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Moleskine, the perfect pen, and other hipster issues

moleskine1I must have deliberated over what Moleskine I wanted to get yesterday more than anything in my life! I stood in Powell’s Bookstore for 30 minutes picking them up, putting them back, placing them next to each other, comparing line widths, making them kiss, checking features, until finally I decided on one that I thought I’d actually use. I’d then browsed Web pages for lists of ways in which people use Moleskines (is it really pronounced /mole-SKEEN/ and not /mole-SKIN/? That feels as pretentious as pronouncing it /nee-an-dur-TAL/), because I was already doubting if I’d ever want to actually use the thing more than my phone, which I am never without.

Interestingly (not really), just the day before, someone reminded me of Google Keep as a note taking tool. I’d checked it out and saw I’d already used it a couple of years ago, once, putting in it a solitary gumbo recipe. I told myself I use Evernote!

So, I looked t my Evernote account. Sure, maybe a dozen notes . . . over a period of nearly 10 years.

Funny thing is (not really), I am all the time wanting to take a note down and looking at my phone ineffectually, willing it to read my mind and figure out how to store the bit of info, the reminder, address, gift idea, website, whatever that is hanging tenuously to the front of my mind. I’ll generally not think of what I want to do to take said note, lie to myself and say ah, I’ll remember it! And then one shiny object later, I’d forgotten I’d even had something I wanted to save much less what it was. And no improvement made in my note taking ability.

So yesterday, I made the effort to learn how to use Google Keep effectively (why Keep over Evernote? Well, Evernote charges for decent features, and since I already use the Google empire for everything in my life from email to photo storage, I figured why not give a hacker one more part of my life should they get my Google password?), set up a widget on my phone for easy note taking, and even converted all my Evernote notes to Google docs to import into Keep.

So, once I was all set up and ready to use Keep for all my note taking needs, what did I do? I excitedly went out at bought the Moleskine, because I love the idea of sitting somewhere to write incoherent thoughts longhand.

I did find a cool Molehack (I just made that up) about segmenting your Moleskin into sections (like using labels in Keep) and using the back few pages as an index (like using Keep’s excellent search function — including text in images!)

The idea of having my Keep available all the time, and highly searchable, is paramount to my needs. But I still can’t shake the desire I have had all my life to write notes, write thoughts, story ideas, snippets, character and dialog ideas, the price of a USB drive, in a notebook I can date and file away.

Obviously I needed a new pen.

A few years now my mostest favoritest pen has been the Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm pen. I will go out of my way to find them. I have had to order them online before. I love those pens! But, it seemed like it might not cut it for being the best pen for a Moleskine, which seem to be kind of finicky. To the Googles!

Found a website where someone reviews a bootyton of pens specifically for Moleskine use! Gawd love obsessive-compulsive people. My EnerGel was in the list, ranked not bad. But I wanted better! I searched and found their highly suggested Uni-Ball Signo Micro 207. Turns out, love it! I just finished numbering every 190 pages of the Moleskiene.

Oh, that little tab out the side of the notebook in my pic? That’s an adhesive pen holder attachment. What?! Yes!

Does it matter to me that most of the sites I found advocating for and providing hacks for Moleskine use were from before smartphones became ubiquitous pocket computers? No, why, should it?

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Why you should research a bit before you write

(photo is Aaron Siskind's)

(photo is Aaron Siskind’s)

So during my writing retreat yesterday, I wrote a chapter involving a character in an escape pod that’s tumbling through space. A not bad chapter for a first draft, I think.

But I used my uneducated assumptions about what the occupant would or wouldn’t feel, perceive, of a tumbling craft in space, to create some tension and drama, and drive the plot forward. What I thought I knew, I made important to the action and actions further in the book. I did this without researching first the reality of the situation — and I was wrong.

Why did I do this? Usually I research things before I write about them, at least a little bit. Well, I did promise myself yesterday that I would just get words on the page and not worry about anything else, I would keep myself offline and away from distractions. Which, in that sense, worked. I got a lot of writing done.

But now, having researched today (I’ll share the Reddit post I made on my Patreon feed, and the chapter draft itself to patrons at that level), I realize I absolutely can’t have it work that way and will need to rewrite the chapter and plan different later events.

Part of me wonders, can’t I just fudge it? I mean, I’m not writing hard SF, it’s an adventure story. I’m already doing impossible things regarding faster-than-light travel (of course, that’s a necessity in any SF story that’s going to take place beyond our solar system), how dark mater works (probably), space-time, relativity. . . . But, the thing is, a lot of that is mostly theoretical fields and the fudging has been necessary to even have a space adventure story at all! Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good at keeping with the integrity of classical physics: the danger of high-velocity objects in space, what exposure to space really does (or doesn’t do actually) on a person, etc. Whether or not a person inside a tumbling pod in space tumbles with and how, on the inside of it, falls right smack in the middle of basic classical physics. Like, junior high centrifugal and centripetal force, basic.

Well, I guess I have no choice. I have to be logically consistent, and definitely don’t want to be scoffed at by readers who paid attention in school, or have essentially ever ridden in a car. I better get creative. . . . (Gasp! The tragedy!)

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On your mark, get set. . . delay!

As a member of Willamette Writers (I’ll do a post on that later), I get access to renting a room for a day at their writer’s house, not far from where I live. It’s a memorial house where all the rooms have been converted to writing offices, a library, and a meeting room. Each writing room is themed, and right now, I am sitting in the “Narnia room” during a 15-hour writing retreat. Doing this is something I plan on doing at least monthly, in addition to finding . . . no, making, more time for my writing.

I’m having to vacillate back and forth on how much time and effort I need, and want, to put into my writing and on re-learning Web development skills (which have become nearly obsolete the last few years). The former is my passion and want, the latter is a “smart plan” for making me viable again for solid day jobs.

A lot of situations and decisions, of many sorts, personal and otherwise, have been smacking me in the face lately and I’ve been a slack-mouthed leaf on the wind (like that image?) with a lot less soaring and lot more impalement avoiding. (If you get the reference, you’re a member of my target audience.)  The last few weeks I’ve been making passes here and there at the groundwork of being an independent writer: research, getting ready for social media restart, setting up a Patreon, but little actual writing work lately — sort of the necessary component to being a writer, independent or otherwise, no?

I set up the Patreon rewards, and contribution, to help promote my making the time to do more. And I’m going to have a change in the day job that will also help promote my making that time. Unfortunately, my personal life, not to get too specific, is less than conducive to my focusing on being creative. I have yet to learn the skill of shutting everything off and away while I work on this Being Creative thing.

That’s where this 15-hour personal retreat comes in. I plan on using this “forced” writing day to kick myself in the pants and really focus on the actual writing. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to prepare . . . see, I’m a little stuck in the writing of the novel sequel (my number one writing priority right now). I’ve hit an exposition section that’s bogged me down. And the outline of the novel after this section isn’t fleshed out. So I’m in the middle of a slog I need to plow through and leave to later editing to make it less expository, but I don’t have the “I can’t wait to get to X action scene coming right up” to help me get through it. So I feel mired and unmotivated.

Often, I would move to working on another story, but I’ve delayed long enough. I’m writing this blog post as a necessary Get Words On Paper exercise to get my mind and fingers moving, and as part of my restarting my social media presence (yay multi-purpose distractions!), and then I’m not leaving this room until I’ve gotten past the slog and have the plot moving again. Because this sequel has been in the making far, far too long, and too much of my whole waiting to really push being an independent writer has waited on my getting this second, big novel out.

So, this is a test. I use this day and get the work done. I use the “opportunity” that my day job is affording me to also make the time and opportunity I need, I learn how to shut the personal distractions away to allow both of those opportunities to make a difference, and I know I can keep going.

If not, if I can’t, then I guess I finally give up and start re-teaching myself Web/app development coding. Wish me luck.

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Eat Local

So we moved to Portland, Oregon not long ago, but I still haven’t explored all the area has to offer yet. Sadly, independent bookstores have taken a back-burner until recently — I’ve spent my time at Powell’s which is sort of indie… in the sense that they’re locally owned and are amazing at bringing in speakers and hosting events. But they’re still pretty large and semi-corporate.

I started doing a search for local small bookstores and visiting them, hoping to find one half as good as BookMarx (formerly Book Castle), that I could claim as “mine” and visit an annoying amount. Among the candidates I found was Longfellows, which will be its own post one day. Not a place my lungs can spend too much time in, but man, that will be the first place I will go for anything leatherbound, hard to find, first edition…. Went to another couple nice, but bland places. Then came across Another Read Through.

image grabbed off their web site without permission. All rights theirs. (Old pic as they look better currently.)

(Old pic of theirs as they look better currently.)

First, it’s set back in a gentrified but fun area of Portland’s Mississippi Ave, and sadly I’ve missed discovering it every time I’ve been on that road! So when it came up on Google Maps, I did a double-take — there’s a bookstore there?! But as soon as I walked in, I fell in love.

It’s small, but it’s stocked full of bookshelves boasting all genre. New and used. And the setup, cleanliness, layout, is all very welcoming. They have an upstairs for their mystery books, but also a reading lounge and honor-bar coffee cart. Very comfy!

One of the things that jumped out at me is they have one of the best queer lit and non-fiction section I’ve seen of any small bookstore. I love that they have that. And also, a pretty large selection of local and independent authors. That certainly jumped out to me.

My biggest (unintentional) test of if I’d like the place came as I browsed for sci-fi/fantasy books. A very decent selection of used books… but, sadly, not much that I was looking for, a lot of the kinds of books you’d have gotten from a SF book club in the 80s or will find in yard sales, and that made me a little sad. But when I asked the proprietor for some authors, she recognized each and every one: Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney, N.K. Jemisin, and a couple others…. Now, I know, to those of us who know SF as a field, will recognize those names, as well as many people who are interested in authors who inhabit places of non-privilege. Fortunately, I have my friends and peers who are familiar with both. but you’d be surprised how many booksellers have no idea who Octavia Butler or even Samuel Delaney are. So even though the store didn’t carry anything by them at that moment, the fact the proprietor knew them was a huge plus for me.

But not only that, she went out of her way and found and suggested a story anthology that included Butler and Nalo Hopkins and Ursula K. LeGuin and Vandana Singh and others, edited by favorite editors of mine (after Ellen Datlow), Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.

So, after another enjoyable visit, I went back recently and asked about carrying my books. Long story short, they’re sitting on their shelves now. And that makes me so happy! My new favorite bookstore has my books.

But that’s certainly not the reason to go visit them if you’re in the Portland area! (Although, you know, if you did want to go there to buy my book, who am I to stop you?) There big enough, friendly and helpful, and support local and indie authors… what could be better in a local bookstore?! http://www.anotherreadthrough.com

Their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnotherReadThrough

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Reports of print’s death are exaggerated

Okay, I never actually said print was dead, did I? Well, I did clarify, at least, yeah? So, to cease to dissemble, the big news is this:

My books are not in actual dead tree paper print! I’ve been spending the last… goodly amount of time in editing, formatting, proofing, cover creation, and the end results can be sent to your grubby but discerning and generous hands!

Singularity_Deferred_Cover_for_KindleSingularity Deferred: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

First Hand of the Night: Amazon

I’ll soon be hawking my wares to local bookstores friendly to local independent authors.

This is the next big benchmark of both my career as an independent author and as a hopeful publisher. Some inside baseball: My goals have been to fully grok ebook creation and distribution. Then, research, understand, and delve into the vagaries of print publishing my own works. I feel I should do at least one, maybe two, more works of my own before I feel competent in that regard. The next stage from there is to publish another’s work.

Then I have some choices to make regarding where to go from there. Do I want to continue solely publishing my own work and the occasional compatriot? Or do I want to expand and actually become a publisher legit, and pay proper fees and royalties to authors to publish? It’s one of my dreams, but how much might that take from my greatest goal and dream of “simply” being a writer? I’ve said before how Jason Sizemore and his Apex Publishing is a model for me, and in many ways still is. But, how far do I want to go down that road? I still have a lot of thinking to do.

In the meantime, buy my stuff? *cheesy grin* Spread the word? Meantime, I’m still working on that novel sequel, quit bugging me!

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More stories made available

front-image-1cover-imagesword-remembers-cover

Just wanted to mention, I just added a few of the older stories on Smashwords (and, soon, all other ebook merchants like Kobo and Barnes and Noble). I’ve added new images and links over on the Fiction Page.

The ones I added were:

  • A Price in Every Box” — This story looks at what happens when Pandora finally finds what she released centuries ago, and locks him away in a suitcase. Can the world handle life without evil?
  • The End of the Beginning” — Where we’re taken along with the first human time traveler to the very end of the universe. Getting stuck there isn’t the only surprise he encounters. (This story was originally published in M-BRANE SF magazine.)
  • The Sword Remembers” — When a stranger from a modern land surprises Sarah and her adventuring companions mid-fight with a wizard, everyone gets more than they bargained for. Can he find his way back home? Can she find a way to deal with him?

These were stories that had been only available in the collection, First Hand of the Night. I’m working on an updated version of that, and formatting it as my first print book. It should end up around 40,000 words, which will make a nice, short novel-length book of stories. If that goes well, then Singularity Deferred goes to the print process!

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Print is still dead, sorta

Wow, has it really been nearly 3 years since I first wrote about Apex Publishing along with my opinion on consuming short fiction? In that post, Print is Dead, I opine that paper as the means of consuming short fiction was terminal, if not dead already. I still feel that way; nothing has changed on that front.

As I said then, there are still some holdouts in the magazine business, publications that have a name to bank on. Though, I do wonder if nostalgia, or even some ironic hipsterism, may lead to a rejuvenation of print anthologies of short stories and novellas….  I doubt it. Even if there is a small rise in print, it will be niche and short-lived.

But here is the point of my returning to the topic: 10 years ago Apex Publishing began as a small project by a guy with an idea and a dream. Well, so I assume — his memoir isn’t out yet. But in his latest blog post, Apex owner John Sizemore describes that modest beginning:

Although I started the publication for the simple goal of channeling my creativity, it didn’t take long for me to realize something else. I would rather be editing, publishing, and writing than doing software development.

Since my original blog post, Apex has significantly exploded their print business for long fiction, while still breaking waves and doing amazing with their e-magazine for short fiction. And really, that’s just incredible and, to be honest, quite envious. As it happens, Apex as a business, and Sizemore as a publisher and editor and entrepreneur, are my models. Now that I’m beginning to solidify vision for Tragic Sans Press, he’s done exactly what I want to be doing, but in our own genre niche.

I love Apex (I have the t-shirt!), and respect the heck out of Sizemore. I congratulate them on the last 10 years and wish them decades more success!

Now, back to work making my own dreams come true…

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Mark Z. Danielewski comes to visit

danielewski-1Just a couple days following the appearance of Neal Stephenson at Powell’s west, one of my favorite postmodern author’s, the risky and groundbreaking genius, Mark Z. Danielewski came to the main Powell’s to talk about his new book series, The Familiar. It’s a 27-volume series inspired by serial television, with many characters with intertwining lives, all written in each character’s unique typography.

Danielewski rocked my world around 2002 with his novel, House of Leaves. (Sadly, I can’t get this blog to properly color the word “house” in blue as it should be.) Every work of his, Danielewski deconstructs the idea of the “novel” as a form, and reinvents it. Using every trick of typography imaginable (and some unimaginable), he turns the act of reading a novel into a unique and active experience that derives from the story, but exists outside the story.

danielewski-3Reading a novel is a passive experience, for the most part. Sure, it’s far more active than sitting in front of a screen where nothing is expected from you except a working sensory system. A novel has you converting symbols on a page into meaning and engage your imagination to bring the narrative to life. But it’s still passive in the sense that the traditional novel is just a platform, a means of ingesting a story.

Danielewski’s works expect the reader to be more actively involved than to just look at words in a continuous line from one page through a serious of ordered pages til the end. His books demand for you to interact with it. To actually make choices with how you are going to ingest the narrative, and thus with how the narrative is revealed and understood. My reading of House of Leaves, or Only Revolutions, is going to differ from yours not just because we might be imagining the same story with differences, such as hair color or tone of voice. Our experience of the book will differ structurally, fundamentally.

danielewski-2Well, anyway, he read a relevant bit from House of Leaves, and an interesting chapter from his first volume of The Familiar. And his Q&A session was great! Man, I so wish I’d taken notes. Most people asked really thoughtful questions, and his answers were so well-said, so insightful, and inspiring. The only thing I can remember, and is probably the least interesting thing he said, was “The way you live your life will affect the kinds of things you create.”

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Neal Stephenson, Seveneves, and envy

Neal StephensonI didn’t get to ask the question I wanted to. A question I’ve wanted to ask him for years. Alas.

Continuing the amazing roll of meeting favorite authors since moving to Portland, tonight I saw Neal Stephenson at Powell’s for the release, on this day, of his new novel, Seveneves. He read a portion (very witty), and he spoke a bit about the inspiration of the novel,being 10 years in the making. He explained that part of what took so long is that in order to make a convincing “ark” story, you needed to have an apocalyptic event that’s urgent and soon enough that there’s no time to solve the cause of the doom, but not so impending that there’s no time to build a humanity-rescuing ark ship. And, a doom that’s absolutely certain and not deniable by some, “like… climate change.” *grin*

He took questions, and fortunately, no one in this store full of geeks and nerds, did anyone feel that now that they had a microphone, they needed to soliloquize for 10 minutes before, maybe, getting to a question. Everyone was succinct and interesting.

Yet, time ran out before I could ask mine.

So, here it is, and if anyone knows Neal Stephenson, maybe you can pass it along: “This is going back a bit, so my apologies if it’s a tired question, but, Cryptonomicon appears to be set in our, ordinary world. And yet, there’s clues* that it’s not quite the world we live in. How would you describe the world in which the story of Cryptonomicon is set?”

Like I do for Cory Doctorow as well, I harbor a great deal of envy for Neal Stephenson’s speaking ability. While Cory speaks fast and clipped, and Neal speaks in a measured and easy pace, both are so incredibly eloquent, well-spoken, clever, funny, and without an instant of affectation (“uhm,” “uh”) or stutter or hesitation. I so wish I had such presence and extemporaneous speaking skill. *sad pout*

As for my fandom of Neal, it started when I read Cryptonomicon back around when it first came out, around 2002. I knew of his most famous (post?)cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, but had never gotten around to reading it until after I got past the mindnumbing haze of finishing the other brilliant and odd and educational and fascinating novel. Snow Crash is a bit weird, irreverent, quirky, and creates a near-future world that’s essentially a libertarian paradise — with all the problems that presents. Quicksilver soon followed, although I never picked up the sequels. I started reading the challenging and maybe too-clever? Anathem, but it’s a tough read, even for someone like me who loves when people play with language and linguistic development. It’s actually sitting on my desk right now; I do intend to finish it.

11262451_485174241632825_8738845372095469386_nNow, I’m going to dive right into Seveneves while the flame is burning bright!

*clues: Everyone at all times in the novel refers to Japan as Nippon, regardless of ethnicity or language, not just the native Japanese speakers. He created a British country off of England that spoke a consonant-heavy language that could have been Wales, or Isle of Man, but his own creation instead. Why, in an otherwise perfectly normal our world, would he do these things, unless he wanted a world that was only a couple degrees off? To what purpose?

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A little love for Michel Gondry

While looking for some music in my library to listen to, I was reminded about the similarities between Chemical Brothers’ songs “Let Forever Be” and “Setting Sun” with The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (seriously, check them out!) and I was reminded of the video for “Let Forever Be.”

A really fun, wild, unsettling video, and when it first came out is when I first became aware of the director Michel Gondry. Then found out he made the video for Daft Punk’s “Around the World.”

And then, when I saw the video for Radiohead’s “Knives Out,” I just knew that also had to be his, and it was:

No matter how many times I watch that video, it still makes me cry.

(And later discovered he made some of my favorite White Stripes videos.)

Michel Gondry is among my favorite directors, using surrealism and what I call “creative reality,” to make images that are at once fanciful but oddly disturbing. The roughness to them, the apparent slap-dash and playful imperfections mixed with repetitiveness visual loops and improper geometry and proportions, invoke a dreamlike quality that, like surrealism is meant to do, bypasses the consciousness and ego and communicates right with the subconscious, id (and perhaps our sense/memory of Lacan’s “the Real”).

I knew he had directed the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” when I went to see it, so I was excited to experience it (despite Jim Carrey). And, of course, that film was perfect for Gondry, and it is still one of my favorite films (despite not having watched it again in far too long).

He was supposed to direct a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, my favorite of PKD’s work. If anything would be perfect for Gondry, it should be a film about the dreamlike deterioration of reality with uncertainty and discomfort with what is real, what is illusion. Sadly, something happened and it’s no longer to be.

Just wanted to share these thoughts. Maybe next I’ll discuss one of my other favorite directors, Spike Jonze! (Interesting… so many of my favorite directors, who work with striking and emotionally affecting imagery, like these two, and David Fincher, come from the world of music video directing.)

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