Oops, I Got Laid Off

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Tools, Writing | 0 comments

Or: All the free time on my hands…

 

 

You know how they say don’t quit your day-job?

Well, what hap­pens if the day-job quits you?

That’s right, folks, jobs ain’t what they used to be. Careers? What the hell is that. Long-term employ­ment? Never heard of such a thing.

Retire­ment?

Ha!

But it is OK, because I HAZPLAN!

That’s right, I am mak­ing the leap over the chasm of the nor­mal and into the land of full-time writing.

Is this a good idea? Well, maybe, con­sid­er­ing the way the chips fell in this case. And let me be very clear about this:

I am not rec­om­mend­ing that peo­ple quit and stay home for the magic writ­ing cash.

But since I didn’t quit, but rather my com­pany decided to save a penny and lose a few tens of thou­sands of dol­lars long-term — Well, I guess you could say I’m tak­ing this as oppor­tu­nity dressed up as a disaster.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Well, I sup­pose I could starve to death. But even then there is a sil­ver lin­ing — no more bills!

But seri­ously, the worst that could hap­pen is I fail hard at writ­ing, col­lect unem­ploy­ment and find another 9-5 meat-grinder of a job.

It’s worth a shot. And I hope I can enter­tain you while I give it a go.

So, here is the plan, dear reader:

 

My amaz­ing plan for riches and glory! (Maybe)

 

1. Story time!

First off, I will be rolling out sto­ries on a reg­u­lar basis start­ing very soon. How soon? Very soon.

This will be through Patreon and right here on the blog. The sto­ries will be free — and if you like them you can sup­port me through Patreon in a few easy clicks.

Of course there will be perks for those who throw a dol­lar or two my way, but the sto­ries will be free for any­one who wants to read them.

These will be series install­ments, each story part of a greater whole, and each series related in unex­pected ways. I think you will like it.

The world is built. The map has been…um…mapped. Ideas have taken hold and won’t let me for­get them.

This can be fun, and I hope you’ll join me!

 

2. Scrivener time!

Sec­ondly I will be start­ing a mas­sive blog series on the tools of the trade, namely Scrivener and Aeon Timeline.

These will be the real deal — Not a bunch of quasi-related posts about how I like to use Scrivener, but a detailed how-to cov­er­ing both the Win­dows and OS X ver­sions of the soft­ware (some­thing often miss­ing from Scrivener books).

How to use tags, mak­ing your own tem­plates, export­ing that bad-boy to an ePub/mobi/PDF, fancy tricks that will make the fin­ished prod­uct pop.

And I will have a few pre-made Scrivener tem­plates for those who want plug-and-play good­ness for their writ­ing projects.

The whole shebang.

The A to Z.

I think you get what I’m saying.

And it will be free on this here blog thing, await­ing your eyeballs.

 

3. Blaaghy blaagh!

And, of course, there is this here place, my own shriv­eled lit­tle cor­ner in the vast Internets.

More posts are com­ing than you can shake a stick at. Even a large stick. There is a lot to cover out there, and this new posi­tion I find myself in (as a job­less hippy!) means I am going to get pum­meled by the old g0ds of writ­ing — Expect this jour­ney to be blogged about, and maybe you can avoid what­ever pit­falls I am likely to fall into.

Not to men­tion I am reach­ing out to a few tal­ented writ­ers, who may grace (FYI I mis­spelled ‘grace’ as ‘grave’ orig­i­nally. Freudian slip?) this blog with their presence.

Sounds fun to me, how about you?

 

4. And, of course, novels.

The fan­tasy novel has been on hia­tus while other things were in the works, but once I get a sched­ule going — Writ­ing the sto­ries for Patreon, get­ting a reg­u­lar edit­ing sched­ule set up, etc. — The novel will be revisited.

I know there is a lot of nov­els out there, and the fan­tasy has its share of stinkers, but this is a good one. I promise.

Unique, inter­est­ing, maybe even a lit­tle crazy. And elves aren’t invited.

There is a lot of good stuff in there.

And as I pick the thing back up I will be writ­ing it mostly in the open, let­ting you all in on the tri­als and tribulations.

 

And, through all of this, I’ll need your help!

I am in a pretty good place with my writ­ing, but it isn’t per­fect by any stretch of the imagination.

I avoid most of the pit­falls that make for really crappy writ­ing. I dodge cliche ideas, I beat down pur­ple prose, and judo-chop stiff char­ac­ters in the face.

But I have a way to go in the craft, my friends, and I need peo­ple who don’t live in my head to help me find the path!

Your com­ments, crit­i­cisms, and hate mail will help me get bet­ter at what I love to do. And who knows, you may even like the stuff!

 

Stay tuned for more, and let me know what you think in the comments!

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Create Your Own Soundscapes for Writing, Coding, Tripping

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Music to Write to, Tools | 0 comments

I bet you never heard of this before…

 

Take any song and turn it into a sound­scape in sec­onds. Maybe milliseconds!

That’s right, folks, for just twelve pay­ments of ALL YOUR MONEY FOREVER you to can be Boards of Canada*

*Actual results may vary. Side effects include homelessness, physical assault by Boards of Canada, acid trip flashbacks

 

Really, though, check this out.

It is a tech­nique known as audio stretching.

No, don’t go start­ing up Audac­ity or Adobe Audi­tion just yet.

This is a spe­cial kind of stretch­ing — one that doesn’t change the pitch of the music, and can slow things down by hun­dreds of times.

Seri­ously. You just don;t know what kind of crazy sounds come together to make your favorite songs until you slow them the hell down.

And, with the right source music, this tech­nique can result in amaz­ing sound­scapes good for writ­ing, pro­gram­ming, cast­ing necro­man­tic spells, whatever.

Allow me to give you an exam­ple. The two audio files here should let you take a taste of what I am talk­ing about.

Here is the first few sec­onds of Clock­work Creep by 10cc:

If you don’t know about 10cc, you should check them out HERE.

Now, here is the same snip­pet stretched 33.72 times. Just let it roll:

 

Whoa, man, whoa!

Yeah. It isn’t even the same song. Not by a long shot.

If you didn’t lis­ten to the whole thing, do your­self a favor and jump to the 1 minute mark, and then the 3:30 mark.

Duu­u­u­u­u­u­ude * lights one up * whoa.

This works for just about any song, and if noth­ing else it is fun to do.

 

“Where’s the soft­ware, man!”

The best one out there has to be Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch, found at http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/. It is a Win­dows and Linux pro­gram, recom­piled for Win­dows and in source form for those Linux nerds.

OS X folks can get a ver­sion for their Macs here: http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/PaulStretch-2.2.2-OSX-10.6.dmg – Ignore the 10.6 OS X ver­sion num­ber. I ran it on my 10.9 Mav­er­icks machine just fine.

Here are the set­tings used for the demo above:

Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch window

 

 

Enjoy it, and please share with me any awe­some con­coc­tions you come up with!

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“A Historic” vs “An Historic”, or Stop Saying That Please

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Rants | 0 comments

Potato, pota­toooohh, potLARGH!!!!!!!!!!111111

 

 

Hey, your arti­cle is show­ing. Yes. Please tuck away your arti­cle in public.

This is a fam­ily blog.

God­damn it.

What arti­cle you ask?

Well, the arti­cle — A part of Eng­lish speech, the itty bitty parts, like “a” and “the” and “an” and some­times “some”.

These are impor­tant lit­tle bas­tards. Try to write a few sen­tences with­out using any arti­cle. Go ahead.

Sure, it can be done by slap­ping a noun and verb together to make the most basic sen­tence struc­ture pos­si­ble, but as soon as you need to expound on a basic idea — POW — an arti­cle appears.

And this is where one of my per­sonal pet peeves pounces pon­der­ously on to the scene.

The gen­eral rule of “a” vs “an” is this: If the word fol­low­ing the arti­cle begins with what sounds like a vowel when spoke out loud (as opposed to whis­pered inside your head by the raspy voices) then you use “an”.

If the first part of the word sounds like a con­so­nant, then  you use “a”.

A dirty diaper.

A soft wall with evil sym­bols etched into it.

An ancient but­terknife named But­ter­meis­ter.

An oblong don­key turd.

And, allow me to say it: A his­tory. A his­toric event. A his­tor­i­cal thingamajig.

Not An history.

Why?

Because the H in his­tory is pronoinced strongly. Like hit and hike.

You wouldn’t say “I ran over an hiker yes­ter­day, and now my hood is all bent up!”

Or, “That new song by DJ Dill­weed Dap­per­man III is an hit!”

So why would you say “DJ Dill­weed Dap­per­man III was an his­toric dude!”

Fact: An his­toric sounds more than a lit­tle herp-der-derp. And that is my pro­fes­sional opin­ion. Take two of those and call me in the morning.

So please, pretty please with a cherry on top, don’t say an his­toric. Every time you do, a kit­ten cries. I saw it. And it was your fault.

No kit­tens were harmed in the mak­ing of this post.

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Heinlein’s Rules on Writing: What the Hell Do They Mean

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

OMG no rewriting?”

 

 

There are many tips out there for writ­ing. Some of them are even useful.

Never write while on fire.

Never use a stingray as a pen.

Never try to type on a cof­fee cup while drink­ing your laptop.

Writ­ing tips suf­fer from so many lit­tle prob­lems. Some tips only work for the per­son giv­ing them, and don’t work at all for every­one else. Some suf­fer from sur­vivor­ship bias – they worked for one suc­cess­ful writer, and the only rea­son you hear of it is because they are suc­cess­ful, and the advice is given more weight because it came from a per­son who “made it”.

Hem­ming­way is known to have given fake advice in an early attempt at ‘trolling’ young writ­ers who con­stantly both­ered him for tips.

But I think it is safe to say Heinlein’s rules are a set of tips or instruc­tions that get right to the point and make some damn sense.

These are Heinlein’s Rules:

*drum­roll*

1. You must write.
2. You must fin­ish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewrit­ing, except to edi­to­r­ial order.
4. You must put the work on the mar­ket.
5. You must keep the work on the mar­ket until it is sold.

Looks sim­ple, right? But hold on, there is at least one of these that gets caught in peo­ples craw.

It breaks down like this:

  • You have to write, or you aren’t a writer.
  • You have to fin­ish the crap you write, or you have noth­ing to show for your troubles.
  • [CRAW WARNING] Don’t rewrite your story unless you have an edi­tor tell you to do so. I’ll tell you what that really means in a moment, because peo­ple have been mis­read­ing this one for decades.
  • Put your fin­ished work out there. Don’t store it in your damn draw/closet/corpse-pile in the basement.
  • And keep it out there until it sells — this was writ­ten in the ’40s, so “sell­ing” your work has a slightly dif­fer­ent mean­ing now, but the idea still works.

I think this sums it up per­fectly. If you break any one of these, you will not get your story out there, period.

If you write, but stop half way, no story.

If you write all the way but hide the story because it “isn’t per­fect”, no story.

If you con­stantly rewrite, striv­ing for per­fec­tion, no story.

And that is really what #3 means — the mis­un­der­stood, “evil”, crazy #3…

Robert A. Hein­lein is not telling you, through the thick mists of time itself, to not edit your work. He is not beg­ging you to slap the story down like road­kill and ship it out to slush piles.

For some rea­son, many — many, many, many — peo­ple seem con­fused by this sim­ple rule. I think folks are read­ing what they think it says rather than what it does say.

“And what does it say then, smartass.”

Well, it is sim­ple, really. To rewrite is to take your story, trash it, and write it again try­ing to reach for that per­fect first draft. It is to spin your wheels for­ever in a loop of rewrites, none of which guar­an­teed to sell your story, and are there­fore useless.

You can restart a hun­dred times with a story that just doesn’t have the stuff, and come up as empty as if you hadn’t writ­ten at all.

Re-passing a kid­ney stone doesn’t make it a bet­ter experience.

He is telling you to start some­thing, fin­ish it, and if it is good enough to sell, send it out. Oth­er­wise move on to the next project, car­ry­ing with you all the lessons learned from the failed attempt.

Now, I can say per­son­ally I wouldn’t stick by this 100% of the time. Some­times a good idea needs a kick in the pants when it goes off the rails. But that is almost more writ­ing than rewrit­ing, isn’t it? No one puts out a per­fect draft, and few don’t change course mid-book and have to later revise the ear­lier chap­ters to make things work.

I have lit­tle doubt Hein­lein did these things as well.

It is doubt­ful he laid a ream of paper on the floor and shot snot rock­ets of magic prose at it until a per­fect first draft emerged from the sticky goo.

But you can eas­ily fall into an infi­nite pat­tern of rewrit­ing one story for­ever. Just ask any­one who has been “work­ing on a book” for ten years or so.

Hein­lein is point­ing at you and say­ing, “Fin­ish your shit, bruh. And then move on to the next thing, and fin­ish that. Or I’ll come over there and bop you one.”

I think you should lis­ten to him. He sounds dangerous.

Go HERE for a pretty graph­i­cal list you can print out and sta­ple to your monitor.

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Word Processors of Yore: Write in WordStar 4.0 for Giggles

Posted by on Mar 29, 2014 in Fun Stuff, Tools, Writing | 0 comments

Going old­school…

 

 

“Once, my child, WYSIWYG was lit­tle more than the sound a man made when sneez­ing and fart­ing at the same time…”

The young word-warrior blinked at his elder, “But, how could you know what your words would look like when you were ready to make an eBook?”

“Ha!” The old woman crin­kled her bul­bous nose at the war­rior. “You’re soft, boy. When I was your age, eBooks were no more than a night­mare haunt­ing the pub­lish­ing indus­try! A tale told to baby pub­lish­ers to frighten them!”

The elder grunted as she pushed her­self from the chair.

“Oh, no, my youngling. We wrote words of power in ASCII and ATASCII, where bold and ital­ics were dreams, and print­ers screeched in the night air…”

 

Wordy word processors

We all know how awe­some mod­ern word proces­sors are. Type­writ­ers, while use­ful as a weapon/door stop/anchor, are a real bear to edit on — No back­space, no select, and cut & paste was actu­ally cut & paste. With paste. Like kindergarten.

And don’t get me started on quill and parch­ment. What a mess! And that hor­rid scratching…

And no one would be seen dead today with a stretched piece of human skin and a bowl of demon blood to fin­ger paint with. So 6000 BC.

But some youn­gins may not know just how dif­fer­ent today’s word proces­sors are from Ye Olde Worde Pro­cess­ing Programs.

I began writ­ing on an Atari 8-bit com­puter. An 800XL if mem­ory serves, which it might not.

Those were the days! I remem­ber my “upgrade” from an 800XL to a 130XE — which had 128K of RAM! It could hold the word proces­sor and the spell checker in mem­ory at once!

128 kilo­bytes of RAM. A chunk of which was used by the hardware.

This image is 128k of data:

128k

This image could not fit in the entire mem­ory of my old Atari computer.

 

Atari­Writer+ was my first word proces­sor. The bleeps and bloops as I typed, the boop-boop-boop sound the Atari made when load­ing and sav­ing files, the beastly sound of the Epson dot-matrix printer.

 

AtariWriter Plus

You want it. Don’t lie.

How I miss those dot-matrix print­ers. They sounded like a hive of angry killer bees fly­ing through a tin can inside a sub­ma­rine. On fire.

The blue back­ground and white text bring me back in time.

And Oh! The limits!

A few pages of text would clog up the RAM like a para­keet in a vac­uum hose. A large project would have to be bro­ken up into many smaller files, and even over many floppy disks — the real ones, not the hard “floppy” disks of the ’90s. A novel length work would span files, disks, reams of printer paper…

 

Some still ride the dinosaurs.

Speak­ing of old word proces­sors… Any­one remem­ber WordStar?

No, not you George R. R. Mar­tin. I know you know of WordStar.

But, any­one else? Don’t all answer at once now.

Here are two strange facts about Word­Star 4.0 for DOS.

  1. George R. R. Mar­tin still uses his orig­i­nal copy on a DOS com­puter to write those sprawl­ing, epic Song of Ice and Fire books. Talk about intesti­nal fortitude!
  2. I am using it right now to write this very post.

Yes, that’s right, you can still dab­ble in the old steam-powered tech of yes­ter­year to write things for today. It’s like writ­ing from back in time to the cur­rent future!

WordStar 4.0

The future of word pro­cess­ing pasts.

Why would you do such a thing? Fucked if I know. I just do things. Some­times they make no sense.

But allow me to demonstrate:

How to use Word­Star to be just like George R. R. Mar­tin, except less famous, far less rich, and with­out your own TV show:

  1. Get Dos­Box, a DOS simulator/emulator. This lit­tle gem runs on your mod­ern machine and acts like an old DOS machine, com­plete with crisp EGA graph­ics and the wicked sounds of a Sound­Blaster 16.
  2. Get Word­Star 4.0. There are other ver­sions, but for the real George R. R. Mar­tin expe­ri­ence, 4.0 is the one you want. You may be able to buy it some­where, but good luck stick­ing that floppy disk in your DVD drive. Google ‘Word­Star 4′ and ‘vetusware.com’ and maybe you will find an download.
  3. Bask in the glory of strange and ancient menus, for­mat­ting dis­played by sym­bols, and blocky grey text.
  4. Write.
  5. Save.
  6. Get WSedit. This is a Win­dows pro­gram sim­i­lar in many ways to WordStar.
  7. Load the saved doc­u­ment (Word­Star unfor­mat­ted) in WSedit and export it to a RTF.

 

WordStar 4.0

Step 1: Write in cuneiform.

Converting WordStar Document

Step 2: Con­vert to some­thing useful.

The doc in a modern word processor

Step 3: Proft.

 

Now you have a mod­ern RTF doc­u­ment, orig­i­nally cre­ated in a pro­gram from the ’80s. In DOS. Like a boss.

“Why not just write the doc­u­ment in WPedit?” You ask?

Because that isn’t nerd enough, fool.

So, the odd thing about all of this is Word­Star is totally usable. It is a very nice word proces­sor. Peo­ple must have wet their pants when this thing came out. We have bold, ital­ics, under­line (none of these show in the edi­tor, but they would print), spell check­ing, find and replace, mov­able tabs, line spac­ing, page markers…

I can see why George R. R. R. R. R. Mar­tin would use this even today.

But, I ask you, would he not be a lit­tle faster if he used Scrivener? Just sayin’.

Tell me, what did you start writ­ing on? Type­writer? Stone tablet? The walls of a padded cell?

 

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Even More Music to Write by

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Music to Write to | 0 comments

Great Aural Fed Brain Fuel!

 

Music! I can haz!

From time to time I like to post info on music that helps me write, that lets me tune out the noisy world and look inwards to all the ter­ri­ble ideas I have in my head.

My ADD forces my hand here. If I hear the tempt­ing siren song of my wife slay­ing crea­tures in a game I will falter.

Today, allow me to present some of my favorite, and free, back­ground music — For writ­ing, pro­gram­ming, slow-motion swan dives off build­ings, what­ever floats your goat.

It is called musicForProgramming();

If you are a code nerd, you will appre­ci­ate the name.

Their blurb says it best:

A series of mixes intended for lis­ten­ing
while pro­gram­ming to aid con­cen­tra­tion
and increase pro­duc­tiv­ity (also com­pat­i­ble
with other activities).

A com­pi­la­tion of hand picked ethe­real sound­scapes, these mixes are just what the doc­tor ordered — they stay in the back­ground, have no words, and tend to set inter­est­ing moods.

For exam­ple, here is the list of songs used in the first mix, “Datasette”

Frog Pocket – Plinty

Tor Lund­vall – Crooked

Tim Hecker – 7000 Miles

Belong – Late Night

Frog Pocket – Sea Angel Lament

William Basin­ski – 92982.2

Praveen – Cecilia’s Fruit

Arpanet – Ionic Crystals

Tim Hecker – October

Nether­world – Vir­gin Lands

KGB Man – Nobody Here

Tim Hecker – Blood Rainbow

Der Zyk­lus – Iris / Reti­nal Scanning

Boards Of Canada – Kaini Industries

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you write/work/commit crimes to heav­ier stuff, this may not be your cup of tea. But try it any­way. You will be sur­prised just how well sound­scapes work for cre­ative activities.

Head over to music­For­Pro­gram­ming(); and give some of their mixes an aural whirl. What’s the worst that can hap­pen? An acid trip flash­back? And your com­plaint is?

 

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