Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year in Review - Before Christmas!

Yes, most people save their best of lists for the week after Christmas, well, I'll try to have a real one (or two) next week, but for now. Just a few thoughts about the year in review.

Just a thought about the year, for me, it's been a year of trivia. One of the things that makes me born to be a writer, and an amazing conversationalist, is my encyclopedic knowledge of trivia. Not for the sake of anything except for the fact that I love knowing stuff. Not real knowledge of course, you know, like how to fix a car or fix a leaky faucet, but knowledge like knowing rhubarb really means 'barbarian food from near that river in Russia'. 

What else did learn in 2011? Lots of stuff. According to my research (meaning, it appeared on my ‘what your poo is telling you’ desk calendar), the world’s oldest known joke, appearing in some sort of archeological find, goes like this:

“A young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap”

Huh. I hope that isn’t the best the ancient world has to offer. I’m sure if the person writing that down knew it would have been discovered again four thousand years in the future they would have at least tried to make it funnier. I mean, I was pulling off better jokes than that when I was like, five years old. Lame.

But reading about that made me think of another piece of trivia I’d heard, this one was from some scientist guy who said the oldest recipe we've ever recovered was a recipe for Beer!

Oh, and of course, that figures. The oldest written records we have of humans daring to write down their abstract thoughts are recipes for homemade beer and fart jokes.

I was sorta aghast at the thought, then I realized that if some far future archeologist turned up some computer hard drive of a typical person from today, they would probably find it full of porn and cat videos. Then I was more aghast at what a future person would learn about us, I mean, we haven’t just been recycling fart jokes and alcohol recipes for the past 4000 years have we?

Well, when a coworker took a look at the cream cheese cupcakes with chocolate pudding on top that we had yesterday and made a poop joke, I thought the answer has to be yes, because that’s just what we do.

Anyway, I wanted to do a year in review, but found out that I have nothing to review, as I don’t pay that much attention to things as they happen. So here are a few items that I remembered that I think happened this year.

1)      There was some sort of natural disaster made worse by people doing something they probably shouldn’t - People shouldn’t be messing around with the fires of creation. Or, rather, they need to give it its proper respect. A tidal wave striking Japan in the way that it did might be a once a century sort of event, but so what - engineer your NUCLEAR facilities to handle those once a century cataclysms… especially if you expect to use the facility for several decades.

2)      The TV show, The Six-Million Dollar man, yes, it was about a cyborg that battled bionic bigfoots and insane Venusian probes, but in 2011 I looked for it on Netflix and could not find it… I’m not sure who to be angry with, I want to see Steve Austin use his awesome car phone to talk to his boss.

3)      I tried to watch Stargate the TV show, I watched season 1, and a few episodes of season 2. It was hard for me to watch, real hard. I’ll in 2012 to make it through season 2.

4)      I did watch the first 5 seasons of Psych, best show in the universe.

5)      I saw movies at the theater, but I don’t remember any that were so good I might need to force my grandkids to watch them when I’m an old man. Am I forgetting any? I liked the Marvel movies, I liked Cowboys vs Aliens one, all in all, I was a bit underwhelmed.

6) I've realized that outside of writing, reading, and pop science, I have no idea what happened in the world in the past year.

Maybe next year we'll all be jazzed about The Hobbit coming out.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Writing is a way of life, really. I don’t like writing, it’s painful, frustrating, it takes me away from family, it makes me angry when it isn’t going well, it’s awful really. But once I’m done with something I feel like I have to jump in and do it again. I like the pain I suppose. As it stands, I’ve got a half drafted fantasy novel that I’m considering abandoning – this year’s nano – if I can’t re-outline it into something I like better. Right now it’s a bunch of people wondering around and saying, “Hey, this whole world is really weird,” and “Man, we can totally do magic! That doesn’t make any sense.”

Yep, that’s hard core storytelling right there. Especially since these people aren’t visiting this fantasy world, but actually supposed to be living on that world. Ugh.

Easy mistake to make, happens all the time. But that isn't the Invincible Sword of Leboria - that's Glagnar's toothpick.

Part of it must have something to do with world building, or a lack thereof, I started thinking about my teeny little village that was cut off from the larger world and everyone carrying weapons. Well, that means they had to have a forge, and ore, and something to keep the fires burning hot (lots of trees, maybe coal). Ooh, then I thought of a guy with poor eyesight, then that led to optics, and glass blowing, oh, and don’t get me started about clothing, do they have wool? No, I decided, only cows and pigs… so they wear lots of leather. But then I started thinking of home construction, if they are iron poor (which they are), then they don’t have lots of nails, and if they don’t have nails, do they also have iron hinges (yes, I decided, they will). Is that significant? I have no idea. But I spent too much time figuring that stuff out as I wrote. What do I mean, figuring it out as I wrote? Let me explain by using some (made up) example.

“But Ragon can’t be the town’s only Smith, what if he were injured? Or he died?”

“I know,” Platt said, “but it’s true. We can’t support another Smith, the apprenticeship takes too long, and we need all the able bodied men to help with the harvest.”

Julie frowned. “But the harvest isn’t all year round, surely someone could apprentice for much of the year, and then help in harvest time. It doesn’t make any sense to go without.”

It was Platt’s turn to frown now. He hadn’t seen the poor logic before then. “You’re right.  There is no reason for Ragon to be toiling away without an apprentice. He must be hiding something, making up lies in order to continue working in secret.”

Oh, I can’t write anymore. It’s awful. Now imagine approximately 200 pages of what I’m now calling “plotting through dialog,” which is what happens when I chuck my outline, or even follow it, but miss a major plot hole, which gets discovered during my extended character interactions. I’ll just write it out and move on, and come back later to fix. But when more and more of the time spent writing is really just me plotting, or figuring out the world building, then I know I have a problem, I’ve not thought my story out well enough.

So, that’s where I’m at with that. I do think I’m going to give the novella I wrote late in the summer another editing pass. It’s that one I’ve complained about intermittently that starts as an epistolary tale before sliding into a traditional first person narrative. The problem I’ve been having is I like both methods of storytelling in general, and in particular, I think both serve to help me tell the story I want to… but something about putting the two together, unintentionally, bothers me. I don’t know, maybe it’s like the discovery of penicillin, or a peanut butter and chocolate thing… serendipity that leads to greatness.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sky High

I've seen some pretty skies of late. Thought I would share

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bah Humbug Blahgfest

Grumpy Bulldog, formerly a Doctor, now a secret agent, is hosting the Bah Humbug Blahgfest and asked for 12 things about the holiday season that I hate…Be sure to check his blog for a list of all the other participants, as he has a list of all of them there. Okay then, here we go.

12) Irregular television programming: It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, but as recently as the 90’s, if you turned on the tv to watch Seinfeld at Christmas time you might end up having to see something like A Dianna Ross Christmas special. Or you want to catch the Misfits of Science and what is on instead? Rudolph and Prancer: A Love Story. Argh. Even if it’s shows I already watch, they’ll do this Christmas episode that gets needlessly sappy and weak. I’m waiting for a Christmas episode of Stephen Hawking’s Universe where he discusses Santa and the physics of worldwide present delivery. Ugh, I dread it already.

11) Crowds: My son’s headphones died and I need to get them replaced because they are under warranty at Best Buy. Well, try doing that at Christmastime. It’s like waiting in line to get Superbowl tickets. Lines go back for as far as the eye can see at every counter, the wait time is hours. I just want the damn headphones. I’m not purchasing a new stove for delivery on Christmas eve to grandma’s house… with a bow on top. Just give me my fµƆʁing headphones!!!... Sorry, I had a moment of anger there. My point, I don’t like the crowds.

10) Traffic: Of course, getting to Best Buy in the first place took an hour longer than it should have. But so does everything else. For 11 months out of the year I think I live in the perfect spot. A quiet neighborhood with a nice yard, but will all the luxuries of city life, movie theaters, shopping, restaurants, within minutes of my front door…. Except I can’t get milk at the gas station in December without fighting gridlock on the roads first, it reminds me of people evacuating a natural disaster, except there is no disaster, just cars everywhere.

9) The Weather: I hate the cold. Usually, March through November is tolerable, but December is when it gets bad. I get depressed and beg for relief. Please let global warming just give me this one thing: A toasty Christmas.

8) Presents: Not real, meaningful ones, but the crap people give out of obligation. $3 jewelry and $5 gift cards to Frank’s Tire Emporium. Billions are wasted every year on this future landfill.

7) Ungrateful Recipients: You know, I had to fight traffic for 4 hours, and stand in line for 90 minutes to get your stupid gift card for Frank’s Tire Emporium, be grateful. It was the only place open. Deal with it.

6) The Music: I don’t really like Christmas music. When I hear it piped through the speakers at the dentist’s office, the grocery store, the lobby of my office building, every other blog I follow, I just don’t care. My ears glaze over and I shut it out. If the music were that good, people would listen to it all year round.

My son say's he's a genius
5) Rap Music: Originally, this spot was for people who were a little too much into the Christmas spirit, but I was having a hard time making my point. Then I thought, what do I really hate most about this time of year? And it hit me, Rap music. Now, Rap music is something I hate worse than Christmas music, that I can’t funnel it into a mere month long period of time makes it worse. But no, my son thinks Rap is great, and his mission in life is to present me with a rap song I will like. I have honestly broken down and started shouting at him over it. He just won’t give up, and they all keep on sucking. Why do I hate it, well, at first it was just a general, “it’s not my thing” but as I’ve been exposed to it more and more I’ve grown to hate it like I hate very few things in my life. I hate a whole genre of music now, that’s a lot of hate. Thanks son.

4) The Religious Aspect: Okay, back to Christmas stuff. I know, the whole point of Christmas is that it’s about the birth of Jesus – but here’s the thing - it isn’t. It’s more like someone took every wintertime celebration they could find during the middle ages, threw them into a blender, drank it, and pooped out Christmas. I would think most Christians would want Christ taken out of the holiday, it seems… I don’t know, disrespectful. I like the story that Odin would fly through the sky on his 8 legged horse on a great hunt, and children would leave treats for him by their hearth as he passed by their house at night. In gratitude, he would leave them presents in return, well, that’s familiar. There are tons of Christian traditions that are more ancient still, but the point I’m making is that the Christmas traditions most of us know now has nothing to do the Jesus. Doesn’t it cheapen the experience to throw him in there? Either way, when people start getting up in arms about it being this super holy Christian holiday I have to disagree.

3) The Secular Complaining: Taking the nativity off of government funded facilities. Ridiculous. If my courthouse erected a 17 foot tall totem every year in honor of a Native American holiday I wouldn’t care about that either. Granted, I might not be happy if they are spending money on it – I’d rather see them spend money on better public transportation, or fixing pot holes - but the thing about taxation is that you don’t really get to dictate what they spend your money on, because it isn’t your money after the government gets it, it’s theirs, they can do what they want. There are limits for sure, but those little nativity scenes have not crossed any lines.

2) People Who Don’t Celebrate: Party poopers. Every one.*

1) Me: Yes, much like that guy from the movie with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, I have reserved the final judgment for myself. For complaining so much.

And that’s pretty much it. Just so we all know, there is a lot I love about the holiday too. But that wouldn’t be in keeping with the spirit of the blahgfest, but rest assured. I find enjoyment at this time of year.

*not everyone. I can make exceptions for those with deep seated emotional scars that stem from some holiday tragedy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scientists: What A Bunch of Weirdos

Yesterday was a big day in the world of Science, and by big, I mean huge. It was the day for the Higgs Boson announcement.
So, okay, um, pretend my finger is gravity, and, um, my other finger is, er, a battleship... wait

If you’re not sure why that might be a big deal then let me explain. Some scientists in the physics community have hated Einstein for years, decades even. They have worked as hard as possible to help disprove his theories of special and general relativity and in the past few months, have taken it to a new level.

Yes, those feeble minds have been taking it on faith that he is wrong, and have been thinking that way since the thirties. Why? Well for the obvious reason is that if his theories are correct, then quantum theory has to be wrong… of course the great paradox of modern physics is that both theories have been shown to be correct to the extent of our abilities to test them. However, they contradict one another.

First, the anti-Einsteinians fabricated that giant hubbub about FTL neutrinos. Now a race is underway to duplicate the results of the experiments that turned out those bizarre results. All I have to say about that is, if correct, that would also invalidate quantum theory as well. So don’t expect those new results to confirm the old

So, what did those bastards do next? They had to have this big press conference yesterday where they went on and on about finding the Higgs boson. What is that? Well, it’s quantum theory’s lame attempt to explain the existence of gravity. It isn’t a curvature of spacetime like what Einstein described, oh no, it’s these little force carriers (hence the term, boson) that gives all matter in the universe its mass.
Einstein also debated physics with Richard Nixon... and maybe smoked a lot of pot

I know, stupid, right?

Anyway, this big conference is held, most of the world’s scientific media is there for the announcement that they found it. The Higgs is real! The Higgs is real! They start discussing all their results and finally the lower the bombshell… they have found the Higgs Boson.

Maybe. Well, actually, no, they haven’t found a thing, but you know, it might be there.

Because really, they aren’t sure, they need another year to see. So that’s it, that is the big announcement. A big whomping maybe. I think those relativity deniers need to go back to the drawing board and come up with something good and quit trying to make up whatever comes to mind and announcing it as a big fact. I mean, the press conference ended with a standing ovation for crying out loud… They didn’t find out anything new!*

Here is my attempt at reproducing a similarly absurd press conference in another setting.

“Thank you for coming, I’m sure you’re all eagerly awaiting the results of a great discovery in our Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. As you know, we’ve been looking for signs of radio signals from the stars that show signs of non-human intelligence in the wider universe. Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve had a surprising and thrilling result in our search.”

<insert 40 minutes of history of SETI, lots of charts, graphs and technical data>

“Today, we stand before you, my team and I, and proudly announce that we can finally say with a high degree of certainty, that if there are intelligent beings living on plant Gliese 22b, then we can’t find them. Thank you, have a nice day.”

Big whoop.

Sigh. I hope everyone understands that the above is all tongue in cheek. Finding the Higgs boson would actually be a pretty big deal. It isn’t called the ‘God particle’ for nothing**. If there is ever a hope for artificial gravity, real artificial gravity, not the kind that is contingent on centripetal force, then it would come from manipulating the Higgs field, er, that’s the magical theoretical field that allows the bosons to work.

So, I love my science, but I’ve never been a huge fan of quantum theory where it overlaps with relativity, it’s very inelegant and doesn’t offer a lot of insight. So I’m honestly not sure what to make of this should it turn out to be true.

Sorry Einstein, the world is against you.

Yes they did
**Yes it is.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Problem With Moving South

I'm a little behind, as always, but just in case everyone missed these pictures that hit the internet in the last few weeks, please take a look at this:
I'm eating a finger for dessert
In case you don't know what that is, it's a big assed bug. It's eating a carrot. It could easily be a man's arm though. This is proof that monster's do exist.
Also, I hear all these wonderful things about New Zealand and then something like this pops up and you realize that if their bugs are this big, then their alligators must be Godzilla sized.

Actually, if you've watched the extended editions of the LoTR movies then you've probably seen these in the extras. But the one I've pictured above set a record for its size. It's ridiculous.

Read more:

Don't forget Grumpy Bulldog is having his grumpfest on Thursday. If you're the sort that likes to complain, then please sign up so you can vent about the holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Not Possible

I had this 3k word long post prepared about the coming destruction of society, and maybe humanity, but after reading it again I decided it needs another pass or two before I can let that one see the light of day. I go to some dark places there.

So, instead, I want to point out that I worked (wasted) my weekend trying to expand my horizons by entering the 3D art workplace.

Well, I don't want to chalk that up as a loss yet, but I did not have a good time. I got Poser 9 recently, thinking I could design and build 3D figures. I chose this program because it was relatively cheap and supposedly, great for beginners.

Sigh. I have no idea what I was doing, but I was not creating art, it was not user friendly, and in a lot of ways, extremely frustrating, not to mention, buggy, as it crashed many times, deleting my progress each time.

So I have nothing to show for all my work, nothing. If I knew it would have been like this I would have just gotten Blender or something, at least that one is free. But, I'll be trying it some more, which is why I'm not ready to call it a loss yet. A lot of my frustration is that they seem to be pushing me to use the prebuilt models, which doesn't feel very artistic to me.

Oh well.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Right Here!

Just a quick note to everyone out there. I am on Goodreads. I like the site, and I've been there for a while now. But man, do I suck at making friends. So please, find me and friend me there. Unless you already have, in which case, thank you.

Also, if you are a writer, or hope to be, I really do think the episode of the Simpsons that aired a few weeks ago is an absolute must see. Grumpy (who used to be a doctor - now a secret agent), made mention of it recently and I watched it. It really was great. Lisa is determined to write a novel and... oh, just watch it. I've went through the trouble to embed the thing so you don't even have to go looking for it. So take 25 minutes or so, relax and enjoy.

But don't wait too long to watch, I'm sure they'll disable it at some point in the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writers, Christmas Edition

I hope we all know the routine by now. Alex J Cavanaugh started the Insecure Writers Support group a few months ago as a chance for all of us to vent our fears/frustrations about writing and to encourage one another. So, please go sign up, or, if you’re one of those writers that doesn’t struggle with confidence, then go and encourage all your fledgling brethren.

Last month, Nancy, who is a mental health expert in the real world, mentioned that the imposter syndrome plagues many people. But then I was thinking, does it still count when you have imposter syndrome but you've not had any success either?

A lot of this goes back to knowing your station in life. I spent many of my formative years living with relatives, grandparents, aunts and uncles, before my mother scrounged up the funds to put us in a sweet little trailer on a farm.

I’m not sure of the relationship we had with the farm owners, but we eventually wore out our welcome and had to move. We took that trailer and found a place that was nestled between lots of country, a few nice homes, and yet another farm. We plopped that trailer down on a very small plot of land that had been slivered off from the many acres of grasses and pasture and we lived there through all my middle school years.

Except for that nagging feeling like I didn’t belong. I always felt like I was that one kid, the one who was living in the wrong zip code. Others belonged and I did not. Never could shake that feeling - my whole life, just thinking that I didn’t belong, no matter where I was. I had to know my place.

I was well into adulthood before I realized that the problem might have just been with me. I’ve always enjoyed diagnosing myself as suffering from an assortment of behavioral disorders, and despite not knowing anything at all about disorders, and usually resorting to making up conditions to classify myself to fit in, I feel like I’m pretty dead on.

Example: did you know that I suffer from Conflictarian Rousal and Avoidance disorder? It’s where I find the situation with the highest drama, completely involving other people, and firmly insert myself into the middle of it, then do everything I can to not be involved.  

It’s a disorder, I have no control.

Anyway, you get the idea. Well, I have also diagnosed myself with the disorder I’ve named, “Social Aversion and Discordance Disorder," the acronym is S.A.D.D., which is cool, but also I’m sure had been taken by some drunk driving campaign, and I don’t want to confuse people, so I changed it to:

“Social and Hierarchal Aversion Temperament?” There, the name is less cool, but I like the acronym better.

Yes, I have S.H.A.T.
This will totally keep people from knowing I'm crazy!

What does that mean? Well, as I started to mention earlier, before I got sidetracked, is that I always feel like I have no business even trying to do the things I do. I feel guilty, yes, guilty for wanting to be a writer. Look, people around me in real life are generally supportive, if a bit confused about why I would choose to do something like this with my free time. But they don’t discourage me, the opposite really. So why do I feel this way, why do I feel bad about writing, about hoping to write even more?

I have no idea. Does it have something to do with my childhood? The more I think about it the more I think I would have felt this way no matter my upbringing. I mean, it sounds so lame that a farmer forcing my mother to move when I was a kid was that big a deal, I moved a couple of times a year up until I got to middle school. That wasn't that big a deal, and it sounds like a pretty lame excuse. No, I was just born this way. I’m insecure, yes, I have S.H.A.T., but I haven’t let that stop me for moving on anyway.

So, here’s to feeling like I can belong. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Last Sales Update

From time to time, I like to post my sales figures, just to let people know where I stand in regards to the relative success of my short story I’ve posted on various online ebook outlets. I think information should be free and freely available, shared and all that.

That’s kind of a guiding principal in my life, I tend to share stuff to people if they ask, and I like knowing stuff. Not necessarily anyone’s personal business, but things that are kept arbitrarily secret for no real reason bugs me some.

However, it was brought to my attention recently that publishing my sales figures could very well be a breach of the terms of service for those aforementioned ebook retailers, and they would be perfectly within their rights to pull my measly little short story and shut down my seller account.

Along with my desire to see information be free, I am somewhat pragmatic, and don’t have a burning desire to rail against the world for my terms of service agreement, which I did, after all, agree to. Not real sure I could expect to sway too many people to my way of thinking on this one, so I’m nipping this in the bud and caving to the draconian demands of my ebook selling overlords: No future sales numbers from me.

Also, on an unrelated note, I got an email from Amazon letting me know that my ebook will be available in Italy. I’m not saying that they opened up the whole country just for my little short story that has sold XX number of copies. But there is a bit of a spaghetti western vibe going on there, and I’d like to think they saw some potential and so decided to give it a go.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Harry Potter

I had an internet free weekend. It was weird. I didn't write anything, again, weird. The teenager waltzed in and asked if I wanted to watch the Harry Potter movies this weekend. So we sat around and watched them. It took most of Saturday and Sunday to get through them all, so I did pretty much nothing at all. It was quite nice, and I can see why so many people like doing it. It was pretty awesome.

I had a few thoughts. First, the movies are better than I thought. I know, everyone loved them. I never did. I always felt that with having already read the books, a newcomer would be lost trying to follow the rather involved plot that runs through the series. Especially later, when the books got thick and there was lots of information the viewer needed to understand what was happening.

Having read the books, not such a big deal for me, but still, I just like the books so much more, The movies are mere shadows compared to the novels.

But, I've pretty much seen them in theaters and never again. So watching them together was nice, as the teen doesn't want to hang around with me as much as he used to. That it's been several years since I read the books means that I don't have that chronology running around inside my head at the moment either. I figured, why not?

So, for the first time, I watching them as movies, and nothing else. And I liked them, well, I liked them except for the first two, which seemed a bit too, um, I don't know, kiddie, to me. They smiled too much, there were too many wacky hijinks. I found I didn't really like Dumbledore much then either.

But by the time we got to number three things turned awesome in a hurry. The series got darker, the threat of Whatshisname got serious. I did the wikipedia thing to see what was written about the direction and learned that Chris Columbus directed the first two, and intended to do all of them. He got burnt out and said he'll just produce. That saved this series, if they'd all been in the same style as the first two I don't think I could have stuck it out.

But anyway, it's all history now. So, I've provided for you, my favorites, in order:

The Prisoner of Azkaban
Deathly Hallows Pt I
The Order of the Phoenix
The Half-Blood Prince
Deathly Hallows Pt II*
The Goblet of Fire
The Chamber of Secrets
The Sorcerer's/Philosophers's Stone

Happy Monday, for those of you that think Monday can be good.

*Confession, I didn't watch PtII this weekend. I was going to, but I didn't. I'll watch it thing week. I'm basing my enjoyment of that one on my movie going experience, and since I've already explained that I liked them much more this weekend, my opinion might change about that one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

News, Notes, and Nubbins

I had a great time with Ciara Night's blog hop yesterday. Many of the authors found their books. Please stop by her blog and find out how others did.

First Item: That's right. I won the crap out of Nano this year. I think that makes it lucky number 7 for me. I'd have to go back and look to be sure, but I think that's right.

It was the most difficult year to date for me. I chucked my outline a few paragraphs in and that made it tough. I managed to squeak into that glorious winner's circle by churning out many thousands of words in the final days. Take a look at the nifty nano word count stats below to glean what wisdom you can from my ordeal. As you can see I was behind the pace almost from the very beginning. Well, really I guess I fell off the wagon at around day 5. I nearly quit around day 20, but I decided that even if I didn't make it, I wasn't going to go out a quitter. So I plugged away and during the last week I think I hit a stride of sorts. I'm not quite halfway through the story and am definitely taking a few days to do other things before I start writing again.

Item 2: Dr Grumpy himself has decided to get into the whole blogfest thing. Not by merely participating of course, but by hosting one, he's giving out prizes and everything. Please stop by, say hello, and sign up. Let's see, I don't think he has an official linky thing up.So comment HERE and I'm sure you'll be counted as in the running.

That's real money that will be changing hands there folks, real money.

In case you're curious, and can't be bothered to check the link above, the blogfest is dedicated to Christmas. Wait, scratch that, Dr. Grumpy has a vendetta against that word. It's a blogfest dedicated to the holidays, specifically, the twelve things you most hate about the season.

I know, how can I possibly narrow it down to only twelve. Just kidding. It gives us all permission to vent a little about some of the more annoying aspects of the holiday season.

The Nubbins: Yes, just one last thing. I've put off a lot of stuff over the past month, and will be feverishly working on some of the things I've put off doing over the next few weeks. So everyone, if you're waiting on me to do something that I've promised I was going to do. I'll be getting my butt in gear in December.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did I Notice Your Book?

The lovely Ciara Night graciously asked me if I'd like to be a part of her 'Did I Notice Your Book' blogfest today, and I couldn't say yes fast enough.

To put it plainly. I'm tasked with putting a book I've noticed recently up on my blog, and seeing if the author notices my post. Sounds like tons of fun. It's also a grand experiment in how memes can spread. Ciara has been doing this for a while now, and a surprisingly high percentage of authors eventually find their books, even without knowing anything about the blog post before the day begins.

The blogfest is highlighting authors from several genres, please visit Ciara's blog today to see how well this experiment plays out.

My genre? Science Fiction.

My choice, well, it was tough. I had something in mind right from the beginning, then thought better of it and chose another book from another author, then changed my mind again and again. In the end I went through about 5 or 6 books before I settled on one.

So, without further adieu:

Neanderthal Swan Song, by Rick Novy

From the blurb:
The world of anthropology would have been excited when a perfectly preserved Neanderthal body is discovered in the Greenlandic permafrost, if authorities would allow the details out. When an American anthropologist involved in the excavation is denied access to the body, she uses an illicit tissue sample as source material to carry the Neanderthal’s clone to term herself.

Meet Ike Mudge, twenty-first-century Neanderthal man. Self-educated and raised in a laboratory thirty-thousand years out of his time, he is alone in a world of billions. Will it drive him insane, or will he make a final contribution for his kind–a Neanderthal Swan Song?

For what it's worth, this book sounds amazing to me. So, Rick, if you're out there, please drop me a line in the comments below and let me know that you found your book profiled here today, and how you discovered it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Trying Real Hard...

... But stuff keeps happening in real life that tries to derail me from writing. I'm at around 42k words and am running out of time to get the word count I wanted to for the month, which I'm sure you've already guessed is 50k.

All the other novels I've ever written have been in the 60-70k range when done. Very short. This one is shaping up to be a much longer project. Hard to tell though, I may end up cutting a lot. But I'm thinking it will still be around 120k when done. Long by my standards. And I think at the upper limits of what any publisher would even look at for a paper book from a unknown author.

So, here's hoping I have a couple of days free of too many other distractions, because... damn... you just wouldn't believe the stuff that's been happening.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

If You Are a Turkey, Let Me Start By Telling You How Sorry I Am

For those of us here in the States, it's Thanksgiving. A day that was ordained long ago that we must eat Turkey and watch football. Funny, I really don't like Turkey. Don't know why we eat it so much this time of year, they're difficult to prepare and are often dry, breeding grounds for bacteria, and of course, make me sleepy.

What I find interesting is that they have been bred to have such large breasts that it encumbers their ability to live a normal life. Yes, those butterball turkeys are so malformed that they can no longer breed in nature.

Every turkey in an American supermarket was artificially inseminated. Every. Single. One*. Because they literally, cannot do so on their own - they're too big to have sex. In fact, forget sex, many of the Turkeys sold in supermarkets are so large that they can't even walk.

With a name like that, it's hard to say no.
I mean, they don't even taste that good. That's what gets me. Granted, I have had one or two amazing birds over the years, but I don't want to appear to be waffling on the issue. I'm making a stand. I'm going to buy what is called a 'legacy turkey.' That's a bird that has been allowed to be breed naturally, one that is several times smaller than the typical thanksgiving bird. Because I'm a good person, it's important to me.

Well, hang on. Some of them can cost up to $9 a pound. WTF? Forget it then. I'm not going to pay $100 for a skinny bird. I don't care that much.

Enjoy the holiday folks. I'm thankful for much. Be happy.

*That's totally untrue. I'm just trying to make it more black an white here. You know, for drama.  But most of them are.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Check it out... I'm Batman:

I actually laughed at this. Honestly laughed. That doesn't happen too often.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Look! Stuff!

I like history. Probably because it's like time travel, except without the actual travel part. So it's like time, except past time. You know, history.

Damn. I'm sure everyone sees why I dream of being a writer. That's some good stuff right there.

Anyway, I like history, it's full of stuff that's usually way weirder than fiction. I know it's a cliche, but it's true, real stuff is way more bizarre. I think the reason fiction works so well is that it allows us a sense of justice, or closure, or whatever, that we rarely see in real life. No, in real life, nice people get struck by lightning on their honeymoon and die. Or the biggest ass in town wins $43 million in the lottery and makes all the people he's bullied and spat on his whole life suffer even more. Because that's real life (Ironically, I made up the one about the lottery, I couldn't think of anything else off the top of my head).

Whoa, I didn't mean to take this to such a dark place. All that is just to say I found the National Archives Flickr stream yesterday and spent some time being mesmerized. Please, go waste your time there just as I have mine.

Global Warming: Totally Natural

Too many jokes... I can't choose between them! 

Retirement home my ass. They put granny in a sweatshop

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Nano Disaster

A metaphor for my novel
That's a strong word - disaster. I'll just call it a bit of an oversight. You see, a large portion of what I thought was the plot for my current story is actually not a plot. Yeah, I know, a rookie mistake. I thought I had a this great meta-story and then this really good personal story to tell. You know, love and betrayal, all that.

Well, that meta-story is really more like a backdrop. You know, like WWII isn't a plot for most novels, it's something that's going in the background while the actual plot unfolds.


I'm not writing a literary novel, and I don't think I can carry the story using just the love pentagon I've developed. Sigh. Problems problems.

Even when I take the day off work, Monday's still find a way to suck.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Quickie

Folks, just imagine what could have been...


Friday, November 18, 2011

Me, The 90's, and Potential

I have a funny story to tell, funny because while it’s true, and not funny, it’s illustrative of how other people perceive me. Or did at one time. 

Pretty much at the apex of my life
At a time of my life when I was still pretty young, early 20’s I guess, I was a bit of a wonderer. I was drifting along through life (I still am, if I’m being honest with myself here) without any real direction. At the time I worked in a gas station. The gas station was filled with people who had lots of other interests and tons of things that filled their out of work hours.

Let’s see, two guys were in a band that had just gotten signed to a record label and were on the verge of breaking it big.

Two guys had just graduated from college and were football players. One in particular was a QB who had dreams of playing in the NFL – he had an agent, offers on the table to play in the arena league and wrapped up his collegiate career as a pretty successful player.

One of my best friends, who had gotten me the job there, was in a band as well, they were just signed to a record label too. In fact, they were signed to, what was at the time, the largest record label in the world (well, a small label that was owned by the largest label in the world). They knew they weren’t budgeted to be superstars, but they had their foot in the door. Again, it was a big deal.

One day, my good friend and I were chatting about things, the future, what we’re going to be doing in life, you know, when you don’t have any real responsibilities and don’t know that the odds aren’t in your favor. He says to me, “Have you ever thought about how much talent we have here at the store?”


“Well,” he said, “think about it, we’ve got Andre, Chris, Scottie, (all discussed above), I feel pretty good about my chances… and yours too.”

“Me?” I asked. “I’m not even playing much anymore.” A reference to my guitar playing.

“Yeah,” he said. “But you’ll do something great.”

And that was that. I never forgot that conversation. He was sincere, and I was touched. I lost touch with most of the guys, except for being Facebook buddies. But none of us, except for him possibly, really achieved anything close to what we’d envisioned. Later on, at his wedding, he introduced me at the rehearsal dinner to the rest of his rather large party as, “the smartest guy I’ve ever known. Go ahead, ask him anything you want to about Star Trek.”

Yeah, that's sounds like something he would say. Good times. In some ways, it was probably close to the high point of my life, in regards to having friends, having no worries, and feeling that the world was my oyster. 

Sigh. I love my life now. But something 'great' hasn't just fallen in my lap. Here's hoping that I'm just a late bloomer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Add A Caption!

I know, it's stupid. I'm a sucker for this type of stuff though. So please someone add a caption for the picture below (which I whipped up a few months ago for another blog post.).

I have wasted entire days, days, looking at those damn 'add a caption' contests. I don't know why, but for some reason I just have this need, it comes from deep within, and I need to add captions to all pictures. 

It's a curse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Started Poorly Then Got Worse...

After yesterday's rant, I had the brief inkling to continue to air my grievances today, but thought better of it at the last moment. I've got a list of things that infuriate me about the world that's a mile long. I could post every day about it, but it makes me miserable. So instead, I figure I'd throw something out there about the state of my writing.

After the full manuscript of my novel was summarily rejected by one big time publisher, I queried a big six publisher and cringe at the crappy query I sent. Really should have proofread that one one more time Still waiting for that next rejection.

A Dead God's Wrath is still hanging around there in the ebook world. Sales to date look like this:

Kindle          Barnes & Noble          Smashwords
25                            6                             2

For a grand total of 33 copies. I'm still pretty pleased with it. I think most of the sales have been to people who stop by the blog on occasion. I do realize I'm a crappy marketer, and would probably do better if I forgot the whole blogging/twitter thing and just wrote more. But I kind of like where I'm at right now with that. I enjoy reading the blogs I follow and I think I write about as much as the family will allow.

I do think I'm going to try to put something else up for sale in an e-format soon. Probably. I'll give it a few weeks for certain, I was listening to a podcast tonight and I started really thinking about why I'm sitting on so much stuff, I have short stories (a few anyway), novels, all sorts of stuff that I've been sitting on for a long time. Most of those need some editing work, which I think is at the heart of why I've not already done that part, as I am not a huge fan of editing. For me it's the difference between designing race cars and being a mechanic. One is a dream come true and the other is what you have to do for the damn thing to work.

So I need to do a lot more of the mechanic type stuff for a while. When nano is over this year I'll dive right into that.

There has been some push back from a number of authors in regards to pricing, as that race to the bottom seems to have, well, bottomed out. First, I saw a very minor author (meaning, they have a small following of fans that will buy anything they produce) selling novellas for $2.99 and it surprised me. Then I heard an interview with another author, one that has no professional sales to their credit, that is selling short stories for $2.99 and doing so with no fanfare, several pen names (for different genres) and no marketing at all on their part, and selling in the hundreds of copies per month. The latter mentioned in the interview that they saw a bump in sales of one of their novels when they raised their novel price to around $5. The logic being that the perceived quality of the cheaper priced book was poor, but when the pricing got closer to what a reader would expect for a professional product then they were more likely to buy. Weird.

So, two instances don't equal a trend, but I'm thinking of playing with my pricing some. I don't think I could ever justify selling something like A Dead God's Wrath for $2.99, I don't think it holds that kind of value. But I also don't think I can really run an experiment with only one data point either. That brings me back to my need to have something else out there.

Anyway, I'm just thinking with my fingers at the moment, typing away, and avoiding working on my nano novel. My town constable has been attacked and carried off by an unnamed assailant. I suppose I should go back and write his death... or not. It's a plot twist I'm anxious to reveal. One of many. So much fun to be had there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It Started So Innocently But Then...


What a rant! I don't know where this came from. Sorry team, we'll try to do better tomorrow.

I think I’ve talked about Neal Stephenson before, actually, I know I have, I just can’t remember when (or which posts), and I don’t really want to talk about him again today except for what it means for my larger topic. He did, however, write of the most brilliantly odd books I’ve ever read in Cryptonomicon, which is a genre defying novel about a code breaker in WWII and his grandson in the present day, both kinda sorta on the hunt for the same thing. Flat out awesome. Drop what you’re doing and go read it quick, before others find out and mock you.

Of course, at a solid 1000 pages long, I’m not sure you can read it real quick, but do what you can.

Anyway, I have plans to read all his books at some point, and have one still sitting on my shelf that I picked up in the great Borders’s fire sale of 2011, but I’ve also got around 50 other books on my shelf I got then as well, it might be a while before I get to it.

Now, what was my point? Oh yes, I heard an interview with him the other day and he mentioned offhandedly about how America has shied away from mega-engineering projects for quite some time.

Also, it's a Star Destroyer!
And boy, did lights start going off in my head.  It’s true, oh so true. My first thought was the James-Webb space telescope. To put it bluntly, it’s the most awesome thing in the history of mankind, and it’s up for debate right now on whether or not it will ever fly. This was designed to be the replacement to Hubble and would be another giant leap forward in our understanding of the cosmos. It’s entering its home stretch in the assembly process, it’s over budget, it’s behind schedule, and it’s almost done. I blame those who budgeted the thing, but only partially. The thing is cutting edge, and we’re pushing the limits of technology, and in some cases, were counting on technologies that didn’t exist when the plans were being drawn up for the thing. It’s an impressive piece of engineering. The reason it might not fly however, is not an engineering one, it's a political one. The funding might get pulled now, in the 11th hour.

The shuttle program… gone. There is a replacement program in the works, but some insiders are doubtful that it will come to fruition. I personally feel like the shuttle program was a mistake anyway, but that’s a different topic. I don’t think ending a program with nothing concrete in the works is a good idea.
It would have been that big!

Anyone remember the superconducting supercollider? The U.S. spent tons of money on this project back in the 80’s and was far enough along in construction in the early 90's that shutting the program down was nearly as expensive as just finishing the damn thing (not really, but it was very expensive). It would have dwarfed the large hadron collider that had so many folks believing the world would end when it opened for business last year.

Even stuff as small scale (relatively speaking) as skyscrapers, the replacement towers for the world trade center got me thinking of when the last truly grandiose skyscraper was built in the U.S. When I was a kid most of the tallest, most awe inspiring structures in the world were the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower in Chicago. I know a lot of the reasons that we don’t continue to build bigger buildings are political – like a beautiful San Francisco building proposal was nixed because it violated height restrictions within the city – and there are federal regulations that would prevent anything similar to the giant tower in Dubai from being duplicated anywhere in the U.S.
Well, now that I look at it, it does look a bit... gaudy

I think the whole thing is depressing. I want to see a base on the moon, a trip to mars, a Manhattan type project to build a space elevator, or a maglev from Florida to Australia. I want to see miles wide solar cells high in orbit beaming down energy to the earth, or a plan to wipe out smallpox... wait, they may have done that one.

I wonder if those big dreams were part of the WWII mindset that carried over into the cold war. It was a time when using atomic weapons as a propellant for space craft wasn’t just a crazy idea, it was tested and ready to implement. Then it all came to a halt.

I want it back. I want us to do something big, so challenging that it might not work. The funny thing is, the main reason given is that it costs too much, that these projects are too much a financial burden, it would be foolish to waste our money on them.

To those who say that, I say you’re wrong. We spend more money on air conditioning in Iraq then we spend on NASA in a year*. I’m not making a political statement (as any discussion about congressional money quickly becomes), I’m just saying we spend money, lots of it, on things that don’t matter that much in the big picture.

The reason for me is two fold, 1) corporations are only interested in their quarterly earnings. Long term projects are those that take 2 or 3 years. We won't see any decades long research coming out of a publicly traded company, there is no money in it.

2) Governments. That's the only way to get really large scale projects done. They actually hire publicly traded corporations to do the big projects, it's inefficient, costs are hugely inflated, and corruption abounds, but it gets done (years late and way over budget). Except politicians are under more and more scrutiny, and they think of long term as their next election cycle, which means a 20 year project to get my ass to mars won't happen there either. They're more likely to make a big deal out of spending money that could be used to feed orphaned tuna is being wasted sending squirrels into space. Space science gets cut, the orphan tuna still starves, but people think that they're being frugal.

The end result. I think we're screwed.  

*What is more profound to me, the total amount of dollars spent on NASA since it's inception in the late 50's totals around $500 billion. A lot, but we've spent about two and a half that amount on the U.S. war on terror.