Writing process

Electronic money

It’s traditional, at work that when someone leaves you sign their card and put in a couple of dollars into the envelope for a going-away present.  The other day, as I signed a card for a workmate who’s leaving, I realised I had no money.  No money as in no coins (or notes).  I hadn’t had, in fact, for at least two months.  I’d been paying for everything by card.

I scrambled around in my bag, and then in my drawer, and finally found two dollars that had dropped to the bottom.

Then tonight, on a trip up to Sydney for work, I noticed that nearly all the passengers who tried to buy alcohol, bar two, changed their mind when they were told it was cash only.

They didn’t have any cash.

Neither did I, until I stopped at the ATM on the way, but it’s amazing how quickly, as a society, we’ve come around to being almost cashless.

Writing process

ARCs for Stars Beyond

Friday night we arrived home to find these on our doorstep. Advanced reader copies (ARCs) for Stars Beyond.

Aren’t they beautiful?

It’s a funny thing with writing books, but by the time the book comes out you’ve been working on another story for months, so it’s like something from the distant past coming back to visit, but you get enthused all over again.

Even so, you still can’t read the book dispassionately yet. It’s only a few months ago that I found could reread Confluence—book three of the Linesman series—all the way through and enjoy it the way we enjoyed it while we were writing it.

Writing process

Biometrics–minority report is here

I went to the Romance Writers of Australia conference this weekend. A great conference, with lots of interesting talks. There were too many good presenters and interesting topics to mention, although I do have to mention Amy Andews’ closing talk. It’s a hard place to be but Amy gave an entertaining talk to a packed room. That’s a feat in itself. Normally any conference or con you go to is pretty empty by the last session. She deserved her standing ovation.

But the session I wanted to talk about was A. J. Blythe’s Biometrics. Think Minority Report type identification. Or any science fiction story where you have to ID yourself, really.

It was a fascinating look at identity, and what can or can’t be used to identify you.

Fingerprints, for sure. And for forensics, fingerprints means fingers, toes, your palm and your foot. What I didn’t realise is that each finger and toe is unique. Nor that fingerprints can be temporarily rubbed off in some trades, like bricklaying, with the excessive rough mortar. Or by someone who handles paper all day every day, because paper acts like a very fine sandpaper.

Your face is unique, and even if your face changes, the points security systems measure stay the same, so it can be used to identify you. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to hack, especially given the photos people have on social media. Some university ran a study where a group of people who used photo ID on their phones gave the researches their phone. The researchers were able to hack the phone just from stalking the people online.

Your ear is also unique. It, too, could be used in security. Except, I suppose, you’d have to press your ear up to the phone.

Weirdest moment of the session was when A. J. put up a photo an ear—just the ear—and someone in the room immediately recognised it as Hugh Jackman’s.

Your voice isn’t as unique. Under the right circumstances an identical twin can fool voice ID. After that we got onto the various ways you can change your appearance, including an interesting video from the CIA former Chief of Disguise (how’s that for a cool title?), showing of a man changing his clothes in the street (not literally, but taking off his tie, and his jacket), putting on a fisherman’s hat, and dark glasses, and how he suddenly wasn’t the same person any more. I mean, if you were watching you could see him change, but it’s still amazing to see the transformation.

This is the full YouTube video. [from the Wired channel.] The quick change starts at 6:43, but the whole clip is worth watching.
Writing process

Staying sane at writers’ conferences

We’re going to the Melbourne RWA conference next weekend. The person who recommended it to me so many years ago said, “It’s one of the most professional writers’ conferences I know,” and I’ve been meaning to go ever since.  Sherylyn went once, a couple of years ago, and said it was good, but I couldn’t make it.

We’re both going this year.

Sometimes it’s nice to chill out and simply talk to other writers.

Sometimes it’s nice to sit alone and read your iPad or write the story that wants to come out.

That’s okay.

When we get to a conference we’re often exhausted, usually because of work, but sometimes for other things.  Sherylyn, for example, is down with a bug this week, and hopefully will just be over it in time for the weekend.

Beginning writers are so often told conferences are all about the networking. That’s what you go to conferences for.  Don’t you?

Network, network, network.

I think that you don’t get much value out of conferences until you get over that ‘network’ mantra. Go because you want to listen to other writers. Go because you want to be inspired. Go because it’s lonely in your cold writer’s office and you can’t possibly write another word without a recharge.

If you want to sit somewhere quiet for a while, don’t feel guilty about it. Do what works for you. Take the conference at the pace you can manage. Coming back with fifty new friends isn’t what conferences are about. Learning and recharging while enjoying yourself are.

Let go of the guilt and enjoy the conference on your terms.