Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We're Moving!

The Idea Factory is moving! After a great deal of pressure from those more geeky than I am I have decided to abandon Blogger and switch to wordpress, obtaining my own URL in the process. I haven't trusted Blogger since the day this blog started; after all, it ate the entire thing the day after it was created!

We are moving to This was previously a website for my musical pursuits, but we've moved that site over to There are now two websites; one for writing endeavors, and one for music. To recap:


But that's not even the really big news. The really big news is this: The Tale of Pirate Shishkabob is finished, and ready for sale! That's right, it's all done. You can now order your very own copy of this infamous pirate's tale! To celebrate the final release I'm making a special offer: get your order in before May 13 and your copy will be signed by both the author(me!) and the illustrator. Do keep in mind that these copies will not ship for at least a week after the deadline closes, so if you want your copy in a hurry you can order it straight off of Amazon. Check out the official page for more details. Also, have you seen the shiny new facebook page? That's not the end of the exciting news. "The Sword and Pen; the Poetry of Holy Worlds" is also finally available for sale. I have several pieces in the collection, wrote the introduction, and was one of the organizers. All proceeds go back to the forum.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Telepathy: Like the gods...

One of the comments on one of my telepathy articles indicated I had missed something. At first I didn't think I had, but then I realized that the commenter was right.

I'd say that under "Mind reading" There is a phase between Touch Telepath and Intrusive Psychics. This is the telepath whose ability is a passive one. He/she is bombarded by the thoughts of others rather than reaching out and grabbing them, and has to learn to filter all the voices in their heads out. Most telepaths in Marvel Comics are of this variety (e.g. Professor Xavier, Jean Grey). Now granted, most of them have the ability to be intrusive psychics and reach into others' minds, but I've seen some examples (though none immediately come to mind) of those whose abilities are nothing more than hearing the surface thoughts of those around them without even trying.
There are three types of telepathy. Involuntary, controlled, and physical. I already covered that last one when I discussed touch-telepaths, so this article deals with the difference between controlled and involuntary telepathy.

I have enough doubt in my abilities without having to listen to Riker and Picard's as well!
Involuntary telepathy is not fun. Most people cursed with such an ability cannot handle the stress, and meet with a tragic end at a fairly young age. (If they're born with the ability, that is. If it's something they suddenly obtain than they meet a tragic end even faster at whatever age they're currently at.) Either that, or they lose the ability, a relief to everyone involved.

The involuntary telepathy hears the thoughts of everyone around him. It can be compared to being in a room with every radio station available playing at once, and being unable to stop your ears, or turn any of them off. The minutes someone walks into the telepath's range they can hear their thoughts, and sense their feelings. They can't tune it out, or filter it, and it affects them deeply on a personal level. This ability is frustrating, exhausting, and it can be impossible for someone who possesses it to lead a normal life.

The controlled telepath has all the abilities of the miserable young person, except that he can control it. He can shield himself from other's emotions, or block out their thoughts at will. He can function perfectly normally, and conceal his ability as needed. Yet he can also, instantly and without effort, pry into anyone's thoughts without their being aware. Because of his mental shielding he's mentally stable, and can think like a normal human being. He can control the radio stations, filter them, listen to them individually, or shut them out altogether. He doesn't have to get emotionally involved with everyone who's thoughts he reads; he can remain independent.

The controlled telepath has all the makings of a villain... or a god.

Power has to come at a price. Power without penalty is what makes characters godlike, and removes any sort of struggle or conflict. It's easy to sympathize with a telepath who would virtually give up his life for five minutes of silence. It's infinitely harder to feel any sort of concern for a telepath who could take over the world with relative ease if the fancy struck him. Even though their abilities are basically the same the effect on the characters is infinitely different.

Touch telepaths are not all-powerful and invulnerable, because they're restricted to physical contact. Even if it doesn't require a great deal of training, it usually requires a great deal of concentration, and most of the time once a link is established information can be exchanged both ways. It is also fairly easy to conceal specific information from inquiring minds. A touch telepath is forced to become personally involved with the person who's mind is being read, and I can only imagine how complicated it would be to forcibly interrogate an unwilling victim. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


Evanescence is the band no one would guess I listen to. It's the "Find the one that's different" in my music collection. As a general rule I don't listen to that style of music, and the first two times I heard their songs I was totally not interested. No, what brought me around was the lyrics. Song lyrics in a friend's chat status that so completely impressed me I had to hear the song.
You don't remember me, but I remember you.
I lie awake at night and try so hard not to think of you.
But who can decide what they dream? and dream I do.  - Taking Over Me
The song starts with piano, effectively catching me off guard with the drums and electric guitar that start mere seconds later. But by then I'm already trapped... her use of minor, chord changes, and harmonies is a feast for the ears. In fact, often the rock elements add to the song, rather than get in the way by being distracting. And, of course, Amy's voice is gorgeous.

I was thoroughly snared when I heard the song "My Immortal." The version I heard had no drums or electric guitar at all, putting it in the class of songs I usually listen to, and allowing me to become completely captivated without having to subject myself something I usually didn't like at all. In fact, I loved this song so much that I later went on to do a harp cover, successfully imitating the piano part through most of the song. It's the most accurate reproduction of a song I've ever done. There was nothing I wanted to change, or improve on, so the arrangement is virtually the same.

For a whole summer I listened to Evanescence while delivering pizza. I had only one album by them: "Fallen." Finally one day I ventured onto Youtube to see if they had written anything else, and I discovered their demo album "Origin." "Origin" is still my favorite album of theirs. I wish it were easier to get copies of. Many of my favorite songs are from there; "Field of Innocence", "Listen to the Rain", and "Lies".

And then, oh then there was my science fiction novel, recently re titled "The Justice Project". I was doing massive revisions at the time I rediscovered Evanescence, and so that was all I listened to for a solid months while I revised. Somehow, by the time I reached the end of the project I discovered that the songs and the tone of her style had somehow engrained themselves into the very fabric of the story.
Please don't be afraid
When the darkness fades away
The dawn will break the silence
Screaming in our hearts. - Understanding
For the first time I had a novel with a theme song. Then I had characters with theme songs. Then I had songs for the ending scene... the final playlist came to a total of five songs. "Field of Innocence"(Kaylee's Song), "Lost in Paradise"(Dorus's Song), "My Heart is Broken"(Dorus's Ending), "My Last Breath"(Kaylee's Ending), and "Understanding"(Finale/Theme).

Other favorite songs include "Like You", "Bring Me to Life", and "Hello". Obviously I got past my usual dislike of rock music, and became completely obsessed. The question is, why? Besides their obvious talent, what makes this group so remarkable, and what do I personally see in it?

Music is a powerful tool, and this band knows how to use it in ways that many never seem to realize. Specifically, the lyrics are absolutely amazing. There are lines that never cease to move me, no matter how many times I've heard them.
I'm so tired of speaking words that no one ever hears.
Is it clear enough that you can't live your whole life all alone?
I can hear you in a whisper but you can't even hear me screaming
. - Where Will You Go?
I've never studied the life of Amy Lee, the lead singer and songwriter, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that she writes from her own experience. There is something so real about these songs. They are not proud or self-centered. They are not juvenile demands for attention. They are not shallow or coarse. They are hopeless, heartfelt pleas for help and salvation. They are songs of love and death, of loss and longing. They are so beautiful and so poignantly sad. These are the songs in the heart of every rebellious teenager. They are more than songs; they are prayers. They are the agony in the eyes of everyone who says they're fine; begging you to look behind the walls they've put up and see the truth. They are a final request for something eternal to hold onto.
Now that I know what I'm without you can't just leave me here.
Breath into me and make me real; bring me to life.
Wake me up inside, wake me up inside,
call my name and save me from the darkness.
Bid my blood to run, before I come undone.
Save me from the nothing I've become. - Bring Me to Life

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pandora: A Telepathic Planet

It came to my attention that many people do not understand the James Cameron movie Avatar. They see "New Age" they see people without clothes on, they see cliche plots, and overdone special effects. And somehow they manage to miss the immense potential of the film; the enormous brilliance of the premise. I am here to clear up this mass confusion, and to reveal Pandora and the Na'vi for what they really are; the organic version of Tron.

I'll start with a very simple concept, one I'm sure you all can understand. A comic strip.

This is, actually, a surprisingly accurate representation of the Na'vi. Since you're reading this I assume you have a computer, and if you have a computer you're probably aware of what a USB is. Just in case you aren't, USB is how various devices are connected to each other. You use a USB cable to connect your MP3 player to your computer to transfer music. You use it to download pictures off your phone. It can be used for recharging, and for data exchanges.

Well, the Na'vi have the equivalent form of connection in the neural connectors at the base of their skull. Animals have two each, right behind the ears. When the ends of these fibre optic type connectors are laid together they connect, allowing information to pass from one mind to the other, much like data along a USB cable.

Cool, huh? But it gets better. The trees are connected neurally through the roots, so the entire forest is in communication with each other, spreading information around. The mistake the Na'vi made was worshiping the earth as a goddess, Eywa, when in reality it's just a huge data bank. One of the characters describes it thus:

What we think we know - is that there's some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of the trees. Like the synapses between neurons. Each tree has ten to the fourth connections to the trees around it, and there are ten to the twelfth trees on Pandora... That's more connections than the human brain. It's a network - a global network. And the Na'vi can access it - they can upload and download data - memories - at sites like the one you just destroyed.
So, in other words, the entire planet is like a hard drive. And trees like the one pictured below are USB ports. And through the neural connectors coming out of their heads the Na'vi can "plug-in" and access the memory. They can store memories there, experiences, knowledge; for future generations to access and learn from.

Even the rituals they engage in, holding hands and singing around such a location fit in. They're forming a giant processor. Individually they're weak, but together, all striving for the same thing, they become very, very strong. There's really nothing religious about it all. And what they could do if they understood; imagine the potential for that kind of information sharing. They'd never need to develop technology; because they are the technology. The concept is mind blowing. The potential is staggering.

 Now can you see Avatar in a new, scientific, light?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kentucky Spring

Spring does not come gently to my state. It comes violently; passionately. It is flirtatious, faithless, and breathlessly beautiful. It takes you when you least expect it, after leading you on forever. I have heard it said that before spring comes we must suffer through seven winters. Yet in the ten years I've lived here I've only seen three.

Mid-January comes the January thaw, when the world is warm and lovely and the bees come out to eat. The bees could not survive a winter without that little breath of spring half way. February comes cold and bitter, with snow and ice. But through the snow peeks the first hint that winter draws to an end... daffodils.

The daffodils bloom in February and March, and gradually the cold fades. Coats are put away, shoes are discarded, and you begin to look forward to the blooming of the leaves. Warm breezes blow... and it rains. It rains and rains and rains. The world turns to mud, and if you get a glimpse of sun you cherish it, for it is but a fleeting glimmer.

Creeks flood, and overflow their banks. Half the roads in the county become impassable. The fire station stays busy. Tornadoes are seen. The weather site of your choice becomes one of the first things you check every morning. You keep an eye on it through the day. You clean out your storm cellar. You keep your cattle up near the house.

A Redbud Tree
Just about the time you're ready to pack away all your winter gear and start planting your harden... it hits. In thunder and lightning and high winds, it sweeps across the land inspiring terror and awe. Sometimes disaster follows; sometimes it does not. But what inevitably follows is bitter cold. From the north comes an ice wind; not so strong as the west wind, but cold enough to bring out the warmest blankets, socks, and gloves. Hot cocoa suddenly resurfaces. You're glad you didn't finish off your wood supply. Winter isn't over after all.

Gradually it warms up again. You discard your winter gear. You go outside to delight in a warm spring breeze, and stop to gasp in delight. Spread all over the barren, brown forest is a pink blush. The redbuds have bloomed. The first winter has passed.

March passes in a whirlwind of flood waters and kite weather. The storms are less violent, but still frequent. Sometimes there's disaster, sometimes not. Planting begins. Spirits soar. The first pale leaves appear in the forest. You pack away the winter coats, boots , and scarves. Children run around and get muddy. You give up on mopping the floor every day.

And then... it comes again. Freezing rain, and wind, and gales. The outside world turns to mush. Baby chickens huddle under their heat-lamps, and calves cry for their mothers. Tender plants are brought into the greenhouse, and from the attic you bring back down warm jackets, and raincoats. It rains for three days. When it's over the world is clean and bright, vibrantly bright under a sky that still remembers being dark. And it's crisp and cool. A chill runs through you as you inspect your planting to be sure it's survived. You pick up trellises and re-tie tarps. You glance out towards the forest and a glimpse of white catches your eye. The Dogwoods are in blossom. The second winter is over.

A Dogwood Flower
The leaves come out, first in bright green, quickly darkening. April comes. The grass shoots up in leaps and spurts. You fix your fencing and set the cattle out to graze. The lambs grow quickly, skipping through new clover. The peas are growing, and flowers spurt up all over. The wind is gentle, beautiful, calling you to come and dance, to run and play and sing. There's something in the air that begs for adventure; there's something in your heart that cannot stand still.

The rain comes less often. The rubble from the disasters are picked up and gone. You begin to daydream of fairs and picnics and outings. You rediscover things like boating, and archery. It gets warm some days, warm enough almost to believe that spring is well and truly here, and that summer is on it's way. But it's not over yet. Not quite.

Snow in April
The third winter comes unexpectedly. It doesn't leave in a hurry. Some days it gets cold enough to rival February. Sometimes you decide you need a fire, but the stove is buried under piles of spring time paraphernalia. This is the winter of hail and flurries. Snow against the bright green leaves make a strange contrast. Through the cold lurks a breath of warmth, and everyone marvels "what strange weather we're having!"

The water from that winter sticks around for a while. You keep your mudboots close at hand, and shiver when you go out in the morning. You clean the fallen branches off your fence, and curse the brambles that seem to sprout out of nowhere. But as the weather warms again, and the dew burns off the grass and the sun shines hot over the swiftly growing grass, and you begin to think of summer, you notice. The blackberries are white with flowers. The third winter is gone.

The blackberries will not be ripe to eat until June, but this blossoming is their promise that June is not so far. Within a week or two the raspberries will ripen. Soon May is right around the corner. In the scorching heat you forget the flowers, and the spring time. In the joys of swimming it seems winter never came. For May is summer and haying and sunshine; the time of spring has passed. 

Blackberry Blossoms

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Kind of Romance

Fairytale, by Celestria
I recently read a book; Firebird, by Kathy Tyers. Yup, you know, the one I keep ranting about. It was a science fiction romance. The reason I can't get it out of my head is because I recently classified by own novel as a science fiction mystery romance. So I'm here to explain the difference between a romance and a Romance.

A Romance is character driven. You can have character driven fiction without having Romance, but you cannot have Romance without it being character driven. It works like this.

In the beginning there was the Romance.
Then there were the characters, who affected the Romance. 
Then there was the plot, which affected the characters, which affected the Romance. 
Then there was the technology which affected the plot, which affected the characters, which affected the Romance. 

The Justice Project is character driven, but it's also a mystery. So it looks more like this.

In the beginning there was the mystery.
Then there was the technology, which affected the mystery.
Then there were the characters, which affected the technology, which affected the mystery.
Then there was the romance, which affected the characters, which affected the technology, which affected the mystery.

Romance is a loving relationship between a man and a woman as it occurs in the plot. It's usually a plot device, used to toss the characters into conflict and confusion. Romance can serve any purpose, from splitting friends apart to reuniting estranged families. It's an extremely useful tool.

Romance, on the other hand, is the plot.  Symptoms that your book is a Romance may include long internal monologues on the part of the involved characters, usually related to how they feel. Angst is bound to be present in some form. Even if the world is at stake all your characters can think about is each other. Even if they hate each other all the characters can think about is each other. Even if there's a billion more interesting things going on elsewhere all they can think about is each other. Even if the reader is bored to tears... all they can read about is internal monologuing about each other.

I do not write Romance. I use some form of romance in almost every book I've written. I never sit down to voluntarily read a Romance, but somehow I keep tripping across them. It doesn't help that my mom and my sisters really enjoy them. However, I have nothing against romance, either in real life or as a plot device! I have described myself as a fairytale writer, and I'll stick to that assertion until the day I die. And we all know that fairytales are just love stories.

My faithful heart is my only charm,
But my good broadsword is keen.
And love for the princess nerves my arm
With the strength of ten, I ween.
Come weal, come woe, no knight can fall
Who goes at love's bequest...
~ from The Rescue of Princess Winsome

Monday, March 12, 2012

Only a Farmgirl...

It's a verticle feed mixer. Inside there's an auger that goes round and round, and mixes up the feed before spitting it out of the chute below. I saw these things fairly often from the time I was ten. We have a fairly large one lying sideways in our front yard, and we used to climb in it and pretend it was a space ship. It greatly resembled part of a rocketship, as we remembered it from the movie Apollo 13. We also pretended it was a submarine. 

One year, for Christmas, we got the most remarkable present. Our parents got us the 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Myst: which included the DVD version of the first three games in the series. We'd played an old version of Myst on an even older laptop (it ran Windows 98, as I recall) and we were very eager to play the sequel; Riven. 

Riven did not disappoint. It was an amazing game. Except that we wandered through the entire game wondering why on earth Gehn needed a feed mixer, and where was this telescope everyone kept talking about?