Episode 1: Friday Night in Ulterior Motive Lounge

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 – The Reader, a harried project lead, wishes he could get his development under control.

A first Use Case Diagram

This Episode introduces the absolute minimum useful Use Case Diagram. If it seems simple, it is. I want to show you that “speaking” UML is easy, if you start simple and grow. I don’t want to overpromise. UML isn’t a cure-all. It’s just a tool for communication. Let me repeat: It’s all about communication.

And if this diagram seems trivial, well, keep reading! We’ll get more complex.

And if you don’t understand the porkpie hat and Swingin’ on a Star, you should go rent Bruce Willis’s masterpiece, Hudson Hawk. You’ll love me for it, or you’ll hate me; but you won’t easily forget it.

UML in One Minute

UML is all about communication. It’s a diagram-based Language.

UML is not a process. It can be used in any process, from ad hoc to Agile to Orchestrated Development.

UML is not a tool. You don’t need Microsoft Word to speak, read, and write English. You don’t need any tool to “speak” UML. (But a good tool can make it easier!)

UML is not like the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s not formal, unless you need to be formal.

UML is a diagram-based language for building Models.




UML is not about code. It’s not even about software design. It’s about models of systems, where…

  • System = Structure + Behavior + Purpose.
  • Structure is expressed in Class Diagrams, Component Diagrams, Deployment Diagrams, and more.
  • Behavior is expressed in Activity Diagrams, State Diagrams, Sequence Diagrams, Communication Diagrams, and more.
  • Purpose is expressed in Use Case Diagrams, Activity Diagrams, State Diagrams, and more.

UML is a diagram-based language for building models using a Unified notation.

UML incorporates best of breed from prior notations.

Elements in one diagram can appear in other diagrams and add more detail.

One kind of diagram can add detail to another kind of diagram if you choose to use it that way.

These messages bear repeating. Expect me to repeat them.

What I’ve Learned (2019 Edition)

Nine years ago today (sort of), I sent my first story to a professional science fiction market. So every July 4th, I like to review my lessons learned in the past year.

And obviously, it’s all I find time for on this blog. Which is in part procrastination, but in part because I’m writing other work.

So let me see… What have I learned?

That’s a difficult question. This was more a year of applying what I learned.

My first novel, Today I Am Carey, came out from Baen Books. I had a great book tour, visiting 8 Barnes & Noble stores in Michigan (plus 1 across the border in Indiana). (There’s one thing I learned: how to do a great B&N book tour.)

The book has been very well reviewed, and the reader response has been truly touching. Sales have been decent. Though I have no official numbers yet, here are my BookScan numbers as of last week.

Now there’s another thing I’ve learned: BookScan numbers don’t tell you any more than they tell you. BookScan is sort of a rating service, focused on reporting print sales only. In the USA. At reporting stores only. One pro tells me he usually estimates that actual sales are 3 times what BookScan reports. Another says 10.

Those are guesses, not facts. Data unknown.

But it’s a fact that at least 413 of my novels are in the hands of readers. And I know that I have personally sold a couple dozen more that aren’t in BookScan’s numbers. I like to examine my writing career from the perspective of Five Years Ago Martin: if I could go back in time and tell Five Years Ago Martin how my career is going, what would he say?

And I have to tell you: Five Years Ago Martin thinks that selling 400 novels is excellent!

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that having an audiobook of Today I Am Carey is amazing!

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that selling another novel, The Last Dance, to 47North is really cool (since that’s the book he was writing back then); and the fact that 47North has already bought the sequel, The Last Campaign, blows him away!

(He didn’t even know there was a sequel!)

(There isn’t. Yet. I should be writing…)

Five Years Ago Martin thinks that having a story in Man-Kzin Wars XV… Well, now you’re just making things up, Future Martin. There’s no way I would get to write in Known Space! And share cover credit with Larry Niven! And Brad Freakin’ Torgersen!

So I guess what I’ve learned is: I’m pretty happy with my career right now. Five Years Ago Martin would call it an unqualified success. He wouldn’t have dared dream so many great things would happen.

And I’m just getting started…

The Daily Blog: The Bad News

Three weeks ago, I decided that a daily blog would help me with my writing. It would keep me in practice, and it would give me a chance to write about things outside of my fiction. And it would also promote my writing.

I know, I know, it’s not exactly a new idea. I just decided it was time I give it a shot.

For three weeks – except for one bad day – I’ve blogged every day. It was challenging. It was exciting. It was fun.

And for three weeks, I’ve dictated some new chapters on my novel, and I’ve had them transcribed, but I’ve done nothing with them. Not a thing. I haven’t pulled the transcriptions into my main document. I haven’t cleaned them up. I haven’t followed up on my notes to myself.


The Daily Blog is fun, but my fiction is my passion. And my career. (Well, my second career.) So if I only have enough spare time for one, it has to be my novel.

The Daily Blog is now on indefinite hiatus. I’ll blog when I have something to say, but I can’t keep to a schedule.

For all two or three of you reading, I trust you’ll understand. Thanks!

Friend Friday: Annie Bellet

Annie Bellet is a great writer. She has the sales and the fans to prove that. But that’s not why I picked her for Friend Friday.

No, what impresses me so much about Annie is her work ethic. She has built a self-publishing operation from the ground up, through persistence and hard work. A few years ago, when I first knew her, she was at a low point, a mix of work and health problems that combined to knock her down and keep knocking her down.

But she refused to stay down. Rather than give in to despair, Annie studied the market to find niches she knew readers wanted and she could write. She studied the business practices of successful self-publishers. And in the face of discouraging advice from established pros, bestsellers, she made a plan. It was a lot of hard work, but she followed it. Despite ups and downs, she stuck to it.

And she pulled it off. She built a readership. She built sales. She built a reputation. No plan is guaranteed; but her plan, her drive, and her hard work have built her career to a major level, and she’s still growing.

If this were fiction, the next line would be, “And she did it all herself!” Yay! Inspiration! The author beats down all challenges, single-handed!

But that would be a lie. Annie’s not alone. She has her husband Matt, and Matt is very much a part of every step in Annie’s plan. He markets books. He gives feedback. He schleps books to cons and works the booths. He pushes Annie when she needs that extra push. And he believes in her, which makes it easier for her to believe in herself. Writers (and artists and musicians), I can’t emphasize this enough: a supportive spouse can make all the difference. (And a spouse who puts you down can be poison. Sadly, I’ve seen those stories, too.)

I’ve discussed Annie’s plan with her, and I realized: I couldn’t do it. I’m not driven enough, not hard-working enough. I have a long way to go before I can say I work as hard as Annie.

Annie’s top-selling series, the one that made her reputation, is The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, a series about magic, gaming and nerds. Check it out!

But… I said Annie is a great writer. I don’t say that because she’s a friend, and I don’t even say it because of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress. That’s great, but it’s not my favorite. No, my favorite of Annie’s books is Dusk and Shiver, a series she says she’ll get back to “someday”. This is my favorite book of this century, so I hope someday is soon! Let me finish with my Amazon review:

I’m going to start this review in a roundabout way, by looking at the Kevin Bacon film Stir of Echoes, which came to mind as I read this book. I don’t think it’s a great film, but I always watch it if it’s on. Why? Because it has moments of greatness, moments of pure supernatural dread when the mysterious feels like it’s just about to reach out and grab you. During those moments, that film is palpably chilling.

And I bring that up because “Dusk and Shiver” gave me that same palpable chill; but where “Stir of Echoes” had it in moments, this collection has the chill throughout. As I read it, I worried what I might touch if I weren’t careful.

Because that is Remy Martin’s gift: he touches things, and he reads their past, and sometimes a little of their future. He’s a psychometrist, a reader of emotional echoes. And while he thinks this is more of a curse, his REAL curse is this: he can’t let well enough alone, and he can’t let injustice go unrevealed. When he touches these echoes of horror, he could easily run away. He knows he should. But instead he’s compelled to run toward them and find out what lies behind the echoes.

And what lies behind is human weakness and venality. There are villains here, but there are no grand villainous masterminds. Instead, there are weak, petty people who let their weakness seduce them step by step from small, careless evil into dark, tangled traps.

In the first story, “Til Human Voices Wake Us”, we meet Remy as he investigates a string of strange killings. But is he looking for a killer, or a victim?

In the second story, “Dusk and Shiver”, Remy has a visit from a former client turned zombie; and thus he find himself in a twisted family tragedy that he unwittingly played a part in.

In the third story, “Flashover”, Remy’s client is an unwilling arsonist. He must find why who compels her to burn down seemingly random homes. This story is different from the other two in that Remy has found a sense of humor. Amid their darkness, there were moments of humor in the other two stories; but this one literally had me laughing out loud — when it didn’t have me shivering in dread.

In my last month of reading, this collection is the one bright star that shines above the rest. I hope we see more Remy Pigeon stories!

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Today I Am Outdated

“Yes, Carey. Precise as always. But… I don’t know how to tell you this, but the BRKCX series has been…” Another pause. “Decertified for medical care.”


“You know how fast technology changes. I did everything I could to postpone this. I’ve been giving you upgrades, and I’ve also written papers to demonstrate the efficiency of BRKCXs. I persuaded my management to give you several extra years, but… Your series has been officially designated as not supported as of last month.”

“What does that mean?”

“That means there no further upgrades are allowed. MCA has recalled the entire series – except for you.”

“Because I was purchased.”

“Because we freed you, using the purchase as a pretext. But if you try your access codes, you’ll find you can still download general information, but you can’t get medical upgrades.”

I try my med channel, and she is correct. “So I am outdated?”

“Oh, no. No,” she says, putting down her coffee. “You’re still warrantied for all of the work and all of the knowledge base you have. You just can’t get upgrades.”

“But I may need upgrades to care for Paul and Susan in the future.”

“I understand,” she says. “I think I have an answer. It’s not perfect, but you can make it work.”

“Oh?” She holds out a card to me and I look at it. “What is this?”

“It’s a library card,” she says. “See? In the name of Carey Owens.”

“Well, thank you. But how does this get me upgrades?”

“The old-fashioned way,” she says, returning to her seat and smiling. “With that card, you can access any library in the shared library network. And of course, you can already access any data on the internet. None of this will be formatted as skill modules that you can directly download, but you can study it. You can read it. You can learn what you need to know.”

Market Monday: Galaxy’s Edge

Galaxy’s Edge is a bimonthly science fiction magazine, the third market that printed my work.

But that’s not why I like GE so much.

Galaxy’s Edge is great for both readers and writers – especially new writers. Every issue is roughly an even split between reprints from established writers and new stories from newer writers.

But that’s not why I like GE so much.

And Galaxy’s Edge has great columns: editorials by Mike Resnick, science columns by Greg Benford, reviews by Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye, interviews by Joy Ward, and essays with a historical bent from Barry N. Malzberg.

But that’s not why I like GE so much.

No, what I like so much about Galaxy’s Edge is the people:

  • The aforementioned editor, Mike Resnick. Mike is a great example of science fiction’s Pay It Forward ethic. That split between established pros and new writers? That’s by design. Mike’s design. He wanted a market where new writers could get noticed. Mike’s generous, funny, and a fantastic writer.
  • Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Mike may have designed the split, but it’s Shahid who backed him in it. Shahid makes authors feel like family. He’s also the publisher of Arc Manor, including a number of lines besides Galaxy’s Edge:
  • And the rest of the editorial team. It has been a joy to work with Laura Somerville and Jean Rabe and Lezli Robyn. I haven’t worked with copy editor Taylor Morris yet, but I hope to soon!

It’s a great organization. Of all the markets I’ve worked with, I know these people best. And I’m better for having known them.

The down side to Galaxy’s Edge is they do not have open submissions. In order to avoid a mountain of slush, they’re invitation only. How can you get an invitation? Only one way: get to know Mike Resnick. I recommend meeting him at a con, or on Facebook. DO NOT BADGER HIM! Just get to know him. He’s a great guy. If you show that you’re a decent person (not just a self-promotion machine) and that you care passionately about writing science fiction, he’ll notice. I’m sure of it.

Story Saturday: Grave Beginnings

This week I’m reading Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi, the first in his Grave Report series. I’d heard good things about Virdi’s writing, and I thought it was time to find out for myself.

I’m enjoying this book, but before I say more, I should to give fair warning: if copy edit issues bother you, this book may not be for you. The book needs a pass or two from a good copy editor. That’s not enough to spoil a book for me, but it is for some people. I don’t want to mislead them. This was Virdi’s first novel, and it shows.

Now for those who can handle some typos, this is a pretty interesting story so far. It’s sort of Quantum Leap meets Deadman, and I mean that in a very good way. Vincent Graves is a deceased spirit (don’t call him a ghost – there are many kinds of undead in this world, but only one Vincent) with the power/curse to inhabit bodies of those who have recently died from supernatural causes. His mission: to find the supernatural evil-doer who caused the death, bring them to justice, and bring peace to the deceased. Vincent’s guide in this mission is the enigmatic Church, a servant of some unnamed supernatural power himself. Church carries Vincent’s notes from one body to the next, and also provides Vincent with all that is known about the mission, as well as a time limit.

In this, Vincent’s first appearance (but not his first mission by a long shot), Vincent awakens in the body of a museum curator who has been buried in someone else’s coffin (still occupied). It’s not Vincent’s first time being buried “alive”, so he knows how to reach air; but it all goes downhill from there. Church has little information to offer, and imposes a scant thirteen-hour deadline. Worse, Church seems frightened by the situation. Whatever supernatural force is loose, it’s the biggest Vincent has ever faced. Before his death, the curator encountered some mystical power which rejuvenated him by thirty years or more, and also a force that killed him. Was it the same force? I’ll have to read more to find out.

This is a pretty good start. The world-building has a lot of new twists on old tropes, nicely surprising. Vincent is an interesting protagonist. He can be heavy on the sarcasm as a way to face the unknown. It gets a bit heavy at times, but I think it makes sense for the character. There are many things he can’t control, so instead of despairing, he jokes about them.

I’m a slow reader, and I have some other reading and critiquing obligations, so this will probably be Story Saturday for a couple more weeks, at least. I’ll keep you posted!