Saturday, October 31, 2009

Only on Halloween

Keeping with the spirit of Halloween, here's something unusual I stumbled across. Some Craig's List postings are so unusual that I just can't help but share. With that in mind, here's a free section listing that would only show up on Halloween:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why Talk Peace?

Time for a bit of satire. I modified this World War II era poster to have some fun with a good friend of mine who discussed a potentially hot topic of using violence to achieve a goal.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Garden Pictures

Time for more pictures from the yard. Lets start out with a picture of the rose garden. Click on the pictures to see the full sized photo. :)


Rose garden fall 2009
The roses did not fair out well this year due to major problems with blackspot fungus. There's always next year. Smiley



The mulched garden fall 2009
Lots of drought tolerant plants here like red hot pokers. And the mulch helps retain water so I rarely need to do any watering in this corner.



Side island garden fall 2009
The side island garden contains grasses, California poppies, and some herbs like red creeping thyme. The thyme has gone dormant due to the summer heat and is just now returning with renewed growth.



Pond fall 2009
The pond is filling in too, but still needs lots more work. The waterwheel project still needs be worked on so the lower corner of the picture will eventually look a lot nicer.


Center island fall 2009
The plants have started to fill in a bit here. Next year, they will look even better. Lots of aster and mum blooms are visible.


Side profile of the center island fall 2009
Here's a view of the center planting island as seen from the garden path.

Monday, October 19, 2009

If at First You Don't Succeed – Get a Bigger Hammer!

Inspiration strikes and you sit down at the keyboard. Typing away for hours, you come up with a first draft to a clever science fiction piece. Off it goes to a few close friends for a quick review. Impatient, you wait for replies to see if the story piques their interest. The emails start rolling back in from your friends – they loved it. To help out, they've pointed out a few sticky points that need work.

Now begins the hard part, sitting down to turn the rough draft into a final draft. Brewing a pot of coffee for a long night of work, you dive into the story and start editing. Painful as it is, you cut pieces here and there because, while funny, they don't move the story forward. Those adverbs have to go because they're pure evil. A little tidying up here and there and it's ready for a final litmus test. You read the story out loud to yourself and listen to the cadence. Ugh, still more work is required because a few sections are so hard to read, it's like taking a bite out of a two year old fruit cake. Out comes the thesaurus to help find a few words that have the right musical tone. Another read through and this time it reads like a well written poem, smooth, concise, and exciting.

Off it goes again to your friends. Everyone loves it! The story meets not only with their seal of approval, but yours too now. Time to pick a publisher. You sift through the lists of possible minor league publishers and find one that looks hopeful. They print science fiction shorts so they sound like a good match. For good measure, you pick one of the many stories they have published on their site and take a read to verify your style is up to par. Sure enough, your work is comparable. A few minutes later, a cover letter and application are on their way to the publisher. Time to wait.

Weeks pass by and nothing. Several months pass by and still nothing. Finally you see it, an email from the publisher. You hold your breath and open the email.

"Dear Author, we'd like to thank you for submitting to Wankelmeyer Press, but we regret to inform you that your story has been rejected."

You stare in disbelief. How could they reject the story? Once again, you go back to the publisher's site and take a look at a few more stories. it's enigmatic and hard to understand what the problem is. Your story lives up to the same quality of what they have accepted and printed. So what's the problem? You read a few more stories and a pattern starts to emerge. Their stories all seem to be centered around elves and steampunk. Then it hits you like a geiger-esque steampunk freight train! It might not be the quality of your work, but instead, is your lack of sufficient research about the publisher's target audience.

Searching for a publisher involves a lot of research, especially in the area of reading works they've already published. One needs to know what market and specific niches the publisher caters too. In my case, I've submitted what I considered several decent quality works to minor league publishers and received flat out rejections. The publishers sometimes complained about dull and lifeless verbs, or boring subject matter. Yet, my test readers found the pieces exciting. In at least one case, a more in-depth investigation of the publishers stable of authors revealed some surprising facts. My stories, while interesting, didn't quite fit the publishers market.

Okay, so I have a new story working its way through the editing pipeline. Its in first draft stage at this point. So what's my plan? To start early with searching for a publisher that handles science fiction embedded with biting, sometimes sarcastic humor. While I'm working through to the final draft, I'll be reading various publisher's works in parallel to find the closest match. Research, research, research! Its just one part of the equation to landing that first precious payment check for a published work.

I haven't achieved that critical first step in my quest for the ultimate holy grail yet, but I keep trying by refining my efforts. Networking with others, researching publishers, along with reading and critiquing other author's works. It's all part of what is required to start down the road of becoming a successfully published author.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Publisher versus Author - An Iron Cage Match?

For any aspiring authoring, getting our work out into the public eye is important. We struggle to find sites that will publish our work when we are starting out as unknowns to the rest of the world. Many new authors seek out electronic publishers on the web to get their name circulating. Exposure and networking are key when you're starting out. To that end, East of the Web is a prominent example of a non-paying exposure based short stories publishing site many authors attempt to leverage. With quality stories and a moderately well known reputation, one would think all is well on the Eastern front so to speak. But think again. Ever try submitting an article to East of the Web? If you have, it's likely you've encountered the black-hole submission strategy they employ. In a nutshell, the black-hole policy is to skip replying to any submission that is not up to their quality standards. An author submitting a story doesn't receive a rejection notice, or anything other than radio silence. In fact, the only communication an “unsuccessful” author receives is a generic automatic reply to their story submission email. The automatic reply states it can take up to five months or more for an editor to read your story and only accepted authors will receive any form of additional notification. They provide no concrete review-by date and no rejection notices so it's up to you to guess when enough time has passed to consider a story a wash out.

I'm sure some might say, “What's wrong with that? It's their site after all and they can make up the rules since they didn't solicit the story in the first place.” True enough, but consider the whole equation first. The primary benefit East of the Web offers is exposure. They do not pay. A publisher makes some form of profit based off an author's work and their own ability to deliver the author's content. It's a symbiotic relationship. Without the author, a publisher has no material to work with. But sadly, supply and demand works in the publisher's favor, at least for now. Fortunately, as time advances, independent publishing matures. While independent publishing is minimized as vanity publishing by those in the traditional publishing business, it's popularity has grown. While independent publishing may never reach the mass market in the same way large publishers can, the distribution options for non-established author's continues to improve. Sites such as East of the Web may eventually find themselves facing a new challenge, a dwindling source of material.

In general, the publishing industry adheres to old school thinking in the same manner as the record industry or any other established entity that dominates a niche market. The thought seems to be, “Well, you're coming to us with a request so we'll make the rules.” Considering the way the publishing business works, they have no reason to work with an author in an equitable and respectful manner when supply and demand is in their favor. I, for one, hope the publishing industry undergoes a shift just like many other industries have. Change and thrive, or hold onto old ways to eventually fail when the industry moves forward.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inspiration

Frequently, inspiration strikes a person from out of the blue. In my case, the inspiration for a short story came after reading a comment a friend posted on Facebook. My friend posted the following quote from William S. Burroughs:

After one look at this planet, any visitor from outer space would say "I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER."~ Willliam S. Burroughs

Considering I'm unemployed partially due to outsourcing, and my friend once worked in a business the US outsourced to the Philippines, my sense of humor kicked in. I simply couldn't resist adding the following comment to the post:

We apologize for any inconvenience to our alien visitors. Due to competitive economic conditions, planet Earth outsourced the manager position to an off-world provider. Please call our toll free 1-8000 galaxy number if you have any further questions. :D

My friend had a good laugh at my comment. That started me to thinking about whether I could spin off a story based off the premise. And sure enough, about three hours later, I had a rough first draft of a 2500 word short story staring back at me. Not bad for a flash of inspiration.

My ghost editor is looking at the story to see if it's an interesting idea or cliche and better suited for the ashcan. :D Should it meet with a thumbs up, I'll start phase two of the process, editing the first draft into an enjoyable read. Phase three, if it ever happens, will be either submitting the story to a publication or placing it online if it doesn't appear marketable. I'll add a link to the story if it ever goes online. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Critter Calamity

As an aspiring author, my writing frequently reflects my feelings at a given instant. Various moods fill my days. They cover a broad spectrum ranging from emotions such as happy, melancholy, introspective, sad, or angry. Writing based off strong feelings can yield powerful pieces. With that said, not everyone will like this piece. Such is life. It says what I feel in a just a few short words.

Straight to Hell

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

At 4:30 AM, I couldn't sleep. Nothing of interest graced the airwaves other than infomercials and I simply couldn't stoke myself up to watch some abdominal exercise machine 30 minute commercial regardless of the numerous bikini clad girls they threw at the screen. So what's a guy to do? Pop a disc into the DVD player and check out a movie from the gotta-watch pile of course. Ghost World winked at me from the stack of waiting movies, defiant and devilish looking it seemed. So I thought to myself, "What the heck!" and decided to give it a go.

Best described as a quirky, stylistic, bit of fun, Ghost World proved to be enjoyable. At times, I couldn't decide whether I loved or hated it due to the character's actions, a sure sign the movie hit the mark in an "I've seen people do that!" manner. The inhabitants of the film felt oh-so familiar to the real world counterparts we so frequently encounter in our life – at least in my world. I've seen the equivalent to nun-chucks twirling fanatics and the likes so the movie immediately took on a just-like-life tone for me.

The characters proved quite likable, especially the two main parts. In fact, the characters are what make the film fantastic in this case – excellent acting and easily identifiable. Music? You can't go wrong with the mix of tunes covering different parts of the musical spectrum blaring out at you on occasion. The plot proved to be fun and entertaining, nicely quirky at the correct times too. The movie is well worth the watch if you ask me.

How did I come up with a title about one thing leads to another? Well, I'm not talking about The Fixx with their Reach the Beach Album. I'm alluding to something I heard in the movie. In one scene, someone mentions the movie 8 ½ to a video store attendant. The attendant is clueless about the movie – perhaps a commentary of some sort from the movie makers? :D Now I'm compelled to find the mentioned Fellini film and give it a watch. Yep, one thing leads to another alright.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

If It Ain't Broken

Taking several hours of time to unwind today, I decided to watch a movie. Two movies sat patiently, vying for my attention to watch them. One I’d seen many years ago, Tampopo, but had forgotten enough detail to make it worthy of a re-watch. Unfortunately, the copy of the movie had issues and wouldn’t play. Scratch watching noodles and love. The other movie, Solaris, just didn’t feel right for the moment. Time for an alternative plan.

I flipped on the SyFy channel to see what was playing. Lucky for me, a thriller movie entitled, The Broken, was about to start in a few minutes. The description seemed odd so I decided to check it out.


Within the first few minutes, I found myself enjoying the movie substantially. Primarily because the camera work looked top notch, the audio sounded crisp, and the actors played their parts in a believable manner. Of course, this pearl isn’t flawless. Problems surfaced quickly in the form of cliche scenes like those one would expect from a run-of-the-mill slasher movie. But overall, the scenes didn’t overpower the movie. Easy enough to overlook in this case. And as far meeting the bar of a thriller goes, several scenes delivered an eerie feeling, bordering on hair raising, even if only for a brief moment. Another interesting characteristic, repetition in various forms, reared its head several times but didn’t prove to be a problem. Instead, it worked as an effective plot device - sometimes serving to remind the viewer of the mysterious aspects involved, other times, adding to the atmosphere.

While some reviewers disliked the movie to the extent of rating it poorly, I’m going to give it a solid thumbs up. It seems, some people found the open ended nature unsatisfying. As for me, I’ve seen enough import movies where closure never entered the film writers mind so I felt comfortable with the ending. All in all, if something ain't broke, don’t fix it is my motto. And that definitely applies to The Broken in regards to the cinematography, sound, and acting - all of which felt nicely done.