Thursday, December 31, 2015

Writing Plans for 2016

Well, as always, I've got stuff on my plate.

The NaNoWriMo book deserves a serious effort this year at getting completed. I think Subway Night has the chance to sell more than ten copies. ;)

I have a short story project that needs completing for my Writers for All Seasons anthology. Speaking of which, the ebook Stories for All Seasons has sold reasonably well and the group leadership is making arrangements for a printed version to go to market in 2016 (sweet!).

I have about four - five, perhaps - story ideas still tied into my Talents superhero 'verse, and I may work on those over the year when I find the time.

I may also pull articles from my political blog and get them bundled into a print book, just to see how that goes. I may need to pursue some legal action first as I've discovered somebody had been mirroring/stealing my blog (!)...

So, that said, HAPPY NEW YEAR, people!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Thoughts On The Force Awakens (Yes, SPOILER alert. IT'S BEEN TWO WEEKS PEOPLE)

Can't touch this.

This WILL HAVE SPOILERS. Although it's been two weekends now, let it go people, let it go... If you don't wanna read this, you don't have to.

Once you get past the thrill and enjoyment of there being another Star Wars movie, you can examine your feels and consider the actual merits and value of the movie.

In the good news category: The Force Awakens is a fun, well-crafted, well-acted piece of entertainment. In the bad news category: It's not a GREAT movie, mind you, nothing along the lines of MAD MAX FURY ROAD. Then again, few will be.

If I had to rank the movies this year by level of SHEER AWESOMENESS, it'd be Fury Road at the WITNESS IT level of YOU WILL ARRIVE IN VALHALLA SHINY AND CHROME, Force Awakens right behind it at the YES OMG IT'S GOOD, Age of Ultron about five or six levels below around Thank GOD Marvel Knows What It's Doing, Ant-Man in the middle of the pack at Exceeds ExpectationsJurassic World about twenty levels down around At Least There's a Dinosaur Battle, and Fantastic Four reboot in the trash-heap at Please Put 20th Century Fox Out of Our Misery.

Don't ask me how I feel about the Jem and the Holograms disaster. /cries

If you want me to go into greater details about what I liked and didn't like, here goes. (If you want someone else's view, I found this one, and John Scalzi's, and Flick Filosopher's view here, and maybe more)


They did an incredible job casting the new lead actors/actresses. Daisy Ridley as Rey is a goddamn find: with only a handful of television and independent short film performances to her credit, she's tasked with being one of the primary characters in one of the largest film franchises of all time, and she hits a home run in her first big movie lead. She plays Rey with the right balance of pluck, wistfulness, smarts, emotional heft, and glee.

John Boyega I knew from the criminally undervalued Attack the Block movie (a cult classic that deserves more love and should get more play now that Boyega is a superstar), so when they cast him as the co-lead Finn I already knew they hired a quality actor and what to expect. He didn't disappoint, and even displayed some comic timing I wasn't expecting, which added to the movie's appeal.

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the hotshot pilot of this new trilogy, impressed early on as a charismatic figure. Playing Poe as a confident veteran of an ongoing war, he interacts well with Finn during the first third of the film and provides a great way to re-introduce the audience to how the good guys - the Resistance - think and act. It's actually a problem the movie has when he disappears for most of the first and second acts of the story...

Adam Driver did excellent work as the saga's newest prominent villain Kylo Ren. Saddled with playing behind a mask for much of the movie, he does what he can with voice acting, and conveys the anger and arrogance of a Dark Force acolyte with exacting purpose. Once he does remove the mask, his angular yet oval face makes his villain appear boyish, almost innocent: except when the petulance kicks in, and when his fear gets the better of him...

BB-8. You keep forgetting that this machine is literally a film prop, just a remote-controlled droid, and yet it is so imbued with personality and care that you think the metal soccer ball is alive. It takes all the cuteness of R2-D2 and multiplies it by 100.

Just the way all three leads - Poe, Finn, Rey - play with BB-8 like kids believing the puppet is real and having fun doing so. The bit where Finn gets BB-8 to cover for him - and sharing a thumbs-up 'cause yeah dude - is both heartwarming and funny.

I liked the in-universe references to the previous movies. Building on its own history, this movie is filled with nods, homages, and nostalgic reminders. The opening world Jakku is littered with the debris of such history - Star Destroyers collapsed upon the sands like broken pyramids - signalling the passage of time and how events from the original trilogy are passing already into rust, dust, and legend.

Every re-introduction of a familiar face just makes the old veteran of the Star Wars - hooked since 1977 - like me break out with hoots and applause. Like the reuniting with old friends.

The characters are running from a wave of TIE fighters strafing the Jakku trading post.
Finn (points to an off-camera spaceship): What about that ship?
Rey: That one's garbage! (keeps running towards a shiny ship further away)
Shiny ship gets blasted by the TIE fighters.
Rey (shrugs): The garbage will do...
Both characters start running towards the Millennium Falcon half-shrouded like an abandoned hunk of junk. (audiences start cheering when we see it)

Han: Chewie, we're home...
Chewie: Rawwrrrr.

Chewie getting laughs every time he shrugs as Han digs himself into deeper holes dealing with space gangs.

Harrison Ford shifting the way Han Solo is played: no longer the cocky smuggler anti-hero, but now a Mentor figure to both Finn and Rey, becoming the Obi-Wan figure that Alec Guinness played in the first movie (there is some irony there). Playing father figure to the new leads in a way that humanizes Han even further and adds to the emotional nostalgia the film is already giving the audience.

The way Carrie Fisher - no, Leia - shakes her head seeing Han as they reunite when the Resistance shows up to fight the First Order on Maz Kanata's world.

Everyone knowing how a Sith / Dark Lord of the Force handles bad news. When Kylo throws a temper tantrum, he means it...

Two Stormtroopers patrolling a hallway come across Kylo throwing an epic conniption in a nearby room, and quietly turn around and walk away.

An overall upgrade to Stormtroopers, period. Jokingly considered bad shots the way they never hit our heroes, always used for cannon fodder, and eventually beaten by teddy bears, in this movie they're more formidable and thus memorable. In particular, the baton-wielding Trooper has become the One Scene Wonder of the movie, standing up to a lightsaber and winning that fight (until Han shows up with Chewie's bowcaster).

Rey confronting Kylo. First, in the woods as Kylo uses his experience with the Force to hunt, taunt, and capture Rey. Second, when Kylo tries to use his Force powers to mind-probe Rey, only to have Rey discover SHE has the Force and can use it to block his effort and read HIS mind. And Third...

...I wrote a whole long article about this on my political blog. About how Rey as the Hero of Campbellian archetype is a transformative figure. Because in that Third Confrontation...

...Rey uses her new-found link to the Force to summon Anakin/Luke's lightsaber to HER rather than let Kylo take it. This is a huge moment in the movie, arguably in modern cinema. The moment she grips that lightsaber and turns it on (with John Williams' epic score blaring a combination of Anakin and Luke's leitmotifs), it confirms that a woman CAN be the Hero of the Monomyth on her own terms.

Speaking of Rey using the Force, how she uses that new talent to Force Persuade a Stormtrooper - Ident JB-007 - to unlock her from the torture chair and leave the cell door open. Here's the thing: it takes three tries for her, it's not like she's just a brand-new person just mind-tricking everybody off the bat, she has to get a FEEL for how the Force works.
Rey (thinking quickly): And you will drop your weapon.
JB-007 (zoned out): AAaaaaannnnddd I will drop my weapon (does so).

And speaking about how the Force works, Finn gets it in his head during the rescue mission for Rey - as well as going off to blow up the Death Star 3.0 - that they can just rely on the Force to provide them with all the luck they need.

Han (remember, he started off not even believing in this stuff): THAT'S NOT HOW THE FORCE WORKS!

...and yet, all the plot points fall into place, so yeah, that IS how the Force works...

The final battle sequences, with all the fighting and the blowing up of things and good guys getting the shot in that takes out the Evil Empire First Order's superweapon, because that's what you do in a Star Wars movie, only this time there's no explosion it's just the planet-sized weapon turning into the star it just tried to consume, which is about five different kinds of symbolism there.

And the final scene. The poignant, painful expression on Rey's face as she holds up Anakin's lightsaber, offering it to the one person who can teach her the ways of the Force so Rey can become a Jedi... like her father... (yes, I believe that theory)

No Jar-Jar. Sorry, Ahmed Best, it's not you, it's how George wrote the guy.


The massive gap in the narrative when Poe drops off the screen. He'd been set up as a major character, desperate to rescue his droid and recover the map that leads to Luke Skywalker... and then he's seemingly killed off and disappeared, only to come back for the big rescue battle ending Part Two and opening Part Three of the movie. We find out from other sources that there's a reason he disappears, but we never see a good explanation in the movie and it's just this huge plot hole that needed filling.

All this build-up for Captain Phasma being a badass and... nothing. Even Riot Stormtrooper Guy does more and does more AWESOME stuff. All that happens to Phasma is getting dumped into a garbage compactor for Han's amusement.

It feels as though Maz was criminally underused.

Snoke is being set up as a Major Big Villain but comes across as a poorly rendered CGI cartoon version of the Emperor Darth Sidious. I don't really care what the big secret about him is going to be.

Not enough Rey.

Things I Can Live With, Because Yeah:

Biggest complaint I've heard from other people is how the plot recycles the Death Star as a MacGuffin-like target for the good guys to destroy. Thing is, as a student of history and with an awareness of tropes, I know this was unavoidable as a plot point. Remember: the Empire was a fantasy version of the Nazis (the uniforms alone are a huge freaking hint), and its offspring the First Order emulates that role. The whole "overwhelm, occupy, impose order" theme requires them to deploy massive weapons as a means of generating fear and cooperation, as well as let them wipe out massive opposition with a single blow.  As a result, OF COURSE the First Order is going to build a planet-sized superweapon, it's what the Nazis would have done (and did, post-war discoveries showed how they kept building larger and more improbable weapons like super-tanks as though they were going to intimidate armies and nations into sh-ting their pants and surrendering).

Having Kylo Ren turn out to be a whiny, emo Darth. That's kind of the whole point about those who fall to the Dark Side of the Force. They are, when you take away their threatening names and metal masks, scarred children decimated by overhyped expectations and abandonment issues. Driven by personal fears of inadequacy and failure, they turn to anger to express themselves, letting that hate dominate their view and turn them into power-hungry control freaks bullying everybody else and yet who secretly write really bad poetry into a diary book while listening to British punk music. Having Kylo smash up every other chamber in fits of rage, make poorly thought-out temptations to Rey to turn her Dark Side to no avail, and turn on his own father makes perfect sense.

The confrontation between Han and his son Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren. I've seen criticisms online that the scene is dull, emotionally flat, boring. I didn't see that. The whole character arc for Han in this movie is the despair and regret he has of losing his son to the bad guys, and for Kylo the fear that he can never be as evil (and what he views as powerful) as Darth Vader. The scene on the chasm walkway where Han tries to talk sense to his son, where Kylo describes the emotional conflict he's feeling, and where Kylo proves to himself his final acceptance of the Dark Side by killing his own father, is actually pretty powerful, emotional stuff.

The way the movie ends, with Rey hiking up the island mountain into a sparse, open-air temple of Jedi solitude, finding Luke standing there overlooking the ocean view, and the wordless conclusion between them. It seems frustrating that the whole movie leads up to discovering where Luke fled, and then when found leaves us hanging without any kind of confirmation or confrontation between Luke and Rey (considering the theories floating out there). But upon further thought, the whole point of this movie is the emotional impact of everything: dialog and interaction are nice, but the mood and the awareness of the characters convey more weight. Leaving us with a vision of Rey and Luke standing there, still waiting for a decision to be made between them, hooking us for Episode VIII, was perhaps the best way to end this movie after all.

There. Got my feels said. Still in the mood to go see this movie again. I may go a total of five times, so I can equal my enthusiasm for Fury Road. That's another story...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Witty's Year End Book Review 2015

Getting down towards the moment where I want to mention the stuff I've read, and above all the works that I liked, so that I might inspire the seven people who visit this blog to go out and read these books as well. Hi there!

Some of the rules to note: the works listed may not be new this year, but are ones I've read this year or re-read as a refresher of sorts. Thing is, you should be able to find them in your local library or at least online as an ebook for purchase. The links are to the Goodreads website where you can track your reading library for sharing with friends. That said, here goes.

Best Fiction

Soon I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman.
This had been out for a few years (2007) before I finally got around to reading it, but it's become a minor classic as a deconstructive look at the superhero comic book narrative. Told from the perspective of the Mad Scientist Arch-Villain (think Luthor/Dr. Doom), the story is less about how he plots his next scheme for world domination than about how he interacts with the only people he knows: costumed vigilantes with other-worldly powers. Sharing the narrative in a parallel plotline is a secondary character - a newly created (literally) cyborg soldier introduced to the ranks of superheroes to fill their thinned ranks after a particular tragic battle - coming to terms with how she's no longer really human and yet is expected to BE human in a superhero team that's barely functioning as a group.
The genius of Grossman's work is how he toys with the standards archetypes of the superhero genre - which is emerging as a literary form separate from the graphic narratives it has been confined to the last 70 years - while respecting those tropes and explaining how such skewed, screwed up personalities and plots could exist in our real world.
Honorable mentions: Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee. The anticipated follow-up work from the writer's classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Flawed, but poignant. It's personally heart-breaking to realize some elements from Mockingbird were not as noble or humanizing as we thought when we read it in high school.

Best Non-Fiction

Between the World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Caveat: I am part of the group known as The Horde (originally the Lost Battalion of Platonic Conversationalists), which is essentially TNC's fan club from his writing for The Atlantic since 2007 or so. So this means that anything he writes is going to get a favorable impression from me. Hell, the guy can write a comic book series for Marvel and I'll sing its praises. Oh, right, he is... (I'm a DCU guy, so this IS a big deal)
Between the World And Me is a book-long letter Coates writes to his son - standing in for the readers - about his past experiences growing up as a Black teen in a decaying urban setting, coping with issues and personal traumas inflicted on minorities due to the institutional racism embedded deep into the American character. Describing the attacks on Black men and youth as "plunder", Coates details the horrors of lives ruined and brutally ended all because our system - of schools, law enforcement, business and employment, established cultural norms - is geared towards punishment and silence of those deemed poor and inferior.
It's a powerful read, and the sins Coates catalogs in his work are ones that need addressing.
Honorable mentions: Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup. A beautiful memoir about spiritual awareness, coping with personal loss, and how not to panic when getting lost in the woods of Maine.

Best Graphic Novel

Batgirl of Burnside Volume One, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr
You might remember I went SQUEE back in 2014 over superheroine Batgirl's new costume design. So this was something I was waiting on. Our library finally purchased the collected first volume of that series, and when my hold on the book came in I got to be able to read it.
If you haven't followed her history, Barbara Gordon (actually the second Batgirl on record) had endured a tragic attack at the hands of the Joker, leaving her wheelchair-bound for two decades and revamped as a hero coordinator / information broker known as Oracle. The recent reboots to the DC Universe gave the publishers the excuse to let Babs get the use of her legs back so she can rejoin the legion of The Bat Family, and this series starts off with a more youthful version heading back to college to work on her computer science skills developing her own AI program. Mixing in the struggles of being a college-age cutie and the hassles of an invasive social media environment, Babs comes to realize that her snap-on cape is the MOST AWESOME THING EVER. Oh, sorry, that's me projecting. My bad.
This is actually a fun read, with well-drawn work by artist Tarr that keeps the image narrative flowing in a eye-catching way. I heartily recommend the costume for cosplay purposes.  ...What?

Best Work By Someone I Email, Tweet, or Chat With On a Regular Basis

Sunstone Volume One, Stjepan Šejić (yes, I had to copy/paste that because damn that's impossible to remember for speeling purposes, okay?)
WARNING: Not for kids, NSFW, nobody under 17 buys this, okay? OKAY? Just because it's a comic book doesn't mean it's for kids! This is an incredibly mature work and should be read as such.
I wouldn't say "on a regular basis," but I have done some give-and-take with Sejic about his work on Sunstone as well as Death Vigil (another awesome work that deserves more love), so he qualifies for this award. I need to chat more with Sheryl Nantus someday. Anyway, I digress.
Essentially the WAY BETTER story about bondage than Fifty Shades of Bad FanFic, Sunstone is about the meeting between two women sharing BSDM fantasy stories who decide to take the next step and act out those stories with each other. Yes, it is about hot lesbian bondage (even the main character narrator admits it) between a practiced domme and a novice sub, but like all great works what really sells this series is the developing characterization and humorous details of the real-world implications that impose on the women's fantasies (and their growing love for each other).
Sejic takes the time to build up his main characters Allison (the domme) and Lisa (the sub), giving them back stories explaining why they would have an interest in sex roleplay that makes up the BSDM culture. And he doesn't make them ideal characters: Allison in particular has her doubts and fears (due to a near-tragic bondage incident) and Lisa feeling uncomfortable with how far she's willing to let her writing fantasies overtake the real-world consequences of relationships. Thrown into the mix are fellow bondage enthusiasts - some with their own issues and emotional scars - as well as regular characters from outside that culture who provide contrast and commentary on how Allie and Lisa are falling in love with each other despite their arguing that "it's not like that".
If the plot seems a little bit like Pride and Prejudice (but with hot lesbian bondage), it's because it's following the similar tropes of having two characters who are made for each other coping with the issues of class (Allie is personally wealthy compared to Lisa's struggling writer existence), gender roles (traditional vs. alternative), emotional damage (pride), and other obstacles they have to overcome to achieve that beloved ending of literature: the white wedding of True Love / Happily Ever After. Not much has really changed between the 19th Century world of Jane Austen, except for the 21st Century era of smartphones, file sharing, and texting.
The sex scenes are drawn with care and interest, by the by. This isn't a truly exploitative work like the porn videos you can find on the Intertubes. And if you actually read the story instead of glaring at the naughty pictures, you'll notice the hilarious witty repartee and funny plot twists.
Why this is way better than the exploitative bondage fiction dominating the market right now is that Sejic takes the time to create believable, likable characters, and because he treats the bondage culture with sympathy, genuine research, and detail about the realities of what it's really like to get tied up in rope (hint: it's not safe) and at the mercy of someone else's care.
Sunstone is right now the best example of It's Not Porn It's HBO Art on the market today.

Best Anthology That Contains a Short Story I Wrote

Stories for All Seasons, by Writers for All Seasons
I'm part of a writing group in Lakeland (Writers 4 All Seasons), and this past year we decided on a shared project of creating an anthology to help promote our group as well as get some of us established as published authors. It's currently a Kindle-only version available for download, but I hope people out there will take a look and support our efforts.
My submission was "Where The Snow Is Grey", a Christmas-time winter tale using a character I am using in my own 'verse of stories (but one that can be told here). I hope you like it among the other tales told.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This Week In Geeking Out: STAR WARS Squeee Alert

Somewhere in my mind there is a seven year old boy sitting in a large rocking chair in a movie theater called a Bijou in downtown Clearwater Florida. Update 12/21/2019: Damn me for a fool, my brother Phil reminded me the place was called Carib Theater, closed down ages ago, WHY did I think it was called Bijou...?

It's late summer, just before school. Having taken care of a big event in our family's lives - moving into a new home - the parents relent and take their three youthful boys to see this movie everyone's been gabbing about called Star Wars. The lads are familiar with some elements of science fiction - we've seen this thing called Star Trek on the teevee once or twice - but all we knew about the movie was from an ad campaign that showed spaceships blowing up and robots running around.

And the previews for other movies wrap up, and the lights go down and the 20th Century Fox logo comes up with its fanfare, and then this comes up on the screen...

Okay... (now you know where I get the habit of writing ellipses at the end of sentences)



And then this whole movie plays out an epic heroic journey of two droids struggling to deliver vital battle plans to a struggling resistance battling an evil galactic empire, drawing in a young farmboy, an aging mystic warrior with dark secrets, two space pirates piloting the coolest spaceship ever ("What a piece of junk!"), an action princess caught in the clutches of the evil empire, and about a billion human beings across the planet getting hooked on the whole damn thing.

It's archetypal, it's nostalgic, it's futuristic, it's action, it's space opera, it's primal emotional satisfaction. When Luke finishes that trench run and the Death Star blows up (oh shush I'm not spoiling a damn thing), the need among everyone in the audience to stand and cheer in victory is universal.

I never really grew up from that moment. My mom is probably thinking of suing George Lucas at some point for stunting my adult development.

So here I am, this week, it's a big week. It's one of those "I wanna stay alive to see this happen" moments. The next movie in the Star Wars space opera saga is coming to movie theaters.

The Force Awakens is the continuation of the proposed third trilogy of George Lucas' once-planned nine-movie saga covering the entire Star Wars history. There's a lot more that can be said about that, and you may have noticed on this blog a few entries about the movie coming out, but all that I can discuss later, after I see the movie this Friday.

The early, SPOILER-protected reviews are saying good things, enjoyable things. It's not like we should be expecting the next great Oscar-winning film - that's Fury Road, dammit - but for all intents it's going to be like what it was when I was seven and sitting in that big rocking chair geeking out to the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace.

These are good days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Problem Of Self-Publishing: Self-Marketing

I may have noted this before.

Writing a novel is difficult in terms of time: it takes hours to days to weeks to months to get over a hundred pages written unless you dedicate entire blocks of time to it. Part-time writing spreads out over the calendar while full-time duties elsewhere - professional or personal - take priority.

Editing isn't as bad with time or effort, but psychologically draining. Writers are terrified of finding flaws on paper that made so much sense in the mind. Once you can get past that mental block, the rest is easy.

Neither of those problems compare to the third one writers face: Actually getting people to read your works.

Let's be honest: I write so people can read the stories I've got in my head. I have a story, think it might be funny, I type it up, I put it out there, I see if anyone gets a laugh from reading it. The whole point of a story is to share it.

So how do I get it out there that I've got these stories that people can read (at a reasonable cost)?

This is the part I'm not comfortable with. And I see a lot of fellow writers in the same situation.

Writing can be an introverted, personal affair. A lot of writers - the artistic sensibility - tend to be introverts. Marketing - the "buy my book!" part of the cycle of life - is all extroverted.

With a new ebook out, I'm looking now for places that can market it. I'm thinking along the lines of "professional" or at least respected review sources that can take a moment to say "oh hey, this guy has this new book about superheroes if you got an interest go take a look". As a librarian, I know about review sources like Booklist and Publishers Weekly, but I also know that PW charges to list self-published titles in their previews section.

This is where the big publishers - or even the small press types - have a leg up: they have marketing offices that handle all of this, with ties to the retailers and advertisers. I'm just wondering if self-publishers have a legal, safe place to get the same kind of effective (and honest) marketing service but at an affordable rate. I've dealt with a marketing group for Print-on-Demand once, and was horrified by what they offered. It was ALL they offered: a mass email spamming service. (I think since then they'd expanded to cover professional reviewers and retailer connections, but by then I didn't want anything to do with them on that).

If anyone's got any suggestions about how I can get the word out for Body Armor Blues, I'm willing to hear you out. Thank ye.

Monday, December 14, 2015

New! Body Armor Blues (w/ updates)

Hello, new ebook novella available for downloading today!

Body Armor Blues

Cover art by Istebrak

Something I'd been working on since September of this month, as part of the Talents superhero universe I've been tinkering since 2004.

"...There are superheroes in the world, people with Talents. but even with powers, those would-be heroes need to protect themselves with the best armor they can get. But one young woman training up in 1993 is finding out that some armors can't fit her, and she's gonna need a hero of her own to find a solution."

If you're into comic books, you'll know some of the more geeky details of a superhero narrative is "where do they get those outfits?" Well, this is a story about that, and how it's serious business for superheroes.

Also, there's cake in the story.

If you've read Hero Cleanup Protocol, it's from the same 'Verse and has Powersurge as one of the main characters. Timeline-wise, Body Armor Blues takes place in 1993, with Protocol happening in 2002 (or was it 2003? I'll need to re-read). I've got a basic history and timeline for this universe on file, to help me keep track of things (there are three major character arcs, Powersurge is one and Jenny is the other, there's a third I'm still working on).

I really would like, please and thank you ahead of time, for anyone purchasing a copy of the book to leave a review of what you think at the appropriate site. I'd like to see how this one does on the market. Again, thank you!

Available via Amazon Kindle here.
Available via Barnes&Noble for Nooks here. It is published through Smashwords, but for Nook users it's a direct upload so it's easier.
For all other ereader devices, it's available via Smashwords here. .

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Off-Topic: Just saying it's Jennifer Connelly's birthday.

Been a bit of a fan since the movie Labyrinth. Went with my friend Sherry to see it back in the day: she went for David Bowie, I went for the Muppets. This was how the movie opened for me:

(there's no YouTube of this?)

But yeah, I crushed.

So anyway, been a fan. She hasn't always starred in great or enjoyable films but she's done well, been in a bunch that I like (Rocketeer, Dark City) and a couple that were artistically challenging with great acting (Requiem for a Dream although seriously you can only watch that once, that damn thing is soul-rending...)

I don't blame her for the 2003 Hulk, that could have been huge if the director hadn't gone avant garde on the damn thing... and mutant poodles, Ang really?! REALLY?!

Happy birthday, Jennifer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Post-NaNoWriMo 2015: What Comes After

Winning a NaNoWriMo challenge is one thing.

Following up with a NaNo project towards completion - adding more to the unfinished story, editing it to something coherent - is the bigger challenge.

There's also other writing projects I've set aside that need attention now - that novella for the superhero 'verse I've created needs a final edit and then publication to Smashwords and Kindle Direct, there's an anthology with my local writers' group that needs a brand new storyline because the one I started is terrible, etc. - that I need to complete before the end of this year, just to clear my slate a litte.

So it's still a ton of writing for me.

I'm feeling great about it all.

Good luck to your writing efforts!

Monday, November 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 30

This is the last day to reach the 50,000 word count to earn all the prizes and discounts at the end of this month-long train ride.

So, just to note that last night I hit 50,000 words - 51,000 words actually, as the damn word validator can't translate OpenOffice documents cleanly so I over-wrote to make sure I cleared the hurdle - for about the fourth time attempting NaNo since 2006.


The trick, of course, is to keep working on the novel past all this. After all, this has been a rough-draft stage of writing, and not everything fits well or is even finished.

The novel project - Subway Night - has a few gaps in the early parts and is really only finished up to the halfway point: one of the two major characters is running for her life and the other main character - the sexy vampire - has been taken off the stage by a major threat. I've still got to them back together to continue the story, and have them uncover the MacGuffin Artifact of Doom before it gets used by The Wrong People.

I also got to get a better book cover. Which means a trip up to New York... hiring models... getting permission from the New York Transit office to take photos in the station... money money money... I might have to start a fund-raiser page on Kickstarter or something.

But, again: novel first. Flirt with potential sexy vampire models later.

How did YOUR NaNo writing go?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Last Week of NaNoWriMo Always Gets Packed Crazy

Just to note, there is something about Thanksgiving weekend being the root cause of this last week of intense novel-writing being more stressful than it should be.

The rule of thumb for coping with a 3-Day Weekend of Mass Distraction is simple:

Let it happen.

Family and friends take priority in the real world. Go and enjoy your Pagan Turkey Sacrifice Day. That's your Thursday, and likely your Friday taken for the most part. Saturday can be optional.

Thing is, there is always time somewhere and somewhen to get your daily word count done without it being intrusive on your commitment to a sane (relatively speaking) social life.

You can, for example, type the word count out on your laptop under the table during turkey dinner.

Just be discreet about it.

You know I will.

What, mom? Whadda ya mean "Do the dishes"?  Now?!

Yeesh. I take it back.

Anywho, if you're anywhere near your 50,000 count finish line, you're good and I wish you best of luck reaching that goal. If you're not as close as you like, just remember you're still working with a rough draft to a new novel that needs your love to make it finish on its own time.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I will see you at the Validation count!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NaNoWriMo Through Time And Space, Specifically This Weekend

Some observations:

1) This is the first year that the Lakeland / Polk County area has its own NaNo Region, and I'd like to think it's been a successful one so far.

We've got an active group of writers who have been showing up for the local Write-Ins, and as a region our challengers have already gotten over the 1 Million word count by Day 20.

2) We're making in-roads in terms of outreach across the county, getting more people aware in places like Lake Wales and Winter Haven.

The best move we've done has been to get a Write-In scheduled at one of the major colleges in the county, World Famous (tm) Florida Southern College. There's a Creative Writing program with their Humanities school, and we've made the NaNo effort aware to them and the feedback we've gotten so far is that the school would like to get involved for it next year.

3) Getting to 40,000 words well before Turkey Pagan Sacrifice Day - AKA the Speedbump - is trickier than it looks for some (cough okay me cough) writers.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: I Read the News Today Oh Boy

I received awhile back an email from a local city reporter - Nora Nelson - for Lake Wales FL about NaNoWriMo and what write-ins were. So I emailed back some answers and details about NaNo and what to expect.

I don't live in Lake Wales so I don't get the paper, but when I got to Lake Wales Public Library last night to run the Come Write-In event (which is why the reporter was curious), I checked at their information desk for a copy to check. And sweetness, the article was on the front page of the Nov. 11th issue.

Link here.

I am slipping a little on my NaNo word count - I am currently under the daily count graph line - but I plan on catching up with all the other Write-Ins we have across Lakeland and Polk County.

Keep writing, peeps!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Day 15: Midway Day (Updated)

Say hello Day 15!

In a month of 30 days, that puts us in the midway point. In terms of word count towards 50,000 that means getting to around 25,000 words of your novel.

Among all the things that can happen on a Sunday, finding time to write the daily word count (1667) should not be too hard.

One other number to toss out there before I leave this opening thought: One.  As in, one novel to finish.  We're getting there.

I will add updates when I can.  Good luck.
We're all counting on you.

Update (10:51 PM EST): I know it's late, I'd been distracted most of the afternoon. Something I regret. However, I just got over the 25,000 word count. I hope to get a few more paragraphs in to feel better about this.

Hope you are all writing well!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Update 11/14/15: Write-In Palooza

We are getting up to the halfway point in the 30-day novel writing effort (November 15 is the hump), and I just want to say at this moment: woot.

I am currently at 24,000-plus words.

My sexy vampire hasn't killed anyone yet, but the night is young.

Meanwhile, the Lakeland region write-ins have been getting decent turnouts at the Books-A-Million store. Pics or it didn't happen! From last week:

And for tonight's turnout:

She's using him as a standing board for her notebook
And everybody is hard at work! Except for the guy taking photos. Whoops... (speed types)

Keep writing! Those exploding penguin plot points don't write themselves!

(missing animated GIF of Monty Python penguins exploding. Damn The Man. You get a YouTube clip instead)


Friday, November 13, 2015

It's Friday the 13th! You get a black cat being a krazy kitteh.

It's Mal! Celebrating the 13th as only a black cat can! With a dangly toy fishie.

Now, back to the NaNo writing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

One Of The Traps Of Writing Dialog: Exposition

I'm at that point in my NaNoWriMo story where the main characters are sitting down and talking. I've essentially given over this moment to my sexy vampire character to establish this 'Verse rules regarding vampires as a breed, and the supernatural elements that exist within this urban fantasy.

This can get tricky. While it helps to get the details out about how and why things work in your created world of this novel, you don't want to bog down into details and going off on tangents.

You're supposed to Show Not Tell. Unfortunately, there are times when there is no way to show, when talking about past events for example or establishing the motivations of a character to do what she does.

Given the rough draft nature of this novel - that I am pretty much writing by the seat of my pants - I am going to pretty much put it all out there in the dialog, and I am just going to have to use the follow-up editing process to clean this scene up, make it more active.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Day Seven: No Sleep Til Brooklyn

Actually, so far in my urban fantasy plotline, my sexy vampire heroine never makes it to Brooklyn.

I may yet send her to the Bronx to deal with a recalcitrant gargoyle, but the narrative is still too fluid.

I am, yes, flying by the seat of my pants on this.

I tried flying with someone else's pants, but I tore a hole in the buttocks.

Ow, stop hitting me.

I'll let you know how my word count goes today.

Update: thanks to sharing in two different Write-Ins today, I got over 3,000 words done and am up to 14,300 words total by this seventh day.

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Day Two: Oh Hey More Words

At home tonight, looking to get about another 2000 words or so.

I do need to create a better book cover for an example.  But I can live with it for the moment.

There's a Write-In in Winter Haven Public Library this Wednesday Nov. 4th from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  And then Bartow Library is hosting a Write-In from 5:00 to 7:30 pm before the library closes.




Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 In Effect. Run For Cover, Folks

There are rampaging writers in your neighborhood!

Well, actually, your nearest Panera Bread restaurants.

But it's the thought that counts. :)

Gotten up to over 2500 words today. May get over 3000 by the end of the night.  Nice count.

I will keep tabs on how my progress goes.  Might get something DONE this year.  I mean really done.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Caturday Plus Halloween Equals Mal The Krazy Kitteh

Tis the season for a black cat to act up around pumpkins.

So here comes Mal the Krazy Kitteh, wagging his tail and licking his lips like a hungry panfurr this Halloween.

Someone wants to go trick or treating tonight.

Last-minute hijinks before NaNoWriMo kicks into gear.

Good luck tonight candy-seekers, see you next month!

Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: Final Weekend To Prep

Who else is ready to start?

Who else has their laptop and tablet prepped to type like a maniac at 1667 words per day?
(note: I can when focused type 1000 words per hour.  If you think about getting 500 words written in one hour, you can get 1500 words done in three hours a day, not too shabby)

Is this the year I get a novel shelved at New York Public Library?

Shall I write for you the dirty limericks of my peoples?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What Did I Do To Upset the Canadians THIS Time?

'Cause here I was checking my blog traffic this morning and I came across activity coming from Canada.  So I follow this link back:

and I find that someone added this blog address (and in the Canadian format rather than the .com of the GOOD OLE USA) to one of the comments.

And the CBC news site has locked the Comments down, meaning I can't get on there to defend myself.

Because I don't want to get into the middle of a fight between Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals fans.

Listen up, Canada.  I'M A TAMPA BAY RAYS FAN.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dear Heaven: That Red Hair Of Hers Is No Lie. You've Been Warned.

Ever look up "Fiery Redhead" in a dictionary and you will get Maureen O'Hara.

Without argument, the most beautiful redhead ever to grace the screen out of Hollywood.

She stars in one of my most favorite movies ever, The Quiet Man.

Just found out right now that Maureen O'Hara passed away after 95 years.


Monday, October 19, 2015

The Force Is Calling


I am seven years old again.

I want this movie to be soooooooo good.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Florida Writers Conference: Links of Interest

The presenters included a set of websites that would be of interest to the authors of the state of Florida, so I am including a few here.  Check back later as I may have forgotten one or three and will update this page.

Oh, and I wasn't at that particular presentation but there was a class promoting the hell out of NANOWRIMO.

Poets & Writers dot Org
New Books Network

This wasn't at the conference but I came across it on the web:

Florida Literary Links via Sawpalm

Tweet me at @PaulWartenberg or comment here if you can if you remember the other website services talked about at this year's conference!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Florida Writers Conference 2015: Towards the end of the day

As mentioned in the earlier article, I am at the Florida Writers Association conference for the day, and I learned a few things:

1) the comma is dead, unfortunately.  ...I should also include ellipses, sad but true.

2) I was the only one to show up with a comic book character's logo on a t-shirt.

3) there's a lot of things I can do to improve the odds of getting published.

I sat in on the discussions involving the importance of networking, from there a session discussing the many literary magazines out there and the tips on successfully getting published with MAYBE one of them.  Maybe.

I participated on a pitch-fest where I made my first effort to pitch a story idea to a rough, heavily-armed group of agents and publishers just waiting for the blood sacrifice, mwha.  I intentionally flubbed it because I promised the fellow writer who went ahead of me I would: she was so nervous she was going to get "gonged" - yes, there was a gong and it was used often - that in order to settle her nerves I did so.  I wanted to show her it was just a practice pitch - not a real one to worry over - and that you NEEDED to relax and let loose and unclench.  Do it without the stress, you know?

I wowed them with the first line anyway: "Aliens." hehe.

...what, you all never watched that bit with the pigeons from Disney's Bolt?

(Update: Yeah. Like that. Snap,)

Past that there was lunch, and a session on how to tell the difference between novella and novel (hint: it's NOT entirely based on word count, but on the focus/complexity of the work).

I sat in on the "Ask An Agent" session to see what the agents themselves suggest about looking for one and how to succeed.  For myself, I'm kinda in the self-publishing stage for now.  Once I get novels done - FINALLY done - I will do the legwork to get an agent to do the real legwork for a small-to-big market publisher.

The day is finishing up now with a session on how to submit to the FWA-based writing contests and publications, and thence to the dinner hall.

I documented the atrocities with photos.

I tweeted all over the place with #FWA2015 by the by

Talking about getting published to literary magazines

From the Lakeland Writers meetup group, here's Alison Nissen!

Agents of SHIE... no wait...

Florida Writers Conference 2015: Prologue

Just to note: Today I am at the Florida Writers' Conference in Altamonte Springs.

This is my first time here, although not my first conference/convention.

It's more akin to being at the librarian conventions with meetings and presentations than cosplaying at a comic-con.  Although I am the only one here with a Batman logo t-shirt so everyone's been taking to calling me "Batman"...

I am photographing and documenting the atrocities.  More posts will follow.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Problems With Blue Book Covers

Are you kidding me?  That's part of the reason I've got that as my blog title...

Anyway, I'm not the only soul accused of hit and run uh the only librarian to notice the request for books by blue covers!

This is happening, people.  IT'S BEEN HAPPENING FOR YEARS.

WITNESS IT, BELIEVE IT.  This is everywhere:

This was actually from Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.

Be afraid.

I will be adding one more.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Problem With Book Covers

When it gets down to it, books have to attract readers to get read.  And you attract readers with what they see.

So the book covers need to catch the eye.  The cover needs to stand out with a unique or enticing image.  The cover has to rock.

Getting a good artist or photographer helps.  But the other thing is that the labeling - the title, the author - has to be both legible and eye-catching too.  Anything too bland - a basic Sans Serif like Arial, or a basic Roman like Cambria - and people won't notice.  Anything too cutesy or gimmicky - Comic Sans, Papyrus, Papyrus Sans (ye gods) - and people will recoil.

So I'm working with the artist for my next work, and trying to come up with a feasible cover text for the title and author.

My personal preference for the author font is Flareserif (similar to Albertus).  I suppose I *could* use the same font for the title, but most times you'll notice publishers don't go that route: the title has to stand out a little more.  Have a little more flair to it.

So I'm juggling between these fonts for "Body Armor Blues":

Bulletproof Deco:

Glaser Stencil D:

Red Circle:

If anybody suggests Helvetica I will hurt you.  That costs money, dammit.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2015

It's a month away.

And as a Municipal Liaison, I have to get some things set up for November.

The good news: the NaNo organizers created a Lakeland Region to cover the growing Polk County population of writers.  Now I need to get the word out to the writing groups that we can go with our own groups rather than farm out to Tampa/Brandon or Orlando.

(On a side note, I've seen they divided up Pinellas County into THREE SECTIONS.  Given that it's our smallest physical county and yet one of our most densely populated, this is still a bit surprising)

I have to get the Google Calendar set up for the Region (done) and managed.  I have some dates for Write-Ins already set with Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven: now I need to confirm some actual locations for Lake Wales to help cover the southeastern corner of Polk County.

And now I gotta think about which novel idea to follow through on.

I'm thinking either a new novel idea on:

1) An alternative history novel about the American Civil War where the South DOESN'T start it by firing on Fort Sumter so that they can secure French recognition... with the consequences playing out affecting the fates of Mexico, Virginia, and the border states.
2) That urban fantasy novel I tried starting this Labor Day (I can use NaNo to finish it).

I could bring back one of the earlier attempts, although I dread getting bogged down in the weeds where I keep getting lost on those works.  Best to see about something fresh, IMHO.  (although I keep thinking I can get something good out of Ocean Dancers...)


Update: I've added a poll to this blog, over on the right, and if people are willing to vote please do.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Labor Day Weekend 2015 Accountability

(cross-posted with my political blog)

Did I spell accountability correctly...?  I never do...

Anyway, this weekend I'm gonna use the Three-Day-Novel time period (I did not apply for it, 'cause I need to save up the $50 fee for Star Wars toys!) to pound out a trashy urban fantasy novel.

It should be easy.  Like so:

1) Urban setting AKA The City: New York City by default.  Nearly EVERY city in a U.S. fantasy story is based on New York City.  Los Angeles only if sunlight, surf, or film-making is part of the narrative.  San Francisco if you want quirky hippie Wiccans.  Washington DC if you want everything blown up to serve your political ideology.  If you use Atlanta or St. Louis or Houston or Tampa, what is your problem?  And the capitol of the state of Montana does not count as an urban setting, sorry residents of the state of Montana...

2) Protagonist(s): Sexy vampire.  There's ALWAYS a sexy vampire.  His/her morality will be just off by enough to make him/her excitingly dangerous, yet human enough to enjoy having great sex with.

3) Narrator: A third-person or first-person tale-teller who gets wrapped up in the crazy event who stands in as the Everyman naive newcomer to the Masquerade (aka the Magic World hidden from the Mundane World).  Kinky make-out session with the Sexy Vampire is mandatory: it all depends on if you open with it or draw the story out for UST fuel to the end of the novel.

4) Sword: There should at least be one sword, so it can be wielded by the Sexy Vampire for the book cover.

5) Monsters: Dumb ones.  Easy to kill, and inhuman to allow for a massacre of them without any moral quandaries.  Mooks with swords instead of plasma rifles.

6) Quirky Secondary Characters: they're not as sexy as the vampire but by their wacky habits allows the writer to diversify and show off character-building skills, and these characters can appeal to the readers and turn into spin-off lead figures for later works.

7) MacGuffin: A reason or object the sexy vampire is set against a particular villain.  It needs to be satisfyingly unique to stand out as a doom-worthy artifact or deadly secret that could end the sexy vampire's lifestyle/friendship with his/her equals.

8) Potential victims: the innocent crowds of people in a packed city who ARE NOT AWARE OF THE MASQUERADE and thus need protecting "from themselves!"  This includes the local law enforcement, who would usually have the manpower and firepower to handle most situations in the first place if properly informed.

9) Dead Friend Walking: an ally of the Sexy Vampire or narrator who's a firm friend indeed, and is thus doomed to die in order to make the conflict "personal" and to highlight just how serious the crisis is.

10) A Betrayer: Sometimes it's the Dead Friend Walking who either willingly or by magic force turns against the Sexy Vampire/Narrator.  If it's a complete stranger, it has to be someone directly tied to the MacGuffin to make it meaningful.

11) A Fancy Nightclub That's Way Too Exotic With The Interior Design: Think how Hollywood movies spend a sh-tload of money on cool-looking sets, creating a night club full of lights, chrome handlebars, plush leather sofas, stocked bars, mirrors everywhere (even for vampires - they can use the mirrors to spot Normals), incredibly cute Normals dancing the night away, and a spot where Sexy Vampire and Narrator can make out in public and still not get caught doing it.

12) Overpowered Villain With One Obvious Weakness: His (sometimes Her) Pride.  And that the Artifact-As-MacGuffin can be turned into a stabby weapon shoved into his head for maximum gory deathiness.

13) A Catch Phrase: "Bite me" is too obvious, but what the hell.

I plan on having 18,000 words done by Monday. :)

Update Monday: I got about 7000 words.  I bit off more than I could chew thinking I could get 18,000 words done.  :/  On the other hand, I'm going through a solid revision of the last project "Body Armor Blues" and am lining up a cover artist to self-publish by the end of the month...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Star Wars The Force Awakens Has All The Toys I Want help a Jedi out.

For starters, there's a LEGO Millennium Falcon (WITH NEW RADAR DISH!)

There's a real-working desk-sized BB-8 toy that can be remote-controlled by your tablet/smartphone.

There's a chance to buy your very own Harlan Ellison uh Lawrence Kasdan no no your very own Simon Pegg!  Whadda you mean, he's not for sale...?

(takes his 50 p) (gets out, crying)

These are kind of the things I missed asking for Christmas back when I was eight years old (did get the action figures and the fluffy Chewie doll SHUT UP).  It'll be a little embarrassing asking Santa for them at the age of 45 (okay so I haven't grown up THAT much...).  And I hate to admit it, but the Saturnalia holidays is not up on toy-gifting (damn the harvest festive bacchanal nature of the Romans!).

So I would very much like... ahem, NEED... to buy these toys for meself.  Thing is, I'm a little strapped for cash at the moment.  And the Falcon set alone is around $140.

That's where you, the faithful seven readers of this blog, come in.

Can you all ask about 50,000 of your closest friends and co-workers and deep-pocket rich people around you to, you know, buy my ebooks?!?!?!  The extra cash-flow from the sales should cover the purchase price of a life-size Jabba the Hutt sofa...

I don't think I can boot up a Kickstarter crowd-funding thing for this sort of project.


Update: Actually I *can* add a Donate button to a blog, but it would be a little too tacky.  ...Except I'm begging for book sales in the first place!  Well, as I argue to myself, selling the books is a fair form of exchange, me providing a service (book) and the buyer getting something of value.  So that seems morally acceptable. ;)

That said, the Lego Millennium Falcon is now MINE.  Yes, I indulged for myself this Saturnalia season.  Getting it now means I won't miss out getting it when we get closer to the movie release in December, when all the stores are bound to run low on supplies of the cool toys.

I won't open it now.  1) I need to find a place to shelve it when finished and 2) It's 1300+ pieces!  This thing is gonna take a WEEK to put together...

My inner 8-year-old is geeking.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Library Card Month

Bartow Public Library is celebrating September as Library Card Month where we're encouraging people to sign up for library cards for the first time.  There's adults who've never gotten a FREE library card before, as well as kids, so we're doing what we can to promote the effective value of having a FREE library card.

Such as:

  • Library cards are free to get... (okay, if you lose it there's a 1.00 replacement fee, so the trick is "don't lose your library card.")
  • Libraries let you check out a lot of books at one time for a two-week or more period depending on library circ policy.  Bartow allows for up to fifteen books at one time, for up to two week checkouts.  You can renew and prolong the checkout as long as no one is on Hold for waiting for that book.
  • Libraries have audio CDs of music and audiobooks, Bartow circulates those up to fifteen as well for two weeks (plus renewals).
  • Some libraries - like ours - circulate DVDs for checkout.  Again, Bartow allows up to fifteen DVDs for up to two weeks, plus renewals.
Also, you can use public computers to do things like job hunt, study online, email and social chat, creative projects, and yes Facebook.

So, can I interest you in getting a library card FOR FREE at your local library?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Weird. Traffic Bump just an hour ago from France.

I don't mind the statistics much, but the sudden bounce in views that don't link to a specific blog entry, and are coming from overseas, and are using proxy IPs for anonymous connections, kinda makes me wonder if my site's getting hacked or used without my knowledge somehow.

I'm not seeing any odd posts, or edits, or any spammer comments like I got back in 2010 from China.  Good Lord, I got Chinese spam that I could not read so I didn't even know if they were trying to reach me or leave some weird code for other people to read.  Ever hear about Number Stations?  They're these shortwave radio stations that only enthusiasts and spies listen to, and sometimes there's coded messages and stuff, and maybe this is some Internet based Number Station deal where they identify some low-traffic innocent bystander blog site and use it for codes and warnings and stuff.  Oh My God, my blog could be getting set up by... by... what's the French equivalent of the CIA?!  Damn.  I'm getting abused by the DGSE, I know it!

...Okay, if French intelligence is using my blog for coded traffic, they better compensate me by buying my ebooks.  And leave reviews for them on the retail sites!  Five stars, across the board dammit.  If the Chinese intelligence is using my blog, though, uh-uh, no way, not unless you confirm Tank Guy is okay and safe and stuff and you agree to allow multi-party candidates in your next election cycle.

...and now I'm in the mood to do a review of the James Bond movies...

(Update) My Horde allies are telling me this is common: spam bots creating traffic.  I should name my spam bots Coneheads because they come from France...!

Friday, August 21, 2015

There Is Still A Need For Blogging

One of my upcoming computer classes at the library is going to be on social media.

We still get patrons who are confused about certain media outlets such as Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and Pinerest.  The class will cover some of that.

I'll also be going into blogging as well.

I've seen a few "Blogging Is Dead" articles online, which may sound like it's a fad that's passing into history, but I would disagree.

The blogging they're talking about is the paid-for professional bloggers, the media commentariat you see cross-pollinating on television and magazines and radio.  Many of them are opting out because of the time constraints and external pressures that blogging creates for them.

For the regular public, however, blogging still has its uses.

There are still social groups that can share information through a blog, track events, promote themselves or others.

There are still individuals marketing themselves as artists or professionals seeking clients or audiences.

There are local businesses who can use the effective page creation tools to set menus and directories of information, and maybe indulge in running diaries of projects or flights of whimsy related to their community/marketplace.

It's just when I teach this class I won't be using Blogger.  Sorry guys, I'm only here because Blogspot was cheap and easy back in the day before it merged with Blogger.  I'll be teaching WordPress instead because it offers a slightly easier Comments setup for people to install.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

NEW: Stories For All Seasons

Just released this week!  Woot!

The local writers group - Writers 4 All Seasons - tried out a group project this year: collecting our own short stories and publishing them to a themed anthology.

Stories For All Seasons collects each tale in a chronological order - by season, by month - that provides a sense of scenery, of mood, of time and place.

My submission "Where the Snow Is Grey" is towards the end, as it's set around the Christmas holidays.  The title itself comes from a mondegreen of sorts: I misheard the first few lines of Tori Amos' "Winter" song and... well... from the title came the story idea.

It's only available as eBook as this is a small writers group and we are but humble wage-slaves unable to afford actual print publishing.  Currently it's Amazon Kindle only, but I'll see if we're getting an EPUB variation out as well.  Update 8/20: I've been told that our publishing arrangement with Kindle has it so they have exclusive rights for a few months, so we won't see an EPUB version for about six months perhaps.

For myself, this is a new publication release for which I am feeling the usual buzz of "oh yeah I made it".  I think for some from the writers' group, this is their first publication of any kind, I think they're through the roof.

Makes me wanna finish those damn novels I'm still tripping over. ;)

If any visitors here want to download the anthology, please do.  All I ask is that you leave a review on Amazon, which will help promote the book.  And if you like what the other authors wrote, please follow-up and see what else they've got on market.  Thank you!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cross-Post: I Survived the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con, And My Nephews Survived It Too.

Sharing over to the entry I wrote at the other blog I run.  Link here.

Here's a photo or two I didn't post on the other article, just to entice...

The food lines got packed after noon time, partly because it started raining heavy, like a wall of rain, around the same time.  It kept raining well into 4 pm, and there were reports of flooding on certain streets in the downtown area.
Much like last year, the line to get in on Saturday morning - always the busiest day for what I know - went way out along Channelside.  It went under the Harbor Island bridge.  And I got there about 7:30 in the morning.  One of Tampa Convention Center's glaring weaknesses: lack of covered entranceway space, and a not-large-enough foyer area...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Being a Geek Means Never Missing a Franchise Movie

Seriously.  Even if the movie looks to be bad in the trailers, if it's a franchise movie of a beloved geek-focused literary or televised series, YOU WILL GO SEE IT.

Ant-Man is a perfect example.

I didn't want to see it.  I didn't NEED to see it.  The trailer looked... weak... foolish somehow.  I figured beforehand that I could simply skip it coming out in the theaters and waiting for the DVD/Blu-Ray.

...I ended up going last Sunday during its first weekend.

Problem was, the early reviews for it were not that bad... the excuse of "oh no it'll suck" wasn't sticking... I had to... I HAD TO...

This is all just lead-in to one of the funniest YouTube animated series I've just come across called FanGirls done by OnlyLeigh.

Too many Marvel movies indeed...

...I loved how the lead insurgent was from House Stark.  And the eyebrow twitch she develops as Leigh speaks to truth.

Anyway.  Next Saturday is Tampa Bay Comic-Con.  See you there!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Been Thinking About the Places I've Worked

I was chatting up a co-worker at the Bartow Library tonight about how things were at the other libraries we've each worked at, and I got to thinking about the ones I used to work at in Broward County.

I've posted before about being at North Regional in Coconut Creek.  But one of the things we did as a regional library was cover for the smaller nearby community libraries whenever their staffs were on vacation or short due to sickness/emergencies.  That was one of the advantages of working a large county-wide system: the chance for a change of scenery, different libraries and different patrons, different questions and different collections...

The surrounding north-and-northwest libraries were places I'd go to help as a Reference librarian, or in some cases as a Librarian-In-Charge (someone with the authority to panic if there was a crisis).  I'd go to branches like Coral Springs, a busy mid-sized library before it was replaced by its own Regional (Northwest Regional, where I would work as a full-timer for awhile... but that is another story).  I was a frequent LIC at the smaller Northwest (no relation, this was NW Pompano Beach city) and Margate branches.  I went twice to Beach branch (Pompano), one of the smallest libraries I had ever seen, with an absolutely beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean right across the street.  I covered the Reference desk about four, five times at Pompano Beach branch.  There was another library somewhere in the middle - not Lauderhill, but nearby - where I had to cover once, but I can't recall specifically which it was.  Might have been Tyrone Bryant.  Ah well.

When I went to work at South Regional for a year, I didn't cover other branches as much.  I was at Pembroke Pines community library once.  This was back in the older SR library building and not the newer regional library standing on the Broward College South Campus.  I still tell stories of that fateful summer Saturday afternoon where that college student sitting at Lab Computer #4 lost all his work to a thunderstorm brown-out and screamed the scream of the eternally damned...

Talking about the years I worked at Broward made me wonder how things are down there now.  I hadn't worked there since 2003, twelve years going on forever it seems.  So I looked at the website and checked out the map to see what was different.

I knew some of the buildings had changed.  South Regional, years ago, that old building was leaking every rainstorm so they needed a new place and got one.  West Regional when I was there had been built just before the need for public computers everywhere, so that was a smaller place one-story structure than the county residents deserved.  They replaced it with a larger two-story place, which looked nice the time I visited a few times.

I heard that tiny Beach branch finally closed: a storm in 2005 wiped out the Pompano pier  across the street, and the library itself was damaged.  They built a newer one further inland - which isn't far, seeing the Intercoastal Waterway is about a mile from the Atlantic - that looks like double the size.

The community Northwest looks like it has been replaced.  The old building was small, barely four rooms.  The photo on the locations page looks like a fancier, larger abode.  Pity they don't have more photos of what it looks like inside now.  Did they get a larger Children's room?

The photos of Margate look the same.  It was a good-sized library for the area it served, just needed more room for public computers.  The Pompano Beach building looks the same on the outside, I dunno if they revamped any of the interior.  I think someone mentioned to me when I visited North Regional for their anniversary that Pompano was due for renovations...

I noticed on the map that two libraries are no more: there were both a Tamarac Reading library and a West Atlantic (Blvd) Children's library.  The Tamarac Reading was meant to be a temporary location while the old Tamarac library phased out for a newer building, and the West Atlantic was meant to relieve some of the checkout demands at Coral Springs.  But they were both in major population areas - the suburbs - and when I left I heard their neighborhoods were fighting to keep them.  I thought at least the West Atlantic place would remain standing: partly because if you look at the map there's a need for a library west of Coral Springs Drive on Atlantic Blvd, partly because I knew the Northwest Regional up the road was one of the busiest and stressed-out libraries in need of some circulation relief.  Side note: if you look at that map - I can't add that as an image here due to formatting - the county needs another branch or two in Coconut Creek towards Parkland and somewhere off Sheridan and State Rd 7.

Ahh, I do miss a few things from South Florida... some of the co-workers I knew as friends... the occasional drive down the beach between Pompano and downtown Ft. Lauderdale... movies at Sawgrass... watching Bucs games at Hot Shots off University Dr.  Hmm, memories.