There's nothing like the scent of warm bread on the ocean . . .

India launched the first of its new Project 17 frigates the other day, a so-called 'stealth warship' that shows just how serious the country is about 21st century warfare.

Stealth is a bit of an exaggeration; while the design reduces the ship's radar profile, it's obviously still going to be visible, as you can tell by the view above. Still, the ship is on par with contemporary designs from all of the world's first class navies, including the U.S. . . . and more importantly as far as India is concerned, China.

But the thing that caught my eye about the news stories - extolling the virtues of the vessel, at least one reporter saw fit to comment on what he considered a first-class innovation - electric bread machines.

Just like mama used to make . . .
Advice for the spelling impaired . . .

Why does my spellchecker return the word "cannabis" when it finds "wanna-bes"?

Is it a recommendation or a warning?
Cut: The e coli restroom scene

Another Fisher bit, too far over the top. Fish is in a high-tech restroom, which has ideas of its own.

It was just too much, especially where it was in the book. I still kinda like it, tho:

The men’s room was to the right. As he pushed open the door, the lights flickered on inside. The white and black tiles, arranged in diner fashion, glistened in the glow of the harsh fluorescents above. The scent of freshly fermented Lysol filled the air, supplied by an automatic mist machine in the top corner near the door.

Fisher stepped over to the urinals. He was almost ready to believe that he had found diner nirvana when the unit next to him flushed. The one behind him answered. Within moments, toilets were flushing everywhere. Fisher zipped up and headed for the sink area, bending over his coffee cup to protect it from the spray. As he reached for the automatic soap dispenser, the faucet began gushing water. Its partner answered. So did the soap dispenser. Steam began rising as water faucets went into action up and down the line. Paper zipped from the dispensers. With no surface safe from spray or suds, Fisher had no place to put the coffee down safely. Finally, he used his head – literally. He balanced the cup on his scalp, ran his hands into the gurgle, and made his escape, wet but e coli free.
In the express lane . . .

You know how they set up express lanes in supermarkets by the number of items you want to buy? And how there's always one statistician in the store who has an overflowing cart but insists that his purchases are actually below the limit because of the statistical mean?

It would be a hell of a lot easier and fairer for all concerned to replace those aisles with ones that ban carts, bags and baskets. If you can carry it to the register, you can buy it.

There'd be entertainment value as well.
Sometimes it pays not to sell*

From a recent royalty statement:

Copies sold: 0
Amount received: $34.71 Your share . . . $8.46

If I don't sell more books at this rate, I'll be able to retire around 2232.

* -Actually, it has to do with an electronic sale, the terms of which really sucked, but it looks good on paper.

Kinda like the last week or so has gone for me, actually . . .
Helios outtake: A little off the top

One of the goals of the Helios rewrite is to take some of the sophomoric humor out, backing off the tone a bit. This means losing some of the smaller moments that were inserted for comedy. It's the old less is more idea: taking out a few will make the others seem stronger. At the same time, the lead character's serious side gets more focus.

Diners are a big theme in Fisher books (and part of a planned promotion), but a lot of the over the top stuff happens in them. Like this scene, which got hit by the delete button yesterday:

Fisher spotted the waitress approaching.
“I hate to interrupt you in the middle of empire building,” he told Festoon. “But I have to get going.”
“Fisher, wait –”
Whatever else Festoon was going to say was lost as Fisher slammed the phone closed.
“What’s it gonna be, hon?” asked the waitress.
“Coffee. And the double-decker banana creme pie.”
“Whipped cream on the side?”
She started to leave, then turned back. “You don’t want cinnamon or anything like that on it, do you?”
“Cinnamon? There are laws against that.”
“Just checking,” said the woman, with obvious relief. “We get a lot of city folk in here.”
The next new bang . . .

Hypersonic glide bombs . . . coming soon to a war near you.

Full story:
The Tomcat

Not bad for an aircraft that was supposedly underpowered* . . .

(Tomcats were retired in favor of the newer versions of the F/A-18... you hit your thirties and things start breaking down :-) )

* The early rap on the aircraft. It sure seemed plenty quick to me.
The real problem

In less than ten years, the costs have more than doubled. Salaries and company income, obviously, haven't.
Phosphorous - more than just a good spark

And you thought you were having a bad day . . .
Today's fun with copy editing . . .

Finally, a copy editor who knows past perfect tense!

A little argumentative on which and that, though. But we'll take the good with the bad. [stet cliche]
Tweet nation

So we're at the game and wondering where Mike's Arthur Avenue Deli has gone, and Jay-Roam whips out his iPhone.

"I have a legion of loyal followers," he says, citing the insane number of people who have signed up to follow him on Twitter. "I'll ask. Someone will know."

Not a peep, or rather a Tweet, in response.

Maybe everyone's baffled. Or maybe no one who Tweets likes Italian food . . .
About that Yankee game . . .

Is it a good or bad sign when the parking attendant gives you a hug and says glad to see you're back for another year?
Note to Blaze

Ten. Penn. Aloha.

You know, I really love this plane, even though it's fake.
Books as marriages & other things . . .

Speaking of Fish . . . who actually hates to be called that . . .

In a lot of ways, Helios has been one of my hardest books to write in a long time. Part of the problem I've had is that its lead character, Andy Fisher, started his life as a minor character in other works. While he's grown exponentially, a lot of his personality remains stuck back in his original incarnations.

One of the interesting - and sometimes frustrating - aspects of writing the novel has been learning how much those original incarnations can handicap you. What I originally saw as assets are now deficits. Funny eccentricities become boring and annoying when we spend a lot of time with someone.

Heh. Where have I heard that before?

One of the values of an editor is to subtly or serendipitously lead you to a new model for the character, a mental image that can help in the necessary imagining of the work. There's no formula to this; that's why real editing is an art.

Why the guru is the guru, I suppose.
Today's cut . . .

To become a cynic, to practice that dark art, one had to be at heart an idealist, and an optimist as well.

Great line, just no place to put it.

Edit letter response . . .

Hey Xxxx [editor],
As always, thanks for your comments. . . .
You know until you mentioned the collaboration/women thing, I hadn't thought of it - I wouldn't even have thought of it, actually. . . . I like your idea about them having known each other earlier (not quite as lovers); I'm going to play with it a bit and see how it goes.
I'll fix the SEAL thing. Heh. The fuzz. Ha.
I can sand Fisher and his quirks down a notch, but I don't want to lose his obnoxiousness completely. Jake/Chinatown is not a bad parallel. The early Morse in the detective series. Or even in the vein of say a House character, with an edge. (God, I can't believe I'm citing a television show - and I hasten to say he was NOT a model. The depths a writer sinks to trying to justify himself. . .)
Eccentric and rough at the edges, eccentricity as well as cynicism as a shield . . . he needs that thick armor to deal with the world.
Thanks. Have fun in Boston . . .

It was all in her head . . .

It's always somewhat amusing to listen to non-novelists try to figure out the writing process.

This story in Slate about Agatha Christie is pretty funny. Her process makes absolute sense to me, but I'm sure it's baffling when you come at it from the outside.

Another thing to like like about Christie.
Sound familiar?


Zazi, Al Qaeda pals planned rush-hour attack on Grand Central, Times Square subway stations.

Story here.

The terrorists were going for the Final Four there. But Fish was too much for them.

Ain't he always?

Grammatical integrity . . .

. . . shouldn't get in the way of pr.

An (almost) verbatim transcript from a recent meeting with publicists:

PR person: . . . It will read, Jim DeFelice, author of Rogue Warrior, Leopards Kill, Dreamland, and other assaults on the English language.

Me: What about Rangers at Dieppe?

PR person: Well, you used mostly whole sentences for that one. The tag line would be false advertising . . .
Program note, Yankees dept.

Hell yes, the Yankees are opening their home season this week, and hell yes, yours truly will be there, if only to keep Jay-Roam from writing nasty things about umpires who want to get home in time to watch Leno.*

(Jay-Roam = Jerome Preisler, formerly Deep in the Red, now just Jerome Preisler, found here. I love the photo. It makes it look like the guy actually works.)

Supposedly there are live posts via Twitter this year. But I'm thinking his iPhone will clog up pretty quick from garlic fry-induced smudge marks.

Rumor has it that we'll be grabbing cigars around five near Hard Rock. If you're around come up and say hi. Better yet, join us for a smoke.

*I appear, from time to time, as Fellow Writer. It's all lies. Even the good stuff. Especially the good stuff.
And for the record, I have only been kicked out of the Stadium twice, not three times. There were mitigating circumstances: Red Sox fans were involved both times, and it was in my misbegotten youth.
One of the things we're working on right now . . .

The Bradley book was just recently announced to the trade, though in fact the deal is a few months old and I've been working on it . . . well, I'd rather not admit how long it's been.

This is a sketch for the trailer. Or maybe the eventual trailer. The final will have more effects and different images and music and actually hit the time mark . . . but hey, the core concept is there, right?

Assuming, of course, this stays the final pick. Which is never a good assumption.
Necessary research

So, should I go to Moscow to find out if Russian Standard really is the best local vodka? I mean, I wouldn't want to use second-hand information.

Uploaded by onemoreprod. - Watch original web videos.

I swear I played this game the other night at the bar with the Blaze Brothers.

Maybe it was just the beer . . .
Gotta love those Aussies

Like a human appendix, the F-111's tailhook is a vestige of its evolution (its Navy version never made it to production) . . . but here helped make for a very pretty piece of flying.
What's in it for Iran . . .

We know what Israel would hope to gain from bombing the Iranian nuke project -- three to five years in which to perfect an anti-missile defense.

But what does Iran gain from building a nuke?

In the end, nothing. If anything, it makes the country weaker long-term.

Having a nuke supposedly brings a certain amount of feel-good national pride to a country. I think that's a way over-rated reason to build one, but since I've never been a citizen of a country that doesn't have nukes, I can't really say. But while possessing nuclear weapons can be seen by a paranoid government as the ultimate protection again an invasion - yes, North Korea, we're talking about you - in the case of a country like Iran, the weapon will undermine the country's natural diplomatic and military position.

Which, everything else being equal, should be dominant or close to it in the Middle East.

There's the obvious effects of sanctions, etc., which though useless against the bomb program do put something of a drain on the economy. More importantly, the weapon gives outside countries - such as the U.S. - a reason to counter-balance Iran. At the same time, other regional players, such as Saudi Arabia, have an added incentive to form alliances with those external powers to "keep Iran in check."

At the same time, the weapon can't be used in any sort of war. Use it, and there will be massive retaliation from the target - Israel, let's say, or the U.S. if used against an allied country. Don't use it and . . . you've wasted a lot of development money, hurt your economy, and weakened your geopolitical position for . . . ???

I understand the paranoid government position - the only way to prevent the U.S. from attacking is to be able to retaliate with nukes. But think of it this way: If Sadaam had possessed nuclear weapons, would that have stopped the U.S. from attacking? Or would it just have changed the targeting priorities in the first five minutes of the war? If the bomb had been used as a suicide weapon in Baghdad, say, would it have changed the outcome of the war? Or just guaranteed a much longer U.S. occupation?

The truth is, Cold War equations about nuclear weapons probably never applied to much of the world - and certainly don't apply now.

Oh don't worry, I'm still a fanboy . . .
Defensive appropriations . . .

You know what worries me about the F-35?

It's made by the same company that can't get the cameras working in the NYC subway system. (Story here.)
Speaking of errors . . .

Words into Type is one of the (few) universal copy editing bibles, arguably just after Webster's and Chicago for many editors.

So is finding a mistake* in it a triumph for a poor writer, or a sad commentary on the state of the universe?

Or just an indication that even the Ur Copy Editor is human?

*Admittedly, rather obscure - it has to do with Vietnamese name orders; clearly out-dated. Of course, I didn't check Wikipedia to make sure I was right . . .
Arggghhh . . .

Here's a new pet peeve - copy editors who cite Wikipedia as a source.

(Yes, of course it was wrong.)
Eating jellybeans . . .

Or waxing your car?

Ingredients: Sugar; corn syrup; cornstarch; contains 2 % or less of: sodium lactate; lactic acid; malic acid; natural and artificial flavor; gum arabic; carnauba wax; miner oil; artificial colors (Red 40; Wellow 6; Blue 1; Yellow 5).

Hey, everybody's stomach needs a shine that will last through several rainstorms.
Pirating (ill) logic . . .


With the passing of the monsoon season, pirating is picking up again off the Somali coast (very far off, actually). And so we get stories like this one from the Christian Science Monitor that says nothing can be done . . .

But with the new season comes old questions – how to stop piracy and what to do with the pirates who are apprehended.

Despite the heavy international presence, it remains unclear how small bands of determined criminals with little to lose and a lot to gain can be stopped.


You stop pirates by shooting to kill. Period. You attack them at their home bases. Period. You go after the people who are calling the shots on shore. Period.

This isn't complicated, even though there seems to be an endless supply of journalists and so-called experts who think it is.

Derriere dilemma

So we're at the restaurant and there's no question about it - the waitress has the most beautiful, perfect ass ever.

No debate. The rest of her is, you know, all right, but from the back she is a goddess. More than that.

But there's the inevitable question - how do you compliment her on it? Can you even?

Apparently only after many more beers.

Another member of the family of helos we're using in the new Rogue Warrior, operating in similar terrain.

Russian helicopter designs may not always be pretty, but the aircraft turn out extremely capable and versatile.
Questions for the copy editor

Why is it floor 5, but SaiGon Ferry Two?

And since when do I have to spell out 47th Street?