Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weird Shit That Brings People To My Blog

If you have a blog, I encourage you to play around with Google's webmaster tools if you get the chance. Seeing what sort of search queries bring people to your blog can be instructive. Like so:

Crazy Dave - My #1 search query. Thanks, Google, I'm fucking flattered.

Free Emo - Well I don't recall writing about this, but I do support getting Emo released from prison, whatever his particular crime may be.

Sixty Dollars - Huh. Can I, like, have sixty dollars, Google? I feel I should qualify for sixty dollars because of this.

Club Crab - I don't know what this is, but I want to go there and have crabs and beer. I would add "in the company of beautiful women," but I fear pubic lice.

How To Get An A Writing To Describe - What? I don't... Who even typed this into a search bar? Also, I'm sad to say this is the first time "writing" appears in my list of search queries, and I called the goddamn blog Author's Log. (Wait, no, "writing to describe 2011" comes first. Still. Fuck.)

Black People Running - This one was so damn odd I had to run it down. Turns out it's from my Games Day post, where I talk about Black Library and people running around a convention hall. So no, I did not get drunk and post about some track event.

Emo Pake Topi - I'm pretty sure this is a Pokemon.

Horus Helmet - Once again I didn't write about this, ever, but now I'm fascinated. Presumably Horus had a helmet of some kind or another. Why haven't we seen his helmet? What are you trying to hide, Black Library?

Gruskin - A horrible creature that lives in small caves. It crawls out at night and lies down on forest paths until something trips over it, then disembowels the unfortunate victim for sustenance.

Crotch Crabs - Damn it, I knew I'd have to worry about pubic lice! I'm totally suing Club Crab for this.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Alright, everyone, repeat after me:

I hereby give myself permission to fuck up when I write.

I will not berate myself for misplaced punctuation, be it comma, period, semicolon or colon. Nor will I whip myself with a cat-o-nine tails for using a semicolon in the first place.

I will pay no attention to the failings of grammar. Sentences shall be allowed to end with prepositions. Neither Grammar Girl nor Nazi shall stay my work.

I will not pay any penance for plot holes. If a MacGuffin is required to move the story along, it shall emerge as from thin air. If a character must do something against his nature, his nature shall change. Forward momentum shall be the rule of the day.

I will show no fear of the beginning, nor the middle, nor the end. The story shall start and stop where I damn well please. If I wish to write the ending first, so be it. I shall jump from scene to scene like a kangaroo on crystal meth if the mood takes me. The tangled snarl of my plot structure shall hold no power over me.

I solemnly reaffirm that I have permission to fuck up when I write...

...so long as I Actually Write...

...and so long as I promise to fix it all in revision.

So let it be written. So let it be done.

Friday, June 17, 2011


"Hur hur hur," said the Scrapman. He walked through valleys of broken machines, his beady eyes seeking and peeking, skittering over rusted-out hulks as they sought any signs of movement. The Tallyman had said there were artificials wandering the scrapyard, and that meant money.

The Scrapman's ears perked up. A skitter, a clatter! Around a pile of industrial piping he ran, and found a sleek black artificial lifting a pipe and putting it back down, over and over again. The artificial looked at him with one good glowing red lense.

“Disassemble/recycle?” it said. Its voice was a static-laced blurt. The Scrapman chuckled, and slipped the slaver cube out of his satchel. It was the work of a moment to affix the cube to the artificial’s chassis. Nanofilaments extruded from the cube’s surface and wormed their way into the artificial’s logic centers, imparting new directives, new loyalties. The artificial set down its pipe for the last time and followed the Scrapman as he continued his hunt.

Man and machine walked twisting pathways through the scrap, around mountains of twisted metal, cracked gears and sparking circuitry. Here and there, the Scrapman spotted a bit of yttrium or lanthanum, and slipped them into his satchel; it never did to turn down easy money, after all. But for hours more artificials eluded him.

The Scrapman saw the sky lightening in the east and cursed, knowing that he would have to leave the scrapyard soon or risk running afoul of the Reclamation Authority. He was just about to turn back when a bit of light caught the corner of his eye. A pair of green glowing lenses was peeking at him around the side of a cracked maker engine.

“Here, little one, don’t be afraid,” said the Scrapman, smiling with an easy charm despite his missing teeth and growths of patchy stubble. “Come to your old uncle Scrapper.”
The Scrapman bent low and made welcoming gestures. The artificial, a small silvery unit, inched out from its hiding place. It was missing a manipulator unit, and sparks flew from the broken stump, but otherwise it seemed in fine condition.

“That’s right, you beauty,” the Scrapman said as the artificial crept closer. “Come to poppa.”

The black artificial perked up then, its red-lensed gaze locking on to the smaller unit. “Disassemble/recycle?” it said, raising its long, pointed manipulators and clacking them together quickly with a sound like chattering mandibles.

The smaller artificial started, then turned and ran. The Scrapman cursed his luck and went running after it, his inconvenient companion following along behind him with a smooth, unhurried stride.

The silver artificial ran like a kangaroo, springing from point to point in a way that would have been comical if it hadn’t allowed the machine to cover so much ground so quickly. The Scrapman was hard-pressed to keep up, puffing and wheezing from his exertions.

The Scrapman’s foot caught on an outstretched artificial limb, and he went down heavily, the air whooshing out of his lungs. He cursed again and looked up, expecting to see the silver artificial fleeing out of sight and out of reach.

To his surprise and pleasure, he saw instead that the artificial was bounding into a narrow gap between two large mounds of scrap, one even the Scrapman could see was a dead-end. The thing’s pathfinding algorithms must have been damaged. The Scrapman scrambled to his feet and got running again.

He caught up with the artificial at the end of the gap. It was bouncing up and down in place, it’s green lenses sweeping back and forth as it tried to decide where to go.

“You led a good chase, little one,” said the Scrapman, moving forward carefully. He kept both arms outstretched, in case the artificial made another break for it. “But Scrapper’s here now. Scrapper will take care of you.”

The silver artificial turned around at last and fell over in surprise. It scurried backward on ball-jointed arms and legs, clambering up the wall of scrap metal behind it in its desperation to get away. The scrap shifted and collapsed, keeping the artificial from making any progress.

“All be over soon, don’t worry,” said the Scrapman, pulling another slaver cube from his satchel.

The artificial’s frantic scrambling increased as the Scrapman drew close. The sparking stump of one of its arms clanged against a large square piece of blackened metal revealed by its struggling.

The spark travelled through the metal, down into circuitry and synapse structure that had been left cold and depowered years ago. The flare of electricity interacted with redundant power systems, jump-starting batteries that had been believed long dead.

The blackened metal shivered, then shook, then started to rise. The Scrapman and the artificial leapt away as the mound of scrap shifted and collapsed from the efforts of the immense form that had been hidden under it. The slaver cube dropped from the Scrapman’s hand and bounced under the collapsing heaps of metal.

The immense artificial was canine in appearance, a military-class artificial judging by the spikes and broken turrets that bedecked its emerging form. It regarded the Scrapman with eyes that burned like furnace doors as control systems tapped into the local network and tried to determine its current assignment.


The Scrapman shivered and whimpered, his motor functions gone the way of his bladder control. One hand desperately reached into his satchel, but shook too badly to grip the cubes inside.

TIME’S UP, the guard dog said, and leapt.

A short time later, the guard dog had curled up in a rest state. The silver artificial was sitting on top of its head, gently polishing the dog’s head with its undamaged manipulator, when the sleek black artificial arrived. The guard dog ignored it – it was authorized, after all.

The black artificial looked down at the remains of the Scrapman. “Diassemble/recycle!” it said happily, and did just that.

I wrote this for a flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig's blog, TERRIBLEMINDS. It's a great blog, go check it out!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Code Names

Maybe it's just me, but I've been seeing a lot of writers referring to their Work in Progress (WiP) by a code name lately. Since I'm as much of a trend-follower as the next E! zombie and I want to limber up my fingers for some proper fiction, I thought I'd post an update about what I'm working on at the moment.

Project Oh God It Burns is a complete pitch at the moment. It took me about... a week? Maybe two weeks? to get this down in type. It's a very fun little short story, and I'm feeling optimistic about it. I've got a little over a month to polish it up before the deadline comes up, so I'll be coming back to it on odd days for awhile.

Project Lost in the Woods is a bit more problematic. It's also a complete pitch, but one I'm much less confident about. I came up with what I think is a brilliant little plot point to include, but it needs to get set up right at the beginning of the story, which means rewriting the entirety of my pitch. I have no excuse not to get this done, but the fact that I have to depresses me to no end... couldn't I have thought of this a little sooner? Like, before I wrote all this stuff I have to junk now?!

Project Long Hard Slog Over Cracked Glass is a novel pitch, it is not complete, and I have my doubts that it's going to get done by deadline. I have the plot outlined, I know who the characters are and what they want, but I just can't make the damn thing feel feasible. It would be much less of a problem if I didn't have to hit certain story points, but I'm writing to an existing piece of fiction and I can't go too far away from what's already in print. I'll get a pitch done if nothing else - I'd go crazy otherwise - but I might to wait for another year to actually get it to editorial.

Project Sexy Golem is still percolating in my brain and I'll be starting it in August, or whenever I get the first two projects outlined above pitched. (I'll do Long Hard Slog in parallel if it doesn't get done on time.) This is the only original work I'm thinking about at the moment, and it's one of those stories I simply can't not write. It's like an unquiet ghost that floats next to your bedroom window at night and stares. (Or anything that stares. It could be a cute little puppy that stares. The point is that you'll do anything it wants if it'll just stop.)

So that's my workload. If I fail to mention any of this ever again, you have my permission to come over to my house and punch me in the face.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hacked: The Resolution

This is a follow-on from my last post, so start there if you haven't read it. I'm going to start out with a huge shout out to Amazon here: they've handled this entire incident with pure professionalism, unlike some other companies I could name, but won't because I don't even own a PlayStation.

As of today I have a new Amazon account, using my original email address. This was very easy to set up. My wish lists and gift card balance are going to be moved over to the new account. My Kindle books won't - Amazon doesn't have that capability - but I've been offered a gift card to cover the cost of the books and repurchase them. So I'll be buying Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey twice, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas yet again. The rest, we'll see - UR was a fine story, but I'm not sure I'll ever want to read it again.

I've also been offered a credit for the MP3s on my Amazon Cloud drive. Happily, I'd already copied those songs to my computer, so I don't really have any reason to buy them again. Unhappily, I only had 99 cents of MP3s in the first place.

My Amazon Prime account won't transfer, but I did get refunded for the time I didn't use, and I intend to sign up for it again. It really is ridiculously awesome to get free two-day shipping on the amount of stuff Amazon has available.

The only problem I've had with Amazon is dealing with my Kindle. I had to deregister and reregister the device with my new account, which should have deleted all of the old books I'd bought through Amazon automatically - not an ideal result, but expected. What actually happened is that all of the old books were not erased, but ended up in a weird "hidden" state on my Kindle. This included books I hadn't bought through Amazon, but loaded manually onto the Kindle. And, for some reason, a few books I did buy through Amazon (i.e. Fear and Loathing) stayed readable.

Because I'm relatively honest (and because I'm getting a gift card to cover the repurchase) I wiped all the old files from my Kindle, as Amazon intended. Still, if I'm going to have to deal with drive-wiping DRM, I'd like it to at least do the job thoroughly and correctly. I'd especially like it if all the eBooks that aren't under DRM stayed put. Luckily I kept backups of those, so no harm done.

So is all forgiven? Heck no. I'm still changing passwords everywhere I go. I had to close two credit cards that might have been compromised, and my third card keeps getting locked out by my bank's fraud prevention measures because I've hardly used it before. My purchase history with Amazon is gone, and I actually did listen to their recommendations sometimes, so I'm going to need to rebuild that by hand. And the jerk who did this will, in all likelihood, get away scott free - I've only held back from throwing his email address to the spambots because I know he'll probably never check it again.

But "David Ford", wherever you are, whoever you really are, know this: You're no hacker. You're not Kevin Mitnick, you're not Adrian Lamo. You're a cracker, Ford, just a thief with a PC. And when you inevitably fuck up and get busted, no matter how far away you are, I'll know. And I'll laugh like a Goddamn madman.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Grammar issues aside, yes. Yes I am.

So I'm getting ready to leave my office when I decide to check my email one last time. This is to make sure I don't miss any important messages, i.e. the wife has a dinner preference, or my dentist appointment has been rescheduled for the third time.

As it turns out, I have two important messages. One is a receipt from Amazon.com, informing me that I just purchased $300 in Amazon gift cards. The other is a notice from Amazon.com, informing me that my account has been shut down for "possibly unauthorized account activity".

My first thought was "No shit, Sherlock". My second thought was "Holy fuck, I've been hacked!"

What followed should have been immediate triage, but I had to get home to my own computer to do it, and I work an hour away from home. There are few things that will cause a man more stress than a one hour commute when his bank accounts are likely being mailed to Botswana. One of those things is having this happen when there's beach traffic.

Anyway. I made it home with my sanity intact, let the dog out in the backyard, and powered up my laptop. Step one was making sure that my bank accounts were intact: Amazon claimed that my credit card information hadn't been compromised, but could they guarantee that? No. Fortunately the only suspicious activity in my account was a test charge from Amazon for the $300 order, which disappeared before I even called my bank. I may end up cancelling my cards and ordering new ones on general principle, but for the moment my finances appear to be safe.

Step two was changing every password I could get my hands on, starting with my email account. Thankfully I did not use the same password for Amazon as I do for my email account. I shudder to think of the shitstorm I might have suffered if I did. On principle, I changed the password anyway, and updated some others to be a bit stronger.

At this point I started to relax. Then I remembered all the shit I have tied up in Amazon. I use Amazon Prime, so I may well be out $70 in annual subscription fees. My wife shares my Prime account, so she's screwed too. And I have a flipping Kindle! Do my eBooks transfer to a new account I set up? What about the 99 MP3s I just bought for 99 cents that are floating around in Amazon's cloud storage? Did I just lose those? What about my recommendations?

*huff huff*

I wish I had an answer for those questions, but right now I don't. I'm still waiting for feedback from Amazon on all of them. I'm also waiting to see if I'll need to use a new email address for my account - right now, all signs point to "yes", which annoys me no end.

Still, as ways to get victimized by a fucking criminal go, things could have been a lot worse. Amazon did a great job reacting to the threat, and I should come out of this with minimal losses. The hacker, whoever it was, was a fucking idiot - odds are I would have noticed the problem today regardless, but he could have been a lot more subtle and probably got something out of the attack. Instead he tripped an alarm immediately by being greedy. Finally, nothing else was compromised (so far as I can tell), and I've been retaught the three D's of passwords:
  • Don't use weak passwords.
  • Don't reuse passwords.
  • Don't forget to change your passwords.
So until Amazon gets back to me, I'm going to take comfort in an old saying that always brings me warmth and joy.

Burn his house down! Burning people. He says what we're all thinking!