageable for the average person. Some of this is due to Esperanto’s simplified and regular grammar. Some of it is due to its unique way of using prefixes and suffixes to create a huge vocabulary out of a relatively small number of root words. Finally, Esperanto draws most of its words from common European languages, so English speakers will find a lot of similar words.

Number Two: There is a secret to learning languages (but it’s ridiculous).

So here’s something interesting. Learning a second language is a very difficult proposition. But learning a third is, interestingly, easier than learning a second. Learning a second language teaches you, and your brain, how to learn language.

Once you’ve learned a second language you know what it takes. You know what you are getting into starting in on a third. Realistic expectations help keep you motivated because you don’t give up as easily.

But it’s more than that. Many of the health benefits of being bilingual are because your brain has to develop to accommodate the second language. It has to learn how to keep those two languages separate but accessible. Once it knows how to do that, the third language comes easier.

So if you want to learn Japanese, why not learn Russian first? After you’ve spent, on average, five years learning Russian Japanese will be that much easier.

Of course that is ridiculous.

But there is one example that isn’t ridiculous, Esperanto. A famous and often quoted study went like this. British primary school students were divided into two groups. One was given two years of French. The other was given a year of Esperanto followed by a year of French. At the end of two years, the Esperanto speakers were better at French.

Why is that? In part because of the bilingual effect, their brains had mastered holding multiple languages. In part because of Esperanto’s simplified grammar. Researchers compare it to giving children a recorder before teaching them another instrument. You learn to read music on a simple instrument and when you take on a difficult instrument you have that part of the task down.

Esperanto’s grammar works the same way, it teaches you how languages are supposed to work. Natural languages are messier, filled with exceptions to every rule. But memorizing the exception is easier when you understand the underlying pattern.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and learn Esperanto.

Best of all you can learn for free. Duolingo, a free phone app has helped millions learn a new language. They offer a wide variety of languages, including Esperanto. The Universal Esperanto Association also has a learning website and app, both named Lernu. There are several books as well, if you prefer.

Esperanto: What’s the Big Idea behind the International Language?

Esperanto. What is it? Why am I learning it? Should you?

The Flag of Esperanto

Esperanto is a planned language developed by an amateur linguist in 1887. His goal was to create an easy to learn, universal second language.

The creator, L.L. Zamenhof was not alone in wanting to do this. The idea of a universal second language has been studied by linguist for centuries, pushed by idealist and desired by travelers, business people and diplomats. What sets Zamenhof’s language, Esperanto, off from the others is that its’ survived over 130 years of history and continues to have a large body of speakers worldwide. It has grown beyond the idea phase into a living language.

When I think of Esperanto, I divide the reasons for it into two categories, the big ideas and the little ones. The big ideas are why Zamenhof wrote the language and why so many people have learned it over the years. The little ideas are why you my want to learn the language. So let us begin:

The big idea

The construction of an international language is driven by three main motivations, convenience, fairness and understanding. All three are prevalent in Esperanto.

Convenience

The convenience of a single universal second language should be obvious, travelers, business people, and diplomats would have a single language to learn, instead of hundreds. Journals and news could be published in Esperanto and be instantly accessible around the globe to speakers of many languages.

International news in Esperanto is already a thing. Here are a few sources. 

To be truly convenient, this universal language must be simpler to learn than a natural language and Esperanto passes this test easily. Natural language learning is measured in years, Esperanto in months or in some cases weeks.

(Don’t be fooled by all the “learn Spanish in thirty days” courses out there. You might be able to have some really basic conversations at the end of that time, but real knowledge of Spanish takes on average two years of study.)

It’s fair.

But what does that have to do with fairness? Using any natural language as a second language, universal or otherwise, puts an enormous burden on nonnative speakers, who must spend years learning it. It also puts native speakers at a distinct advantage in any negotiations and just in life in general.

However if both parties learn the same second language, they have the same investment in time and are on much fairer footing with each other. If public services, like healthcare, government services, police, education, etc. are done in this universal language, all have equal access with our regard to linguistic abilities.

Understanding

Finally a universal second language could build a bridge between isolated linguistic communities. Eastern Europe of Zamenhof’s day was a mix of people who spoke different languages. His hometown of Bialystok was Polish, but filled with Russian, German and Jewish speakers.

In today’s world the problems are better in ways, worse in others. The internet and international news means that events are translated in a huge variety of languages in almost real time. But understanding often comes much slower. Facts translate easily, culture does not.

Just look at America’s convoluted relationship with the Middle East. The phrase “Allah Akbar” simple means “Praise be to God.” And yet images of Arabic men jumping up and down and yelling “Allah Akbar” have become iconic of radical terrorism and anti-American protests.

Many evangelic christian denominations say praise be to God. Many jump up and down and wave their hands during religious services.

What if both services appeared in the news with the caption “laudo estu al Dio?” (Esperanto for praise be to God) Would people realize those people over their aren’t doing anything that people over here do? Would it start to shift the narrative? I like to think so.

So Why Not?

Why aren’t we doing this?

The answers are many, and many are political. A lot of it comes down to two things, the myth that we already have a universal language and who that myth serves.

The myth is that we have a universal language: English. The reality is far different but I will address that in another blog, because it will take a lot of words.

Who benefits from this myth? Just about every English speaking country and many corporations. Both the US and the UK spend large sums of aid money on English education throughout the world because they know this is key to their national interests.

Africa is home to some of highest levels of language diversity on the globe. Thanks to a long history of colonialism, several of the commonly spoken languages that are used to bridge the gaps between linguistic groups are European languages, French, Portuguese and more recently English.

In modern times, American aid often comes with the English language. For example groups like the Peace Corp teaches practical agricultural skills but also sends many English teachers to impoverished areas. While the volunteers might be idealist, only wanting to help, those in Washington that pay for these programs often have a secondary motive, to keep Africa looking to the English speaking world for it’s future.

It is a great example of soft power, which are probably the future of global conflict. As a growing superpower and major oil importer, China would love to have a greater toe hold on African oil and mining wealth. How do they try to gain this foothold? In recent years Chinese foreign works have become vital to the industries in Africa. And Chinese language comes with them. As more and more Africans learn Chinese, they are more inclined to work with Chinese companies. And slowly the balance of power shifts.

Esperanto could serve to diffuse that conflict and reduce the soft power of corporations and governments alike. It would be a soft power revolution for Africans to have a unified second language that wasn’t beholden to any superpower. And that is the big idea of Esperanto.

Coming up next: The little idea. Or why you should learn Esperanto.

Convinced already? Check out Duolingo, the smartphone app that makes language learning easy.

Shoshone Station #4: Meteors Out Now!

It’s here, the latest episode in my ongoing Sci-fi Serial, The Galactic Consortium.

Blurb:

Dan Oleson has been chosen to serve as embassy security on Saras Station in the Consortium, but he will soon discover the dangers are of a different type than he’s expecting.

Rumors are swirling about an asteroid or some other large body colliding with the earth. Would the Consortium allow such a thing to happen? More importantly, it seems the rumor may have started on Shin Station, of all places. Can Dan find the answer to this riddle?


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Four Ways that Terraforming Could Save the Earth

Serious scientist mostly downplay the idea of terraforming another planet.

They have two reasons for this, but they seem to miss one important point. So I am going to tell you four ways that terraforming could benefit, or even save, the earth today.

But first, the two reasons that scientists downplay terraforming as a serious endeavor:

The timescale of terraforming is enormous. We can’t simply seed the entire surface of Mars with plants, come back in six weeks and find a livable planet. The best case for terraforming would be thousands of years. More likely it will take tens of thousands.

Looking beyond our solar system becomes a double edged sword. We might find planets out there that are ripe and ready for our kind of life, or at least closer to what we need then Mars or Venus. That could shorten the terraforming time considerably. But we have to get there and short of some sort of science fiction faster than light ship, it’s going to take thousands of years to make the voyage.

Meanwhile the problems that we face here on Earth are likely to come to a head within the next few years, or at most within the next couple of generations. Overpopulation, climate change and resource depletion are nearing the crisis point right now. So you can’t fix overpopulation by starting a colony on Mars because it will be thousands of years before Mars will be able to support the number of people you would need to send to make even a small dent in the world’s population.

The second problem with terraforming is the whole resource-to-benefits conundrum. Terraforming would require a huge outlay in resources with only distant benefits in return.

It goes like this, we’ve spotted oil on Titan (or at least hydrocarbons that are like oil). So why not go there and get it to renew our depleted fossil fuels?

The short answer is that it takes a massive amount of energy to build rockets and fly them deep into space to get there. And then another outlay in energy to fly the oil back to Earth. You end up spending more energy to get the oil than it provides.

The dynamic for dealing with overpopulation is even worse. Mars One is looking to send forty men and women to form a colony on Mars. Even if assume they have the technology and funding to go today, what is forty people to a population of more than seven billion? Not even a fraction of a percent.

The world adds an average of 250 new babies to the world’s population each minute. How many do we have to send to a new world to reverse that trend? What kind of infrastructure would we need before we could relieve overpopulation via space travel?

I could go on but the point remains. We can not fix the problems we face here on Earth by fleeing to a new planet. But there is still a strong case for actively pursuing terraforming.

How terraforming can benefit us right now

The point that most scientist and arm chair terraformers seem to miss is that the technological hurdles we face in terraforming dovetail with a lot of the problems we face on this planet. Developing the technology to terraform another planet may kill two birds with one stone, it will fix our problems here, too. Here are just four examples.

Climate Change

The average surface temperature of Mars is minus sixty degrees celsius. Venus runs a balmy 462 degrees celsius. To get a nice earth-like average of 16 degrees celsius would mean raising the temperature of Mars by some seventy six degrees. Or dropping Venus’s average temperature over 446 degrees.

Now maybe you can see why it takes thousands of years to terraform a planet. But lets say we start working on the technology today. What are the benefits for us right now?

The earth is warming. Even die hard climate change deniers accept this fact. (They argue that its not man made and is instead part of some natural cycle, but they don’t argue the basic math, we are getting warmer.) At the rate we are going our earth will be nearly 2 degrees warmer by 2050.

A) 2 degrees might not seem like much, but it will have major effects on climate and weather. Many of them we are already seeing.

B) compared to the 76 degree change we need to make Mars livable, it’s a drop in the bucket. So I propose our test run for terraforming another planet is to develop technology to lower our earth back 2 degrees to where it was.

We even have some of the technology we need. We can take carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it in the Earth in a process called carbon sequestration. Why aren’t investing heavily in this kind of research? It would get us out our current fix and lay the ground work for terraforming another planet at the same time.

Food

With our current technology it would take about six months to get to Mars. With the necessity of waiting for the planets to align, the round trip would take nearly two and half years. What are you going to eat that entire time? If we want to terraform the planet and that’s going to take thousands of years, what will the colonist eat? You can’t pack that many dried rations.

The answer is that we will need to create small, intensive hydroponics or something similar. Our space capsule must be able to produce a sustainable diet in a very small amount of space.

And honestly, we need that now. Our current agricultural practices are just not sustainable. There are three problems with it, it takes a massive toll on the environment, it is very land intensive (meaning it takes up a lot of space) and it won’t be able to feed our growing population for much longer.

There are two sacred cows in agribusiness that make our system so unsustainable. The first is — cows. I am not going to argue for militant veganism, but our desire to eat large quantities of meat isn’t sustainable and won’t work in space.

The other huge sacred cow is oil and petrochemicals. From herbicides and pesticides, the gas we put into tractors to plant and harvest crop and the gas we use to ship produce all over the world, every aspect of agriculture is touched by petrochemicals. Without them our system would collapse.

Imagine a city that could feed itself, leaving the surrounding land to return to nature.

What we need is a way to grow the bulk of our food in a small contained area close to where it is needed. That is a must for terraforming but would have far reaching benefits for earth right now. Imagine a world where cities can produce their own food and large swaths of farmland can be returned to their natural state. Imagine having a room in your house that grows all your produce and you only have to shop occasionally for luxury items.

Energy

The economic argument against terraforming goes like this; it takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources to terraform another planet, so you must first solve the issue of energy scarcity. But once you’ve created cheap, sustainable energy, you no longer have the same incentive to go to another planet in search of resources.

So? Solve the issue of energy scarcity? Yes! That’s exactly what we need to do.

In order to fly to Mars and back we need to be able to create energy in abundance, through some cheap, infinitely renewable source. In order to break our addiction to fossil fuels, we need to find a cheap and infinitely renewable energy source.

What that will that look like? Solar, wind, nuclear or something we haven’t dreamed up yet, I don’t know. But clearly it’s the next step in technological evolution and we should all be invested in making it. Whether we do it because we are running out of oil, because we want to go to another planet, or some other reason is irrelevant.

Society

Terraforming projects take thousands of years. What kind of society will we have in a thousand years?

Right now it’s hard to get through a single political upheaval without it feeling like the end of the world. And this historian warns that humans tend to go through destructive periods regularly. Can we humans create a society that is both stable and dynamic enough to last a thousand years?

I believe the answer is yes, and it’s something we must absolutely strive for. Really the biggest obstacle to terraforming another planet isn’t scientific or technological. Our scientist know what to do and could do most of it with technology we already possess. It’s political and cultural.

Like the other problems we’ve discussed, the issues are surprisingly similar to what we must face in terraforming. How do we share scarce resources fairly? How do we live and cooperate in small spaces? How do we learn to work together on projects that we will never see the end result of?

In the end tackling these problems will soon become imperative. So what are we waiting for?

You know who is really good at terraforming? The Galactic Consortium. Check out my ongoing sci-fi serial about their arrival over the skies of Earth.


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