State of the Blog

Hello, friends!

Once again, sorry for not blogging in a while.  Today, I want to give you a quick update on what’s happening with me and my writing.

In October, some stressful things happened and derailed all my writing plans for the month.  But even before October happened, I felt like I was stuck in a writing rut.  I’d write hundreds of words per day, adding up to thousands of words per week, and yet I still felt like I was making absolutely no progress.  So my muse and I have agreed that it’s time to take my writing in a new direction.

Some decisions have already been made regarding Tomorrow News Network and other projects that I’d previously been working on.  Other decisions will be decided soon.  But I do know that my research process is going to stay the same, and this blog will continue to play a key role in how my research process works.

The #1 best way to learn is to try to explain whatever you’re learning to other people.  Doing that can reveal where your knowledge is strong and where it is still kind of hazy.  The discussions we have in the comments sections of my blog posts have been invaluable to me.  And also, I honestly do appreciate it when someone in the comments tells me that I’ve made a mistake.  Those discussions are invaluable to me, too.

My blogging and social media presence will be somewhat sporadic for the remainder of 2022, but I expect things to get back to normal in January of 2023.  Sciency Words will return on January 9th, and I hope to stick to a schedule of one to two posts per week after that.  The new direction I’m taking with Tomorrow News Network has already led me to some surprising and new (or at least new to me) science facts, which should lead to some fun conversations in the months to come.

So thank you, friends, for reading, and I look forward to talking with you more very soon.

And Some Things Must Stay the Same

Hello, friends!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Something Must Change,” because something in my life really does need to change.  I’ve had some time to think more about what, specifically, that change needs to be, and I’ve taken my first tentative steps toward making change happen.

But the problems I’m dealing with and the changes I’m making—for the most part, all that stuff lies beyond the purview of this blog.  This is a blog about science.  This is also a blog about fiction.  And, most importantly, this is a blog about putting science together with fiction to make some sort of—what would you call it?—some sort of scientifiction, I guess.

In other words, this blog is about the things in my life that are not changing, the things that, quite honestly, cannot change (not even if somebody tried to convince me that they should).  Because if I stopped writing about planets and spaceships and extraterrestrial empires, if I stopped writing about homicidal telepaths and astronaut-hungry dinosaurs and self-appointed Galactic Inquisitors, if I stopped writing about intergalactic news agencies and cyborgs struggling with their feelings and sassy blonde time travelers named Talie Tappler… if I stopped writing about those things, I wouldn’t really be me anymore.

In my “Something Must Change” post, I did promise myself that I would not give up on my writing (or my art).  But I now realize I need to be a little more specific than that, because not any old writing and not any old art will do.  Not for me.  When making promises to yourself, it’s tremendously important to be clear and specific about what your promise is and what it really means to you.

As Jean Luc Picard once said, “The line must be drawn here!  This far, no farther!”  I’ve drawn my line.  I’ve separated (in my mind, at least) the things in my life that need to change from the things that must stay the same.  It is a small step in the process, but an important step nonetheless.

And it’s a step I hope you can take too, friends, if the need ever arises.  I hope you’re able to draw your line, to know what you can afford to change and what must always, always, always stay the same.

P.S.: And if you’re into sassy blonde time travelers, then I hope you’ll check out The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella, available exclusively on Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

P.P.S.: And if you’re into that other stuff I mentioned—the homicidal telepaths, astronaut-hungry dinosaurs, etc.—more Tomorrow News Network novellas are on the way.  I promise!

The Evolution of a Blog

Hello, friends!

Over the last few weeks, a debate has been taking place inside my head.  And the subject of that debate has been: what do I want to do with this blog?

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere.  I’ve just felt for a while now that some changes need to be made.  And this weekend, I finally came to a decision about what, specifically, those changes ought to be.

First, I want to thank everybody for the feedback I got on my recent “Looking for Some Feedback” post.  That helped a lot!  The general consensus seems to be that the way I’ve been citing my sources (embedding hyperlinks in the body of my posts) is perfectly fine.  A few people offered suggestions, though, on how to make those hyperlinks stand out a bit better.  I may also start adding a “learn more” section to the bottom of some blog posts, when it feels appropriate.

Secondly, I’ve been a bit frustrated with some of the changes WordPress has made in the last few years.  I’ve had to find awkward workarounds to let me keep doing some of the things I do in my blog posts.  But over the weekend, I found a new theme that will (I hope) be a bit easier for me to work with.  Given past experience, though, I know that switching WordPress themes often involves a period of teething and troubleshooting.  Things might look a little weird for a while.  Sorry in advance.

And lastly… Sciency Words.  This was the hardest decision of all, but I think it’s time for me to discontinue Sciency Words as a regular series.  On the one hand, Sciency Words sort of embodies my whole approach to learning.  If you want to learn about a topic, start with the vocabulary.  Once you know the vocabulary, everything else will be so much easier to understand.

But writing Sciency Words requires a surprisingly hefty research load.  Tracking down the etymologies of scientific terms is hard!  Given the pressures and constraints I’m currently under, both in my creative life and in life more generally, I just can’t keep up with it.  I expect Sciency Words will still exist in some form here on Planet Pailly.  Maybe I’ll have a glossary page, or something like that.  But I can’t commit to doing a regular, weekly series like that anymore.

So my plan now is to take a week or two off from regular blogging.  That way I can switch themes and have time to fix all the problems that switching themes will surely cause.  Then I’ll be back to give you a tour of what’s changed, followed by more posts about science, outer space, and my personal journey as a Sci-Fi writer.

P.S.: I’m also working on a new and improved website for Tomorrow News Network.  Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about that when I come back, too.

Looking for Some Feedback…

Hello, friends!

Years back, I got a compliment that was the absolute best compliment I’ve ever received.  A close friend said to me: “You make me want to go learn stuff.”

Obviously I love science and space exploration best, but on a more fundamental level I love learning.  I love opening up my mind to find that the universe is a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more complicated than I could have possibly imagined it to be.

On this blog, I want to share some of the cool space and science stuff that I’ve learned.  I also want to make it easy for you to go learn more on your own, if you want to.  As a corollary to that, I also want to make it easy for you to fact check the things I say on this blog, because there’s way too much misinformation about science out there on the Internet, and I really, really, really don’t want to add to that problem if I can help it.

So it’s a little distressing to me when I get comments asking where I got my information from.  I’ve gotten a few such comments in the last month or so, which makes me think that I need to change up the way I cite my sources.  Currently, when I have a source I want to cite, I usually say something like “According to this paper” and make the words “this paper” a hyperlink to the paper in question.

That feels like a straightforward way to do it to me, but obviously that’s not working for everybody.  Would it be better if I did a sources cited section at the end of my posts?  Or is there something else I could do to make this clearer for readers (both regular readers and new people)?

Like I said before, I do not want to be responsible for spreading misinformation on the Internet.  But also, if you read something here on Planet Pailly and want to learn more, I want to make that as easy for you as possible.  Citing my sources clearly and easily addresses both of those concerns.  So how can I do that better?  Any and all feedback is welcome!

Research Before Writing

Hello, friends!

So last week, I told you about some of my new writing rules… or maybe I should call them writing promises.  That’s what they really are: promises that I am making to myself (or rather, promises that I’m making to my muse, depending on how you want to think about it).

Anyway, today I want to share another writing promise that I’ve made, a promise specifically related to this blog:

I promise to do my research before attempting to write a blog post, because trying to write a blog post without getting all my facts straight first is a huge waste of time.

You see, I fully intended to have a Sciency Words post for you last Friday.  I picked an easy one—a scientific term that I thought I understood fairly well—to ensure that I would get that blog post written, illustrated, and scheduled on time.  But once I started writing, I soon realized that I did not understand what I was writing about—not nearly as well as I thought I did.  Oops!

I’ve done this to myself many times before.  I try to crank out a quick blog post, then realize I’m a little fuzzy on some details, a little vague about certain facts.  And so a blog post that was supposed to be done in about an hour eats up a whole day’s worth of writing time.  Quick, easy blog posts always end up being the hardest, most time-consuming posts to write.

So going forward, before writing even one single word for a blog post, I’m going to do my research first.  Even if I think I’m already an expert on whatever I’m writing about, I’m going to do my research first.  That’s a promise I’m making to myself, so I can be more efficient with my blog writing time.  And it’s a promise I’m to you too, dear reader, because I really, really, really do not want to spread any sort of misinformation about science on the Internet.  There’s too much of that already.

P.S.: Wait, I didn’t do any research before writing this blog post.  Oh no!  I’ve already broken my promise!!!

Unplanned Mental Health Break

Hello, friends!

Last week, I ended up needing a bit of a mental health break.  I stopped writing and drawing.  I stopped blogging, and I basically unplugged from the Internet for a few days.  Some stuff was happening in my personal life.  I won’t go into any details.  I’ll just say that my stress level got way too high for a while there.

But things are more or less settled now, and I’m back to my regular writing and blogging schedule this week.  So I’ll see you at Wednesday’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Then on Thursday, The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella comes out (click here to preorder!).  And on Friday, of course, I’ll have a Sciency Words post for you.  So stay tuned, my friends!

The Peril of Being Self Educated

Hello, friends!

As many of you already know, I blog about science, but I am first and foremost a science fiction writer (fingers crossed, soon to be a published science fiction writer!).

Back in 2010, I started this blog as a way to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring Sci-Fi author, thought that I ought to be doing.  In the beginning, I really didn’t know much about science, except for some stuff I remembered learning in school.  And most of that stuff I remembered from school turned out to be wrong or, at best, only half true.

That’s one of the reasons I love being self educated.  Writing this blog has given me an opportunity to discover and correct many of the misconceptions I once had about science.  And my Sci-Fi writing has improved as a result.  I was recently looking over one of my old manuscripts.  So many silly misconceptions are on full display in that text.  Thank God that story never got published!

Another reason I love being self educated: doing deep dives on topics that I find interesting or that I think could be useful in my stories—topics like lithium mining, Troodon intelligence, or Venus’s unknown absorber.  The kinds of topics that never seem to get covered in school or that rarely get attention from the popular press.

I have, on occasion, surprised professional scientists with just how much I know about some weirdly specific topics.  And then I’ve surprised those same scientists with how much I don’t know about more ordinary, more generalized things.  That’s the peril of being self educated.  Your knowledge is splotchy, inconsistent.  You end up with these weird gaps in your knowledge, gaps that someone with a more traditional science education would not have.

And that’s why I keep blogging: because there’s still a whole lot I don’t know, and I’m sure I still have a lot of misconceptions in my head about science, and about other things too.  One thing I didn’t anticipate when I started this blog was how valuable a resource you, dear reader, would be.  You’ve asked me questions.  You’ve challenged me.  Some of you have pointed out my mistakes and suggested new avenues of research.

For that, I just want to say thank you, and please keep it up!

Next time on Planet Pailly, what if I told you Earth is not the perfect planet for life?