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Crazy Wish Fulfillment (At Least in My Dreams) May 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, ideas, music, sense of wonder, writing.
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All a writer has is time. How it is used (or wasted on endless hours of spider solitaire) is what counts. You can hammer at the keys endlessly or sit and stare out the window–both are perfectly useful writing components. If you can’t daydream, how can you write? (I saw an article about a treadmill hooked to a desk for the real Type A personality–one comment was how useful this was since, unlike a chair where you can lean back, it kept the worker from daydreaming. I don’t even want to know what company has HR people with such views.)

I have a score of ideas I want to do, novels mostly but also short stories. But one idea that has haunted me for a lot of years is a novel (actually it would have to be a trilogy) based on King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King. Fabulous imagery, visions that crop up when I least expect it (whathell is a pattern juggler, anyway?) And a true challenge to weld all those images into a coherent story.

When I saw Kevin Anderson’s blog about doing Clockwork Angels
based on a new Rush concept album, I felt an emotion I don’t often experience: envy. Good on you, Kevin! What a great opportunity to showcase both music and word.

That made me wonder. I am taken with Court of the Crimson King and will never have the chance to turn it into written words. But what other songs press your button? If you had the time and permission, what songs would you turn into a novel? Rocket Man? Wooden Ships? Hijack (the Starship)? Doesn’t have to be f or sf. I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)? Folsom Prison Blues? Cherry Hill Park? Timothy? What?

I hope y’all checked out yesterday’s guest blog from Scott Gamboe (and if not, do so now).

I leave you with, what else? (Illos by Wayne Barlowe.)


Blatant Poppycock! And Balderdash, Too! March 5, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, iPad, iPhone, movies, movies & TV, music, web & computers, weird news.
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The NYT business section has one of those articles intended to inflame, further driving home the point of newspapers is to…sell newspapers. Good on them for that, but the ereaders that were supposed to be their salvation haven’t stanched their not-so-slow decline. So, this article is mostly self-serving on their part and not a little “dog in the manger” kind of opinion.

More people get their news (or what passes for it–there is something seriously wrong with journalism when The Onion delivers more pertinent news than the MSM.) from the Internet now. The NYT, especially their dead tree editions, are struggling and such articles as this on how ereaders will promote illiteracy are their reaction. Get their declining readers to nod knowingly, feel superior to those poor illiterate e-ignoramuses and then turn the page feeling good about their intellect.

The basic idea is that having such power as an iPad in your hand will force you to stop reading an ebook and go right to Angry Birds instead. You won’t look at that textbook; you will instead choose online porn (at UNM, there’s not much difference in some departments–the former head of the creative writing dept just lost a lawsuit protesting another professor’s B&D website).

I still read dead tree books while watching TV. How is this different since the god-box (the remote) is at hand, too? Must be I’m illiterate already? Reading at the beach? Yeah, you dig right into those pages to the exclusion of everything else happening around you. The mode of reading has nothing to do with how you respond to distractions around you, but this might be too arcane for the typical dead tree NYT reader to understand as they stare fixedly at their smeary print pages.

If anything, I am reading more since I fired up my iPad 18 months ago. And I’m still loving it. I got my mother a Kindle. Her eyesight’s not as good as it once was. She can still read cranking up the font size, something she cannot do with a print book. She’s still reading as a result.

Consider the NYT opinion piece as Cheyne-Stokes breathing on the part of a dying medium: paper news.

Cracked analysis of paintings

New Mexico? Where is that? December 17, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, ghost towns, gummint, history, ideas, movies, music, New Mexico, Wild West, writing.
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Back in the day I used to sell as a sideline gag “visas” to New Mexico and touristy junk like that. I vaguely remember a booklet telling tourists US postage stamps were good here, passports weren’t needed and other obvious things that the rest of the USA simply didn’t know. Jan 6 the state is 100 years in the union. Most citizens of these great states still have no idea. It wasn’t until the most recent set of license plates that USA was dropped to keep cops in other states from thinking New Mexico meant “Frontera.” (The ultimate tourist story is the one where a woman asked at the Balloon Fiesta is she had to be a Catholic to go to the mass acension.)

The state image is in the pits. Nobody wants to vacation here because they don’t think there’s anything here. Fair enough. Tourism Dept has a lot of work to do with not much money. But I recently received a link to another blog that got me thinking. The idea of sf writers portrayed on the Simpsons is cute, but the blog itself is for an online college.

NM needs name recognition as a state with things to see and do. What are our resources? A lot of scenery. A lot of world class writers and artists and, I suspect, film makers.

But….but…but playing on the idea that people want to learn, especially to write (disclaimer: I am an instructor for Long Ridge and have been for four years), why not have a series of seminars, lectures, writing clinics at appropriate places with big name instructors? SF would obviously tie into Los Alamos or, shudder, Roswell. What’s the most romantic spot in the state–for a romance writing conference? Westerns? Lincoln County to tie in with Billy the Kid and the LC War. But there are buffalo soldiers and Indian War and even that most maligned, the Trans-Mississippi Civil War. Spanish exploration? Pueblo revolt? Spots all over the state would be fine for such writing classes. We’ve got top of the line western authorities here. Paul Hutton, Don Bullis (the official NM Centennial historian), Johnny Boggs, Melody Groves–I could go on but the list is long. The WWA 2012 conference is in Albuquerque but this is limited to WWA members who go to lots of places for the convention, not necessarily for the place itself..

Mysteries? We’ve got mystery writers galore here. Thrillers? David Morrel and others.

If the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium draws 30k or so, finding 50 people interested in Billy the Kid (who aren’t from either NM or Texas) shouldn’t be impossible.

The biggest problem is transport since Abq is the only air terminus for the rest of the US to get here. State tourism would do well to promote genre writing clinics in various parts of the state–writers tend to write. A lot. But movie making clinics would draw bigtime from California. Maybe the state tourism dept could subsidize the transportation (an obvious gimmick is to “charge” $1000 for the actual seminar but discount it for people from, pick your target region, to only $250. And that $250 covers the actual costs so the state money would only go for transportation–what kind of a deal can the state make with airlines?)

Would budding artists pay to do landscapes in a weeklong seminar with masters? They’d be using NM’s actual scenery for subject matter. They go home, they display their work or do more…of NM. Photography, the same thing. Music? The idea is to get small groups coming here that will leave and carry with them pictures/words/movies of New Mexico that might slowly educate the geographically ignorant in the rest of the country that we have immense beauty and talent here.

Two obvious resources NM has are scenic beauty and a pool of artistic talent. None of this will happen (listen to indie film makers about how the NM Film Commission works sometime) but it is an interesting gedanken experiment. For me, at least.

Single Action Shooters Society End of Trail June 2010

Old Towns and Research November 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, geocaching, ghost towns, history, hobby, ideas, music, New Mexico, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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After leaving LA, I dropped down to San Diego, mastered the (easy) trolley system and zinged down to their version of Old Town. Relatively recent compared with Santa Fe or even Old Town in Albuquerque (California’s was settled some 60 years later) But this is the first European settlement in California so was fodder for the western fiction research mill.

But I am on a different time zone so got to OT a couple hours before it opened. I took the $10 plunge and had installed the android geocaching app on my cell phone. The 2 hours gave me a chance to try it out. I found 3 caches, one in Presidio Park, another on 1769 Hill and yet one more virtual cache showing how metal rusts in salt air. By the time I had wandered around, it was opening time for the museums.

Life is tough all over. I had breakfast at a restaurant that boasted that it had been established in 2010. In today’s economy that might be long-lived. From here hiked up the hill to the Mormon Battalion Museum. Very slick, very cute girls in period costumes, interesting high tech video presentations, had the chance for some hands on examination of props since I was the only one in the “group” (not peak tourist season, I’d say), got a couple teeny gold nuggets, and was surprised when I asked about music of the era and one guide disappeared and came back later with a handwritten list taken from a contemporaneous journal. Very kind of her to supply this and info will certainly be used (but I’m not likely to order a free copy of Book of Mormon or send one to a friend). The Mormon Battalion has a monument between Abq and Santa Fe (and a geocache, btw) and it was good seeing the end of the 2000 mi trail in San Diego. Not sure I buy all the achievements of the Battalion but they might be true. Will look to see if they actually started the first newspaper in Northern California (California Star–ok, looks factual since Alta California grew out of CStar–founder Samuel Brannan was the first Gold Rush millionaire, but some conflation is going on. Brannan wasn’t part of the Mormon Battalion, coming around the Horn in 1846. And, hmm, this might be the second trailing The Californian from Monterey) or were responsible for first finding gold at Sutter’s Mill (but I certainly think they worked to build it so might well be true). All a bit before the time period considered the Wild West but great background.

On to Whaley House, supposedly the “most haunted” house in California or the US or somewhere. The best that could be conjured was it was built on an Indian burial ground. NM is built on an Indian burial ground, fer Pete’s sake. Nancy Holder later said it was the site of public executions. So why didn’t the period-dressed guide say this? Mostly like restored houses elsewhere in the West, but renewed my interest in writing a western that simply has no mass market. Ah, VIPub. When I get time. Mike Resnick ought to be proud–he had a lot of copies of The Buntline Special on the museum bookstore shelf.

To the World Fantasy Convention itself soon and the VIPub vibe building like a tidal wave there.

Mormon Batallion Museum

Forever Fungus October 8, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, geocaching, ideas, inventions, movies & TV, music, sense of wonder, Time, writing.
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Or maybe spores. I didn’t even know there were such things as bacterial spores. But the time capsule from the old Bellevue Hospital has a test tube full of them. But what are they? Gee, have we seen this sci-fi movie a millions time over? But this is real life.

I have always been fascinated with the notion of time capsules and what they pass along to the future. Big things (or things that become big) are never really included because the society will move those right along without help, thank you. And who, other than Steve Jobs, is able to look at something and know it will be bigtime? So the trivial is placed in the capsules for the most part which might be the best possible things to include. These give clues as to ordinary life that likely never gets recorded because, at the time, it is too trivial to even notice, and a chance for ordinary folks to have some fun.

Time capsule time: what would you put in one being buried today? What book or techno gadget or item ought to go inside? Newspapers might be interesting, not for the news but because by the time the capsule is opened nobody will have seen one. But putting in a CD or iPod loaded with music is likely to be a losing proposition. Think how computers have changed in the last 30 years. If I found a 3.5″ floppy from my old Apple ][e, I couldn’t read it. I suppose old Apple drives are around that could read it but the technology would have to be reinvented, whether our next door neighbors in 2111 are ready to flit off to Alpha Centauri for a well deserved vacation or Neanderthals more interest in painting their brand new cave wall.

Print books last centuries. Ebooks don’t. What good would a cell phone or digital camera be? DVDs of movies? The icloud will be long gone, faded into electronic mist and Johnson noise. Unreadable. I think a roll of duct tape might be interesting, even if it would age poorly. Styrofoam packing beads (aka “ghost shit”) reflect a great deal about us. What could we put in to amuse and amaze our ancestors 100 yrs from now? A gold coin? Mostly we have moved on to a culture that’s transient. The 51″ TV ain’t gonna fit (or work). How do you roll up a URL to display then? A set of Wikipedias? Would a Kindle maintain its e-ink page over 100 years? As my dad used to say, “You can’t beat a drum for a Christmas present.”

Maybe the Bellevue scientist who put his bacterial spore in the time capsule was right. Communicate by sending a plague forward in time. That’ll show ‘em!

Things Have Changed (as well as FB) September 22, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, cats, e-books, food, movies & TV, music, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, writing.
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A couple days ago I blogged about reviews and reading/not reading them. Since progress always marches on (and sometimes over us, as witnessed by the “upgrade” in Facebook) what’s a reader to do without a reviewer?

The answer is pretty obvious if you read ebooks. There is a sample function that lets you read the first few pages of the work. If you like what you read, go for it. If you don’t, you’ve gone to a primary source (your own likes/dislikes) and spent about the same amount of time as reading someone else’s review. The latter requires you to decipher the reviewer’s opinions and use them as a filter. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a bad review, this is pretty worthless since the best s&s would get the same level of contempt. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a good review, you might have to dig further. Reviewer a friend? Having a good day? Something else? You still don’t know.

Read the sample chapter yourself and decide. What a concept, forming your own opinion rather than relying on an outsourced one.

Last night in Mike Stackpole’s office hours (Second Life) he made the point that we writers are entertainers. A long time ago Poul Anderson famously said we are in competition for the reader’s beer money. Do they buy our book or a six pack? Cost is about the same. This is an example of indirect competition. We are indirectly in competition with all forms of entertainment, video games, movies, amusement parks, music, baseball games, tv, even that six-pack. (Think of this as an example. You want to go to a restaurant and there’s a McD’s at hand. Next to it is an Applebee’s–indirect competition. They both serve food but different kinds in different atmosphere. Next to that is a Burger Thief. Direct competition since both food and ambiance are on a par with McD’s. Which do you choose? This is the heart of direct & indirect competition.)

Direct competition comes from other authors, other books (pretty much in the same genre). It’s always good for a business to identify both customers and potential customers. How do we do things better than tv or movies? How do we give the reader a superior experience to another author? This is all part of VIPub and the business of writing.

A Day in the (Medieval) Sun September 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, dinosaurs, history, music, nostalgia, steampunk, Wild West.
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Scott D asked if I wanted to tag along to the Santa Fe Renaissance Faire at Las Golondrinas (look it up–it can mean either swallow or buboes, though I suspect they intended the former meaning because this is along an acequia in a bosque where birds would gather, although this is NM, land of the flea, home of the plague). I’d been a few years back and enjoyed it. This is a miniature version of, say, the AZ Ren Faire, but it suits NM and the setting is much nicer, being in wooded areas and meadows.

The theme is more Spanish than the AZ Ren Faire and the king and queen are always Fernando and Isabella. They had pikesmen and dragons wandered about. The usual entertainment, Clan Tynker from Santa Fe, the Pomegranate troupe of belly dancers, celtic singers with electric lutes, fire jugglers and the like. Food was more local (Roque’s carnitas were, indeed, superior) with more Ren Faire-ish stuff like turkey legs available. Pati Nagel and Chris Krohn were serving up mead and a falconer with several birds held forth on the meadowlands.

I didn’t bother getting dressed in period but Scott asked a question that made me think a while. Which costume event appealed most? Took me a while to come up with an answer. I enjoy the ren faire and even getting gussied up in the clothing, but there are the purists who sneer and tell you it’s “not period.” Spoilsports. I want to have fun without them having fun telling me I suck. The SASS is another one where I feel comfortable in western garb. For some reason, a duster makes me feel bigger than life. But I finally decided steampunk might be best of all because there is no canon, no prescribed (or proscribed) dress and imagination can run wild. The other two center on real eras, steampunk is imaginary. Guess where I live mostly.

Quite a bit of steampunk stuff at this ren faire (also a Marilyn Manson wannabe) and pirates. Arrr, matey.

A day spent wandering about in the sun and enjoying the show. I got no writing done and didn’t even feel guilty about it. Much. Not too much. Well, some.

Santa Fe Ren Faire

Santa Fe Ren Faire Dragon

Amazon vs Apple September 13, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, inventions, iPad, movies, movies & TV, music, VIPub, web & computers.
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The battle of the titans is about to begin. A month or two? Certainly before Christmas and during the presents-buying season. Amazon is about to launch its color Kindle tablet.

One difference is that the Amazon Kindle is Android app capable. Another is that the initial launch will be wifi connectable only. That can change easily enough since existing Kindles have 3G. What carrier wouldn’t want the chance to hook up a new major source of traffic?

The advantages for AK (would they have the nerve to launch with the numeral 47, making this an AK47? No, I didn’t think so.) are the huge content through Amazon. They are gearing up to compete with netflix, already sell 90% of the ebooks, is moving into music and undoubtedly are innovative. Plus the AK will cost $250. This is half the price of the iPad.

I see this as another nail in the B&N coffin since the AK will go head-to-head with the Color Nook. Amazon is turning into the 800 lb gorilla. The question is in the air how long before they start to screw VIPub authors? They have 750,000 ebooks available. Does it serve Amazon to winnow those numbers? Time will tell.

They have introduced a behind the scenes quality control that hasn’t been obvious to me (or probably to you, either, as a reader/consumer) but a friend said they returned one of his books that had been on sale for some time to correct scanning errors. This isn’t a bad service at all since it gives the author the chance to pick up on what look like typos (scanning can introduce systematic errors–OCR software is good but even at 95% good it lets in mistakes. One I find in a lot of my scanned books is “com” turning into “corn.”) It’s good that Amazon cares enough about what’s on its electronic shelves to request this and it certainly is a boon to authors. Trust me, no matter how many times you copyedit a book, there will be typos. Always.

The AK isn’t a game changer like the first iPad but it is ramping up the competition. Waaaay up. E-ink is striving to have its day, this time with a tablet.

existing Kindle--not the Kindle tablet

Naming Names August 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, fantasy, ideas, music, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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One problem I have in any work of fiction is figuring out names for my characters. Constructing an entire language and then fitting in sensible sounding names is possible in fantasy work, but in sf and mysteries and westerns the names ought to sound right. They ought to be unusual enough to remember but common enough that the reader doesn’t laugh at them or simply dismiss them out of hand.

Fred Saberhagen said he used to construct alien names by taking the 3 letter combinations on the spines of Encyclopedia Britannica volumes and putting them together in different ways (Fred used to be a tech writer for EB) In these days of online everything, why have a complete set of encyclopedia gathering dust? I used a random word generator for a while, taking pieces out of the constructions but the program fell by the wayside since it was DOS-based. So many fine programs have gone that route to extinction 😉

One item in writing that seems to be true is the way readers “understand” written names. They use a reading shorthand and abbreviate every name down to the first letter or two. A monstrously long name gets shortened to the first letter. Similarly a very short name is shortened more. I avoid using names that start with the same letter unless I specifically want to mix two characters together in the reader’s mind. Works nicely in mysteries to flop out red herrings. If there is a hive mind in sf, having all the aliens with the same starting letter in their name is useful.

Otherwise, don’t have your good guy and bad guy have similarly inaugurated names. You don’t want to mix the two into a blurry mess for the reader. Unless you are one of those deconstructionist postmodern literary writers, of course.

Back to the thrilling conclusion to Hot Rail to Hell. I’m down to the last, more or less, 30 pages of the draft. Got the cover lined up and scene break illo. This is a bit larger than I’d prefer (350 pixels high rather than 100) but is worth it considering the novel. The final ebook will take a bit longer to get out than I anticipated because I intend to publish in two editions, one barebones and one deluxe with an essay on how the book came about, writing it and then a bonus short story about one of the characters.

Go on, get out of here, take names, kick butt.

Louie, Louis June 21, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, music, writing.

My hearing isn’t good and has never been. I mishear people and lyrics and this sets off a wild stream of “I know what it should have been, but what I heard is so much better/ funnier/ more inventive.”

In Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” what I hear is much edgier (instead of “did they got you to trade your heroes for ghosts” I hear “did they get you to trade your heroes for gold.”) Very “did you sell out?” kind of vibe the way I hear it.

Or in CS&N’s “Carry On” I hear “to sing the blues, you got to lift a tune” which I find more interesting than the rather trite “to sing the blues, you got to live the dues.”

And in their “Chicago,” the line has to be “to the bathtubs of the moon.” It has to be.

And Steppenwolf wanted to “kick the world in a lovin’ place” rather than “take the world in a love embrace.” Really.

Anything can trigger an idea but mishearing is a wonderful way for me to go sailing off into my own lands of imagination.

I leave you with the ultimate “Aw, come on, they didn’t say that!” song.