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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Wild Publishing World

I’m shooting for the 40,000 word mark on my DEMON sequel this weekend. Maybe I will have the trilogy done by the end of the year. It’s kind of funny writing a trilogy when the first in the series isn’t sold to anyone or garnered representation… yet. It’s been around six weeks since I sent out the requested full manuscript to an agent interested in DEMON. It would have been nice to get a note that the manuscript was received, and I know it should have been me sending another request after a few weeks as to whether DEMON even reached the agent. There’s a funny quirk about not asking that I suspect many querying authors share – sometimes you get the feeling maybe it’s best to hold on to what you have – a requested full look by an agent – rather than inquiring as to progress on the look, only to find out they either didn’t get it, haven’t looked at it, or haven’t had time to send you the ‘not for us’ line in an e-mail. Man, this writing gig is weird. I sometimes wonder how many of us ride the wave of ‘maybe’ so long our skin wrinkles from exposure to the elements.  :)
That’s where having pioneers in easy publishing come in to play for good or bad. The publishing giants are not calling all the shots anymore. Amazon, Smashwords, Nook, etc. provide an outlet for free market publishing we sure never had before. In a wild market like that with innovations happening every day there will be the unfortunate looting and pillaging going on by less scrupulous individuals. They steal names, manuscripts, and launch sock puppet armies to wrest their ill gotten gains on the free market from unwary buyers. The self publishing places like Amazon work to shore up the cracks by neutralizing the sock puppeteers with false reviews and denigrating comments when the reviews are questioned. The predators with lookalike names and plagiarized material have risen to the top now. They have proven to be an illusory foe, capable of shifting from name to name, genre to genre, and market to market. Pretty soon, the publishing houses will have to hire reformed word thieves to work against the unreformed thieves as the security software giants have had to hire ex-hackers to go after the active hackers. It’s a mixed up, crazy situation, with new problems to conquer every day.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Secret To Failure

This is without doubt the best video explaining the economic collapse of our way of life in America I've ever seen. The propagation of ice ages and global warming cons brainwashed into our kids at schools. Imaginary markets of carbon credits promoted, while making villains out of the producers of real energy, and laying guilt trips on the rest of us for living and breathing. Definitely the not so secret cause of American failure:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lending Leper

Another humorous adventure in loaner land. As some of you who have read this blog for a while know I only loan out jumper cables, gas can (empty), and a funnel. A twenty dollar deposit or a driver’s license has to be left with me until I get my stuff back. There have been a myriad of reactions to this policy, including outrage, claims of racism (as in if I was white you’d loan it to me without a deposit), and foul mouthed temper tantrums. I’ve also had people take the gas can from my hand, shake it, and look at me with a twisted frustration face. They expected it to be full. I don’t keep gas on premises because if you store even small amounts of gas, there’s an extra hazardous waste fee for doing so. They don’t care for that explanation. Well boo hoo.
Today I had a guy who wanted my jumper cables, my shop battery, and my dolly for carting them. I do this but the person interested has to leave a driver’s license, credit card, and sign a two hundred dollar credit card slip. You can imagine how that goes over, but look at it from my position. The loaners are all free. All you have to do is return them in the same condition I lent them to you. I get my stuff back and you get your stuff back. This guy was not happy with my arrangement.
“Man… can’t you give a brother a break?”
“I only have one brother still alive and you’re not him.”
His face twisted into one of those special feature masks like you see on the face of a pro basketball player after the ref calls him for a foul. On one of those young basketball star’s faces, it makes them look like spoiled brats. On this guy it was not a good look. When the special face only gets a blank look from me, he rips out his wallet, and hands me a driver’s license along with a credit card. Only one problem - the driver’s license picture was not him, and the credit card had a different name on it. I pointed this out to him as I gave them back.
“That’s me on there,” he insisted, jabbing a finger into the license picture for emphasis.
“You’re twenty-three and six feet, four inches tall, huh?” I asked, knowing the guy in front of me was a couple inches shorter than me, and I’m only six feet in my work boots. Also, this guy hadn’t seen twenty-three in twenty years.
He tried the special face on me again with the same result. “Are you callin’ me a liar?”
“Are you calling me stupid?” I’ve done this before.
“I didn’t call you nothin’.”
“If you expect me to believe that’s your picture on that license, you are definitely calling me stupid. Besides, you’re sidestepping the credit card with a different name.”
Since he didn’t have an answer he did an outrage dance with flailing arms and stomping feet. He threw his wallet on the shop floor, picked it up, stomped some more, and turned back to me with the special face. “Are you goin’ to loan me the stuff or not.”
“Not. At least with the license and credit card you gave me. You could leave me two hundred dollars in cash.”
“Will you take a check at least?”
“Okay, that’s the second time you called me stupid. Two hundred in cash.”
He stormed out. I went back to work only to be interrupted again by Stormy. He had two hundred dollars, so I wheeled over the battery and jumper cables. Forty-five minutes later Stormy wheeled my rig back in and it was in the same shape as when it left, so I handed him his two hundred back.
“You ain’t right, man,” Stormy told me as he yanked back his two hundred.
“Well, you could take your borrowing business elsewhere. In fact, this might help you to decide next time you need something for nothing. It will cost you twenty dollars the next time you want to borrow anything here.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Yeah, I can, and I will.” Although this interaction had been mildly amusing, Stormy was beginning to bore me. I didn’t even think twenty bucks would be enough for another Stormy visit.
“I ain’t ever comin’ back here!” Stormy whipped around and out the door in a huff of outrage.
Oh no! Not that! I look up at the clock with a sigh because no way I’m ever getting that half hour back.  :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Creative Tools

Point of view in stories makes a novel as significantly noticeable as genre. Whether you write in first person or third person, or even the anachronistic storytelling second person, editorial standards demand you don’t switch at random. I can understand this to some extent although the golden rule of ‘there are no rules when it works’ apply here as always. It would be extremely difficult to go from first to third and back again without the reader bailing on us. I’ve only done first person once and it took me nearly half the book to get comfortable. When your fictional world is created in first person POV, every action, every scene, and every thought must be related by that main character. You can get a little something going in dialogue interchange, but even that must be perceived by the main character.

The omniscient factor of third person POV drew me in as a writer. I love reading a novel with POV changes even in the midst of the same scene – and believe me, before the editorial nation went to war using the head-hopping banner, it was done regularly. It still is by some of the big names. What this foolish affectation no-no does is strip third person POV of a very appealing tool. If we want to create a scene where the hero and heroine interact with comical or romantic inner dialogue, we as writers are forbidden to do so without breaking the scene up, no matter how plain it is to the reader about which character is speaking and thinking. Granted, getting an agent or publisher to even look at an unknown writer’s novel rivals hitting the lottery or being struck by lightning lately – so, having a few creative tools stripped from our writer’s toolbox shouldn’t really bother us, right? Wrong! It bothers me.  :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2004 Misfiring Chrysler Town & Country

Look, happy-go-lucky folks fog up the people viewing software in my head. I admit it. I couldn’t walk around with a smile on my face all the time even if I had a Guardian Angel at my shoulder, and a Leprechaun feeding me money from the pot at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t work for me… period. I see and meet people all the time with dazzling smiles for no apparent reason. Sometimes it’s a result from too many reality TV shows, and sometimes it’s just that they’re outwardly happy people who want to show off their inner glow. I have no problem with any of them, which brings me to the more humorous type, who wear the smile, but can go from zero to troll in a split second. I have some experience with those, and their antics often times make me smile. Yesterday’s encounter with a woman I will call Tina Tempest graces my blog today.
Tina drove in yesterday morning behind the wheel of a misfiring 2004 Chrysler Town and Country. It was all black and looked very sharp. I walked out of the office where I had been putting stamps on my tax envelopes on their way to appease my government gatekeepers. Tina popped out from the driver’s seat. Fashionably attired in dark blue dress, black high heels, and tan leather coat, thirty-something Tina wore a brilliant smile. Another trick I’ve never mastered is smiling while talking. Tina could do it, and I call it a trick or skill because gee whiz, that must take practice.
“Hi, can you help me understand something?” Tina asks without any drop in the radiance or spread of her smile. Even the tenor of her voice evokes thoughts of smiles.
I’m game. “Sure, what can I do for you?”
She ducks back into her car and comes out with a few invoices. “Could you look at these and tell me what you think?”
I took the invoices with confidence. I knew they weren’t mine, so at least this interrogation wouldn’t have anything to do with me… at least directly. Tina had been to three shops, one in Sacramento, and two more in our North Bay Area. They had done extensive work replacing a myriad of tune-up parts and sensors to cure codes indicating random misfires, sensor problems, and power loss. I look up at her attentive happy face without a clue other than the obvious.
“Well, it looks like you’ve had a lot of performance work done. How-”
The change from Jekyll to Hyde was so sudden I nearly lost the grip on her papers.
“Tell me something I don’t know!” Gone was the smile, the sweet voice, and any semblance of patient interest.
I may have stuttered momentarily because Tina (Pit Viper) struck before I could speak.
“Look… do you even know what you’re looking at?!!”
My mind filled in what Tina left out of her question – probably idiot, asshole, or moron. I glanced down at my bright, clean nametag wishing it still had the smudge making it into Bennie instead of Bernie. “I was about to say that you’ve spent a lot of money on repairs.” I quickly held up my hand because the fangs emerged ready to strike before I could go on. “Let me finish. I heard a distinct misfire when you drove in, so I imagine the repairs done didn’t fix your problem.”
The Viper look receded into a snarl. “Wow, you guys in the repair business are real honest to God rocket scientists. Anything else, Einstein?”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. She smirked because I kept an eye on her to make sure she didn’t take a swing at me while I controlled my short outbreak of amusement. “Okay… let’s start over. Hi, I’m the owner/tech here. I see you have a misfire problem. Would you like to have a diagnostic done to find out what’s wrong? I can’t tell anything from the invoices you’ve handed me other than you’ve had a lot of work done.”
“Yeah, but can you fix it?” The set of her mouth promised instant retribution if she didn’t get the right answer.
“Of course.” I hope. “If I have any trouble figuring it out I’ll call you and tell you so. Otherwise, I’ll call with an estimate of what I think should be fixed to solve the problem. May I ask why you didn’t take it back to one of the shops where you originally had work done? I’m sure-”
“Because they’re parts changing at my expense until they luck into what’s wrong! That’s why!” The Viper was back and she wasn’t havin’ any.
She may have a point. We’re not infallible out here in auto repair land. Some intermittent problems on these buggies with space shuttle technology don’t always reveal their secret maladies to even us concerned professionals.
“Okay then… I’ll write up an invoice, and I’ll call you when I have some word.”
I quickly wrote up her diagnostic estimate, had her sign it, and gave her a copy. As she grimly accepted it from my hand, I decided I liked the Viper better than the engaging Smiler. She was all business. I can do that. She got a ride home and I went to work on the Town & Country. It had one of my favorite Chrysler engines, the 3.3L six cylinder. After scanning it with my more in depth notebook computer software, I found it had set a myriad of codes including random misfire, cam position sensor, and three dealing with throttle problems. Since studying her old invoices I saw the other shops had changed most everything having to do with those codes.
I’m not hard-headed enough to ignore what’s already been done other than confirming it, which I did. It was time to get into my computer manuals and see if any of these malfunctioning items had a common ground or power source. After looking at the wiring diagrams for fifteen minutes I didn’t find a common power or ground, but I did find they all shared a 5 volt computer reference signal with the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) solenoid. I confess I got a little excited about this and ran out to test my theory. I started the ill running mechanical beast, hearing the rolling misfire and seeing the engine shudder. I located the solenoid, pulled the harness connector off, and all hint of roughness went away. See, if the 5 volt reference signal gets screwed up by a shorted sensor in series, it will cause all other sensors sharing that reference signal to throw fits, and the offending sensor doesn’t always set a code. I found out how much the solenoid was and called Tina to give her the good news.
“So, you’re sure you’ve found the problem?” The Viper was on line and suddenly as I heard the Viper voice, I wasn’t so sure.
“When I get it fixed I’ll let you test drive it before you pay me. How’s that.” I never do this except in cases of extreme duress. It was a perfect fit.
“Fine. Go ahead.”
With new EGR solenoid in place, Tina took the Town & Country out for a spin. She was gone nearly forty-five minutes, which meant she was either being very thorough, or she’d be coming back on a tow truck. Yes… I may have prayed a little. In came the T & C, and out came the smiling Tina Tempest to pay her bill.
Thank you, Lord.  :)