November 30, 2011

What's the Frequency (Kenneth)

My attempt to blog more has been foiled by the arrival of the busy time of year. I know that seems obvious, given I've been busy, but that's been busy with other people's projects. Now I'm busy with my projects and other people's projects at the same time. WOO HOO!

Wait, no, that's not woo hoo. That's D'OH! Similar to woo hoo, only different.

So a quick note about frequency inspired by Nate over at Sometimes the Wheel is on Fire. His new son, The Professor, is like many a baby/toddler. When put in a moving car, he falls right asleep. I have many friends with many babies along with a ridiculous number of nieces and nephews and this has proven true in most cases. Something about a car's vibration and/or the white noise of travel puts a baby to sleep.

I experience something similar. Not that I fall asleep. (My wife is the one that falls asleep, requiring me to always be the driver on family holidays.) My mind focuses. Just before she falls asleep, the missus asks "Are you writing?" because she sees the look on my face and knows I'm working out a story in my brain. I also do the majority of my writing on the commuter rail down into Boston. Something about the vibration and the noise (barring crying babies, crazy people, and obnoxious people) lets me focus on the story and nothing else.

That's awesome, except when the train stops. Today the train broke down (which happens more often than it should). And it occurred to me after we started moving again that I did not write the entire time we were stopped. I checked twitter and fiddled on my phone. I looked down the aisle and out the window. I did everything but write. As soon as we started moving again, boom, started writing again.

Not sure why that is. Someone become a scientist and figure that out. *cough* Livia Blackburne *cough*

November 23, 2011

No Really, I am thankful

I don't have a lot of regular readers, but those of you that stop in, I really enjoy talking with you (both here and on Twitter). It's been fun, and I look forward to more fun in the future. I hope you'll be there for the ride.

And for all you new people, hiya. Here's our corner. Stay awhile if you like.


Mmmm, sap. But it's too late in the year to make good New Hampshire syrup. What should we do with all this sweet? Balance it out, would be the Hindu custom. (I need to dig up the article, but there's some awesome stuff about how all four flavor types need to balance for a healthy life.)

I've been thinking, lately, I'm kind of scared. I never really got into drugs or heavy drinking, but I had my own vices and really went off the rails for a decade or so. It took a lot of discipline to get my shit together so that I could work a steady job, draw a steady salary, living with a roof over my head, and write a novel from start to finish. But sometimes I worry that the discipline chokes out my voice. Or at least the voice I'm accustomed too (veterans here have seen it when a post just builds up steam and then we just go balls to the wall like the train in Back to the Future 3 after the red log ignites and the whole thing goes over a cliff...which is typically what happens to me as well :). There was a beautiful fury in my writing once, and now it's sharp and precise. It's like a broadsword versus a razor. I always got better reader response from the broadsword, but never finished anything. Ever. I never finished anything more than a few thousand words.

And of course, it took a particular lifestyle to write like that, one I would never want to return to. For as many awesome stories as I have to tell from my twenties, there are a LOT of things I wish I had a second chance on.

So, add this to the new ways a writer can be neurotic about whether or not they have talent. Did I have more talent before? I have I lost my talent?

I don't know. But at least there's pie.

November 21, 2011

Throw Your Arms In the Air Because You Just Don't Care

I write because I'm a writer. I pursue professional publication because that's been a goal of mine for the past 22 years. It wasn't always my highest priority, but it was never abandoned. And for the past two+ years, it has been my highest priority. I focus on writing not as an eventual, but as a now. I may still be wading at the shallow end compared to long-established best sellers, but I'm not just wishing. I am being.

And you know what? I'm already sick and tired of it.

Publishing is mirroring our current politics so much that I want to hit my head against a wall. Two sides have entrenched themselves in their opinions. Neither can fully represent the nuances of 100%, but both act and speak as if theirs is the only recourse. They waste time and energy deriding the other group and drowning out the measured compromise of the middle ground.

I've had my fill of it in politics. I've had my fill of it in publishing. So here is my declaration to all of you: KNOCK IT THE FUCK OFF!

Premise 1: Writing is the art. Publishing is the business.

Premise 2: In business, all parties look out for their own interests first.

Premise 3: Our interest is to make money through our writing. If that is not our interest, we should not be in publishing.

Assertion: We are entitled to pursue whatever avenues will yield us the optimal yield, this taking into account measurable factors such as promotion, distribution, etc.

This means we can self-publish if we want to. This means we can publish with an independent or small press if we want to. This means we can publish with a major publishing house if we want to.

If anyone says differently, that person is full of shit. You do what you need to do to succeed at this business. Let other people do what they need to do to succeed in this business. Plain and fucking simple. The next person that tries to beat me over the head with "[X publishing model] is the debil!" gets kicked in the junk.


This all grew out of a post I originally wrote in September. It's taken me two months to revisit the post because I was just that upset. It's really interfered with other blog posting as well (as you can tell). I wanted to finish this one, but the topic just riles me up so that I needed more space.

So how did that old post begin? Well, with usual Me wit, I was being all snarky about Amazon. I have come around to self-publishing as a valid business model (as noted above), especially when articles like this embody what I believe is the write mindset for self-publishing. But some of the more popular self-publishing proponents out there beat the Amazon drum too often. All they see is 70% royalties and nothing else can compete. I believe this is short-sighted, and I think Amazon is starting to show its hand as to why.

You think that 70% gold mine is the way publishing will be forever? That's not how monopolies work. I agree with you that 15% or 25% royalties is crap (net? Seriously?), but you're fooling yourself if you think you'll get 70% royalties forever. It's a ploy to take over the market. What happens once you take over a market? This is what happens. And/or this happens.

It has nothing to do with the efficacy of trad v. self. It's what happens when one company owns complete marketshare. The difference between 15% and 70% is so large, though, that it drowns out any reasonable conversation. So here's the short of it. NEVER LIMIT YOURSELF TO ONE OPTION.

Now this doesn't seem like a discussion that would get derailed, but in September there was "the blow up." I'm not linking to it and I'm not expounding to it. It involves a company owned by a company owned by a company that also owns the company I work for. To talk about it requires my HR department and I make it a policy never to discuss things that require an HR department, because nothing good comes out of that.

Here's the short of that: SOME PEOPLE SUCK. In any endeavor, you will meet people who are phenomenal. You will meet people who are abysmal, and you will meet the avast amount of people that fall in the middle. They don't have curly mustaches that they twist around their fingers. They don't want to tie you to train tracks. But sometimes you meet someone who does, and fuck that guy. No one likes that guy. Be wary of that guy in all your dealings because you may or may not run into him.

Because that guy exists does not mean the entire industry is corrupt any more than it means you should not self-publish because it adds to Amazon's marketshare. These are factors in the grand spreadsheet of business. You need to tally it all up and make the decisions that are best for you.

So now that I've gotten my own licks in on that dead horse, let us discuss lighter matters, like cabbages and kings.

Also? I like pie.

November 5, 2011

Bringing KITT Back

First let me apologize for my absence. I've been fiddling with more personal, non-writing specific posts. That was fine and all, but there was one topic I've been trying to tackle for awhile that is difficult because it involves another company owned by the company that owns mine. In other words, there's a lot I'm not allowed to say, even if it was in support of the company. At least, a lot I'm not allowed to say without getting permission, and I don't want to go through that hassle. Job is over there. Joe the writer is over here. And I want to keep those two separate. I've been burned too many times in the past for not doing so.

And then there was the biggun. I was one of the three million people that lost power. Now I've lost power before, but I've always been fortunate in that it comes on a few hours later. I think the longest I've ever gone without power (as a result of a calamity and not the electric company turning it off or not having a home to power) was five hours. Not this time! Three and a half days. And that's still not as bad as some! But you learn a lot about how your house is heated when there is none. We eventually had to flee to a motel as the heat fell below 40 degrees in our house. We were lucky that we got a room in town, one of two that required we wait in the motel lobby for an hour waiting for reservations to be cancelled.



So then power came back and I had a lot of work to catch up on. Still, I had an idea today I'd like to share. While it's still not the post I've been brainstorming on for awhile, I think a lot of you might find it recognizable.

Those of you 30 or older, at least. The youngins might only remember the reboot from a couple years ago. And if you remember it, I apologize. It was quite awful. I would rate it worse than the reboot of Bionic Woman, which was sadly awful as well. What am I talking about? Knight Rider.

It's the show that made David Hasselhoff famous before Baywatch. It aired at a time when Saturday morning still showed cartoons (not Power Rangers or VR Troopers or any of that offal, I'm talking about real cartoons). Saturday afternoons were the pantheon of young boy television. A-Team, Incredible Hulk, Airwolf, Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica (original). Dear lord, I weep just thinking about its greatness (I also weep when I watch the pilot of Airwolf and discover just how bad that show was).

I'm also old enough that I got the tail end of the greats from the previous decade. That means the Six Million Dollar Man and the original Bionic Woman. Plus all their made-for-TV movies! SO. GOOD!

I was excited to see the reboot of Bionic Woman and sad to see they missed the mark so badly. I gave Knight Rider a chance. I had given Knight Rider 2000 a chance, so why not this? I had less confidence that they could do it right because it's such a niche story that the original series covered a lot of bases. And as expected, it was a crapper. Even with Val Kilmer as KITT. Like so much TV, they tried to be what the other show wasn't, even though the other show worked for its time. Now you had a car that could do everything, a hot shot idiot driver, and an ex-flame with an axe to grind as the scientists daughter.

These things are expected. There are so many political decisions that go into TV casting now, that you can't have an all-guy cast except for the chicks in bikinis like you could in the '80s. That's a good thing. But it's approached with specific biases (e.g. your lead still needs to be a white male) that it makes casting pretty predictable.

Today, for some reason I cannot imagine, pieces for the show fell into place. The reboot had a few right ideas in that it needed a younger cast. Not the middle-aged guy talking to the old guy except when he was talking to his car. It needs some women who are competent. And it needs a talking car. It doesn't need an "on the run from the law" when in the first episode you introduce a car that can do everything. There is no cop in the country that's going to catch your car, so why are we watching?

So here's what we do. Make the lead Idris Elba or Taye Diggs. Let's break that "all leads must be white" mold right now. We know it's not true and these two are recognizable enough that it won't be a big stretch for the less liberal of America to sign onto the concept.

Knight Industries returns as a military research and design company, run by an old white guy. We'll name him Michael Knight. It never made sense that Knight Industries was run by Devon Miles and Michael Knight was just an employee. Let's fix that with a little throw-back to the old series. It's a pity Edward Mulhare couldn't fill that role because that would have been awesome. RIP, sir. This new character is the CEO and head of research, the guy that started it all. And while the company has grown well beyond that scope (we'll see later), Dr. Knight is all about military research that saves lives.

Specifically, he's working on an adaptive AI program to be installed in military Humveess to reduce the amount of casualties by IEDs and other impediments. They are in the final testing phase before the computer system goes operational. His team?

Captain Taye Diggs Idris Elba, United States Army, detached to Knight Industries to serve as military liaison, field expert, and the best damn driver in the military.

White chick engineer. Former military. She doesn't mind getting greasy and she's great with machines. Mix Zoe with Kaylee from Firefly and you're looking good here.

Indian nerd. Let's get rid of the typical gangly guy with the thick nerds or the FOB import. Have an Indian guy great in electronics without the accent that doesn't look like he was beat up all his life. He just likes to get his nerd on. (The first time you see KITT's red light going back and forth, I'd love to see the computer say "By your command." It makes me squee with glee.)

Chinese AI expert. He's your mole. Oh, that's right. We're throwing some Scarecrow and Mrs. King in to this thing. We're well ahead of China on adaptive AI, and they send in a ringer to take what we have and eliminate the team. Make it look like an accident. The Humvee explodes, but Taye Elba saves the primaries of the team (except for Michael Knight and the red shirt engineers who don't get names).

This is all part of a grander espionage that the team must foil because there's not time for anyone else to do so! But in so doing, they alert the Chinese spy they're still alive and still have the technology. They install the AI into Captain Taye Elba's own sports car and use it to save the day. Most of its systems are off-line because it was built to be in a custom-made Humvee. It can't go invisible or any of that stupid shit.

Now Michael Knight's daughter shows up. She runs Knight Industries clandestine unit, farming out equipment and computer resources to the CIA and such. The entire team has been declared dead and there's an espionage war that America can't openly fight. Do they want to wave the red, white, and blue while using awesome gadgets and kicking some ass? Why yes they do.

Oh but wait, their families have been told they're dead. Captain Taye Elba was privy to some super heavy top secret shit. If ever he disappeared or was killed, his family would be relocated with new identities. He has a wife! He has a son and a daughter! And now they're gone. He never got to tell them he was okay. He must find them. But Young Knight chick won't let him. It's for their own safety. And KITT is still an infant AI and follows its own protocols, doing what it must to keep Taye Elba away from his family. Oh the angst! Who can he trust? Who are his friends? And what other dangers are there out there aside from the Chinese! A resurgent Russia, a corrupt military industrial complex, and a boss who never seems on the level.

Dun. Dun. DUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!

Okay, Hollywood. Get on that. That's a show I would watch as long as you don't make it suck.

(How not to make it suck. Have them working to get KITT operational through the climax, but they can't get it working in time and the humans carry the load on their own. At the end of the pilot, THEN have KITT finally go online. Having a car that can do anything basically means you're filming 41 minutes of car chases which is Nascar without the beer.)