T-Minus Two Nights, and Counting….

Ok, I’m up to just under 65,100 words.  I’m calling it a night.  I’d like to have gotten more down than I have tonight, but I’m beat.  On the bright side, tomorrow’s going to be an early day at work, so I ought to be able to get a bunch done in the afternoon and evening.  And then, of course, there’s Saturday.  I gotta think, despite having set the progress tracker in my Books page at 75,00 words, that I’ll really be done in less than 70,000.  So with two more nights of writing left on my end-of-April goal, it’s still not out of sight.  We’ll see.

Of course, then I’ll have to get started on Masters‘ sequel.  Eventually.  But first I’m going to spend a few weeks just writing short stories.  Then I’ve got a follow-up for Passing in the Night percolating in my noggin.  I’m thinking a sci-fi thriller, picking up the story where Passing left out.  Then there’s the Dragon story I’ve been thinking of.  And the short story/novellete serial I’m thinking about, following the further adventures of Larian, the main character from How NOT to Rescue a Damsel in Distress.  But that’s still a bit vague in my head.  With all that, I probably won’t get to Masters‘ sequel until later this year.  But that’s ok.  First I have to finish Masters itself.

But not tonight.  Tonight, I’m beat.  Time to punch the sack.

And the Verdict is….

…no sale.

I heard back from Weird Tales this evening.  They’re passing on my Zombie story.  Reads like a form rejection.

🙁

Oh well, it’s about what I expected.  I looked up their stats on duotrope, and they reject over 90% of all submissions.  So I’ll look for another place to submit it, or I’ll put it up myself.  No worries.

In the meantime, I’m really almost done with Masters.  I’m over 64,000 words now, and really just a chapter and a half to go.  The problem is, the half is the ending.  And the chapter is one in the middle that, while I know what needs to happen, is just HARD to get through.  So it’s totally doable to finish in the next couple days.  Really.

Right, time to get back to it.  Have a great night, everyone.

Xenophobia – or – Why do we hate that China is getting richer?

So I was reading the news a bit today, and I came across this story.  It’s about how the Chinese economy will overtake the US’s by 2016.

Well pardon me but…DUH!

Hello, McFly.  There are 1.5 billion Chinese.  1.5 BILLION.  The fact that their economy isn’t already head and shoulders above ours is a testimony to how backward they’ve been since Mao’s revolution as much as it is to how amazingly vibrant the US’s freer economy has been.

A little history.  The US currently produces 27-28% of the world’s total economic output.  This is important for a couple reasons:

  1. It puts the silliness to the tired guilty white liberal meme about how evil the US is for having 5% of the world’s population but using 25% of the world’s resources.  Forget for a moment that this is patently untrue: the US doesn’t use 25% of ALL resources in the world, just selected ones, like oil.  But the fact that using those 25% we produce 27-28% of all economic activity means we’re returning pretty good bang for the buck.  Go US!
  2. 200 years ago, do you know who was producing 28% of the world’s economic output?  Yep, you guess it: China.

China’s always been an economic powerhouse, except for a brief period started by the British Empire and continued by Mao’s murderous idiocy (and make no mistake, all Socialism/Communism is idiocy.  And murderous, too, for that matter).  But now that they’re starting to pull their heads out of their collective asses and embracing freedom, however slowly, it’s no surprise they’re back on the upswing.

Freedom works every time it’s tried.  You’d think this axiom wouldn’t have to be explained to people.  Ever.  But sadly, we have very powerful forces in this country who seem bound and determined to denigrate the virtues of freedom at every opportunity.  But I digress.

Anyway, it’s only natural that China will become a big economic force.  And India as well, for that matter.  Personally, I think it’s great.  Do you have any idea how many millions of people have lifted themselves out of abject poverty in China over the last twenty years, since they’ve begun to liberalize their economy?  It’s freaking awesome.

Which is why I find the comments section of this story so disturbing.  It’s unbelievable to me how people can be so resentful of others’ good fortune.  And so scared of the “outsider”.  It’s also sad how economically illiterate so many people are, that they think economics is a zero sum game.  If China’s doing better, that means we must be doing worse, right?

No.  That’s not how it works.

When someone, or many someones, become richer, EVERYONE ELSE becomes better off as well.  Economic activity begets more economic activity.  The pie grows, as long as its allowed to by the powers that be.

It shouldn’t surprise me.  One of our two major political parties makes its money, and gets its votes, by appealing to the most base, most ignorant, and most envious nature of people.  And we’ve systematically disassembled economics and civics education in this country.

So now, instead of celebrating our neighbors’ good fortune, whether down the block, across town, or across the sea, we instead try everything we can to either retard their good fortune or to take from them and give to ourselves.

It’s really sad.  Pathetic, actually.

Over 60

With 1,762 words down tonight, I passed the 60,000 word mark on Masters this evening.  I beat my word count goal by 200 words, and remain on track to complete the work by the end of the month.  So I’m feeling pretty good.  And pretty tired.

🙂

I now just have a couple chapters at the end to write completely, one at the end to finish, and two or three in the middle that I have been putting off writing, and then I’m done.  I set the Scrivener word goal for Masters at 75,000.  I had been thinking I’ll come in below that, but I’m not so sure.  It always seem to take more words than I think it will to fully document what’s happening.  Maybe it’ll require more than 75,000 to get to a good ending point.  But if it does, it won’t be too many past 75,000.

I’m hoping to come in under, because I think if I don’t, I won’t meet my (self-imposed) deadline.  And that’s a no-no.

Ok, I’m off to bed.  That’s enough writing for one night, and I’m beat.

Premium

Got home to some good news tonight.

As I’ve talked about before, I’ve had issues getting my act squared away when it comes to Smashwords.  It was a little frustrating having the ability to compile direct to .epub and .mobi from Scrivener, but then being required to start from a .doc file to work with Smashwords.  Then, even after following their formatting guidelines, some of the formats that meatgrinder converted my files to are just JACKED (the plain text format comes to mind).  Spacing is inconsistent, the title doesn’t center, things like that.  I ended up taking my business’ logo out of the documents, since no matter what I did, the damn thing would never wind up centered after Smashwords got through with it.

Eventually, I got all the kinks worked out from the meatgrinder (at least all that appeared possible), then sat back to wait for the premium channel evaluation.  I foresaw additional problems, but amazingly enough, Falling Softly got accepted for premium distribution today, and I guess will be shipped off to Apple, Kobo, Diesel, et al on Thursday.  I guess I’ll unpublish Falling on Pubit now, since I can get a higher royalty publishing it on B&N through Smashwords than directly.  Not that anyone’s bought it from there yet, but someday that may happen.

So I guess I’ve got Smashwords figured out.  Sort of.  I’m still looking forward to the day when they just accept .mobi and .epub without having to go through meatgrinder.

Game of Thrones Premier

Since I started talking about HBO’s new series, Game of Thrones, based on George R R Martin’s books, I guess I might as well comment on the first episode.  It just finished, and I gotta say: it rocked.  I might be biased, of course, since I love A Song of Ice and Fire.  But I thought the show was quite well done, and as far as I can tell, true to the books.  Which stands to reason, considering Martin is an Executive Producer on the show.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.  And, of course, to A Dance with Dragons.  The release date is advertised to be 12 July.  No offense to Mr. Martin, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  The date has been pushed so many times now that I can’t really bring myself to count on an advertised release date until it actually happens.

Anyway, I liked the first episode.  My wife was taken aback, in several spots.  But then, what can you expect when you see Cersei and Jamie at their best, right?  Ah, the things he does for love….

Literary Douchebags – or – My Critique of the New York Times Review of Game of Thrones

I got home from work early today.  While I did check in on the various social sites at the office (sue me), I didn’t catch the hubbub over the New York Times’ review of Game of Thrones until just now.

Holy cow.

The internet, or at least Twitter, or at least a bunch of writers on Twitter, is PISSED because the NYT writer essentially said that the only reason writers put sex into fantasy is to draw in women, and that women wouldn’t read fantasy without the sex.  All sorts of folks are calling the review sexist, and some are even calling for the reviewer to be fired.  Fired!

Ok, I got it.  I totally see the slight to ladies, and ladies who like fantasy literature in particular.  I don’t care for it either.  But really….to call for the writer to be fired?  Methinks that’s going a bit off the deep end.

That said, I despise this review, and here’s why:

It really doesn’t have anything to do with the sexist comment.  Well, it sort of does, but it goes deeper than that.

This review completely reveals everything I hate about artsy fartsy people.  Everything that pissed me off in every English class, and really every art class in general, that I’ve ever taken.  Everything that made me never even consider getting a degree in liberal arts.  Everything that makes me gag whenever I hear or read some writer talking about how they want to go for an Master of Fine Arts.  Seriously, if you PAID me, and paid me really well, you still couldn’t get me within twenty miles of the office to even sign up for an MFA degree, let alone get me into a classroom to study for one.

This review reeks of pomposity, condescension, nose-in-the air snobbery, and the root of all those things: complete, all-encompassing insecurity on the part of the author, and a desperate desire to prove her own relevance, intellect, and value.

The first paragraph alone was almost enough to force me to stop reading.  Really?  A Game of Thrones is a vague Global Warming horror story?  Really????  Dear writer, are you really THAT desperate to turn everything into some grandly meaningful commentary on life, the universe, and everything?  Can’t a story just be a story?

The answer, of course, to a literary douchebag, is yes, the douchebag IS that desperate.  And no, a story can’t just be a story.

The writer goes on to talk about how HBO made a name for itself by going out of its way to make shows that provide commentary into how organizations rise and fall.  She went on to mention the Sopranos, Rome, and all the other great shows HBO has done in the past, then lamented how it all started going downhill with True Blood.  And, of course, Game of Thrones is just another symptom of that decline.

This goes to the heart of my disgust in English class.  I’m sure everyone else had this same experience: spending an entire freaking hour analyzing a single page of Shakespeare to death, trying to pull out every hidden meaning, the truth of every metaphor, the social commentary that lay so deep that you had to REALLY dig to uncover it.  Even back in grade school, I looked on in disbelief.  Seriously, I thought the guy was just trying to tell a story.  And of course, he was.

Here’s the heart of the matter.  All of these people who literary douchebags and academics try to analyze to death weren’t out to try to change or save the world.  Sure, they did some social commentary and some satire.  But what were they really after?  A paycheck, that’s what.  Shakespeare wasn’t concerned with overturning the injustices of the social order, or whatever douchebaggery gets assigned to him in snooty circles.  He was trying to fill the seats in his theater, to maximize his earnings.  How do you do that?  By poking fun at the nobility.  By putting on morality plays, comedies, shows with a bit of action.  So that’s what he did.  It’s the same with every other “great artist” throughout history.  We place FAR more weight on them, and on their work, than they ever meant, or imagined, they could, or should, get.

It’s the same with HBO.  The guy who made The Sopranos said he wanted to tell the tale of the fall of a Mafia family, but HBO wasn’t looking to make some high and mighty declaration with it.  People like mafia movies, so HBO made a mafia show.  Same with Rome.  People like fighting movies, and have always had a fascination with Rome.  In the aftermath of Gladiator, HBO made Rome.  Everyone likes a good western, hence Deadwood.  Then, after Twilight, everyone was into Vampires and Paranormal Romance.  Surprise, surprise, HBO came out with True Blood.  Gee, it’s hard to figure out why.  HBO is out to make money.  They do that by attracting and keeping an audience.  Give the audience a good story that they will probably like, make sure it’s well acted and well produced, and you’ll probably accomplish that.  It has little to nothing to do with any high-brow moralizing or some deeper meaning.  It’s entertainment.

But the sort of douchebag who hangs out with other effete (usually liberal) snobs at upscale Manhattan cocktail parties won’t see that, because it diminishes their own sense of importance as they write commentary on it.

I’m an Engineer.  I’ve also studied business and management.  I’m a Naval Officer, and thus a leader and manager of people.  You don’t see this kind of snobbery among Engineers, business types, military people, or hard scientists, by and large.  Sure, there are douchebags in every crowd, but the percentage is nowhere NEAR the percentage you find amongst “artsy” types.  I’m convinced this is at least partially because we are too busy ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING.  There’s no time for naval gazing and fretting over why your little dream of utopia is doomed to failure when you’re, say, building a bridge or a skyscraper, or coordinating big supply chains and production facilities to make the things that people need and want in their daily lives, or charging up a hill to take down the enemy.  That sort of squishy, wimpy, useless douchebaggery is only available to the soft people who are able to live cushy lives because of the heavy lifting the rest of us do.

Which is, I guess, why all those artsy fartsy types are so obviously insecure about every aspect of their lives.  And why they are seemingly compelled to hurl insults at the rest of us.

I can hear the comments now.  Wow, Mike, you’re really laying into the profession you’re trying to join, aren’t you?

Well no.  Not really.  Or at least, not entirely.  First of all, remember what I said in my “About Michael” tab above: I am NOT an artist.  I’m not doing this for any high purpose.  I’m trying to have fun telling cool stories, and make some money doing it.  Hopefully some people will think my stories are cool, and pay me for them.  But that’s it.  I have no lofty goal, no message I’m trying to send, no cause I’m trying to support (except the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: hit up my donation page here, or through the banner link to the right, will you?).  It’s about fun and entertainment for me, and about running a business.

That said, there are a lot of grounded, confident, and useful people in publishing, and the other arts.  I just don’t like the snobs.  Those who Teddy Roosevelt called out in his “Man in the Arena” speech.  Those who can’t accomplish themselves, and thus put on airs and try to tear down their existential superiors.

Now, I don’t know the writer of this NYT piece from Eve.  She may be the nicest, smartest, most useful and secure person in the world.  She may love babies and puppies, treat old people with respect and kindness, volunteer at homeless shelters, donate 25% of her pay to the less fortunate, and adopt needy orphans.  She may be all these things and more.

But in this piece, at least, she comes off as a total douchebag.

Gunfight at the Imagination Movers

It’s been a good evening.  Earlier, my wife and I took our too oldest (ages 3 and 2) to the Imagination Movers concert.  No, there wasn’t a gunfight a the concert.  I was just going for a catchy post title.  😛  If you’ve got young kids, you’ve probably heard of the Imagination Movers, from the Disney Channel.  If not, their website is here.  They play children’s music, and have a TV show based on their on-stage characters.  The story of their careers is pretty impressive.  Their site has all the details; I’d recommend giving it a read.

This is the second of their shows I’ve gone too.  I took my daughter to see them back in Fall 2009, right before she turned two.  Our son was too little to go back then, so he and my wife missed them.  The Movers put on a good show back then, and while my wife believed my assessment, she was nonetheless pleasantly surprised with the quality of their show tonight.  So that was fun.  🙂

I’ve been writing for the last couple hours, working on Masters.  I think I got close to 2,000 words down, but I’m not entirely sure, since I set Scrivener to reset my session count at midnight, the better to maintain the integrity of my daily word goals.  I talked about the cool new features in Scrivener’s latest version in a previous post, so I won’t go into it now.

The part I’ve been writing has a pretty good gunfight that finally gets resolved through the hero’s first offensive use of magic.  So it’s been a pretty fun couple of scenes to write.  Fights are always good.  🙂

That brings my word count on masters to 54,395.  Getting closer and closer.  At this point, I think it’ll be around 70,000 words when I get to my ending point.  So that’ll be good.  My goal of finishing before the end of the month is still within reach.

Making Progress and Burning Flicks

With just shy of 1,500 words written tonight, I’ve topped 52,000 total on Masters so far.  I didn’t get that much done in the writing world yesterday, only 300 or 400 words.

But that’s ok.

Yesterday, I rode 46.3 miles on my bicycle.  It was tiring, but felt good.  The other guys on the Team assure me they think I’ll have no trouble with the Century, but it’s quite a bit different riding a hundred miles than riding fifty.  I’m glad the race isn’t until June: there’s still plenty of time to train.  🙂

Then last night, we watched Tron: Legacy on our Apple TV.  I love Apple TV.  That thing just rocks.  The Netflix app on my PS-3 is awesome too, but for new movies in HD and surround, Apple TV is great.  Plus I really dig the photo slideshows you can display on it.

I gotta say, though, I was a little disappointed in Tron.  I absolutely LOVE the original.  The new one, though, while freaking awesome in special effects was, IMHO, a bit lacking in plot.  There was a lot they COULD have done with it, but in the end it was a bit cheeseball and predictable, to me.  Plus the characters were a bit flat, and a couple things happened that were just SO far beyond the realm of plausibility that I had to say “No, can’t suspend THAT disbelief”.

Another recent movie that disappointed me was The Tourist.  We actually watched that on Thursday.  I figured with Angelina and Johnny Depp it would be awesome.  In fact, my wife has been aching to see it for the same reason.  But I was very underwhelmed.  The movie just never grabbed me.  It just happened.  There were one or two twists that were like “Oh?  Ok then.  Whatever.”  Not a big deal or shocker, in other words.  Then there was a really jacked up deus ex machina near the end: where the hell did the supervisor guy come from?  Finally, the end twist was completely unsatisfying.  It came from nowhere, with no foreshadowing, but at the same time was completely predictable.  I just never got to really care about the characters, or what happened to them.

Both these movies had potential for greatness.  Tron did better than Tourist, but both were lacking.

Alright.  That’s enough babbling for now.  Time to hit the sack.

Hurry Up and Wait

Wow.

Last night, before starting work on Masters, I finally compiled Damsel into .doc format for submission to Smashwords.  I’d been delaying doing this because I’d had some difficulty with Falling Softly, and was a bit annoyed.  But I think I’ve finally worked out the kinks, so I did the upload.

And Damsel came in at #1722 in the compile queue!  Holy crap!

When I uploaded Falling Softly, it was something like 500 or 600, and that took a long while.  As of this morning, Damsel is still going through the meatgrinder: it’s at #350 or so as I type this.

Smashwords is getting popular, it seems.  I listened to a podcast interview with Mr. Coker the other day, in which he said he was planning to beef up their infrastructure to more efficiently support the large number of submissions they’re receiving.  Looks to me like that REALLY needs to happen.

🙂

I guess that means Smashwords has come into its own.  Good for them.  And really, an eight hour delay in conversion isn’t a big deal, really.  Considering that tomorrow it will be exactly eight weeks since I submitted Zombie to Weird Tales, and I’ve not heard a word from them, eight hours is nothing.  Hmm… Weird Tales advertised a six to eight week turnaround.  I wonder if the really long delay means anything.  Probably not.

Right.  Off to the store, then to my bike ride.