Thursday, December 1, 2016

Free Book and a Sale for December

I'm planning on releasing my next novel, "Quantum Zero Sentinel," in one week. My newsletter subscribers got a three-chapter sneak peak.

Meanwhile, I'm building my newsletter base this month with free copies of the second edition of "Contagion of the Gods." If you like sword and sorcery or The Clash of the Titans,  click here to download. Warning: contains adult content.

I polished it up with my Java tool, lowered the reading level to seventh grade, and removed 5500 words. I'm hoping to do the same overhaul with all the books in my catalog over the next few months. Tell your friends!

The revision I'm most excited about was for "Scarab," the first book I ever published. After a thorough scrubbing, I think it still works today. I had a lot of fun on the video-game racing adventure. It's only about 60 copies away from becoming a "success," so I decided to put it on sale this week for 99 cents. Click to view details.

Tell your reader friends about both deals!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How I Wrote my own Pre-Edit Tool in Java

Here's the manual, which describes why I set off on this quest and the features I chose.

PreEdit version 1_0_5

User Manual

copyright 2016 by Scott Rhine

Copyright 2016 by Scott Rhine

This software may be used on an “AS IS” BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either expressed or implied. None of this is considered a replacement for hiring a human editor to correct your work. You can report problems or request new features by sending correspondence to

1.0 Introduction

This tool analyzes fiction text to help eliminate problems before sending it to an editor. It’s based on the automated checklist I use before submitting my own work. To use it, bring up the graphical user interface (GUI), select text from the desired document (control C), and paste (control V) into the top window. Sometimes, I tweak the text by getting rid of the table of contents at the start or the notes at the end of a draft. To generate a report, click the Analyze button. The results will appear in the text window below in a few seconds. (See screenshot.)

The summary provides an overview of items like grade level and counts of elements you may wish to polish. It also shows a list of difficult chapters which are significantly higher than the average grade level of the rest of the novel.

1.1 Radio Buttons

By clicking the eight radio buttons, you can include or exclude six subreports:
  • adverb – Lists all adverbs in your document ordered by use count. Aim for under 13.5 per thousand by fixing most of the first four on the list.
  • thats – List of “that” occurrences that could be removed, with a count of each.
  • compound – Lists side-by-side or hyphenated words which may be combined to form a single compound word, such as pickup. Note that often the spelling choice depends on intended meaning and context (to lift vs. a vehicle), which is why human examination of each is necessary. The most common compounds such as onto, into, and upon have been filtered out, as I trust an author to recognize these differences already.
  • weak – Lists weak words and phrases which could be shortened or replaced: lift up, attempted to, begin to, grow in size, almost, and so forth.
  • phrases – List of three-word phrases repeated throughout the document.
  • long – Lists any sentences over 55 syllables, ordered by length. Aim to eliminate all of these.
  • hard – Lists sentences 10 words+ and 1.75+ average syllables, ordered by GF grade level.
  • repeat – Lists all words (other than common nouns which may be the subject of the paragraph) that repeat within a 30-word span. Some are intentional echoes inside dialogue, but most are legitimate mistakes and all should be checked.
Once a report is generated, you can still adjust what appears by clicking the radio buttons. Not every report is useful for everybody. I like to repeat the checks after correcting the contents of the initial report.

1.2 Printing

The results may be selected and copied to a file or email of your choice. They can also be printed using the Print button. The Print button will not activate until an Analyze has been done. Note that default Java print function has 38 lines per page while WordPad uses closer to 60. Which one you use depends on how you like documents formatted while editing. I recommend printing the list in some fashion because shortening sentences feels easier for me with pen and paper.

1.3 About

The About button pops up a version of the introduction to give people the basics.

2.0 Motivation

I looked at a lot of tools before building this one. This is a partial list to give a feel for my frustration. These are only my opinions.

Word 360
The latest Word’s grade level seemed inaccurate and wouldn’t work until after a complete spell-check finished. Having lost the recent version I owned when a laptop crashed, I refused to pay a monthly fee for something I have a working, free 2007 version of.
The Hemingway app and others demos seem overly concerned with passive voice, although it allows up to 20 percent of the document to be written that way. If I’m under 3 percent, I don’t want to hear the complaints, especially in dialogue. People talk that way, and a program should be able to shut features off inside quotes. Their adverb count is very low and misses a lot of them. Their grade level seems to be a simple Flesch-Kincaid, though their word count is low, which makes me suspect the accuracy. Worse, the program has a bug that gets the level wrong when you paste in a text file rather than a Word file. I also wanted to see reading levels to the nearest tenth of a grade so I know how far I have to go in my smoothing efforts. They want $10 for the desktop version.

Only allows a demo of one chapter. The code is extremely slow and sometimes never finishes. It only gives one sample per person before you have to buy. But I noticed everyone has a similar Java interface.

This site will give you just the FK readability level.

Offers to send you a free sample of your output if you give them your email address. After about 40 seconds, I got rated between good and great for my adverb usage, a meaningless metric. It displayed a histogram of my adverbs by highest usage but undercounted my adverbs by a factor of two. On the flip side, they highlighted my 7 uses of “directly” in 80 thousand words as too many. They want $30 a month. I wasn’t impressed. If I joined premium, they offered a wide range of fancy features similar to that sounded cool but had little practical use. I don’t need someone to check for clich├ęs. If my character used one, it was intentional. I also seriously doubt a computer can tell where you need more description.

After the Deadline offers free tools for spelling and grammar. It’s grammar/style suggestions were horrible and the spell-checker flagged all names and legit compound words.

I tried this a while back but didn’t like the Premium Word plug-in. The number of false positives is incredible. It was right about twice per chapter. Again, proper names, hyphens, and compound words confuse it. I would recommend checking on a per-chapter basis with their free Chrome plug-in, but don’t pay for it. A chapter takes about 8 seconds to process in Gmail.

In short, I was willing to boost my spell-checker, but everything else, I was better off writing a tool for myself. I started with my own checklist and added a few features that others asked for.

3.0 Detailed Usage Example

The best was to see how it helps is to use the tool. I’ll give detailed examples for each feature. This process is to be done after the draft is complete. To apply this kind of chainsaw to a work in progress could stunt the creative process. Also, you’d only have to repeat the process later. The numbers below are from my upcoming book “Quantum Zero Sentinel.”

3.1 Summary

Most of these metrics are the sort that Word prints when you do a Tools/Word Count on the pull-down menu. I made sure these values matched Word’s very closely. For now, my tool ignores numerals. I played with a lot more metrics and statistics, but they turned out to be less useful.

The summary gives you a fair idea where your weak points are.  I included average words per chapter and the length/name of the biggest chapter. If the maximum is over twice the average, consider splitting it if there’s a natural scene break. The part-of-speech density goals appear beside the metric and are calibrated from the last twenty books I wrote. The Gunning Fog goal between 7 and 8 is a well-established range.

syllables 118209
words 82180
sentences 8183
paragraphs 3179
chapters 67
average words per chapter 1227
longest chapter 2138       29. The Hanging Judge
adverbs 1301 per thousand words 15.83    (goal <= 13.5)
thats 325 per hundred sentences 3.97     (goal <= 3)
weak phrases 377
Flesch-Kincaid grade level 4.9
Gunning Fog grade level    7.8    (goal 7 - 8)

Difficult Chapters
   9.2   Prologue–Sales Pitch
   9.7   5. Adventures in Babysitting
   10.3   12. Business as Usual
   9.9   14. Memory of a Lifetime
   8.9   25. Disruptions
   9.1   36. Old Money
   9.3   38. Snowball Fight
   9.0   39. My Weird Meter Goes to Eleven
   8.8   47. Industrial Pollution
   9.0   64. Hero’s Welcome
Flesch-Kincaid is the best metric for readability. The FK Grade Level test gives the approximate US grade school level of the document. A score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand the document. The formula is:
(.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59
Where ASL is average sentence length in words and ASW means average syllables per word. Counting syllables can be difficult, as English is a language full of special cases. For example, “Wicked” could be two if it means evil, or one if it refers to liquid soaking through fabric or string. There are weak points in this model. Every second grader knows the word “vocabulary” (5 syllables) but not the one syllable “pith.”

To balance this, I also give the Gunning Fog version of grade level. Average sentence length is the same; however, it has a much simpler syllable method, calling a word “hard” if it’s 3 syllables or more. The value PHW is percent hard words.
.4 * (ASL + PHW)

Notice that GF is usually higher than FK. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Why does this work? Think of someone who has a name over three syllables: Virginia, Jonathan, or Gregory. Unless they’re the king, does anybody use that full name? No. People are inherently lazy. They give a nickname like Ginny, Jon, and Greg. What else triggers this filter? Adverbs like unfortunately or five dollar words like ascertain. The majority of young readers still subvocalize, and they will tend to skip over these words. However, even the most thorough word-choice comb would lower the score by less than one grade. The best approach is to work on your outliers, chapters that score more than one level above the average. These problems are more structural in nature and usually indicate a boring chapter.
  1. Too much techno-babble that needs to be thinned.
  2. Lack of dialogue.
  3. Lack of action, which is normally conveyed in short, direct sentences.
  4. Too small a sample. The model breaks down under 500 words.
The list of outliers reveals something critical, the prologue. The first thing the user reads shouldn’t be on the hard list! The first three chapters should be the simplest and slickest.

After a pass of aeration and trimming, it looked like this—a vast improvement. Oddly, lowering the overall average made new chapters pop up. These are close enough to one grade level from the average to stop.

Flesch-Kincaid grade level 4.7
Gunning Fog grade level    7.5    (goal 7 - 8)

Difficult Chapters
   8.6   5. Adventures in Babysitting
   8.6   14. Memory of a Lifetime
   8.6   20. Miss Direction
   8.6   21. Board Meeting
   8.5   35. The All-Seeing Eye

3.2 Adverbs

This section was the most embarrassing. You can tell what words you’re addicted to in a hurry. I only print the words that are over 5 percent of our goal line. Who cares about the ones you’ve only used a few times? The reader won’t even notice them. Adverbs are extremely easy to whittle down by addressing the worst abuses first. Once you see how many you’ve used, guilt will help you to be merciless.

adverbs 1301 per thousand words 15.83    (goal <= 13.5)
Adverbs by Popularity
176 only
140 just
89 now
68 already
68 here
66 never
54 well

adverbs 952 per thousand words 11.89     (goal <= 13.5)
Adverbs by Popularity
108 only
68 just
54 now

Since it is now below the desired threshold, I would turn off the radio button for this subreport.

3.3 Thats

One can’t simply go on a rampage against all uses of “that.” There are too many and most of them are necessary. This tool helps you find specific instances that are likely to be fluff.
Often it takes the form of a “feeling-verb” that or “noun that pronoun verb.”
thats 325 per hundred sentences 3.97     (goal <= 3)
Removable Instances of That
18 that the
14 that she
8 know that
7 that he
6 that they
6 that we
5 that a
5 that her
4 fact that
4 so that
4 that I
4 that it
3 afraid that
3 realize that
3 sure that

F. Scott Fitzgerald said to “murder your darlings.” That’s too vague. This specific list allows me to target the dark minions hiding among us. To quote the movie They Live, “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”
thats 204 per hundred sentences 2.48     (goal <= 3)
Removable Instances of That
5 that she
5 that the
3 that a
3 that he
3 that it
3 that we

3.4 Compound Words

One of my biggest flaws is not recognizing simple, two-syllable compound words while I’m writing. I always wanted some magic button in Word to check for possible compounds between nearby words. Now I have that magic want. I assembled about 3000 candidates from my last twenty novels and added a few from various English for beginners websites. Check them in Webster’s yourself. The one flaw in this feature is that they often depend on the part of speech. Nouns are the most frequently combined. The adjective would often be hyphenated, while a verb is kept separate. For example, “I pick up my wife in a pickup, and she responds with a pick-up line.” Note that these are only right about a third of the time, but there were so many that I feel I have been saved a great deal of embarrassment.

Possible Compound Words
6 pickup
4 comeback
4 lookup
4 makeup
3 shutdown
2 holdup
2 longtime
2 sometime
2 takedown
1 backdoor
1 backseat
1 backup
1 barstool
1 birthplace
1 blackballed
1 blackmail
1 boardroom
1 bookends
1 buildup
1 carwash
1 chokepoint
1 darkroom
1 doorframe
1 drugstore
1 ductwork
1 facedown
1 fireproof
1 flagpole
1 flatlined

3.5 Weak Words and Phrases

This section is probably the most subjective. People have asked to add their own personal favorites to the list, but that’s difficult to do while keeping the product install simple. However, I think the results speak for themselves. This is one of the longest reports, with no lower threshold for the number of occurrences, but you can sharpen your story as much or as little as you want. The word “about” happens in so many contexts, I had to restrict it to specific cases, like vague numbers.
weak phrases 377
Weak Phrases
130 know
22 sort of
21 area
18 this is a
16 all of
12 rather
10 at all
9 and then
9 get to
8 which is
7 find out
7 individual
7 quite
7 somehow
5 kind of
5 show up
5 try to
5 about one

weak phrases 278
Weak Phrases
121 know
10 rather
9 find out
9 this is a
8 area
7 and then
7 which is
6 has to be
6 kind of
6 quite
5 have to be
5 somehow
5 sort of

3.6 Repeated Phrases

When I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, I marveled at how much he repeated himself over the span of a book. “I found in my opponent no mean swordsman.” As for me, I tend to repeat dialog tags. Use of any given phrase isn’t wrong, but repeat it ten times and it will rankle someone. Often the crutch phrases are weak or inaccurate. I only check outside dialog for clusters of three words in common. To scale it, I make the threshold based on the total number of triples in the document, with a minimum of two.
Globally Repeated Phrases
18 shook his head
16 in front of
13 shook her head
11 be able to
11 for a moment
11 raised an eyebrow
11 side of the
10 reminded her of
10 the rest of

I cringed every time I recognized the truth of one of these. Afterward, the document didn’t trigger the threshold for this report.

3.7 Long Sentences

How long is too long? When I narrated my first audiobook, I found out exactly how long. If you can’t say it in a single breath in a single take without stumbling or passing out, fix it. Why? Because many people still read aloud under their breath. It’s a hard habit to break. You don’t want your customers falling over. I set the bar at 55 syllables. Beyond that level is too complex and blows your grade level score, too. The only time I allow myself to exceed this limit is when I have a rare semicolon separated list. In this case, I could take a breath during a pause at the semicolons. Check out the sentences below to see if you agree.

Longest Sentences by Syllable Count
66 All of our automated factory lines utilize third generations to perform quality control inspections as well as assemble the computers with molecular layering techniques and microwave-laser precision no human being could duplicate
64 Given the driver’s ethnicity type of vehicle a certain radio station bumper sticker and distance from owner’s home I could design a program which would guarantee that a sizable fraction of traffic stops find drugs or a gun in the glove box
61 Provided a female human comes from a rare subgroup of black-haired black-eyed people with more than 5 percent Denisovan genes one in thirty-six fertilizations from a male Denisovan could result in a viable non-sterile offspring
58 “Because the memory log will record the Aeon signature of every user and victim together with a timestamp similar to the history feature in police Tasers” Maia ordered in her best older-sister voice
57 In this state a nonviolent felony of that class might earn Antreou a year of prison plus a five hundred dollar fine but with proper representation and the lack of hard evidence he’d probably end up with probation
55 The gun would lock onto whatever image you locked into the crosshairs and continued to fire every time that image drift back into the scope—even if the soldier carrying died or became incapacitated

Again, once you scrub the offenders, this report no longer appears. It can take a few passes for some of them.

3.8 Difficult Sentences

This is a tricky area. I seldom agree with the opinions highlighted by other software. Why? Because syllable-based methods are statistical and break down below about five hundred words. For example, the sentence “Esmerelda wept” was an astronomical 28th grade level because the percentage of hard words was over half. If a sentence is below ten words, I assume that someone won’t have problems reading it. I also established a minimum average syllables per word through trial and error. Then the program reports anything over 20th grade level. I haven’t had false positives since, but use your own judgment.

Difficult Sentences
25 Unfortunately this meant inviting Doctor Antreou to attend because he was the designated medical supervisor
24 Relieved Esperanza chatted with gentlemen from the Colombian Agriculture Department
24 Your official salaried position will be secretary in charge of Legacy press releases
23 Engineers need natural gas and several explosive expensive poisons to make the same fertilizer
23 Pharaohs are particularly difficult because the family tree goes straight up
23 You can apply this mechanism to designer drugs encryption or even predicting particle interaction in a supercollider
22 Lifted from the radio project’s interface a couple of monitors displayed vital statistics for six individuals identified by their initials
22 Mom taught violin at the prestigious Juilliard Academy and frequently performed at Lincoln Center in both classical and electronic genres
21 “Because of the unique microscopic broadcast methods the quantum resonance frequency is customized to each person

In a few cases I could use a shorter nickname for someone, but usually I decided I was trying to stuff too much into one sentence.

3.9 Locally Repeated Words

My pet peeve when reading popular YA fiction is how under-edited it can be. I cringe every time someone “suggests a suggestion” or admires the “long length of a leg.” To avoid such jangling prose, the code scans every word within the last thirty. I tried as high as fifty but it reported far too many. I think we can agree that using a rare word within three sentences or a paragraph can trigger a user’s gag reflex, especially on the same line. I thought I was immune to this, but I did it all the time! I was horrified how juvenile it sounded. The biggest trick was weeding out false positives. Clearly, we can already filter adverbs and thats. Any word four characters can easily go undetected. Short, sarcastic echoes in dialog should also be ignored. Lastly, nouns that are the subject of the paragraph should be filtered. This took the longest to train. I left in weak words like “started”, “wanted”, “needed”, or “going” because they should be pulled like weeds. Gerunds are tricky. I left them for the reader to decide because one might be used in verb form like “computing” below. I also matched different forms of a word like “managed by a manager.” This had the interesting side effect of triggering on rhymes as well. I removed one instance of “clicking” and “licking” to avoid sounding like an Edgar Alan Poe poem.

Locally Repeated Words (marked with *)
    Instead of turning toward the Manhattan ferry he steered the opposite direction toward* a sea of warehouses
    Gravel spit as he spun the vehicle toward* the Holland Tunnel
    As Maia rode through town she passed the boarded up Wal Mart a reminder of how rough* times were and how much she needed this job
    How did you feel when Beijing started* dumping US debt
    It’s going to hurt for a while but we’re all going* to survive
    The archaeology department needed* a tech to run their magnetosonic probe equipment for a dig site this summer
    They draft plans manage* budgets and oversee all the contractors to bring their vision to life
    You can’t possibly judge* her work qualifications from trivia and pretty eyes that bat their lashes at you
    Parallel computing* is like harnessing a hundred bunnies for the same task
    I can’t thank you enough* Greta
    We need to suppress this until we can have a plan to deal with the dislocation it’s going* to cause
    Who could afford* not to

There are still a few false matches left to ignore, but the ugly ones it finds are well worth the effort.

4.0 Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed writing and using this tool on my latest story. I even went back to “The K2 Virus” to trim the repeated words and fix compounds. I felt much better about the quality of my writing when I was finished, and I think any novelist would benefit. I decided to give it away for beta testing to people during NaNoWriMo this November and perhaps charge $5 a copy after that. Since I don’t have a Mac and they don’t support executable jar files, I can only support it on Window 8 and above.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Free Stuff!

To celebrate four years as a full-time writer, I'm planning a series of giveaways. I want to thank you all for supporting me. I love researching, writing, and polishing every day.

First of all, I'm giving away mobi copies of my short story collection "Epic Fails" for people who subscribe to my free newsletter (see box below the image).  No more than once a month, I'll send out an update on what I'm working on, upcoming events, humor, links to free stuff. and the odd piece of writing-related information similar to this blog. When my new novels come out every 3 or 4 months, I'll send you the first 20 percent as a preview and let you decide for yourself. I also welcome feedback. No pressure. Not every genre is for everyone, and certainly not every novel. I won't share your information with anyone else. If you don't have a Kindle, contact me at ScottRhineBooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll send you a PDF version.

If you've ever wondered what I sound like, I'm giving away 20 more copies of the Audible audiobook I narrated, "Void Contract", to people in the US only. ($20 value) Sorry, the audible codes I have are redeemable only on the US website. These are first-come-first-served. Just send a request email to ScottRhineBooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll send you instructions and the coupon code. This doesn't obligate you to anything, but reviews/ratings are always appreciated.

Lastly, I'm giving away copies of my paperback "The K2 Virus".

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The K2 Virus by Scott Rhine

The K2 Virus

by Scott Rhine

Giveaway ends October 08, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity is a fun yet twisted card game, kind of like an adult version of Mad Libs. The players take turns reading a question card aloud. The others each place an answer card face down from their hand of many choices. Whoever has the best answer wins an awesome point. If you know you can't win, you can toss one of your bad cards. You can buy expansion packs, but they also provide blank card for you to make your own questions and answers. Here are a few suggestions :

  1. do-it-yourself vasectomy kit
  2. home circumcision with toenail clippers
  3. poison ivy as toilet paper
  4. operatic duets with farm animals
  5. bot fly larva up the nose
  6. Viagra in a Pez dispenser
  7. Catwoman’s latex suit
  8. A full bladder on a bumpy car ride
  9. anal leakage
  10. handcuffs
  11. offending everyone in the room with one joke
  12. hard-boiled egg dog farts
  13. playing dead
  14. toy soldiers soaked in napalm
  15. an immortal soul
  16. a Prince Albert
  17. Ronald Reagan’s colon
  18. bigger guns
  19. Rodents of Unusual Size
  20. peeing in the shower
  1. You can find sites online that offer this for free
  2. what we hope happens to telemarketers
  3. what to bring to a Hollywood wedding
  4. the name of Harry Potter’s latest nemesis is an anagram for ____
  5. A necessary evil
  6. What clowns laugh at
  7. boys only want love if it’s _____
  8. In the Redneck Cookbook, you can substitute ______ for beef
  9. Our first indication he might have been a serial killer
  10. My newest medication warns not to combine it with _____

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Panama Canal Cruise part 3: Caribbean

Once we passed through the canal, the Disney Wonder had a pirate party with fireworks. They swerved to avoid a rainstorm and had to turn the ship around 180 degrees so the wind wouldn't carry the ash over the ship. By now, we've seen all the movies at the theater. Light between the Oceans was slow and depressing. The meals are still fantastic, but we start walking up 8 floors on the stairs to shed the extra calories. The ship is days from being disassembled for a refit and we notice things that need repair: the shaking elevator, the smells lingering in certain places.

Sunday, we stop in Cartegena, Colombia. In the heat, we bargain for a cab driver for the entire day--$40. The gold and chocolate museums are tiny, but Mr. Emerald was awesome. He had quality stones at a great price. My daughter, Emily, wanted to hold the sloth at the shopping center. I had to use pantomime and high-school Spanish to describe the creature. The clerk's face brightens with recognition. "Ahh, perisoso!" We check three possible locations, but the sloth never shows. Everyone is nice, including the man selling coffee.

Everything in the walled city is ancient, reminding me of the oldest parts of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Most of Centro is barricaded to keep cars out and the tourists safe. The cab driver needs to give a payment to people who reserved the parking space. I heard that they live off something like $10 a day, but they all have cell phones.
We came back early and spend a long time taking pictures of all the birds. The ice cream on deck 9 tastes good after walking so far in the heat.

On Tuesday, the kids take a set of photos we entitle "best first day of school ever."

We sign up for a body composition analysis at the spa, but the sales guy is overly aggressive and wants to charge $1232 in seaweed pills. We refuse. When I can finally access the Internet in Cozumel, I research the product. People on cruise bulletin boards were almost entirely negative. People on Amazon were split, but those with positive feedback had more regular bowel movements, not more rapid weight loss.

I bought a classic Star Wars shirt at Del Sol, and we picked up a really soft set of bamboo sheets and bath towels. We turn down all offers of tequila, cigars, or massage.

On the last night, I took the time to listen to one of the performers in the lounge, an awesome guitarist, Rodrigo Figueroa. Playing Time After Time One of the other performers sat down beside me for the whole set and whispered, "I wish I could play like that."

On the last sea day, I trade one of my paperbacks for another sci fi book in the Quiet Cove coffee shop. This gives me something to do on the long bus trip to the airport and the flight home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cover Reveal: Quantum Zero Sentinel

In edit now: The Quantum Chronicles Book One: Quantum Zero Sentinel. (82K words science fiction adventure)

The first thing the instructor tells you in quantum physics is that everything they taught you before was a lie. Instead of her dream job at the FBI, Maia is forced into an undercover assignment at Quantum Computer Research. Big changes are coming, disruptive ones. She finds whispers of treason and the cornerstone of an entirely new technology. As she follows the clues, nobody turns out to be who she expects them to be, not even herself.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Panama Canal Cruise: part 2 the canal

The Disney ship anchored in line on the west side of the canal the night before. Some people got up as early as 4:30 am to get good spots on deck 10 forward.
Around 7:30 am, we ate breakfast on the deck while moving through the fog toward the Bridge of the Americas, which connects North and South.
In the close up, you can see buses driving over above and the freight cranes below. For those ships that are too big to fit or can't afford half a million bucks to transit unload here and use the railroad to reach the other side. The weather isn't bad yet.
The air is so hot and humid most days that each time I went from the air conditioned room to the deck, my glasses fogged up.
By now, a canal pilot is on board to steer us through. Lines of buoys (green on on side, red on the other) and about four tug boats guide us up to the first lock. The old canal, opened in the 20's, has three locks up to the man-made fresh-water lake and three back down to the Caribbean. 
Cables are attached to locomotives on each side in order to prevent us from hitting the side of the canal. From our room, I could see the dungeonesque stone walls two feet from my porthole. As the lock filled, I watched the blocks pass like the window of an elevator.

The design of the double doors is cool, dating to the time of DaVinci. These have been working flawlessly for a hundred years.
Two ships going the same direction pass through at the same time. We tailed a huge container ship all the way to the lake. If you look in the upper left-hand corner, You'll see a ship on the recently opened NEW Panama Canal, built by the Panamanians. It opened late and already there have been problems. Because of a cement company strike, the different layers don't match and leak.

From our deck, you can see the three drainage ponds for the new locks next-door. It looks much more modern. Rumor has it that the Chinese are building another canal in the Guatemala region.

I included this photo to show the trains. Also, from the observation decks on the right of the third lock, people on the shore take photos of us taking photos of them.

On the other side, we see another bridge. The terracing on the mountain side from explosives was cool. The jungle has already covered it. The lake was huge and placid. Not a lot of private craft, though, for our security as much as theirs. A previous cruise ship once went off course and took out their yacht club.

The other side, we follow the same step in reverse, with the cargo ship on the opposite side. The pool belongs to the crew until the Wonder's refit is done at the end of this cruise.

See how huge the doors are.

In some places, local car traffic crosses when they're closed.

Afterward, we had a Pixar party. Sully was an awesome dancer, but the giant French rats were a little scary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cruise thru the Panama Canal: part 1, the West

This year, we took a two week Disney cruise through the Panama canal. The kids missed four days of school, but they did most of the homework in advance over the summer. We flew into San Diego the night before and stayed at the Wyndham Bayside, literally across the street from the dock.
Dinner was a delicious visit to the Cheesecake Factory. When we booked the hotel through Priceline, it was supposed have breakfast but they wanted to charge an absurd amount for it. Since we could start eating as soon as we boarded at 11:30, we went with a quick snack from a local 7-11. This also provided an excuse to by 20 oz pop bottles for later use on excursions. The local Fox news station was covering the opening of cruising season and interviewed our friends, the Bleesses,

On the ship, my teenage son Pierce disappeared almost immediately. We occasionally spotted him by the ice cream machine on deck 9. My daughter became a pin-trading ninja and scavenger hunt pro. My wife started crocheting a "hippie" wrap during the sea days. I discovered the Marvel movie channel on the TV and outlined the next story in my series The Quantum Chronicles.

We've been on the Magic about 5 times, but this was our first time on the Wonder, We didn't see any real difference until dinner, where we met Ariel for the first time on a cruise in front of Triton's restaurant. Our only regret was that special orders of creme brulee dessert came in sets of four, We were repeated reminded of the YouTube video entitled "First World Problems."
Tammy made our shirts on her embroidery sewing machine.

The entertainment was interesting. Tammy and I both got to participate Shawn Farquhar's magic shows. I got to meet author Ridley Pearson several times and attend a writing seminars. The most popular lectures, though. were by Captain Ken Puckett, a retired canal pilot. He related several personal anecdotes over lunch and pina colada flavored ice cream.

In Cabo San Lucas (a cape) we were tendered in to shore. The cliffs we gorgeous. We saw lots of fish, but we'd missed whale season. The local Diamonds International offered free cab rides into town and impressed our women with their tanzanite. Pierce asked for the WiFi password immediately, and I found the husband chairs. Tammy has a black belt in haggling and made some of the vendor cry. We walked back to the docks in the tropical heat, about 90 degrees. Minnesota was 65 when we left. Thankfully we had brought our refillable pop bottles.

Puerto Vallarta was more scenic, but had 95 percent humidity, Pelicans were everywhere. At the jewelry store that gave us a free taxi ride, Pierce found a push-button combination safe that contained a gem that was yours if you guessed the combo. He had tried about ten before the clerk told him one guess per adult customer. Emily found some free breakfast lemonade that turned out to be tequila. The road work outside was being done manually by men with cobblestones, sand, and rakes. My favorite landmark was the mythical sea nymph sculpture that the birds liked to perch on.

Tammy got all eight of us back to the docks at a bargain rate of $24. Pierce finally showed interest in his surroundings when Tammy spotted a glassblower making dragons in his shop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Emily's County Fair Photos

My daughter, Emily, takes photos all year to have good ones to enter the 4H photography contest at the fair each. She's definitely evolving. Last year, she took about 200 shots, and this year she took over 1100--that's without a family vacation. Then she had to winnow them down to only five. Here were her final choices.

The first was a rainbow she spotted in a spiderweb after a rainstorm.
The second we refer to as squirrel-zilla, a hungry guy who likes to eat peanuts out of the bird feeder.
This is a spring day in Minnesota, gazing over the deck toward our pond--birches and a pine.
Out of a ton of birds and butterflies, she picked this peacock,
The last one was the hardest. In the past, she always included photos of our cats. This time, she opted for a closeup of a flower.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Giveaway for Void Contract Audiobooks

For the first two weeks of June, I'll be giving away copies of the Void Contract audiobook on for 20 people who sign up for my quarterly new release emails. Administered by rafflecopter : click here to enter
You can also use the Facebook link

Prizes will be in the form of audible download codes.

begin fine print:

1.  Promotion Description: The 'copies of Void Contract Audiobook' through ("Sweepstakes") begins on 06/01/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time (US & Canada)) and ends on 06/15/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time (US & Canada)) (the "Promotion Period"). By participating in the Sweepstakes, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of Scott Rhine Books ("Sponsor"), which shall be final and binding in all respects. Sponsor is responsible for the collection, submission or processing of Entries and the overall administration of the giveaway. Entrants should look solely to Sponsor with any questions, comments or problems related to the Sweepstakes.

2.  Eligibility: Open to people with access to Amazon/Audible accounts who are 14 or older. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, retailers, sales representatives, advertising and promotion agencies and each of their respective officers, directors and employees (collectively, the "Promotion Entities"), and members of their immediate families and/or persons living in the same household as such persons, are ineligible to enter the Sweepstakes or win a prize.

3.  Winner Selection: The winner of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted by 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing. Potential winner must accept a prize by email as directed by Sponsor within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture.  No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted.

4.  Prizes:
    -  20 winners will each receive one copy of the Void Contract Audiobook.(approximate retail value or "ARV": $14.95)

    Only one prize per person and per household will be awarded. Gift download codes are subject to the terms and conditions of the issuer. Prizes cannot be transferred, redeemed for cash or substituted by winner. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole and absolute discretion to award a substitute prize of equal or greater value if a prize described in these Official Rules is unavailable or cannot be awarded, in whole or in part, for any reason. The ARV of the prize represents Sponsor's good faith determination. That determination is final and binding and cannot be appealed. If the actual value of the prize turns out to be less than the stated ARV, the difference will not be awarded in cash. Sponsor makes no representation or warranty concerning the appearance, safety or performance of any prize awarded. Restrictions, conditions, and limitations may apply. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prize items.

    Prize will only be awarded and/or delivered to email addresses within . Failure to comply with the Official Rules will result in forfeiture of the prize.

5.  Online Entry: Enter the Sweepstakes during the Promotion Period online by signing into the entry form and perform the tasks provided. The entry form can be found on the following website at

    Automated or robotic Entries submitted by individuals or organizations will be disqualified. Internet entry must be made by the entrant. Any attempt by an entrant to obtain more than the stated number of Entries by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations, logins or any other methods, including, but not limited to, commercial contest/sweepstakes subscription notification and/or entering services, will void that entrant's Entries and that entrant may be disqualified. Final eligibility for the award of any prize is subject to eligibility verification as set forth below. All Entries must be posted by the end of the Promotion Period in order to participate. Sponsor's database clock will be the official time keeper for this Sweepstakes.

6.  Privacy: All entrants acknowledge that if they are chosen as a winner, certain of their personally identifying information may be disclosed to third parties at least as required by law, including, without limitation, on a winner's list. All personal information submitted as part of the Sweepstakes may be shared by and between the Promotion Entities, and each of the Promotion Entities will use such information in accordance with their respective independent online privacy policies.

7.  Limitation of Liability: Sponsor is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by website users or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes or by any technical or human error, which may occur in the processing of submissions in the Sweepstakes. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any misdirected or lost mail, or any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay of operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, Entries. Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of email or players on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or combination thereof, including injury or damage to entrant's or any other person's computer related to or resulting from participating downloading materials in the Sweepstakes. If, for any reason, the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, then Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes. In such event, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, perform the random drawing from among all eligible Entries received prior to or after such cancellation, suspension, or modification.

    In the event of a dispute concerning who registered online to participate in the Sweepstakes, the registration will be declared to have been made by the authorized account holder is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an email address by an internet provider, online service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, education institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted email address. A potential winner may be requested to provide Sponsor with proof that the potential winner is the authorized account holder of the email address. If a dispute cannot be resolved to Sponsor's satisfaction, the entry will be deemed ineligible.

8.  Winner's List: To obtain a copy of any legally required winners list or a copy of the Official Rules, send an email to 

9.  Sponsor: The Sweepstakes is sponsored by Scott Rhine Books,

10. Rafflecopter Disclaimer: This promotion is powered by Rafflecopter. Metric Feat LLC ("Rafflecopter") does not sponsor, administer or endorse this promotion. By entering this promotion, Participants agree to Rafflecopter's Privacy Policy ( For technical information about the Rafflecopter widget, please visit

11. Facebook Disclaimer: Entrants should understand that they are providing their information to the Sponsor and not to Facebook. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.