Day Job Woes

Before I begin, a word from our sponsors: my Steampunk adventure Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is just $1.99 for Kindle right now.

Promo spot over; back to the plot.

My regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping Forest) will have noticed that I’ve kind of broken my own rules for the last couple of weeks. I’d been making a point of posting here at least twice a week, and things had actually been going pretty well.

And then came the day job problems.

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Thanks to a problem that came up, the other developers and I have been in all-hands-to-the-pumps mode, making urgent updates to a bunch of web applications. I’m not going into more detail than that; it’s not that important or interesting.

As a side-effect, my regular work has had to take a back seat—but it still has to be done, so that’s meant I’ve had to work an extra couple of hours every day during the week. This morning (Saturday) I worked five hours to catch up some more. Right now I’m at a point where I can actually catch a breath, although I know Monday is going to hit the reset button and it’ll be back to panic mode.

The point being that my other work—writing, and other things I like to do—got pushed right off the cliff.

So: no blog posts the last couple of weeks. No work at all done on the timelining I’ve been working on for the SF book series. Basically I’ve been too tired to focus on anything that requires use of the brain.

Instead, what time I’ve had has been spent watching TV (Doc Martin, Dark Matter season 3); playing games (I just bought Dishonored and it’s a blast—one of the best I’ve played in a while); and reading (I’m partway into A Voyage to Arcturus, and I don’t want to hear any snide comments about it).

One other thing: I think I mentioned that I’d been watching a gentle British comedy called Detectorists on Netflix. It stars Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones as couple of ordinary guys who also happen to be (surprise!) detectorists—that is, they spend their spare hours out and about with metal detectors, finding bottle caps and ring pulls. And occasionally, cash, and parts of WWII German bombers. And sometimes, gold. Watching the show reminded me as a teenager I’d wanted a metal detector to mess with.

So I’ve bought one. Nothing fancy or expensive, but perfectly fine for the hobbyist. I haven’t had a chance yet to get out with it—it’s actually been raining almost every day for the last couple of weeks here in Colorado, and in any case I really need to get a cheap pair of headphones and a small shovel before I go detecting. But I’m looking forward to getting some exercise and fresh air, and you never know, maybe finding the odd trinket I can sell on eBay. Depending on the weather, I might get out with it for a bit tomorrow.

Now, as for the rest of today, I have a free afternoon, so I’m about to grab a coffee and get back to those timelines. I have something like five hundred scenes to timeline and so far I’ve done nineteen. There’s a long way to go. Time to get busy.

Until next time…

Ask @SYFY to Un-Cancel #DarkMatter

I just found out today that SyFy has cancelled Dark Matter after just three seasons.

I was thinking about making a long post pointing out how stupid I think it is that, here in the US, excellent TV shows get thrown in the trash because the whole thing is driven by ratings and advertising and, apparently, whim. Babylon 5, Firefly, you name it; amazing TV, shitcanned for the worst of reasons.

Babylon 5 got resurrected, and finished its intended five-season run, because of fans pushing back. So it can be done.

Dark Matter was also intended to go five seasons. Coincidence? I think not.

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So if, like me, you’re a Dark Matter fan, tell SyFy you want them to reconsider the decision to cancel the show. There are several ways, but I’m just going to mention that there’s a feedback page at http://www.syfy.com/feedback, and you can also email feedback@syfy.com. I don’t know if one is better than the other (probably not); I just sent email.

Do it, guys. Let’s make sure SyFy knows just how many people love this show and don’t want to see it ended ahead of its time.

What I Did On My Holiday

Not a lot, actually. I took Friday and Tuesday off from the day job to give me a five-day weekend, and I had intended to spend some of that time working on the SF stories, but I ended up not doing much on that. Monday was pretty much taken up with prepping stuff for the grill—chicken and smoked sausage, mostly—and then actually grilling and eating. Nevertheless I did manage to make a little progress on the writing—specifically, I figured out how to get round one particularly knotty problem with the fourth and last story. On that front, the plan now is to focus on getting the high-level structure of that story nailed down so that I can get on to building the timelines.

Given that I didn’t do any day job, and only did a little (if important) bit of writing work, the rest of the time was spent slacking, by which I mean binge-watching TV and movies: The Martian (again), Interstellar (again), and The Expanse (season one; I’m part way into season two).

Today, back to the day job and as usual on the first day back after a break I’m whacked. So the plan is to take a little break then pull up the spreadsheet for SF story the fourth and do a bit more work on it.

But first, time for tea.

Dear Diary . . .

MY regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping) might have noticed that every now and then I post something here that’s more like a rambling journal entry than an article about something specific.

This is one of those. Day job and household chores took over things for the last couple of days; I did find time to get a few things done, though, and now I feel like rambling a bit. Let the rambling begin . . .

On books and writing:

As I mentioned in the last post, I uploaded a correctly-formatted version of Finish Your Book, and now that should be what gets downloaded by readers. I tested it and it looks the way I intended the first time round.

I also re-published Pavonis, which was the first full-length story I ever published. It was originally self-published in 2012, but I took it down after Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was published professionally, the reason being that after going through the whole pro publishing process with G&B, I realised that my self-editing left a lot to be desired and I was no longer happy to have a flawed work out there. So I had sort-of planned to rework much of Pavonis with the help of a professional editor (and cover artist—the cover pretty much stinks), and come up with a better title (because Pavonis doesn’t tell you anything about what the book’s about). But after much consideration, I decided I’d rather focus on new works than try to fix old ones. And anyway, quite a few people liked the book despite its shortcomings. In the end I decided to just put it back out there. I might at some point upload a new version that fixes the known spelling errors and some formatting problems (a few passages display underlines and italics that weren’t in my source text), and I’m considering paying an artist to come up with better cover art. Maybe.

Meanwhile on the writing front, I’m building up the story line for the currently-untitled SF book I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months. I’ll probably be getting back on that this afternoon.

Also, I did some tweaking of the web site to rearrange a few things and update a couple of pages. I think it’s looking pretty good.

On TV:

We’re saving Game of Thrones on DVR, with the intention of binge-watching when we have four or five episodes recorded. Reason: last year we watched the first episode of season six the night it showed—and at the end we were like a couple of addicts, craving more and cursing HBO for forcing us to wait a whole week for our next fix. So, not this time.

Meanwhile I’ve been re-watching season two of Dark Matter, and when I reach the end of that I’m planning on watching the available episodes of season three on on-demand.

On games:

I was given a new video card—a GTX950 to replace my older GTX560. I installed it yesterday afternoon, but wasn’t able to do anything with until the evening. I played some Serious Sam – The First Encounter and it did seem to be smoother. I’ll try it with something a bit more demanding on the video later; maybe No Man’s Sky. (I noticed NMS has had several patches since I played it last; if they fixed some of  the shortcomings that bugged me most, I might start playing it a bit more often.)

That’s enough for now. I need coffee and maybe I’ll watch a little TV before I get back to that SF story I mentioned.

Until next time . . .

Ranting and Reading and TV, Oh My

THINGS have been… well, hectic is the first word that comes to mind. I’ve been working ten-hour days and seven-day weeks on the day-job project for a few months. Hence: no blog posts, little Twitter activity, and so on. Most days after finishing work I’ve been too tired to do anything more than watch TV until I fall asleep.

At last, that’s coming to a close. Today is the first Saturday I haven’t had to work in quite a while (well, almost; I did about an hour first thing to tidy up a couple of little jobs). And so, time for a blog post. Whee!

So first, let me get the obligatory Trump rant out of the way. Yes, I’m worried. I’m concerned for the twenty million or more people who could lose medical insurance cover (including the people who voted for Trump thinking he didn’t really mean what he said about repealing the ACA… you silly people, you), and I worry about what the impact of a bigoted administration on minorities is likely to be, and I’m scared half to death about the long-term damage a cabinet-load of shit-for-brains climate change deniers will be, and I’m really worried about what a thin-skinned “president” with the maturity of a twelve-year old and access to the nuclear arsenal could do if someone slights him and sets him stomping his little feet.

Whatever happens, the country (and the rest of the world) is in for a rough ride, but there are a few glimmers of hope: there’s still the chance that the Electoral College will do their duty come December 19 and reject Trump the Chump; if they don’t, there’s the possibility that he’ll do something incredibly stupid and illegal that’ll get him impeached (I can kinda see that happening before this time next year, to be honest); meanwhile there are plenty of sensible people on both sides of the aisle who’ll oppose him and his Bizarro-world cabinet of defectives, hopefully enough to be able to stop some of the worst from coming to pass; and then there are the activists like the ACLU and others who’ll be doing their level best, too. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but the alternative is ulcers, and having had one of those I’m trying to stay hopeful.

RANT OVER.

Now to other things. As I said, I’m back to something like normal on the work front, and that means more time for other things INCLUDING GETTING BACK TO WRITING, YAY! The Artemis Device has been sitting there since, what, April? waiting for me to edit it so that it can be published. I actually did some work on it today. After so long away from it, I’m rusty; I still haven’t finished chapter 1, even. But I’ll do some more tomorrow and I plan on setting some time aside on work days, too, to get more done. The more I do, the more momentum I’ll get built up and the easier it’ll get. I’ll be glad when it’s all finished, because I have two other writing projects I want to work on but I’m not allowing myself to get sidetracked until this editing is done, done, done. But boy, today was kinda rough.

What else?

Reading: I’m about 80% through Abaddon’s Gate (book three of The Expanse). Damn, these books are good.

TV: I admit it, I can be a terrible binge-watcher at times. I’m finally watching the last couple of seasons of The X-Files (for the first time ever). I watched both seasons of Carnivàle (don’t you hate it when a damned good show gets cancelled because, hey, good TV don’t mean nothin’ if the advertisers aren’t making their pile). I’ve been watching Fringe again, and I’m part way into season 4. Things on my list that I haven’t got to yet: Westworld and Twelve Monkeys.

Enough blog post for now. I call beer o’clock, and time for dinner. Meanwhile, here’s Vixey the cat to keep you company:

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Until next time, gentle reader…

Reading List, TV List

THANKS to a two-week break over Christmas and New Year I was able to spend a bit more time catching up with my reading list. And there’s been some seriously good TV on, too.

As a result, here’s a short list of some books and TV I’d like to recommend.

Books

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan: (I posted a review of this a couple of weeks ago.) Steampunk/Alternate History. I couldn’t put it down. As I write this, it’s on sale for $1.99 in the US Kindle Store.

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Dammit, why does this thing keep putting pictures sideways?

Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan: Sequel to The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, and again I couldn’t put it down. In Duncan’s alternate-history Britain, the International Patent Office stifles scientific research that they consider “unseemly”—but medical research is an exception, and is never unseemly. Or is it? Elizabeth Barnabus, our hero from the first book, finds herself following the trail of a surgeon who’s up to no good. Also on sale in the US Kindle Store at the moment. A third book is coming out on February 2 (eBook and US release; February 4 for UK paperback), and I have that date marked in my calendar.

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Planetfall by Emma Newman. I started into this yesterday and I’m about two-thirds through. A must-read for sci-fi fans. [UPDATE: finished it. Damn, this is a good read.]

[More updates: I knew I’d forgotten a few things:]

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. This is a series of urban fantasy novels about a two thousand year-old Irish Druid living in Arizona. Now, I’ve never been big on urban fantasy in the past but these books (and Chuck Wendig’s (see below)) have changed all that. These aren’t your dad’s fantasy stories, all heavy-going plodding stuff. These are fun reads you’ll find hard to put down. Trust me on this.

The Miriam Black novels by Chuck Wendig. More urban fantasy; darker and grittier stuff than Iron Druid. Miriam Black just needs to touch someone to know how and when they will die. That takes a terrible toll on her; she’s definitely damaged goods, but you can’t help being on her side. Three books to date, with a fourth out at the end of February 2017 (yes, you read that right. 2017.)

TV

(Actually I watched these online—my cable provider has an on-demand feature that means I can watch TV shows in a browser, and some shows are available online before they air. In case you’re wondering.)

The Expanse: On Ceres, a police investigator is trying to track down a missing heiress, and meanwhile someone’s trying to start a war between Earth and Mars. Oh, boy. I can’t say much about this without risking spoilers, so I’ll just say that if you haven’t seen it then you should. I’m five episodes in and can’t wait for the next one. (Aside: I’ve always liked Thomas Jane and his performance in this is, I think, the best he’s given.)

Outlander: Right after WWII, a woman is transported back to mid-18th century Scotland. The entire first season had aired before I started watching, so I’ve been catching up. I’m nine episodes in and pretty well hooked. And I want to punch Black Jack Randall right in the face. (One thing, though: as an Englishman with one-quarter Scottish blood, I can’t help but wonder if English soldiers of the 18th century, as depicted in shows like this and numerous others, were really that nasty and evil. It seems to be generally accepted without question that they were. I’d really like to know how accurate that is.)

Colony: Alien invasion story—which maybe has been done to death, especially recently, but there’s always room for something if it has fresh ideas. Is this that show? I can’t say yet—only the pilot episode is available online as I write this, so it really hasn’t got itself up to speed yet, I think. Still, I found the pilot compelling and I’ll definitely be watching more.

Mr. Robot: People have been saying good things about this, and even though I’m only halfway through the pilot episode I can see why. I’ll be watching more of this, too.

Now, I’d really better get back to getting some work done on the Artemis sequel. (Evenings are more TV and book time for me.)

Until next time . . .

2015 Wrap-up

LET me begin by saying I hope you all had a great Christmas, and I’d like to wish all my readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Pahrump, NV) a Happy New Year.

So 2015 is all but gone, and 2016 is just around the corner. Will it be any better? In hindsight I don’t think ’15 was all that bad. ’16 could end up being a lot worse, but I’m optimistic. On the political front, I really don’t think the GOP has much of a chance; if having a lying, bigoted misogynist like Trump as front-runner really means that he’s about the best they can offer, then as far as I’m concerned they’ve already lost. My money’s on Sanders this time around.

But enough of that. I want to keep this short because, well, The Expanse episode five isn’t on yet, so I’m in the middle of binge-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (I only ever saw a couple of episodes when it first aired) and I want to get some dinner and watch some more. So:

On the writing front: I’m still working on the storyline for the Artemis sequel. With the week before Christmas being taken up with all the prep for the big day, I got maybe fifteen minutes in on that. This week’s been lighter so I’ve made a bit of progress but I still have quite a way to go.

On the subject of Artemis, I’m expecting some editing work to be coming my way from my copy editor, but with the holiday I have no idea when that’ll hit. I’ll update the WiP page when I have something.

And on the subject of works-in-progress, so far no luck finding an agent for Smoke & Mirrors. What I did find was a publisher that usually doesn’t accept unagented submissions, but has an open submission period through ’til the end of January. For them, I have to boil my six-page single-spaced synopsis down to no more than three pages of double-spaced. Basically all I can do is slice out more and more detail and compress what’s already there, and hope what’s left still does the story justice. It might sound easy, but it’s surprisingly hard.

Tomorrow I’ll be getting back to that and hopefully finish it in time to get it out before New Year’s Day. Not that that’s important, but it gives me kind of a mental target to hit.

That’s all for now. Time to get some grub and get back to ST:DS9.

Until next time . . .