Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Armor"

My wife thought this week's story was very Connie Willis-y, which is high praise indeed. You can judge for yourself:

Read "Armor" at 512 Words or Fewer


Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "The World Crime League"

I know what you're thinking. They may look silly in those tin-can helmets, but you don't want to underestimate these guys. Especially not Bruce. SRSLY

Read "The World Crime League" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Have No Excuse: FFNF09

Yes, it really has been six months since I posted the last installment of FREEFALL: No Fate, and no, I have no excuse.

I've had this entire serial outlined for years, and each chapter is less than 3,000 words. I should be able to wrap this up in a matter of weeks, if not days. I really have no excuse, which is why I'm not going to make any. I'm just going to hunker down and bang out the rest of this story before the end of September.

That's a promise. You can take that to the bank, and you can put that in your pipe and smoke it. (If they allow smoking inside the building, that is. Most places don't these days.)

Read "Extorted Treasure," Chapter 9 of FREEFALL: No Fate


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cory Doctorow on Self-Publishing!

Jasper here, with some commentary from Hugo-nominated science fiction author Cory Doctorow!

Cory's latest Guardian column is about "Why free ebooks should be part of the plot for writers," but he also addresses the question of self-publishing:
[W]hy do we need publishers if we can just release ebooks and make the print available through one of the many excellent print-on-demand houses such as Well, a traditional publisher does a lot for you that is unrelated to printing books, from preparing the manuscript to ensuring that the book connects with an audience by wooing reviewers to talk the book up, booksellers to put it in the path of readers, librarians to put it on the shelf and, of course, by paying for a certain amount of marketing in the speciality and general press.

Note: that's not a typo! People really do say "speciality" instead of "specialty" in England!

Monday, August 17, 2009

All the Joe You Need

G.I. Joe, that is. Why spend money on a crappy movie when you can see the music video for free? Especially when the music video has, arguably, bigger stars* and better writing than the feature film?

* Partial cast list: Alexis Bledel as Lady Jaye. Billy Crudup as Zartan. Zach Galifianakis as Snow Job. Tony Hale as Dr. Mindbender. Vinnie Jones as Destro. Julianne Moore as Scarlett. Henry Rollins as Duke. Alan Tudyk as Shipwreck. Olivia Wilde as The Baroness...


Sunday, August 16, 2009

QuoteBusters: Lincoln didn't say that.

Bayla here with some actual facts. I know, you probably didn't expect to find those on the Internet. Just deal with it.

While catching up with my blogs last week, I saw The Quotations Page's "Quote of the Day" for July 19th:

"People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."
- Abraham Lincoln

And I thought, Really? That construction seems awfully modern and snarky--more like John Scalzi than the 16th President of the United States. But it is just random enough to be true.

So off I went to do some research. How else am I supposed to kill time under the bed all day?

According to The Quotations Page, Lincoln used that sentence "in a book review." No date, no mention of the book title or the publication in which the review appeared. Typical.

A Google search revealed that many of the people who use this quotation describe it as Lincoln's "response" when asked for a review or critique of a particular book. So, not actually a book review. That helps. Maybe.

The only direct reference I could find is from George William Erskine Russell's 1903(?) book Collections and Recollections (full text at Project Gutenberg; my emphasis below):

But "The Art of Putting Things" includes also the things which one might have expressed worse, and covers the cases where a dexterous choice of words seems, at any rate to the speaker, to have extricated him from a conversational quandary. As an instance of this perilous art carried to high perfection, may be cited Abraham Lincoln's judgment on an unreadably sentimental book—"People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like"—humbly imitated by two eminent men on this side of the Atlantic, one of whom is in the habit of writing to struggling authors—"Thank you for sending me your book, which I shall lose no time in reading;" while the other prefers the less truthful but perhaps more flattering formula—"I have read your blank verse, and much like it"

You may also recognize two other literary clams in that paragraph. Those, combined with a lack of primary sources, make me doubt the overall accuracy of Russell's (wait for it) recollections. OH. SNAP.

I found one other scholarly mention of this quotation, in the Yale Book of Quotations (2006 edition), but I also consider them suspect because they list the publication date of Russell's book as 1898, when a peek at the Gutenberg text shows that the preface was written at "Christmas, 1903."

However, the Yale Book does mention one other interesting fact:

David Mearns suggests in the Lincoln Herald (1965) that the source for this remark was a mock testimonial by Artemus Ward: "For people who like the kind of lectures you deliver, they are just the kind of lectures such people like."

First of all: 1965? A hundred years after Lincoln's death and that's the best you've got? And second: "mock testimonial?" What does that mean?

After several hours of web searching, my paws were tired, but I finally found a definitive debunking in Ralph Keyes' book, The Quote Verifier (my emphasis and linkage below):

[I]n late 1863 a spoofy newspaper advertisement for [Artemus] Ward included this testimonial: "I have never heard any of your lectures, but from what I can learn I should say that for people who like the kind of lectures you deliver, they are just the kind of lectures such people like. Yours respectfully, O. Abe."

So, there you have it. Accuracy may die, but satire lives forever. Thanks to the blog Abraham Lincoln Observer for that pointer.

Verdict: BUSTED. Let's give credit where credit is due.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Redux!

Hello aspiring writers! Jasper here with some more FREE ADVICE for you on self-publishing. It comes from THE INTERNET, so you know it's good!

First of all, thriller writer Joe Konrath has the definitive answer to the question: "Should You Self-Publish?"

I won't keep you in suspense! The answer is, it depends. Read his complete blog post for more--he goes into specific exceptions where it makes sense to self-publish instead of going the "traditional" route!--but as he says, the most important thing is "to figure out what it is you want, and then decide on the best way to get it."

If you're interested in numbers and data and stuff like that, check out novelist Lee Goldberg's "You Can Be a Kindle Millionaire" blog posts! He talks about putting some of his backlist and out-of-print titles on Amazon, and gives actual sales numbers for each title!

And once again, his conclusion says it all: "So far, I have earned nearly $700 on out-of-print books that I thought were long past their earning potential for me. That's not a lot of money... I don't think the Kindle is the wave of the future for authors or least not yet. Not even for self-publishing. There just isn't enough money in it for original works to make a living at it or simply a decent wage."

So there you have it! If you want to be a successful writer, it still pays to get an agent! Don't get discouraged! Check out literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog or others for some inside dish. And keep writing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Don't Fence Me In"

I am not generally a fan of the Western genre, but I did love Firefly and Deadwood. And I'm starting to recognize the structure and the tropes in other works.

Outland, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Also: I recently started reading Scalped, based on a recommendation from Kurt Busiek. I liked it fine to start, but then I hit issue 10, and now I'm hooked.

Read "Don't Fence Me In" at 512 Words or Fewer


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fifteen Sticky Movies

(Dear Facebook friends: I appreciate the thought when you "tag" me in your "notes," but instead of wrestling with Facebook's user-hostile interface and hiding my content inside their walled garden, I choose to post my omphaloskepsistic lists on the public Internet, where anyone can find and ridicule them. Hugs and kisses, me.)

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you've seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
    Confused me for a long time until I realized the entire film was all about food and eating. Watch it again, you'll see what I mean.
  • Star Wars
    The first movie I can remember seeing in a theatre.
  • Memento
    A simple story told in a complicated way.
  • Office Space
    D and I saw this movie because we ran into some friends of ours in line at the theatre, and it's what they were going to see. We were very pleasantly surprised.
  • The Sixth Sense
    Still M. Night Shyamalan's best film.
  • Casablanca
    Bogie was always at his best when playing antiheroes.
  • Strange Days
    Not an entirely successful modern film noir, but I love the atmosphere.
  • Zero Effect
    I still wish someone had bought the pilot and made a TV series out of this, but I guess House is an acceptable compromise.
  • Brick
    Old-school noir laid on so thick it's like butta. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun) acts the hell out of this role (and his character in The Lookout—kid's got some chops).
  • It's a Wonderful Life
    How I met my wife.
  • Galaxy Quest
    Another pleasant surprise. D and I saw this on Christmas Day, not expecting much, and we got a grand adventure. Also the film debut of young Justin Long ("I'm a Mac").
  • Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
    Watched in half-hour increments during high school lunch periods. After the climactic battle, I made a comment about a "phallic victory," when I actually meant to say "Pyrrhic victory." Eh, I was a teenage boy. I blame the hormones.
  • Waitress
    RIP, Adriennne Shelly.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
    RIP, John Hughes.

NB: Ask me this on a different day and I'd probably give you a different list.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Mutiny"

Back when Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, I got a little annoyed with them in the third season when they had a whole run of episodes with titles of the form "The [X]:" "The Enemy," "The Price," "The Defector," "The Hunted." The episodes themselves were still pretty good, but I felt it was lazy and uncreative of them to not choose more interesting and evocative titles.

Then, of course, in the fourth season, they started dropping the definite article altogether: "Family," "Brothers," "Legacy," "Reunion." I suspect a large part of my annoyance was because I was still in trufan mode, and longer titles made it easier for me to keep an entire episode guide in my head. It's easy to remember that "Galaxy's Child" is the one about the power-eating space creature, but "Ethics?" That could be anything. SRSLY.

Of course, now that I'm putting out a new story every week, myself, I see how unimportant the title seems as part of the overall process. All is forgiven, TNG!

Read "Mutiny" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"My" episode of Leverage airs tonight

I use the possessive article very loosely here, since I was just an extra ("background performer"), and out of three days of shooting you might actually see my face for five seconds, at most.

Still, it was fun to be on set with the cast and crew (ObNameDrop: director Jonathan Frakes, writer Amy Berg, casting director Lana Veenker). Unless you've worked on a show, it's difficult to imagine how many people and how much equipment go into shooting any scene--even something that seems straightforward, like random people walking past the window of a cafe.

It takes a lot of effort to make things look natural when they aren't. Which you could say is one of the themes of the series itself.

Leverage episode 204, "The Fairy Godparents Job," airs at 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM Eastern Time tonight on TNT.

(Wait a day or two, and you can also watch it online at Amazon or download it from iTunes.)


Monday, August 03, 2009

Puzzles in Portland

During our time in the bay area, DeeAnn and I ran several puzzle hunt events ("The Game") with Team Snout, and now we're starting a new tradition in Portland...

We're collaborating with Game Controls (GCs) in nine cities across the US to create a one-day, walking puzzle hunt called DASH (Different Area, Same Hunt). Each city is contributing one puzzle, and players in every city will solve the same set of puzzles on the same day--albeit in different locations.

Interested? Get more information and sign up here:

(We're also looking for some volunteers in the Portland area to do playtesting over the next few weeks and help run the event on September 13th. We don't expect a lot of teams, but we'll do our best to make it fun for everyone. E-mail if you'd like to help.)

Please spread the word to your puzzle-loving friends in PDX!


Sunday, August 02, 2009

We're going to Disneyland

It's official: Team Snout has registered for the Shinteki Field Trip: Disneyland on October 17th. We were, serendipitously, the 17th team to sign up (current total: 24), and since this sounds like a self-guided puzzle hunt, there's probably still plenty of room for anyone else who wants to play.

Karl, Cary, DeeAnn, and I will also be spending the day before (Friday) in the park, since Karl hasn't been there in nearly two decades, and DeeAnn and I will arrive in Los Angeles a few days before that to visit with my family and friends. If it weren't for those two factors--and a third, which I'll get to in just a moment--I would have been inclined to pass on this adventure.

From the FAQ: "Shinteki is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. You'll be subject to all of the normal rules for guests in the park, and won't have any sort of special privileges." When the Shinteki folks first put out feelers via e-mail to gauge interest in a puzzle event at Disneyland, I told them flat out that unless they were offering some special access to backstage/secret areas of the park, they'd have to work pretty hard to get me down to Anaheim just for this.

My exact words were: "For most people, going to Disneyland is already pretty special; I think you need to make it clear exactly how the Shinteki event is going to be $30-$60 more special." (They originally suggested a maximum per-team fee of $120.) Brent and company did a good job of addressing most of my concerns in the official announcement and FAQ, without giving away any specifics, but in the end, the thing that won me over was the aforementioned third factor: I don't want to miss out on what is sure to be a unique experience.

Back in 2002, I passed on The Jackpot Game because of the prohibitive $420 per person entry fee, and because it seemed like a very different event from the Bay Area Games I'd become accustomed to. I wasn't convinced it would be an entirely successful endeavor (and maybe it wasn't; they never sold it as a documentary film or reality TV series), and I didn't want to burn all that time, money, and effort on a new and unproven concept. I've since had occasion to regret that decision.

However this Disneyland event goes, I want to be there to witness it myself. If this is the only "Field Trip" Shinteki ever runs, this will be my only chance to try it; if this is merely the first of many such events, it will still be unlike any subsequent Field Trips. And hey, I'm going to be at Disneyland. How bad could it be?

Given the Shinteki crew's track record, I'm confident they'll be more successful than not, and I always want to support and encourage other Game Controls when they try new and different things. I guess that'd be a fourth reason. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)


Saturday, August 01, 2009

I'm Writing as Fast as I Can

I'm one of the writers participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon 2009. "What's that?" you say? I'm glad you asked. Clicky clicky:
    2009 Clarion West Write-a-thon
For details about my personal writing goals, and to donate by PayPal:It's all kosher and 501(c)(3) blah blah blah. Read my official and somewhat more professional announcement over at 512 Words or Fewer, and follow my progress on LiveJournal.

UPDATE (8/2): I made it to 102% of my word count goal. Thanks to all my sponsors for their generosity and support!


* Post-dated from 22 Jun 2009 to stay at top of blog.