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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Abyss Is Looking at Me Weird

Yes, I need to edit this more (I've only been rewriting it for half an hour (ugh!).

"There's always been ships lost to the void. Blamed on navigational error, micro-meteoroids, solar flares... in the days of ships in water they wrote "Here There Be Dragons" at the edges of the maps, and once men made it to the edge, they moved the tag to the in-between the known areas. The big back is all in-between."

This is why I need to write out the crappy first draft and then go back to edit, instead of edit while you go along. Not happy with it, love the feeling behind it. Need to merge the two more.

Oh, and there's a bit about insurance and co-payments. If that shouldn't strike fear in the modern reader, I don't know what could.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What I Did Friday Night

First off, we didn't get home until around 1:40am. I'm old, that's way too late for an old fogey like me. It's taken me most of the weekend to recoup.

As some of you know, we went to see Jeff Dunham down at the Stambaugh Auditorium in wonderful, scenic, Youngstown.

It was a good show. We went to the 10pm (by the time we found out the 7pm show was mostly sold out). We were up in the gallery, which they hadn't changed the seats from the original wood ones (just a little too short, but at least they had room from side to side, on the floor and in the Balcony they had nice cooshy seats). The show was pretty good. The warm-up guy (The Guitar Guy) took some warming up to, but he ended his set strongly. Then Jeff came out and did his shtick. About half was material we had already seen, another 40% was material he was working on for his Xmas Special (of which, in case you don't know, to be available in late November, early December, must finish shooting sometime in July) or stuff he changed slightly. There were times he brought the Guitar Guy back on stage. And that's when the fun other 10% happened, when the wheels fell off the bus. There were some planned "unplanned" moments, and then there were the real unplanned moments. Which were, IMHO, the most hilarious parts of the show. As Jeff went off script and the show broke down as they both cracked themselves up. Some of the jokes wouldn't make sense unless you were there in the moment, like how Peanut saying, "We'd have to replace him with a midget playing a banjo," brought the show to a screaming halt. Also, having Ackmed talk about how he got tested for Scoliosis, but not for Polio. Hilarious in context. Although there seemed to be a missing bit, and Jeff rushed the final 15 minutes, it was all in all a good show.

Now for the other side. Parking sucked. Well and truly sucked. I figured we'd arrive around 9:10 or so and catch all the people heading out from the first show and be able to score a spot. No luck. The first show didn't let out until around 9:40 or so. All the parking was filled. There were plenty of cops on hand, most of them blocking the entrances to parking lots. Not one of them directing traffic or aiding pedestrians crossing the very congested four-lane road in front of the Stambaugh. So we ended up parking along the road about a 10 minute walk to the Auditorium. Then there was dealing with the usual drunken idiots who think they're God's Gift to the World (why yes, they were mostly in their twenties, how could you guess). And finally the complete lack of planning, crowd control, and way finding. Serious problems, ones that delayed the 10pm show to about 10:35 (and even then many people were not seated yet). I can appreciate that the early show ran long, but really, how hard is it to have people directing the crowd (say like having the ticket takers say, "Oh, you're in the Gallery, that's all the way up, try the back-stairs over on the far opposite side of the building"), watching what's happening, and then making sure everybody gets to their seats? You use volunteers (some of whom were scouts)? It's called a fifteen minute training session. It ain't hard. Then as we left, same numbers of police, and I appreciate them all patrolling around in their cars, still didn't help me not get hit up by the homeless panhandlers (fortunately I still have the skills of having worked downtown Cleveland for five years, yes, that means having ones in my front pocket for easy access, another sign of the bad economy and inflation, they're now asking for $3 and $5), still no directing traffic across the again busy four-lane road.

So it was good fun, but I'll probably not go back to see a show at the Stambaugh again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Desktop Funnerie

So, I finally got to load up that Glen Cook cover as my background. And you know what, whomever did the retouching for the background, learn 1) how to photoshop by the numbers, 2) calibrate your screen. The touch-up was bad. Jumped out at me immediately. I could see your brush strokes. Really. A little color selection, a little level adjustment, rebrushing, correction for JPG artifacts, and we're in business. Okay, I shouldn't be so harsh, they're probably the graduate from many official Photoshop courses (hint, 24% of what they teach in those are bogus and lead to errors and unprintable documents - I know because I had to take some of them, even the masters courses, I should say that the majority of classes by people who actually use Photoshop in the wild were excellent, it's the commercial courses that suck).



And just for giggles, here's my old desktop. That's my back yard last winter.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Wreck of the Marie Fitzpatrick

"At the Space Maritime Rescue they knew they would be second to make first contact, but they would be the ones to report it. There was a running office pool on what they would find; ships on fire, all out war, or interrupt some pomp and circumstance. Nobody had money on the alien eating the ships they would be called to rescue."

Yeah, had a half day, so as I'm driving home at 11:30, the story starts coming again. I really gotta get a voice recorder. As it was I had to pull over a few times to write out lines and ideas. Like how a creature could live in the void (like birds that get their water from their food, it would get it's breathable gases from it's own food).

Fanboy Moment of the Day

I know I've linked to it before, if not, here it is again. Tor is developing something new for a second website and have been giving away e-books as a way of luring people in to see what's happening. Previous weeks have included some of my favorite people, Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain) and John Scalzi (Old Mans War).

This week's offering is Lord of the Isles by David Drake (no writing slouch himself, met him at Marcon a few years ago, but I had fully grasped that writers were people you could have a drink with). Next week’s book is Through the Wolf’s Eyes by Jane Lindskold (whom I've never read).
In addition to the books, the new site is also giving away wallpapers of their covers (art directed by the incomparable Irene Gallo, as a fellow art director I feel qualified to say that). One of this weeks offerings (and both are good) is painting by Raymond Swanland for Glen Cook's A Fortress in Shadow. Which leads me to my fanboy moment of the day.

Glen Cook's books rock. I go on about many of the cool writers I like and collect as much as I can (-not a full list- Clarke, Bradbury, Brust, Bisson, hmm, there seems to be a lot of B's there, especially if you add Buckell). But one of those writers that get short shrift from me, and from much of the literati chatterers is Mr. Cook. And it's a horrible shame. Glen's books, the Black Company series specifically, were recommended to me by a good friend, the same one who got me hooked on Brust (Jim Dugger, if you're out there, I miss talking with you). This was then there were only three books (there are nine now, with an extra in the same world, the series is at an end, it was a good end, not one I foresaw, but very satisfying).

Really, this guy has been as much a formation experience for me, as a writer, as has Bradbury and Brust (I like to think of myself as a mixture of the two, when I'm flattering myself, that is). The first novel I "had" to write (must write, words will eat me) was a direct homage to Cook. It's the one that I posted the first chapter on (see link on right-hand bar). It's the one I definitely want to go back to and finish (and the one that I agreed I had to set aside until I was a better writer).

I haven't read his "hard boiled fantasy detective" series, yet. I have some of the Instrumentalities of the Night books on my shelf waiting to be read (they speak to me, yes my precious, they do whisper in the dark).

So, when I saw that I could download the art that covers his books, I just giggled. My inner fanboy got to come out and play. The Black Company series is military fantasy, and he does it well. It is not for the faint hearted, his writing has a strong musculature underneath it. It ain't Tolkein or Brooks (there's those "B" authors again, what's up with that?). Why hasn't this guy won a Grand Master award yet, I don't know. Everybody I've talked to that have read his books, when his name is mentioned gets a smile in their eyes. He's that good. When he shows up at conventions, there's a whisper that runs through the crowds online, "He's going to be there." If you like Sword and Sorcery, with a focus on the Sword part, go read him. His characters and characterizations are very strong.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cattle Call

All around cool guy Nathan is setting up a round robin writing exercise. And he's lassoing as many people as he can. Sorry, Nathan, I can't do it (I have too many other invites waiting for my attention, like Matt W's), but I can evangelize for it. He has some interesting twists to the standard shared story meme, like changing one major plot element. That could make for an interesting reading/writing thing. Although, most of those stories tend to end up with an "and then the dinosaurs ate them all" kind of conclusion.

At the last Confusion there were a few writers who had recently completed collaborations (hey, Tobias). Those kinds of projects have always thrown me. I have no compulsions about sharing ideas (see name of blog or "Da Rules" if you don't know), but writing together right now is way far out of my skill set. I guess as a ersatz art director from back when titles in my day thing used to actually mean something, I'm used to assigning work that I've thought I've been pretty damn precise about my instructions (here's a damn sketch, follow it), but have always been surprised at what comes back. At first it was pretty hard to accept others interpretations of both the project and my "exacting descriptions and instructions on what I want to see, damnit." But then I mellowed out, although I'm a stickler for production values (really, I'm a rat-assed bastard for them. When I say use style sheets, I mean uses the fargin' style sheets). So I was really interested in how they handled it. For some it was a "I write one line, they write the next" kind of thing. It still confuses me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Thine Own Self Be True

One of the things that keeps repeating in much of the writing advice is to find the time of day you're best at (for writing, natch). Unfortunately for me my major times are at 6:30 am (when I'm in the middle of the commute), 10:30am to 1:00pm (which might work to write over lunch, if I actually had a lunch, that was negotiated away by our union many years ago), and then at 10:30pm to 2:00am (when I'm trying to sleep).

For the 6:30am I mostly get single lines. So I try to remember the things I think of on the way into work, and write out the notes when I get there. Mostly things like, "a roosting flock of lights create an oasis of harsh day." Goes with a story that's been long in the formation stage about drilling on the arctic circle. This story started with the line, "It starts in the back of your head, in the far autumn corners where the dry wind rustles November leaves of forgotten things."

Then this mid morning my brain starts working on what it must have been grinding on for the past few days, from a report about a ship lost at sea in the Bearing. So what about ship wrecks in space? Of the crew, 46 were picked up, 44 are expected to survive (two have already died) and one person was lost at sea. What do you call a person lost in space (that phrase it too close to the show name)? Lost to the void. While it's a SF trope to have rescue pods, doesn't it seem more likely that it'll be individual survival suits, just like those who ply the deathly cold waters for their trade? So imagine bodies in bright red environment suits, floating against the stars. And just like sailors in the suits, how long can they survive. Depending on the temperature of the water, those sailors don't have long.

So how would an "Space Coast Guard" function? What's the space equivalent of "losing your rudder" and "taking on water"? Hence a full page of scribbleings. What are ships doing? Where are they? How could the space coast guard get there fast enough? And just what disabled the ship?

Ah, here there be dragons.

(said like the old commercial, "Oh, it's a Subaru") Oh, it's a Cthulhu story!

"It was a bad day, waiting for the tunnel to finish. Opening a custom worm hole, even a short travel one, even with their top of the line equipment, was hard work. A rescue worm hole couldn't afford to be placed in the safe zones, far outside any known mass. EWHs were always danger close operations. You might open the other end right through a survivor or in the only pressure zone on a wrecked ship.

"There were 48 men and women eight light hours out. Each in their own survival suit, touching the void just six inches from their skin. Or that was the hope. It would take another (?) hours to drill the hole, if they were lucky. It was a week until the closest ship could arrive on station. Their suits were good for 26 hours. They had already used eight and a half hours of that.

"They were using data that was eight hours old. "

That's just a sample of the notes I wrote out.

Another Cthulhu story.

"The station bugaboo/myth was that the space coast guard would probably be the initial team to make first contact. They have scenarios about how it would be, ships on fire, war, pomp and circumstance, vulcan mind melds. Nobody expected it would be an alien eating the entire ship and making human-sicles out of the crew."

Whispering it from the roof tops

Received something very nice in the mail today. Something that I'm not sure I can share yet. Not a sale, or an invite, but good news none-the-less. It certainly made me dance a little jig.

I'm pretty sure the person involved read this blog at least once before and left a comment about "readin' my blogroll and stealin' all my 's'es." You know who you are, you know what you said, thanks for the info. It made my week. It really did. Thanks.

Another step. Another milestone passed.

Soon the world will be mine! Oh, wait, that's the other plan.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Novel Up, the new catch-phrase

So, this guy in the writers group I belong to sent this email out with this subject line. He was saying that he had uploaded his fresh novel to our site and we all should go read it, but it got me to thinking. Sure, the novel is up, go get it. Kind of like "Batter Up!" (pictures in my mind of little league, playing outfield on the dusty fields of Gibbsboro, NJ, singing, "hey, batter, batter, swing, batter, batter, SWING!" - hey , Rog, thinking about you right this minute)

Then there's also the version of "Lawyer Up." I think I've done that already, or do I need to post another picture of my bookshelves to prove it? Yes, I've got more books to read that I have time (typed that first, "life left" but figured that was too pessimistic). I've got lots o' books, and I want lots more. There's the new Elric novel, Jim Hines is pushing out books and I'm falling behind, Glen Cook has both reprints and new stuff, and then Steven Brust will have a new one soon as well. Heck, I may have to get fired from the day thing to just get caught up.

I'm going to take it as a mantra, though. Novel Up. As in "Cowboy Up." Maybe put that on tape on the front of my notebook. Time to Novel Up. Put your big-boy pants on and saddle up (there's another version) to the keyboard and just friggin' type the thing.

At first I thought it was the crazy schedule that knocked me out of writing, and it probably was. But I think I have a handle on that, and the day job has cut back a lot (yes, there's still overtime, but not stupid overtime). The night thing has calmed down (I think, I still have my suspicions about long simmering issues and under-currents) to a manageable fire drill (there' still outstanding issues, but I think I'm in front of the ball now). The freelance stuff I need to get working on, but that's also manageable (for the moment). Early this year I think it was the depression and my not being willing to face the gremlins one more time during the day. Now it's the fear. The fear that I'm wasting time, or won't be good, or just won't be able to pull it off. I will face my fears (I have before). "Fear is the mind killer..." (sure, it's cliche and Herbert over uses it, but it's still true).

I've pulled out my stories that I need to edit, and I look at them, and they stare me down. I would just let them be, but I think there's some gold in that pile. Maybe I need to start with the small "Interview" (need better title, first edit). It's less than 1K words. I can do that.

So, time to Novel Up. All you all (or most of you all) are doing it. Maybe this is just me in my little-boy pants running after the crowd yelling, "Wait up, guys, come on, wait up."

edit I have been writing this post on and off since this morning, I've just re-edited the previous paragraph, and here are my thoughts about it... But I've wanted to do this, I need to do this. This is just part of the fear, the gremlins getting more clever with their cutting remarks. They're saying, "why do you want this, is this just about ego, about wanting fame, about being better, about belonging." No, damn it, this is because the story will kill me if I don't get it out. This is a part of ending the "destructive behavior." Glad you could be along for it.

Novel Up, Buchheit. Time to get it going.

Writings in the Wild

Hey look! Matt Mitchell is posting his novel, Modern Day Mythica on his blog (Edit Matt informs me he's posting his first five chapters as a proof of concept, so I suggest you go read and if you have comments and feedback to leave comments on his blog). Another Pixel-stained Technopeasant joins the ranks. And just like Nathan and Jim Wright, it's a serialization. (shout out to Dave for pointing out before I went and looked)

Time keeps on slipping into the future

A benefit of the time change is that I get to experience the wonders of the approaching dawn all over again. Today was an excellent commute into work. During a long stretch of rural 2-lane highway I was treated to seeing the first tentative rays of approaching dawn rub the eastern sky into a lighter blue. The first light clarion call for roosters to get to their positions. At the same time, on the other side of the road, the waning moon lit the snow with flowing blue light.

I was reminded of when I would fly for a former job (at least twice a week), one of the joys was flying right at sunset. If you were traveling in the right direction you could see the shadow of the earth bringing night to the ground. It could be bright sunlight in the cabin, but below was in darkness. In some places you could see the delineating line where the air was in day or night. I would frequently stop reading to observe its passage. So here I was, at least a decade down the line, and I was seeing it in reverse. The sky overhead was in daylight, but the ground I was on was still in night. The lingering snow and hoar frost on trees just added to the spectacle. Hope you all have moments like that.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Medical Update

Had an appointment with my doctor today. Bad news, I'm up 4 pounds since Xmas. Well, that's one of the ways I knew I was in the big "D", I was over eating and drinking too much pop. I've worked down to less pop, and now I either can tell I'm over eating, or I'm able to stop myself.

The day thing is starting up their wellness program and I've been debating if I should start it. Last year was their first attempt, and I was just way too busy. Our human resources person has been bugging me about it, but then, that's her job (to get people in so our insurance doesn't cost us so much). Much of what they offer I've already been doing with my own doctors. So the decision is, should I just continue to do this on my own, or maybe more in the open and play for prizes?

Yes, we talked about medication for the big "D". He agrees that I am on the way up, that I am able to stop the destructive behaviors and I can identify what is happening. However he did say, that if I felt out of control or didn't see progress that I should call him or my main doctor.

So, another appointment in three months.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fun Easter Viewing

Just like every Christmas sees it's "must have" toy or decoration, it seems now every Easter we explore some other part of the Passion of Christ (which, BTW, the Passion, or focus on the crucifixion, is a medieval invention to connect people's painful existence with that of the Christ, which changed the focus away from the teachings). This year seems to be the year we explore the actual process of death by Roman crucifixion (previous years have seen explorations of the historical places of the Passion, the Tomb of Christ - including the Jesus Family Tomb - and the madness surrounding the Da Vinci Code). So have we all had fun exploring this ancient form of torture? Do we all now know how the traditional stigmata points weren't how someone was normally nailed to a cross? So is this a result of our year long discussion of waterboarding?

With a Little Help From My Friends

A shout out to my good friend and becoming more frequent commentor Dan Berylyoung and his mad soldering skills. Saturday, on the way down to Mom's for Easter, I paid a visit to Dan. While we talked and played with his son (who knows the word "needle nose pliers" kids, gotta love them), Dan put his mad magician skills together and did surgery on my ailing power adapter hopefully giving it a more solid future until I'm able to replace it. Thanks, Dan.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rite of Spring

We're expecting 4-6 inches of snow tonight. Welcome, Spring.

Time to pack up the winter clothes (yeah, right), the snow shovels (when you pry it from my frost-bitten fingers), and throw open the windows and doors (unless you like a natural gas bill below $300), and dance in our nuddie pants in the morning dew (be careful of which icicles you break off after that).

And a Happy New Year to all my Baha'i friends. Which, I believe, brings our season of News Years, which started way back with Rosh Hashanah, to a close.

Happy Easter. And don't forget, just like we want to "Keep Christ in Christmas" we need to "Keep the East in Easter." Go on an Easter Egg (yeah, right) hunt, eat candy (cakes and ale anybody), and don't forget to inoculate you children against paganism by telling them about the Easter Bunny. Who lays those eggs. Hmm, must be another monotreme. Maybe a lecture of evolution in church might be a good thing.

Dipping their huge little toe in the waters

If you're a writer you really can't have missed the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments surrounding the whole Pixel-stained Technopeasant, "give it away for free" vs "pirates are going to deep-six the publishing industry" controversy. Really, for the past three years (at least in public) the partisans of both sides have clashed. Often. And with great bruhaha. As a side line to this discussion is the "electronic books will kill the dead tree versions real soon now" concept (my response, "Yeah, and we're going to have that paperless office RSN").

Many of us in SF/F who believe that there is benefit to offering free samples point to Baen's Free Library as an example of success (that link point to Baen's Universe where Eric Flint has been holding court on some of this issues). Main stream media points to Harper-Collins tentative steps in the field (this is a note to those conservative friends of mine who proclaim loudly that the main stream press always gets their side "wrong," the msp gets everything "wrong").

Hopefully NPR will post the whole transcript of the story, it's really worth examining. In case they don't post the whole thing, here's some of the highlights. With the H-C test you can't download the books, you have to read them off the site. Sales of the dead-tree version of the books they've tested have been significantly higher. Neil Gaiman's American Gods (which is an excellent book, BTW, I highly recommend it) saw a sales increase right after they released the electronic version (the book has been out for five years, I think). Also, while some people read the whole book online, most read 20-40 pages. By that point, the thought process goes, they know if they want to buy the book or not. But just in case anybody missed it, hard copy sales went up for the titles they released for free. Nothing succeeds like success.

In fairness, they have only tested a miniscule number of titles (compared to the H-C catalog). Their release isn't like Tor Books experiment (which gives you the whole book in a number of formats you can read offline). The difference here is the H-C authors are all BNA (big name authors) who have typically had the most to lose by giving away free books (under the "worst thing for a new author isn't pirates, it's obscurity" line of reasoning).

Confusion Junction, What's your whatever it is

Not sure if this is related to the big "D," but I just dont' feel like I can write a coherent sentence. I know that I am. It just feels like I'm trying to communicate through layers of muffling. I'm in the process of writing two other posts, and I just don't think I'm being clear. Then I get the feeling like I'm writing like a poor imitation of Hemingway. "He came to the water. The water was there."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Story Bone

A talking parrot that chooses their own name.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Nine Billion Names of Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur has taken a meeting with the big publisher in the sky.

At one time I owned all of the books he had authored by himself. My final literature paper in college, for my Creative Writing Minor, was on the works of A.C. Specifically it was on the images of God and religion in his writings.

Sir Arthur had an interesting life. From his work a on radar during WWII to his "retirement" on Ceylon writing and consulting, to his knighting in the late 90s, he inspired generations of young scientists and writers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here a Plot, Twist a Plot, Everywhere a Plot, Plot

Joshua Palmatier is telling tales out of school, again. This time he's running through the Plot Synopsis (which, if you're going to write novels, you're going to need to know). Joshua has also wrestled a whole pascel of other writers to the ground and gave them nuggies until they also gave up the goods on their synopsis.

Really, Joshua is doing good work (and is also an excellent writer and all around good guy to boot) here. I'm glad to know him, Tobias, and a handful of other writers who also spill the beans, I mean, are willing to show the process.

I was so much dumber then, I'm smarter than that now

Todd Wheeler asked in comments a while back about if what the Fed is doing is somewhat like what they did for the Savings & Loan debacle of the late 80s. I said that I thought they just let the S&L's crash. I was wrong. They did let the S&Ls crash, but the Fed (with Congress) set up the Resolution Trust Corporation to help manage the assets the S&Ls had.

That is, if you had a loan through the S&Ls, the RTC could sell that loan to another bank instead of having the loan being called, or forgiven.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Workin' in a coal mine, going down, down, down

Scalzi says it better. Holy crap. Now that I'm home I'm listening to more news about this. Holy crap.

Not only is there the bail-out of Bear Sterns (call it something else and we'll ask you to wear a sign to warn others, $2 a share is better than what the Enron people got) and a rate cut in a key overnight rate, there is talk of another rate cut come this week's meeting of the Fed. Sounds good? Lower rates, better rates on loans, all that's good, right? (wait for it)

So I'm listening to these chairs of economic departments talking on the News Hour. And they're all saying, "Well, yes, the Fed is taking on all the risk from this sale of Bear Sterns (besides actually floating the loan) by saying they'll cover the bad debt. Well, you know, the Fed can do that. They can print the money (if they need to)." Oh, I feel so much better now.

Isn't this third world economics? Low rates to special groups, printing money when we run out? Holy crap. Has everybody with an economic PhD lost their minds? Hello, can you say run away inflation? I knew you could.

Open notice, if the CEO, CFO, Chairman, Board, or anybody with a VP title or higher at Bear Sterns gets either a bonus, golden parachute, or any cash outlay more than cab fare home, the resulting backlash that will happen you will so totally deserve. Sure, unfortunately your family will be caught up in the fracas as the villagers storm your house to tar and feather you (tar first, boys, the feathers won't stick without the tar) and that's bad. But really, that you're not being asked to give back the past two year's worth of bonuses, consider yourself lucky. As in rub your throat, escape from the gallows, swallow hard kind of lucky.

The Ice Is Beginning to Crack

Those people who live in northern climes will know what I mean about the ice going out. I'm not there yet, but you can hear the gunshot cracks and feel the tension building like electricity in the air.

Last week saw some major changes. One of those changes is that I felt emotions for a long time. Sure, it was anger, but it's a step. The big "D" for me isn't so much a grand malaise, or general downer, as it is an absence of emotion. Any emotion. What emotional feeling there is have shorter lives than anti-matter. So that I remained angry, not a "nothing to boiling point" anger, but a really pissed kind of anger, for most of a day is something. I've also had longer moment of joy and fun. Sure, that sardonic smile may have crossed my lips, but at least I would chuckle openly.

More importantly, I started writing again. Not much, but I did a whole notepad page of story for the book. The story bone for it came from work where I plated a card for someone whose first name was "Blue." No, seriously. So I had a little brain tickle that this was the name on a name tag of a waitress in a diner. So I started with that, and bingo the main character was Steve Goodlie and he was in the diner with the love interest (named Raquel for the moment). Steve was flirting with the waitress while trying to get Raquel to sign documents. It was while writing this out that I realized that this was the scene I was looking for, the scene where Steve realizes that he's falling in love with Raquel. That all these other things (money, other women, etc) aren't important any more. So here's the major scene of the second act (other than the conversation during the road trip, which sets us up with some plot coupons), and it just landed in my lap. Thank you, oh Muse.

This was the impetus to get off my lard butt and resubmit my stories and work on edits this weekend. So, while I'm not out of the woods yet, the momentum has changed to going back up.

This morning NE Ohio smelled of spring. Even with snow on the ground, there were the scents of new life. That both real and metaphor.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Day Out

Went to the Burton Pancake Breakfast Jamboree today. Paid good money to sit at long tables and drink frozen orange juice (which the gave out in little tubs, mine was mostly a slushy mix, but had one big orange-cicle in the middle), and eat 3 small links of sausage, a tub of apple sauce, and as many of buttermilk, blueberry, or apple sauce pancakes as you could handle. All of it drowned in real maple syrup. You could choose form the organizations proving pancakes breakfasts (seriously, Lions, Firemen, Library, commercial businesses, etc), so we choose The Geauga Historical Society. The picture on their site is from one of those rare bright sunny days here in NE Ohio. Imagine that scene with a ton of mud, lingering snow piles, and deep gray overcast skies. Also add a few hundred people. This is a serious event for all those concerned. Even at noon it was difficult to find a parking space.

Most of the people at the event we went to could be categorized at elderly, or young couples with children. They had a person in an Easter Bunny outfit that looked more like a white dog with buck teeth than a bunny. The atmosphere is cordial cafeteria style. After going through the line, servers wander the aisles with extra pancakes to restack your plate. By the time we got there they were out of plastic knives. The plastic forks weren't all that sturdy to slice through the pancakes, so I reverted to ripping them apart with my fingers. For the second and third helping I did this before adding the syrup which helped greatly.

Maple sugaring is in full swing. Every available sugar maple was being tapped. Most had buckets on them (one to four buckets per tree depending on size), although the new technologies were on display. Mostly that means mylar bags instead of buckets, but then there are whole swaths of maple groves with fluorescent blue tubing woven between the trees like a giant connect the dots illustration. All this sap is then collected and boiled down in stages to create Maple Syrup, amber ambrosia.

After eating our fill and getting a sugar rush we went to the West Woods to walk a bit. Bette and I used to go for regular walks in the park districts, but now they are a long drive to get to and except for walking around out block several times, there's not much opportunity for long walks out here. So this was a good change of pace. After coming out of the nature center (which, BTW, I would love to have a house exactly like it) we were met with a unique experience. A red squirrel with a dead bird in it's mouth. Ohio is home to several squirrels and we used to have a red squirrel in our yard. Before this I had never seen such behavior, but unlike what that linked page says, red squirrels will eat small animals, raid birds' nests for eggs, and swallow frogs. I've seen many carnivores carrying off prey, I just never expected to see a squirrel do that as well. You learn something new every day.

After we got back home, I found out that my power adapter for the laptop is on the fritz. There must be a loose wire in there. So this evening will see me performing electrical surgery on the wall wart. Wish me luck. Edit Got somewhat far in trying to open the wall wart, but found that unless I would be willing to shatter the plastic, I wouldn't be able to open it all the way. the line break, I think, is right where the wire comes out of the wall wart part. I was able to stabilize the wire, and then taped it down to minimize movement. A replacement from Apple would cost $80. Not sure I want to pay that (although I just paid however much for a new battery).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Doing Submissions

Since I've been a lazy person, I've been spending the day working on DVD copies and submissions. So Journey is now off to Strange Horizons and I've packaged Daddy's Little Girl to go to the Slushgod over at Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Today's marathon of late 80's and early 90's TV are episodes of a little remembered show, "Doctor, Doctor." Very funny show. Although my tape of episodes was made at the slowest/lowest resolution, and we've replayed it almost to death.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another Story for Another Writer

Hey, all around great guy Todd Wheeler has got another one out there. And with that second link you can read it online. Congrats Todd. Sure, it's not genre, but hey, everybody has a past, right?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I've Got the Power!

New battery arrived today, a few days sooner than expected. Finished charging it up and am now surfing sans wires. Mmm, lovin' it. So far been using it somewhat normally, but with full power to the screen. It's been a half hour now and the little monitor is saying 75% power still. The first couple of recharges will be small, so I'm really liking this. Woohoo!

"I've got no strings to hold me down..."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dis and Dat

There were just so many things to comment about recently.

Endeavour is back in space. And what is it about the Canadians and their robotic arms? I'll have to ask Karl Schroeder when I see him next. They're also delivering the first third of a science/experimental module designed by the Japanese. It's a space bound double wide!

Evil Monkey is throwing some interesting advice to beginning writers. While most commentors focus on "(4) Read books you don’t like" my personal fave is "(7) Nothing worth doing is easy." Sure, reading what you don't like can teach lessons, and I used to do that. Until I realized I was studying the wrong work. Life being short, I decided my time would be better spent studying and dissecting works I liked. However, I did learn more dissecting skills reading things I didn't like, that enjoying the heck out of what I was reading. On this vein, I also sometimes watch commercials (it's a habit) and try to imagine the conference room sales pitch of those I hate. I have also been known to tune in "Deal or No-Deal" just to figure out what's so interesting to people. The only thing I can get is the faux tension (gee, Howie went to commercial just when he's about to reveal something, go figure) and the chicks in baby-doll dresses.

The Governor of NY seems about to self-implode over a sex scandal. Seems he paid $4300 for a $5500 call girl (which, hey, good negotiation skills, very important in an executive) and then traveled over state lines. What, Washington DC doesn't have hookers? Yeah, I don't believe that. Then there's the moving of large sums of personal money between private accounts (not illegal as far as I know), but the banks had to notify the IRS because of those wonderful 80's drug laws. So, other than being a schmuck about it, a little to previous self rightous out it, and then juggling badly, is going on here. Sure, that kind of money seems way to high for me to contemplate, except on the "I wonder what all you get for that?" But now the Republican Leader of the House is calling for impeachment. What is it with Republicans and sex scandals (in the opposite party) that they get all hot and bothered about? And still, way too much to pay. Maybe that's what their upset about.

And then finally, there's this new bond fund the government is starting. Banks will be allowed to purchase government backed bonds with the devalued "subprime" mortgage securities they hold. WTF? Isn't this like taking out a home equity loan (secured debt) to pay off credit cards (unsecured debt)? And doing this right before declaring bankruptcy. Not a Good Idea(tm). So, we'll give a good investment vehicle (government bonds) in exchange for the same securities that have been bringing down the value of everything (bundled subprime mortgage backed securities). And Wall Street is happy about it. Hell, they should be. "You'll take this crappy thing that's losing value hourly off my hands and give me a sure return." I'd be happy about that.

And somebody in the news finally figured out that the government has been cooking the numbers on inflation. Mostly it's been on the cost of milk kinds of stories.

Also, gas was $3.45 a gallon on the way home. Yippie! Devalued dollar (a declared strategy of the Bush Administration, seriously, it was a part of his stump speeches during the 2000 election) repercussions here we come!

Then, Father Christmas, I became an aeronautic vigilante

When I have the big "D," one of my symptoms is that I don't feel the energy to make large "voluntary" purchases. I just don't want to spend money. Small things, like a few bucks, sure. But really anything over $25 becomes suspect. If there's not a dire need for it, say like my life depends on making the purchase, my mind shuts down and just says, "No!" So part of breaking the cycle is to force myself into making those expenditures.

To whit, we are going to see Jeff Dunham at the Stambaugh Auditorium at the end of the month. At $43 per ticket, even for the later show and up in the third tier, that's ridiculously expensive for me. But he's a funny guy (even if I disagree with his politics).

I purchased a new laptop battery. After getting about 45 minutes out it, it quickly reverted to 15 minutes. For a 5.5 year old laptop, it's time for a new battery. Having a laptop that you need to have plugged-in all the time isn't fun at all. At $130 for something that isn't necessary to life and limb, that was a struggle (even if I've needed it for a few months). I have a high tolerance for annoyance.

And a few weeks ago (another one of this moments that I realized that I was falling into big "D" when I considered it) I purchased a VCR/DVD-R combo unit. This is one of those that allows you to record to DVD from the VCR (and the other way as well). I have a ton of recorded tapes (some from the early 90s, like the one where the headline quote is paraphrased from). The hope is to reclaim storage space (and stop tape rot).

This weekend I plan to go to a pancake breakfast. It's that time of year when crazy people poke holes in trees so that they can spend several hours in a hot and steamy sugar shack boiling down sap to make the sweetest ambrosia known, Maple Syrup. Sure, there are other syrups, but I've got a hankering for Maple. And other than waffles, pancakes are the bestest with maple syrup.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Things I'm Almost Missing

Great guy Ken McConnell points me to the fact that Matt Mitchell's Unabashed is back up and running and he's got a story out, and bonus points that it's not only a good story, it's a ghost story to boot. All righty. Congrats, Matt. You all should go read it.

Lucky I Chanced Across This

Justine Larbalestier is telling tales out of school again. She's opened the bag and the kitties have done run out. Yes, Virginia, sometimes it does come down to luck.

Luck, however, can be divided into 95% hard work and 5% happenstance. The key to being in the right place at the right time is hanging out in the right place at least most of the time. And if you read her entry, she still extols the virtues of write and submit, then write some more, submit again, resubmit the first one, write some more, submit and resubmit the first two...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Snowstorm

It's snowing here to beat the band. My wonderful neighbor let me borrow his snow-blower or I would never have gotten through it. As it was, it was a big snow-blower and it barely made it through. It's still snowing. I'm just hoping the roof holds up.

I generally like snow. This is a little too much. The State Troopers have declared a Level III ban on travel (if they catch you on the state highways, they can ticket and arrest you). Not much is moving outside.

This past week we've had a lot of precipitation, including the ice storm earlier. Streams were over flood stage before this hit. It's supposed to get warmer in the middle of the week. Power is still not completely restored in the north of the county. I expect to hear about various parts of Ohio being declared disaster areas this week.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Breaking the Cycle

Thanks for all your comments on my post where I admitted that I was facing the big "D" depression. You all had lots of good suggestions. I really do appreciate you taking the time to help me.

In the comments I did go through (with the help of Greeny) some of the symptoms. It's really important to know those. It's important to recognize them in yourself and in others. This isn't my first wresting match with Big "D" (and I know it won't be the last) both for myself and with others. Knowing the signs just helps everybody. Although, confronting someone with "Say, I noticed you're depressed," isn't the way to help. If they know their depressed, it'll just tell them that they aren't handling it well. If they don't know they're depressed (and that's one of aspects of this disease) they'll immediately turn your off.

Big "D" depression is different that little "d" depression. One difference is that little "d" can get going by bad news, a few knocks to the psyche, general malaise of life. Big "D" can include and magnify the effects of those, but it isn't caused by them (although it can be triggered by them, which causes confusion). Little "d" has a few layers or depths (bummed to completely bummed out so to speak). Big "D" can include those, but then start digging with a backhoe because Big "D" can go so much deeper and wider. Big "D" is like getting the flu. You can avoid it if you know about it, take precautions, but eventually, if you're susceptible, you'll get at least a sniffle. Once you get the flu it can get very bad, it can grow and become something else much worse, or you can take care and get through it quicker (although in each case, you've got the flu). Also, just like the flu, Big "D" makes you feel bad all over and it affects everything in your life. There can be seasons (triggers) that bring about the flu, but then it can also sneak up on you and strike at any time (as anybody who has had a flu in the summer can attest to). The difference between flu and Big "D" is that Big "D" can stick around for years.

Big "D" and little "d" feel very different. If you look at a chart of the Dow Jones Industrials for the past two months, the spikes up and down are little "d"s and little "m"s (manias, or happiness), the overall downward trend (the uberdata) is the Big "D."

One of my symptoms is "self-destructive behavior," in fact, it's this behavior that let me know I was in the cycle. For me this comes out in feelings of "I just can't do anything right." When I ask myself, "Why didn't this work," or, "why can't I figure this out," the voice that replies doesn't give me examples or diagnostic criticism ("plan failed here and here" or "you don't really know how this (specific thing) works" or "you forgot to include this datum that you know have"). Instead it just replies, "Because you're an idiot," or something to that point. This is the gremlin.

Then there are the actions, like stress eating (aka, stuffing). When you've worked through this there is some part of you that says, "don't do this, you know better than to behave this way/do this thing." And then you do it anyway. Self destruction, that the perfect way to say it. You're not ignoring that voice of reason, you're intentionally going against it. Unless you've done this before, the part of you that is arguing against the action gets weaker and weaker until you can't hear it anymore.

I once had a psychotic episode because I was taking Vicodin (it's a side effect, one which is more common than I think the company lets on considering how many people I've talked to who have had this problem). Part of me knew I was behaving irrationally, was having thoughts and beliefs that just didn't make sense. When in the full grip of it, I believed the stucco ceiling was trying to form words to tell me something. "They" were waiting just behind my eyes waiting for me to close them to go to sleep. All the while there was another voice screaming that this wasn't normal and I needed help. I even was good enough to say out loud to people, "I'm not acting rationally, sorry." Fortunately, that day I (well, my wife) convinced the doctor to switch me to a less powerful painkiller. Those effects went away after a day.

Also, one of the things that can throw outside viewer, with Big "D" you can be happy, laugh and smile. But just like when you're happy and a little "d" trigger comes along, that happiness doesn't linger or go very deep. You can even be optimistic about things when you're in the grips of it. With Big "D" you don't just "get over/passed" it, look on the bright side, or focus on something else. Those things don't work because those things aren't what the disease is about, those are minor symptoms.

For me, this one isn't too deep. I caught it early enough (although looking back, I've been here longer than I realized at first). I can pull back out of it with the skills I've learned before, and I have the skills to know if that's not working and I need more help. Once I break the self destructive behavior and thoughts, I'm on my way back out. I've been able to do that mostly (although not all the time), which is an indicator of where I'm at in this cycle. Also, I'm forcing myself to do things that I like. You know what I mean if you've been here. Each time gets easier. Last night, after a slight chiding from my wife, I did reverse myself and ordered tickets to a comedy concert (Jeff Dunham), which I had decided not to do. It wasn't the chiding that did it, it was the chiding that reminded me I had to break the cycle.

Antici...



Time to go get coffee... in Brazil, by walking, and then building my own coffee maker.

Have I mentioned how slow my computer is?

That's around 236 thousand years (give or take), BTW. I could probably develop a really good coffee bean in that time. And reinvent civilization.

Just in case you're wondering, it only took another 45 seconds or so. Computer tech, it advances just that fast.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

This Is a Little Test

You might have noticed some weird things on the blog. I've been trying out new methods of posting. And having problems. I'd normally test offline before going live, but I don't have that option, so you are all my guinea pigs. Ha ha ha ha.

So this is a test. Had this been a real post, you would have been directed to the nearest content.

Please stand behind the yellow safety line until the car comes to a complete and final halt.

Ah well, for email posting I obviously can't do normal HTML markup.

Goblins!

Hey, I missed the opening day, but Jim Hines' new book, Goblin War is now out. That's totally marvelous. I read his first book, Goblin Quest and loved it. Totally loved it. Having played a gnome in a AD&D campaign once (including sweet talking a dragon), I just enjoyed it even more so. Jim is excellently funny. If you've ever played D&D his universe will feel very comfortable (and it's very accessible if you haven't). Jim gave a reading from Goblin War at Confusion that had the audience laughing and chuckling. Let's just say that I've adjusted the mental picture of his main character because of the reading.

Also, I've only talked with Jim just a little, and he is also funny in person. He also seems very much like a really nice guy.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why Steve Can't Come Out and Play

Things have been very hectic lately. The day job, which is hectic, but not a lot of overtime lately. I work with a computer that is nearly a decade old so there are many times I get to watch the rainbow spiral waiting for applications to do things (I'm one of those people that use keyboard commands as much as possible). In the past I've used that time (and the time it takes for applications to load, files to load, fonts to load, etc) to read and comment on blogs. I'm now not supposed to do that. So my brain which is usually running at full steam goes to sleep while I wait. Errors are up. This isn't good for anybody.

Then there's the first night job. Let's just say things have been so crazy and stressful that my gums are receding. Yes, you haven't lived until your dentist takes one look in your mouth and says, "You really need to get a new job." Mine has. For two jobs. I haven't seen my dentist yet, but I can guess that he'll repeat this line (note, I really do like my dentist and my dental hygienist, I go half an hour out of my way to see you, take that as my vote of confidence). Using all my managerial skills just to get ahold of the situation. Next comes remedying issues brought up. I've been wondering if I just shouldn't walk away from it all (damn duty bone keeps me here) and spend time doing something more fruitful (like writing). And I don't think I'm spilling any beans here when I say that because of the economy, well, sucking eggs, our tax revenues are predicted to be down. A lot. Major cuts necessary kind of down. People upset because they're not getting the same level of service they expect down.

My stress level is so much that I can't focus on other things. I'm exhausted. I'm not able to plan out things. This past weekend I went to my writer's group and I felt guilty for spending that time in such an extravagant way on myself. And lately I've been noticing signs of depression. The big D depression. I'm tired all the time. Taking pleasure in normal fun things takes work. My snark knobs are turned to 11 (that 10 with the knob pulled out to get the vacuum-tube overdrive - just in case you're wondering, 4 is my normal). Food doesn't taste good. I'm stuffing with it anyway. Sleeping is troublesome. And this damn flu keeps hanging on.

There's an ice storm going on right now. I can hear ice falling off the house and branches coming down outside. The lights have dimmed twice so far. The drive home was fun. Tomorrow's commute will be hilarious.

And I haven't been getting the words out. Sure, random notes are now coming, and I've been writing some (yes, I know I should be writing them all) down. I finally put all the critique notes together for "Interview" (needs a new title), but some of those notes are "show the whole system fully through details" or "show his frogginess here."

I was supposed to be writing the novel this year. To get enough of it out that I could apply for Viable Paradise and have it finished by the end of October. And the words aren't there. The time and energy aren't there.

It's only because I'm procrastinating writing emails for the Village that I'm blogging.

A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Rejection Go Down

OSC's Intergalactic Medicine Show is giving Daddy's Little Girl a bye. Ah well.

Time to find another market for that story. This time might mean (gasp) an actual mail submission. Yes, I know. You'll need to pick yourselves up off the floor. I've been digging this e-submission process for a bit to long it seems. The Gods of Rejection now demand envelopes and postage.

Missed that Final Savings Throw

(note, sent this as an email post earlier, not sure where it went, so you might see two versions of this before I see them)

Good friend and sometimes commentor (well, we do more in Real Life(tm)) Dan IM'ed me today to tell me Gary Gygax has passed on to the Astral Plane. If you know who he is, you know. If not, this is probably boring.

I spent a good deal of time eating bad pizza and drinking pools full of warm pop playing AD&D. It was a way of connecting with my brother. If you had a good group it was much more fun than just playing the game. And we were old school with dice and books. No computers (laptops hadn't been invented yet, heck, personal computers were brand new). One of the first programs I wrote was a character generation program, including multiple selections and first equipment purchases.

Greyhawk is gone.

Roll d20 saving throw against death magic.