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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Lightning Flash Non-Fiction: Writing; Dr. Who & March for Science; American Gods; YouTube Find


A lightning flash.
Credit: Pixabay.com



I was desperately and futilely looking for a topic for this evening’s post but couldn’t think of anything. So I decided to go with news bits or, what I like to call, lightning flash non-fiction (or even Lightning News Flashes). I call them that because they are very brief news flashes. Although I don’t believe in depending on a brief news story over full coverage of an event, both myself and you readers out there are short on time and I’m not a full-time news journalist. So I don’t rob you of the full story like too many so-called news outlets do just to attract an audience to make profit, I put the link to the full, or at least fuller, story in each flash. Just click on the link and you are there in a, uh, flash (provided you don’t have a slow internet connection). And so here they are:

Writing Project Updates: I finally finished copying and pasting the text from my manuscript of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to the template for the print edition.  However, in order to meet Amazon’s 24-page minimum, I now need to insert some ads of my past work. Also, last night, I reached just over 29,000 words of a 30,000-word goal writing my first novella! That is, my first that I haven’t abandoned.

Doctor Who Joins theMarch for Science: Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi, who currently plays the series’ title character, participated in this weekend’s March for Science, according to io9.com. The March is a global movement against the Trump administration’s denial of climate change.

American GodsTV Premiere and Comic Release: This TV series based on Neil Gaiman’s best-selling book starts April 30th! Sadly, yours truly’s cable doesn’t get Starz, the network that will be airing the series. He’ll have to wait until some generous patron donates a copy of the series to his local library. Or, if it’s really as good as they anticipate, just buy it on DVD. Also, an American Gods comic book is already out.

YouTube Sci Fi-nd: Yours truly was searching YouTube for a vintage Saturday Morning show to watch this morning (because he hates the majority of today’s kids programming since it seems to not really be for kids). And in his cyber video quest he found Big Foot and Wild Boy. This half-hour sci fi series was part of the Krofft Supershow of the ‘70s when glitter rock (a.k.a. glam rock), disco and Bigfoot were at their most high. Yes, it’s corny, but a good B-rated kind of corny.  



Part One of a Two Part Debut episode of  the 1970s' Bigfoot and Wild Boy

And so there’s your pop culture news in lightning flashes. Tune in next week for, hopefully, a bigger story of what’s going on in the writing world of sci fi and fantasy.


Until then . . .  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Tedious Job of Copying and Pasting to a Manuscript Template

Pasting my draft of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to the manuscript template for the print edition is taking a little longer than I thought it would. I didn’t realise how tedious it would be to cut and paste from my manuscript to the template. I have to do it paragraph by paragraph rather than in larger sections. When I did it the latter way with The Fool’sIllusion  it screwed up the entire format and so I had to keep readjusting the settings which doing so delayed the book’s release. I think the template is formatted based on paragraph breaks more than on larger units of text.

Cutting and pasting my manuscript one paragraph at a time was so redundantly frustrating that I had to stop after about an hour and get out of the house for a while. So I hopped into my Chevy Malibu (a.k.a. a “Classic”) and drove down to one of the nearby fast food joints for a diet cola and to work in some revisions of the short story I’m currently working on. I had to get away from the redundancy of working on a single project in one location. Speaking about that, author Allan Krummenacker has a post up at his blog about working on several stories simultaneously. It’s really interesting, especially when he talks about how he trained his mind to work on several projects at the same time.

I’m going to try to work a little more on the formatting for the print version of “Circa” this evening. Tune in both here and at my Facebook page for its progress and to be the first to know of its release! Also, if any of you have had experience with Word manuscript templates and know of an easier and more efficient way of cutting and pasting a story into the template then let me know. I would greatly appreciate it!


Until next time . . .  


Rows of identical cartoon rabbits.
Credit: Pixabay.com

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How To Rid a Book Template of Chapters; No-Fool’in Book Giveaway

I wish this were only an April Fool’s joke: the print edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” is not ready. Earlier in the week I started transferring the story to the manuscript template but then found out that there were some technical problems. The template was made for a book divided into chapters. I don’t use chapters in “Circa” since it’s a short work. But problems like these can easily be fixed. I simply placed the cursor of my mouse on the first tab of a chapter’s opening page. Then I back-spaced until I got rid of the chapter heading as well as the page break. The page breaks are often used so the next chapter won’t begin on the same page as the end of the previous one. I did this for the first page of each chapter.

Now I have to see if there are any other technical challenges in the template but I won’t be able to tell until I start pasting my story’s text to the template. Unless you’re an expert at book design, which I’m not, formatting your own book is really all about trial and error among other tasks in self-publishing.

Since I work with Libre Writer for typing my manuscript does this mean the above method only works for that? Actually, it will especially work for Microsoft Word. Word’s help website is where I learned how to do it. I had tried Libre’s online help centre but when I did a search for how to delete pages only results for deleting other things came up. It shows you how compatible Writer is with Word but how bad Libre’s help site is. But I can’t complain too much since Libre offers its software for free. The method for deleting pages may differ slightly with other word processing software.

I’m going to work on the print edition of “Circa” throughout the week. And since I may not be doing a post next weekend because one of my in-laws is tying the knot, I’ll let you know on my Facebook page when the print edition is out. Or maybe even when it’s not out. So visit my FB page throughout the week for updates on that as well as for other neat stuff.


Jester holding a scepter topped with a skull wearing a jester cap.
Credit: Pixabay.com



Since the print version of “Circa” has seemed like nothing but a joke ever since I said several months back, around Christmas, that it would be comingsooner than expected, I’ll make up for it with a no-fool’in April Fool’s offer. From midnight tonight through tomorrow, Pacific standard time, you can get a free e-copy of my short fiction collection, The Fool’sIllusion

Have you tried using Word templates to format your book? What has been your experience with them?


Until next time . . .  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Choosing Fonts and Wordprocessing Software

Light-up computer keyboard
Credit: Pixabay.com




A couple of weeks ago, I was about to format the print version of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” but ran into a software compatibility problem. When I tried transferring the text of my manuscript to the Word-based formatting template, offered for free by Kindle Direct Publishing, my word processing software, Libre Writer, by default used a sans serif font in place of the template's serif font. Sans serif is a font-type that does not have the elaborate design, such as extra curves and “tails”, that serif font has. It is strongly recommended to use serif for formatting a fiction book. I had to open the template file with Libre since my laptop doesn’t have Microsoft Word. At the time, my desktop, which had Word, was not working.

Libre Writer offers plenty of serif fonts but I wanted a  style most fitting for fiction. I looked at some articles about fonts. One of the articles recommended FontSquirrel.com as a source for free fonts. So I looked at the various serif styles there, and found one that one of the other articles recommended, Crimson (which is simply the name of the style, not the color), and downloaded it.

It was only last Sunday that I picked up my desktop from the computer repair service, but it no longer had Office on it. The repair technician had to remove Office in order to fix the computer. There's a more logical explanation to why he had to do that, but it's a story for another time. Earlier today, I was debating whether to download a copy of Libre Writer to my desktop or to use the text editing software, WordPad, that came with the Windows 7 OS that the computer repair tech installed.

Even though WordPad is a more advanced alternative to Notepad, and so is a text editor and not word processor, it has many of the same functions that word processing software has. Unlike Notepad, it has many of the same standard fonts, such as Times New Roman, as most word processing software. So I thought I would try it as an alternative to Word and see how it worked out. However, I just now found out that it may not be as compatible as I thought, at least not for using Word-based templates. One of the problems is that it does not divide the document up into pages like word processing software does. So I guess I'll be downloading a copy of Libre Writer after all. 

I hope to have the print edition of "Circa Sixty Years Dead" available on Amazon by the next post. 

Until next time . . . 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Supporters Angry With 'High Castle'’s Fictional Radio Program

io9.com announced Friday that Tweets about a fictional pirate radio show based on the Amazon streaming TV series, The Man In The High Castle, angered several Republicans and Trump supporters. No, the radio show is not a high seas scallywag geek program. Instead it refers to a type of underground radio. The conservative Twitter users thought the show was a real one produced by anti-Trump protesters and so reacted to its title’s hashtag of #ResistanceRadio by lashing out criticism. This was likened to the radio broadcast of H.G. Well’s War ofthe Worlds of which many listeners who tuned in late flew into panic thinking the Martians really were coming. However, in the case of Resistance Radio the reaction is one that says “the rebels are coming”.  

The Man In The High Castle is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. I can’t say a whole lot about the novel or TV show since I haven’t read the former or watched the latter, as much as I’m a big fan of Dick’s work. But I can say that, as with most science fiction, the TV series and its brainchild audio show mirror current events, particularly through the subgenre of alternative history. High Castle is set in a 1960s period after Nazi Germany and Japan have won the second world war and taken over the U.S. Anyway, the conservative Twitter users’ reaction to the hashtag shows that science fiction reflects the issues of the day regardless of the time period it is set in.

Science fiction is social commentary in many senses and this is particularly so with alternative history fiction, since history is a direct reference to past society. Certain periods of history have been used in literature and film to symbolise contemporary issues and this is definitely the case with alternative history (also referred to as alt-history). Like steampunk, dieselpunk, atompunk (which High Castle can be said to fall under this third one) and the many other -punk subgenres of sci fi, alt-history comments on modern day issues through a historical scope--comparing those issues with ones of the past--basically showing that history does repeat itself. An example is, though this may not be the intention of the TV series, equating an ultra conservative presidential administration like Trump’s to a fascist regime of the past like Nazi-ism.

 As far as conservatives’ lashing out at #ResistanceRadio goes, a similar situation occurred with the third Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, in 2005 with the Bush Administration. Conservatives and Bush supporters saw the movies as bad-mouthing the president of that time and accused them of comparing him with the villainous Emperor Palpatine. Whether such social commentary was intended or not, only the producers would know. But even if it was, and even if the same is true for High Castle and its Resistance Radio, is it a crime? After all, art is often a commentary to the issues of the time it’s made in, and that includes pop art such as film and TV. Not to mention radio. The First Amendment especially allows for this.
 
Until next time . . .   


A pirate's skull backed by crossed swords.
Credit: Pixabay.com

  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Machine is Robbing the Book Cover Artist

A cartoon robot is holding and pointing to a pencil.
Credit: Pixabay.com



It looks like I’m going to have to outsource for the photographic version to the cover of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I tried getting together a digital cover during the week and I just couldn’t do it in the little time that I have. It’s a hell of a lot tougher than one would at first think, but a lot of the problem isn’t that it’s tough. A lot of the problem is that I’m just not a digital artist. I am a freehand artist. Yet I know the majority of the book market today does not call for freehand illustrated book covers which is a damn, sad thing because it is a result of the total reliance on computer technology that is robbing the freehand artist of what he/she does best and puts their heart and soul into.

So while I don’t embrace the digital trend in book cover illustration, I need to sell my books and so I am willing to have a digital cover edition of my book made. I won’t go into the details of this circumstance here because I’ve already done that in several past posts. Here are the titles and links to them:








When I make my book cover illustrations from my own hands, I do so knowing I’m not going to make big sales on the books that I apply them too. So, in a way, I’m sacrificing a bigger bundle of money I would get in order to help keep freehand art alive and serve the needs and desires of the minority readership. But to make sufficient money from the books, I’ll have to give into that capitalistic notion that says the machine makes the product “better”. And so I have to offer, as an option, a digitally produced cover illustration edition of the book.

If given the choice, would you purchase an edition of a book with a hand produced cover illustration over one with a digitally produced one? In doing so, do you believe you would be contributing to preserving freehand art?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest-blogging On Fiction Writing, RPGs and LARPs

I apologise for not posting last week. I was unusually busy with other things. But this week author Christine Rains has been very kind to allow me to guest-blog at her site. Because my post is already live there, I’m going to keep the one here short and take a break on this Carnival/Mardi Gras of madness Saturday night by finishing up a card game of Arkham Horror and then watching some horror(ible) flicks!


Five board game player pieces wearing Carnival masks.
Credit: Pixabay.com



Speaking of games, for the past month or so Miss Rains has been featuring articles about the similarities between role playing games, also known as RPGs, and fiction writing and how the two influence each other. So my article there discusses the topic, particularly in light of live action RPGs (also known as LARPs). So please head on over to Christine’s blog and take a look at the article. Any comments you might have you may post in her box there. I’ll check for them periodically.


Until next time . . .  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Keeping Your Story Ideas In a Journal

The question many authors, myself included, get tired of hearing from people is “Where do you get your ideas?” Neil Gaiman said in a talk that Harlan Ellison used to answer the question by saying he “gets them from a little idea shop . . . .” In this same interview Neil said that he knew a writer who said he gets his ideas “from the idea of the month club.” 



My answer to that question: Life. That’s what all art is based on in one sense or another, life as the artist sees it. The ideas come from the artist’s own experiences, including the books that have influenced him or her. Each of us, writers and non-writers, has a story behind us. Our entire lives are stories. But not everyone is inclined to write their life stories down whether for their own personal records or for an audience. But even us writers are prone to forgetting when great ideas and impressions come to us, and so we carry a journal with us everywhere we go.

Some of the most popular and creative story tellers such as director/screen writer Guillermo del Toro carry journals with them. There’s a good article up at Comic Book Resources (CBR.com) about his Pan’s Labyrinth in commemoration of its 10 year anniversary. But there are a couple points where the article discusses how del Toro kept a journal of drawn sketches as well as written notes of ideas he would develop for his film.

I keep two journal booklets. I keep a larger one at home that’s about six-by-four inches and a smaller one in my backpack for when I’m away from the house. Most of the contents in these are handwritten notes though I’ll do a quick sketch of an image if an idea is easier to draw out and I’m in the middle of writing an entry and don’t want to run to get my sketch book or if I’m not home. The sketch book is for drawing concepts, many of which I use for my book cover illustrations as you’ve seen in past posts. I always title my entries, especially if they contain story ideas, so it’s easier to find them when I’m ready to start writing a new story. But even if the entry isn’t one that’s intended for a story but is maybe of an experience I went through during the day, I will give it a descriptive title any way so when I am looking for a story idea I can find it more easily.


A pencil sketch of a giant goddess statue with a corpse's face.
A concept sketch for the "Circa Sixty Years Dead" book cover from my sketch book.



Some authors will start writing their stories in their journals a chapter or section at a time. That works for when ideas for a single story come as time goes by. For myself, however, ideas for a single story don’t come that quickly. However, if I leave off working on a story for the day and then later an idea for it comes to me, then I’ll write it down in my journal to refer to it next time.

Do you keep a journal for your story ideas? What manner do you utilize that journal? How do you organize your entries?

Do you find your favourite authors’ journals as interesting as their published stories?


Until next time . . .  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Book Cover Illustration Status: The “Sketch” and Placement Stage

Victor Frankenstein in many film versions of Frankenstein had to steal body parts from graveyards for his creation. Like him, there are creeps out there who feel they have to do the same with images when it comes to creating their art, only they don’t go to graveyards but more so go to websites. But there’s a legal and ethical way to grab the parts you need in order to make your graphic creation and that’s by going to public domain sources. That’s what I’ve been doing for the photo-real book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. To gather the images I need, I’ve been turning to Pixabay.com. If you ever look at the images that I display in my weekly posts here, that name probably sounds familiar to you.


Pixabay is a really great source for graphic projects, including book covers. All their images are in the public domain and so you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement. Their contributors have been so generous with allowing free usage of their works that I tried contributing one of my own colored-pencil drawings at Christmas but it didn’t meet the website’s qualifications. I’ll have to find another way to donate to them.

 Well, as you can see in the picture below, I’ve made a rough sketch, if you will, of the book cover illustration. Therefore I’ve put together the basic images I’m using to see how they look in composition. In this case, those images are the temple ruin and the desert background. I still have to add the goddess statue which I’ll put in front of the temple like it is in the story. After I work with the placement of the objects in the picture, I’ll add (and in some cases subtract) the details such as darker tones for a night-time scene as opposed to the afternoon one seen here.

A photographic composition of a temple ruin superimposed onto a desert scene.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr./Pixabay.com



So it won’t look like a collage, I’m going to have to cut the edges of the superimposed objects, such as the temple, and overlap the lighter ground from the temple’s original picture with the darker desert sands. Am I doing this because I hate collages? Far from it. I love collages; they are so surreal and I love surrealism. But because this is for marketing purposes and photo-realistic covers are in, I need to make the scene look as real as possible. And I hate photo-real book covers, at least when it comes to fiction. If you’re like me and prefer touchy-feely art in your reading then head on over to Amazon to purchase my hand-produced book cover illustration edition of “Circa”

I’ll go over more about the book cover illustration and the photo-editing software I use for it, Paint.Net, next time.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Authors At Pop Culture Expo

Last Saturday’s Toy Game and Pop Culture Expo held at Sacramento’s Great Escape Games wasn’t quite all fun and games. It was fun, games, books and their authors. Local authors Nicholas Grabowsky (who wrote the novel adaptation of Halloween IV) and Angelique Anderson (writer of YA sci fi and fantasy) were displaying their books for sale. I had a great time talking with both of them.

Nick talked about his plans to present at more cons after having taken a hiatus. I talked to him about my current projects: my most recently published ebook, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, and the print and photo-real cover editions in progress. The great thing about talking with authors such as he and Angelique is that when you’re sliding down the hill, like I’ve been ever since I started my day job as library technician back in September, you get motivated and more focused on your own writing. That’s among other great things like the generous offers Nick gave me such as a free copy, signed by himself, of the comic book adaptation of his short story, “It Looks Like a Rat to Me,” adapted from his collection Red Wet Dirt. It’s a neat story of psychological and surreal terror, though the art work gets really graphic. It was a delight that Nick gave me that comic just for talking with him! Thanks again, Nick!

Speaking about “Circa” and hiatuses, I’m taking a small break from working on the print edition of my single short story book. Lately, I’ve come to believe that there is more of a demand for the photo-real cover illustration and so I decided to work with that first (as much as I hate photo realism on book covers).

Check back here for more on my and other authors’ work.


Until next time . . .  



A woman sitting at a pop culture convention table.
Friend Stephanie Rector, "Queen of Geeks", at her booth at the Toy, Game and Pop Culture Expo
Photo Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Charles Stross’s Article On Near-Future Science Fiction

Charles Stross just came out with a new novel titled Empire Games. Although I haven’t read it myself yet, (I’m just barely getting through his Atrocity Archives of his Laundry Files series) the way he explains it in his article at io9 makes the novel seem to do for global politics what many of Kim Stanley Robinson’s later novels have been doing for environmental issues: taking the realist approach. Because of this, it sounds like it’s a little more down to earth than his Laundry Files novels.

Stross explains in the article the difference between far-future science fiction and near-future science fiction using his novel as an example of the latter. He refers to far-future sci fi as mostly escapist fiction and near-future as more realistic. That may be so on a social level, but I’ve read a lot of far-future hard science fiction that gives the best of both worlds. If there’s ever a time we need the serious sci fi Stross talks about, it’s now in this dawn of an elitist presidency. Do you think such science fiction can help us through a difficult presidential administration?

Until next time . . .


Two cartoon robots.
Credit: Pixabay.com




Saturday, January 14, 2017

Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” Applied in European Parliament Report

If you saw my latest posts on my Facebook page earlier this evening you may be a little surprised why I’m writing here. Well, I just wanted to share with you an article from the online magazine, Futurism-- which covers the outlook of future science, technology and the two’s impact on society. The article, entitled “Europe Looking to Make AIKill Switch Mandatory”, by June Javelosa is the next step in today’s rapid process of science fiction becoming science fact, in this case robots. European Parliament just drafted a plan for regulations on artificial intelligence and so Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics is seems to be getting applied more than ever. Check out the article and then check out the European Parliament’s official report that it links to. Then come back here and tell me if you can find the Three Laws of Robotics applied anywhere in the report.


Until next time . . .  



A robot's head.
Credit: Pixabay.com

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 Writing Accomplishments and 2017 Goals


Glowing 2017 logo on a digital grid that stretches into the horizon line.
Credit: Pixabay.com


Somewhere between Christmas Day and the New Year’s Day, I get that dark feeling as if nothing will be on the other side of the threshold between the old year and the new. It’s almost as if all hell will break loose once we step through that threshold. In fact, this concern caused me to write a short story the day after Christmas for my writers’ critique group’s holiday party, a kind of time travel story you can say. I’ve only written the rough draft though, and because it’s holiday themed, particularly New Year’s, you probably won’t see it until the end of the year. But even though for some of us the other side of the portal to 2017 maybe seemed like a black nothingness, here we are; we are alive and that’s all that counts.

I thought I would look at my writing accomplishments from last year and my goals (or resolutions) for this new year of 2017. But first let me talk about how Christmas went. It went by great. Nothing that spectacularly different from other years, just spent it with the family. However, one of my gifts was my first card game since the last 5-plus years. It’s called Arkham Horror (not to be mistaken with the board game of the same name), a game that lives up to its name: it’s a damn horror trying to figure out how to play it. But it’s still fun and because it’s so complicated it’s intellectually challenging, and, perhaps best of all, it’s based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Mythos. So during the first week of the new year I had the card game laid out on my kitchen table trying to learn the game as I went but it takes me longer since I work a day job and, of course, I work my freelance writing.

Games with storylines such as Arkham Horror are a lot like writing as well as acting since they’re role playing games (RPGs). You make choices as one of the characters and that influences the game’s story. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book which I can’t believe I used to read those thinking of myself as literarily sophisticated, but hey, it’s what started many of us on avid reading and even as writers of fiction and so reading them is still a great way to introduce young people to reading fiction and, better yet, writing it. I did a blog post with a link to an article about gaming and writing fiction. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check it out; it’s really insightful. 

Well, here are . . .

2016’s Accomplishments:



  • Making an attempt to write a novel: So far it’s entitled Invasion of the Avatars, which I’m currently writing.




And . . .

Goals for 2017:

  • Submit short fiction to magazines and anthologies: I’m going to return to doing this and put self-publishing on a small hiatus.Set up a table for my books at a con or two.

  • Relaunch The Super Freek: I had put it on hiatus not long after launching it, but since my hours at my day job will be changing soon and I have a lot of blogging plans that won’t fit the agenda here at the Fantastic Site I’m going to start posting at The Super Freek again. I don’t know exactly when yet, but I’ll definitely let you know.

  • Give a new look to The Fantastic Site: It’s been at least two years since the last re-designing.

  • Start posting at The Fantastic Site by Saturday of each week again: I’ve been spilling into Mondays too much as you may have noticed, and that includes this evening. My apologies.



The following have already been in the plan and are more short term, so I really can’t call them resolutions like the above: I’m going to publish the print version of “Circa Sixty Years” and the photorealistic cover for both print version and e version.



So what are your accomplishments from last year and/or goals or resolutions for this new year? Did you get any interesting holiday gifts?


Happy New Year! And Until next time . . .