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Archive for May, 2010

Time to Fly!

I’ve been writing fiction for other people since junior high… I still have the first thing I ever “published”. After kicking the shit outta cancer, I decided to get as serious as I could get while still supporting a family – it took me ~8 years to finish Eden from my gathered notes and crap from before I got sick.

Eden has gone through about 8 major revisions / re-writes. A large circle of friends and family have read it and given me feedback. About a dozen literary agents have turned it down. I still believe in it.
(one agent actually read my first 3 chapters and said: “It’s good, close to great… but not great”)

So, fuck it — I’m just gonna do it. I know I can tell a story better than about half of the writers I’ve read in the fantasy space. Full steam ahead!

Lulu.com offers self-publishing services, and many reputable authors publish thru their service. The goal is to have Eden listed on Amazon, iBooks, and many more places – in both eBook and trade paperback formats. I’m not expecting to change my zip code, but I’ve spent enough of my life talking about all the things I want to do… now’s the time to actually start doing them.

The book is done, so the hard part is over. I am begging one of my friends to be my editor. Artwork is on the way. Another good friend of mine is creating a trailer/promo video for me. I’m confident I can get a spot in some local bookstores (they usually have a “local writers” section). Book signings shouldn’t be too difficult to organize (bookstores *love* an excuse to get people in the door).

Yup, that’s it – I’m going for it. 

There is a downside to this… by going this route, I will most likely ruin the chance of Eden ever getting picked-up by a major publisher. Agents won’t typically work with a previously-published novel. Well, I can live with that. It was unlikely anyway, and I already gave it a shot. Time to stop worrying about the “what ifs” and start focusing on the “what ares!” (though not for story generation – “what if” is still my best friend)

What the frak is Eden? I’m glad you asked… stay tuned for the video trailer in the upcoming weeks!

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So, I’ve been hemming and hawing over the iPad for a while now.

Can it really replace my laptop?
Can I really justify the $?
Can I really bring myself to take another bite in the apple after 20+ years?

One of my good friends brought over his iPad last night and we all played Scrabble. It was a ton of fun, but the game allows you to “cheat”. Basically, 4 times a game, you can ask the app to make the “best word” possible for you using your tiles and the available bonus spots on the board… we were dropping 40 and 60 points pretty regularly. There were some words none of us knew, but then someone asked the iPad for a word and it placed “ouched” on the board. Really? I never knew that was a verb… we had a good time making fun of it. (blogspot spell-check doesn’t think “ouched” is a word, btw)

Then, my best play came from my own mind. I added a “D” to the front of “ouched” and spanned a new word over to the triple-word spot on the board. BONG! Best use of the word “douched” in any game, ever – and perhaps my crowning moment in my personal board-gaming history… and, I didn’t need the pretentious iPad to make the word for me.

I am actually quite smitten with the iPad, despite it’s name. Working on my enormous laptop on the plane is just not an option, especially when the douchebag in front of me reclines their seat all the way into my crotch. And, lately, I’ve been feeling the urge to write while on the plane, so I’m definitely in a spot there. I’m also interested in reading some older books that I just never got around to – the iPad would make that easier.

For play, the benefits are many and almost justifiable. For work, I’d need to be able to remote desktop into my virtual computer labs on my laptop (which would remain at home), so I’m covered there. I’d also need to be able to do document editing and generation – again, covered there.

So, the only real holdup is cost. I *just* purchased my laptop, so cost-justification for a duplicate device is somewhat difficult.

I’d say I’m closer to changing my allegiance from Micro$oft to Apple than ever before. Sure, my first computer was an Apple, but since then I’ve purchased according to my gaming habits – and Windows has won that battle for many years running. However, the winds are changing. Steam is now available on the Mac, and many new games are releasing Mac clients.

I still don’t buy into the whole ‘mystique’ of Apple. Like Yankee Fans, Apple-Whores believe there is some magical/mystical aura around the organization (and Steve Jobs dong). They believe Macs are better than Windows machines “because they are”. Without going into gory detail, there’s some good reasons why Windows computers have such a bloated kernel and are targets for more malicious software attacks… if Mac was suddenly forced to support legacy business applications and over 50% of business and home computers – I’m certain they’d be facing some of the same challenges as M$.

So, I still want to kick Apple-whores in the crotch when they get all gushy… however, I can see myself owning an Apple product in the next year or so… sigh.

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I’m in St. Paul, Minnesota this week and I decided to take a night off and veg in front of the silver screen. Iron Man 2 was my movie of choice, right after a hearty meal at Hometown Buffet. (they call them ‘Old Country Buffets’ here in the Midwest, but I wasn’t fooled… I know my buffets!)

So, the theatre was actually worse than Southington… it is a combination bus-stop / movie theatre (first time I’ve seen one of those), and it’s quite busy / dumpy! I had to dodge 2 buses to get into the box office where someone had posted a hand-written sign:

“Dragon not in 3d”

Yeah, like I’d mistake this cruddy theatre for someplace with technology from this millennium… tho, I guess, someone got angry!

Anyway, I guess I can talk about the movie itself, but there’s really no need. The chicks are hot, shit blows up and it’s a comic book story. What more do you need to know?

[mild spoilers below – read with caution]

Gary Shandling is a dick (padel!), and they changed Rhodey to Don Cheadle (who I always confuse with Tim Meadows)… Cheadle rocks, so the change isn’t for the worse.

The first Iron Man kicked ass. So, I was worried when I saw the trailers for this one (the whole part where Paltrow kisses the helmet from the trailer isn’t in the movie, btw). I think the action was actually a little better in Iron Man 2. Instead of fighting Al-Quieheda (or however you spell it), he’s fighting an army of Mecha in Iron Man 2… definitely a step in the right direction. However, the story was a little weaker, and it felt forced at points.

Of course, we don’t watch comic book movies for the story (usually). The effects were downright awesome – especially with the suit. The damage and wear/tear is all very visceral and real. I do love Iron Man as a comic book character because he’s not Superman. He (along with his suit) gets the crap kicked out of him and you feel a sense of danger – yup, he could get hurt here! All the damage he takes was well-portrayed in the CGI effects… well done.

Now, I do have a gripe with both Iron Man movies – the ‘boss fights’ in each of them has been… lacking. In the first one, I just didn’t buy the whole ‘best-friend turns against you’ bit… wasn’t done well, and the motivation was weak (money? I still don’t know…). In Iron Man 2, the boss fight is over so quickly – you feel used and cheap afterwards. (like after a date with me) Was that all?

Then there’s the whole Shield thing… just seemed like an afterthought and not very well put together. Coulda been better.

I do like the villains better in the sequel – Hammer made me chuckle a few times and Mickey Rourke… shudder… all I know is I’d never want to meet him in an alley. He is a downright scary individual. His character’s motivations (at least to start) were well-founded and believable.

Despite some of my negativity, Iron Man 2 drips with style and ‘coolness’. The production qualities are all very high and it is fun to watch. It’s no X-Men 2, but it’s worth watching for the action (which is still sparse, but I think that is a good thing) and for the great character Downey Jr. has built.

Now… let’s see if Metacritic agrees with me…
ugh – 57! Comic book movies rarely do well with the critics who’d rather watch two old people write in a notebook and then croak on each other. I agree with the Orlando Sentinel (75): “A movie franchise can only take us by surprise once, and by that measure, Iron Man 2 is a preordained letdown. But so much of what gave the first film its gas – is still here.”

Gosh, that’s an awful pair of sentences, but I agree with the gist.

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So, I might start a new thing, since movies are so dear to my heart. I’ll “review” some movies and then check Metacritic and see if I’m off-base or right on target. Let’s see how this goes…

My trip to Dallas last week was on American Airlines, and it was nonstop… so, I was entertained both ways. I transferred my headset from my Nintendo DS to the arm rest of my seat and squinted to see the little TV (of course, both times, I was the farthest you could possibly sit from the TV).

Up in the Air

I actually kinda liked this one. The story follows a guy (George Clooney) as he travels around the country (300+ days a year) as a business consultant who fires people. I’m not sure
I’d want his job, but the travel bits were all fantastic. I guess I identified with them more now that I travel too… kinda like a plumber would identify with the Mario Bros. movie? Ugh… maybe not. Anyway, my only gripe with the travel scenes was this – he didn’t have a laptop. A guy like that would definitely have a laptop… or an iPad. I’m seriously considering the switch to an iPad… the only thing it’s lacking is the ability for me to run my virtual computer labs.

Whoops – got sidetracked!

So, yeah… I’m not sure I’d watch it again, but it kept me entertained and I appreciate the realism around ‘business travel’ they baked in there. Let’s see what Metacritic has to say…

okay, Metacritic is puking from my hotel… but, it got a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes! It seems the movie was quite relevant last year during the corporate layoff bonanza. If you are in corporate America, or you travel a ton, maybe it’s worth a look-see. I didn’t like it as much as the reviewers, but I’m hard to please (in some ways… okay, only when it comes to movies/books… and only some types of movies).

Oh, there’s also a 1940’s movie by the same name, but the Clooney movie is not a remake. The 1940 one is a radio-show murder mystery… yeah, I won’t be seeing that one.

Young Victoria

Okay, okay… after that title, I shoulda plugged my headset back into my Nintendo DS. What good could possibly come of a movie with that lame a title? Well, I watched it anyway. By the gods, it was a trainwreck.

The movie opens with some text (that was admittedly hard to read from my seat) that explains the king was dead, England was a mess, and a young princess wasn’t old enough to rule… so, her mother and her mother’s advisor were trying to force her to sign a Regency order — which would render young Victoria powerless, even when she came of age.

Okay – you got me, movie! That’s a great setup for some drama, conflict, and good story. Let’s see where this goes!

Unfortunately, there is no buildup once the actual movie starts – we are greeted with young Victoria in bed, with her mother and some guy standing over her with a paper and pen…

“Sign it.”
“No!”
“No, you must sign it!”
“I will not!”

Um… really? Why not build up to that dramatic scene with some, I dunno – CHARACTERIZATION!?!? Let us see into young Victoria’s life – why/how is she so strong-willed at such a young age? How does she understand the Regency order? Why would she defy her mother? Why is he mother’s advisor so power-hungry?

Damn… I don’t write scripts, but I could have written this better. Instead, the movie just throws scenes at us and it feels more like a History channel documentary than a movie. The whole movie is jerky and seems rushed. I recommend a trip to wikipedia if yer interested in young Victoria’s life.

Let’s see if Rotten Tomatoes agrees with me…

Whoops! It seems my assessment is off-base. 75% on RT. The collected reviewers had some very nice things to say about this film. Sorry, but I don’t agree. I think the more interesting story is the whole Regency drama… could have been a great story of a young princess and her determination… instead, the movie plods along through an uninteresting romance and boring “rise to power”. Ho-hum.

One reviewer agreed with me: “The way this story is told, is just basically by people reading letters in voiceover while you look at beautiful furniture.”

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I’m gettin’ old.

I first realized it about 3 or 4 years ago while looking at some pictures from one of my wife’s plays. I forget who was showing me the pictures, but the conversation went something like this:

Me: “oh, this is a great shot from the balcony.”
Other person: “did you have good seats for the show?”
Me (pointing): “Yeah, I’m sitting in the second row, right next to that balding guy… wait a sec… shit – I’m the balding guy! Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?!”

Seriously – why didn’t anyone tell me? It’s not like I spent a ton of time in my late 20s/early 30s in front of 2 mirrors, checking the back of my hair. I really had no clue! Someone shoulda told me… My brother (who’s older, by-the-way), to this day has a full head of wavy hair – why the fuck did the bald fairy choose to visit me? If I ever see the bald fairy, I’m so gonna pwn her.

Anyway, so now I’m bald (I think it’s the better alternative to a bald spot), and I was hit by the old truck again this weekend – I now loathe the cold.

For my entire life, I prided myself on my “Maine genes” and my ability to withstand the cold. I long argued that cold was better than warmth because “you can always put on more layers.”

Now, I’m old.

We went camping this weekend, and it was friggin’ cold. The kids were miserable, and I just couldn’t get warm. What the hell happened? When did the cold start to affect me so much? I went “camping” once in March (~20 years ago) where my peanut butter froze! That didn’t even bother me. What happened to that guy?

Well, I guess I’m ready for my broom (to bang on my porch as I yell at the kids passing by), because I’m also ready to head south. I actually feel the draw of Florida like the gentle pull of a black hole far out in the galaxy… it will eventually consume me.

Anyone else have any good “getting old” stories to share? Feel free to leave a comment to add to the patheticness.

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What I’m playing…

I’ve had some “game talk” lately, so I figured I’d journal the games I’ve been playing recently… I’ll warn you – it’s about exciting as a PAX Television show (do they even exist anymore?)
If you read my SOAP (Suit On A Plane) post, you know I’m playing Final Fantasy Tactics A2 on my Nintendo DS. I’ve always been a sucker for tactical RPGs, and I have to admit this is one of the best I’ve played. Like Disgaea, it truly feels like I can just poke around forever and “do my own thing.” The jobs are mostly unique, and the “stuff quest” is pretty amazing for a tactical RPG. I have played it quite a bit on planes recently, so I may be nearing the end of the rope with this one…

Still playing Free Realms. Of course, I’m just playing the card game – it is quite good, far better than Magic. I do like what they did with tournaments – some cards you can only get by winning tourney games. You can actually check this one out for free, but it takes some work to build your card collection. I’ve been playing this one for over a year, so that’s gotta count for something!

Every now and then, I still play Wizard 101 with the wife. I really have to tip my hat to the developers here – they made a game that is both fun for adults and kids. Even kids who cannot read can play the game. That’s pretty amazing! This game redefined a genre and it’s only gaining steam.

The game I play the most right now is a browser-based sports text sim called Goalline Blitz. Yeah, yeah… I know – I’m pretty lame. However, this game has kept my interest for almost a year now. It’s the best browser-based game I’ve played. Of course, you have to really really like football (and text) to get any enjoyment out of the game. I think it’s better when you own a team too, as there are a ton of things to do (if you want to get that involved). There’s just something insanely enjoyable for me with these types of management sims. I’ve traditionally played the single-player versions, and they were okay. Now that I’m managing “real” players and negotiating contracts/etc, it’s on a whole ‘nuther level for me.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to. I’ll leave you with an editorial on “online gameplay” I wrote last year. It was published by mmorpg.com and it was quite well received. I only got a measly $10 for it, but that was my fault for not negotiating the terms before I submitted. Enjoy!

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