Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Doom and Gloom Redux: Much Less Gloom

I was planning on doing a review of my new Kindle tonight, but I'm already up way too late, so I'm pushing that off 'til Wednesday and moving Wednesday's post to tonight. Got it? Okay then.

Back in my Doom and Gloom post I made a few predictions about the lame duck Congressional session. Now that it's over, I thought it was time to take stock and see how it panned out. In order:
  • All of the Bush tax cuts will be extended: This happened, but surprisingly enough it went down as less a total capitulation and more as a negotiated settlement that sorted out the problem of expiring unemployment benefits.
  • DREAM and DADT will be killed in favor of the new START treaty: This sort of happened, in that DREAM and DADT in their original incarnations both failed. However, a last-ditch push by Joe freaking Lieberman of all people got DADT passed as a standalone bill, with a surprisingly comfortable majority in favor of it.
  • Republicans will run out the clock on new START: Did not happen. Some of the leadership continued to make a stink about it, but not enough of one to keep the rank and file from voting however they wished when the treaty came up for ratification.
  • The food safety bill will die in a procedural clustersnuggle: I wasn't paying as much attention to this as I was to everything else, but the procedural SNAFU was sorted out.
So, huzzah! Compared to what I was expecting things went very well. I was amazed at how quickly the tax cut debate was resolved: there'll be trouble down the line, still, but for now the compromise is (arguably) a good thing. The passage of DADT was a pure win, and so was the ratification of START. DREAM is probably dead for the immediate future, which is a shame; hopefully something similar will come up in a more comprehensive immigration reform bill down the line.

Going forward, I'm hoping Congress continues its recent spurt of productivity through 2012; which is to say, I'm hoping that Congress doesn't deadlock and shut the government down in 2011, and gets some more appointments sorted out. Filibuster reform wouldn't be a bad start; I love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and I'm all for requiring an actual filibuster when a Senator wants to filibuster something. Also, gentlemen, let's drop this anonymous holds nonsense, okay? It's a stupid, ugly practice with no redeeming value that makes the Senate look bad. No more.

Okay then. Sleep now.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Really, what else is there to say? Oh yeah: Enjoy some Christmas Corgis!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ack Ack Ack

Today's going to be a short post. My best friend just blew into town from Cincinnati to spend the holidays with his family, so I ended up playing co-op Plants vs. Zombies and New Super Mario Bros. for much longer than I planned and now I really need to get ready for bed.

Happily I do have some content! Just from other people.

First up is an excellent blog post from Kevin Smith (the Clerks guy), in which he talks about the creative process for film making, and how important it is to go out and do what you want to do, rather than waiting until you're somehow qualified to do it.

Second (and last) is The Penmonkey's Paean, which I am officially declaring a must-read blog post. In fact, you know what? You'll need to print this one out and tack it up on your wall, right behind your desk. Because when you're burnt out in the middle of a book or you're sick of editing for the tenth time, you will want to read this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Learning Real-World Programming

My apologies for the missed blog post on Friday. I got caught up reading Prospero Burns and honestly forgot that I had a post lined up. Hey, there are worse excuses for missing an update.

Anyway, I responded to a forum question a while back about what to study if you're thinking about a career in computer science (which I took to read "programmer"). The rest of this post is a cleaned-up version of my response, based on about five years' experience writing code for a living. If you think I'm going too far off-mission, well, tough. Go suffer the wrath of Trollquotes.

First off, you want to learn Unix or Linux if you want to be a well-rounded programmer. For all of Windows's dominance of the desktop PC market, most servers run on some flavor of *nix, so you're going to have to learn to love the command line. Ubuntu is easy to use as a desktop, comes on a live disc so you don't have to nerf your Windows gaming box, and has the full command line experience for you to play with. (If you don't know what a live disc is, God help you, and don't come crying to me when you reformat your hard drive.) Make sure you work out how to type in emacs or vi as part of your command line tour.

While I was in college I learned to program in C++ and Java. These are useful languages to learn from, because they're strongly defined, well supported, and complex enough that you can port your skills to just about any other language without too much difficulty. But as a practical consideration, well, I haven't touched C in years and only rarely use the Java. (That'll probably drop to "never use Java" now that Oracle seems bound and determined to screw it up. I still feel bad for Professor Lobo, who was firmly convinced Java was the language of the future. Now, I suspect, not so much. But I digress...)

Code gets compiled, and you will need to know how to do that. Not everybody gets to use an IDE. If you're learning C or C++, make sure you play with gcc and make. Visual Studio is fine, but will only take you so far. If you're learning Java, start compiling with javac before anything else. Once you're comfortable with that, Ant is a great tool for building larger projects.

Now, other languages. HTML and CSS aren't programming languages, but a basic knowledge of the tags is important if you want to be a web programmer. In which case you'll also need to be able to set up an Apache web server, which is not at all difficult after a few Google searches. Many *nix systems will come with it installed or as an easy add-on in any case.

Java servlets are good to know for web programming, but will require Apache Tomcat or Glassfish as your web server. These are both still easy to set up.

Javascript and Java are two different things - Javascript is generally the one that does all the fancy web graphics on Facebook or Twitter. Learn it if you need it.

For a simple introduction to modern web programming (i.e. Web 2.0, SOA, The Cloud), you might consider checking out Ruby and it's expansion pack, Ruby on Rails. It's got a very simple syntax that does a lot in a hurry, and Rails was designed to handle buzzwords like SOAP and Ajax with ease.

On to the nitty-gritty! Perl is the #1 language in parsing text files, so if you're planning on server programming, learn it as your second language. The syntax is (arguably) a little too confusing to start learning with, but once you get the knack for it you'll be fine. You'll also want to learn a bit of shell coding to go along with the Perl.

If you're interested in games programming, XNA is the simplest way to get started in 3D gaming. That means learning C#, which is about the only reason I know of to use that particular language. It's a lot like Java, so you won't have too much trouble getting spun up.

Avoid LISP like the plague unless you like artificial intelligence.

The best programming books I've found that are up to date belong to the Head First series. These are very accessible, and entertaining, but still give you a strong introduction to their particular subject. Beyond that, the O'Reilly tech books are rarely bad, so investigate them thoroughly whenever you want to learn about a new subject.

Programming can be a lot of fun, even if you never do it for anything other than a hobby. As a profession, it won't be a blast everyday; but at its best programming is a creative, rewarding way to make a living. So if you're in school and thinking about what career path you want to follow (or, like me, you want to be a writer but like to have money for food), give coding some consideration. If nothing else, hey, you can write a Pong clone for your own amusement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lunchtime at Bugaboo Creek

Today was my office holiday get-together, and as it is written in the ancient scrolls we went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. This year the Bugaboo Creek Steak House was selected. It's a U.S. steak house chain, but there are moose and mounties in it so I think it secretly wants to be Canadian.

Let me get this out of the way: The food was great. Excellent ribs, excellent mashed potatoes, and very good french fries. Yes I got two starches in my lunch, don't judge me.

Here's the thing. I walked into the restaurant and suddenly I'm in a taxidermist's dream world. There are heads just about everywhere. Moose heads, deer heads, bear heads. There's some kind of rodent dangling from the roof via a string. It's the sort of place that would give Sarah the fear, and the sort of place that my dad would get a big kick out of.

My coworkers and I walk over to our table, which is in the dead center of the restaurant. We're surrounded by dead animals. There's a giant buffalo's head right behind me. As I sit down, one of the guys who had gotten there a few minutes ahead of us says "Hey. Fair warning, the buffalo talks."


"Yeah, it scared the shit out of me. It's really loud. Be careful."

So now we spend the next half hour ordering drinks and looking at the menu and being terrified that this head's going to start talking. And as this is going on I'm noticing what looks like poltergeist activity all around me. A skunk is popping up out of a tin can, looking around, and hiding again. The dangling squirrel is swinging from side to side, even though the squirrel never moves. I'm half expecting the Candarian Demon Moose to turn up and kick off a jaunty musical number.

gif gifs
Moose are not musically inclined.

Finally at 11:30 on the dot, the buffalo turns it's head and blinks at me. The dead animal is blinking at me. Then it opens its mouth and says:

"Well hi there! I'm Bill the Buffalo. You know why they call me 'Wild Bill'? A lot of people think I'm named after that other guy, but that's not it. It's 'cause I came here and I ate all this delicious food, like the Lodge Center Cut Fillet, and by the time I was done I worked up a 'wild bill'!"

And then it shut up.


It really was good food though.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Super Meat Boy

I'd love to do something writing-related for today's blog, but Christmas shopping and work have got me beat. I will say that if you haven't heard of Super Meat Boy, you should go download it from XBox Live if you have the option, or on your PC if you don't, and give it a whirl. This is probably the best platformer game I've ever played that wasn't a Super Mario Bros. game. It is very fast-paced and very brutal - you will die, a lot, playing this game. And yet you will still have fun.

I'd be playing it right now, to relax from work et Krimble, but I'm too busy biting my nails waiting for Prospero Burns to make its way across the Atlantic. If I'm lucky I'll be able to scrounge a copy this weekend. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Barfly Post: On Salable Kingdoms

Somehow I ended up at a bar tonight, not drinking, with my wife and a bunch of people I've only met once before or not at all. This wasn't a bad experience - I like these people, even if I don't have much in the way of anything to discuss with them, and the bar has decent fries. It just kind of threw me off my blogging mojo. That and the brandy I had when I got home as a reward for being the designated driver.

So! Growing up one of the first "serious" fantasy books I ever read was Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold!, by Mr. Terry Brooks. The story follows Ben Holiday, a lawyer looking to escape from his life and a slew of bad memories. Enter Meeks, a mysterious man who offers to sell Ben a genuine magic kingdom named Landover. Ben takes him off on his offer, expecting something like a Renaissance fair... and then he meets a great damn dragon, and realizes that he might be in over his head...

The book is a real delight to read, full of humor and genuine emotion. Ben's struggle to become a hero is utterly believable, and the cast of characters are all well-fleshed creations, even though a lot of them are fairly standard fantasy characters (the incompetent wizard, the dragon, the witch, etc). The main villain isn't particularly compelling, but he's scary enough that you won't really mind; and when you get right down to it, the book is less about good versus evil than it is about a good man fighting against the urge to give up.

Now, the image at the top of this post is the cover of the printing I read when I was younger. Note the dog on the left. He is awesome. Note also that there is no indication that this book is part of a series. So imagine my joy when I check to see if the book is still in print and find these:

The Magic Kingdom of Landover Volume 1: Magic Kingdom For Sale SOLD! - The Black Unicorn - Wizard at Large  The Magic Kingdom of Landover Volume 2

Not only is the book still in print, but Landover has spawned a five-book series, available in a fine cheap omnibus format for the discerning consumer. And it even comes in e-book format, so I don't need to worry about finding space for it on my shelf! (If I don't mind reading them on my computer, that is.)

Needless to say, I'll be picking these up as soon as I have room in my reading schedule. Which, given that Prospero Burns is imminent, will probably be next month.

But I can be patient. Hopefully, Landover can too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Corgi Conundrum

I'm mad for even writing this so late in the evening, but I set myself a goal of three posts a week and I'm going to meet it for at least one week. Sleep? I need not sleep.

Let's talk about Corgis. Specifically my Corgi, Lina.

Are you talking about me?

Lina is an awesome dog. She's always happy to meet new people, and tends to behave very well in strange houses. In fact, odds are that she'll be much more calm and collected in a stranger's house than she ever would be in my house.

Go ahead. Sit down. Let me step on your shoulder blades...

So I thought for Christmas this year I'd bring her along to my aunt's house so she could meet the family. There's just one problem with this, and his name is Charlie. He is a beagle.

(I don't actually have a beagle photo.)

Lina does not get a chance to be around other dogs very often, and introducing her to new dogs is always a total crapshoot. It's not that Lina's particularly unfriendly, but she gets... possessive. Of me and my wife. Specifically, she won't stand for any other dog getting affection from us if she's not involved. She won't be happy if another dog has a toy, either. Treats? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Now the thing is, I know about this because Lina doesn't get along with my in-laws's dog, Melfi. And to be fair, Melfi charged Lina like a crazed bull when they first met. And Melfi's a female, so she's fair game for Lina to try and assert herself as "alpha dog". Charlie is a male, and everything I've read points to female Corgis being well-behaved around male dogs.

But I don't know, dammit. And it's important to know these things, because if my wife and I ever decide to get a second dog, we don't want two fuzzy little terrors running around trying to start World War III in our living room.

I am the Destroyer of Worlds.

My wife and I will be discussing this further, but I'm really not sure what's going to happen. We might take the risk, or we might bring Lina down next Thanksgiving when Charlie won't be around. The two dogs might fall in love, or I might spend my Christmas standing outside with a dog who's trying to "defend" me from my aunt's dog while my family eats fried oysters in a warm house.

In which case, I would have no choice but to use the Bee Costume of Shame. And nobody wants that.

Especially not Lina.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Oh right, I said I'd be doing this three days a week, didn't I? Well okay then, if I must...

I've been playing a lot of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood lately, which has been horrible for my writing output (oh NaNoWriMo, you already seem so long ago), but great for my mental health. The story is a good enough continuation of the previous game, with some more asshole Borgias to dice up and Machiavelli himself being quite possibly sinister (I'm not sure yet and don't need spoilers, thank you so much).

The gameplay has improved, and when the servers are up multiplayer is a real treat - it's a streamlined version of the single-player game, in which you hunt down and kill rival assassins while trying to avoid being killed yourself. I definitely recommend the game to anybody who likes sandbox-style play, but maybe doesn't care for the Grand Theft Auto series.

And on to writing. Chuck Wendig has an, ahem, angry piece up about why you, yes you, suck as an editor. It's insightful stuff (certainly applies to me), and a must-read.

As for myself, I'm still getting my mind organized, and it's well past time I started getting it organized on paper. If I don't have anything in print or binary by the end of the week (hell, by tomorrow), I'm going to forget things. And that would be a shame, because I've got some pretty good ideas starting to flow. Time to abuse the Scrivener outliner tool, methinks.

Oh, and just a reminder for all the addicts: Tomorrow is a date which will live in infamy. Thank God I kicked the habit...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Outlining and Comic Books

Oops! Finally missed a day. Or, alternatively, I decided that I had better slow down on the updates before I give myself an aneurysm trying to keep up. Let's shoot for three a week, shall we? Excellent.

I've taken a step back from the NaNoWriMo writing blitz to try and get a better idea about how to organize a novel. To that end, I picked up my copy of Helsreach, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and started thumbing through it to get an idea of how he works out pacing, balances battle action and character action, things of that ilk.

(Why Helsreach? Because I want to write something about Space Marines fighting in a city. And Master Dembski-Bowden managed to make random switches between first and third person perspectives work in this book, so I expect I'll have plenty to learn from tearing it apart and inspecting the gribbly bits.)

I've been outlining the book in Scrivener. Here's what it looks like so far:

Haven't even gotten into scenes yet.
So, um, yeah. I might end up burning a week on this, for uncertain gain. Still, I figure this falls under the heading of deliberate practice, and I've also got some reference books to read through before my next big writing push. And I'll be outlining my manuscript while I'm at it, so even in the worst case it won't be a week lost.

Some good comic books out this week. Darkseid is currently dead, but if you're a fan then be sure to check out Action Comics Annual #13, featuring a flashback to Lex Luthor's first encounter with the master of Apokolips. This isn't Grant Morrison's Darkseid, and it ain't the Superman-obsessed, might as well be a stock supervillain one either; this is Jack Kirby's Darkseid, complete with talking in "quotes" and a penchant for hyperbole, and it's a blast to see him back. Lex also meets Ra's al Ghul in a backup story written entirely in verse.

While I'm at it, if you're a fan of the Ryan Choi Atom then check out Secret Six #28. You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doom and Gloom

NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and yet I still feel the need to blog a bit.

My iPod recently suffered a fatal attack to its display, so I was forced to listen to CSPAN Radio on my commute into work. If you've ever thought about doing this, don't. It will depress you immeasurably.

The Senate GOP has apparently vowed that it will do nothing more than ensure that all the Bush tax cuts are extended indefinitely, despite the fact that nobody has the faintest idea how to pay for them.

I therefore feel confident in predicting that not only will all of the tax cuts be extended, but a repeal of DADT and passage of the DREAM Act will both be thrown on the chopping block by the Democrats in the faint hope of getting the GOP to negotiate in good faith on the New START treaty - which they are unlikely to do, since all they have to do is run down the clock to get a stronger hand in Congress next year.

Meanwhile two million people just lost their jobless benefits in the middle of a recession, less than a month before Christmas. And the one thing the lame-duck session has achieved so far, a food safety bill, will likely be recalled due to a procedural clustersnuggle.

All of which is to say that I am packing my iPod into a bag of rice, in hopes of sucking out some phantom moisture behind the screen that might be causing the issue. If I have to pay any more attention to Congress over the next month, I will in all likelihood subject myself to a twenty-four hour Jersey Shore marathon, in the hopes of scrambling my brains so thoroughly that I lose the ability to feel outraged on any level.

I may also lose the ability to speak, recognize simple shapes, or form a coherent thought. I would consider this a small sacrifice to make.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 30 - Victory!

50296 / 50000 words. 101% done!

And a flight of angels descended from above on a shaft of golden light, trumpets playing...

50,000 words in 30 days, plus change. It's a hell of an accomplishment, especially when you factor in time spent with friends and family, time spent frantically tweaking the plot into something sane, and the last two days spent trying to eject a lung from my body.

So what comes next? Lots of editing, lots of additions. 50,000 words could be called a novel, but the popular term is novella. I don't want to write a novella, I want to write a novel. So I'm going to be doing a lot of expanding. I don't even want to get into the repetitive prose, the two-dimensional characters, and the plot holes I'm going to have to deal with.

Still, I made my goal for the month, and I feel damn good about it. So for right now, I'm just going to relax, try to get the cough under control, and maybe brag a little bit.

And then tomorrow, I start writing again. Because why should I stop, now that I've got such a great head of steam?

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 29

47505 / 50000 words. 95% done!

Almost done! I got a good chunk of writing done last night after my post, and another good chunk today after work. Now I've got just a little over a day's work left to finish up and claim victory for the year 2010.

Will I complete my 50,000 words on time? Will the site crash on me and deny me my victory? Stay tuned to find out.

Also, check out this video of the new XM-25 rifle if you're a fan of Warhammer 40,000 and want to know what a boltgun might look like in real life. Boom!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 28 - R.I.P Leslie Nielsen

I'm going to keep writing a little longer tonight, but I want to get this post out of the way. I should easily hit 4,000 words written today before I get to sleep.

Leslie Nielsen passed away today. Reportedly he passed away peacefully, falling asleep in the company of his family. He will be missed by his fans, and almost certainly by the parody movie market. When you get the chance, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up one of his movies and take the time to enjoy it. Airplane! and The Naked Gun movies are obvious choices, but I would also recommend Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and Repossessed (an Exorcist parody).

Whatever your choice, pick it up, sit for two hours, laugh, and salute the passing of a great comedian.

42059 / 50000 words. 84% done!

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 27, And a Review of Splice

38495 / 50000 words. 77% done!

Today was definitely a very strong day, writing-wise. I am starting to catch myself cheating, mostly in little ways: adding extraneous words where they aren't needed (bad), or too much detail to a scene or an action (good - I'll at least have a best of breed when I'm done cutting).

During the writing grind I ended up watching Splice, since my wife was upstairs playing The Sims 3 and wouldn't have to sit through it. I predict that this movie is going to ruin the hobby of biohacking for everyone for years to come.

Here's what I learned from watching Splice (vague spoilers ahoy):
  • While those two bright-eyed young biohackers might be brilliant, they will fuck up your company's bottom line and may very well get you killed. If they won't wear a damn lab coat, fire them immediately.
  • Ask about your girlfriend/wife's childhood after a few years. Her childhood traumas will eventually bite you in the ass.
  • Don't let your girlfriend/wife talk you into a child you don't want.
  • Don't let your girlfriend/wife talk you into a blasphemy of science you don't want.
  • Never do a live show with animals.
  • Genetically-altered animals will change their gender, not because of environmental pressures, but just because they damn well feel like it.
  • The proper way to discipline your blasphemy of science is to tie it down, strip it naked, and mutilate it while speaking into a tape recorder. Because that will teach it to behave.
  • You can get yourself covered in all sorts of genetically-altered bodily fluids without any ill-effects whatsoever.
  • Do not fuck your science experiments.
  • Do not allow your science experiments to fuck you.
And that's all I have to say about that. I give the movie 3 out of 5 stars, mostly because I suspect something very similar is going to happen in somebody's garage in my lifetime and I think an educated populace is a safer populace.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 25 - Happy Thanksgiving!

32051 / 50000 words. 64% done!

Happy Thanksgiving! I didn't write a damn thing today! Enjoy this video of a Corgi fighting a singing turkey! Exclamation point!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 24, And Hobgoblin Nerd Rage

32051 / 50000 words. 64% done!

I'm posting this early because I have to get up early for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and also I wanted to discuss the latest Spider-man story arc. It's called Big Time, and it features a bold new direction for Spider-man, and the return of a classic villain: the Hobgoblin. And I'm already pissed off. Nerd rage (and spoilers) kick in below the fold.

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 23

30272 / 50000 words. 61% done!

That's better. Nearly 3,000 words written today, most of them of decent quality. And I've got a fairly large battle scene coming up in the next chapter that, hopefully, will flow well and let me beef up my word count fairly quickly.

Of course there's Thanksgiving on Thursday, decorating on Friday, and only four days left after that... but I still think I can pull out a win this year. Even if it means having a psychotic episode.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 22

27476 / 50000 words. 55% done!

Some progress today - not as much as I'd like, but enough to keep me from slipping behind yet another day. I will say that when I was writing, the words were coming much more smoothly than they had been. I think the new direction is going to be a big help.

On a side note, the Venture Bros. season finale, Operation P.R.O.M., was phenomenal. Just about every plot from season four gets wrapped up neatly in an hour long episode featuring action, heartbreak, renewed love, career changes, mutant flies, hos, Hulks, and alien technology. The animation was great, the writing was great... the only thing missing was Phantom Limb, but I honestly don't think they could have fit him in. If you follow the show, check it out; if not, be ready next Sunday to jump onboard from episode one and get yourself caught up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 21

25765 / 50000 words. 52% done!

Failure despair blah blah blah. I've got a strong chapter breakdown going, a corker of a scene to write next and a direction that's got me excited again. The word count will take care of itself.

Because this sucks as a blog post, go check out Five Things Every Aspiring Author Should Know. Also, here's a pep talk from Neil Gaiman that I always find helpful, no matter how many times I read it. Finally, here's a link to tonight's episode of Family Guy on Hulu, which will be available tomorrow. Go thou forth and watch, and do not what Brian does.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

25765 / 50000 words. 52% done!

No progress today, I'm afraid. To be fair, if I'd kept writing what I was writing I would have ended up with even more things I'll need to rewrite, as I've ended up deciding that I need to go in a different direction with my story, setting, conflict, etc. than I had in mind when I started. Frankly I don't have much hope of finishing well this year - I have too much reworking to do and not enough time to do it in, and even counting what I've written so far (which I fully intend to do), I'm still way behind where I need to be to net 50,000 words this month.

So let's forget about all that and talk about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

I love J.K. Rowling's books, and many of the movies have been a great deal of fun. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had me worried though. I've long been used to directors skipping over minor plot points from the books, but Half-Blood Prince went out of its way to throw things into the story that didn't need to be there and didn't fit in with the original plot.

Luckily, Deathly Hallows goes back to the original formula for the films, sticking as close to the original book as it can within the limits of film. Some subplots again fall by the wayside (apparently because Mad Eye Moody says so), and one character's demise seems to have been jettisoned for reasons unknown, but the main thrust of the book is captured by the filmmakers.

The set pieces are beautiful, expansive, and really get across that Harry and his friends are no longer confined to Hogwarts; it's a big damn world out there, and a great one to look at. The cast is in full form as well. Aside from a few groaners in the script, everyone turns in a top-notch performance. Ralph Fiennes has come into his own as Lord Voldemort, and Helena Bonham Carter finally seems to have nailed Bellatrix Lestrange.

The tale of the Deathly Hallows was a real treat. It's done as a narrated animation, in a style that evokes the movie Coraline and Terry Gilliam's work. It's a fine piece that stands alone in its own right, and I'd love to see it posted on the web somewhere as a free-to-watch clip by the film company. (Not pirates. The people with actual rights to post it.)

The action and fight sequences are very well done. They don't follow the books, as per usual, but they're exciting to watch. I'm still annoyed by the Death Eater Smoke Monsters the series director(s) have fallen in love with, but there's enough villainy afoot from the actual actors to keep me from getting too mad.

Oh yeah, and scares too! There are a few points that are going to give young kids nightmares, and all of them come straight out of the book. You have been warned.

Overall I'd recommend the movie to anyone who's invested in the films up to now. The cast seems ready to finish out the series with a big finale, and if you've watched the rest of the movies there's no reason at all to stop now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 19

25765 / 50000 words. 52% done!

I swear, I actually do less writing when I have a day off. Here's how my day went:

6 a.m. - Wake up, kiss wife goodbye. Go straight back to bed to overcome sleep deprivation torment.

12 p.m. - Wake up again, shut off perfectly reasonable alarm that is just trying to do its job.

2 p.m. - Wake up refreshed and cursing myself for sleeping in. Check e-mail, shower.

2:30 p.m. - Lunch at Burger King while rereading The First Heretic. Notepad and pen sit in my pocket, unused.

3:00 p.m. - Hit the local Jiffy Lube to get my car tuned up for an impending two hour road trip. $200 flutters out of my pocket as if it was never there.

4:00 p.m. - Arrival home. Let the dog outside and toss the frisbee around.

4:30 p.m. - Chat with the wife about dinner over Gmail and catch up on Twitter, Facebook etc. Halfhearted attempts at writing produce a few sentences.

5:15 p.m. - Settle on the newly reopened California Pizza Kitchen. I decide to try out Assassin's Creed's new multiplayer mode.

6:15 p.m. - I snap out of Assassin's Creed two achievements later and order dinner.

7:00 p.m. - I return with dinner to find a stranger in my wife's parking space. I fail to find the miscreant before she arrives home, but I do track him down before she can tape a passive-agressive note to his door.

8:00 p.m. - More halfhearted sentences emerge while we catch up on Thursday night sitcoms and try to figure out why the dog is trying to eat her own back.

11:00 p.m. - Dammit, it's time for bed.

12:00 a.m. - Wife falls asleep. I put the dog to bed and sit down at my computer to post my daily word count. I ask myself where the time went.

12:20 a.m. - I wish I hadn't asked.

Now it's onward to post-midnight typing, to try and defray tomorrow's festivities, which include a birthday gathering and the new Harry Potter movie. Meanwhile my word count will be sitting in a corner and whining, and my muse will be applying for a job with James Frey. C'est la vie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 18 - Also Comic Books and Dogs

25088 / 50000 words. 50% done!

Woohoo, halfway point! And I'm only, oh, three days behind. Whoops, after midnight, make that four days behind.

I could cite a lot of reasons why I'm having trouble keeping up... but honestly, I've been more productive this month than I have been in the last year. And I'm pretty sure I'm writing good stuff, too, at least for a first draft. Granted, I'll have a ton of rewriting (and likely rethinking) to do once December gets here. But that's December. November is crazy-writey time.

One delay I will discuss came from New Comic Book Day, and what a day it was! The new Batman: Incorporated series looks and reads fantastic. Batman's teamed up with Catwoman in Japan, and finds himself facing off against Mighty Lord Death Man (no joke) while also trying to set up a new Batman of Japan. The art is great: Catwoman looks effortlessly sexy in every scene, and Lord Death Man actually poses like a Japanese horror villain.

Dead Avengers is a limited series featuring, well, dead Avengers, including Captain Marvel and the original Vision. The barriers between life and death have broken down, and six fallen heroes have to stop the forces of an evil god from murdering their still-living teammates. This is an excellent book for anyone who likes older Avengers stories.

Green Lantern #59 reveals a few secrets of the Indigo Tribe, as well as what happened to Black Hand after the undead nightmare of Blackest Night. Again, not a good jumping on point, but a great series to read.

The Avengers #7 sees a depowered supervillain named The Hood go on a hunt for the Infinity Gems, six jewels that can control every aspect of the universe. Honestly, I was hoping The Hood would get a rest for awhile, especially after he played such a huge role in Norman Osborn's takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and how is he out of jail anyway?)... but I'm glad to finally see the Infinity Gems back in action, and Red Hulk working with the Avengers ought to be a lot of fun.

X-Men #5 is the penultimate chapter in the X-Men vs. Vampires storyline, and the action's starting to really heat up. Wolverine and Dracula both get some great bad-ass moments, and I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Finally, Brightest Day #14 delves into the history of Deadman, a ghostly superhero who has found himself alive again against his will. The guy was, frankly, a jerk in his first life, and seeing him come to terms with that was a blast. Also, the last panel will give anyone following Justice League: Generation Lost a well-deserved thrill.

And, just because it made me laugh my ass off: Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 17

23574 / 50000 words. 47% done!

Not a bad day, though I was pretty late getting started.

Some of you may have been following the Cook's Source scandal as it happened. I won't rehash it here (follow the link, and this one for the intellectual property wonk's take), but Cook's Source has posted an "apology" on their front page that is well worth reading. (I'm posting to the Google cached verison of the page, as Cook's Source itself appears to have gone belly-up.) It's a classic of the backhanded non-apology style of writing. No further comment; I think Cook's Source has been dumped on sufficiently by now, and I'm certainly not going to defend the damned fools.

And, just because: We are now only a few short years away from weaponized antimatter. So be sure to grab your crowbar and kiss your ass goodbye.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 16

21801 / 50000 words. 44% done!

Oh, stop looking at me like that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 15

20555 / 50000 words. 41% done!

Red is the color of failure!

I'd hoped to do better today. I intend to do better over the rest of the week. That is all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 14

20315 / 50000 words. 41% done!

Today was kind of a restful day - not much writing got done until late in the evening, but I did make par for the day, and broke 20,000 words overall. As of now I'm still 4,000 words behind where I should be; bad, but by no means fatal.

So far I've been working in a pretty straightforward fashion, writing from start to finish without jumping around or doing any tricks to boost my word count. It's worked so far, but I might have to pull a few rabbits out of my writing cap if I'm going to make my goal come the end of November.

In other news, I'll be taking a little time tomorrow to hunt for a new desk chair. Alternatively, I'll chain myself to my computer and belt out 5,000 words in a day. Either way, you'll hear about it tomorrow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 13

19039 / 50000 words. 38% done!

Friday the 13th might be bad luck, but Saturday the 13th? Seems to be a pretty good day for writing. Certainly I could have done much worse for a day's work.

Not much to share today, so I thought I'd throw out a few Links of Interest. First up is this story from New York Magazine about James Frey's Full Fathom Five, which to me sounds a lot like a sweatshop for young writers who don't know anything about how the writing business works. I will reluctantly admit that back in college, this would have sounded like a pretty good deal to me. I mean, hell, it's practically guaranteed publication! Plus $250 and a cut of the profits from whatever the book makes, including movie rights! What hungry young author wouldn't jump at that?

Well, if you are a hungry young author: Don't. John Scalzi sums up the reasoning better than I would.

And on the positive side, Lifehacker has a Top 10 list of tips for better writing. It's pretty good advice: I especially agree with the benefits of writing longhand once in a while, as well as the importance of distraction-free writing tools.

The only thing that they leave out? Practice, practice, practice. Even if you keep a regular writing schedule, you are not going to improve if you don't occasionally stop to stretch your writing muscles a little bit.

On top of the exercises Victoria Strauss recommends, I'll throw in focused rewriting. Basically, you pick an author or a book you love, sit down with it at a keyboard, and type out the text, word for word. You can learn a lot about an author's style from this exercise, while also strengthening your own. And don't worry unduly about becoming a copycat of your favorite author: This is an exercise Hunter S. Thompson used with The Great Gatsby, and I'm hard-pressed to point out the duplication between Thompson's writing and F. Scott Fitzgerald's.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 12

17031 / 50000 words. 34% done!

Not much to say today, except that the writing has been coming along fairly well and I'm relieved to be starting a weekend.

To make up for the lack of content, here are two videos of Corgis doing cute things. Enjoy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Moon Knight/McCormick Connection

Fair warning: If you haven't watched at least the last two episodes of South Park, there be spoilers ahead, so stop reading now I'm going to try putting a jump here for good measure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 10, And a Libel Law Petition

13715 / 50000 words. 27% done!

I've had better days and I've had worse days, but I'm content for the moment.

Rather than dwell on the word count, here's a message from Simon Singh, courtesy of Cory Doctorow:

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition.

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform!

If you have a blog and think there's any possibility you might piss somebody off with the things you write, this could be an important issue down the line. So go take a look.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 9 - Status: Sluggish

12489 / 50000 words. 25% done!

Not a great day for writing today. Work took precedence during the day, and the XBox came in to bat cleanup in the evening. With any luck I'll be able to make up for it on Veteran's Day and the weekend.

I entered a Twitter contest last week entirely on accident, and came away with an excellent prize. Many thanks to Phil Athans for the books, and be sure to check out his book on writing, The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's one of the few books on the market that deals honestly with writing tie-in fiction, which makes it a winner in my book; and even if you don't like books on writing, there's an unpublished R.A. Salvatore story in the back of the book that you might enjoy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 8

11770 / 50000 words. 24% done!

And the words just keep on coming! I'm caught up from the last seven days and I'm into today's word count. Not par for the month, but satisfying enough for me. Anything else I write before I get to sleep? Bonus.

On a related note, I'm really liking Scrivener's fullscreen mode, which blacks out everything that isn't your manuscript so you can focus on just writing. It's a great feature, and a big help when you want to just churn out words without worrying about your Twitter feed.

Now I'm going to go listen to the audiobook version of A Thousand Sons. Because if you're going to listen to an audiobook, an audiobook based on a New York Times bestseller set in the grim darkness of the far future is a pretty good pick.

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 7

10046 / 50000 words. 20% done!

If November was five weeks long, I'd be right on track. As it is, I'm only about a day behind, which isn't bad at all. And, I've got a few more days off coming up (outside the weekends), so I should have ample time to catch up.

Then again, I'm not entirely sure where the story's going after I finish chapter three, so I might lose time outlining the next few chapters. I've tried discovery writing before, though, and it didn't work out very well, so I'll have to consider the outlining time a necessary evil. Kind of like the time I lose to my day job.

Wait, what? No, that was clearly a bad joke, brought on by a brain seizure. Pay it no attention, ho ho...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 6 - Playing With Toys

8888 / 50000 words. 18% done!

No real content tonight, but my word count is at 8,888 right now, and I thought that was pretty cool to post.

I've decided to start tinkering with a program called Scrivener for the rest of the month. It's a word-processing program that keeps the author firmly in mind. You can organize character and location notes, chapter summaries, scenes, chapters, and text in a one-window format that, so far, seems a lot more manageable than having a bunch of Word documents open all over your screen at once. Plus there's a Windows beta version available for the duration of NaNoWriMo, which is a big plus for me, since I'm not exactly a Mac guy.

(I almost posted "bug plus" there... yeah, that too. Beta, remember. Save early, save often.)

I'm catching up to my word count goals and I'm feeling good about my progress, even with a new program to beat the kinks out of. Five digit word count, here I come!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 5, or How a Day Off Gets Lost

6533 / 50000 words. 13% done!

Today was a solid day of writing: Almost 2,000 words in one go, which puts me above par for the day, but still leaves me well short of par for the month. Now, when I went to bed last night, I had every intention of spending all day writing to make up for what was a productive, but not productive enough, week so far.

That... did not happen. And I have excuses. Oh, do I have excuses. Don't we all?

"I slept in!"

"We had guests!"

"My wife felt like I was ignoring her!"

"The new Dark Eldar book came out today!"

"The Netflix made me watch them against my will!"

"My dog felt like I was ignoring her!"

"There's a new tweet on Twitter!"

All of which is to say that I did not have the willpower to get up, lock myself in a room by myself, and get words down on the page.

Well. I did, briefly. But the door doesn't lock properly and they found me.

One day or another I will do better this weekend. And, regardless, I'm feeling really good about what I'm writing. It needs revision (oh ye flaming Gods, does it need revision), but I'm at a fun bit and the words are starting to flow. So I'm going to try and keep the fun alive.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 4

4631 / 50000 words. 9% done!

Well, damn. I'm officially falling behind on my word count goals for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I'm just about 2,000 words short today. To catch up, I'd have to write almost 4,000 words tomorrow.

Do I let this get me down? No. I've been down worse than this in other years. And I'm averaging 1,000 words a day so far, which is a massive boost from my usual word count. And oh yeah, I've got the day off tomorrow. ;)

I'm also managing daily blog updates this month, even though some of them, like *ahem* day three, are really short, and even though the last thing I should be doing is writing things that aren't my Nanonovel. Either the organ-grinder monkey that is my muse is in a really good mood, or I've finally cracked the writer's block, or I'm at last going insane. Take your pick.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 2 - The Fail Begins

2520 / 50000 words. 5% done!

Whether I keep going or not tonight, this was my word count at midnight, so it will have to do. I spent the late evening watching the election coverage instead of writing, and couldn't make up the difference fast enough to hit the 3,333 mark. One problem is that I can keep up a fairly good clip writing on a notepad, but I get bogged down typing it up and end up doubling my workload. Still, some words are better than none!

I don't know how to feel about the national election results just yet, but Maryland looks like it's going to be a mixed bag. Governor O'Malley retained his office, which is... well. I don't like him, but I voted for him over Ehrlich anyway. I've liked Ehrlich as a person ever since his guest appearances with the Sports Junkies, but he ran too far to the right on some social issues this year, and he couldn't communicate a satisfactory plan to pay for the tax cuts he was promising (although the odds he'd be able to get them through the legislature were slim anyway). So I voted for policy over my gut and I'm hoping I won't feel bad about it four years from now.

Our local Congressional delegate got creamed, which would be fine if the guy doing the creaming didn't strike me as a total wingnut. On the plus side, a lot of local candidates I did like and voted for won their races, and the big referendum on slots at the mall ended in a solid "yes" to building the damn casino already, so we've successfully defeated the Horse Lords of Anne Arundel County and will have plenty of hooves to hang over our doors come midwinter.

Right, I'm exhausted and getting a bit loopy. More madness as the month progresses.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010, Day 1

1924 / 50000 words. 4% done!

I'm starting off strong today with 1,924 words, just a hair over par. It looks like evenings are going to be my prime writing time this month. With any luck, I'll be able to get into a routine I can maintain into December and beyond.

Unfortunately I only got about three hours of sleep last night, so I'll be turning in relatively early tonight to make up for it. No mad all-nighters for me, or at least not yet...

And while I've got you here, be sure to check out The Walking Dead on AMC, or at least pick up the original graphic novels. The story is old-school zombies done right, and it's creepy as all hell.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Well, Halloween is here again, and we've decided to indulge in a bit of animal cruelty here at the Earle household. That's my wife, Sarah, and Lina in her lovely bee costume. You can't see it, except for a faint gleam in her eyes, but she is full of hate.

Most times when we put, say, a bandanna on the dog, she'll bite and tear at it until she manages to rip it off, and then it becomes her newest chew toy. We managed to avoid this with the bee costume by taking her for a walk - letting her break it in, so to speak. She still fought us on the antennae, but they stayed on long enough.

Lots of trick-or-treaters this year, although not enough to overcome the amount of candy we bought in preparation. (My coworkers are going to have a good day tomorrow, followed by cavities.) Plenty of generic scary costumes, plus two Iron Men, a Spider-man, a Batgirl, a Wonder Woman (in fur coat), and a chihuahua in a bee costume, which Lina accepted with good grace. Also my half-assed Black Lantern costume, which consisted of a T-shirt and a ring. I'll do better next year, I promise!

Now the children have all retired to get ready for school, and there's nothing left for it but to watch Sweeney Todd and The Walking Dead (10pm on AMC - should be good), and get ready for NaNoWriMo tomorrow. Luckily (or not, depending on how you look at it), I've got an appointment with my dentist in the early afternoon tomorrow, so I'll be home early to try and pump up my word count.

It's going to be a busy November!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Rejection, Three New Submissions

Well, the novel submission has been considered and did not pass muster. It happens. The trick is not to get depressed about it, learn whatever lessons you can, and keep writing.

With that thought firmly in mind, I now have three short story submissions out and about, and I'm preparing for NaNoWriMo starting next month. I'm still trying to decide what to write (and that's a good sign), but come November 1st I'll be scrambling to get down 50,000 words of it in a month. I'll let you know how I do.

* * *

I've had a run of good movies lately. Tonight I finally watched Zombieland, via Netflix streaming. I have no idea how I missed this when it came out, but it's an amazingly funny, sometimes disgusting movie, featuring Woody Harrelson and the star of The Social Network.

Last weekend, I went to see RED (still in theaters), adapted from the twisted mind of Warren Ellis. It's a great little action flick, of the "old guys still kick ass" genre. Mr. Ellis has been blogging about the film for the past few weeks, so go see the movie, then check out the wordsmith's thoughts.

I rented the Kick-Ass DVD, also through Netflix. It is a good movie, but the graphic novel is much better. Go read, then see if you can dig up Hit-Girl's fight scenes on YouTube.

Smokin' Aces is an older movie, starring Jeremy Piven as a Las Vegas magician set to testify agains the Mob - which explains the six plus killers coming to kill him. I thought this would be a comedy going in, and it sort of is, but it's a very dark one. Worth checking out if you don't believe Ryan Reynolds can play Hal Jordan.

Do I have time for one more movie? Yes? The Pentagon Wars is a classic film of military waste, starring Kelsey Grammar (who really needs more military roles) and Cary Elwes as they duel over the fate of the overdue, overbudget, and completely ineffective Bradley tank. Based on a true story that will probably drive you up the wall.

* * *

Last but not least, the dog is now a YouTube star. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week Nine

The author is curled up in a corner. His arms are wrapped around his knees, and ragged fingernails have traced ugly lines down his shins. He's rocking back and forth, mumbling nonsense to himself. Pages from a calendar are lying on the opposite side of the room. Nine weeks have been marked off. There's a metal trashcan in the center of the room, full of burning paper: Pages and pages of rejected manuscript...

Well, heh. I don't think I could ever actually get that bad. And the deadline Black Library established for a response to submissions has been extended a wee bit, so I'm not out of the running yet. I'm calm, mostly: slightly nervous, and the red-skinned Imp of Anxiety is sitting on my bookshelf, sharpening his little black pitchfork and giving me meaningful looks...

No no, enough of that. Let's be upbeat instead. Sarah Cawkwell, who I know as the operator of the excellent Black Library Bolthole, recently announced that she'll be writing her first book for Black Library. She seems keen on documenting the process on her blog, so feel free to take a look and offer her congratulations/commiserations.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm gonna get this down real quick while I'm still steamed. Then I think I'll have a drink.

The vote on the defense bill today (which would have allowed the repeal of DADT once the review was finished) was a complete setup from start to finish. There was never a chance in hell that it would pass the filibuster. None. Zero. Zip.

Aside from DADT, the bill also included the DREAM act (which is a new path to naturalization for immigrants) and language that would have allowed military doctors to perform abortions on oversea bases. That's every social hot-button issue that's guaranteed to generate Republican opposition, in One. Bill.

I have to assume that Harry Reid is not a stupid man, but he still brought this doomed bill to a vote on the Senate floor. Which means one of two things: Harry Reid has completely lost his mind, or this was a cunning plan to generate Democratic outrage in advance of the 2010 election.

Think about it. The Democrats gain nothing by failing to pass legislation that their base would love in advance of an election. But if they spin this as another example of Republican obstruction (which it demonstrably is), they gain a boost of rage-based adrenaline in their entire base. And what do angry voters do? They vote. And there is nothing the Democrats need more than more voters that are pissed off at the GOP.

Keep an eye on how the media and the Democrats spin this, and see how it plays out in the election. That will tell you a lot about what Harry Reid was thinking today.

Oh, and I'm all in favor of DADT going away for good. For the record.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Sometimes there is nothing more motivational than having a target to aim for - in this case the possibility of another submissions window for Black Library opening soon. That may not actually happen, and I certainly haven't been promised any preferential treatment, but... well, just look at my word count for today:

1433 / 1000 words. 143% done!

Broke the daily bar! Thank you very much Christian Dunn. With any luck (and, most likely, some assistance from the Eldar codex) I'll be able to keep up this pace, or close to it.

Dan Abnett once said that less than 10,000 words in a week was too slow for him to bear. Stephen King swears by 2,000 words a day, every day. I consider these goals to aspire to, when I'm not blinded by fits of jealousy. And if I'm ever going to reach them, now's as good a time as any.

* * *

When I haven't been writing I've been grilling steaks (poorly, sad to say), battling mold outbreaks, playing StarCraft II, and learning jQuery for my day job. It's one of the JavaScript libraries that people use to do stuff like this:

This will disappear if you click on it.

Which is pretty cool, as web page toys go. I intend to get better fairly quickly, and if I come up with anything cool to use with the blog, you'll be the first to know.

It's not coming back until you reload the page. I'm sorry, but you should have thought of that before you clicked.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


115 / 1000 words. 12% done!

The red is for FAIL. Good night.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dangers of Waiting on a Submission

It's four weeks now since I've submitted my novel package, and my nerves are seriously starting to jangle. This is not solely because of the manuscript. Work has cranked up from "sleepy" to "very busy", and all of my weekends lately have been booked solid. Aside from blog posts, social networking and a few paragraphs here and there, I haven't written a damn thing worth mentioning since August.

Is the manuscript to blame for that? Partially. I'm always hesitant to start working on a new project while I'm waiting to hear back about an old one, especially one that I would likely be called on to revise if (fingers crossed!) the editors show any interest. It's going to be that much harder to get back into the "grim darkness" mindset if, for example, I'm writing a silly fantasy story about cows called "Knights of the Udder Side".

But that's a crappy excuse and I know it. I am not going to improve if I do not write. I am not going to get published if I do not write. And it is going to be much harder to get back into writing mode from a full stop than it is if I keep writing something, even if it is the stinking cow story. (It's not going to be the cow story. Well, probably not.)

I have another full weekend starting tomorrow, but today I'm not at work and I don't have any obligations after lunchtime, so I'm going to write. I may not write anything good, but I am going to break 1,000 words today come hell or high water. I'll update later tonight with my success; or lack thereof...

And I've just realized that I have no guarantee that my submission even made it through the publisher's spam filter. Lesson learned: Always send a brief, harmless little confirmation email along with a submission, noting that you did send something in, and would the publisher please reply if they didn't get it? Much too late now for me to send anything without being a nuisance, but maybe in another month?

That's enough of that. Ignore that terrible fear-snake writhing in your guts, Dave! Now is the time to write!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Games Day 2010

So I had a great time attending Games Day in Baltimore this year. Thanks to all the staffers from Games Workshop and Black Library who worked so hard to put this frankly insane event together. Lots of shouting, crazy costumes, and people running around dragging tape measures and screaming "CANNONBALL!!". (If you play Warhammer you'll get the reference.)

Some highlights from the event, with quality cell phone camera illustrations:

The crowd standing in line to register for the event. Point of clarification: You have to buy your ticket, then you have to register, then you can go inside. The guy in front of me didn't find this out until he'd already made it through this line once. Learn from his mistakes!

The best costume I saw all day. Actually there were a lot of high-quality costumes this year, and I'm very hopeful that Games Workshop will post up equally high-quality photographs in a few weeks.

An Eldar helmet and pistol at life-size scale (or close to it). I'm consistently amazed by the amount of effort the Games Workshop guys put into this stuff. I also freely admit that I would have walked off with this case if I thought I could get away with it.

Some of the models behind the big event! I don't know who Matthieu Fontaine is, but he's a hell of a painter/sculptor.

A Titan-scale Ultramarine, brought in to promote the upcoming Ultramarines movie. I'm trying to keep my expectations low for this, but they've got Terence Stamp doing voice work. How can you not expect awesomeness?

As promotional items go, nothing beats a free hat. This came courtesy of Relic Entertainment, the minds behind all of the recent Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000 video games. If anything's ever going to get me back into MMORPGs, Dark Millennium is it.

A shot of Dan Abnett during the second Black Library seminar. Mr. Abnett read an extract from his upcoming book Prospero Burns (you will want to buy that), answered a bunch of questions from the audience (did you like Eisenhorn? Ravenor? Then you can start hoping for more to come), and generally charmed the hell out of everybody.

The first seminar (which I failed to photograph properly) was four authors for one, with Gav Thorpe, C.L. Werner, Mike Lee, and Nathan Long all reading excerpts from their upcoming novels. They also took audience questions, and I actually got autographs from Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Werner (both of whom I heartily apologize to if I came off as an ass).

Last but not least, the loot! Games Days are a great way to grab some books (and miniatures) that aren't out in stores or on Amazon just yet. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get my hands on The First Heretic (I looked at the previews for the UK Games Day by mistake), but I think I've got enough here to get me maybe halfway through the wait.

If I don't burn through the whole pile in a week. Which let's be honest, I might do.