Monday, February 15, 2010


Frothing at the Mouth has moved. Find the continuing saga here:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some Changes Coming

Over the past week, motivated by the problems I had with Zen Cart, I have been experimenting with using WordPress for not only the online e-fiction store, but also my entire web site. I posted links inside Codex Writers Group to elicit some feedback and the response was unanimous toward favoring the Wordpress site.

If you would like to compare the two sites, you can see them by following the below links. First, some caveats:

1. The WordPress site is still under construction and the text color on many of the pages is still a dull gray that will be changing.
2. The Wordpress link will change eventually, so if you are reading this well after it is posted, the links might not work the way they work today.

Current web site:

Proposed new Wordpress site:

If I do make the move, which now seems likely, my blogging will probably move away from Blogger onto Wordpress unless I can find some way to cross-post.

Regardless, I am interested in feedback comparing the two sites.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Zen Cart Roadblock

I hit a brick wall with Zen Cart today. Fellow writer Eric James Stone develops web sites for his day job. We were on the phone discussing the Zen Cart install that I had going and discovered it to be very cumbersome to set a file up for download. While I'm not completely decided on removing the zen Cart install, I am going to give some serious consideration to another alternative he suggested that uses a Wordpress plugin.

While I like poking around in html and I'm comfortable in it for my home page, there are a few things I'd like to do with the web site that I haven't done yet. One of those is incorporating this blog into the web site itself rather than making people go to Blogger to find it. Wordpress makes that easy, but I think blogger can be embedded into my home page as well. Research time.

On the other hand, I haven't really found a Wordpress web site that I am all gaga over. So, I have a few alternatives. Move completely to Wordpress, move the store only to Wordpress, or migrate gradually. I think I'll sleep on it and ponder the problem more tomorrow.

On the other hand, I did generate my very first e-format short story as a pdf file. That's the first step. I know there are other formats, but I think it looks pretty good. Here is the cover image.

Zen Cart Progress

I have tried twice in the past to install Zen Cart. During yesterday's install, I remembered why it was unsuccessful in the past. At one point, there are files that need to be made read-only. I know how to do that, but I could never access the UNIX command line to do it. Yesterday, I managed to get into an ugly and clumsy GUI interface that allowed me to do the same thing. Not my preferred way of handling it, but it worked.

Now, I'm faced with the daunting task of setting up the store. It is not intuitive, and there are literally scores of settings. I installed with the demo merchandise, which I soon regretted. It houses a lot of crap, none of which I plan to sell. I managed to clean out all but five items, which I kept to study later.

One task to complete before too long will be creating a pdf version of at least one of my stories so I have something to put into the store. That has a a couple of implications. First, I have to use open office because Word won't save in pdf. Second, I need cover art, which shouldn't be an issue other than being time-consuming. I don't have any graphics software, but I have used Aviary before--an online graphics package that so far has done everything I need. I don't draw or paint, so my covers will of necessity be photographic. Hopefully they look decent.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Digitized Future

Since my meeting with Michael A. Stackpole last friday, digital publishing has been more and more on my mind. I'm in the planning stages of setting up a storefront on Since there seems to be growing interest in this area, I'll be documenting the experience here for other writers who want to do the same thing. It will leave a trail of bread crumbs for anyone interested in following.
Today's task: Install Zen Cart.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

RiNoWriMo a Bust

Bad bad weekend for productivity. Weekends are very difficult to use for writing. Distractions, tasks, and more distractions abound. So, not surprisingly, I have totally fallen off the RiNoWriMo wagon. I'm now hopelessly behind.

So, how to go forward? Actually, it isn't as bad as it seems. Although I haven't put any new words down since I finished the short story for the Aether Age anthology, I have been thinking about a lot of writing-related activity. Much of that is on the reinvention side.

I've been formulating a plan to digitally self-publish all my previously-released short fiction and sell from my own web site in the Michael A. Stackpole model. Following the meeting I had with him on friday, I've been pondering this a lot.

The main barrier is the construction of my online store with Zen Cart. My web host does have an automatic install for both the cart and the database. I've installed it twice before, then my install stayed fallow. So, the big thing now is to reinstall (old installs have been deleted) and then figure out how to get it running. I suspect that mainly involves butt-in-chair time, which will happen soon.

Prior to that, however, I need to create some professional-looking product. Appearance here is of utmost importance, including cover art for even the shortest of stories. I plan to handle pretty much all of that photographically because I have the tools and ability to handle that method, where I have less drawing or painting ability than a chipmunk stoned on catnip.

Also a priority is getting the edits done for the Aether Age story. I expect that will be finished tomorrow, then on to creating the prototype digital story for the online store. Plus, I need to complete that novel I started during NaNoWriMo. Lots and lots to do.

So, consider RiNoWriMo a bust for me, at least by the numbers. However, it jump-started my working on the writing career. Since that was the original intention, I can hardly call it a failure.

News on progress will continue.

Friday, February 05, 2010

RiNoWriMo - Day 5

Despite this being RiNoWriMo day 5, I did not generate any new word count today. That doesn't mean that I didn't get anything meaningful in terms of writing accomplished. I spent a good hour or so with Michael A. Stackpole discussing digital publishing.

For those not familiar with his model, Stackpole uses digital self-publishing as a significant part of his writing distribution portfolio. This is in addition to anything he sells in the traditional manner, and it has provided very good returns for him. He is one of the vanguard authors in this respect and quickly becoming a recognized expert among genre writers. He says his being an expert speaks to the trouble the traditional publishers find themselves in. He's also a fairly polarizing figure, especially among those who have a lot invested in traditional publishing. Go read his own words if you want to know more, I linked to his web site above.

So, I have some plans to make that sort of online presence a part of my writing distribution portfolio and now have to work on the details, like adding Zen Cart to my web site and learning how to produce the different digital file formats.

I think at this point RiNoWriMo has already served its purpose. While I'm not hitting the targets, I am being productive again. However, I'll still track and try to get as close as possible to the target through the end of the month.

Day 5 / 0 words / 3861 total / -3639 from target / 5 pages edited, digital publishing meeting.
Day 4 / 682 words / 3861 total / -2139 from target / 1 short story completed
Day 3 / 810 words / 3179 total / -1321 from target
Day 2 / 1612 words / 2360 total / -631 from target
Day 1 / 757 words / 757 total / -743 from target

Thursday, February 04, 2010

RiNoWriMo - Day 4

Ok, so this is not going as well as I had hoped, but I am still making progress and that's a change over last month. Several unusual situations are competing for my time, but I did manage to complete the draft of the Aether Age story today. It finished up at around 4600 words. I'll go over it again tomorrow and do some touch-up.

In my defense, it's difficult for me to finish one project then jump immediately into another one. I usually have at least one down day between projects. That's one reason why I tend to write long fiction faster. For some reason, I have always worked faster on long projects. Maybe that's why my word count is 1/3 what it was in November for NaNoWriMo. Analysis doesn't excuse it, though.

Not sure if I'll get any word count at all tomorrow. I'm scheduled to meet with Michael A. Stackpole to discuss digital publishing strategy. He's got a lot of good ideas and uses digital self-publishing as part of his portfolio strategy. My own online fiction strategy has lagged behind the curve forever, and I finally figured out why. I don't have a clear objective. That's one thing I hope to figure out as a result of the meeting.

Okay, for the RiNoWriMo talley:

Day 4 / 682 words / 3861 total / -2139 from target / 1 short story completed
Day 3 / 810 words / 3179 total / -1321 from target
Day 2 / 1612 words / 2360 total / -631 from target
Day 1 / 757 words / 757 total / -743 from target

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

RiNoWriMo - Day 3

Not a solid day. Was interrupted by miscommunication on date/time for a meeting with Michael A. Stackpole, and that chewed up an hour. I managed to get about 800 words down today before being pulled away to help with 8th grade science homework. Fortunately, my day is wide open tomorrow. As it stands:

Day 3 / 810 words / 3179 total / -1321 from target
Day 2 / 1612 words / 2360 total / -631 from target
Day 1 / 757 words / 757 total / -743 from target

Not doing well compared to the goals, but I'm certainly making more progress than i did in January with many days of 0 words.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

RiNoWriMo - Day 2

Today, I managed to gut out about 1600 words by writing in fits and starts all day long. That hits the daily goal and makes up some ground for the deficit I left yesterday. The Aether Age story, now titled Goga's First Law, now stands at 3763 words, and will probably grow by another 1000 to 1500 before the dust settles. I should get it done by the end of the week. At that point, I'd like to hammer out a couple of other shorts, but if I don't get any brilliant ideas, I'll go back to the NaNoWriMo novel.

Day 2 / 1612 words / 2360 total / -631 from target
Day 1 / 757 words / 757 total / -743 from target


Looks like the Coyotes beat the Predators 1-0 in a shootout. I saw only about 1/3 of the game, mid second through the third until about 6:30 when I had to go back to the Netflix movie. (Sometimes being married means watching things when you'd rather be watching other things.) Good game, from what I saw. The Yotes were beating the Predators in Shots on Goal by a 2-1 margin. just great defensive play. Wish I could have seen the shootout.

Monday, February 01, 2010

RiNoWriMo - Day 1

At writers group last night, Lejon Johnson gave my NaNoSorTa a new name. The big deal in November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Lejon dubbed this February effort RiNoWriMo, Rick Novy Writing Month.

So be it.

In a perfect world, every month is RiNoWriMo. But this is life. And in life, we start to walk, in the immortal words of Kris Kringle, by putting one foot in front of the other. So today, February 1st, I started RiNoWriMo, and did not meet my goal of 1500 words. I did write about half that, putting down 757 words on a short story I am trying to finish for the Aether Age anthology.

For some reason, this story is coming out in first person. I don't think I've sold a first person story to the M-Brane crew, so this will be a little different kind of product than they are used to seeing from me. It will be interesting if it works for them.


Day 1 / 757 words / 757 total / -743 from target

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I need a kick in the pants to get writing again. November's NaNoWriMo was very productive for me. I finished over 52,000 words in 30 days. Writing between 1600 and 2000 words a day (with one massive 4000 word day) felt good. It felt productive, I felt useful, and I like how that felt.

With the start of December, I had intended to take a few days to finish a video project, then go back and finish the novel. The plan went awry when my computer crashed, trapping both the novel and the video project for two weeks. By the time I got the computer back, the video project became urgent. Writing is a momentum thing for me, and the crash brought writing to a screeching halt. I still haven't done more than a few token words in 2010. I started the year with the goal of writing every day. That ended January 4th, and I just remembered about the goal as I write this. Too little, too late.

As I sat outside uprooting rogue bermuda grass from the pool, I hit upon the idea of how to get going again. if NaNoWriMo worked in November, why not do it again? It's worth a try, and because I thought of the idea on January 31, I can make it happen in February.

The rules are different.
1) I can work on any fiction project, not just the novel, as long as I put in the word count.
2) The goal is 42000 words in 28 days, that's 1500 per day vs the 1666 in NaNoWriMo.
3) There is no web site and no slick reward banner.

If anyone else needs a kick in the pants and wants to join me, post a comment or email me using the contact link on my web site and let's be accountable to each other.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Official. Matt's job to Lose

If you follow sports at all, you probably know that Kurt Warner decided to retire. He has a nice message to his fans on his one and only official web site. You can see it here. Right hand side, just below the fold. You can see more on the Cardinals web site.

It's bitter-sweet. When I moved to Arizona, I bled green and gold. It took Kurt Warner to make me care about the Cardinals, a team with a losing tradition as long and solid as the Chicago Cubs, but without being as lovable. But it wasn't just me, nobody in Phoenix cared much about the Cardinals until last season. Despite, an ESPN has put it, the team having a Jeckyll and Hyde personality, bringing back the old nickname of Cardiac Cards, Kurt Warner made the team into a winner. He elevated the play of everyone around him.

I lived in southeastern Wisconsin when Bambi's Bombers took the World Series to 7 games in 1982. I spent a good amount of time in Kansas City when the Royals won it all in 1984. I lived in San Jose during the Joe Montana/Steve Young era 49ers. And now I've lived in the valley when Kurt's Kards went to the Superbowl. Of all that, I have never seen a place so invigorated as the valley became over a sports team in the past two years. We bought Cardinals shirts on clearance for $1 each back in the day. Now, you can't find even knock-offs under $15.

Kurt, thanks for everything you've done for Arizona and for the Cardinals. It's been a heck of a ride and I wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life.

One of the Evils of Life and Changes in Football?

I think I have all the documents I need to start my taxes. So, here we go again. Time to fire up TurboTax, collect various receipts, print out forms from Scottrade, dig through the medical file to find out how much we spent on precriptions, and so forth.

It's going to be an interesting process this year with all the different situations I find myself in. Unemployment, funeral, odd job income, new business expenses, and business losses.

It's something we all have to deal with, so I best get on with it.


Kurt Warner is scheduled to announce his retirement/non-retirement decision in just under three hours. If he decides to stay, it just delays the inevitable transition. If he retires, the Cardinals need to become Matt Leinart's team quickly, and the running game will become a focus for Coach Whis. I'm wearing Cardinal red today (see photo two entries below) to support both Kurt and the team no matter the decision.

The expiration of the agreement between the players and owners will make this an interesting season regardless. My understanding is that if no new agreement is reached, the salary cap goes away for the 2010 season. One of the reasons I have turned away from baseball to football was the long stretch without a labor dispute. I also like the salary cap, and how it seems to have brought a lot of parity to the NFL. With no salary cap, do you see Indianapolis and New Orleans as the top seeds in playoffs, or do the large market teams dominate like they do in baseball?

Remember the days when the Kansas City Royals were a contender? That was back in the mid 1980s. It's a small city market, and they can't compete with George Steinbrenner, who constantly buys pennants. The Yankees are a great organization, but it isn't hard to win that many pennants if you have the cash to hoard all the good players. It takes away from the game.

A lockout of the 2011 football season, which the sportswriters all predict, would probably push me away from football into hockey. That would be a great loss, because I love football.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

'Twas an Adventure

Today I made a foolhardy attempt to fix a leak in the roof. I have a two story house, and the upstairs attic is cramped and dusty. Loose insulation comes to a depth of eight inches minimum, buring the 2x4s and covering the drywall floor. That's right, the drywall is just nailed to the 2x4s and that's my floor in that attic.

The leak was a good ten feet from the access hole, and thus I had to climb up there, remaining on the 2x4s at all times. Falling through the sheetrock would have been catastrophic since the leak is over the stairs going to the first floor. A good 15 foot drop to the landing then a roll down the rest of the stairs.

Needless to say, I used extreme caution up there., moving slowly and deliberately. I don't like going up there and I don't want to do it again. Sitting for 30 minutes in an awkward position trying to coat the plywood of the ceiling with patch tar was, well, let's say it was loads of fun. Stiff muscles and fatigue made the difficulty extra challenging. On top of that, I had no evidence of where the leak exactly was, other than the wet spot in the insulation. I took my best guess and sealed up far more than was probably necessary. I just hope I got the leak.

By the way, WD-40 gets patch tar off your hands.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meet Up with John Brown and Larry Correia

I love when writers I know from cyberspace show up in Phoenix and I get to meet them face to face. Two writers I know from Codex showed up during a book tour last November. John Brown I have known electronically for several years. Larry Correia I've known electronically for a few months. I met them on November 17.

That's me on the left in the Cards shirt. John is in the middle, and Larry on the right. I don't think we intentionally stood in height order, but that's how it worked out.

Nice folks. Wish we had a little more time to talk, but they had a whirlwind tour scheduled and I had science homework to help with. I look forward to hanging out at a con one of these days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rain? In the Desert?

The same series of storms that passed through California is in process of making its way through Arizona. We've collected considerable amount of water in the back yard over the past several days. It always accumulates in the low areas because the ground is so hard. It takes a long time for the water to soak into the ground. Some of the computer models show as much as six inches dumping on Phoenix. It seems like s decent storm for anywhere, but to put it into perspective, we only get an average of seven inches of rain a year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Honorable Mention

Sometimes a surprise comes in the mail. Today I received my third Writers of the Future certificate for finishing as honorable mention. WOTF is funny that way.

I have placed at Honorable Mention (or Quarter Finalist, as it used to be known) nine times. I have received three certificates. The first one showed up two months after I received the SASE back with the notice of the HM finish. The second time, the notice in the mail stated that I had to REQUEST a certificate. This time, the certificate arrived unexpected with the SASE inside, but no letter at all. I posted a cell phone picture on twitpic (where I often post pictures of noteworthy events and just weird or meaningless tripe on a whim).

Consistency has never been one of their stronger suits, though they do a great job keeping the contest alive and humming.

Gotta go find a frame now...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gearing Up

I went into last week with three classes to teach at the local community college. By thursday, two had been canceled due to low enrollment, and one had been take by a full timer who lost a class due to low enrollment. Friday I picked up two new classes at a satellite location. It's a little farther from the house, but it's 7 credits total. That should be enough to knock me off unemployment again.

I only have to generate notes for one of the classes this time, as I've taught the other one before. Generating notes is the worst part. Very time consuming.

This afternoon, I plan to get back on the writing horse. I have an Aether Age story to finish, then I want to get cracking on that NaNo novel and finish the thing. There was a nice motivation article in today's business section by Harvey Mackay called Rebound from your Failures by Taking Lessons from Mistakes. Among other influences, this article is motivating me to get writing again after the 6+ week hiatus that started when my hard drive crashed last month. I'd like to get back on the pace I held during NaNoWriMo, or reasonably close to that. It's a good clip that can finish a novel in two months, and it feels good to be that productive.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Of Roasted Cardinal and Mangled Bats

My son and I participated in an Eagle project for one of the boys in his scout troop this morning. We did trail work on an unlisted trail to repair ATV damage, and also to block an illegal ATV access trail. hard work, very physical, cutting and dragging dead branches around. We also found a wounded bat on the trail and the boys attempted a rescue, taking it to an area where the rangers deal with wounded animals.

We left the house just before 7:00 and got home at about 1:00. that gave enough time to get into the shower then dress for the Cardinal-Saints game.

Other than the touchdown run on the first snap of the game, the Cardinals looked flat. They lost two major defenders early, and Kurt Warner went down after being hit trying to tackle the guy who intercepted his pass. Matt Leinart looked okay through the end of the second quarter, but Neil Rackers missed another field goal--this time short. Rackers never misses short, which tells me that groin injury isn't properly healed and quite likely was aggravated last week. Even punter Ben Graham looked flat, punting uncharacteristic short.

I think Green Bay just wore the Cardinals out. They looked tired,and they played tired.

It was a good run, a better season than last year even if the ride didn't last as long.

Now that football season is over for me (though I'll probably catch a few more games) I'll be turning to hockey until the Olympics, where it will be more hockey and some speed skating, luge, and bobsled.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jarimath's Fate

I got the sweetest P.S. in a SFWA-related email today in my capacity as moderator of the Nebula Suggested Reading list.

PS: I loved "Catalyst" -- but I want it to be the beginning of something much longer -- I mean, Jarimath's fate could be a novel in and of itself!

I'll not say who wrote the note because it was sent in private correspondence, but it was a nice compliment to offset other less encouraging news that I won't go into.

Also within the past day or two I learned that I again have a Writers of the Future honorable mention finish. It was a bit discouraging to me until in correspondence with Kevin J. Anderson, I read this:

Congratuations — regardless of what you may think, those things aren’t easy to come by.

I suppose he has more perspective than I do, but it's still a discouraging result when I know so many of the contest winners. Still, I have nine of them, which is why they seem easy to come by to me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bash Brothers?

So, Mark McGwire now admits to what we all already knew. His 70 homeruns were juiced. So, the allegations go, are the 762 hit by Barry Bonds. So let's look at the top spots here.

Career Homers:
Barry Bonds - 762 = Juiced
Hank Aaron - 755 = Legit
Babe Ruth - 714 = Legit

Single Season Homers:
Barry Bonds (2001) - 73 = Juiced
Mark McGwire (1998) - 70 = Juiced
Sammy Sosa (1998) - 66 = Juiced
Mark McGwire (1999) - 65 = Juiced
Sammy Sosa (2001) - 64 = Juiced
Sammy Sosa (1999) - 63 = Juiced
Roger Maris (1961) - 61 = Legit
Babe Ruth (1927) - 60 = Legit
Babe Ruth (1921) - 59 = Legit

So what do you think? The reason homerun numbers went down after Maris was mainly due to improvements in pitching. The split finger fastball and the forkball had a lot to do with it. And then, suddenly, in 1998 not one, but TWO guys broke the record set by Roger Maris in 1961? I smelled a rat back then, and now the last rat has been squirreled out.

This isn't asterisk country, this is shameful. Sorry Sammy, Barry, and Mark. You juice the Babe on steroids and he hits a hundred. The three of you cheated and should be banished from the record books and from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Aaron and Maris still hold the records as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now I Know What Color to Wear

After enduring two weeks of watching my two favorite teams play each other, I can finally get behind the Cardinals 100%. I grew up in Wisconsin and am still a die-hard Packers fan. Still, when you watch the local team week in and week out, hear about them on the news, see all the other people wearing the colors, it's very hard not to root for them. In this case, it's the Cardinals.

When I first moved to the valley, it was very easy to root against the Cardinals. To be blunt, they sucked. And they didn't just start being bad when I moved here, they were bad since the 1970s.

Over the past few years, since the new stadium was built, really, they've been getting better and better. When they started Kurt Warner last year, it was the beginning of something special. Almost winning the Superbowl last year was one heck of a ride for a city who never really had a football team to root for.

The first two times Green Bay played Arizona this year, the games were utterly meaningless. One was pre-season, one was game 16 after the Cardinals had nothing to play for. Today's game was a barnburner. Wow. 96 total points in a 51-45 overtime victory for the Cards on a defensive touchdown. Holy smokes!

It should have been 48-45 in regulation but for Rackers' muffed field goal. A guy who I had been following for two years as one of the best kickers in the NFL, and one of the few kickers whose jersey I would have been willing to wear, almost lost the game for them. When the Packers won the overtime toss, Rackers took his frustration out on the ball, kicking a line-drive touchback.

New Orleans has a high-octane offense too. We might just see another one next week in the Superdome.

I would have been okay with Green Bay winning, though I prefer to see Kurt Warner finish his career with another Superbowl. Aaron Rogers will get his ring. Just not this year.

And I'm still looking for an Aaron Rogers Jersey if anybody knows where any are in the valley. Even if I won't be wearing it until Arizona is done.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Stealing Another Meme - My 2000s

I'm stealing a meme from Spencer Ellsworth, who has an interesting review of his decade over on his live journal account. Interesting enough that I decided to steal his idea and run with it. My 2000 decade in review.

2000: I'm getting old, it's hard to remember that far back. I started the year with fresh memories of Italy, where I trained with some engineers for the company I started working for in 1999. I changed jobs from product to device engineering. It was a decision based on cross-training and the opportunity presenting itself. In retrospect, it might have been a major mistake but what is done is done.

We experienced for the first time what it's like to have the Phoenix Open in our back yard. Think Superbowl 7 days in a row, progressively worse every day.

We got two dogs. We had no kids in school. Rica's mother, (aka Grandma) had a garden and roses.

2001: The Diamondback played well all season, making it easy to adopt the local team over the previous favorite San Francisco Giants. The company I worked for made the decision that no headcount would be lost, and they remained mostly true to that during the bubble-burst known as the "Tech Wreck." We all feared it, but that company turned out to be a safe harbor in a bad storm.

Audrey started Kindergarten. We enrolled her in a charter school run by Tutor Time. She did well.

The first tower had already been struck when I came downstairs on the morning of September 11th. Having never been to NYC, I didn't realize the magnitude of the hole in the side of the building until I saw the second plane hit. At that point, I made a prediction I wish did not come true, that both towers would collapse, and in the correct order. Unfortunately, I was right.

The Yankees and Diamondbacks played a whale of a World Series, something that the country needed. Textbook says the Yankees should have won, and despite Byung-Hyun Kim trying to give the series to them, the Diamondbacks won in the bottom of the ninth of game 7.

2002: The Tutor Time charter school turned out to be a bait and switch. After the Kindergarten year, they tried to get all the parents to enroll in their new private school. I think they had around 60 kids in the charter school. Only one child was enrolled for the private school. We enrolled Audrey and Reanna in the public schools, while Russell stayed home with Grandma. I honestly can't remember much else about 2002.

2003: All three kids were now in school, and help with homework would become a growing task for me. I think it was in 03 that I started working nights, something that lasted for around a year and a half. It was working, but the company reorganized and reallocated us. I started working in the parametric test area, something closer to where I started, and liked it better.

2004: This is when they did away with the old position and reallocated me to a more technical position working on the Keithley testers. It also marks the year I really consider that I became a writer. That is because I started a novel, Neanderthal Swan Song, and made the decision that I would finish it no-matter-what. And I did, but not in 2004. But I did work on it regularly from October through December. I also made my first fiction sale, to Alien Skin Magazine--a publication that is now on my, to be kind, do not submit list.

2005: At work, I moved out of parametric test and back into Product Engineering. Turns out, I did this three months before the company announced that the work would move offshore. I spent much of the second half of the year looking for something else, and without much success.

This was a huge year for me as a writer. I finished that novel. I met David Gerrold, who has been something of a mentor for me. I attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp, where I met Spencer mentioned above, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brad Beaulieu, and a dozen other writers, many of whom I have lost track of. I didn't sell anything, but I wrote a lot. I also joined Codex Writer Group, an online group that has been a great source for networking and I have grown quite fond several people I met through it.

2006: The job situation got a bit hairy. They told us that they would fund our salaries through June. I found another job in May. That job seemed wonderful, though they didn't feed me enough work to keep me busy. how that would change. The company experienced a leveraged buy out a few months after I started. Little did I know how much that would soon change the company culture. But, that's a story for 2007.

Audrey won first place in the Arizona Flute Society Young Artists competition for her age group, tying for first with another fabulous young Arizona flautist.

Three fiction sales happened in 2007, including my first pro sale that would eventually qualify me for associate membership in SFWA. I wrote at my best pace until I finally did NaNoWriMo in 2009.

The Cardinals hired at some point Dennis Green to coach, and despite his antics, he made some excellent player acquisitions that would reap benefits after he left, including a backup quarterback by the name of Kurt Warner. I started paying attention to a team other than Green Bay.

2007: Wow things changed. Without going into any work-related details, I was working on an automotive product with some serious but low PPM problems. I was the guy who absorbed much of the incoming fire, and work on this problem saturated my time for the rest of my tenure at this company.

I rewrote Neanderthal Swan Song, finishing just as the corporate hell was getting started, expanding it from 74,000 words to 114,000 despite dropping a sub-plot. That concluded the bulk of my fiction writing until now, mainly due to stress-related exhaustion. Work in previous years carried the day, as my fiction appeared ten times during the course of the year.

The Cardinals fired Dennis Green and hired Ken Whisenhunt. They went 8-8 and looked to be getting better.

2008: A miserable wretch of a year, where the combination of the leveraged buy-out issues and the product problem combined to be pretty much all-consuming. Quote of the year: "No personal activity on company time. Company time is defined as 2008." I should have known it would be bad when a colleague died of what I will never be convinced was not a work-stress related heart attack during the holidays of 2007, and I learned of it on New Years Eve about an hour before 2008 started.

I wrote some of my worst fiction, much of which has not sold and is trunked. I did manage to appear seven times, but the job situation really set me back about two or three years in my writing career, and I am still struggling to get my output back to what it was in 2006.

In the fall, an economy already in recession took a turn for the worse. The auto industry was hit hard, and even an idiot could see the fallout coming back to the part suppliers. Later, Yertle the Turtle announced a significant reduction in force world-wide. The ax came out of the shed in December to cut the dead wood. A handful from our division were gone and the ax went into the shed for the holidays.

The Cardiac Cardinals were reborn, going 9-7. Playing well, this team could be anybody. Playing less than well, oh boy they stunk. You never knew which team would show up, and we went into the new year expecting a one-and-done from the Cardinals in the playoffs.

2009: But, the Cardinals got hot and finished the season with a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of Superbowl 43 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The strong playoff run helped to soften the blow that landed on January 14th around 10:00 am. January 14th is when Yertle the Turtle pulled the ax out of the shed and flailed it around with berserker vicious disregard for who it hit. The group of engineers I belonged to had 16 people when we got to work. At 5:00Pm it had only 8. This was a massive reduction in force so large that those who were let go were probably envied by those left to pick up the pieces. The talent drain was tremendous. Needless to say, I was part of that wave and I spent the rest of the year unemployed or underemployed.

I started my video company, but this Great Recession had nobody buying anything, and the company continues to struggle to find work. I spent August to December teaching in the math department at Paradise Valley Community College, where I taught night classes back in 2000-2003. They were, fortunately, happy to have me back, which provided a needed ego boost.

We also lost Grandma, Rica's mother. That added an unwelcome financial strain to an already strained situation. Her side of the family pitched in, and a lot of little contributions can add up. Although it didn't come close to covering the expenses, it did help get us through those difficult days before I started teaching in the fall.

On the writing front, my fiction appeared a personal record 13 times, including finally my second SFWA-qualifying sale, my first audio fiction appearance, and my first book, "Winter" which is a pairing of a novelette "Winter" with a reprint of the story that was my first SFWA-eligible sale. I also guest-edited issue #12 of M-Brane SF, which was released not only in the usual pdf format, but also as a trade paperback as a collection under the title Ergosphere. I also took the opportunity to keep my word to my niece Hazel Abaya to help her get an opportunity to get her art published. Her colored pencil drawing graces the cover.

It took a very long time to decompress from all the stress of the job I no longer had. I struggled to write through most of the year, only getting back to it in the fall. Some important video work did steal some of the creative juices. Still, the habit of not writing was so hard to break that it took NaNoWriMo to get me going again. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I did it in 29.

My intention after finishing NaNo was to take a break to complete a video project for a couple days, then go back after the novel at the same pace, finishing it by the end of the year. Then my hard drive crashed and I couldn't do either.

I did manage to get the computer back in time to barely make the deadline on the video project, and the client was very pleased with it, but I completely lost the NaNo momentum. I expect to get back on that novel before the end of January 2010.

And the Cardiac Cardinal are back for more, wining the NFC West and ushering in a new decade with another hold-your-breath which-team-will-show-up post-season on deck.

2009 was a tough year in many respects, but in a lot of ways, it was a better year than 2008. Actually, the whole decade was rough, though it had some stellar moments too. It would be nice if this upcoming decade had more of the stellar than of the rough, but we have to play the hand we're dealt. Right now, I still have cards dealt the past few years in my hand. Maybe I'll bluff, because I refuse to fold.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cards Release Nugent

Color me a little disappointed that the Cardinals released kicker Mike Nugent outright. I would have preferred to see him signed to the practice squad. Neil Rackers is the Cardinals normal kicker, and a damn good one. Still, with Rackers' injury, Mike Nugent had a 100% success rate as a stand-in. He made every field goal he was asked to kick. He didn't screw up any kickoffs either.

Of course, Nugent went in knowing that he would only be a round for a few weeks, but still, a decent kicker is hard to find, and with Rackers not at 100%, it would be good to have Nugent on the roster for the playoffs.

Not completely understanding Whisenhunt's rationale here.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

First Lines of 2009

One of my favorite fiction writing people, Mary Robinette Kowal, has a fun meme on her blog called First Lines. You can see all the first lines of the first blog entries from her blog in 2009 here.

Here are mine. (Mary's are, as always, more interesting.)

January: Despite their father growing up in Wisconsin, my three kids (11,12,13) had never seen snow until this past Monday.

February: This year, the TPC of Scottsdale built the first fully-enclosed stadium around the infamous 16th hole for the FBR Open (read Phoenix Open).

March: If you have been following this blog, you know that I was a victim of Reduction in Force back in January.

April: This is a bonus edition of the Novy Mirror. (Note: This entry was a cross-post from The first line I wrote myself to the blog in April was this: Okay. I see did, indeed, crosspost to my blog.)

A long time ago, David Gerrold wrote an episode for Star Trek-The Next Generation.

Just found out that my novelette, "Winter," slated to be released with a reprint of my short story "The Adjoa Gambit" was pushed back again.

So far, Westercon has been a blast.

August: Michelle M. Welch is a Phoenix area writer who has written several novels.

September: Okay, so shoot me because it's been a week since I posted.

October: Cool video of the Lunar Impact mission.

November: The Theme and Variation audio anthology went live last week.

December: Wow, suddenly a month goes by and I haven't posted.

Driving Lesson: Freeway On Ramps

I hate when I have to take matters into my own hands, but please people, pay attention. (Drivers of very massive vehicles are exempt from this rant--it's a detail of classical physics.)

Freeway on-ramps are constructed for the express purpose of entering freeways. This means you must use the ramp to accelerate until you match the speed of the vehicles already on the freeway.

See, if you decide to travel 40 MPH up a ramp when the traffic on the freeway is traveling 65 MPH, there is a 25 MPH difference. In order to move left onto the freeway, because you are going 40 MPH, you must CUT SOMEBODY OFF, forcing them to slam on the brakes, or force them to move left if they can, or they can simply HIT YOU.

Furthermore, if I am behind you when you decide to travel 40 MPH on the ramp, I will also be forced to go 40 MPH, and must then cut somebody off to get on the freeway because you are preventing me from entering the freeway correctly.

It is easier to get on the freeway if you match speed with the traffic thereon. If you end up with a car next to you, it is simple enough to speed up or slow down to as the situation dictates, in order to move left into an opening. If, however, you are going much slower than the cars on the freeway, you can only hope I'm not killed.

Got it?