Spring, A Season of Changes

Fedora Linux Desktop

Spring is definitely here. If the tropical breezes didn’t give it away, the yellow swarms of pine pollen should have. Beyond warm weather and insects, March’s winds have blown a few changes my way.

Having guest blogged about my Word writing environment at Motivation for Creation, I was reminded by a commentator of a program designed specifically for writing. Scrivener has been around long enough to have a loyal following as well as developer and community support. Mac and Windows versions of the software are currently supported, but there is also a Linux version in beta.

If you haven’t heard of it, Linux is a UNIX-like operating system that is freely available (as in $0.00), secure, and has broad community support. The source code for many of its applications is also available under licenses that allow modifying the programs to suit users’ needs. I’m sure that’s more than most of you want to undertake to simply write a novel or send an email. I’m not a software programmer either, but I have used Linux off and on for 15 years or so. In fact, there’s a good chance Linux powers the web servers that host many of your blogs. But while it has made advances onto the desktop, there are many reasons (which I won’t go into here) why Windows and Mac are still default choices for personal computing.

I have long wished to move more of my computing to Linux. The reasons are practical as well as philosophical. The Open Source nature of the system means initial downloads and upgrades are free. Obnoxious and legally questionable licenses (EULAs) are mostly non-existent. And many devotees of the Open Source Software movement favor programming in and using Linux. There are some ill-natured and overly zealous community members, but overall the worldwide user community is dedicated to improving and extending the reach of this operating system that began as a college project.

My Win 7 powered laptop has served me well for years, but an LCD cable issue has recently surfaced. The screen blanks occasionally when it’s moved. It’s a totally fixable problem, but I decided it was a good time for a changing of the guard.

So last week, I purchased an Acer netbook. A few hours later it was sporting Fedora Core 16, the operating system that Red Hat uses to test cutting edge features that eventually migrate to its commercial Linux versions. I’ve loaded the latest Scrivener beta which I expect to update sometime this week. After a short introduction video, I moved my current WIP. Although switching operating systems is not always a simple procedure, my Linux background made it a fairly unremarkable task. And since Scrivener is cross-platform, expect a review after I’ve spent some time with it.

Of course I’ll continue to use Windows and Mac, but it’s nice to have another choice.

Attack of the Guest Post

My friend Lara at Motivation for Creation let me guest post on her blog yesterday. Coming up with blog topics can be difficult enough when you’re writing for yourself. Roaming around a friend’s blog is a bit like trying to rebuild an engine in someone else’s garage. I wrote about customizing Microsoft Word’s environment for writing. It’s a little geeky, but check it out.

Let the Readers Decide

This is a response to a blog post I read where author Rob “R.S.” Guthrie makes the case for Amazon charging authors to publish digitally. My initial reactions came in a rush, and I’m not giving them the usual amount of consideration I would before posting, so this may sound a little ranty. But let me make it clear that I have no animosity or ill will toward Guthrie. We simply have differing opinions, and mine is subject to change as I reach the point he has as a published author.

Guthrie clearly states that while Amazon does not currently charge for publication, he is in favor of them starting. He also makes a few interesting suppositions I’ll respond to.

1) Are you going to buy many books at 99 cents when the others range from $2.99 up past $15.99?

I wouldn’t. Not if I didn’t know there were a fair number of outstanding Indie writers out there.”

Guthrie uses the time-honored model of “you get what you pay for” to back his view that readers uninformed about outstanding indie writers will overlook 99 cent books in favor of higher priced ones. He further asserts that many who do buy them are are motivated by the low price and simply hoard, not read them.

It would be interesting to see credible statistics to back either assumption. Lacking those statistics, it’s anyone’s guessing game. Besides, the business side of publishing only mandates the selling of books, not the reading of them. That isn’t to say I don’t care whether people read my work or not, it’s simply me trying to be pragmatic about the writing business. I do agree that word of mouth is a big selling point. But owning a book at least means there’s a chance it will be read.

2) “Back to imagining: A $500 initial investment to put that first book on the digital shelves. How big a reduction do you think we’d see in the firehose flow of books we are currently witnessing? I’m going to make a wild guess and say 75%… I also believe you would take a huge slice out of the dreck pie.”

In the paragraphs above this one, Guthrie gives his definition of “bona fide” and “serious” writers. In short, those are people who have written or wanted to write all their lives, and tried “seriously” to get published.

I’ve never submitted my writing for publication, but I have spent much of my life writing or contemplating the craft, so I’m happy someone considers me a serious writer. But using money as an entry barrier to publication in order to weed out non-bona fide writers, and reduce the “dreck pie” is simply wrongheaded. And I agree with Guthrie that if Amazon decides to charge for publication, that won’t be the reason. The bigger question is why would an author who has been through the creative struggle of writing and publishing think that kind of gatekeeping is a good thing? It certainly doesn’t work in politics, unless you truly do believe we have the best government money can buy. And as Guthrie mentioned, it would even affect a percentage of “bona fide” writers.

On this point I agree with Jason Konrath. Let the readers decide who to read, what format to buy, and what publishing models will eventually win out. Ebook proliferation and digital publishing are seismic shifts in the book world. But rather than signaling the end of an era, Amazon’s assumed domination is merely a prelude to the next big thing. As for ponying up $500 or $1000 to digitally publish, no thank you, I’ll use that money for artwork, editing, and proofreading to ensure I don’t wind up another ingredient in the dreck pie.

Six Sentences: The Opposite of Everything

I’m having a go at Six Sentence Sunday today with an excerpt from what will be the last short story in my first collection, or maybe a longer work that stands on its own. The story hasn’t decided yet. Working title: The Opposite of Everything. Premise: a high school senior is forced to learn a real life lesson in politics in order to graduate.



“It’s important to understand that taxes are a de facto form of wealth redistribution.”
Mr. Wellsley paused behind a student whose face was planted on her desk in a warm nest made from her wool sweater. Before continuing, he raised the tip of the pool cue he used as a pointer. Like twirling spaghetti, he carefully swirled the chalked end of the stick in her tangle of red hair before giving it a sharp yank. Emily bolted upright, her surprised yelp cut short by the classroom’s laughter and the teacher’s glaring eyes.
“Do you understand why, Miss Barfield?”

Read more snippets at the official 6 Sentence Sunday website!

Stop the Madness

When I relaunched this site with a focus on writing, I decided to shy away from political posts here. It’s not that I don’t care or have an interest in the subject. But there are endless locations on the Internet where those discussions are held. Problems are rarely solved at any of them, but if rampant cursing, head-banging, and exposure to sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-religious, or conversely, overzealous and pedantic ranting is your cup of tea, you’ll have to quench your thirst elsewhere. For what it’s worth, my archives contain most of my views that I felt compelled to share. So it’s with some hesitation that I ask my readers, particularly fellow Americans to spend a few minutes getting acquainted with two bills rampaging through Congress as you read this post.

If passed, SOPA and PIPA would allow rights holders to bypass due process, and have websites taken down simply with the mere allegation of copyright “infringement”. Due process exists for a reason. It was put in place by our Constitution to protect ordinary citizens from the tyrannical whims of those in power–or those who have enough money to buy power. The entertainment industry has protected its interests perfectly fine without this overreaching and unconstitutional legislation. Please watch the short video above, and visit AmericanCensorship.org to see how you can lend your voice in opposition to these two bills.

Today, Eric-Blues will join thousands of websites that are going black to bring attention to this urgent matter. If you’ve read this far, thank you, and my apologies for dipping my quill into the bloody inkwell of politics again.

The Writer As Sponge

The biggest difference between writers and normal people may not be the writer’s ability to string interesting thoughts into coherent sentences. The mechanics of creative writing can be taught. The key difference may be the process that occurs before the first word is written. The moment of creation, random and chaotic as human conception, is a hackneyed talking point when writers are interviewed. Although trite, Where did you get the idea is a question that honors an author’s unique perspective. Even with story lines that aren’t novel, the unstated implication of the question is that your view is worth discussing. On the other hand, I’ve never heard an interviewer ask When did you realize sentences have subjects and predicates.

This thought occurred as I watched the Bravo network premiere of Tabatha Takes Over. Formerly Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, each episode of the first three seasons focused on Tabatha Coffey’s drastic makeover of a failing salon. In the time-collapsed span of an hour, Tabatha uses her professional experience, caustic tongue, and no BS attitude to turn the business around, literally saving some from bankruptcy. This season is different. While last night’s episode focused on a salon, subsequent shows will feature other businesses. So what gives Tabatha the ability, or even the nerve to “fix” companies outside of her profession? I think it has little to do with her knowledge of any particular industry, and everything to do with her knowledge of process. In particular, the process needed to take raw human resources and shape them into a productive business. And that idea leads this story back to writing.

Writing involves the same process: taking disparate, random, uncooperative thoughts and spinning them into compelling narrative. That’s the part that happens before your fingers ever touch the laptop’s home keys. Again, it’s what distinguishes writers from people who say I wouldn’t know what to write about. The creative’s ability to be a sponge is crucial. As a professional videographer and editor, that’s one reason I enjoy reality shows like Project Runway and Top Chef. They occupy a space far outside of my day job. Yet, watching them, I absorb creative energy from the contestants. Seeing how other crafty types approach a problem unleashes my own craftiness.

Be a writing sponge! Look in unusual places for new ideas. Start a new hobby or revive one you’ve set aside. Visit local restaurants and stores you’ve never been to. Sample a food you haven’t tasted. And always keep that pad and pen close to document the flood of good ideas.

2011, Stick A Fork In It

The beginning of the year can’t come and go without some review of the preceding 12 months, and recognition of the challenges ahead. There doesn’t need to be the kind of fanfare that accompanies the apple drop in New York. But as we wind down from the holiday crush it’s a perfect time to reassess goals. I’ve done that with regards to my writing and discovered I’m further along in the journey than I thought. I’m sharing my list with all of you. Click the image below to enlarge it. I urge you to make your own list, whether you share it or not. You don’t have to use the “R” word if you don’t want to.

Finally, thank you all who have commented, followed, and/or endured my blog and Twitter ramblings. Knowing something I’ve written has helped or entertained really makes the effort worthwhile.

God Bless and be safe!


Thanks for Sharing

This November, two writers I follow bestowed awards upon my site. While I’ve been overran with work and writing and learning, I want to acknowledge them and encourage my readers who are interested in the inner workings of writers to visit their sites. It’s really nice to leave your own mind and wander around in others’  from time to time.

liebster award

Thank you Lacey, from Inside My Mind.

I’m still looking for other blogs to share with, but there is one blog I’d like to mention. Aprildorus is Patrick Conners’ brainchild. Patrick is a poet, a really good one in a world that needs more good poetry.

Versatile-Blogger-Award-11Thank you Lara, from Motivation for Creation.

Now for seven things about me.

1) I love, love, love Indian, Arabic, and Mid-Eastern food. Tabouleh, falafel, hommous… Yum! I’m actually a huge foodie. I just haven’t subjected my current audience to all the food shots yet.

2) The flute in my Google/Twitter Avatar is a bansuri, a traditional Indian 7-holed bamboo flute. I’m not particularly adept at it, but it makes a lovely sound. As a child, I got my love of side-blown flutes from watching David Carradine as Kwai Chang Kane in Kung Fu.

3) I’m not a rabid or even minor sports fan. The only way I remotely enjoy watching football is surrounded by other fans. However, I might like rugby… that looks like an interesting sport. And the hakas performed by the New Zealand All Blacks are ferocious!

4) I’m a PK (Preacher’s Kid). My mom was an evangelist. I wrote briefly about her in a much earlier blog post. She was a big influence in my life and I miss her every day.

5) I think cats are way cooler than dogs. They’re fluffy and purry and independent. Cats own you, not the the other way around.

6) I’m the biggest Anglophile. I can’t get enough English TV. I love the accent and the cool phrases and everything BBC. Yeah baby! UK is one of the few places outside of the US that I would tolerate a long plane flight to visit.

7) I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young child. That’s been a while. Now I’m doing something about it.

Lara cited my blog as the first she had encountered that specialized in technology for writers. I hope to do more tech-specific posts. As an evolving industry, the intersections between self-publishing skills and graphic arts backgrounds are increasing. I want to be at those intersections to help other writers move forward. Below, I’ve listed a few of the techie sites that inspire me.

The Book Designer: Go her first! Joel Friedlander has ridden the waves of change from print book design, to ebook programming. He is an invaluable source for those considering the self-pub route.

Novel Publicity: Emlyn Chand and company cover publishing from all aspects of writing, editing, marketing. They offer their services as well as plenty of information about book publishing/marketing.

Self-Publishing 2.0: A more recent resource, this looks like a good place for market watch stats.

Thank you ladies for thinking of me in the season of thanks and giving. Your links have been on my writer’s list for a while now. I hope the new year brings health, wealth, and more stories for us all.

Friday Flash: Before She Goes

Hello slightly neglected blog. Work finally caught up to me—paying work and my writing load. For many videographers the year ends with a flurry of event shooting: Nutcrackers, Christmas choruses, parades and more. My shooting life is no different. But that’s done and done. I now get a small reprieve before the onslaught continues.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the collection of short stories I wrote about in October. I’m revising two of them, have nearly finished writing the third, and have one more to write. At the urging of a writing friend I’m taking a moment to list and review my accomplishments this year. And in the middle of it all, I’m writing. Here’s a flash fiction piece I wrote while people watching in my favorite Starbucks Author Incubator. Enjoy.

Before She Goes

A Wrimo Remembers: Episode 3

Corona typewriter

Welcome back to my behind the scenes look at what happened the year I tried to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I’ve been reposting blurbs from my blog and the work in progress that emerged. If you need to catch up, here is part 1 and part 2. This time we meet Ted Jannock, would-be Senator.

from “Nano Update 02”, November 10, 2007

Word count: 5677

mood: bit frustrated, bit happy: dealin’ wit’ it

My antagonist told me he’s really not a bad guy, just the fall guy. I reluctantly had to agree. Now, I’m rewriting a bit of his backstory (which wasn’t exactly fleshed out to begin with). Overall, I feel like the writing is better than when I first started. It darn well should be, right? Isn’t this gift like any muscle that you exercise and watch grow stronger? Tough days ahead… but I’m really looking forward to introducing the protagonist’s hacker friend. I’m sorta saving him for a rainy day and slow word count.

peace to all Wrimos


from Chapter VII

Ted Jannock smiled at Tracy, the bubbly young woman taking his order. She probably didn’t know who he was. The young people of Preston were brutally apolitical, but that was OK in Ted’s book. The less ideals they developed at that impressionable age, the easier it would be to sway their vote when they were older and had enough money and power to care about. He asked for a tonic and lime while he considered what to order. The great thing about tonic was that it looked just like club soda, increasing the chance his waitress would screw the order up. Then he’d have the pleasure of watching her walk away again.

Apparently all the restaurants in town hired from the same pool of swishy hipped college girls. Ted imagined a clandestine factory hidden within one of the city’s many abandoned warehouses. Beneath the flickering flourescents, bustling assembly lines would creek under the weight of their product. One line for short, busty brunettes. Another for chirpy blondes with round butts. Yet another for the attractive specimen serving him today; pale with inky black locks and freckles, she quickly returned with his tonic. He ordered a Ceasar salad and bowl of chili and quietly observed as she left to place his order.

Ted had a loving wife at home. Unlike many of his peers, he waited until he finished college before proposing. He’d had his pick of women even while he was dating Janice, but he understood at a young age the political value of having the right wife. Janice had all the important qualifications: she came from old money, was president of her sorority, and she was smart and extremely attractive. Even now she easily turned men’s heads who were half her age. To Ted’s knowledge she had never engaged in more than aggressive flirting, but he didn’t try too hard to find out otherwise. He knew he wasn’t in a position to complain if she were unfaithful. And although Janice overlooked his occasional straying, he wasn’t willing to push his luck. He considered their marriage a fairly typical one, and if polled, he reckoned over half of the town’s couples would admit to a similar arrangement. And truthfully he had grown quite accustomed to her comforting presence. Janice had stood by him for 26 years. She watched his political career grow from its infancy and never questioned his destiny.

Ted graduated college in the early 80’s at the top of his class. Double majoring in Political Science and Business had placed a great strain on their relationship. However, the effort soon paid off. His first public service position was as a city council member. At the same time, he started and ran a very successful real estate venture. The explosion in tech-based businesses provided lucrative sales to Internet startups. Everyone was high on the possibility of becoming an overnight millionare. Venture capitalists were more than willing to pay unheard of prices for land. The best part was that after technology tanked, Ted was able to buy much of the land back for a song. He and Janice were already rich. They became obscenely rich after selling the same land again.

After a six year stint on the city council, he became the town’s youngest elected mayor. By then he had secured his position among the town’s elite. Yet he never lost touch with the less fortunate citizens of Preston. He frequented shops and restaurants in every section of town, and was liked and respected by people from all walks of life. After 10 years as mayor, he retired to concentrate on personal ventures. His now expanded real estate business included out of state deals that made his name commonplace across the country. His running for Senate was no accidental occurence. He once shared his lifetime plan with Janice. It was a printed timeline with milestones listed by year, including his projected death. She shuddered at the calculated precision of the whole plot and he never mentioned it again. Ted indeed had it all figured out. He had hit most of the milestones he set for himself. Becoming a senator was the next one, but it wasn’t his ultimate goal by any stretch of the imagination. But one step at a time he told himself. Sieze the day, but plan for tomorrow.

Tracy, Ted’s waitress returned with his salad. Again, he enjoyed the unintentional show she put on as she sauntered toward the kitchen and waited for his chili. He nibbled the salad and finally took a sip of his tonic only to discover that it was club soda. He chuckled softly and motioned for Tracy.