Sunday, June 19, 2022

Upcoming Cover for Strangely Funny IX

My submission "The Brides of WiFi" shall be contained therein!

Information on publication date coming soon! 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Book With the Blue Cover: Logos and Branding, Eh

So the topic of self-marketing and branding came up among the writers group I'm with here in the Lakeland area, and considering I have an account with VistaPrint to make mousepads and coffee mugs promoting my Witty Librarian brand, I wondered if they had a Logo Designer I could use to make logos I could slap on stuff to promote meself.

So I made this, primarily to create logos for this blog site: 

It's a bit wordy, I admit, but I can work with it and design other logos.

Granted, I'm not as creative with design as I'd like to be, but I'll try.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Getting Through the Writing Grind

It's about that time in my writing calendar for hearing back from the Florida Writers Association about my various submissions. Both to the annual anthology contest - this year's theme was "Thrills and Chills" - as well as the Royal Palm Literary awards. 

Welp. I heard back from the judges on the Annual and... I did not make the 60-story cut.

I knew it was a long shot - they get so many submissions - but still I'm sitting here wondering "what the hell do I have to write... HOW do I write something that will appeal to others?"

I know the rule is "write for yourself" foremost, but c'mon, you're writing so others can see your work and be entertained if you do it well.

I hope that my blog writing - which relies a lot on my journalism expertise for pithy and concise wordcraft as well as my librarian background on research - can be more impressive (I did win a Silver for one blog article two years ago, but I struck out last year. Sigh).

Part of my writing logjam is having about five or six ideas at any one time and then failing to focus on getting one done in a fast-enough manner to make it relevant to the moments that inspire me. Part of it is the doubt that creeps in along the lines of "no, wait, people aren't going to grok that" or worse.

I look through Submission Grinder from time to time wondering what I could submit to, or start working on to fill an editorial request, but I get stumped and frustrated second-guessing myself on what those editors really want.

I read enough to know what the markets are like, I write enough to feel I have a knack for it.

But most of the time I just despair. This isn't a hobby anymore, or a lark.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

May the 4th Be With You 2022 Edition

Wake up Nerf Herders!

It's MAY THE 4th!!!

Celebrate all the ways you can!

Celebrate in LEGO!

Dance to the rhythm of the Force!

And don't let the stormtroopers get you down!

Beware the Revenge of the Sixth, people!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Writer's Lament

There is nothing more heartbreaking to a writer than the loss of the USB flash drive that contained every Work-In-Progress and archived story you've ever written.

/anguished scream

With luck, the flash drive is merely dropped behind or underneath some furniture in my house. Bad luck would be if it had fallen into a trash can and already placed in the condo unit's dumpsters.

/anguished scream repeated

The good news is I've done backups, and I have older flash drives that contain earlier versions of stuff I'd written and were working on before the newest flash drive. Unfortunately, everything after 2018-19 was on that flash drive, and if I try to go back and restart stuff... well, if I gotta I gotta.

There was also a lot of personal stuff - photos, family docs, research - on that USB that I'm missing as well.



Sunday, March 20, 2022

If I Had to Build My Own Library

So let's say I win a mega lotto, hundreds of millions of dollars all in one go, and I could do anything and everything with it. How evil would I get with it? 

Well, I *would* set aside a set amount of it - maybe $15 million - to myself, I could live comfortably on that and never work again. I would put a certain amount into long-term investments to make sure I never go bankrupt down the line. That would still leave millions upon millions at disposal.

I wouldn't buy yachts - although there may be a resale market right now with all the Russian oligarchs losing theirs - and I wouldn't go crazy buying mega mansions with 20 bedrooms and 5-car garages, that's just all waste.

I'd put most of that money into foundations and charities, donating out to those issues - refugees, immigrants, homeless relocation to good homes, animal rescues, child care, women's health - I would deem most essential.

I'd also as a librarian - who's been in love with libraries and books since I was a child - put money towards building a good-sized public library serving a needy community.

Which intrigues the amateur architect / interior designer in me. What would my dream public library look like?

First off: It must serve the community. Every feature that makes a library what it is - bookshelf space, reading space, computer lab, teen reading space, children's story time and crafts room, adult makerspace craft room - also has to share public meeting room space and outdoors activity space.

It'll depend on where the library goes, the size of the community. More people = more demands on library services = bigger floorspace. I currently work in Bartow, that's around 20,000 people. I grew up in Palm Harbor, that's currently 60,000 people. A new library in Palm Harbor would HAVE to be bigger than Bartow's, obviously.

Should it be single-story or multi-floors? If I wanted to show off, I'd make it at least a three-story building with the public meeting rooms and special services offices - like a café, art gallery, and Friends of the Library Book Store - on the first floor, YA and adult services/computer lab on the second floor, library admin and children's services on the third. But a building like that will require elevators - side note, libraries ought to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act - and near-constant maintenance of them. That's not even considering the huge amount of HVAC / central air and heat you'll need for all those floors. Oft times, a single-story public library would be best. Only the major metro and county library systems - Hi, Broward Main! - should think about multi-floor libraries.

Collection Management of any library requires a basic core collection of reading materials, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks for checkout. Some distributors will offer package deals on those, but they ought to get supplemented with local authors and regional interests materials. I'd actually opened a new regional library in Broward County that went with ordering a core collection package, and tried to merge it with the existing collection of the books from the local library the new building was replacing. Thing was, they failed to plan shelf space to merge both collections, so rule of thumb if you're going with a start-off collection it'd best be for a brand-new library.

And from that experience I learned something else: We need as much shelf space as possible. You can't make every inch of a library a shelf area, by the by. You need reading chair areas and study table areas and enough floor space for people to walk here and there. But you can't skimp on maintaining a good collection of new fiction reads and existing subject titles on things like cookbooks and histories. You can't aggressively weed out older titles unless you have to, so you need a lot of shelves to manage it all.

My new library would open with what's called "Compact Shelving" although I've nicknamed it "Accordion Shelving" because it collapses and opens like an accordion. It allows you to deploy extra shelves in a limited floor space, by having just one shelf range open for shelf browsing at a time. You'll see those compact shelves a lot in universities, but public libraries ought to use them too. If we start off with a core collection that takes up only two-thirds of the compact shelves, the library should have a few years building up from that start to fill out enough of those shelves while a regular management process of weeding out older or damaged or unread books keeps it from getting overwhelmed.

The layout / floorplan shouldn't deviate from standard layouts. The meeting rooms have to be separate from the rest of the library as those rooms may be in use for the community when the library itself is closed. So there's often a lobby entrance that merges the meeting space to the library space. Also, the bathrooms have to be in the foyer in order to serve both parts.

The Circulation/Checkout desk has to be at the front entrance, both to handle incoming returns from patrons but to also control what gets checked out and making sure nobody sneaks off with that copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in their back pocket, you naughty book thief.

There used to be a Reference Desk for patrons who came in with questions and research needs, but the advent of online searching - damn you, Google - reduced a lot of demand for that. Instead most libraries have converted it to an Adult Services desk that also oversees the public computers for tech assistance. Some libraries share an all-in-one service desk that reaches from the Checkout workstations to the Adult Services workstation, mostly so that staff can support each other during busy hours.

A joint public desk usually means a shared staff work area, which helps reduce the need for adding more floor space for separate off-desk workstations. It would also be where the cataloging and book processing takes place, along with shipment deliveries and supplies storage.

Oooh, storage. Very important. CLOSET SPACE IS A MUST. Double supply closet floor space whenever possible. Just saying.

It would help to design the floor space so that the children's librarian workstation is with the rest of the staff's. I've been in some places even in single-story buildings where they put the children's librarian in a remote office. It doesn't help with interoffice communication and team-sharing. The children's story time room, THAT can be separate from the main library floor space, but make it easy access for the librarians to reach.

A library director's office should be accessible to both the staff's work area and the public floor. Both as a management principle as well as a public service necessity. The director is going to handle a lot of patron issues, visiting salespersons, civic leaders stopping by, and a safe place to make the occasional 911 call regarding an atypical patron.

Your building custodian is going to need both a workstation and a supply closet, most likely in the lobby area to handle meeting-room-only emergencies.

Having a dedicated Teen/YA Area is good for promoting libraries to the group in most need of literacy and after-school activities. It has to be positioned close enough for the Adult Services librarian to handle any emergencies, but isolated enough so teens can hang out without fear of getting chaperoned every minute of their stay. In this day and age, comfy reading chairs next to floor outlets to recharge smartphones is a good floorplan.

Oh, and you'll need a good-sized parking lot. With sunset-sensitive parking lot light timers.

And an outdoors Book Drop, preferably built into the library with a roof over it for bad weather, with a narrow enough slot that vandals won't shove drinks or trash through it, and with a drive-thru lane so people won't have to get out of their cars if they're in a hurry.

And it won't hurt to build the library on a pre-existing bus route so that the community has transit access to your public library.

Also bike racks. Maybe with built-in locks that patrons can borrow to secure their bikes without fear.

It wouldn't hurt to be near a pizza parlor either, especially with a lunch buffet for staff to walk to from time to time.

You know what, if I'm a multimillionaire I'll BUILD that pizza buffet within walking distance of the library, how about that, huh?! YOU LIKING THIS?! I'M LOVING THIS!


You want me to DRAW this dream library?!


Gimme a minute, I need to find my D&D graph paper...

Thursday, March 17, 2022

It's Quiet Man Time! What Does Erin Go Bragh Mean Anywho...?

Well according to Merriam-Webster, Erin Go Bragh (or Braugh) translates from the Gaelic as Ireland Until Doomsday: In short, Ireland Forever


Now go wear your green, drive all the snakes out of Ireland your plane, and watch the Quiet Man on DVD or Turner Classics or something!

Friday, March 11, 2022

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Defend Your Libraries in 2022

Well, this is unsettling (Via Nikoel Hytrek at the Iowa Starting Line).

The effort to ban books has expanded beyond the classroom now to public libraries, with a new GOP-backed bill adding librarians to their target for prosecution and civil fines of those they believe give access to materials that are “obscene or harmful to minors.”

A collection of 14 Iowa Republican representatives introduced a bill Tuesday that makes it illegal for a person affiliated with a public school or public library to knowingly spread “material the person knows or reasonably should know, is obscene or harmful to minors.” Colleges and universities are exempted.

The penalty would be an aggravated misdemeanor, upgraded to a class D felony if the person was previously guilty of this.

Aggravated misdemeanors can be punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine between $625 and $6,250. Class D felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

In short, Iowa Republicans want to turn librarianship into a criminal profession. Putting us up there with robbers, drug dealers, and people who talk at the theater.

You want to know how this game will get played if Iowa makes this a law?

Say a mature-looking young adult comes in, claiming they're a college student, asking for a book on sexual identity from the 306 Dewey Decimal (DDC) shelves. As a librarian, I would direct them to the shelf area, show them the titles we've got there. And then WHAMMO the "college student" turns out to be a 17-year-old high schooler on "dual enrollment" with the local community college and they call in the cops to arrest you for "knowingly spreading obscene material" to a minor.

You think that if this law passes, the courts will only rely on the fines to punish librarians, I mean who wants to send a sad little librarian to jail over an obscene book? Thing is you WILL get judges who will punish sad little librarians "to send a message," because those judges may agree with the Far Right religious conservatives who want to ban "obscene" books from the face of the Earth. Even then, those fines aren't cheap: A full-time librarian usually makes between $35,000 to $45,000 a year. Even a $625 fine is cutting into rent or mortgage, not to mention the costs of fighting these charges in court. Want to take care of $1000 fines every month? There goes most of a monthly paycheck for librarians. This would bankrupt most of us.

Oho, you say. If this law passes, perhaps it would be safer to pull all the obscene books off the shelves, right?

You want to know what these Far Right religious extremists think is obscene? Anything about gay and lesbian and trans culture, even when those books aren't graphic in detail. Young Adult books about sexual identity that don't even get as far as kissing scenes will still get targeted.

Anything about sexuality in general, even straight-up medical textbooks detailing human anatomy, and sociology/psychology textbooks. Because even those research-type books will offend those wingnuts.

Anything about "Critical Race Theory" because God forbid we upset Far Right people who believe that pointing out systemic racism is obscene to them.

Anything artistic from the Fine Arts (700s DDC) shelf range that just happens to show human nudity (Note: Most public libraries already self-sensor themselves from anything sexually graphic. But the religious nuts will go after anything that even hints at sexuality).

And it won't be the cheap and tawdry books these wingnuts will go after. Prize-winning authors like Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway - about a hundred writers and about a thousand literary works that make up a public library's core collection - will get labeled "obscene" and make it impossible for us to keep our doors open to everybody else who wants to use the library for their reading (and entertainment) needs.

And this is just the books: Many libraries have DVD movies available - yes, not everybody's gone to streaming yet - and half of those movies will be "obscene" in the wingnuts' eyes.

A good library - school, public, college - is one with a broad range of books from fiction to nonfiction, able to provide research and literary information to the communities we serve. This means we have to cover - even with a handful of titles - a lot of topics and reading interests for a diverse population, some of whom DO WANT to read books that others might find grotesque.

Again, most libraries DO evaluate and self-censor when necessary: For example, most libraries will not stock The Illustrated Joy of Sex because we know community standards won't abide it (Also, it will disappear off the shelf). We also won't stock The Turner Diaries, not only because it's openly racist and Anti-Semitic but it also contains bomb-making instructions violating laws banning such information (also also, that book is poorly plotted with one-dimensional characters, bland sex, and suffers many grammatic errors).

But what this Iowa law will do is make librarians vulnerable to ANY accusation about ANY other book that most would find benign but what the extremists will view as dangerous. Librarians could weed out every "offensive" book we could think of, and the wingnuts will STILL find something on the shelf to offend them and punish us.

And this just won't stop in Iowa. If this law passes, and it survives every court challenge - even the Supreme Court where a 6-3 conservative lineup could well side with the religious extremists - every other Republican-controlled state is going to pass their own version. Half the nation could well see our public libraries shut down due to the threat of prison and bankruptcy facing their staffers.

And who would win then? Without public libraries, children and adult literacy withers. Public access to computers goes away, hurting poor people searching online for jobs or families trying to file for food stamps. No more children's programs. No more community centers.

Libraries matter to people. Libraries define a city, support their counties. We're a public service that people enjoy having, because they often get good results from what we help them with. You can hear people whine about the post office or waiting forever at the DMV, but you don't see those kind of complaints about libraries.

Except from the ones who hate libraries for doing the one thing the religious extremists despise. We give our communities the diversity of experience that shames those who would rather keep us ignorant, uninformed, and fearful.

Well, to hell with those haters.    

You're gonna have to pry my library catalog from my cold dead hands, you bloody wingnuts.

Now is the time for all honest Americans who want to keep copies of Harry Potter stories and books on Tarot and Wicca to join your library's Friends group. Now is the time to defend your library and your community!

To The Shelves! To the Shelves! Defend the books!

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Submitting to FWA 2022

Okay, I've done my ego some good submitting a number of works to the Florida Writers Association's annual Royal Palm Literary Awards!

I sent in five articles from my political blog for the Short Non-Fiction/Blogging category, hopefully this year I won't be toooooo partisan in my opinions.

I also submitted two flash fiction items I'd written this 2021, both of them were for a flash publication that were not accepted, but I feel good about them so I'm trying them with the RPLA. Update: Okay it turns out I did not pay attention to the rule changes. Last time I was told you could submit up to five entries per genre, but this year it's just five entries TOTAL. So I had to weed out the two flash fiction entries and eat the "No Refunds" consequences.

I also also submitted the FWA's annual anthology, this year themed "Thrills and Chills," and with luck it's funny enough - well, *I* like the punchline - to impress the judges this time around.

I'm thinking about submitting one more, longer short story that I've been toiling with for years, but I need to get it done soonest before the Early Bird submission costs go up.


Here's hoping for good news by June/July...

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Working on 2022

Just a reminder to myself:

Gotta get stuff edited and prepped for the FWA writing contests, and oh I gotta renew my membership with them.

More to report on later.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Good News to Open 2022

It's nice to open a new year with news of getting published.

The Strangely Funny anthology accepted another humor horror short this week, a 21st Century take on vampires called "The Brides of WiFi."  It's in a different vein than the other vampire stories - "I Must Be Your First," "Minette Dances with the Golem of Albany," "How a Vampire Gets a Tan" - I've done for them, but that's allowed because there's so many different rules for how vampires work that you can change their behaviors and weaknesses from story to story and still find the logic to make it fit.

It's just, okay, there's no effing way that vampires sparkle. They don't. They never will.

I think the publication date is scheduled for some time in August, we'll see as the year progresses.

Gets me in the mood to see about other publications for short stories I can submit to. Yasssss queen.

Happy New Year, fellow writers!