Saturday, March 31, 2007

Code Filk III

Well, what's a major computer accomplishment without a filk on all the trouble I had getting it done?

This week, I got doubly "blessed," as Yahoo had a glitch in its e-mail program that caused it to repeatedly send the same messages time and again. Some folks were mad; some thought their particular group was being attacked. The rest of us took the Douglas Adam's "potted plant" approach. ("Oh, not again.") I'm moderator on two groups, so I deleted the repeats and sent a notice that Yahoo was freaking. Naturally, that message was sent seven times. Yahoo also sent a notice about the problem. I didn't get the message, but I know someone who did.

No more caffeine for you, Yahoo!

As far as the movie trailer, it went fairly easily, though finding royalty-free music is hard! I was stoked to find the extra photos, especially the one of the girl pushing on the fence. It said "Little Madeleine" all over it. The music came from White Beetle and is a Gregorian chant. We has some problems with ordering, too, but the customer service folks at White Beetle got us the download, and the timing on the song was near-perfect.

Then we tried to post it.

I'd saved it as a project, not a movie. I didn't know there was a difference. So when I loaded it onto YouTube, instead of it telling me .mswmm was not accepted, it just sat for hours, "processing." In the meantime, I tried to post it elsewhere, but it had to be in .mpg or .avi to be downloaded. So we downloaded conversion software and tried to change it. It converted about half the time, meaning we got video or audio but not both. The one conversion that did both sped up the slides, cycled through the last four three times and wrecked the timing. We never did figure that one out.

In the meantime, Rob realized YouTube was trying to process the wrong file, and we finally got the movie onto YouTube. Once there, YouTube is very kind in offering .html code. (Later, Rob was playing with the Help files in YouTube and came across "What does .mswmm mean?" Like I would have thought to ask.)

So here's the Code Filk. It doesn't scan as well as I'd hoped, but, hey, it's not like I'm going to make a YouTube movie out of it.

Sing to Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry"

Something is freaking out on Yahoo groups
Messages repeating, by dozens or two
Does this improve e-mails for you?
Need clear communication

Well, I made a trailer for I-S-I-G
Cut-and-paste and music, how hard can it be?
Then I tried to post for all to see
But there's not publication

Give me M-P-G
Give me A-V-I
Give me M-P-G
Why do I even try?

You'd think I was a dumb blond from
Out in the Sticks
When downloading a movie's
Something I can't fix
Tell me now what's wrong with this?
I need good conversion

I saved it as a project
Not a movie yet.
YouTube doesn't bother
To mention it.
It let the file just sit and sit
Give me some clear directions.

Yes, I see the Help sign
But what do I ask?
Why would I think mswmm
Wouldn't do the task?
It's such a pain in the a&%
Without more clear directions.

Give me M-P-G
Give me A-V-I
At least give me a clue
Why do I even try?

Silly little programs
Silly little tricks
I learn the silly secrets, but they just won't stick
Programming makes me go, "Ick!
I need more directions."

I call my techie husband. He's such a card.
He fixes up the problem without laughing to hard
Not bad for a dwarvish bard
He gives good directions

Got my M-P-G
Don't need A-V-I
It's on YouTube now
Happy I can die!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

It's Done!

The book trailer for Infinite Space, Infinite God is finally done!

Click here to see it!

Saturday, I will have another code filk about my misadventures; but for today, I'm happy dancing!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Mandate on Man Dates

Rob just got back from a 10-week joint forces training course. This is a senior officer course about how the different services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) all work together. It's supposed to be training for taking a "joint" assignment, where you work with the other services.

Of course, thanks to military bureaucracy, you often get cases like my husband, who has been working in his joint assignment for two years. He could probably teach half the classes. In fact, he ended up in a class of mostly Colonels with more experience than some of the instructors--and they did end up teaching some topics. ("I know the regulations say that. Now here's how it really works…") Rob had a terrific time and learned a lot. Even more, this has been the first such course where he really fell in with the group and did a lot of useful networking, which is another reason for these courses.

One of the side benefits, it seems, is for these up-and-comers to relax and enjoy themselves before they have to return to their positions of responsibility. For 10 weeks, they can be college kids again. They had volleyball tournaments. (Rob's crew had T-shirts with the motto "Experience and Treachery Over Youth and Ability!") They had poker games. (Rob didn't participate--he's more of an on-line role-playing sort.) And they partied. Oh, did they party. Relive-the-glory-days and act-like-the-fighter-pilots-we-know-we-are party. (Here, Rob did the "fly-by": show up for a drink or two, then turn in to chat with me on the IM. Love that man!)

They draw the line, however, at going to the movies together.

As you know, 300 is out. (Terrific movie, though it deserves the R rating.) Since it deals with the Battle of Thermopylae, Rob thought they should go see it as a class.

Oh, no! Can't do that. That'd be a Man Date.

Yep. A Man Date. We can't have that--men going to the movies together. Next thing you know, they'll be hugging and sharing their deepest thoughts over mochachinos. And to ask fighter pilots to Man Date? The entire defense of our nation could crumble!

Apparently, there's an unwritten rule that Real Men need a woman in order to attend a movie. Even a movie with excessive violence and gratuitous nudity. I guess someone's got to go for more popcorn.

There is, apparently, some kind of complex code for determining what constitutes a Man Date. As a woman, I'm not privy to the secret, but I've deduced the formula has to do with alcohol, women, stogies, and quite probably bodily functions (you know which ones). Thus, as we've seen, going to the movies is definitely a Man Date. Bar hopping is not--apparently, liquor and the presence of women in the bar (even if all the guys are happily married) make this an approved macho activity. Poker is up in the air, according to Rob. I'm guessing a good rule of thumb is that if you see guys do it on a beer commercial, it's probably not a Man Date.

Well, Rob and I saw 300 tonight. Rob thinks it will become a military classic. He predicts that one day, it may become required viewing at the Air Force Academy.

But you can bet that the male cadets won't be going out together to see it on their own.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fundamental Truths of Living

Today was a busy day tearing out a bushes, planting a garden, writing a critique and finishing Faith-Filled Fiction. Therefore, I offer up these reflections as my post:

On Moving:

No matter how spotless your house is, there will be a realtor who will tell you to clean it up.

The bush you spent the last five years caring for will die the week the house goes on the market.

The day you soak your lawn, it will rain. Heavily. Non-stop. For 36 hours.

On Writing:

It's impossible to write with a cat on your chest.

The cat will invariably sit on your chest just as you get comfortable with the laptop.

The piece of paper I toss because I don't need it anymore will be the piece of paper I need a week later--for an article that's due!

On Life:

No matter how busy you are, there's someone busier. No matter how awful you feel, there's someone sicker. No matter how bad your luck is, there's someone who's having hard times. Yet despite this, they will be continuing to live their life with love, humor and faith. They can inspire you if you let them.

No matter how many times you explain what you need to someone, that person will get it wrong and at the worst possible time--like right before a deadline. Sometimes, that person will be you.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Writing: You Get What You Give

When I was in high school, I was in a club called Rainbows, and one of the things we impressed upon members is that you only get out of Rainbows what you put in. I tried to live that motto in most of my life, yet it wasn't until the past year that I applied it to my writing.

I'm so glad I came to my senses.

My journey started with the sale of Infinite Space, Infinite God (ISIG). Until then, my interaction with other writers had been occasional e-mails on the Catholic Writers Online and Christian Fiction Yahoo groups. I'd mostly gone to the groups for what I could get out of them, and I did get a couple of writing contracts and some market leads as well as contributors to ISIG.

My publisher, Lida at Twilight Times Books, invited TTB authors to join the MuseOnline Writers Conference by hosting a workshop. At this point, I was thinking mostly in terms of "what's in it for me?" In this case, doing a workshop on Faith in Fiction would get some free publicity for ISIG. Plus, I could attend the other workshops, meet authors and editors, and learn more about marketing my book.

Something happened at that workshop that transcended marketing, however.

I discovered a whole world of writers, some with less experience than me, but many with more. Those with more so freely shared what they knew and those with less so gratefully drank it in that I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to share, too! Before the conference was over, I had done an impromptu workshop and committed to creating a newsletter on writing religion in fiction.

Afterward, I got into a website-building workshop--hosted by the conference organizer Lea Schizas--and had such fun with it, I started encouraging all authors to build one. I took a virtual book tour and set up a blog to tour others. I joined some writers' chats, and when Jo Linsdell started a chat on her website, I felt inspired to start my own. As my knowledge and enthusiasm grew, I got more involved in my Yahoo groups and found myself accepting invitations to others.

Six months later, I am the President of the Catholic Writers' Guild, publisher of Faith-Filled Fiction, owner of several active websites and blogs, member of three blog rolls, and have signed up to do three workshops at the MuseOnline Conference in October. I wake up every morning looking forward to getting on my computer, catching up on e-mail, taking care of Yahoo business, growing my MySpace and ShoutLife friends lists, and IM-ing with whichever friend is on-line.

And, true to the motto I learned as a teen, I've gotten so much back: new opportunities, new marketing skills, and even new characters and novel ideas. I've helped others advertise their books or activities and had promoted ISIG in return. Best or all, I've got new friendships: people I can depend on to provide thorough and useful critiques, to commiserate with over rejections, to celebrate acceptances, to plan for the next great project, and simply to enjoy each others' company.

We often think that writing is a solitary activity, but this year, I've discovered just how important a good group of author friends can be. It's not just about sharing the story.

It's about sharing yourself.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Name Game II--Fits to a T

Been another banner week for my name:

Had one e-mail about Karine and Robert Fabian. Two out of three isn't bad.

Had someone (again, e-mail) call me Kariana. I actually like that and plan to save it for a character. Someone sweeter and less snarly than me.

Finally, a good friend called me Katrina--twice! He was so embarrassed, he wrote me this little essay about T and I had to share it with you. Thanks, Alex Lobdell!

Here are some more examples of strange things that can happen when you add an extra "t" to a word:

There was no toilet paper in the bathroom, so I put a couple of trolls in there.
I was just admiring our new bus driver's bust.
We have stale prices at our store today.
John jumped in the pool and quickly stank.
I need to stew my new dress.
This experiment will stimulate a nuclear explosion.
The rich woman hid her jewelry in her stock drawer in her bedroom.
When the old priest died, his nephew was his stole beneficiary.
After Marilyn bought a new brand of bubble bath, she enjoyed having many studs in the bathtub as she bathed.
I saw many people on the beach stunning themselves.
The old fisherman had arthritis, so he went to see a sturgeon.
The spy had many treasons for defecting.
Friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me your tears.
Song sung by a very poor locomotive engineer: "Listen to the rhythm of the falling train, telling me just what a fool I've been."
Drill sergeant to a group of doomed recruits: "Gentlemen, your M-16 is not a gun. It is a trifle."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

EPPIE Winner!

Infinite Space, Infinite God won the EPPIE!
Best Electronically Published Science Fiction for 2007!

I got the news Sunday from our publisher, Lida Quillen. I flew down the stairs shouting to Rob, "We won! We won the EPPIE!" I almost burst into tears with joy.

I'm so proud of and tickled for our contributors. I think the fact that ISIG, an anthology with a religious theme, won out over novels and secular works just proves the quality of their writing and the depth of their thought, as well as their ability to weave stories that appeal to people of all faiths. Please, if you know any of these authors, drop by and tell them congrats:

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Rose Dimond
Colleen Drippe'
Alex Lobdell
Alan Loewen
Simon Morden
Tim Myers
Ken Pick
Adrienne Ray
Lori Z. Scott
J Sherer

Rob and I are also grateful to Lida, our publisher at Twilight Times Books. Not only did she take a chance on ISIG, but she pushed the publication date so we could compete for the EPPIE.

If you want to learn more about Infinite Space, Infinite God, check out the website: It comes out in print August 15 and will be available from and directly from Twilight Times Books. In the meantime, if you like electronic books, you can purchase it from Twilight Times or Fictionwise.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

7 tips to get your house market-ready

The house goes up for sale on Wednesday. I've got conflicting feelings, house-wise. While I love moving into a new home--rearranging things and making a new space "ours"--I'm very sad to leave this house. This house was lovely when we bought it, and over the years we've redecorated it, so it's gorgeous.

Even so, there's a lot of work involved in putting a house up for sale. Today, I thought I'd share with you the lessons I've learned about getting your house market-ready:

1. Ask a realtor to critique your house in advance. As soon as you know you'll be selling your home, ask a realtor to go through your house and point out things that you can do to improve its marketability. The earlier you do this, the more time you have to budget, change and enjoy those improvements. Last year, we had our realtor walk the home. She suggested everything from putting in tile floors and changing the kitchen counters to tearing out the fake grass carpet on the balcony and putting in a couple of wicker chairs. Because we had time, we could find a good but inexpensive contractor, shop for sales and get the improvements done at about half of what it would have if we'd done it at the last minute. Plus I got to enjoy my gorgeous counters!

2. Fix things. Big or small, a problem in a house implies there are others that can't be immediately seen. Take care of leaky faucets, the toilet that runs, the lock that sticks. Take care of cracks in the ceiling and find their cause. (For us, the upstairs bathtub just needed re-caulking.) If you have doubts about the wiring or furnace, get them checked by a pro, so you can fix them before it becomes an issue in closing.

3. De-Clutter. De-cluttered rooms look bigger and allow people to imagine their stuff in your house. Pack up the knick-knacks and extra linens, remove unused furniture, even box up the books and toys. Use this time to cut the clutter permanently--toss unusable, broken or obsolete items and give the good unwanted stuff to charity. If you don't have a lot of storage space, pile boxes neatly in the garage or even an empty bedroom. People can more easily imagine an empty room with boxes than a messy room with stuff.

4. Spruce up the yard. A friend told me people usually make up their mind about a house in the first 10 minutes. I know I do. Encourage that good first impression with a nice yard. Over-seed the lawn, mulch, plant a few flowers. Trim the trees and bushes (but if you need major trimming, do it early so the leaves have time to grow back.) Re-surface the driveway. Paint the door if it needs it and wash down the front porch. Get a nice Welcome Mat.

5. Clean. I know, "Duh!" It makes an impression, though. Personally, I believe people don't mind a little mess in terms of scattered toys or papers, especially it they are last-minute lookers, but filth like grease on the oven fan and stains on the carpets--things that look like they've been there awhile--say the house isn't cared for. Give your bath a close look--no one wants to imagine themselves in a mildewed shower stall.

6. Touch-up. If you have a truly awful, outdated rug or floor, you may want to replace them. If you have walls that are beyond cleaning, a fresh coat of paint does wonders. However, most of the time, touching up will suffice. Repair holes in the walls, re-caulk along the edges of the tub or shower stall, give the trim or doors a quick coat of paint, and if you have the right colors, touch up the dings in the walls.

7. Station baskets in the busy rooms. When the realtor calls that someone wants to look at the house, you can do a quick tidy by stuffing toys, books, dropped shoes, etc. into the basket and tucking it into a corner.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Is it "Christian" to get royaltes?

A few weeks ago, the Catholic Writers Online got to debating about the attitude that those who are writing Catholic or Christian works should not make money on them. Some have come across the attitude from others that since they wrote their book, article, magazine, what-have-you for the Glory of God, they should give it away. Others struggle with the thought that they should expect royalties.

One person commented, "There seems to be a Puritanical thought among some who believe that money itself is evil."

Now there's an ironic statement--Catholic Puritanism.

I wonder, too, how many people believe that because they are doing something "in the service of the Lord" that they need to passively wait for God to "bless it" by giving them sales, money, etc. I've seen this attitude, not just by authors in book sales, but in everyday living. These people are afraid to promote their works because they didn't do it "for the money," but for faith. promoting it themselves, therefore, would be greedy; getting the book published is enough, and if God is pleased, He will cause others to find it.

This might stem from that "God will provide if we only trust in Him" mentality. There's the feeling that the corollary is true and God will not provide if we show distrust by doing something for ourselves.

It reminds me of the old joke: There was a man who wanted to do great things for the Church, but he was very poor. So each night, he prayed, "Lord, let me win the Lottery so I can do these things for you."

As the years passed, the man made his plans: he had blueprints for a fantastic church, a school, a hospital, programs for the needy. Every night, he showed his plans to the Lord and said, "Lord, these are the things I want to do for You. I'm not asking for myself. Just let me win the Lottery to do this for You."

The man died, poor and unable to fulfill his dreams. When he went to Heaven, he said to the Lord, "Didn't you find my works pleasing? Why wouldn't you help me fund them?"

"They were great, wonderful ideas, and I loved you and them," God replied, "but why didn't you buy a lottery ticket?"

There's also the fear from some that if they do push their works, that they are glorifying themselves and not the Lord. (Sometimes I feel that way about promoting Infinite Space, Infinite God. I tend to stop and say, "Lord, help me remember this is for you and not me--and if I ever stop doing this for you, just let it stop altogether 'till I get a clue.")

We have to remember that God expects us to work for Him. Jesus didn't conduct his ministry by carving a lovely sign over his door and saying, "God, I trust you to bring the people to me." Neither did his disciples wait for the Church to grow--they traveled, spoke the Truth, wrote letters.

Now we're not all ministers, so let's look instead at the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew 25) Three slaves are given some money (talents) by their Master: one gets five; the second, three; and the last, only one. Both the slaves with the five and three talents take that money and do something with it. The last slave buries it. Who did the Master reward?

You might say God gives us talents by our talent of writing and that we need to use it by writing things for His good. But take it a step further. You have a talent in a physical sense as well--the book you've written. Now that it's done, and in your hands, so you set it aside in hopes someone will "invest" it for you? Or do you do your own investment work by getting out there and promoting it?

Promotion is a talent, too. Don't be afraid like the slave who buried his.

And if it bothers you to receive money, there are plenty of worthy causes out there who can use your support. Do God's work twice.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Guest Post: Robert Fabian on Ethics of Retaliation

This weekend is Home Improvement Time at our house as we prepare it for sale. (Anybody want to buy a beautiful 4-bedroom/2 full- 2-half bath home in Fredericksburg, VA?)

Writers who know me know that I really admire my husband Rob as a thinker and a writer. Today, I thought I'd show you why. This is a paper he had to do for the joint warfighting course he's taking in Norfolk, VA. The assignment was a simple case study of the French Resistance shooting German POWs in retaliation for the execution of some of their members in WWII.

(Before we begin: Just a reminder that this Thursday, March 8, at 8 PM Eastern Time, Tara Maderino chats about psychics in fiction and her book
Soul Guardian.
To get to FabChat, come to fabianspace and click on FabChat.)

Is Retaliation Justified?

In 1944 it became known to the Free French Partisan fighting forces that the Germans had executed 80 partisans and planned to execute more. The Partisans thus decided they would shoot 80 German prisoners who had recently surrendered to them. At this point the Red Cross intervened, won a postponement of the executions, and sought an agreement from the Germans to treat captured partisans as prisoners of war, who may not be shot. The Partisans waited 6 days and the Germans did not reply. The Partisans then shot 80 German prisoners. After these shootings the Nazis executed no more Partisans.

Was the shooting of the 80 German prisoners by the Partisans morally justifiable?

While it might be easy to give a glib response that the deaths of 80 German soldiers purchased the lives of many more captured Partisans, I do not believe that this is the correct answer. A true examination of the morality of the Partisans’ actions requires us to expand our scope and consider the issue of morality in war in general, rather than in one specific case. When considered in the bigger picture, I find that, while their actions were arguably effective in this case, they are not morally justifiable.

The concept of reprisal is a long established facet of the laws of war. If one belligerent breaks those laws, their opponent is free to do likewise. In theory this serves as a deterrent to future violations. Francis Lieber, author of the Code for the Government of Armies in the Field, a document written to guide Union forces in the U.S. Civil War that later served as a foundational document for future conventions of the conduct of war, used the term “protective retribution” to address the idea. His term highlights the intent of the concept – to protect against future violations of the laws of war.

As outlined in the case, the Partisans’ action was a simple case of reprisal, despite the Partisans’ questionable status as belligerents under the Hague Convention. Essentially, they used the Germans POWs as hostages to guarantee the fair treatment of captured Partisans. Under the laws of war, it would arguably have been ethical. That is, it complied with the accepted standards of conduct of the day, the laws of war. However, I do not believe it was morally justifiable for two reasons; first, reprisals are generally ineffective, and second, that it blurred the line between combatant and non-combatant and so undermined the moral justification for conducting war.

While the case study asserts no more Partisans were executed, there are many documented cases of Nazi atrocities against French Partisans throughout World War II, including the execution of the entire village of Oradour-sur-Glane. Historically, reprisals have not been effective in stopping violations of the laws of war. Instead, they invite counter-reprisals, which, in turn, invite more reprisals. Lieber summed it up nicely when he wrote that “Unjust or inconsiderate retaliation removes the belligerents farther and farther from the mitigating rules of regular warfare, and by rapid steps leads them farther to the internecine wars of savages.”

Aside from the “slippery slope” argument, the execution of prisoners as a reprisal could easily become counterproductive. If German soldiers believed that the partisans would execute them, then they would be less likely to surrender and more likely to fight to the death, costing more Partisan lives in the process. In short, despite the background of the case study, the Partisan’s actions cannot be justified on the grounds that they were effective in saving lives.

Furthermore, once we set aside the argument of effectiveness, there remains a deeper problem with this specific example of reprisal. When the German soldiers surrendered, they became non-combatants under the protection of the Partisans. One common thread throughout the various just war traditions is the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. This is the line between war and murder. While non-combatants may be killed through collateral damage, only combatants may be killed deliberately. Killing prisoners of war blurs this distinction and so undermines the moral justification for war in general, putting the soldier and the murderer on equal footing. This cannot be morally justified.

Thus, while the execution of prisoners in reprisal for German executions may arguably have had some short-term benefit for the Partisans, when seen from a wider perspective, it cannot be justified morally. It is ineffective and strikes at the moral basis of war itself.