Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Expresso Book Machine... Scary? Wonderful?

I'd never heard of the Expresso Book Machine until today, but as a writer and reader of Sci-Fi, I always knew this day would arrive. The $50k device can churn out a paperback book, complete with color cover, from a digital file in 5 minutes, and was just named Time Magazine's "Invention of the Year", over the iPhone.

And they say that print is dead.

Between this and Amazon's all-electronic Kindle book reader, if I were a traditional book retail outlet like Border's or Barnes and Nobles, I'd be dropping a load in my pants right about now. I can easily imagine all those cathedral-like book outlets replaced with mall kiosks. Hardcovers would have to be sold via existing channels for years to come, but you know that a bigger and better version of this thing would come along eventually.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. The futurist in me geeks out at the idea of my book available literally everyplace, printed on-demand. The book lover in me, however, insists (perhaps illogically) that the experience of book shopping - the hushed, almost reverent quiet in the store, the smell of the paper and the glue, the rows and rows of shelved titles, some spine-out, some displaying their covers - is just as important to the satisfaction of the reading process as the content.

Well, maybe not as important...

What do you think? Is a "ATM for books" a good thing in the long run?

Either way, I think the Expresso is here to stay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fox News Porn

"He blanked my blank. Then blanked my blank blank 'till 5 AM. I danced for him. Then he stuck a blank blank up my blank. I blanked all over us in bed."

Honestly... as a fiction writer I'm constantly in awe of real life. You simply cannot make this crap up.

(Thanks to: The Huffington Post).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Numerus Subtracticus!

Holy shit. Can you imagine them trying to get this to fly in an American school, no matter how badly it was performing?

I can almost hear the Pope's head exploding.

But you can't argue with the results of this previously-failing, now Top 5% Primary school in England. Can't wait to see this duplicated in University.

Fun quote:

During the most recent visit from Ofsted, the inspector witnessed a maths lesson where the children were motivated to learn about subtraction by pretending that it is a magic formula created by Harry Potter.

Pupils were not allowed to answer questions without first saying a spell - "numerus subtracticus", which they devised themselves.

The official report describes achievement at the school as "outstanding".

"Pupils enter the school with standards well below average. Over the last three years, standards and achievement have improved greatly and were above average in Key Stage 2 tests in 2006," it says.

"Pupils are enthusiastic about their work in mathematics and particularly enjoy practical tasks and those that allow them to investigate mathematics. Some pupils said they enjoyed calculations because they knew what they were doing and they liked getting things right."

Sex and Drugs and Rock n' Roll


I remember the good old days when Rock and Roll was the music of rebellion. When it was about taking chances and doing stupid things. Now it's been supplanted by Rap and (surprisingly) Country and Western music for drug references. Country? Really? The music of the Heartland?

Whatever happened to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll?

Guess I have to start encouraging my daughter to listen to more Punk and less Travis Tritt or "Fitty Cent".

Oh, wait... I already do that.

Carry on, citizens...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Star Trek Redux... Not bad, actually

Last night, Dave, Grafton, Jake and I went out to see the newly-remastered Star Trek episode "The Menagerie" at one of our local cineplexes. Seems as if Paramount, in all their infinite wisdom, has decided to "re-master" all of the Original Series episodes. What's interesting (and somewhat alarming) about this is not only do they plan to up the resolution to true HD-DVD, cleaning up the color, removing old dust, scratches and repairing the faded contrast from the original negatives, but they also plan to re-shoot the cheesy model shots using modern digital FX.

While I was at first very, very wary of this - I hated the "updated" Star Wars Episodes 4-6 - I have to say that, overall, I was very impressed with the Star Trek redux. The new visual effects are certainly noticeable, but the re-mastering team seems to have done a good job in replacing only the things that were "distractingly bad" while retaining all the stuff that was "charmingly bad", if you get my drift. Cheesy sound FX, weird, rubbery alien suits, pancake makeup, inches-long fake eyelashes (on the chicks... and possibly Shatner... he definitely has some old skool goth eyeliner action happening in some episodes) - all of that they left wisely alone. In other words: the new Special FX shouldn't have worked, but somehow they did. They felt... respectful. Proper. Well-intentioned.

And the color! Oh, the color! And the contrast! And the sharpness! I really have to say that seeing a 45-foot tall image of Cap'n Kirk in full Technicolor glory was a geek dream come true. When I think of all the hours, days really, that I spent at Star Trek cons, squinting at badly-dubbed Laser Disc or (shudder) VHS versions of the show, projected onto plain white walls, all while packed cheek-to-jowl with unwashed 20-somethings with rubber Vulcan ears... well, let's just say that it was a breathtaking moment.

The one-night-only movie release was really just a big advertising ploy for the Season 1 HD-DVD set that will be released on November 20, but, you know what? It worked. I was indeed the target audience, and they impressed me. They really seem to be doing the remaster not to "milk the cash cow" (as Jake said), but because they really cared about bringing the show up to more contemporary specs and maybe, just maybe, make the show a bit more accessible to the latest generation of viewers. I know that as soon as I get my set, I plan to introduce my son, Grayson (now age 5) to the show, in the hopes that it will stick. Wish me luck and if I might be allowed a total geek moment:

Live long, and prosper.

Other links:

Official ST:TOS Re-master Site

Remaster Compendium - with side-by-side shots, broadcast schedules, etc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Candidate Guide

Honestly, I have no idea how I found this... one blog led to another, led to another, which had this linked somplace in the body text of... something. You get the drift. But anyway, I'm glad I found it.

The site is, and they have a great little poll thing that lets you rate issues that are important to you and then see how well your favorites Agree or Disagree with your priorities.

Largest surprise? Dennis Kucinich agrees with 88% of my choices. Plus, his wife's a FLILF, which is, like so totally hot (kudos, Jason Jones). Obama agrees with me 76% of the time. Best of all, there's a "find out why" link that shows you how the candidate in question voted on certain issues and made campaign or debate promises. This is what the internet is for, people...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm home...

Three days and 2,300 miles later and I'm finally home.

We found a replacement car for our dearly departed "Nano" - in Los Angeles. Turns out the car has an interesting history and story, and I just couldn't turn it down.

There's lots of details in this thread over on, a MINI Cooper site for those that want every detail (ImagoX is my user ID over there in case you were wondering), but in a nutshell, the car we chose to replace the one that was wrecked belonged to a lady named Dawn out in L.A.. Dawn had cancer, and her husband, Larry, bought the car for her as a 40th birthday present, Right after, she got very ill from her condition and really could not drive it. Unfortunately, Dawn died about eight months ago. What's strange though is that Larry decided to finally list the car for sale on the day we wrecked the orange car. Coincidence? I think not...

Long(ish) story short, I flew out to L.A. on Wednesday and spent the next three days driving home. Kara and I decided to name the car "Dawn" after her (yes, we named it - car people are weird, what can I say?) I could have shipped the car back, but I quite honestly wanted to meet Larry and shake his hand, which I did as you can see.

Along the way, I stopped by the VLA in New Mexico, which was over 200 miles out of my way, but was something I've wanted to see for my whole life, so it was worth it:

As well as dealt with a case of pea-soup fog in Oklahoma:

It was really something to drive so far... I was honestly worried that I might be too old for such a long road trip, but it went just fine - thank God for audio books on CD!

Now that I'm home, I really must buckle down and get Book 2 complete!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Feeling MUCH better...

Well, I'm back from World Fantasy, and I'm happy to report that, in the end, I had a completely wonderful time.

Much of this feeling came from a friend (and former Writeshop member), Jaime Voss, who, using her awesome Social Powers managed to introduce me to a large number of incredibly charming and intelligent people, all of who allowed me to sit at their tables and accompany them to the parties. Going to social engagements of this kind are generally incredibly awkward for me, given my inherent shyness, and going in the company of such wonderful people made the experience so great. Thanks to everyone that let me hang out!

I can't easily describe how flat-out cool it is to spend a chunk of time in the presence of not only Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans but also with writers of the genre. They, quite simply, "get it". For instance, at one point, I found myself in the midst of a conversation about the depth of the story in the Pixar film "Ratatouille", and the commentary that it makes on the challenges and rewards of being an artist... it was, in a word, awesome. The next day, I happily geeked out with a new friend, John Hay, who agreed with me that, as good as the recent adaptation of CASINO ROYALLE was (it's the best Bond film since From Russia With Love, if not the best Bond film ever, IMHO), a straight-up adaptation of Ian Flemming's original James Bond books, done as proper historic, Cold War re-tellings and not modern movies would be best. Finally - someone that agrees with me!

Again, thanks to everyone that let me go with them to breakfast, talked to me in the hallways, sat beside me in panel discussions and had drinks with me in the stiflingly-hot room parties - your attention was noticed and very much appreciated, and I can't wait to see you all again next year (hopefully sooner)!

PROGRESS REPORT: Blood Magic Book 2: Nights of Sin is still chugging along, only slightly delayed by my recent car crash drama and the massive distractions of WFC. I began Chapter 22 yesterday and worked on it again this morning. The climax is unrolling right before my startled eyes, and, as is par for the course, the characters are already doing things that I don't expect. The body count is rising... Kirin is more tempted than ever to use the power that she swore she'd never employ again... the final enemy is about to be revealed... Good stuff, and I hope you find it as startling as I do. I can't wait to get it done and into Paula's hands.

I'm leaving Wednesday morning for Los Angeles. There, I will pick up my new Purple Haze 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible and attempt the 2,000-mile solo journey home. Alog the way, I'll pass through places like Flagstaff, AZ and Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I'll try to make a side-trip out to the Very Large Array just west of Socorro, NM - something I've wanted to see for years and years). I hope to document the entire trip and possibly get a magazine article commission out of the entire thing - wish me luck! I should be back this weekend, tired but hopefully intact, and will blog along the way if it proves to be possible.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Overwhelmed at World Fantasy

I've fled from the Saratoga Hotel and Conference center.

I'm typing this at the counter of Uncommon Grounds in lovely, scenic Saratoga Springs, surrounded by the pleasant buzz and chaos that always seems to be present, as pervasive as the scents of roasted coffee beans and fresh-baked muffins, in the best cafes. I'm sipping my drink and posting here, to try and regroup. To get ready to plunge back into the mass of people, commerce and creativity, that I've recently retreated from.

I've come to New York to attend the 2007 World Fantasy Convention. Paula Guran, my editor, felt that it would be a good thing for me to meet and mingle with the luminaries of the writing and publishing worlds. As I'm in possession of a manuscript that Juno cannot use (Juno is very specific about the stories they're looking to publish, namely ones featuring strong female leads, something my book, Rowantree, does not have), she felt that I might be able to pitch the book to one of her numerous editor contacts. My only goal here is to meet some new people, authors or agents or, just maybe, editors, and see if anyone's interested in my story.

I arrived on Thursday, expecting to get checked in and maybe have a nice meal, but not long after arriving I met my friend Tim Waggoner and his friend, the very charming Nayad Monroe, who invited me to tag along for dinner. We went off for a wonderful meal of Thai food and sushi. Returning to the convention, I ran across Paula at the 2007 Horror Writer's Guild awards, and from there it was off to meet and greet any number of people at any number of crowded, hot parties, following at her heel like a well-trained puppy.

I was still in the grungy clothes that I'd been sitting in for the almost 10-hour drive, but soon after, I found myself face to face with an editor from Tor Books, stammering out the basic plotline for my urban fantasy novel, struggling to remember all of the carefully laid-out plot points that, I feel, sets my book apart from the herd. He was polite, but I think he wrote me off as a stammering buffoon and proto-amateur, and soon left to rejoin his friends.

This whole thing has been, so far, so completely and totally overwhelming for me. Everywhere I look, I see names of people that I've read and admired literally for as long as I can remember: George RR Martin (who read the introductory chapter of his upcoming novel), Gene Wolfe, Alan Dean Foster, Holly Black. Stephen R. Donaldson is on the attendee list, but I've not seen him. The list goes on and on and on...

In the dealer room, Juno has a table, and on that table, up high, out of reach (but with better visibility, or so Paula tells me), is my book. It looks so small, perched up there. So tiny in the vast room, packed with uncounted millions of words, all written by men and women much, much more talented than I.

It is, in a word, humbling.

I feel like a boy wearing his father's too-large suit, coming here. Around my neck is a cardboard sign, made out of a shoe box top, dangling from a frayed, discarded shoelace. The word "author" is proudly scrawled upon it in shaky Crayon. As I walk through the halls, trying to recognize names and catch eyes, people look at my sign and smile, somewhat pityingly, somewhat self-indulgently (for, just maybe, they were where I am now, many years ago, and perhaps they remember this feeling of awkwardness - maybe I simply amuse them with my pretensions). Thankfully, for they are good and decent people, they spare me the embarrassment of pointing out that the word "author" is spelled wrong. And the "R" is backwards.

Like I said... overwhelming.

I suppose this was inevitable. I spent the first few months after selling my book frankly stunned at my good fortune, then the first weeks after it's release riding on cloud nine, convinced that now that I was finally a published author that things would be somehow different. That Big Things were happening to me, and happening fast. That I was a Very Important Person, someone that people wanted to get to know, who said things that people wanted to listen to.

While that may be true, some day, this experience has, so far, done nothing but remind me (in increasingly mocking tones) of my own words. There ARE no short cuts. Nothing replaces hard work. No matter how good you are, or might be one day, there are always people far, far better, with audiences much, much larger.

Please don't get me wrong: everyone I've met have been completely wonderful and welcoming, willing to talk about anything I've been able to nerve myself to ask. The honesty I'm experiencing all around me is refreshing and inspirational, as are the authors, publishers and editors themselves. But it was nobody folly but my own to think that any of them would be even the tiniest bit impressed by my single author's credit, no matter how proud of it I am. No, that vanity was purely my own.

Oh well... I've talked enough I suppose. Time to write a few pages and finish my drink, and listen to a few more songs in the cafe before going back. Maybe I can pay back Nayad for dinner last night, and try and remember how to relax. How to take a deep breath. I know that some day, probably very soon. I'll re-read this and chuckle at how scared I am right now, but right now, at this moment, I'm feeling very, very far from home.