Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The "laws of war"? Don't make me laugh

I found an article in the Sydney Morning Herald to be quasi-nauseating.

The survey of 17,000 people in 16 countries, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday, found that while most people still believe war should have rules, faith in the Geneva Convention is fading and there is growing acceptance of torture and civilian casualties.

It is prompting the Red Cross, the respected organisation that works in the world's most dangerous places, to call for a renewed effort to promote the virtues of rules in warfare.

"We were heartened by the fact the majority [of people] globally still believe the laws of war matter," said Helen Durham, the Red Cross's director of law and policy.

"But it does disturb us when you drill down into the statistics you … see some more cynicism and the sense that it's pretty tough out there and so we might have to do things we're not comfortable with."

. . .

Globally, the proportion of people who think the Geneva Convention makes any difference has fallen from 52 per cent in 1999 to 38 per cent today. The proportion who believe it is wrong to carrying out military operations knowing there will be significant civilian casualties fell from 68 per cent to 59 per cent.

The survey conspicuously revealed that a cavalier attitude towards the laws of war are more prevalent in peaceful countries than those beset by conflict. Often those who championed laws in war most firmly were militaries themselves, Dr Durham said.

There's more at the link.

Let's face it:  outside the major powers, the so-called 'laws of war' are honored far more in the breach than in the observance.  Basically, they're a joke.  In almost any Third World war you care to mention, they're disregarded almost entirely.  As for so-called 'liberation movements' or 'terrorists' (pick whichever word applies according to your political perspective), they don't know the meaning of such 'rules' and wouldn't be interested if they did.  They operate on the principle that terrorizing people means they'll obey.  If you don't terrorize them, they won't.

Human rights as a whole have a dismal record in the Third World.  Armed conflict merely worsens the situation.  To take just one example, why do you think Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds, possibly thousands of Nigerian schoolgirls?  Because their fighters wanted women, and couldn't get them any other way.  They kidnapped them with the express intention of turning them into, first sex slaves, then their wives (whether they wanted to get married or not).  Now the survivors of those girls - some already mothers, others pregnant - are finding that even their rescuers regard them as 'whores' and 'collaborators'.  Some have even been raped by the troops that rescued them, because that's all they're good for now, in terms of the so-called 'culture' of the area.  To put it as bluntly and as honestly as possible (I apologize if this offends some readers, but the truth often does), in typical West African society, these girls no longer have any status or value as human beings, except for what's between their legs.  That's all they're considered to be good for.  No amount of protesting, or diplomatic intervention, or messages on Twitter, will change that.

I could cite many more examples, including several from my own experience (such as this one).  I won't bother, because it isn't worth it.  Just take my word for it:  human rights and the so-called 'laws of war' are honored more in the breach than in the observance across most of the world.   First World militaries aren't much better.  Go look up how many civilians have been killed in the so-called 'War On Terror'.  Their number far exceeds the number of terrorists killed, and the number of First World troops, too - but they're all considered to be 'collateral damage'.  Their lives don't count.  The 'laws of war' did damn-all to protect them;  in fact, they tacitly permitted and tolerated their deaths by casting a pallor of legality over them.  They've done that for years.  Even gross violations of the 'laws of war' such as My Lai, or countless failures by UN peacekeepers to protect those entrusted to their care, haven't done anything to change that reality . . . because most people don't care.  It's too far away from them to worry them.  Out of sight, out of mind.

War has no laws.  It only has agreements between opponents willing to make them . . . and only for for as long as it suits them.  Anyone who believes otherwise is way out there in cloud cuckoo land.


Slip slidin' away . . .

I now live in northern Texas, where we're currently experiencing our coldest temperatures of the 2016/17 winter thus far.  It's down to all of 42°F outside.  I know, you folks in the snow-and-ice belt are unspeakably sorry for us about that . . .

Nevertheless, I did feel sorry for the good people of Montreal, Canada, who were caught up in this.  Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

I'm sure the nice policeman was less than amused at becoming part of the problem, rather than the solution . . .


Er . . . oops?

It seems a Russian S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile had a slight . . . er . . . problem on launch the other day.  Its tube fired it right out, but the main rocket motor failed to ignite.  That's when it showed the real problem with a vertical-launch system . . . namely, that what goes up must come down.  Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

I hope there weren't any operators in the launch vehicle at the time!

This also illustrates the difference between 'cold' and 'hot' launch methods.  The Russian technique is to 'blow' the missile out of its vertical launch tube by means of an auxiliary system, usually compressed air.  The missile's motor fires only after ejection.  This is known as a 'cold launch' system.  It has the advantage that, if the main rocket motor fails to fire, it can eject the missile anyway;  but if the missile tube is pointed straight up, you get the result seen above.  The USA uses a 'hot launch' system, where the missile's own motor fires inside the tube and shoots it out.  If the motor fails, the missile doesn't launch at all.  This forces a labor- and time-intensive extraction procedure afterwards, but at least the missile can't fall back on its launcher!


Monday, December 5, 2016

A late evening takeoff, with flames

Here's a good video of an Indian Navy MiG-29K naval fighter taking off from INS Vikramaditya, late in the evening.  The plumes of flame from the aircraft's afterburners stand out to good effect.

I note that the plane takes off without heavy underwing gas tanks or ordnance.  I wonder what its weight limitations are when using the ski-jump, as opposed to a runway or catapult takeoff?


If you like honey, you're going to LOVE this!

A long-time online acquaintance recently began his own business - Killer Bees Honey.  Here's how he describes it.

... my wife and I migrated through the urban landscapes of Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago before settling at the summit of a mountain in the Smokies.

Except for the constant hum of millions of hard-working bees, we enjoy a quiet life. We gladly share our woods with wild turkey, deer, coyote, fox, bobcat and a noisy pileated woodpecker. Black bears occasion by. That’s when our Killer Bees put their inner scutellata to good use.

Our Killer Bees have a fascinating and varied genealogy. I wish I could translate the Queens' ancient humming and eavesdrop on the stories passed from hive to hive. Sadly, I am as deaf to their song as I was to the Yiddish curses that colored my mother’s speech when I was young.

There's more at the link.  They take great pride in their wholly natural honey, gathered from natural forest lands untainted by pesticides or fertilizers.  (Of course, living in the wild as they do, there are other hazards after their honey . . . four-legged ones!)

If this sounds like an advertisement, I suppose in a way it is - but I'm not being compensated for it in any shape or form.  As I said, the owner's a long-standing online buddy, so I want to help him get established.  What are friends for, if not to help other friends?

When I heard about his new business - his Web site went live just last week - I went to his online shop and ordered a bunch of his products, partly to support a friend, partly because Miss D. and I really like good honey.  (Yes, I paid for all of them with my own money.)  The box arrived this morning, and . . . oh, my.  Oh, my, my.  Their Wildflower and Sourwood Big Red honeys are very nice indeed, but their Sourwood Amber honey is to die for!  It's probably the tastiest bottle of honey I've ever opened.  I couldn't help a moan of pleasure as I sampled it.  I think I've found a new favorite.  I also ordered the Citrus Holiday Gift Basket, with assorted skin care products containing honey.  The smells are wonderful, and we're looking forward to sampling them with our next bath or shower.

Finally, I couldn't resist getting one of these for Miss D.  Somehow, I suspect she won't be wearing it to work!

If you're looking for some really good honey and related products, I highly recommend Killer Bees Honey - and, no, they won't give me any free product for recommending them, so relax, FTC!  I'm just glad to help a friend.


I think I'm in the wrong line of business

Would you pay $1,000+ for a Christmas tree?  It seems that, in New York City, some would.

Longtime Greenwich Village tree seller Heather Neville said Sunday that her tallest — and priciest — offering will command an astonishing $77 per foot from any buyer who can’t haul it home.

“This 13-foot tree — a beautiful fir — is $750, and with delivery, installation with a stand and tip would be $1,000,” said Neville, who bills herself as the NYC Tree Lady.

Neville, 40, broke down the add-ons as $200 for the stand, $25 for delivery and setup and $20 each to the three or four men needed for the job.

. . .

Neville, who runs five other spots across Manhattan, gets all her holiday greenery from a secret source she identified only as “The Farmer.” She priced a hypothetical 15-footer at a whopping $1,200, including delivery and setup.

So far, her best sale was a 13-foot Nordmann fir that went for a relatively paltry $500 “a few days ago,” she said.

. . .

East Village residents Adrian Chrzan and Jacquelyn Mitchell, both 30, were spotted lugging home a 5-foot Fraser fir they bought for $100, stand included.

“I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a white fir and any other tree,” said Mitchell, who works in finance. “They all look the same to me, so I’m just going to look for the best deal.”

Chrzan, an investment manager, took the critique a step further: “We are from Connecticut and you can get a tree this size [there] for 20 bucks.”

There's more at the link.

If ever you wanted a clue as to the insane cost of living in NYC, that's it, right there!  $77 per foot for a Christmas tree?  Verily, the mind doth boggle . . . and the wallet, too!

If I lived in New York City, I'd be taking a drive out to upstate New York, or north-eastern Pennsylvania, or perhaps Connecticut, where trees are plentiful.  I'd buy two or three at local prices ($20 is still high by my standards, but I guess trees are cheaper further south), tie them to the roof of my car or put them on a utility trailer, and cart them all back to NYC.  I'd use one myself, and sell the other two to neighbors and friends at two to three times what I paid for them.  They'd save money, I'd pay for my trip, and everyone would be happy!


'Stoke The Flames Higher' is published!

EDITED TO ADD:  The formatting issue that some readers complained about has been resolved.  If you downloaded an early copy, and found that your text had a shaded background, you can reload the new version to take care of that.  See instructions at the foot of this post.  Thanks!

My latest novel, 'Stoke The Flames Higher', fifth in the military science fiction Maxwell Saga, is now available in e-book format on Amazon.com.  It'll be available in print and audiobook formats in the new year.

From the blurb:

Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics - and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want submission or death. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of their fighters and funding, deal with diplomats, and fend off a nosy journalist.

The marines are up against smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while a suborned bureaucracy stymies the investigation. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop their enemies at all costs, before the fanatics unleash their own version of Armageddon!

In case you missed it, you can find a teaser excerpt from it here.

Thanks very much for your patience.  I had to endure fifteen months of health troubles, including three surgical procedures, before I could finish this book.  It was no fun at all . . . but, please God, those troubles are behind me now.  I've got big plans for next year, and I hope I'll be able to meet your expectations and more.

Please, PLEASE, when you've read this book, leave a review on Amazon.com!  It's very important to an independent author like myself to build up his review count.  It's one of the most important factors in how Amazon ranks products, and, therefore, in how it recommends them to customers searching for a particular theme or in a particular genre of books.  I'm not trying to solicit all 5-star reviews, you understand (although I'm very grateful that so many of you leave them).  Be honest in your review, by all means;  but please leave one.  An independent author relies super-heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations such as reviews.  They, in turn, drive Amazon's ranking of our books.  Your review can mean either meat and potatoes on our plates, or bread and water!

I'd also be grateful for your feedback here, in comments on this blog, or by e-mail (see my blog profile for the address).  I try very hard to make each of my books 'stand-alone', not needing to have read the whole series to understand it, with plots that are interesting and gripping.  I don't want to fall into the trap of merely repeating a formula.  Your feedback helps me avoid that, and assists in keeping my books fresh.

Thank you!


EDITED TO ADD:  To automatically refresh this (or any other) Kindle e-book with the latest version:
  1. Open Amazon.com in its own Web browser page or tab.
  2. Go to 'Your Account'.
  3. Click on 'Manage Your Content And Devices'.
  4. Go to 'Settings'.
  5. Scroll down to the setting 'Automatic Book Update (Whispersync for Books)'.  Make sure that it's set to ON.
That's it.  Your old version should automatically be replaced by the new one.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Freedom makes progress in Europe

So, it looks as if the right-wing (i.e. anti-European Union) candidate in the Austrian presidential elections lost (narrowly), but Italian voters have rejected an attempt to align that country more closely with EU-preferred political structures.  This may lead to economic crisis, and even Italy's withdrawal from the euro.

I can't say I'm too worried at the prospect.  Most of those forecasting doom and gloom if more conservative, anti-globalist, pro-nationalist candidates win more elections in more countries, are coming from a world view that regards increasing unity - leading to a 'one world' government - as desirable.  I'm on the other side of the fence.  I believe that individual rights, freedoms and liberties are antithetic to collectivism.  I'm all in favor of political movements that see the individual as more important than the state;  who value and encourage and support entrepreneurism and individual effort, rather than socialism and group-think.

Austria didn't quite get there today, but the country came a lot closer than it ever has before.  I suspect, if that opinion change continues, it won't be long before its government changes hands.  Italy is now set fair for a regime change, since Prime Minister Renzi has promised to resign if he loses the referendum.  What will replace him is unclear . . . but I doubt very much whether it will be any worse.

Now we look to the ongoing saga of Brexit, where globalists and collectivists are doing everything they can to sabotage the will of the British people, as expressed in a referendum to withdraw from the EU.  France is likely to see a significant swing to more conservative, right-wing, nationalist candidates in the coming year.  As for Germany . . . collectivist Merkel has allowed over a million so-called 'refugees' to invade her country.  The consequences for Germans have been almost uniformly unpleasant - some of them have been horrific.  Will the German electorate punish her and her party?  That remains to be seen . . . but one may hope.

President Trump may soon have more like-minded leaders in Europe to work with than he'd expected.


A Russian attack helicopter goes to sea

Here's an interesting look at Russia's Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopter.  It's been adapted for service aboard ships, including the two Mistral class assault vessels that were to have been purchased from France.  (Both ships have now been sold to Egypt, which will reportedly buy Ka-52's for use aboard them.)

The US AH-64 Apache and AH-1Z Viper were both designed as land-based aircraft, although both have been adapted to shipboard use (particularly the latter, which serves aboard US Navy landing ships that carry US Marines).  It's interesting to see a Russian attack helicopter in a shipboard environment as well.  I wonder if it'll be adapted to the anti-submarine warfare role as well, or remain a 'pure' attack helicopter?  The USA and Britain have chosen to go a different route, using specialized ASW helicopters.


A teaser combat scene to whet your appetite

Here's a teaser excerpt from my new book, 'Stoke The Flames Higher', Volume 5 of the Maxwell Saga.

It'll be published within a day or two, as soon as Amazon's systems can process it.  I hope this whets your appetite to read the whole thing!


Senior Lieutenant Watson looked at the Plot display. The four small, wavering gravitic drive signatures were growing stronger as they approached. They were still moving at only one-tenth of light speed. Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell had provided performance data for the Devakai ships, suggesting they could move at twice that velocity if they had to – much less than the one-third Cee capability of his modern Serpent class vessel, but about right for century-old patrol craft from a galactic backwater. For a moment, he frowned, wondering why they weren’t using all their performance… then he relaxed. Their antiquated sensors and fire control systems probably couldn’t handle relativistic motion and Lorentz transformation very well. Both were inevitable complications when moving at significant fractions of light speed. That would explain their slower approach.

A light came on above his comm handset, indicating a call on the squadron tight-beam laser network. He picked it up, put it to his ear, and waited as a series of clicks indicated other Commanding Officers coming online.

“Squadron Commander to all ships. The enemy vessels are now at seven million kilometers’ range. They’re old and antiquated, with inferior weapons, so I think four of us can handle them. The other two can tackle the small craft that are spreading out, trying to get past us. Copperhead, take Rinkhals under your control and use your active sensors to intercept and destroy as many of them as you can. Use your defensive laser clusters only – a small craft isn’t worth the cost of a main battery missile. Boa, Mamba and Python, stand by to take firing directions from my ship. We’ll fire together when the enemy ships reach five million kilometers’ range. Their own missiles have an effective powered range of only two million kilometers, so we should be able to destroy them all before they can return fire. Acknowledge in sequence. Over.”

He clicked on his microphone when his turn came. “Copperhead to Squadron Commander, acknowledged. Question, please, sir. What if the small craft try to surrender? Over.”

“Squadron Commander to Copperhead. If they shut down their drives and activate their locator beacons at once, accept their surrender. If there’s any delay, or any refusal to cooperate, destroy them immediately. Over.”

“Copperhead to Squadron Commander, understood, over.”

He waited while the other ships acknowledged their orders, then spoke again. “Copperhead to Rinkhals. You take the port side and above. I’ll take the starboard side and below. Let’s go. Over.”

“Rinkhals to Copperhead, understand port and above, aye aye. Sheering off now. Over.”

“Copperhead to Rinkhals, good hunting. Out.”

He put down the handset, looking across the Operations Centre. “Command to EW, start looking for targets. Focus our active arrays downward and to starboard, and let’s see who’s coming to dinner.” A nervous chuckle ran around the OpCen.

Three icons popped up on the short-range Plot display almost immediately. He designated them Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, and turned his ship towards the closest. It was emitting no signature of any kind, but from its apparent size, it was either an assault shuttle or a cutter.

“Command to Communications, call on target Alpha to surrender, using the standard interplanetary distress frequency.”

“Communications to Command, aye aye, sir.”

Three times they called, and three times were met with silence. Finally he called, “Command to Weapons. Weapons free on target Alpha.”

“Weapons to Command, weapons free on Alpha, aye aye, sir.”

There was a momentary pause, then a slight dimming of the lights in the OpCen as one of the ship’s four laser clusters fired. From only fifty thousand kilometers away, its powerful beam sliced through the target like a hot knife through butter. There was a distant explosion as the small vessel’s fusion micro-reactor exploded, wiping it out and killing everyone aboard in a blaze of thermonuclear plasma. Its icon in the Plot fuzzed into a starburst, then faded.

“Command to Weapons, good shooting. Break. Command to Communications, make a general call to all Kotai vessels in the vicinity, demanding their surrender. Tell them to activate their beacons and cut their drives. If they don’t, there will be no more second chances. From now on, if we see a non-complying target, we’ll shoot at it without warning.”

The call went out, repeated three times, but again with no response.

“Very well, Command to Weapons, weapons free on all targets within range. Plot, designate new targets as EW acquires them. It’s open season and there’s no bag limit.”

“EW to Command, our ships have fired, sir!” Ensign White’s voice was excited.

“Command to Plot, change to long range display. Let’s watch this.”

“Plot to Command, long range, aye aye, sir.”

Everyone in the OpCen craned to see the missile traces reaching out from the four Serpent class ships towards the four Athi vessels. It looked as if Commander Belknap had allocated only ten missiles to each of them, reserving half his ships’ warloads against possible future need.

Suddenly White shouted, almost screaming, “Active sensor emissions sir! It’s –”

The Plot suddenly showed two new icons, no more than half a million kilometers ahead of and below the four Commonwealth vessels, and well ahead of the four at which they were shooting. Almost instantly, missile traces appeared above the new vessels, racing upward towards the underbellies of Copperhead’s squadron-mates.

“It’s a trap!” Watson exclaimed aloud, forgetting OpCen procedure. “Those four targets must be drones! We concentrated on them like fat, happy dumbasses, while they sneaked in below them – and now they’ve fired at point-blank range!”

The enemy missiles were more than halfway to their targets before more traces of missile fire began to appear above the Commonwealth patrol craft – and that was itself an indicator of the problem. The vessels had not had time to change their orientation. The main battery missiles they were firing at the enemy patrol craft, and the defensive missiles aimed at their incoming weapons, were all ejected upward from their launch tubes by mass drivers. Once fired, they had to coast until they were clear of the ship’s gravitic drive field. Only then could they activate their own drives, turn around, and aim downward towards their targets. That took time
… time they did not have, at such desperately short range. Defense would be up to the laser clusters.

Even as Watson realized that, he saw the flickers in the Plot indicating high-energy discharges from the four patrol craft. They were firing their lasers downward at the incoming missiles, but only two of each ship’s four laser clusters were on the underside. The two topside could not bear on the enemy’s weapons. He saw the gravitic drive signatures of each patrol craft begin to spool up as they tried to turn onto their sides, so that all four laser clusters could be brought into action… but it was too late. They would hit some of the enemy missiles, but the rest were almost upon them.

Watson realized, with a sick sensation in his stomach, that it was an almost perfect ambush, launched from the spacefaring equivalent of knife-fighting range. The Kotai had planned and executed it to perfection. He suddenly grasped how smugly parochial, how baselessly superior, had been his own attitude and that of the rest of the Lancastrian squadron. They’d assumed they were facing primitive religious fanatics. Commander Belknap had spoken of the Kotai as ‘barbs’ – barbarians. Others had used similarly contemptuous terms… but those ‘barbs’ had gravitic drives and nuclear weapons, and they had brains. No matter how outdated their ships, their tactics were as effective as anything he or his fellow Commanding Officers could have devised. Indeed, they were even more effective, because the Lancastrian Commonwealth Fleet would hesitate to accept certain death in order to injure the enemy. The Kotai would make the exchange gladly, provided they could take enough of their foes with them. You couldn’t deter someone ready, willing and eager to die.

You'll be able to read how that space fight turned out - and a number of others - within a day or two.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

James Mattis' reading list

For an interesting insight into retired General James Mattis' mindset, the reading list he posted for Central Command in 2007 was published by Small Wars Journal.  I've read a number of the books it mentions, and I'm going to treat the rest as a reading assignment over the next year or two.  If you're interested in the US military, and/or in Gen. Mattis' possible mindset if he's approved as Secretary of Defense, you might care to do likewise.


A good deal on winter jackets

Here's a heads-up for any of my US readers looking for good-quality winter outerwear at a very reasonable price.  No, I'm not being paid or given any sort of kickback for mentioning this - I've just bought two of them myself, and wanted to share the good news with y'all.

Aramark is having a clearance sale on some of their overstocked items.  Among them is this 'WearGuard® System 365 Three-Season Jacket'.

It's available in various colors and sizes (from XS to 5XL), and it's currently priced at $28.99 and up, depending on size, etc.  (Not all sizes are available in all colors - check the combinations available.)  On the recommendation of a friend, I bought two, and they're every bit as good as he promised - well made, with decent-quality materials.  I haven't found the same value at a similar price at Walmart or other local clothing shops.  (Aramark also has other items on clearance, but I haven't bought them, so I can't give them a personal recommendation.)

If you need a medium-weight winter jacket, these seem to be good value for money.


We've played this game with our cats, too . . .

A new Simon's Cat video explores the world of bedsheets.

Whenever Miss D. and I make our bed, it's like it was an instant cat attracter.  Kili, our adult female, is bad enough - she just stretches out on it and looks at us.  Ashbutt is a far more destructive player.  He'll tackle each sheet and blanket as we try to stretch it out, attack our hands through the bedclothes, crawl up and down it trying to bat at us . . . he has a wonderful time.  It means that the bed takes three times longer to make than it should, but he has so much fun that we find it hard to begrudge him his playtime.


A response to my readers

Yesterday I asked for your input regarding future book projects.  At the time of writing, 49 of you have responded in a comment to that post, while 22 others preferred to do so via e-mail.  Adding up all of the replies, there seems to be broad support for a fantasy novel, with a space detective series attracting a fair amount of interest as well.  Some would prefer a stand-alone novel, rather than a series, while others like the idea of it being open to continuation if it sells well.

I'll cogitate on your replies for a couple of weeks before I make a final decision, but it's likely I'll go with a fantasy novel for next year.  Which one it will be depends as much on the time I have available, and the amount of work I've already done, as on other factors.  I'll definitely write it to be stand-alone, but with the possibility of continuing it in a trilogy or longer series if it proves popular.  (I try to write all my books that way, so that a new reader can pick up any of - for example - the Maxwell series and enjoy it, without having to have read the preceding volumes first.)

The space detective series will also proceed.  I'm going to plot it out more carefully, and I may take that idea to Castalia House for publication from 2018 onwards.  I think a stand-alone book is definitely there, and perhaps a trilogy.  We'll test the waters and see what emerges.

Thanks for your replies and suggestions.  You've helped me to plan my work for next year in a more market-oriented fashion, which I hope will be useful, enjoyable and profitable for all of us.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Readers, what would you prefer?

I'm planning the next few books in my writing calendar, now that Maxwell Volume 5 is almost ready.  (Look for it next week!)

Over the next year or so, I have three projects definitely planned, and room for a fourth.  2017 looks something like this, if all goes well.

First quarter of 2017:  The second volume of my Western series, the Ames Archives.  Publication probably in mid-year (by Castalia House).

Second quarter of 2017:  A project to be discussed below (independent publication).

Third quarter of 2017:  The third and final volume of the Laredo War trilogy.  Publication probably during the fourth quarter (Castalia).

Fourth quarter of 2017:  Maxwell Volume 6 (independent, publication before Christmas, God willing).

These are potential, projected books, of course.  If all goes very well and I have no interruptions, I'll probably be able to get them done.  If anything goes wrong, one may slip into 2018.

The book for the second quarter of 2017 is where I'm looking for your input.  I have the following possibilities, all of which are partially written or plotted out already.

  1. A heroic fantasy novel.  Sword and sorcery in the classic tradition, with good triumphing over evil (of course!).  The first draft of this novel is about 45% complete.
  2. Another fantasy novel, less in the 'heroic' tradition, but including sword and sorcery in a more formal military setting.  Think late Middle Ages or early Renaissance in a European-style country.  First draft is about 30% complete.
  3. A space detective novel, set in the Maxwell universe and tying in with the Maxwell Saga from time to time (i.e. characters from both series will get together).  First draft is about 30% complete.
  4. A mil-sci-fi novel set in the Maxwell universe, but with completely new characters.  The idea would be to establish a backstory from which the character might meet and/or work with Steve Maxwell in future books.  Plotted out, but not yet begun.

I'd like to hear from you, readers, about which of the above projects most interests you.  I've listed them in the order in which I'd like to tackle them;  but I can only make a living by writing what my readers want!  Please let me know, in Comments or via e-mail, which of these four projects sounds most interesting to you, and we'll see whether there's a consensus.



The economy - learning from China?

In the light of President-elect Trump's campaign slogan, 'Make America Great Again', and his campaign to bring jobs back to this country that had been lost overseas, I found this perspective on doing business in China to be rather interesting.  Compare and contrast to our US experience.

The hotels were amazing. Equal or better than anything you might find here or in Europe, at a much lower cost. The infrastructure has improved dramatically. From brand new major super-highways to bullet trains cruising along at 180mph. The cities were surprisingly clean and well organized. Traffic jams were omnipresent as was caustic air pollution. While the food has definitely improved, you no longer need to wonder whether your chicken is really chicken or some other creature, it still leaves much to be desired.

For an alleged police state, we saw very few police or military. Internet service was fast, but local service blocked Google, YouTube, Facebook and my podcast server Libsyn. However, my Verizon cellular and data service worked flawlessly. Our host was amazed that there were no blocked sites on Verizon, even though it was using the same network that his smartphone used. You could always use a VPN to avoid government firewall blocking.

In Yiwu we visited the largest general goods wholesale market on the planet. The building stretches for 6 kilometers and is four stories high. Every type of good you can imagine was available, from numerous vendors at amazingly cheap prices. Usually at less than one-tenth the price you’d pay in a store in the States. Housewares, outdoor goods, electronics, jewelry, hardware, etc. It ran for literally miles and miles. At this point I realized that no matter how effective a President Trump may be, he’s not going to bring back this type of manufacturing to America. The war has been fought and lost. Unless he’s putting a 200 percent tariff on these goods, they’re going to be made in China.

There's more at the link.

Basically, China learned from the West what it takes to be a First World economy - then improved on that with its own dash of indigenous culture.  In some aspects, of course, it's far from an improvement to our eyes (particularly in areas such as human rights, freedom of expression, etc.), but from the perspective of the Chinese people, it's far, far better than what they had.  They'll put up with the negatives in order to get the positives.

I wonder whether American voters will have the sense to do the same thing?  We simply can't bring back the 'old jobs', because most of those industries no longer exist in the form that they did when they operated here.  Steel plants were labor-intensive;  now they're robot-intensive.  'Work smarter, not harder' has become a worldwide mantra;  but how many of our school-leavers have been educated to the point where they can work smarter?  I venture to doubt that the average US public school produces work-ready employees.  Most of them need help tying their metaphorical shoelaces!

It's going to be an interesting ride.  Just as China learned from us, perhaps it's time for us to learn from China and other countries, and use that to shape what we hope will be our new success story.  Your thoughts?


Quote of the day

From my blogger buddy Murphy's Law, on how to deal with the professional agitators and social justice warriors ('grassroots', my ass!) protesting the North Dakota pipeline:

"... my ideal solution involves the use of Forest Service aerial water bombers on the next cold night and beatings and jail for every anarchist hippie up there, preferably in some work camp on our southern border where Sheriff Joe Arpaio will put them to work building President Trump's new wall."

But . . . but . . . you use brickbats to build a wall - not moonbats!