Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Madness

If you haven't already seen this, click and make your pick!

As for me, I'm still trying to get over this headcold, sinus infection, whateveritis that has my airway constipated. Aye-Carumba!

In other news, I have these new pen pals. Two of them are named John McCain and Barack Obama. They sends me letters almost every day. They sure go to a lot of effort to make up shiny pictures and professional-looking glossies. Just today, John McCain sent me a beautiful full-color photograph of himself posing with none other than Tina Fey. Tina Fey! Can you imagine?

The photo arrived in a big gray envelope that was folded right along the line under the words DO NOT BEND, PHOTO ENCLOSED.

I can't wait to see what Barack Obama sends me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Deadpan Appearance

My first audio fiction appearance is part of Jack Mangan's Deadpan show #106. the story is I Can Fly, a flash fiction story that first appeared in The Written Word.

If you would like to listen to the story (under 5 minutes) click here. The story starts at 16:40.

Or, click both links and read along. See if I changed any words.

Waters Arrives

Roger Waters finally made a statement about the Death of his former band-mate Richard Wright.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sale

The Martian Wave had purchased a story called Swirling Beneath One Thin Ring. It's my third sale to this market and the second cat story I've sold. (The other was titled Cats. How unique, eh?)

This story is actually written in the point of view of a genetically engineered cat. I'll post a link when the story is up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blah

I hate getting a cold, and I especially hate summer colds. Yes, I realize everywhere else it's autumn, but it hit 105 degrees here, so it's still summer for me. Whenever I get sick, it goes to my nose. I can't take a day off work because a certain project is at a critical time.

So, I'm left without energy and a sore nose. I tried to write this evening but I can't get the creative juices flowing. Maybe I'll just read.

Speaking of reading, I finally managed to get my son reading over the past couple of days. He discovered the Dan Gutman books like Honus and Me. He's read that one and Mickey and Me, and he's now reading Shoeless Joe and Me. I'm not sure what to give him after those are finished. He has a handful of other sports books, but they won't last him long. I'm hoping he'll finally pick up the Hardy Boys books I bought for him. I read and enjoyed most of those as a boy. (So why don't I write mysteries instead of SF? The market is much bigger.)

So long as he keeps reading.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Progress Report

I finished the alt-history story I was working on for the Codex Halloween story contest. I can't give away any details until the contest ends. However, this will be the story I send to Writers of the Future contest for this quarter.

I also did my first read-through of the last story I wrote, Karoshi. I wasn't particularly thrilled with it, but writers are notoriously bad at judging their own work. I think I'm too close to it.

I'll be taking Karoshi to the writers group I belong to a week from Sunday. I'll be interested in the reaction.

In other news, my story I Can Fly will be podcast on Jack Mangan's Deadpan as early as next week. It's my first try with podcasting a story, and I'm not sure what reaction I'll get. I Can Fly originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of The Written Word.

I'll post a link when it's available.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where is the Water?

Monday, Pink Floyd keyboard player Richard Wright passed away. In the five days since, I've seen comments from drummer Nick Mason, and a very affectionate blog post by guitar player David Gilmour. Despite daily google searches, I have yet to find anything from estranged bass layer Roger Waters. Waters has been strangely silent on the passing of his former band mate. As far as I can tell, he has said nothing.

His web site is a strange picture, with nothing else there. The Roger Waters fan club web site hasn't even received a statement, though they color the photo with some speculation. I think that photo has been up many months, years even.

Has anyone seen comments from Waters?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Progress on Many Fronts

The Ralan.com media blitz seems to be working. Ralan Conley emailed me to say that he had 23 contributors yesterday and doubled the donations. I don't know if we'll get to 100%, but at least I know that a lot of people took the clarion call to heart.

In my own writing, I made some progress on two short stories this evening. I was working on my alt history story during my girls' make-up piano lessons. (Normally they have lessons on Monday, but see Monday's post.) I needed to look up some dates, so I worked on the story intended for the Jay Lake anthology instead. I went back to the contest story after I got home, so good progress on both.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spec Fic Blog Machine Rolls to Life

One perceptive eye and three posts in strategic locations. That's what started the ball rolling. The blog machine has rumbled to life to help rectify the dismal Ralan.com fund drive to keep this valuable resource online for another year.

I posted in three strategic locations: here, in Codex, and in the sffnet SFWA lounge. a group of my writer associates joined in, posting (and graciously attributing to me) their own clarion calls to join the cause. Curious google searches lead me to the live journals of people I have never heard of.

In some cases the story seems to have taken on a life of its own. It's a little like that campfire game where you whisper to your neighbor, and by the time it gets to the end, the message is completely different. It seems the alert has changed to Ralan.com might disappear at the end of the month. Only Ralan can answer that, but I suspect that has become a bit hyped.

This morphed rumor seems to have emerged on a beginning writer board. Let them sweat it a little. One member gave $5. That's what she could afford, and I'm sure it's appreciated. Others on that board encouraged spreading the word if you can't afford to donate.

This is the power of the internet. It's going to be interesting to see how effective this turns out to be, or if it even turns into a monster with a life of its own.

Monday, September 15, 2008

SpecFic Writers Take Note

Okay, it's time for the freeloaders to step up. Ralan.com has provided writers with market information for over eleven years. He does it for free, and he spends hours and hours every week on the site. All he asks for is a little help funding the web site.

He has only 14% of his goal for his annual fund drive. Half way through his September drive and only 14%.

This is for real, people. Ralan won't operate the board for free if the writers don't help. He could make it a subscription site, or he could simply retire it. How many of you have made a first sale because Ralan ran his board. I found most of my markets on his site, that's why I contributed.

All it takes is a 10 euro donation from the people who benefit from the site. That's about $15 US and PayPal takes care of the details and the currency exchange. That's one or two sales from a very small market.

It's not that much money, people, but the resource is irreplacible.

Good News and Bad News

Today, we get polar opposites. On the one hand, Pink Floyd keyboard player and founding member Richard Wright passed away. On the other hand, my oldest child was inducted into the Junior National Honor Society this evening Let's start with the bad news, so we can end this post on a positive note.

Richard Wright was an integral part of the true sound of Pink Floyd. Here is the announcement from the Pink Floyd web site:

The family of Richard Wright, founder member of Pink Floyd, announce with great sadness, that Richard died today after a short struggle with cancer. The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.




Wright was a self-taught musician of the highest caliber. Without Wright, there would have been no Pink Floyd. The long keyboard solo on Dogs, from the Animals album is, I think, one of the best demonstrations of his musical ability.

Wright was always my favorite member of Pink Floyd, his low-key quiet manner radiated class. I don't know what the man was like off-stage, but on the stage, he was the consumate professional. He let his fingers do the talking most of the time, but on the few songs where he had the lead vocals, he handled them with such skill it makes you wish he sang the lead more often.

While I am saddened by the passing of Wright, he lives on in the only real place I know him. That is in the music. On the radio this evening, they played "Wish You Were Here" for their Live at Five segment. They played it in tribute to Wright. At first, I was taken aback because the song is very heavy in the sound of David Gilmour's guitar. After a couple of verses, it occurred to me that the music wasn't the point. The words were the point. It escaped me at first because I know the song was written about Syd Barrett. But today, the words were for Wright.

Okay, enough mourning. Let's talk about something more upbeat. Today, my oldest daughter, Audrey, was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.



Here is Audrey in her new dress, accompanied by her sister. It's really an outtake. They are trying to keep a group of friends out of the shot.

Here's the real deal, when she became a member.

video

And here is her posed picture shaking hands with the principal, with the vice principal standing by.



Of course, we are very proud of Audrey and wish her continued success in her studies.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Alt-History Progress

I'm finding alt-history a bit more challenging than I expected. The story in question is a bit tricky, and I'm having difficulty with motive. You can't just make changes willy-nilly. There has to be a reason. If I decide to explore what might have happened if, say, Kublai Khan had not been recalled to Mongolia and instead participated in the Crusades as he promised, then I have to understand both what really happened and come up with a plausible reason why it happened differently.

That isn't what I'm writing, though it might make a very interesting and possibly risky novel.

I'm finding this sub-genre is full of a different kind of challenge than most of my writing, with a new set of problems. Currently I'm about 350 words into the story. It's not much, I know, but it's better than none.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For Baseball Fans

If you are a baseball fan, check this out. It will put a smile on your face.

Alt-History

It's been a while since I've discussed any genre-related opinion, so today lets look at the sub-genre of alt-history.

Alternate history is where the author takes one defining moment in history and changes the outcome to explore the ramifications. For instance, what if the South had won the Civil War? What if Hitler had been able to repel the Allies at Normandy during WWII? What if the colonies had lost the Revolutionary War--for my readers from the U.K. this is aka the American Rebellion.

I am currently exploring my first alt-history story idea. It's not an easy sub-genre to write. It not only requires an understanding of what really happened and why, it also requires careful thought about what the effects of changing on outcome might be.

Alt-history is a funny sub-genre because it doesn't have a neat fit into Novy's speculative fiction spectrum (a concept I should fully develop and publish). Briefly, my spectrum has High Fantasy on the left, Hard SF on the right, with non-genre contemporary popular fiction taking the center position. Much of Speculative Fiction falls very neatly on this spectrum, with another group straddling the center.

Although certainly speculative and well-entrenched as a sub-genre, it doesn't fit well anywhere on my spectrum. Depending on how history becomes different, a story could have a finger on the spectrum. Eric Flint's 1632 uses unexplained alien technology to transport a county-sized chunk of the modern U.S. to 1632 Europe. After the change, however, his events fall naturally from the interaction of the history and the characters. Only the first 50 pages or so fall on the spectrum. The rest fits nowhere.

Other writers like Harry Turtledove change an outcome and just let events roll. There is no question of the speculative nature of the sub-genre. It asks the required question: what if?

Perhaps the spectrum needs a second axis to hold all of todays speculative fiction. Perhaps. Or perhaps the subgenre makes good use of being just a couple of points (the mathematical definition) left (fantastic side) or right (scientific side) of the center.

Friday, September 12, 2008

DSL is Back

It's been a painful week, nearly to the hour, of going without DSL. My ISP apparently lost two techs (back to school, not pissed and quit) so their night support was thin. The main guy called me from home this evening and got me running in about 5 minutes.

The basic problem, what I was missing, was the password that I can't see in the old modem. Once we put that in, we were off and running. (Thanks Eric.)

So, now that we're back online and we all survived the black hole at Cern, it's back to business.

It's been a long time since I've posted any opinion items on SF as a literary field. I'm thinking of putting another one up soon. This one will be on alt-history.

conCern

Click here. Trust me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tenderfoot

This evening, Russell finished the last requirement for his Tenderfoot rank. He is so happy to be rid of the scout badge. I remember those days as a child. Scout is practically free. No camping required, just learn the scout badge and such.

Tenderfoot has some basic scouting skill requirements. He's happy to be done with it.

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It's been difficult to make any progress writing this past week. I've been writing, but not very much. After I finished Karoshi, I started my story targeted for the Jay Lake anthology. Then, I realized my Codex Halloween contest story is due October 1st. Since the Writers of the Future contest quarter closes September 30, that story has to be the one.

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The pool is no longer green. I fought the worst pH problem I've ever had and finally won that battle. Just this evening, I could finally see the bottom of the pool clearly. I prefer to use the clarifying liquids, but when they don't work, I fall back to alum. It works every time, but now the barracuda is struggling. To top it off, we had a major haboob roll through the valley this evening. We missed the bulk of it, but it didn't help the pool effort. I think by the end of this weekend the pool will be back in business.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sorta Back

I received the replacement modem today. The first thing I did was to plug it into the old power supply. Guess what? I isolated the problem to the old power supply. I immediately tried the old modem with the new power supply and guess what?

I haven't been able to get the new modem to work properly, so I'm running on the old one. I haven't decided which one I will ultimately keep.

//

Yesterday, I finished my first short story in several months. It's a story intended for the J.J. Adams anthology Federations. I'm setting it aside while I work on another short--the one I'm working on for the Jay Lake anthology. Wish me luck with those.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dial-up

Sheesh, I can't believe I was a dial-up hold out for so many years. Now, limping along without my DSL is extremely painful. It's dial-up or isolation. Here's hoping my high-speed replacement arrives soon.

I drove down to Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale today and heard a reading by S.M. Stirling. If you haven't ready any of his work, he's a history geek with a literary flavor to his prose, and a twisted sense of humor. Good stuff. I had four books signed, including his newest title, The Scourge of God. Of course, like any writer I have an in-pile of that's three or four figures deep.

I didn't manage to get a photo with Steve, nor did I get to talk much shop. This was apparently the last stop on his book tour and he had someplace to go, very probably the airport. Seemed like a decent enough guy, though.

Friday, September 05, 2008

An Untimely Death

I got home from work today and discovered my wireless modem is no more. It's pushing up the daisies. It's climbed the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-modem. I thought these things were supposed to die right after the warranty expires, not with over 2 years left. Anyway, I don't get my new modem until sometime next week.

Of course, the guy on the tech support line had to ask me if the thing is plugged in. I told him I have a masters degree in engineering.

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The pool was green at the beginning of August. I managed to kill the algae after significant problems. Now I'm fighting a bad pH problem. I've never had the pool go this acidic before. I've already added 5 pounds of soda ash. I bought another five pounds and dumped about a third of it in this evening. Hopefully that will get the pH back on the scale of my test kit. If not, maybe I'll start etching printed circuit boards.

I use a liquid test kit with phenol red, and the scale only goes down to pH 7.2 at a very light yellow. Heavens to murgatroid, a pool can be a pain. I'd really like to use it again before it gets too cold. It was 105 today, but I usually overseed in early October. It should be under 90 degrees for overseeding, so the summer days are waning.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Creative Energy

Suddenly I have a rash of short fiction ideas. After the nightmarish workload I had last week (just shy of 70 hours) I started writing again on monday evening. I threw down 1000 words on a short fiction piece I have slated for J.J. Adams' Federations anthology. I'm not sure if it will end up there. It's evolving a bit differently than I had envisioned, and I'm not sure if it is going to be a good fit. I may have to come up with something else.

After that, I have another short story in mind for submission to the Jay Lake anthology Footprints.

After that, I still have to write the Halloween contest story for Codex writers group.

And, I don't really have anything to send to Writers of the Future contest this quarter. I'd hate to send in boilerpot, but it may come to that. I've submitted every quarter for the past several years and racked up 7 Honorable Mentions (including the quarter finalist finishes before they called them Honorable Mention).

So far, I feel like I'm able to write again. I want to use these several short fiction projects to get my writing discipline back, then I'll return to the novel. I feel like I have to write four short stories this month to get myself back into the game and to meet my goals of submitting to several markets, including the ones I mentioned above.

There's also another story that my writers group critiqued a couple of months ago. I haven't gone back over that one, but I'd like to finish that one by Halloween. I'm hoping if I can use this short fiction to stoke the fire, I can salvage what's left of 2008 and make it a reasonably productive year. Sub-par, to be sure, but better than the three completely wordless months I already have in 2008.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mish Mash

Today I have a mish-mash of news. First, something sad. I arrived at work this morning to learn that one of my co-workers was killed in a motorcycle accident over the holiday weekend. It's spooky because I sat in his office on thursday last week, thinking to myself that I just talked with him on thursday. That's really eerie because it's the second time something like that has happened in the past year. At least it wasn't Karoshi like last time.


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I found a web site that will generate a map of where you've been.



create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Here is where I have been in the world:



create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

I would live to see what Alan Dean Foster's maps look like.


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I learned today that I took my 7th honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. I would prefer to either win the thing, or disqualify myself. The constant flow of HMs is starting to get old.