On SmartPens

For Christmas last year, I was gifted with a SmartPen, specifically, a Livescribe. The original function was for school. I balance a textbook and write more easily than I balance a textbook and type, and since my classes were getting into ridiculous time commitments, the gift was intended to free up some time and reduce some aggravation.  By and large it worked.

(c) Anoto AB // Flickr Creative commons. Used unchanged

(c) Anoto AB // Flickr Creative commons. Used unchanged

The idea worked handily and hooked up to my SmartPhone, another Christmas present from another relative. I was able to take notes much more quickly, then use the OCR in the software to translate to my computer. Once school ended, I switched to using my SmartPen to write short stories and a serial.

How does it do?

Not bad, really. I had to adjust some of my writing habits. I have to apply a little more pressure than I would with a regular ballpoint or gel pen. That took some doing at first. I also had to “unsquiggly” some of my letters so the OCR wouldn’t switch 2 of d, among other things. More space between words helps with word recognition, too.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have to slow down. I write pretty quickly when I get rocking and rolling, and the pen keeps up with me. The software? Not necessarily, but if I get a good idea and starting writing at a significant fraction of light speed, the pen keeps up.

Sadly, it’s not all good news. The pen eats ink cartridges. 10-12 pages per cartridge on average, and the cartridges are a little over a buck a piece. They skip a lot, too. The pen, however, registers pressure, not ink, so even if the pen is skipping, I can keep going for a while and it’ll be fine. Unfortunately, the OCR quality declines because I can’t see what I’m writing.

The software, too, isn’t exactly efficient. When it does the OCR, it’ll make glaring errors, some of which are kind of funny. Some of the errors are the sort of auto-correct things your phone will do when you text someone, so alien names and foreign words don’t render well. Formatting doesn’t exist, and I can’t make margin notes because there’s no margin on the paper and even if there were, the OCR wouldn’t know where to put the words. This translates to lots of editing and formatting time once I get the text OCR’d and moved over to a word processor.

Ultimately, the pen is handy for short stuff. Blog posts, serial episodes, short stories … no problem. Don’t know if I’m quite brave enough yet to try a novel. Maybe after a few revisions to the hardware and software.

The Gospel in Noah’s Genealogy

The 10 names in Noah’s genealogy spell out the Gospel story.  Check this out:

Adam                          Man

Seth                             Is appointed

Enosh                          Mortal

Kenan                          Sorrow

Mahalalel                     [but] the Blessed God

Jared                            Shall come down

Enoch                          Teaching

Methuselah                  [that] His death shall bring

Lamech                        [the] Despairing

Noah                           Comfort or Rest.

Souce: Genesis Commentary produced by Koinonia House.

Voting Results for City of Refuge, Episode 7: Fiendish Plots

If you missed Episode 7, it’s here.


Question 1: Should Jer go warn the High Priest about the plot on his life, keep an eye on Kane, or just go home?

Three-way tie, so where are my dice…

1-2 = Go after Nahum and Vashti

3-4 = Keep an eye on Kane

5-6 = Go home and wait for word from the court

… 6. Head for home.

Question 2: What’s Vashti’s brilliant idea?

I didn’t have any brilliant ideas, which was why I asked you guys. ;)  Apparently, no one else had any suggestions, either. Ummmm…

Get hired on as waitstaff for the dinner hosting the ambassador from Earth and sneak something unsavory into the food.


Um… Now what? Beans?

I ran out of letters in the alphabet for my mutant alphabet blog posts. I knew this was coming. I mean, seriously, the alphabet has a finite start and finish, but when I was writing the November blogs, I had just started a new job, and I was a little short on time to think ahead to what would be next.

Hmm…  One pal suggested I just switch alphabets. If I knew another alphabet, that might work. Another suggested I start at A in the dictionary and move forward. That’d be some 300,000 blog topics!

I had an idea to do another Hugo/Nebula comparison, this time taking 5 books from the early years of the award and 5 books from the recent awards, but it’ll take me some time to read 10 novels, so that’s not going to help any time soon.

So, while I sort things out, here is a blast from the past: Masika guest blogging when my blog was on my webpage.

Rebel being funny 002

This is the Avian News Network with an important bulletin…

There’s a new hazard creeping into veggie bowls of unsuspecting parrots everywhere. At first glance, it appears to be a strange, pale green, u-shaped bean, but DO NOT BE DECEIVED! This is no green bean.

This devious object makes a wonderfully satisfying crunch when you sink your beak into it, but that’s just part of its ploy to lure you into a false sense of security. If you continue to chew on this crunchy non-bean, you’ll discover its secret. It’s actually made of strings! These strings have the approximate strength of surgical steel and will defy all efforts to sever them by even the strongest beaks. Worse, these strings run the entire length of the “bean.” They peel out as you attempt to enjoy your snack, so you are then left with one of these green strings hanging from your beak! How totally undignified!

If you find one of these stringy “beans” in your veggie bowl, don’t panic. Even if you’ve fallen prey to their plots before, you can still defend yourself properly. Simply pick up the “bean” with your beak without chomping down then toss it through the grate and onto the trash receptacle below. There, faced with its dismal failure, the “bean” will wither and die, posing no further threat to your avian dignity.

Sooner or later, your human will figure out how treacherous these things are and stop allowing them to sneak into your veggie bowl.

This is Masika D. Greyt reporting for the Avian News Network.

Also Named Jesus

In Hebrew, “Jesus” is Yehoshua, often abbreviated “Y’shua.”

Well, if Jesus is “Yehoshua” in Hebrew, then there was a Jesus in the OT.  That would be Joshua, son of Nun, the military leader who led the Israelites to wipe out the major groups of the pagans occupying the Promised Land.  In fact, if you read very carefully, there are a number of interesting ways the book of Joshua reflects the book of Revelation.  Both involve a military commander ousting the usurpers from the land.

City of Refuge, Episode 7: Fiendish Plots

Jer studied the spaceline worker through narrowed eyes. Paying up front for unknown information sounded like the perfect way to separate a fool and his money. Jer didn’t have any delusions about being the sharpest spine on the cactus, but he knew better than to buy from a stranger without inspecting.

He tugged his wallet out of his pocket and withdrew twenty-four shekels. The would-be informant’s eyes lit up like a spaceliner’s running lights. He came forward with his hand extended.

Jer put his wallet away and closed his fist around the money. “Information then money.”

“Now look–” He propped his fist on his hip.

“No, you look.” Jer jabbed his care at the other man’s chest. “For all I know, you’re running some kind of hustle. If your information is worth it, you’ll be paid.”

The spaceline worker glared for few moments before he turned and walked away. He only managed a few steps before he stopped. He sighed and stared at the ceiling before he turned and came back. “All riqht. I was working at the security checkpoint. Two men and a woman approached. The woman and one of the men had tickets for Theopolis. Their IDs said Vashti Osgood and Nahum Rotenberg. They addressed the other fella as Kane told him to sit tight and he’d be free in no time.” He extended his hand. “Pay up.”

“What’s any of this to me?”

“Your brother’s killer is sending two people to Theopolis.to secure his release. There’s only one thing they could do there that would get Kane and almost everyone else on this planet a free pass off world.”

Jer nodded. The current high priest notoriously refused to grant pardons or appeals. By law, only the priest’s death would release Shechem’s inhabitants. “So why are you talking to me instead of the priest’s bodyguard?”

“Who said I didn’t, they don’t pay for tips, and I got rent due. Just thought you’d like to know what they’re planning.”

Uh-huh. Somehow I don’t believe your altruism came first. Jer pocketed half the money and tossed the rest to the informant.

He snatched it out of the air and counted the coins. “Where’s the rest?”

“That’s all it’s worth to me. Take it or leave it. You’re lucky I’m carrying any real money.”

Another hard glare threatened to incinerate Jer. He left the man standing there and turned into Yireh’s landing bay.

The ramp lowered as he approached, and Ethan stood at the top. “So, how’d it go?”

Jer stepped down into the lighter gravity of the ship. Within a few steps, he went from leaning hard on his cane for support to just needing it as a reminder to be careful. The pain in his leg lightened up gradually, but after so long in normal gravity, the ache would be a while. Maybe tomorrow.

At the top of the ramp, Jer smacked the button to close up the ship. “Let’s find Tamar, and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Ethan darted ahead to the bridge, each step launching him further up and forward in the low gravity. Jer followed with extra springs in his step, too, but not nearly as exuberant as his little brother.

On the bridge, Tamar sat at the communication board and watched the external cameras. She greeted them with a smile and an unspoken question in her eyes. Jer settled into the pilot’s chair and swiveled it around to see the others. While Ethan found a spot to lean against the back wall, Jer began his explanation of the court case and the informant. He skipped over the account of the muggers. No sense in worrying folks without cause.

He rested his cane across his lap. “So, that’s where we stand. We can stay here and keep an eye on Kane or head home and wait for the court to send us word that he fled the planet.”

Ethan pushed off from the wall and came a few steps closer. “What about the high priest? Shouldn’t someone warn him?”

“I reckon we could.” Tamar shrugged. “But what could we do that his whole collection of bodyguards can’t?”

Ethan thought for a moment. “Pick Vashti and Nahum out of a group.”

“So we send a picture along.” Tamar smirked and leaned forward. “You don’t really think Kane’s the first guy to come up with an assassination plot against the high priest, do you?”

Jer shook his head. “No. I ‘spect several have tried that particular gambit.”

“The priest will be fine.” Tamar leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. “The real issue is whether we sit here counting our hair and burning through resources waiting for Kane to make a run for it or do we head home, get back to useful work and probably lose Kane when he does take off.”

Jer l nodded once. That just about summed up their options.


Nahum ordered some fancy kind of coffee for Vashti and a good, ol’ fashioned iced tea for himself. Once his thumbprint had paid for the order, a slot in the wall opened and a tray slid out. He left the tray and took both cups. That was against protocol, sure, but someone else could deal with the tray. He scanned the cybercafe and found his partner waving from a computer for in the back corner, a perfect spot for their afternoon chore. By the time he made it to her chosen location, the coffee-heated ceramic had become unpleasantly warm on his fingers.

He set her cup next to her and slid his in the cup holder next to his seat.

.”Am I flying this thing or you?” Vashti pointed at the computer.

Nahum fished his most recent purchase out of his pocket. “You are, unless you want to be here until next week.”

“Right.” she sipped the coffee and looked at the tiny chip in his hand. “You sure that thing works?”

He shrugged. “They say you get what you pay for, so this should work flawlessly.”

After a quick glance around the café, he inserted the chip into the data port on the front of the computer. Now, if the thing behaved the way it was advertised, they could look up whatever they wanted without triggering any warning systems.

Nahum sat back and watched Vashti navigate to the high priest’s official page. Next she tapped a link to his personnel appearances. The list showed location, date, time, and purpose.

“So, dinner with Earth’s ambassador is out unless you have diplomatic credentials you haven’t mentioned before,” Vashti whispered.

Nahum sipped his coffee. “Blessing the sick might work. Think you could fake bein’ deathly ill?”

“Sure, but then what? Say we successfully manage what we’re here to do.” Vashti swirled her coffee cup. “How’re we gettin’ out of there? I ain’t lookin’ for the gallows. Are you?”

“Wasn’t part of my plan.” Nahum chugged a couple big swallows of his tea. “We need something with a time delay. So when he keels over, we’re nowhere around at all.”

Vashti grabbed his arm. “I got it!”


  1. Should Jer go after Nahum and Vashti, stay on Shechem to watch Kane, or go home?
  2. What’s Vashti’s great idea?

Book Spotlight: Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s The Worker Prince

In an attempt to mediate a peace between them, author Bryan Thomas Schmidt sat down with his protagonist Davi Rhii and antagonist Lord Xalivar, deposed High Lord Counselor of the Borali Alliance. The meeting took place in a neutral location this morning. Here’s how it went.

Xalivar: What’s he doing here?!

BTS: He’s here to try and make peace between you. I heard my book had really reopened old wounds for your family and I felt bad.

Xalivar: Peace?! He destroyed my life. Stole my palace, my life, everything I worked for!

Davi: Seems to me you did a pretty good job destroying things on your own.

Xalivar: Oh really? You think so, do you? In all your wisdom and experience? AND YOU! Why should I trust you after you wrote scandalous lies about me?

BTS: At the time I wrote it, you approved the story.

Xalivar: With changes! You ignored my copious notes!

BTS: I couldn’t swap Davi’s part with yours and make you the hero. Your requests were ridiculous.

Xalivar: You’re ridiculous! Both of you! (crosses arms)

Davi: You see? I told you he’s impossible.
BTS: My intention was to record the truth of your incredible history, not harm anyone. I really did my research and tried very hard to represent it accurately and truthfully.

Xalivar: (laughs)

BTS: All this animosity has torn your family apart.

Xalivar: What family? He’s not my family. He’s an imposter! Adopted secretly by my crazy sister! Generations my father and grandfather worked to make the Borali Alliance what it is! To put those treasonous, criminals in their place and keep them there! Then he comes along and destroys everything!

Davi: They’re human beings who deserve freedom as much as we do. They’ve worked hard for us, and they’re good citizens now.

Xalivar: (scoffs) They won’t stay that way. Always trouble with their kind. Always! It’s historical.

BTS: Maybe they’ve changed? Younger generations and older generations often do things differently.

Xalivar: I followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather.

Davi: Beating the slaves. Abusing people. Manipulating. Lying…

Xalivar: Don’t disrespect my family! They’re honorable men who served well!

Davi: Not if they served like you.

Xalivar: (stands) I told you it was impossible for him. I told you I never should have come! Now leave me be! Both of you! (storms out)

BTS: Hold on, where are you going. Don’t you want a chance to tell your side of the story?

Davi: Look, Xalivar is delusional. About everything—his place in history, how his father and grandfather acted, who he is. He can’t handle being confronted with obvious weaknesses. I’m just being honest. What can I do? (offers hand) Thanks for trying, okay? Looking forward to the second book.

WordFire Press proudly presents the debut novel of Hugo-nominated editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt, which received Honorable Mention on Paul Goat Allen’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011 at BarnesandNoble.com, alongside books by Ben Bova, Robert J. Sawyer, Jack Campbell, Ernest Cline and more.

What if everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world turned out to be wrong? Freshly graduated from the prestigious Borali Military Academy, Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people discovers a secret that calls into question everything he knew about himself. His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. One thing’s for sure: he’s going to have to make decisions that will change his life forever…

Welcome to the book that captures the feel of the original Star Wars like no other, Moses meets Star WarsThe Worker Prince.

“THE WORKER PRINCE breathes dynamic new life into the space opera genre. Rich characters, wild action, and devious plotlines collide in a thoroughly entertaining book!” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Predator One and Deadlands: Ghostwalkers.

“A brisk science fiction novel full of rich characters and settings, it embodies ‘sense of wonder’ in the best traditions of classic science fiction. Well worth your time!” – Robin Wayne Bailey, New York Times Bestselling author of Dragonkin  and Frost.

 “Retro-with-a-twist SF brimming with an infectious enthusiasm!” — Saladin Ahmed, author Throne Of the Crescent Moon.

316 pp · ISBN 978-1614753612 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $15.99 tpb $5.99 Ebook · Publication: November 1, 2016


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and Hugo-nominated editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. As book editor he is the main editor for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s WordFire Press where he has edited books by such luminaries as Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Frank Herbert, Mike Resnick, Jean Rabe and more. He was also the first editor on Andy Weir’s bestseller The Martian. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek, Mission: Tomorrow, Galactic Games and Little Green Men–Attack! (forthcoming) all for Baen, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. He is also coediting anthologies with Larry Correia and Jonathan Maberry set in their New York Times Bestselling Monster Hunter and Joe Ledger universes. From December 2010 to June 2015, he hosted #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter as @SFFWRTCHT.

Website/Blog: http://www.bryanthomasschmidt.net
Twitter: @BryanThomasS
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bryanthomass?ref=hl
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3874125.Bryan_Thomas_Schmidt