Monday, July 29, 2013 5 comments

Adjusting the Balance

Image source: openclipart.org
It’s often difficult to keep some kind of balance in life, and that goes double for a writer. You have a job to maintain (until you hit it big, of course… I’m still working on that), the Muse is often prodding you with shiny new story ideas or driving you crazy by withholding same. There might be things you want to attend to on evenings and weekends besides writing. (Like blogging?)

Lots of little projects have been back-burner’ed over the years here, and not all of them because I was busy writing. But the new-to-me car sort of forced the issue, and in a good way. After putting the insulation back up, and making enough room to actually park a car in the garage (imagine!), I spent this last weekend attacking the mess on and around the workbench… which, of course, led to other sections of “my” half of the garage (The Boy has his band stuff in the other half). The wife, a while back, bought one of those shop-vac heads that snaps onto a 5-gallon bucket. I got it out of the box, found a donor bucket, and it became the new home for spider webs (and the spiders themselves, when I could catch 'em). I got a truckload of trash out of there, by which I mean it about filled the back end of a Tacoma pickup. A large tool box that was constantly in the way ended up on the bench, as did a drill press that we’re “storing” for someone and has been in the way for years. I collected enough antifreeze to… oh, I don’t know what. We won’t have to buy any for a long, long time. Various pieces of lumber went up in the rafters.

I’m not quite done arranging things, but I’m getting close. Close enough to actually get back to tackling a project that has been hanging fire for a long time: making a fan bracket for the little Suzuki. When I put the big gas tank on, I was able to flip the horn bracket, but there wasn’t room for the OEM fan. Many people just ride it without a fan, but you can mount a computer fan. I just needed to cut holes in a piece of sheet metal, and the new Dremel was well up to the task.

So with Evernote keeping track of stuff I’m remembering I wanted to do, and a place to actually do them, I’m back on track. And I still have plenty of writing time in the evenings. Except that I’m supposed to be editing a book for +Angela Kulig right now… so back to it!

Friday, July 26, 2013 11 comments

Method to the Madness (#FridayFlash)

Hiding in plain sight might be a cliché, but it was often a valid strategy. The supervillain Warmonger owned a bar in a rough part of town, one named for himself. The bar had a private room in the back, accessible only to those who had a key to enter the alcove, and the right palmprint to proceed.

When Pulse entered the private room, several others were already seated. Some nodded, some stared or glared. Not all supervillains are unsociable, of course, but neither is it a completely invalid assumption. So Pulse returned the nods, ignored the others, and crossed the room to the keg and mugs. Those who were allowed in the private room were not charged for their beer, but it was strictly self-service.

Jaguar waved Pulse to an empty seat, and let him settle before speaking. "Warmonger should be here any second now," he whispered.

Pulse nodded. "Perhaps he is bringing a keg of better beer. Are things improving for you?"

Jaguar snickered, then nodded. "Yeah. The title to my house came in the mail a few weeks ago, not long after you pulled that bank caper. Bank says I'm paid in full. Was that you?"

"Let us say, I watch my friends as well as my enemies."

"Good. Pulse is here," said Warmonger, coming through the door. "We can get started, then." Ever since a series of schisms a generation ago and more, supervillains did not have a formal organization. Still, they found it useful to meet on occasion, to cooperate on larger capers or resolve disputes. Warmonger, a third-generation villain, had a firm grasp of the history and motivations of his fellows. Thus, he was more coordinator than ringleader. The heroes might see it differently, but who cared what they thought?

So Warmonger poured himself a mug, and leaned across the end of one table. "Pulse," he said, "some of our associates are a little worried. There's talk about you possibly switching sides. Personally, I don't think there's nothin' to it, but you oughtta have a chance to clear the air." He nodded and took a seat.

Pulse drained his mug, and stood. "I rather expected this," he said. "Still, had I even seriously considered switching sides, would I have shown up today? If I were carrying a wire, I would have tripped the alarm. I set up that system myself, and even I have no way of circumventing it short of destroying it. Warmonger himself can verify that it is operating normally." He looked to their host, who nodded.

"My actions in the last few months," Pulse continued, "whether for vengeance or income, were for my own benefit. That they have benefitted others was a side-effect. Although that too has redounded to my own benefit, by taking some heat off me."

"So passing information about Republic Industries to the heroes was for your gain?" DeVine's tone and glare were disbelieving. "I can see the bank caper, but…" he shrugged.

Pulse frowned. "Republic's shoddy products killed one of my minions," he said. "Vengeance is always proper."

"How does handing the heroes the keys to the joint do anything for you?"

"DeVine, you lack vision," said Pulse. "The heroes will do my dirty work for me. And, there is some personal gain involved… and not only for myself, but the rest of you as well." He paused.

"Spill it, Pulse," Warmonger said at last. "What's the scheme?"

"Tomorrow, Republic Industries holds its annual shareholders' meeting. The heroes will go in, guns blazing as they say, to arrest Palmer Lanois and most of the upper echelons of the company." Pulse smirked. "I have shorted Republic's stock, and I suggest you do likewise, if you would enjoy a quick, risk-free profit."

The other supervillains, after a moment, joined Pulse's maniacal laughter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013 6 comments

Looking Back on Vacation

I realized a long time ago, when I need a car, it will come to me at the right time. My Civic has over 450,000 miles on it (the actual mileage is indeterminate, as the speedometer only works about 5% of the time these days), it uses oil now, and the gas mileage has been dropping off. So when we went to Florida in January, and my brother Solar said he was planning to sell his Miata come spring, I told him I wanted first dibs.

When he got ready to sell, and realized I was serious about buying it, he waxed enthusiastic. “Yeah, you can fly down, we can go to the autocross. We’ll have a bro-weekend, and you can drive it home!” Works for me… but then the wife realized she didn’t have a lot going on, that week after the 4th, Daughter Dearest hunted down a resort near the beach (like across the road), and it was vacation time!

I still flew down in advance, to spend the weekend with Solar. I packed enough stuff to get me through the weekend, in a bag that tucked easily under the aircraft seat, and the wife agreed to drive me to the airport so we wouldn’t have to pick up a car later on. So we bolted out the door Saturday morning, got two miles, and Daughter Dearest called. “Does Dad want to take a copy of the resort reservation?”

“I don’t think he’ll need it,” saith the wife.

“Well, he left his phone, too.”

Sigh. Turn around, grab the paper and phone, and now we’re on the way. Since my phone was making a bunch of chirps and bings, I stuck it between my legs for easy access. Of course, that meant I left it in the car when I got to the airport. Fortunately, the wife found it and called Solar, to let him know what had happened. I bummed a phone call off the guy sitting next to me on the plane, when we arrived in Tampa, to find that things had been arranged for the pickup. Whew.

So Solar and I had a pretty good time, eating, drinking, being merry, and flinging his 240SX around at the autocross. That took us to late Sunday afternoon, and he handed me the Miata keys so I could meet the rest of the family at the resort. We got there almost simultaneously!

We mostly spent mornings at the beach, the pool in the afternoons. Solar came over for dinner a couple times, and we ate out some, but his job is finally picking back up so he wasn’t around all the time. Our one touristy thing was a trip to the Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, just a few miles down the road. They rescue and (where possible) rehabilitate injured seabirds, but those with permanent injuries have a safe place to live out their lives. There were plenty of free-ranging birds there as well; I think they figured out that handouts were a regular part of life there.

For the rest of this post, I give you a slideshow (with captions). Sorry about the Flash trash, I figured Google would have embraced the HTML5 future by now…



The trip home was interesting. I expected to have to be careful to not leave the wife behind… but she was driving that minivan like Shirley Muldowney up I-75, and I was wailing pretty hard to keep up. I think someone wanted to get home. :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 7 comments

Writing Wibbles

Well, not really writing wibbles this week, because there hasn’t been much writing so far. But with Water and Chaos now launched, maybe I can get back to it soon. Since mid-January, we (that is, the co-op) have released:
  • Accidental Sorcerers
  • The Crossover
  • Oddities: an Anthology
  • Pickups and Pestilence
  • Water and Chaos
Five books in six months is a hefty production schedule, no matter how you look at it. If you’ve missed any, hit the My eBooks page to see where they’re available.

So… since there’s no writing to discuss otherwise, and I haven’t shared much “weirder than fiction” that happens around FAR Manor lately, I’ll do something about the latter. I started sorting through a huge pile of photos from vacation last night, and deleted 80 (out of around 500). That’s a job nowhere near complete, so there’s no slideshow just yet. But it’s coming.

We returned home Saturday evening, in good order. I was driving the Miata I bought from Solar (my brother), and everyone else was in the van. (I was expecting to have to remind myself to not get too far ahead of them, but instead I was often wailing up the highway to keep up. Miatas aren’t geared for all-day freeway driving, kind of like my little motorcycle.) Of course, I got home, and The Boy had stuffed his Acura in the garage space I’d spent an entire weekend making ready for my car. To make matters worse, he was standing outside with his cousin Kobold, who was smoking in my Civic. I was more than a little peeved, and let them know, and told him to get his car out of there.

“Fine, let me take Kobold home first.” They jumped in the Civic, took off, and that was the last I saw of them until morning. Which did nothing to improve my mood, of course. (He’s using my Civic since his car has serious issues, which I will get to shortly.)

He showed up in time for breakfast, and I stayed on him about getting his car out. “We’ll have to push it,” he said, and repeated the litany of problems he’d told me about over the phone on vacation: burning oil, missing a lot, needed major work, etc. Of course, we’ll have to push it meant that he sat in the car and steered, while EJ and I pushed. We got it about 2/3 of the way, before a slight incline defeated us, and The Boy decided to fire it up for the last 30 feet. Indeed, smoke billowed out the tailpipe, and I heard it miss a couple times as he backed it into a pull-off spot.

With the car out of the way, I put the Miata in the garage then joined The Boy and EJ. The Boy already had the hood up on the Acura and was talking about all he had to do: tear the engine down, do a ring job, probably replace the entire ignition system…

“What’s that for?” I asked, pointing to a loose, thick cable coming through the firewall. “Your stereo system?”

“Yeah,” he said. “The fuseholder melted, so I just took it off.”

“Um… you might want to take the other end off the battery.” I lifted the other end, big around as my index finger, attached to the positive terminal.

“Why?”

I swear I didn’t plan this, but I let the cable go, and it bounced down and contacted the engine block, making a hefty pop sound. “Because it’s bouncing around while you’re driving, and it’s shorting out the battery, and that’s why your car is missing sometimes.” I laughed. “You really need to get that off of there.”

“Well, it’s still burning oil,” he grumbled, and went to get a wrench. The way he tossed the wrench on the garage floor afterwards, suggested he was more than a little peeved about this weapons-grade brainfart.

That’s the kind of stuff we deal with at FAR Manor.

Friday, July 12, 2013 14 comments

Apotheosis (#FridayFlash)

Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres,
The Apotheosis of Homer
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Earth, Air, Fire, Water. I needed them all for this magic, and a shoreline gave me that. Spells combining all four elements were the most difficult of all, but I had studied long and hard. I knew what to do.

I was born on this long, narrow peninsula that foreigners call the Land of the Dawn Greeters. I was never able to rise early enough to join the People and greet the sunrise, as they claim to have done each day since the Creator brought the First Dawn to Termag, but I always knew I was different in other ways. More significant ways. It has taken a lifetime to learn what those differences are.

I leave my clothes on the sand, and walk across the beach and into the ocean. The water is cool, but not uncomfortable, and the salt smell reminds me of my childhood among the People. This one morning, I was awake before the People, but only because I had been up all night preparing the magic.

“Tropir.” I turn at the sound of my name.

“Komu.” My oldest childhood friend, now a woman grown. Nudity is not a tabu among the People, so I feel no shame before her. “Please do not plead with me,” I tell her. “I must do this. If it does not kill me, then I will learn who I truly am.”

“It’s true, then,” she says. “Have you another to bear witness?”

“I do not, Komu. I would be honored if you will be my witness.”

She says nothing, but nods and sheds her own clothes. Naked, she joins me in the surf. I feel no yearning, even though we had lain together, in an illicit pairing, the last night before I was sent into the wide world. It had meant something to who we had once been; but twenty years, whether in one place or traveling the world, remolds a person as it will.

With Komu at my side, I turn my back on the shore. This particular beach is shallow for a long way out, especially at low tide. It is nearly twenty reaches before I stand waist-deep. Earth under my feet, Water to my hips, Air above, and the morning sun brings Fire. I summon—or rather, connect with—each element.

“What have you seen, out in the wide world?” Komu asks.

“Many things,” I reply. “Places where snow covers the ground year-round. Mountains that smoke. People in mortal combat with misshapen, twisted things. A vast forest, where the trees are awake and speak, and the Unfallen roam. And people… simply being people.”

“What have you learned?”

“Many things. But one thing I never learned was how to awake an hour before sunrise.” We share a sad laugh. “Stand away, Komu. I know not how this magic will affect what is immediately around me.”

She moves away, and I gather all four elements, my intent combining them all. While Fire and Water can never be combined on their own, the moderating influence of Earth and Air can allow all to join. The sea bottom churns, a hot mist rises around me, blown by strange winds. The elements pull at me from without, the magic pushes from within, and I feel the changes they work. There is some pain, but not as much as I would have thought. I will not die, but rather…

Komu gasps as I leap into the air, the sun making my skin glow like fire. I slam into the water, skimming the bottom, and leap once again. I release the magic, for I no longer need it. My witness shouts with joy as I leap and splash, leap and splash, flying into the horizon to join the rest of the lesser gods.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 5 comments

Indie Life/Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month.

It’s summer, and summer means vacation! Vacation means getting away from work stuff, and sometimes family and life stuff. If you’re lucky, you can turn off your writing brain for a while—because, whether you’re making a living at this or just getting started, this is your work, right?

So when it’s time for a break, take that break. Keep a notebook in case you need to remember something, but give your Muse a rest.

(And yes, I’m posting this while on vacation.)


Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!

Thursday, July 04, 2013 15 comments

Preliminaries (#FridayFlash)

+Helen Howell gave me a challenge when I said I was trying to think of a #FridayFlash this week: “Write me a 100 word story using cylinder - goglet - liberate - off you go.” I made it a brief glimpse into Termag’s history.

(A “goglet” is a stone vessel, designed to keep water cool.)



Source: openclipart.org
Protector Ethtar watched his friend work. “What is this?”

“You’ll see.” Chelinn lifted the hot cylinder with bronze tongs, and placed it in a bowl.

“And what is my part, here?”

Chelinn turned up the goglet, filling the bowl with cool water. “This has to cool quickly,” the warrior-mage said. He stirred the concoction with a glass rod. “Ah.” The contents began to foam and smoke, and he took the bowl to the window. “Now! Call the wind. Send this all over the city.”

“Why?”

“Before we can resettle Vlis, we must liberate the spirits of the original residents.”

Wednesday, July 03, 2013 2 comments

Launch!

I tuned the Launch Cannon to fire at B&N and Amazon pretty much simultaneously. That actually worked out pretty well. As I’ve been researching in the last month or so, I’ve learned several ways I could further streamline the formatting process. Now, I have extremely clean EPUB and MOBI output, which takes less than an hour to clean up from Scrivener, and a fairly easy way to get the text to a typesetting program for printing (the next frontier).

Next up, the dreaded Smashwords thing. Actually, I’m going to hand them an EPUB and see if anyone complains about other formats before I do the .DOC file thing… so if you depend on Smashwords for anything non-EPUB, let me know right away!

Just in case you missed the cover reveal and blurb last week, I’ll go ahead and repeat it for you here:

Infiltrating a nest of rogue sorcerers can be hazardous… to your heart.

Mik and Sura are growing ever stronger as apprentice sorcerers, but neither knew what living in Mik's hometown would do to their relationship. Torn apart by misunderstanding, Mik volunteers for a hazardous mission in a distant land. Now Sura must learn to trust, and Mik must learn the true meaning of home.

And now, I get to take a brief break from writing, editing, and production for a while. I’m going to read some stuff now!

Monday, July 01, 2013 5 comments

Scratchy Weekend

FAR Manor has an attached two-car garage, and a detached three-car garage. With all that garage space, we are able to park: one minivan and two motorcycles.

How the fiber hath fallen…
To add to the “fun,” the detached garage (or “Carriage House” in FAR Future) has insulation in the ceiling… or rather, had. It pretty much all fell down over the last year or so. With all the junk in there, including stuff that Jam asked us to store and has pretty much forgotten about, there hasn't been room to maneuver ladders around as needed to put it back up.

But… if I have to replace my Civic soon, I’ll want some garage space. And so, once more unto the breach! The detached garage has a single-car door, and a two-car door. The Boy has his band stuff in the two-car section, so I figured it would be easier to clear the other side. I removed: a riding lawn mower, The Boy’s 1970-vintage dirt bike, a chipper-shredder, a go-kart, a Mantis tiller, boxes, junk, more junk, and more junk. We about filled a pickup truck (red, not white) with trash… including some of the un-repairable insulation.

Lifting up the fallen…
With the battlefield mostly clear, I got to work. Up the stepladder to tack up the insulation near the wall and the middle, then up the ladder to tack it at the peak. Some of the paper had gone bad, and I had these little metal rods to hold them up… until I ran out.

But, up in the attic/crawlspace (which was intolerably hot until I put a small fan up there to circulate the air), is a veritable lumber yard of stuff left by the previous owners and their own projects. The most helpful thing I found was long strips of wood, about 2" wide, and I tacked them up about halfway to support the insulation. This helped a lot, and I managed to finish the back half before supper. I tacked up another long strip on the front half to get a head start on that.

Let's hope it stays now.
So… this afternoon, after a couple false starts, I was off and running. I was hoping that I could tack up the bottom half all the way across, then climb into the crawlspace to finish the top half, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

But, with much upping and downing on the ladders, and another strip near the top of the front half to hold up some of the rattier insulation, I managed to get it done.

And now, it’s time to take my itchy self to bed. I get to rest at the office all week!

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