It’s the Little Things

We’ve all picked up the books that weren’t quite right. The wooden dialogue, the bits of research the author didn’t get right – and I’m being charitable, as I’ve picked up some that made me want to fly them across the room whilst I shouted uncomplimentary things about the author’s ideas of what worked in real life. Let’s just say this: If you have a super-powered microwave death-ray, and use it, what emerges from nearby Maple trees will NOT be maple syrup. And if you try to ‘break’ a mustang while you are all alone on the ranch, you deserve what you get, and it won’t be pretty. But this is why I no longer read romances…

Ahem. Yes, where was I?

While I was at LTUE I went to 3 or 4 panels on incorporating military and guns into your fiction. While I’ve been hunting and trapping since I was a girl, it’s not the same thing as the way the military uses guns, and I know this. Although you will likely note in my fiction I’m just as likely to have my hero with a bolt-action rifle – because that’s what I’m familiar with. But on the panels, which were full of useful information, the common threads that emerged were: If you’re going to write about guns, at least get out and shoot some, a few times. Go to a local range, with a good instructor. Take a safety class if you can, but before you add in things like ‘cordite’ and irritate anyone who actually knows that is no longer a thing, have an idea of what you’re talking about. A friend sent me this, which is great if you want to know what is happening inside a gun, and what could go wrong.

Mike Kupari, who wrote the excellent Dead Six along with Larry Correia while he was deployed in Afghanistan (In other words, the man has the cred), pointed out several times that if you want to know how the military works in real life, ask a vet. As he said, if you’re polite, asking nicely and finding someone who’s passionate about a topic, will likely net you far more information than you could have hoped for. Larry Correia pointed out that he’d been known to send 8 pages of gun info when asked a simple question. So find someone who knows, and ask. The internet is terribly useful, yes, but talking to a real person lets you garner real-life examples and anecdotes, as well.

One of the things that also got repeated across more than one panel was to know your character. If they are a suburban housemom who had never touched a gun in her life, or done martial arts (and yes, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience flashing to reading John Ringo’s Princess of Wands. I need to re-read that soon!) then you can’t have her shooting two-gun or knowing right where the solar-plexus is and hitting the guy in it hard enough to make him lose his breakfast… but on the other hand, if she’s an expert in something, you need to be, too, and don’t make her do stupid things. If she has super powers, apply them consistently. Actually, I really like the movie Incredibles for this… shows the super-powered trying to rein themselves in, and not always succeeding. That, and I love the themes in it.

One of the most-asked audience questions was about chain of command in a military structure. First of all, it’s important to know there is one, and that in any decent military, it will be adhered to. If a private jumps the chain of command and talks to the captain before he talks to his sergeant, he’s going to get in trouble. But if all you want is a table of organization, you can look that up. Keep in mind it’s different for each branch of service, and that it does change. Also, if you are writing a not-American military, you won’t be looking at the same titles or roles. Again, doing your research will pay off in happier readers.

Oh… fraternization. There are good and sufficient reasons your everyday joe enlisted man is not supposed to get buddy-buddy with his officer and vice-versa. There are also – and I have one mil-SF author I just can’t read any more because of this – very good reasons to not have your characters indulging in sex while on duty. At his duty station. Do you want me to come yell at you? Just don’t do it! And for an excellent exploration of the ramifications of women in combat, I highly recommend Col. Tom Kratman’s Amazon Legion.

I will leave you with something different: the insertion of humor into a story. I do this, particularly during very dark/tense scenes, as it’s what real people do. I grew up with Dad being military, then EMS and a firefighter. I know the kinds of jokes those men tell, to shut out the scenes of blood and chaos (and when they think the little blonde girl isn’t listening). Blacker than Black humor. Which explains a lot about why I’m so fond of my First Reader’s sense of what’s funny. So when Kate Paulk shared this into a chat, I spent quite some time doubled over in laughter as I read through. Go look at #520 if you want to see Kate’s favorite, I won’t copy it here. If you need more, the classic Skippy’s List is also an excellent resource.

2. A one man band is not an appropriate bard instrument.

14. Ogres are not kosher.

28. The Goddess’ of Marriage chosen weapon is not the whip.

55. Before facing the dragon, not allowed to glaze the elf.

89. The elf’s name is not Legolam.

111. I did not pick the garrote skill last week from my grandmother.

154. I am not allowed to rub the monk’s head for luck.
155. I am not allowed to rub any part of the elf chick for any reason.

193. Not allowed to kill vampires with seismic charges.

There are so many… and I would challenge any of you to go through this and not come up with a sick, warped story idea!

154 Comments

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154 responses to “It’s the Little Things

  1. Reblogged this on Cedar Writes and commented:

    It’s my day over at Mad Genius Club, and I have recommendations on making your work better through the application of research, and dark humor.

  2. My two favourites are

    425. Chainsaws and butter churns filled with bees do not use the same weapon skill.
    428. I will never create a plan that first hinges on the invention of velcro.

    • LOL – well, the first is certainly a *vivid* image. And the second might be science fictional. πŸ˜‰

      • fontofworlds

        I’m afraid if someone gave the the second rule, I’d say, “Oh yeah? Tell me more!” I want to read that SF novel!

        Then again, I’m not the best person to ask. One of my favorite Dr Who RPG moves was when our plan to save Earth involved relying on the invention of Mr. Microphone. πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Nocturnal Lives Β» It’s the little things

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    From reading the Monster Hunter series, I now say “Ear protection! Ear protection!” whenever I see characters firing guns on TV and in the movies.

    And, if they could reply, they’d say “WHAT? I CAN’T HER YOU!”

    • Absolutely! And if for some reason your character is in a room (concrete is the worst, I’m told) when a firearm is fired, you must write teh consequences of that (and it could be permanent).

      • Oh yeah concrete is the worst. Think about this: have you ever gone to an animal shelter where they use cinder blocks and concrete? Sure it’s easier to clean, but the noise level is insane.

        • Right, and then Urban Warfare mostly takes place in concrete surroundings. And I wonder what all those space stations and spaceships are made of, and the non-projectile type weapons sound like?

          • Part of the problem right now is trying to have a pitched battle inside an underwater-type dome and not have everyone go deaf and the structure to fail immediately.

            • Dan Lane

              Suppressed weapons? Doesn’t make them anywhere near silent (the dB system is on a logarithmic scale, so if you are calculating in decibels be aware). Reduced power loads, if you don’t want to crack a dome, maybe- if they are on hand inside the dome, that might be a possibility. If they are brought in from outside, maybe not.

              Also, the action of the gun and the bullet striking a hard surface aren’t suppressed, either. Hearing damage can start as low as 85dB. Some people are going to be getting tinnitus, regardless. I’ve had permanent hearing damage for years now- car crash, loud concert, big booms, you name it. I try to keep earplugs on hand and avoid those things now. *grin*

              Sound can be reflected, absorbed, or conducted by the materials in your building walls and stuff around. Concrete doesn’t conduct sound well, so it doesn’t pass through easily, but it does reflect it. Stuff like newfallen snow absorbs sound (lots of air in between the snowflakes on the ground). Maybe the designers of said dome built with an eye- ore an ear, as it were- to not making the whole thing a giant resonating sphere? Otherwise, it would get quite loud in there anyway, if there were people living and working in it…

              I’m no scientist, but I used to be something like a roadie. The guys I worked for knew a *lot* more about this sort of thing than I do, I just picked up a couple of things.

            • McChuck

              Recently saw a thing where Navy scientists determined that the best sound-absorptive material to apply to submarines is – bubble wrap. No, really. They’re experimenting with different cell sizes in foam. So, a 6″-12″ layer of “super foam” could be applied to the inside of the dome to achieve multiple purposes- sound absorption (can’t annoy those whales and porpoises), insulation (sea bottom is cold), and additional strength. You could make it impact resistant, too. The only thing you might lose is transparency. Of course, there’s always transparent aluminum panels.

          • fontofworlds

            “Hear, hear!” Oh wait… “Deaf, deaf!” πŸ™‚ As an added fiddly bonus, I’m a little suspicious of old pilots who aren’t a mite deaf. Same problem, different reasons. Sorta.

        • BobtheRegisteredFool

          Dunno if it applies to sound waves, but other for sorts relfection/transmission is dependent on surface angle and relative speeds of the wave in each substance.

          It makes sense that a nice flat concrete surface would reflect sound well. I also expect that concrete walls tend to be quite a bit thicker than drywall.

          • I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a suspicion that density of the material reflecting the sound waves is also involved.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              You can call me a scientist if you squint, but my training is elsewhere, and I know very little about vibration.

              I imagine that both density and rigidity relate to speed of sound.

          • MadRocketSci

            These are called dispersion relations, and IIRC, they apply to any kind of wave. My area of research is somewhere else, but some people I work with work on directing accoustic waves or deformation waves in materials to limit damage or look for cracks.

            So, whenever you have an interface with a different dispersion relation for a wave of a given frequency, you are going to get some percentage reflection off of the surface. IIRC, where you tend to get a lot of absorption is from transitioning to a medium where the wave travels much slower. (Striclty speaking, damping isn’t really in the linear physics of the wave propagation, but in the nonlinear physics of nonlinear vibrations or atomic processes where you start losing energy to higher modes and ultimately heat. We model this by adding imaginary components to the dispersion relations)

            Impedance matching in radio circuits is another example of the principle. If you don’t have your impedances matched, RF power reflects off of your interface back into your source.

      • Yes. Your grandmother was deaf for two days after she shot the bear that was trying to get into our cabin in Alaska (when she was six months pregnant with twins, and had three little kids in the house with her).

        • Laura M

          Like. πŸ™‚

        • Mom doesn’t mention she was one of those kids πŸ˜€ And were you deaf?

          • No, I wasn’t, although I remember it being AWFULLY loud! But my cheek wasn’t resting on the gun stock, either! (Though I couldn’t have been more than ten or twelve feet from Grandma when she fired the shots — I was huddled up on her bed in the corner of the living room, where I ran to hide after meeting the bear face to face at one of our windows!)

        • Since you were six years old, you don’t remember EXACTLY how it was. Mostly correct, except that I was *totally* deaf in my left ear for two weeks; partially, for that long, in my right ear; and still have some hearing loss from that incident (51 1/2 years later). Correct me if I have that number wrong!

          • Since part of this conversation is about surfaces, and reflection of sound, perhaps I should mention that I was in a small room built entirely of rough lumber, inside and out. And of course I was in, and the bear was out (slobbering on a window pane and wanting very much to get in, attracted by the delicious scent of my fresh-baked rhubarb pie. I know I’m off the subject–but after the bear went two and a half times around the cabin, trying to get in, I felt faint, began having contractions, and visualized myself passing out and the bear breaking in, ripping my belly open, and eating my baby–I didn’t know yet that there were two in there).

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      That should be “HEAR”, of course. Sigh.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “If your characters have magic senses and get ambushed, you better have a good reason for them to not spot the danger. Especially if you establish that they are experts in fighting/hunting.” [Wink]

    Note, I did figure out how it happened to the characters and they’re annoyed about it. [Smile]

    • If you’re talking about the Troll! On the Bridge! scene, I had planned that whole thing out and how the bait worked to get her there…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Oh No. I posted a scene where my Main Character assists (with rifle fire) two other characters who were caught in an ambush. The other two characters should have spotting the monsters in time to deal with the pack long distance. As I said, I figured out how they got into that situation. [Smile]

        • Magical detection takes too much energy. When you finally find danger, you’re tapped out and can’t fight . . . Writers can explain away anything. Unless it exists in the real world. Then we need to do some research.

  6. masgramondou

    That list of Kate’s is great. Glad I had finished my coffee first

  7. I can tell you that in the heat of battle, you often won’t notice the sound of your own gunfire. It’s as if a switch is thrown in your head and you simply ‘tune it out’. After the fight you may have ringing in your ears, but not always.

    On the other hand, shooting any firearm indoors, even a lowly .22, can do serious and permanent damage to your hearing. I know. I have serious hearing loss in my right ear (less so in my left) from six occasions when I had to fire a gun indoors without time to put on hearing protection. I’m here to tell you, I didn’t hear normally for several days afterwards, and the after-effects are with me to this day. No fun.

    (On the other hand, the other guys aren’t around to feel the after-effects. War can be like that. Can’t say I object, quite frankly.)

    • That’s interesting about not hearing it. I wonder if it’s linked to a raised blood pressure under stress.

    • Synova

      I’ve been trying to remember if we used ear protection when we went hunting when I was a kid. I don’t remember doing so.

      I do know that if I’m at the (indoor) range, with my ear protection on, and the person in the next lane starts shooting a .45, I have to wait until they’re done with a set before I step forward. My ears might be protected but there’s a physical concussion that’s uncomfortable that close. If there is a lane between us it doesn’t matter. Being put next to the wall sucks.

      • Mom (mountainswest) may pop on here again, but her father, my grandfather, was almost totally deaf in his later years because of a lifetime of hunting without using ear protection.

  8. And this is, in part, why I will never write a military thriller. I’m not sure I can make the details half as interesting as Bernard Cornwell, or any of the Baen crew.

    “Mike Kupari, who wrote the excellent Dead Six along with Larry Correia while he was deployed in Afghanistan…”

    Kupari wrote his chapters while in the Sandbox? Impressive.

    Ah yes, Princess of Wands. That was my intro to Ringo … and it needs book 3 already dangit.

  9. Laura M

    I’m going to bookmark this in case I ever get up the nerve to discuss guns in any but the most general way.

    We all have our things. John Varley was the one who broke my heart. I grew up reading him in Analog or Galaxy (or both?). I got older and went to law school, and now I work on space transportation law, particularly the Commercial Space Launch Act. About a decade ago, when I saw his new book Red Thunder, a really fun book about a group of young people with a secret rocket engine trying to get to Mars before anyone else, I was very happy to pick it up. Reading it was just heaven. Until it got to a certain point: where our heroes agreed amongst themselves they didn’t need too much in the way of regulatory approvals, aside from getting clearance from the FAA’s Air Traffic (which, if I recall correctly, everything being secret and all, I don’t think they bothered with, but I may be wrong). But, and here’s the sad part, the characters made no mention of FAA launch licensing. How could John Varley have let me down like this? He could talk about Air Traffic control, but not about the licensing requirements of the Commercial Space Launch Act? What was wrong with him? Made me sad.

    • I think we all have our ‘triggers’ and I found it funny that Larry Correia kept talking about how horse people are vicious about errors. Made me wonder just what he’d written…

      • Laura M

        Probably just got the usual neigh sayers.

        • Groan. Although as someone who rides, or used to ride, I can see how someone getting, say, different pieces of tack wrong would throw a real horse person out of the book. There’s a reason I did a whole bunch of reading about mules before I started the Elizabeth books – I knew mules are not horses, but I didn’t know exactly how they are not horses. The differences are pretty important, as it turns out, when you are in a stressful situation.

      • Goat people try to be nice about errors — but it’s probably a good thing that not that many people include goats in their books, LOL!

        • Laura M

          I need to find out about chickens.

          • Ask away about chickens (or goats, if anyone is interested). I’ve been raising them for a lot of years — don’t know everything by any means, but if I don’t know, I can probably help find the answer!

            Kathleen

            • Laura M

              Ok. Here goes. Do they lay every day? Do they need a rooster around to lay? Also, if you took a few of them in the woods on a forced march, would they stop laying? Thank you kindly.

              • Do they lay every day? Depends. Depends on breed, age, whether they are broody at the time or not, time of year, stress, food and water available, whether or not they are moulting (usually happens August/September but not always). Some breeds lay extremely well (mostly developed for modern factory farms); others, average dual-purpose breeds, will lay four to six eggs a week during spring and summer, then slack off during late fall and winter.

                Do they need a rooster around to lay? No. Only need a rooster if you want fertile eggs so you can hatch chicks.

                If you took a few of them in the woods, would they stop laying? Yes. Chickens don’t like their routine interrupted. Any stress will cause them to stop laying. If you buy adult hens that are laying, and just move them to your home a few minutes away from their old one, they’ll usually quit laying for around a week. I’ve moved chickens from chicken tractors in my yard to the chicken coop in my yard and had them stop laying for several days. You’ll get whatever is already in the pipeline, but no more until they calm down. They will also be stressed and not lay if they don’t get food and water when they need them. Pretty delicate creatures in a lot of ways, really.

                Any more questions? πŸ™‚

                • Laura M

                  Darn. Either they’re going to die, or observations will have to be made about how the ancestral chickens on this planet were bred for their phlegmatic temperaments.

                  • The pioneers sometimes hauled chickens in cages under their wagons, or fastened to the tailgate. I don’t know if they got eggs. And that reminded me of a couple of pictures I recently saw of Gypsy wagons that had chicken cages fastened under the body of the wagon, probably so the birds would have some protection from the weather. But again, I don’t know if they were keeping them for eggs. A lot of people used to keep chickens mostly for cock-fighting, so egg production wasn’t an issue.

                • Laura M

                  But about the pipeline, how many eggs does it contain? Just one? So that you’d get an egg the first day and that’s it?

                  • Yes, normally that would be all you’d get.

                  • Also keep in mind that in order to get eggs, chickens need a lot of protein in their diets. A friend of mine, a few years ago, was feeding her chickens just organic grains. She was showing me around (they had just built a new house) and complained that she wasn’t getting very many eggs. I asked a few questions, and suggested she feed the hens a little of the milk from the cow she was milking and see if that helped. Next time we talked, she said the egg production was back up — and that was the only change in their diet.

                    Meat scraps, offal from butchering, bugs, fish heads and guts, anything with protein can be used to bring the protein in their feed up.

                    • snelson134

                      Another thing is to make sure they get at least some calcium; shell-less eggs are both revolting and a real possibility without it.

                    • Laura M

                      That is just awesome information.

                    • And calcium. That’s one that I wasn’t aware of when I decided to raise a few for eggs, that they need a source of calcium for the shells (I didn’t realize their diet didn’t generally have enough).

                      And Laura – I also asked my coworker with a farm about needing to hook up with a rooster at least once in order to get started laying, just in case you might have felt silly asking that question.

                    • Laura M

                      Thanks, Wayne. I did feel a little silly because of the non-fertilized eggs in the grocery store, but you never know–there might have been some pheromone or hormone involved in triggering the process. I’m glad I’m not the only one. πŸ™‚

                    • Curse you, snelson, for beating me to that one!

                      Also, I forgot to check the notify box, anyway. πŸ™‚

                    • snelson134

                      What’s funny is that I didn’t hear about that from my farmer grandparents; I read it in a book on WWII submarines, where some refugees gave the sailors who evaced them a chicken and they got shell-less eggs until they figured it out.

                    • Yes, calcium, too — thanks, you guys, for remembering that one! I’ve had an egg or two over the years that had no shell on it (not because of lack of calcium, but there are glitches in the system sometimes) and it’s really disconcerting to stick your hand into a dark nest box, feeling for eggs, and find one of those things!

                      Hens will lay eggs even if they’ve never seen a rooster in their life. It’s the same thing as a human female starting her period — she doesn’t have to have sex before she can start ovulating! (What a weird world THAT would be!)

                    • Laura M

                      Does the free range diet of insects that one reads about suffice on the protein front, do you think?

                    • Mine used to free-range and get kitchen scraps, and that was plenty, it seemed, both for protein and calcium.

                • Synova

                  Mine quit laying for a day or two if there’s a storm. They’ve started laying this spring. I think I’ve probably got two brown egg laying hens who are laying and today there was one green egg. Oh, here’s a detail that might be fun. Each hen lays eggs that are generally consistent in color and shape but different from each other. Store eggs are sorted for size and all come from the same breed of chicken, but if you’ve got a mixed flock the hen that lays a pointed egg will lay a pointed egg all her life, the one with a particularly round egg will do so. The particular tone of brown or green will stay the same. If a hen lays eggs with brown speckles, she’ll continue to do so. Sometimes eggs will get bigger as a hen gets older but the shape and color stay the same. This is why I’m not *sure* I have two brown egg laying hens laying. The eggs are very similar, it just seems like I’m getting too many to be from one hen.

                  • One way that color does change is that if a hen is laying a dark brown egg to start with, it will get paler as she goes along. If she takes a break from laying (like for moulting or for the winter) when she starts laying again, her egg color will have darkened back up. Green eggs don’t change color as much, and white, of course, not at all. The tint doesn’t change — if it’s reddish it will stay reddish, or if it’s chocolate it will stay chocolate.

                    • Laura M

                      Thank goodness the first book ended in the spring. (Goes off muttering about the need for an egg substitute in the winter. Damn.)

                • Holly

                  Contrary to Kathleen’s experience, our hens don’t mind being moved around. Being used for 4-H, they do a fair bit of going places. All the 4-H club hens lay normally (well, one girl’s pullet laid on the judging table!) at the fair grounds during the fair. So maybe some of it is if they are accustomed to it. Our birds who laid through fair last year were Buff Orpingtons, Barred Plymouth Rocks, and Americanas. The bird guilty of laying on the table for the judge was a White Leghorn.
                  We moved ours to a new coop last year and had no drop-off in laying until everyone decided equinox was a great time to molt. Then they all stopped. (No coop light.) Speaking of which, you need to know that laying is a daylight dependent behavior. If you have less than twelve hours of sunlight a day your people will need to supplement.
                  Our chickens are happily omnivorous. Since they mostly range (and mostly don’t die, thank you roosters!), they catch much of their protein themselves in the summer. I’ve seen them eat small snakes and mice. We have ample snails for calcium in the summer. We feed them food trash year around–anything but chicken, which they would eat but which feels wrong to us!

                  I can also talk your ear off about rabbits. Some rabbits, if you move them close to kindling, will eat their young. Others don’t mind a bit.

                  • Heh. Taking a mousetrap and flipping the mouse to the chickens results in some comedy gold, as they all try to steal it from the one which is trying to run off with it.

                    My coworker also tells of a guy he knows who goes out and picks up roadkill, takes them home and puts them into a five gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom, and hung on a hook so the bottom is about three feet off the ground. The chickens stand around and watch for maggots to fall through the holes so they can eat them.

                    • I’ve seen my chickens play keep-away with a mouse! It is pretty funny! I give them dead newborn rabbits, which they eat pretty quickly.

                      And I’ve heard of feeding maggots, from roadkill or from offal from butchering. Also people raise black soldier fly maggots on wet grain and feed them the same way. I feed offal directly (losing less food value than if it went through a bunch of maggots first), but using road kill or wet grains to raise maggots would be a net gain of protein so probably a good idea.

                  • Holly, that’s good to know — maybe I should move my chickens around more often so they get used to it! I’m guessing that Laura M’s story chickens might quit laying for a few days and then start up again once they got used to their new situation!

                    It does help, with winter laying, to have some hens that were hatched approximately in March (in the Northern Hemisphere). Hatched earlier, they will likely start laying in the summer, then moult in late summer/early fall, and not start laying again until late winter. Hatched later than March, they often won’t start laying at all until late January or early February (because the days are getting shorter as they mature). March-hatched pullets seem to be the right age to start laying before the days get too short, and miss the moult until the following year. This will help keep the eggs coming all winter, even without supplemental lighting. So, Laura, if you did have people starting out on a trek through the winter, depending on eggs from chickens for part of their food, you could have them select the young hens that were hatched in March to take with them! But if you are starting this trek in the spring, all the hens should be laying well, even hens that really aren’t great layers overall. That’s the time of year for reproduction and even the breeds that are really poor layers will lay well then (until they go broody, LOL!).

                    • Laura M

                      Thank heavens they can start laying again. Even though the book that precedes the chicken trek is not yet published, so that I could delete the egg references, I do have a fondness for them and want to keep this element. The schtick is that the original settlers found that eating an egg from a Terran chicken with most meals allows you to stay healthy and better absorb the food grown on the alien planet. It’s not integral to the plot of the first book, but I’m planning the sequel and have some chicken-related conflict in mind. And, scarcity is always good for conflict.

                      This discussion, even the gorier details, is very useful. Thanks everyone!

                • sanfordbegley

                  I’m no expert, i know more about plucking than raising but, If you had them caged and under a wagon and that was their lives it might not interfere with egg production. You would have to feed them instead of letting them forage. might even make a mention that if one got out of theri “coop” it threw them off laying. I doubt there is any hard data on such things these days

                  • I wondered about that, too. Haven’t tried it, but the commercial hens spend their entire lives in cages (not moving cages, though), so it might work. It would add quite a bit of extra work for the people who were fleeing through the forest, though, if they had to find food for their caged chickens.

                    • Thinking about this this morning, I think it would have had to be for the eggs, because I can’t imagine being able to raise enough chickens under the wagons for food to be worth the effort , since you would only get at most a half dozen meals from them.

                      As for feeding, I would think that offal and leftovers would be plenty of food for as many as you could carry that way.

                    • snelson134

                      Actually, they weren’t carrying them for either along the way; they were carrying them to transplant to the destination. Eggs would be a bonus, and meals no cause for celebration, since it would reduce the ability to have a viable population at the end.

                    • Wayne, the pioneers may have hoped to get some eggs along the way, but were primarily bringing along breeding stock for when they got to their homesteads. The Gypsies probably kept their chickens partly for eggs, but I suspect that cockfighting played a large role in their chicken-keeping.

                    • That makes sense, I hadn’t thought about breeding stock.

              • If you are looking for a food animal for a forced march in the woods, you’d be best off with goats, I think. Although they can only do 10-12 miles per day on a steady basis; up to 20 miles in a day once in a while.

                • Laura M

                  I’m probably stuck with the chickens.

                  • Synova

                    If they butcher hens along the way there might be eggs inside. Usually one with a shell, maybe one without a shell but just the membrane around it, and then a bunch of “yolks” of various sizes.

                    • Laura M

                      Wow. Who would have thought?

                    • Yes, I’ve seen that! I don’t butcher hens that are laying, but had a dog kill half a dozen hens one time. He left them strewn in a rather neat row behind the garage, all torn open and eggs of various stages of development laying on the ground. Pretty horrible. But the eggs were interesting. I’ve wondered if, when they are stressed and quit laying for a while, they reabsorb the yolks that don’t have shells on them yet.

                • Dan Lane

                  What about hogs? Dunno how much you can drive them in a day, but they eat anything. They don’t like heat much, though, so if it’s hot going they won’t want to move.

                  • Hogs don’t herd or drive very well. I think that’s why you don’t see nomadic people raising hogs.

                  • Laura M

                    The hogs have gone wild. They will get to kill one for which I will need to do research. There was a Mary Renault novel that described an ancient method of doing so, and I will need to find that if youtube doesn’t have somethng.

                    • Dan Lane

                      Wild hogs like we have here in the states? The heart and lungs, at a quartering angle from the shoulder is a good bet, even for bowhunting. You’d want to get pretty close, more like 25-30yd at most to get the right penetration and placement with a good bow, though. That’s probably the quickest with limited technology.

                    • Laura M

                      Yes, exactly. Thank you. I gather there are lots of wild hogs in Georgia, so I was thinking of them.

                    • There are quite a few in my neck of Georgia, at least.

                    • Uncle Lar

                      So many all across the Southeastern states that they have been declared an invasive pest with unlimited season and bag limits not only allowed but encouraged.
                      A typical feral hog is a mix of domestic pig and escaped European boar imported years ago to this country for hunting purposes. Even an escaped domestic will in time develop a heavy gristle plate across their chests, a defense against the tusks of other hogs. These plates have been known to turn a bullet.

                    • Laura M

                      Whoa. What are your views on getting them with spears? (In an imaginary setting, of course).

                    • snelson134

                      Hunt in groups and be prepared to have hunters killed or badly injured?

                      If I were hunting something like that without modern firearms I’d be thinking in terms of some kind of trap that would either kill or immobilize it for spearing.

                    • Just my take, but European hogs actually were hunted with spears, so it can be done.

                      It’s not idea in this day and age, but it is possible.

            • I was considering putting goats in one of my books, as an aside, for a community of 100-200 that otherwise subsists on mostly wheat, vegetables and fruit trees, the goats there mainly for milk, with occasional meat and skins. What are the main problems with rearing goats, and what is their milk good for? I have that when moving them from a lowland enclosure to another one on a high-level rocky plateau (where they had to be hoisted up with ropes), some put up such a fight against being moved that they ended up being the main course of a community feast. Is that realistic?

              • snelson134

                Well, for openers, goats have a real tendency to destroy anywhere they’re grazed for very long, because they’ll graze right down to and through the roots.

                • Cool, that’ll actually be an extra reason to move them up then, the floor of the upper enclosure was bare rock, with the community feeding them with the leaves of cut down branches and other agricultural leftovers (leaves and ends of carrots etc). Would that be feasible, or would they need some specific sort of feed? Also, would they tend to chew to pieces the wooden stakes around their enclosure, or the hemp ropes tying those together?

                  • snelson134

                    Your plan for feeding them will probably work; if they don’t want to be penned in, anything organic will go away eventually.

                  • Yes, the plan for feeding them will work. They do chew on things, but maybe your people can work on building smooth-faced stone enclosures as they have time (if they don’t have access to wire). Goats will climb rough rock faces.

                    Goats in milk require a lot of feed, though, and it needs to be pretty high quality, plus some things will poison them, like wilted cherry leaves (green or thoroughly dry leaves are okay, though).

              • snelson134

                As for the milk, it’s pretty much good for the same things cows milk is; cheese, drinking, etc. The problem is that goats are smaller so each one produces less.

                • Yes, this is right. But multiple goats each producing less does have an advantage over one cow — if something happens to one of the goats, you still have the others. But if you lose the cow, you are SOL. Also goats are easier for smaller people and the elderly to handle.

              • No, probably not realistic. Gosh, I could write a book, sigh. LOL! Okay, small community, few goats which they depend on for a source of protein. Most likely, the goat kids are going to get played with and tamed (because goat kids are stinkin’ cute, and because children). Also, your community doesn’t necessarily have to do it this way, but standard practice for most people raising dairy goats is to take the kids at birth and bottle feed them, so they end up bonded to the humans and will follow them anyplace, even places goats might not want to go normally (like walking through a creek). Even if they aren’t bottle-raising the kids, they are probably going to be pretty tame.

                Also, are you sure the goats will have to be hoisted up with ropes? LOL! Quite a few people use goats for pack animals for mountain hiking, specifically because goats can go anywhere people can go (without roping up and rappelling) and they can even go places people can’t go. Goats are the ultimate mountain animal.

                Even if the goats do have to be hoisted up onto the plateau, goats are relatively small animals, and any fight they put up against being moved that way would be pretty insignificant. The animals most likely to put up a fight (a rank old buck, for instance) would be the least desirable for dinner!

                As for what goat’s milk is good for, well, for drinking milk (properly handled, goat milk is good — indistinguishable from cow milk. But don’t go by the flavor of store-bought goat millk — I’ve heard it’s pretty nasty stuff.). Goat milk is also a good source of medium-chain fatty acids, essential fatty acids that most of us don’t get enough of for good health. Kefir, a cultured milk product which is very good for you, and very tasty when properly prepared (again, don’t go by the store-bought product — the flavor of what I’ve had was all right, but it was yucky-sweet). Yoghurt. Cheese (many kinds). Protein supplement for poultry. Fertilizer/beneficial enzymes and organisms for growing crops.

                Goats themselves are also used for packing, as I’ve already mentioned (a large adult goat can carry a third of it’s body weight up and down mountains all day long, so as much as ninety pounds). They can pull carts, pull some small gardening equipment (cultivating, seeders, etc.), haul water, haul firewood, haul hay from the hay field, bring in panniers full of crops, carry a small child (with very close supervision). They can be used for eating back excessive growth of brush and weeds, although don’t do that with does in milk unless you supplement their feed, and check to make sure there isn’t anything poisonous to them or to the people using their milk. People who pack with goats say that, with the goats, they are able to get much closer to prey animals such as deer, which could be a significant advantage for subsistence hunters.

                Main problems with goats are internal parasites, and the fact that they are escape artists! They require extremely good fencing, or they’ll be eating those fruit trees. They are also good at getting themselves stuck — in fences, hung up on things, etc. Also, if they aren’t bonded to people , they will go wild quicker than any other domestic animal other than the house cat.

                Well, I think I DID write a book! Any more questions, just ask. And if you are curious about packing with goats, there are lots of pictures on-line.

              • Question: If the goats have to hoisted up to the plateau, how do the humans get up there?

                • I was wondering that, too. Because unless the humans are going up on ropes, the goats could just walk.

                  • The humans do go up via ropes.

                    The terrain is a collection of rock columns and larger rocky plateaus rising vertically 10 metres or so from some fertile fields and orchards either side of a river, which disappears into some 100-metre vertical cliffs adjacent to the plateaus. The sides of the columns and plateaus are sheer (but not smooth) cliff faces, the first explorer got up onto the plateaus via vertical rock chimneys, and onto one of the columns via a tall tree growing next to it (whose lower branches they have now cut off to prevent easy access to their fortifications). They gained access to the other columns by extending ropes between various points on the plateaus and the column by the tree, building up a network of simple rope bridges between the various summits. They used to use the columns as purely guard towers, but after a particularly damaging raid by a neighbouring tribe decided to move as many of their residential and horticultural structures as possible up onto the columns.

                    Incidentally, there are no children in the community, when people in the valley get seriously injured or sick they disappear, some never to be seen again, those that do come back after a while do so with no memory of their previous life in the valley. Sometimes married couples will disappear without warning, and if that happens they never come back.

                    As for the upper goat enclosure, I could have the community members hollow out the sides of a depression in the plateau so that its sides overhang slightly, topping off the edges with a dry stone wall packed around wooden stakes that slope a little inwards (that way, the wooden stakes would be out of reach of potential chewing). Alternatively, I could just be lazy and have them rear chickens instead πŸ™‚

                    • Your enclosure sounds like it would work, although you’ll need to make sure there’s a way to drain water out of it in case of rain. Also, goats do need some kind of shelter — if they get wet and cold, they are prone to pneumonia.

                      The no-children thing sounds…improbable? But even adults find goat kids awfully cute, so I doubt that yours would be all that wild. Especially not if they are being hand-fed, and milked regularly (need twice-a-day milking at regular hours, unless you are letting them raise their own babies and just taking milk when needed — but that risks milking time being a rodeo, because they bond to their own baby and don’t like to share. This is one of the problems that bottle-feeding the babies prevents, since the does then bond to their human caretakers as if THEY were their babies — while the bottle-fed babies are bonding to the humans as if they were their mothers — very confusing, I know!).

                      If you want to have a goat-meat feast, have some surplus males that they don’t want to bother hoisting up to the plateau/tableland. You only need to keep three or four males to prevent in-breeding (less, if there’s an outside source of other genetics), and half the kids, more or less, are going to be males, so there will be some available to eat. Also old does slack off on milk production. Usually by age ten or twelve it’s time to replace them with younger does.

                    • drainage shouldn’t be a problem, the rock is porous, I’ll have them excavate a little cave into one of the walls to act as a shelter, since a wooden shelter is going to get used as a stepping stone to escape, and could possibly get chewed to pieces.

                      There is a story reason for there being no children, the presence of goats in the community is pretty much irrelevant to the story as a whole, it’s just nice to get some details right to bring the location to life a little more. It might also make some goat people happy, which is always a plus πŸ™‚

                    • snelson134

                      Porous is unlikely to cut it in the face of goat leavings. You’ll almost have to have actual drainage channels… and you wouldn’t want that permeating the rock until it reaches your water supply.

          • snelson134

            Well, here’s one way to catch them….

    • Mary

      the problem is that there are a lot more readers with a lot more expertise than the writer can ever have. Like a time I was at a writers’ group and the story was quite good except that while arranging the bed of the wounded person out in the cold and snow, the other character kept worrying about the blankets ON TOP.

      nonononononoNO! It’s the ground that’s really dangerous and heat draining.

      Or the time my family once tore a book to pieces over dinner. My father hated the way they never worried about ammo (and they had no source, only their existing supplies), my older sister hated the way the locals adopted blue jeans for women in a culture where they would have regarded them as too shockingly immodest, and my younger sister and I hated the way that it treated democracy and religious tolerance as notions that just had to be introduced into a society with kings and religious wars for everyone to instantly agree with them. You know, we all had our different interests.

    • Here’s an offer. I’m a professional pilot. Been paid to fly one thing or another since ’77. I will be more than happy to proof read and make suggestions to anyone who wants it. A lot of writers aviation scenes drive me just plain bonkers.

  10. Uncle Lar

    I confess to being a gun geek since my teens. I reload ammunition, and held a FFL for several years until the big ATF push to go big or get out.
    I enjoy being a reference for writers on the subject of firearms. Saves me from having to hurl their precious book across the room when I read something incredibly stupid.
    Back when Ringo was a pup he would post snippets of his latest efforts to Baen’s Bar and several of us Barflies would comment. Even though John has a military background, airborne as I recall, his expertise is not firearms, so we corrected several errors and offered suggestions freely. When he asked for the biggest baddest gun in existence for use by the redneck militia in his Looking Glass book my response was the .477 Tyranosaur which became an integral part of a major battle scene.

    • Laura M

      Cool. I’m going to remember you.

    • Dan Lane

      I remember that scene! Got a kick out of seeing the .477 show up in fiction. Good on ya for putting the details in. Tickles some certain rednecks to death when ya get those things *right* instead of having to roll your eyes and read past it.

      • sanfordbegley

        This is why, when Cedar was writing Pixie Noir, I sent her to the MHI FB page for weapons questions. I am not a neophyte on gun questions but, I am not a geek either. I can and have used guns but for my purposes i don’t need to know anything more than the care and feeding of my personal weapons. And I have no use for “My gun is bigger than your gun” . for me the whole tank killer pistol thing is just insanity.

        • fontofworlds

          AFIK, the gun only has to be good enough to kill what you are aiming at, or the next best thing, Make It Stop. Used properly, even a .22 can do that (though I wouldn’t rely on one in a chaotic situation unless I had to.). I have my preferences, but that’s what fits in my hand and doesn’t work against me.

          • If you are well-practiced with shot placement, a .22 works just fine. It’s a deadly little bullet, because it has enough energy to keep tumbling around for a long while after it’s entered, tearing up everything in its path as it bounces around inside the body.

            There are quite a few handicapped folks who carry .22 for defense. Put a few rounds in the triangle formed by eyes and nose, and well… there are fewer people who’ve survived attempting to mug the handicapped than there are people who decided to try.

            • Dan Lane

              Yup. The sphenoid process is paper thin in places, the backs of the orbitals not much sturdier. Lots of nerve endings around there, too, so even if they survive the shot, they’ll not likely be much of a threat after unless they can’t feel *anything.*

            • Uncle Lar

              I would certainly agree that any gun is better than no gun in a defensive situation. No sane person wants to get shot, and more often than not the mere presence of a firearm will send miscreants packing. That said, the issue really is much more a question of stopping rather than killing. It’s well known that in high stress situations adrenaline impacts fine motor skills, one of several reasons that law enforcement are trained to shoot center mass rather than tricky head shots. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s scant comfort to know that the bad guy will eventually die from their wounds when the shot that killed them took minutes to take its ultimate effect. During which they may very well have stabbed or shot their intended victim.
              Not faulting anyone who chooses a .22 for whatever good reason. But should one do so, my advice is practice practice practice. Practice in broad daylight, in dark of night, while loud noises distract you, and in each and every possible situation you might envision. But then I give the same advice to big burly men who carry hand cannons.

        • Uncle Lar

          Couple of years ago at a Huntsville con I was part of a round robin discussion group featuring Larry Correia. He and I got so involved discussing our experiences with AR builds that the rest of the group had to gently remind us that the advertised topic was science fiction writing.
          As to the whole “power” thing, a gun should be just as powerful as necessary for the job at hand, no more, no less. There are however certain cases where bigger is definitely better, dangerous game for example. While a .22 rimfire might kill a grizzly or Alaskan brown bear eventually, that would be scant solace to you or your next of kin. I would also add that the purpose of a defensive firearm is always first and foremost to stop the threat. Unfortunately, that is still best accomplished by inflicting major trauma to center mass.

    • jon spencer

      What bugs me is when someone is or has fired a modern firearm and then the author mentions “the smell of cordite” gahh.

      • It’s something that came up on a panel. Spillane uses it, so writers glommed onto it without knowing what it really was. In answer to what should be used instead, Larry Correia suggested gunpowder, or simply powder.

  11. Pat Patterson

    Shortly after I taught my youngest to shoot. we saw the movie ‘I, Robot’. He turned to me in the middle of the big fight scene and said (referring to Will Smith’s character) ‘He hasn’t reloaded even once!’

    • Smart kid! A lot of people don’t notice stuff like that at all. Although I just wrote a scene with someone firing their gun dry, and keeping firing – but she was a trifle upset at the time.

    • There’s probably a website or two dedicated to gun goofs in movies. One I remember was Stallone in Demolition Man, where the Infinite magazine FINALLY runs out for dramatic purposes, and his slide locks back. So, he pulls out a new magazine, drops the old one, slams the new one home, and releases the slide. So far, so good. the in a display of Macho, Stallone racks the slide, and a perfectly good round goes flying to the floor. (Although when I saw it on TV, the scene had been edited, kinda like how they edit out Ralphie tacking up his target OVER A METAL SIGN in A Christmas Story.).

  12. I read the list and laughed until I had an asthma attack. A few favorites:
    13. Must not murder canon NPCs in their sleep, no matter how cliche they are.
    22. There is no such thing as a Gnomish Pygmy War Rhino.
    36. I am not allowed to convince the entire party to sit on the same side of the table.
    73. Not allowed to name my cudgel Ceremonial Whoopass Stick.

    • fontofworlds

      Re: #22., and IF I were GM… “To hell there is! Make it so!”

      That would be so much fun I’d have to let him do it. Sometimes, bad ideas are the best ones. πŸ™‚

      • I’m only up to about 150, but there have been several where I said, “Of course you can/there is…”

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Stuff like ‘you were all raised by the same wolf’ has all sorts of use. Like a MMO/MUD of ‘make your dysfunctional genius loner swordsfreak who wears black, and seek revenge’.

    • Synova

      OH Dear Dog… I’m sorry but I’ve still got those Gnome Commandoes, along with the pink feathered boa snakes and blasters, etc., hanging around waiting for me to be fully brain recovered. I do not know how the Gnome Empire, based as it is on a fleet or three of silver needle spaceships, is going to incorporate Pygmy War Rhinos… but I do know that they must.

  13. Kate Paulk

    My personal favorite is 520. Just the mental image is enough to make me giggle

  14. Arwen

    Heh. My favorite was 92. The name of the weapon shop is not “Bloodbath and Beyond”

  15. snelson134

    “Actually, I really like the movie Incredibles for this… shows the super-powered trying to rein themselves in, and not always succeeding. That, and I love the themes in it.”

    If you liked that, you’ll like the Wearing the Cape series by Marion G. Harmon.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Yep, one of the first things that the Main Character in Wearing The Cape (a new superbeing) had to learn was to control her own strength.

  16. snelson134

    Point of order on entry #258: GURPS does, in fact, have a power “Protective Nudity”.

  17. Synova

    I once read a book where the Big Clue that proved who done it was…. a snake scale.

    A piece of shed skin could well be linked to a specific individual snake (given the magic of fiction) but the growth rings on a scale was so absurd that I am still all het up about it.

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