Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thanks Ari!

This is about a week overdue now, but better late than never. Last year I entered a contest courtesy of Ari Marmell, author of The Conqueror's Shadow and The Warlord's Legacy, among other things. The Best of the Worst Contest involved sending Ari the name of my favorite villain from The Conqueror's Shadow... and, if I wanted to win the big big prize, a short description of why I chose said villain.

I went for the big big prize. I won. And I just got the first two parts of my prize (pictured above) in the mail. (The third part, The Goblin Corps, hasn't but published yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.)

Won books are the best kind of books.

Now I didn't win on merit: as far as I know, Ari drew the winners out of hat. But just for giggles, and because I enjoyed writing it (and because it doesn't spoil anything), here's my entry:

My favorite character? Seilloah.

Calling Seilloah a villain doesn't do her justice. She's not out to conquer the world - she's quite happy to keep herself to herself. She doesn't go around making pacts with the forces of darkness - hell, she's practically a druid, she's so in touch with nature. And she's kind to her friends, there's no question about that. Really, Seilloah's just a generally pleasant, attractive, intelligent woman.

Who eats people.

Call it a foible, or perhaps a matter of personal taste. It's not anything personal. We're all just animals, in the end, and Seilloah knows you taste good. Don't hold it against her. It's not like you're going to be alive during the meal. Although it would improve the flavor...

So there you have it. A huge thanks to Ari Marmell for the books, which will make my sacrifice for Lent a bit easier to bear. And if any of you like a good dark fantasy with a touch of humor, be sure to check out his work.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Level Up

My birthday was yesterday, so as of this writing I am officially twenty-eight. If life was an RPG, there'd be a status message in the corner like this:

Dave reached Level 28!
+1 Wisdom
+2 Job Skills
+1 Corgi Wrangling
-1 Fortitude

As it happens, my dog Lina's birthday was on Monday. She gets a different status message:

Lina reached Level 3!
+3 Weight
+1 Serenity
+1 Courage

Lina heard a Motorbike!
-5 Courage

Shame I can't get her to unlearn that Chewing skill...

I'm cautiously optimistic about age twenty-eight. It's not thirty, so I'm still considered young in certain circles (i.e., everyone over thirty). I'd hoped to have a book published by now, or at least circulating... that hasn't happened, but I have no reason to think it won't if I keep working at it. I make a good living and I'm happy at home, thank God.

My big concerns right now are both health-related, namely my weight and my sleep. I need less of the former and more of the latter. At twenty-eight, I don't think I'm too far gone to make enough changes in my life to drop forty pounds or so; at thirty, it's going to be a hell of a lot harder. And there's a history of heart disease in my family that I'd very much like to avoid.

Exercise starts Saturday, with bowling, walking and step aerobics. The bowling is technically my birthday party, but it still counts damn it. The rest is mostly going to take place on a treadmill or a Wii Fit board, although with the weather getting warmer I might take advantage of a trail or two to get my cardio on.

Healthy eating starts Monday, after a trip to the grocery store. I've been eating out entirely too much lately, mostly from sheer laziness. It's easy, but it's expensive and it's probably killing me. So at the grocery store I'm going to reacquaint myself with fruits, vegetables, low-sodium lunchmeats, and dinner ideas that don't contain a slug-killing amount of salt.

Getting more sleep will be trickier. I do all of my fun things late at night, you see, which includes writing. But I get up damn early every morning to make the one hour commute to my office. If I'm going to get a decent amount of sleep during the week (and I'm calling six hours a night decent), I'm going to need to improve my time management skills. Or, make sure I'm so hungry and tired by 10pm that I can't even think of staying up any later.

Other than that... I've got the Black Library open submissions window to work towards in May. I've also got a trip to West Virginia lined up during that month, and my sister's graduation ceremony from law school to attend. (And I'm damn proud of her for that, let me tell you.) I've got a book to write after way too much fiddling around. Eventually I'll have Portal 2 to play. And God knows there are other things waiting in the wings that I'll never see coming.

So, here's to being twenty-eight, and hopefully reaching twenty-nine in good spirits.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Living in the Cloud

About a year ago, maybe longer, it became pretty obvious that my desktop PC was not long for this world. I think it was when my hard drive suffered a total failure. For the second time. Or maybe when all the fans in the tower died on me. For the second time. Either way, thank God for backup drives and what little common sense I have.

Last week I decided to bite the bullet and shell out for a shiny new computer, specifically a Dell laptop. I'd been weighing the merits of buying a Mac, but ultimately I couldn't justify spending an extra $400 or more for the privilege of running OS X on overpriced hardware. Sure, a MacBook Pro looks sexy as hell, but I can make do with a Dell and put more money towards a down payment on a house.

Anyway. Today the laptop arrived, and for all the crap I've given Microsoft about Windows Vista, I'm loving Windows 7 right now. My setup experience has been brilliant. I just turned on the computer, typed in my name, told it how to connect to my wireless network, and boom I can log into my desktop and start customizing to my heart's delight.

First customization: Set up a user account for my wife. (Letting her play with the laptop helped me justify carrying a credit card balance again.)

Second customization: Notice that I somehow typed in "Davod" instead of "David" when I was setting up my display name, and end my evil twin's bit-encoded existence.

Third customization: Install free antivirus software and Google Chrome, because I am a big boy and I use a big boy's browser now.

Fourth customization: Delete all the Dell crapware from my system. McAfee trial, already gone. Dell toolbar, gone. eBay application (wut?) gone.

Then I get to some sort of backup software, and I remember Dell telling me I should back up my operating system up right away. Some niggling doubt tells me to look for the Windows 7 reinstall disc.

It's not there. And now I'm scared.

* * *

Cloud computing makes my life easier. That brilliant installation I mentioned earlier? Part of that is thanks to The Cloud. I installed Chrome on my new laptop, and it synced up with my Google account and imported all of my bookmarks and preferences from thin air. I set up Dropbox and downloaded all of my writing, wallpapers, and eBooks in minutes. I installed iTunes and... well, I'm still moving all of my crap over from my new computer. (Apple hasn't quite got The Cloud down yet.)

But there are perils in The Cloud, oh yes there are. What's stopping Chrome from using my bookmarks to launch targeted ad warfare directly at my brain? What keeps Dropbox from stealing all of my shit and running off into the night?

And why should Dell ship me a recovery disc for my operating system when, at this point, most all of my data is living on about twenty computers distributed throughout the country? "Hell," they say, "the bastard geeks just use those discs to get around our advertisers' crapware in the first place. And don't forget about the software pirates! Let them go out and buy their own discs if it's so damn important!"

From a business standpoint this makes sense. I'm betting Microsoft gives Dell a killer discount if they don't ship physical media with their computers. And let's face it, the pirates made a killing trading those Windows recovery discs all over the place.

But damn it, I want to own the operating system I run on my PC

(by which I mean I want to own a physical copy of the software on some form of media, such as a DVD or flash drive, along with a license to install said software on one or more computers which I also own, so long as I do not distribute said software to other persons)

so that if, God forbid, the whole computer dies in a horrible magnet accident or viruses eat my desktop, I can pull something out of a drawer and rebuild the thing from scratch. I do not want to back up and restore Dell's crapware from a thumb drive I don't own.

And things are going to keep moving in this direction. As bandwidth becomes cheaper, we'll start to see entire operating systems that are streamed right off the Internet. Your files won't live on your computer - they'll be off in The Cloud, safely stored and duplicated on a fleet of high-end servers, and triple-encrypted to keep the hackers out. You'll be able to jump onto any old piece of hardware you like, from a friend's computer to a library terminal, and within minutes it'll be like you're in the comfort of your own home.

Until you forget to pay the license subscription, or the Imp of Perversity misplaces your account information, and you're at the mercy of Google or Microsoft or Apple or Comcast or the FCC. And then you'll be begging with the rest of the Unpersons in a big crowd in a cold February day, and every few minutes you'll pull out your iPhone 15 and forlornly look at the screen that says "Operating system not found. Please contact customer support." But you can't get a clear signal because all the VoIP bandwidth is being eaten by people watching Justin Bieber's comeback video on YouTube HD3D Interactive.

And I sense I've gone sideways somewhere, so to sum up: My new laptop is awesome, crapware sucks, and I'd like my damn Windows disc back before it's too late. Now here's a picture of Lina celebrating her 3rd birthday.

Don't look at me like that. I didn't let her drive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This year I am... celebrating? Getting through? Well, certainly participating in Lent. It's always something of an iffy proposition for me, being a long-standing member of the Lapsed Catholic Church (I say my prayers, but I'm not confirmed and I only attend church extremely sporadically). And I've already managed to foul up the fasting part of Lent with some leftover pizza I had for lunch before I remembered what I was doing.

But I did give something up, and this year it's a doozy:

For the duration of Lent, I will not buy any books, eBooks, or comic books.

It doesn't sound like it, but this is going to be a challenge for me. For starters, I buy comic books just about every week. And I like the folks I buy my comics from, so I'm going to feel bad when my subscription box starts filling up. And even leaving aside the comics, I have a pretty large book habit that's going to want feeding any day now.

Still! I will persevere. It's only forty or so days, after all. And I've got a few books bouncing around the house that I never quite finished, so if I want fresh reading material I'll have some.

But, well... in some ways it's just going to suck.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Links of Interest - The "Dave Is In Crunch Mode" Edition

Sorry for the lack of blogging. My day job has started to bleed into my nights for the past week, and looks set to continue the trend. This is not a pleasant development, but it happens and I can pretty much cope with it, it just cuts into my writing time something awful.

Anyway, there've been a lot of good articles these past few weeks on writing, so I encourage you to check out:

Combat Porn, by Erin M. Evans - A look at how to write a bloody good fight scene, or a good bloody fight scene, I can't remember which.

Lies Writers Tell, from Chuck Wendig, who is really good at these "On your knees maggots and give me twenty pages" articles. Or, more properly, wake-up calls for budding young authors.

Advice on Writing for Black Library, from The Literary Project. Black Library authors old and new give you some advice on how to sell something to the publisher. If you're going to shoot for their May submissions window (like me), this is a must read.

Hyperbole and a Half, because it's frigging awesome. I don't care that it's got nothing to do with writing, either. Oh, wait, it does, meet the Alot.

The Young Adult Mafia is Bullshit, so I could work a swear word into this post. Note that I've stopped reporting the titles accurately. So I guess there was a rumor that some young adult fiction authors were whacking the competition? I wouldn't know, so far I just have to answer to the one Don in England for my output.

The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft as an eBook for either your iPad or your Kindle. You could even find a program to turn it into a PDF and print the damn thing. It's an entire library of weird eldritch horror, from one of the guys who founded weird, eldritch horror. Go download it and thank Ruth X for her hard work.

I think that covers the good stuff, certainly a good chunk of it. Tune in later, when I maybe stop aggregating links and start generating actual content again.

P.S. This headline is my publication credit for the month. I don't care that it's tiny, getting a Fark article greenlit is tricky and I'm going to take pride in having done it. So there.