Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

So what did I accomplish this year? It sure feels like it wasn't very much, but here are some milestones.

1. Thirteen short fiction works were published in some form during 2009.
2. My first stand-alone book, "Winter," was published by Sam's Dot Publishing, featuring my novelette Winter and a reprint of the IGMS story The Adjoa Gambit.
3. I guest-edited M-Brane SF issue #12, which was released as a collection called Ergospehere in trade paperback
4. I sold my second SFWA-qualifying story, Catalyst, to Flash Fiction Online.
5. I won NaNoWriMo on my first attempt, completing 52,000 words in 30 days.
6. I had my first audio fiction publication, Black Orchid.
7. I learned that Thrice Around the Moon and then Home, James will be included in Wondrous Web Worlds Volume 9.
8. I moderated my first (second, and third) panels at FiestaCon this past summer.
9. I completed several video projects.

So overall, I suppose it isn't a bad year, even if much of the actual writing did not occur in 2009.

I wonder what 2010 will bring? I won't have to wait long to see. It's 10:58PM on New Years Eve...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Still Staggering

I'm still on the mend from the cold I inherited. Nose is crunchy from all the runny nose activity but it's healing. I'm using the holidays to catch up on all the things that get lost in the shuffle during busy periods, things like balancing the checkbook. As the one year anniversary of the layoff looms in the not-too-distant future, I'll be managing the finances a lot more closely.

On the brighter side, Wisconsin went to Florida to play the Miami Hurricanes and basically had their way with them. Miami looked good on their first possession, but the cold *giggle* weather got to them. For Wisconsin, it felt like spring, and their offense played well passing and running the ball.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Staggering Back to Life

Over the past several days, I have been "enjoying" the cold my daughters brought home from school and gave me for Christmas. It's been a nasty headcold that I am now on the recovery end of. I feel pretty fortunate that it hasn't developed into a sinus infection (yet).

On the writing front, nothing much has happened. The loss of the computer derailed my momentum from NaNoWriMo, and now the whole family is home all day for the holidays, making it more difficult to slip away and spend quality time with a story. I have one partial that I have to finish within the next month, due for the M-Brane SF Aether Age anthology. Once I finish that, I want to finish the NaNo novel and get back on track. That should be easier as I get over this cold and stop feeling like I want to melt into the floor, with the cold weather the only thing preventing it.


The Cardinals got their tenth win yesterday, the first time in something like 35 years. they won, and the media is all over how they looked back in sync and played well. I disagree. The passing game looked a bit better, but the play was still sloppy. They should have wiped the mat with the Rams the way Green Bay did with Seattle. The Rams were still in the game until deep into the 4th quarter. They contained Beanie Wells, who also nearly fumbled once. Hightower looked like the ineffective running back from a few years ago, and there are very few passing plays with yards after the catch. That last item has been an issue all season.

The Cardinals still have an outside shot at the first round bye, but I doubt that we'll see the Bears beat the Vikings tonight. A Vikings loss still means the Cardinals need both the Eagles and the Vikings to lose in week 17. That combination is about as likely as a pool umbrella staying put in a dust storm.

So, we'll know by tomorrow, but I suspect we'll not see a lot of Warner or Rodgers when the Packers come to town to play the Cardinals. And probably, the Packers will just stay in town after that game since they'll likely be playing the Cardinals in round one of the playoffs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DVD Project Done

Last post was thursday not because I forgot to post, but because I have been very busy with playing catch-up after getting back my computer. I was busy finishing a video called Edel's Choice for my client, Carrick Ministries, and trying to meet their deadline despite the computer problems. I made it, just barely.

It was a tough job to work on because of the extremely emotional content of the video. A young woman who was drugged and raped goes public, giving her full story from the night it happened through the anguish she suffered, and finally to the birth of the child that resulted and her decision to keep the baby.

Obviously the clients have a pro-life message in the video. That is entirely the reason they wanted to make the video. But whatever your own opinion on the pro-choice / pro-life debate happens to be, you can't help but be touched by Edel's story.

If you want learn more about this young woman, a local news station followed her through much of the pregnancy and beyond. The video below is from that television station's news story, and it runs about five minutes. It's worth watching, if for no other reason than to appreciate the impact that rape can have on a woman's life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coming Back to Life

Due to the fact that I have lost 16 days I could have used to complete a video project, I spent the entire day today trying to get the job done. I am pretty much finished with the linear part. All that remains is to add the menu and associated tagging, then cut the proof disk. The project is a very emotional one for the client, and I'll be happy to finally call it a wrap.

My plans for the rest of the year, once that video work is done, is to add a crossword puzzle page to my web site. I have several puzzles that for one or more reasons can't be sold. I might as well let people enjoy them rather than let them collect digital dust on my hard drive. These won't be lame crossword puzzles like your third grade teacher made. I make real daily-sized crosswords that follow the guidelines for publication in the New York Times, the LA Times, and so forth. If people find them interesting, I'll try to post new ones regularly.

I also need to get back on the writing horse. I intended to take a day or two break from the novel to finish the above-mentioned video project. I lost both when the computer went down. Now the momentum is lost, too. Sigh.

The other main project will be painting some of the interior walls of the house.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breaking News...

The computer is home. There was some difficulty with the new video card, but I opened the box and re-seated it, then everything worked just fine. I have a lot of software to reinstall, and that's going to be some work. (I'm still working on the laptop for the time being.) The good news is that my NaNoWriMo novel survived. Backing it up was the very first thing I did. The report says they found 118 viruses on the computer. I wonder why Norton never found any of those, or was my crossword puzzle construction software considered a virus? Maybe firefox was a virus, too. At any rate, it's good to have it home again. I have a video project that is nearly late now, that will be my priority thursday.

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 16

Still no word on the status of the computer. I did not hear from Data Doctors at all yesterday. There are some impending deadlines that will be missed if I don't have the machine back today or tomorrow. Even with it back today, the video deadline will be very tough to make.

In other problems, the pool pump backwash valve manifold has a crack, and that needs immediate replacement. The service guy is coming this afternoon a few hours after I finish giving my last final (Brief Calculus, let the bleeding begin). They charge an obscene amount, something like 60 bucks for the first half hour and 30 every 15 minutes afterwards. Maybe I should go into business fixing pool pumps.

Russell is on the bus heading for a Tombstone, AZ. The 7th grade social studies students get a trip there every year. It's about a 3 hour trip each way, so they had to be on the bus by 5:15 this morning. That meant getting up about 3 hours ago. The sun is only now starting to rise.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 15

Day 15 of the computer crisis. Still running on the old laptop.

I stopped by the place yesterday because I was driving past, and they were struggling with the operating system. Needed the key, they said, and the sticker isn't on the computer side panel. Well, of course not. I built the system myself and I put the sticker on the back. He didn't look there.

He got the OS validated and I sit here waiting to hear on the status again. Waiting. Waiting.

In other news, the Cardinals really beat themselves up last night. Monday Night Football has never been very kind to the Cards, and this week was no exception. 7 turn-overs. It's a testament to the team that they were only beaten by 15 points. Imagine the score if they had turned the ball over 7 times against the Vikings.

Hopefully, they got it all out of their systems and can make Detroit pay. Of course, everyone makes Detroit pay... The Larry Fitzgerald injury was the most frightening part of the game. Thankfully, he played in the 4th quarter. Of more concern is the injury to Neil Rackers. He is one of the best kickers in the NFL and without him, the Cardinals are going to be hurting bad.

Ugly ugly loss.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 13

Day 13 without the desktop computer. Data Doctors is closed on Sundays, of course, but then I'm usually distracted by football on sundays. Packers have the early game and Cardinals have the Monday night game. Russell's Chargers are on the afternoon game, but he's camping right now.

Anyway, there has been a lot of noise lately on whether semi-pro magazines are worthwhile for new writers to be published in. The issue started when SF writer John Scalzi hammered on a publisher called Black Matrix.

Scalzi has some salient points, which I won't rehash here. That's been done to death elsewhere on the blogosphere. That said, his point about aiming high is truly good advice. Yes, my first two published pieces of fiction were to a 4TL (For-The-Love) market. That happened due to a combination of ignorance and inexperience.

The first story I ever sold was to a small online market, and the one after that, too. Slowly I learned to start submitting to the big markets first, but it was a difficult lesson. With big markets often come form rejections. It's one of the phases of growth as a writer. But then, suddenly I was accepted at a major market, Intergalactic Medicine Show. And you know what? That was the very first market I sent that story to.

What a confidence builder. Since that sale, which pretty much solidified my confidence, I wrote a lot of stories, and I sent those stories to a lot of markets. Most of them drifted from the top down to the market where they finally sold.

The interesting thing is that I both agree and disagree with Scalzi. Some of the stories I've sold were to minor markets, but they were markets I sent the story to on purpose. Sometimes, it's because I have a friend who is the editor and I send a story to the market before it really should go there to give the friend some decent material. And it doesn't always sell there. Other times, I hear of a new market and I like to help bring fledgling markets into being. I don't always sell there either.

I don't mind the semi-pro zines because I have a lot of older material that has already seen the appropriate pro markets and most of these are such that I don't really want to revisit the story. And that's okay. I have made new friends and gained some followers with my semi-pro sales. M-Brane SF in particular has been a very fruitful relationship that started when my story "Road Rage" appeared in issue #1. M-Brane SF was the 24th market I sent this story, starting with F&SF, Analog, Asimov's and Jim Baen's Universe.

I got a lot of feedback over the course of those 24 submissions, much of it negative. Yet, I persevered because I disagreed with the comments, and because I wrote the story, I get to be the one who says the story is right. Christopher Fletcher agreed with me about the story and bought it. He also bought several more, and I got the chance to edit next month's issue for him. Dividends paid? I'm satisfied with the results.

With all that said, there does come a certain level where I won't submit a story anymore. Instead, I put the story away and wait for a new opportunity. That's especially true of my newer work. But then, we all learn as we go. I feel my unpublished work is more valuable today because of the track record I have built up. Regular sales do say something about consistency. Somebody was willing to pay for that work and for me, at least, it makes me aim for the next level.

And yes, sometimes the temptation is great, the temptation of sending a story to a sure thing market. But that's the hardest part of getting better, leaving your comfort zone. There are certain markets that for me are virtually can't miss. That doesn't make submitting there wrong, it just makes submitting there first wrong. Until that can't miss market becomes one of the big three, there is always something higher to shoot for. Aiming low is just cheating yourself. Aiming high and hitting low is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you aim high with next one, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 12

Went over to Fry's Electronics last night and picked up a new video card, an GE Force 9600 GSO. I took the opportunity to double the RAM up to 1 gig, so it shouldn't be all bad. XMX should be sending me a replacement for the 9500 that burned up. Not sure what I will do with it yet.

Finally cleaned all the leaves from Monday's story out of the pool pump. But, the backwash valve was tight and extremely difficult to move. I removed it to apply some silicone grease and discovered a damaged o-ring. I don't like to make due with o-rings. Remember, bad o-rings killed the Space Shuttle Challenger.

I dropped the boy off for his scout camping trip earlier this morning, and now I'm off to Corson's Pool Supply. They have an ugly store full of components and parts, not like Leslies that is prettied up with pool toys and other crap. Corson's may not look pretty, but they carry pretty much EVERYTHING and I have never had to order anything, it's always in stock. It's worth the trip, een if it's good 30-mile round trip. I shall buy more than one o-ring.

Then, it's off to give the new video card to the tech.

I did manage to put in 250 words toward a new short story for M-Brane SF's Aether Age anthology project. More about that another time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Still Limping

Entropy Central Held Hostage: Day 11.

Desktop PC still at the shop. found traces of viruses on the bootable drive, but I do scan regularly and with the situation of how I experienced the crash, I think a virus is not likely the cause. More likely the boot sector was corrupted by the abnormal shut down.

Data Doctors has been charged with the recovery task, something I'm starting to wish I had just taken on my self to do. Got a call from them this afternoon. My video card, which was working just fine before the crash, apparently was smoking when they tried to start up the system. It does look like some serious electrical overstress on the package of one of the power MOSFETs resident on the board. Having worked in the industry, I can recognize some of these things. The question I can't answer is how it happened. The component is in the middle of the board and it would have needed some serious current to damage the package and not just the silicon inside.

In any event, now I have some new questions. Did the video card cause the whole flap? Did the people supposedly fixing the problem damage the board? I have no reason to believe that, but there is always that doubt.

I did buy a new 500 gig hard drive to transfer the contents of the old one with bad sectors. The majority of my data should be salvaged. And, the good news is that I got some of my more urgent files off the image--grades for the classes I'm teaching, my web site offline directory, my Cactus Wren contracts, and other assorted items. The one thing I didn't find yet was my shared drive which held my NaNoWriMo novel's 5200 words, my customized David Gerrold spreadsheet, and the most up-to-date copy of my short ficiton tracking spreadsheet. Don't leave anything in a shared folder. Share the whole hard drive so you can see where your files live.

Getting back to viruses, I exchanged some emails with Jerry Pournelle, who is always up to date on all the PC goings on. He used to write a column in Byte magazine back in the day. Anyway, one perk of belonging to SFWA and hanging out in the lounge on is that a guy like that might actually recognize my name. Jerry and I have had occasional discussions on, including one on scouting.

I asked Jerry for his recommendation and he says that anymore, he only uses Microsoft Security Essentials. Which, I should point out, is free so long as you own a legitimate copy of Windows. Since I am very unhapy with Norton and with McAfee, I decided to give MSE a shot. So far so good. Cleaned 3 trojans off the computer the kids use attached to some of my daughter's mp3 music files.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Limping Along

The perils of not backing up are rearing their ugly head. My main computer crashed on tuesday while I was working some video. It left the computer utterly unbootable.

Last update, the computer was at Data Doctors having the 500Gig hard drive imaged. They report there are numerous bad sectors on that drive. That data is the utmost importance, holding family photos, all my video, and other files that are too large to backup to anything but another hard drive. It's something that I had been intending to do, but never got around to doing while I'm out of full time work.

Also on that disk is all my writing, most of which is backed up on a flash drive and several iterations of CD-ROM disks. The main file that isn't backed up turns out to be the 52,000 words of my NaNoWriMo novel. If that file is lost, I doubt I'll ever return to the novel because I don't know if I'm jazzed enough about the story to start from scratch. There are other novels I prefer to write instead. If the data is still there, I'll probably finish the novel then set it aside for a while before editing and trying to sell it.

Right now, I'm limping along on my 5-year-old laptop computer and recovering some other files that were backed up by virtue of the sent folder in gmail, including my resume and a couple of crossword puzzle submissions to the LA Times.

So, while I'm thinking about it, what are my fiction plans for the upcoming year? As mentioned, assuming my NaNoWriMo novel partial survives the computer crash, I will finish that. There is the M-Brane SF Aether Age anthology, which I'd like to be in, and I suspect Christopher Fletcher would like to have something from me included. I want to write four short stories in 2010, and want to either win Writers of the Future, or disqualify myself with sales to pro markets. Either outcome will elevate my SFWA membership from associate to active. I'm one sale short of that right now. After that, I want to go back and finish Rigel Kentaurus, which I've been working toward finishing on and off for about 3 years.

Anyway, if I can recover the data I need from the disk image tomorrow, I will fell much better about everything, even if it means I lost all my NovyMirror masters. The video I'm working on for somebody else still has the masters on the camera. Starting from a frest OS and software install would not be the worst thing in the world since I intend to stay with XP until I buy a new laptop computer. But, I suspect I will buy several hard drives, including a large external drive for major backups.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

M-Brane SF #12 aka Ergosphere

As announced several months ago, I guest edited issue #12 of M-Brane SF. Christopher Fletcher has announced the table of contents and produced a cover image. He also announced that in addition to the usual pdf version of the magazine, he is issuing the collection of stories under the name Ergosphere as a print-on-demand trade paperback.

And here is the lineup of writers appearing in this issue:

Pretty Maids All in a Row Caren Gussoff
A Single Shot Lawrence M. Schoen
Hard for Us Michelle M. Welch
The Mushroom King Michael Canfield
Humans in the Zoo Paul Williams
Becoming Connie Thea Hucheson
After Babel Joe Pitkin
Generation Cleansing Michael Andre-Driussi
The Secret Names of Buildings Maura McHugh
Havana Augmented Tim Maughan

These are some very good stories, and I had a difficult time selecting the one to lead the collection. I ended up selecting Caren's story because hers would match the style of the artist best. The artist, by the way, is my niece, Hazel Abaya. She is a manga-influenced pencil artist, and this is her first published piece of art. Anyone interested in commissioning her for zine art can contact her through me until she gets her own web site.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Has Been So Negligent

Wow, suddenly a month goes by and I haven't posted. It's just like the old days when I was working for Yertle the Turtle.

Gosh, we have some news now. November was National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I wrote 52,000 words in November, which is about 60% of the novel. That makes me a NaNoWriMo Winner! (Cue the Dixieyland band.)

That's probably a good chunk of the reason for missing a month's worth of blog entries.

Well, so here's some good news. My first SFWA eligible sale in a long time went live today. The story is called "Catalyst" and can be seen here, in the online zine "Flash Fiction Online."

So that's the good news. The bad news is that my main computer, the server that ties all the wireless network together and also holds most of my work, died today while I was working on a video project for somebody. Timing was bad. My writing is all backed up...all but the NaNoWriMo novel, of course. The video is backed up on the camera, but in raw form. I need the cpu power of the desktop computer to be able to process it.

I do keep all my data on a slave hard drive so it's completely independent of the boot drive. I did that intentionally to to prevent a total catastrophe in case something like this happened. That strategy saved my data once already, about five years ago. The problem smells like something to do with the boot sector because the computer is in an infinite reboot loop. It won't even boot from the operating system CD.

I took the computer to Data Doctors this afternoon. They should be able to tell me what the smeg is going on. Hopefully it's something easily fixed.