Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kinda Surreal, This Being Paid To Write Thing

I was pretty busy yesterday, so I didn't have the time to check for the launch of my sci-fi story, "Enemy of my Enemy" over at Afterburn SF. Not until this morning, at least. However, what I *did* notice was the quiet addition of funds to my PayPal account online for the sale of said story. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Not like I didn't know I would be receiving payment (I'd signed the contract almost a year ago, after all) -- but because I hadn't expected it to come RIGHT THAT MOMENT. Part of this is because I was so busy that I had completely lost track of the month. How *did* February already come to an end so quick?

Anyway, it was quite a rush to see payment in my inbox not just from one story--the previously purchased "Khan Tengri" by Silverthought--but now from Afterburn SF, too! The money is not a lot, of course, but for me it is the best payment I've ever received! This is like Scrooge McDuck's lucky dime -- from this I shall build an EMPIRE! Mwah-haha-hah!!!! :)

Okay, seriously though, it's a cool feeling. Now I have to remember to transfer it all to my bank account. For now I keep going back to the PayPal site and just staring at the notification. Like I said, it's not about the money itself (though that's certainly nice, and I'll take more, please), but just the symbolism behind it. While I in no way have the hubris to proclaim I've finally made it onto the publishing scene (I still have a ton more work to do before I can say that, if ever), I do feel that this is an important baby step in the right direction.

Now hopefully this baby can learn to run!

LIghtning Strikes Twice In One Month

Back around Feb. 2, I mentioned here that my second sci-fi short story to be purchased, "Khan Tengri," was available over at Silverthought online. Although it was being published first, my actual very first sale ever had occurred the previous year.

Well now that story, "Enemy of my Enemy," is finally online as well, over at Afterburn SF. Check it out for yourself if you're curious how my writing used to look 2 years ago. "Enemy of my Enemy" is an interesting story I wrote when I was still new to the concept of writing "for reals" -- and not just something I played around with like back in my high school and college days. Personally, I think I've grown a LOT since this story, yet so far to date I've been unable to sell anything else. In that sense, this story is like a glimpse back in time. I write more fluidly and concise nowadays, but in some ways these two stories are more FUN! I have to remember to recapture this fun in my new works.

"Enemy of my Enemy" is also a cross-genre fiction piece, blending sci-fi action with just the right touch of horror elements. I liken it to the movie Aliens meeting the video game series Resident Evil. Read the story and you'll understand. :)

So this concludes the thoroughly wild and altogether fruitful month of February for me. To wit, all within a few weeks I've gotten two stories published and have also been promoted at my job. March promises to be sweet as well, with our trip to Paris looming around the tail end of the month (right in time for the start of Spring).

I, of course, will be working hard in the meantime to try and add more short fiction sales to my resume. I don't want the month of February to be a fluke in 2009. I'm so desperate to keep the momentum rolling. Of course, I'll keep ya'll updated on that front.

Hope you guys like the story. Please comment here to throw out your opinions. Or just to chat. Or whatever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I Love Jury Duty!

A co-worker of mine was complaining about being stuck in jury duty today. And when I mentioned how much I *WISH* I had jury duty, she thought I was bonkers.

But it's true! There's nothing better to me than spending a whole working day (or two) at my local courthouse. And, no, that is not sarcasm.

And it's not because of my selfless devotion to civic duty, tho that's all nice and dandy too.

No, here's the real reason(s):

1) I live literally 2 blocks away from the Bronx County Superior Court. There's the picture of it right outside my bedroom window.

2) I get paid by my job for a normal workday when I take jury duty.

3) It usually takes me 5 minutes from the time I leave my apartment to the time I'm strolling through the metal detectors of the courthouse. It takes me 1 hour and change to do the same going to work.

Given # 3, which commute would you prefer?

Seriously, what's there not to love? I get up at 6:30 to leave my house at 7:30 and get to work by 8:30.

With jury duty, I wake up at 8:30, shower, eat, whistle and walk down the street and VOILA! -- I'm there by 9:30. I get to sit down in the great big hall with roughly 600 to 700 other poor souls (the Bronx is a hugely dense county, btw), read my book, write, take a light nap, etc. Then we break for a 2 - 3 hour lunch, during which I walk straight home and take a longer nap for 90 minutes, walk back, and resume reading my book for another 2 hours or so before they let us go home early at around 3:30.

They ALWAYS let us go home early.

Then I come in the next day and rinse n repeat! I've been to JD twice now, and not once have I've been called to a trial. Usually they make us come for 3 days before finally dismissing us. So that's 3 days during which I get paid my usual wages, get to slouch around reading and writing all day instead of doing boring work, and I get home super early.

And you think I should complain about this? Please, sign me up for more! As it stands, I hate the fact that I have to wait 5 years in-between stints. I would gladly do this every 6 months if they'd let me. No joke.

Heck, I wish they'd let me trade with other people in fact. Just call me weird, I guess.

Jeez, I Guess I Suck At Spelling . . .

Okay, everybody take a quick 5 minutes to try out this quiz:

The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words, from

I got a 70% -- or 19/27 correct, which the site tells me is "good," but which I consider HORRIBLY, horribly BAD!!!

You'd think I would know how to spell these words since:

A) I pretend to be a writer; and
B) I actually work for a business where much writing and editing is carried out (oops!)

Anyway . . . don't tell my boss, mmmkay? (shhhh!)

Oddly enough, I spelled all the British words correctly. I used to get in trouble in elementary school for using the British spellings of certain words like "colour" and "aluminium," even though I'm not British and have never been to jolly ol' England. I think it's from all the Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling I read growing up.

Post in the comments section and let me know how you did.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Um, So Who Watches The Watchmen?

*All of geekdom raises its hand!!!*

Well, seems like the reviews for the Watchmen movie coming out next week are off to a good start. I mean, dayum! Check out this early one from's AU affiliate. The folks at IGN down under are usually very hard to please, so to get such a glowing review from them is a big deal. Especially since there was just a tad bit of snarkiness coming out of their corner regarding Zack Snyder's effrontery to even consider making a movie out of Alan Moore's masterpiece. A big chunk of snark came from Moore himself, to be fair, which only added to every critic's arsenal in the years leading up to this release. Guess they must be feeling a little less chummy now.

Anyway, you can read the review here. I expect IGN's main site to have their own review up shortly.

On a related note, Rotten Tomatoes is already tabulating reviews from around the world. So far the film's doing pretty impressive with an 80% freshness rating on the tomatometer. Of course, for those who know RT's history, expect this number to fluctuate wildly in the next few days. Although I suspect it will still be pretty high come Friday of next week.

So, what this really means is that my excitement level for this flick--palpable before--is now officially THROUGH THE ROOF!

And don't worry about me. I don't over hype myself up for movies. Even though I am excited, I know all too well the danger of hyping yourself silly over a movie that has no chance of ever matching your expectations (see: The Phantom Menace). I will go into the theater expecting a simple movie with simple aspirations (blatant lie).

A simple movie that just so happens to KICK the ASS of most every other superhero movie that has come out in the last 8 years! Or, at least, that's what I'm hearing. :)

Anyway, as if you're not getting enough promotion from me to see this movie, here is the trailer for those of you who haven't the foggiest clue what the heck I'm talking about. Keep in mind that this is based on a comic book series that came out in the mid-80s. So if you're not into that sort of thing, just pass this one by. Until I see the film for myself, I can't comment on the accessibility of it to non-fans.

And to one of my blog readers: nope, still no vampires or werewolves in this. Sorry, Kim! :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

More On That Pesky Ole "Process" . . .

As some of you know, I talk a lot about the "process" I take to write my stories. In a real way, it's a process that is ever evolving as I learn what works and what doesn't work for me.

Cory Doctorow, SF-writer extraordinaire, writes a monthly column for Locus Magazine in which he expounds on the various issues plaguing the industry these days. But last month he took some time out to write about a common writerly foe -- distraction. More specifically, Internet distraction!

I think we're all quite familiar with that time-sucking demon, ain't we?

Anyway, I'm linking to the free article HERE, because it's just so darn useful. Especially to me. I was glad to see some of my habits are shared by Doctorow, while I've learned some new trick as well. Here's a few points I lifted straight from his article, with commentary by yours truly to follow:
  • Short, regular work schedule.
    When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. It's not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it's entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there's always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn't become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day's page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you've already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.

This is almost exactly what I do! (yay). Except, the goal I set for myself is 1,000 words a night, or one whole scene (whichever comes first). I could definitely write 1 page in 20 minutes, but reaching that 1,000 word limit can take anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours for me, depending on the scene. Some days (usually weekends) I max out at 2,000 words. But the rule to myself is to at least reach the 1k mark for the day. And yes, I also believe in doing this every single day -- weekends, holidays, birthdays, whatever. You must write SOMETHING every day, even if it is just one page in 20 mins like Mr. Doctorow suggests. I also use the technique of using the 24 hours between writing to flesh out the next 1,000 words in my mind. To jog my creative juices, I try to focus on one cool aspect/item/image of the scene I want to write (like a mini movie playing in my head) and take the excitement from that one cool item and expand on it. Again, just as Doctorow describes it. Yay, me!

  • Leave yourself a rough edge.
    When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you're in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you're in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day's knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the "hint." Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it's hard to build on a smooth edge.

This is something I NEVER do, but I'm so going to now! It blows my mind this entire concept of the "hint." Wow, where have I've been? I've always forced myself to finish out my scene no matter what. I know above I said 1,000 words or whichever comes first, but I always fib a little on this rule and try my damnedest to finish out the scene . . . no matter how falling-down dead tired I am that night. But it never occurred to me that this is why it is so hard for me to pick up from where I left off the next day. It's because I always try to finish off my writing for the night with a nice, pretty bow of completion! Next time, I'm going to try and leave a rough edge waiting. I have a feeling this is going to work wonders!

  • Don't research.
    Researching isn't writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don't. Don't give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day's idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type "TK" where your fact should go, as in "The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite." "TK" appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is "Atkins") so a quick search through your document for "TK" will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

OMG, this is definitely me. I mean, the over-researching part. I *wish* I was smart enough to not stop in the middle of writing and super research a minor detail through for 30 mins on the Internet. But do this I do! :) The funny thing is, I already knew about this method of using a technical placeholder from my writing classes. I just never use it. I definitely should. I've been getting around this potential time sink issue with my short stories by lately trying to do ALL the research before I even start writing. It's easier to control such things with short stories, though; not nearly as easy on novels I would imagine. That said, two of my most recent stories dealing with the moon have suffered greatly from the "Brooklyn Bridge" curse. Oiy!

  • Don't be ceremonious.
    Forget advice about finding the right atmosphere to coax your muse into the room. Forget candles, music, silence, a good chair, a cigarette, or putting the kids to sleep. It's nice to have all your physical needs met before you write, but if you convince yourself that you can only write in a perfect world, you compound the problem of finding 20 free minutes with the problem of finding the right environment at the same time. When the time is available, just put fingers to keyboard and write. You can put up with noise/silence/kids/discomfort/hunger for 20 minutes.

Yeah, thankfully this is not my problem at all. Not even one bit. I'm very good about writing at a set, specific time and place -- all other distractions be damned! I've written with construction hammers banging all around my house, people shouting and shooting at each other in the streets (remember folks, I live in the ghet-to), and the delivery people ringing my doorbell all day long. I've even written while on the phone (although that was a one-time thing. Okay, a two-time thing.) I put it this way to my friends: NOTHING gets in the way of my writing quota for the day. Nothing. I also believe that a writer's space should be simple and utilitarian. And for the love of God, do NOT sit facing a window overlooking the garden. That way lies madness! I prefer to type facing a blank, white wall with the door shut behind me and a naked light bulb shining down on my head. If available, I would write in a cave or dungeon -- anything rather than get bombarded by visual distractions. I suffer greatly from staring off into space. If you don't give me anything to stare off into, my writing and personal disposition improves greatly, thank you very much. :)

  • Realtime communications tools are deadly.
    The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer's ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it's needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant "DISTRACT ME" sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.

Something else I don't have to worry about. Everyone knows my distaste for web annoyances like IM and e-mail alerts. I have no such things active on my PCs. At all. I hate, hate, hate them. I don't mind being distracted on the phone while writing (surprisingly), but that IM ping would drive me fuckin BONKERS! To the point where someone would have to die. And despite what I said about the phone, I would disconnect it when I write if not for the fact that I rarely get phone calls at my house anyway. Years of caller ID screening and registering for numerous DO NOT CALL lists have finally paid off. Checking my caller ID log, I see that I get roughly one phone call per day on my house line (cell phones get checked at the door, so no one can reach me or Lisa through one once we're home for the day). It's good to be antisocial!

Anyway, that was a very good, not to mention useful, article for me to read. You should definitely click on the link if you want to read more.

Eye, Robot

I came across this woman's blog today. Tanya Vlach, a 35 year old artist residing in San Francisco, lost the function of her left eye in a car accident over three years ago. Now she wants to replace her dead eye with a prosthetic one that has a built-in camera. Problem is, no such eye exists. Not yet, anyway. Tanya has placed an APB on her blog to all interested techies and engineers out there who would like to tackle her proposal head-on. It's not as impossible as you might think. Click on her blog--Eye, Tanya--to read more. Alternatively, you can read a longer and more detailed article which appeared in the Washington Post last month here. Tanya links to the article (and over a half dozen more) on her blog's main page, too.

The sci-fi geek in me thinks this is just so cool! I would love to see her dream come true. It's a daunting task, though. While it's true that cameras are getting smaller and smaller these days, and what with the amazing tool Bluetooth has become, I don't think we're quite at that place where such an eye can be grown. But we will be in the next 10 to 15 years, tops.

In the meantime, I'm still shocked to learn that prosthetic eyes have come so far. Tanya hasn't had her whole eye removed, but wears a sort of rubberized-like cosmetic sliver over her damaged orb to give the appearance of a working, normal eye. I guess it's like a much more expensive version of a painted contact lens! It's a long ways away from the days when people had to grip uncomfortable glass orbs with their eye socket while in polite company. Ouch!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Kick In The Pants

Whoa! I just finished reading this awesome interview of Frederik Pohl in the Jan. 2009 issue of Locus Magazine. This man's been in the game for over 70 years now -- and has had his hand in virtually every aspect of the SF industry, from writer to agent to editor to collaborator, and so on. I've read only a couple of his books, and a handful of short stories, but I've always admired his style and wit. My short story "Born Yesterday" was inspired in part by his 1994 novel, The Voices of Heaven.

This interview completely rocked my world because it's chocked full of anecdotal nuggets concerning the behind-the-scenes workings of the sci-fi publishing industry. The Grand Masters of sci-fi usually give the best interviews to Locus, but this one was truly exceptional. You can read some of the excerpts by clicking here, but will have to buy the full issue in bookstores or online if you want to read more. Or you can borrow my copy (hint, hint to to all my local friends).

As I was reading the interview, I found myself getting more and more excited about the whole prospect of writing in this industry. In fact, Mr. Pohl's words have lit a fire under me to get my latest story started when I get home from work tonight. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a story that just popped into my head this week and which has been overriding the other stories on my plate already waiting for their turn to be written. I think I will write it after all, and see what comes. If I'm correct about how the concept is going, it should be a quick write and hopefully I'll be finished by Sunday. If I can pull that off, I'll start the story that this one is usurping next Friday.

That's the plan, anyway. I hope I can pull off at least two more stories before now and the trip to Paris. I don't want to have the spectre of a story screaming to be written hanging over me while I'm cruising down the river Seine enjoying champagne and fois gras.

Okay, that sounded a bit more crass than I intended . . . but you get my drift.

Happy Friday everybody!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who Reads The NY Post Anyway?

There's been some uproar recently over a political cartoon published in the NY Post which some have taken to be a racist slant against our President.

Now, look, I'm all for calling out racism when it rears its ugly head. I would be the first to throw down if this were in fact a truly racist cartoon. But, folks, seriously . . . come on now? You all can't be *this* stupid!

Before I go on, for those of you living under a rock and who haven't read the cartoon in question, here it is:

Now, keep in mind that this cartoon is coming out a couple of days after a poor woman was attacked and viciously mauled by her friend's chimpanzee, an incident in which police had to shoot and kill the chimp. Combined that with the recent brouhaha over the stimulus bill making the rounds in Congress over the past few weeks, and you see the backdrop against which this silly cartoon was painted.

And, yeah, if you *want* to act really ignorant and choose to look at the cartoon in a certain light, yeah it *might* seem overly racist. The knee-jerk reaction being that the cartoon is comparing Obama to a chimp gone crazy.

But hold on here. Is this really what the cartoon is saying? I offer that it is not. First off, Obama is not the author of the stimulus plan. He didn't write the thing out himself by the dim light of the midnight oil in the oval office. The bill was drafted by a number of authors, all of whom work in Washington. What the cartoon is satirizing here is not the President, but the chimps in Congress who drafted and ok'd the bill. Yes, President Obama backs and endorses the bill, but he did not write it. And even if he did, the cartoon is saying that the bill is so lopsided and full of nonsensical holes that it MIGHT AS WELL have been written by a bunch of chimps.

And let's be honest here, folks, it kinda does seem like it was. I'm a huge supporter of Obama and a tried and true voting Democrat, but I can't lie and say I'm entirely put at ease by this huge stimulus package. For now I trust Obama and his advisers, but at the same time I can appreciate the need for and the execution of a wee bit of humor at the expense of those backing the bill.

Come on, people. Let's not make a mountain out of something that is definitely not deserving of this much attention. It was silly, maybe a little bit in bad taste (considering the poor woman who now needs facial reconstruction because of the chimp), but was in no way comparing our President to a simian.

I just wanted to be clear here. Let's all move along now and get back to our normally scheduled programming.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Good Month Continues . . . Then Dies.

On the heels of the news about me having two short stories published in one month, I was also told by my boss that I was being promoted to supervisor. The announcement was officially made this morning, but I knew about it for 3 weeks now. I just couldn't tell anyone about it except for Lisa and some close friends. So, yeah, it's been one of those months of unbridled good news for me.

That is, until I got rejected by three different outlets on three different short stories all within a general 3-day period of time last week. Ouch! Luckily for me, I've been dealing with rejections for going on a year now since seriously sending my stories out, so I've actually developed a thick skin about the whole ordeal. But to get 3 of them back-to-back and all at once was a bit tough to swallow even for me. Usually the feedback I get is helpful and, in my own way, I'm able to see the validity of the suggestions I receive back from editors. But for this one story, I just had to disagree completely. I'm not going into the details here because I plan to send the same story out to other outlets, but suffice to say that the nit was a very minor one and completely ignores a much larger issue that occurs with the ending twist to the story. The fact that the reader mentions the smaller nit and ignores the larger picture item at the end of the story that actually resolves the nit . . . makes me think that the reader didn't read my story all the way through.

Which is fine. This is how the business works. But whereas I would normally incorporate the comments from a rejection and make some edits before sending the same story out again, this time I'm going to just send it out as is. If I get a similar crit back this time (doubtful), then I'll stop to re-examine the story and see what I can change. I'm not worried, though. Unlike others I've written, I really do think this particular story is darn good. It's not the "Hatchling" story I just finished writing, though. That one is still my best story to date, IMHO. This other one was written back in September and is more of a light-hearted sci-fi parody. That being said, I'm finding it difficult to pick exactly the right market to send it to. On the plus side, it's been quite a learning experience for me discovering new market sources on the web to help me narrow down an appropriate outlet, including those overseas.

So, on the agenda this week:

1) Send out 2 of the 3 rejected stories to new outlets;
2) Put the 3rd rejected story on ice for now. It's been edited to hell and back again, and I just can't seem to sell it. Which is sad because that was one of my good ones (to me, at least).
3) Start the new story I've been working on in my head for the last couple of weeks.

The only bad thing about no. 3 on that list is that, as of this morning, I just got an idea for a quick and really exciting new short that has been overriding all other thoughts since I've been at my desk. I want nothing more than to just lock myself away and work on this, but I don't want to abandon the story I'm *supposed* to be writing this weekend.

Seeing as how I don't think this exciting new new story will hold up to being put on the back burner for a week or two--whereas the other one has been slowly building up in my mind--I think I'll put off the latter to work on the former. It's going to be a quick, short little number I can feel. So maybe I can bat it out in one go (unlikely, given my hectic schedule this month) and start the other one next week?

We shall see . . .

The Forever War

I completely forgot about this until John Scalzi mentioned it over at his site, but the re-issue of Joe Haldeman's Hugo- and Nebula-award winning military sci-fi opus, The Forever War, is now out in bookstores. Believe it or not, I've never actually read this book, despite my own writing being heavily influenced by it through third-hand parties, such as the wonderful Old Man's War series of books by John Scalzi himself. In fact, Scalzi provides the forward in this new trade paperback edition of The Forever War released by St. Martin's Press. You can read more about the book here.

I had this on my Amazon wishlist all this time, but now I'm moving it to my checkout cart, along with a few other books from the list. I swear, I keep telling myself I'm going to read more non-fiction one of these days, but with so much awesome sci-fi books to catch up on--both old (Forever War) and new (Ian McDonald's Cyberabad Days)--I don't know when I'll ever have the time!

It's a good time to be a sci-fi fan, despite news to the contrary that fantasy YA is where all the money's at these days. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Taken By "Taken"

We ventured out into the city yesterday due to being cooped up indoors the entire day of Valentine's (for various reasons, of which I shall not go into detail here). The weather was a lot warmer than it has any right being in the middle of February, though it was still only in the 40s.

Downtown was a lot less crowded on Sunday than it is on Saturdays, even despite the fact that the next day was a major holiday for most folks. We saw the sci-fi flick, Push, (garbage btw), and then the Liam Neeson starring movie, Taken, about a retired government operative who's daughter is kidnapped into a human-trafficking ring while in Paris. Neeson's character goes Charles Bronson and tracks down the perpetrators in this ring while barely keeping a step or two ahead of the Parisian police. It was a really small, but ultimately satisfying film. We really, really liked it.

It was weird watching, though, because we'd only just booked our flight and hotel to Paris for next month. Even in my brief stint researching the trip so far, I found myself recognizing certain streets and addresses in the movie as being near where we'll be staying! So that was a lot of fun. Watching the movie only made us even more excited about going, this being our first time in Europe and all. I only hope we get there before the giant hordes of tourists descend on the city in time for the warm weather. We'll be going the day before Spring starts, so hopefully Paris will be relatively off-season still. If it's still cold by March 20, it should be fine. But I get a feeling the weather's going to warm up a bit by the time we get there.

I shouldn't complain, though. I plan to do as much walking as humanly possible, so it would be nice if we're not being blasted by arctic Scandinavian winds while walking down Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre.

Has anyone been to gay Paris? We're spending 6 days there, and don't speak a word of French. I'm learning a few phrases, though. Right now the only thing I can muster up is: Excuze moi, je ne parlay pas tres bien Francais. Which (I think) means: "I'm sorry, but I don't speak French very well." Which is funny since, technically, I don't speak French at all!

But I'm sure we'll have fun. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

That New Quentin Tarantino Flick . . .

OMG, I'm so excited to see this movie! Quentin Tarantino's next flick is coming out late this summer, and the first trailer just aired this week. The film's called Inglourious Basterds [sic] starring Brad Pitt, amongst many other notable faces. At first I was put off by the idea of Pitt being in a Tarantino production. For some reason, the two didn't seem a right fit. I like Brad's work, don't get me wrong, but really?

Anyway, this trailer has proved me wrong. I can see the genius behind casting Mr. Jolie now. I should have known to leave it to my man Quentin to know what the hell he's doing! And, hey, from a purely marketing viewpoint it works as well. I mean, how many more women will turn up now? Probably a heck of a lot more than usual for Tarantino, I can tell you that much.

Anyway, here's your trailer:

The film is looking like a cross between a typical World War II Nazi flick, and a Spaghetti Western. Yeah, imagine that. Quirky, but we are talking QT here. I mean, what'd you expect? (heh, heh)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Like My Big Cities Dreary

I don't know what it is about me, but I love overcast days. I actually despise sun-shiny days. Not because I'm trying to go all goth or a wannabe vampire like is all the craze these days, but because everything looks so much cooler with dark clouds hanging above it all.

But when I go out to the countryside, I find that dreariness does not suit a more natural setting. So I realized it's only when I'm in the city that I prefer it to look appropriately gloomy and sinister -- the way it looks in, say, a Tim Burton movie. Yup, that's the look that fits big cities best!

Today *was* a gloomy day. I say "was" because suddenly the sun decided to break out around noon and ruin my perfectly washed-out looking morning, as evidenced by the picture above taken right outside the window at my office.

Doesn't that look like the New York you've come to expect?

We'll be going to Paris next month, and this is exactly how I'm secretly hoping it will look the entire time we're there. Lisa would kill me if she knew this is what I hope for. But, come on, it's going to be March! It's not like there's going to be flowers and trees blooming or anything. Plus, it's called the City of Lights for a reason. So who cares if it's overcast? (heh, heh)

Does anyone else think the gloom befits a big, old city? People from So-Cal are automatically banned from adding their 2 cents, btw. :)

Overheard On The Elevator This Morning

Two guys on the elevator with me. Guy 1 is holding today's Wall Street Journal in his hands. The other guy looks over and points to the front page.

Guy 2: "Shocking!"

Guy 1: "Yes, isn't it? Our President gives his first prime time television news conference, and the Journal puts A-Rod's face on the cover."

Ain't that the truth, brother!

What I find even more unbelievable is that Obama's speech actually had something to do with the, you know, economy and what-not. Seems like something the WSJ should be just a tad bit more interested in, no? To be fair, all the major newspapers followed similar suit this morning. Even the New York Times.


Monday, February 9, 2009

This Season of BSG is FRAKKIN Awesome!!!

Currently, Sci-Fi Channel is running the last episodes of what is definitely one of my top 3 favorite sci-fi shows of all time -- Battlestar Galactica. And the last two episodes in particular have been good on a level no show in existence has been for me. I mean BSG has always been right at the cutting edge of great genre television, but they far outdid themselves with the two-parter that just aired. And here's a clip to show you why:


Seriously, I get major goosebumps from this scene. It's just so damn awesome. The episode was a major roller coaster ride of emotion. So beautifully written -- and acted!

P.S. -- There's been word that this clip has been regional blocked for some viewers. Let me know if you can't access it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Retro Christmas Card - Broke 80s Style!

I was tagged by Kim Kasch to post the 4th pic in my photo album. Since I have dozens of photo albums--both in physical form as well as digital--spread out all over the place, I assumed she meant what passes as my main family photo album. And so here we are.

This is a pic taken in 1984, when I was 8 years old. That's me on the right, my younger brother Jose on the left, and we're holding our 10-month old baby sister, Kita, in our lap. I actually remember taking this picture. My mother had gotten the idea to start a new tradition with the birth of our sister, and that was to harass family members and friends with cutesy holiday picture cards. What, you thought this fad was something new in the digital age? Pshhh! What? The old photomats were accomplishing this feat long before the advent of Photoshop and Kodak EasyShare software! With what I assume must have amounted to cardboard and string, but accomplish it they did!

Anyway, my mother didn't hire no fancy-shmancy photographer. She didn't take us to a studio. No, she tacked up a bed sheet on the living room wall, sat us in the middle, and snapped this photo herself (haha!). And it shows! But, hell, we weren't rich, so this just had to do.

But it accomplished the goal. Here we are, our mother's children. Needless to say this was a happier time, despite all that we did not have. And despite what was about to happen . . .

But, for this one moment captured in time, we were happy and oblivious. Life had had its ups and downs even by this young age for me, but the fact that I'm still smiling in photos at this point just goes to show that the worst had not yet happened.

And to me, that makes this photo very special.

I'm supposed to tag 4 more people, but I hate tagging people. So those of you who read my blog, if you have a blog and feel like doing this, be my guest. Consider yourself tagged (you know who you are). Then post in my comments section a link to your blog entry. 'Kay? Thanks!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Watchmen Viral Trailer - Oh Hells Yeah!!!

As seems to be the trend these days, a few viral trailers have been making their way online in anticipation of the official release of the hotly anticipated Watchmen film, coming out exactly one month from now. Viral trailers, for those who don't know, are part of a genre film's marketing campaign, illustrating often secondary and background info about the main story with footage not actually a part of the official film. For the movie Cloverfield, the viral trailers showed the events leading up to the first appearance of the giant monster.

Anyway, here is a cool one about the Keene Act, a fictitious Congressional bill passed in the alternate history version of 1977 in which the Watchmen universe takes place. The Keene Act made vigilantism illegal, thereby branding public heroes like the Watchmen outlaws overnight. It goes without saying that this is probably only of interest to fans of the graphic novel, since newcomers not familiar with The Watchmen probably won't get the context before seeing the film.

Damn, I so want to watch this movie RIGHT NOW!!! March 6th can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wow, I'm All A-Glow!

Well, as promised, here's the link to my very first purchased short story which is now up at Silverthought Online:

"Khan Tengri"

Scroll halfway down the page to the new short fiction section. My story should be the second from the top. I didn't directly link to it because I want people to see and check out the other excellent stories included with mine in this February update of Silverthought. Give them a read, too!

But of course, read mine first! :) You'll see that there is a "discussion" link underneath my title on the main page. Click on that and leave a comment at Silverthought's message board on what you thought of the story. It requires registration, but it's free. Or, you can comment here in this blog entry. Please leave feedback either way. Us writers are starved for attention, and we need reassurances to coddle our precious little egos along, y'know.

Before you read, however, know that this is sci-fi. If that is not your cup of tea, just bare with it for as long as you can. Or you can turn back now. Be forewarned! :)

A little bit of background on the story:

I wrote "Khan Tengri" 2 years ago, a little after the time I had decided to try this writing thing out for good. I had only been writing for a few months, and this was either my 8th or 9th completed short story at the time. Reading the tale now, I can clearly see that I've improved a bit since writing it. But at the same time it makes me nostalgic for the mind frame I was in back then. I had already felt the sting of negative criticism with some of my earlier works, and so no longer lived in this fantasy la-la land that all my writing gleamed and sparkled. I knew I sucked, and that only time and a lot of work would make me suck less. So with that in mind, I set out to write the type of sci-fi that I liked reading. Because, when all is said and done, why shouldn't I?

Fast forward 2 years, and one major revision later (and a ton of minor polishes based on critiques from friends and workshoppers), and you have the product that sits before you. It's my second story to get purchased, but the first to publish (my first sale is appearing later this month).

It has its problems and setbacks, and is a bit rough around the edges, but I love it!

I hope you enjoy.

Huh? Does It Never Snow In London?

I've been hearing about some huge, mutant snowstorm that totally brutalized the U.K Sunday night and Monday, with words being tossed about like "crippling," "devastating," and "disastrous" among many. Seems London in particular was hit pretty hard, with much of the workforce staying home, the infrastructure brought to a standstill, and all schools closed. So I clicked on this article to read the details . . .

. . . And I have to admit I was at a loss for words. 8 inches of snow? That's it? WTF?

How is that even worth mentioning? I mean, NYC also misses out on all the truly epic blizzards (boo!), but even we don't act like a bunch of panzies when it eventually snows 8 inches. I mean, sure, some people do -- and I'm sure schools do close -- but that's about it. Traffic still flows, the subways still run, and my sorry ass still has to come in to work like everyone else.

How is this the largest snowstorm they've had in 18 years? I just can't comprehend this. I mean, it's winter right? And it snows in winter, yes? How was this such a big, major event?

I'd appreciate it if anyone can clue me in. Kthxbye.

Yay . . . Er, Whaa???

I tried to avoid the Superbowl this weekend as:

1) I'm not really a fan to begin with; and

2) This year's match up seemed particularly boring (unlike last year's).

Still, I did watch it, and I did catch the commercials. I was especially pumped to see the teaser for the new G.I. Joe movie, which is yet another whoring of a beloved 80s cartoon franchise from my childhood.

Thing is, for all the heaping amounts of cool and kick-assery going on in these brief 30 seconds, you'd be really hard-pressed to say this is the G.I. Joe franchise until the name comes up at the end. WTF? I mean, it looks great, don't get me wrong. But it looks like a generic Michael Bay movie. Which, when it's Michael Bay, is still full blast, high-octane, peddle-to-the-meddle movie making at its best.

Anyway, I guess that's why it's called a "teaser." It's just supposed to give you a whiff of what's in store. I just hope that whiff does not turn out to be dog poo when all is said and done. You can't get that smell out for DAYS, I'm telling you.

Oh, and here's the teaser trailer I'm talking about:

I have to say the Baroness is looking deliciously evil and yummy! And Scarlett is pretty nice on the eyes. And hey, look, it's Heavy Duty!!! But of course, all eyes go to Snake Eyes -- my man Ray Park doing his kung-fu acrobatics! Here he kinda looks like Spider-Man, though. What's up with that? I mean Snake Eyes does indeed do a lot of flips and shit, but not quite up to this kind of scale. Damn those super mutant movies of late!!!!

For those of you not raised on 80s animated goodness, or who watched Rainbow Brite or My Little Pony instead . . . er, move along. Nothing to see here. :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

What It Takes

A while back I mentioned that one of the biggest misconceptions I've since had corrected is that writing is all about talent.

Well, it's not. Not even close.

That's right, you heard me. There's actually a lot more that goes into successful writing than talent alone. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that talent means absolute squat if you're thinking of making it in this business.

But listen to me rattle! As if I'm an expert or anything. :)

No, sadly I have a TON to learn still. But it's funny how much my perception of the trade has already changed (for the better!) since I began taking things seriously two years ago. I was just thinking about it today while working out. Here's what I've learned:

A writer with virtually NO imagination but buckets of determination and work ethic will still make it in this field. He might have written only one or two real novels, and have almost no readership, but he's published. He got to where he was by sheer determination despite his shortcomings.

Then there is the writer with gobs of natural-born creativity--and who knows it to boot!--but is too lazy to put in the hours, months, YEARS it takes to really get noticed. To him, he feels his god-given talent is obvious for all to see, and that publishers should be beating down his door to sign him to a multi-book, multi-MILLION dollar contract. This type of writer is the writer that never publishes anything. His precious ego gets crushed the first time he turns in a failed manuscript due to shoddy mechanics, or gets reamed-in by his crit group. This is the guy who decides after just a few years that the world is simply not ready to receive his brilliance, and mopes around the Starbucks hoping the chick behind the counter will have pity on his sob story and sleep with him.

Point is, talent means zero. Or, rather, very little. All of the professional writers who's life stories I've read have all mentioned one thing in common: and that is that it took real suffering and slaving away at the keyboard for YEARS before they were even slightly competent enough to be taken seriously by editors. These people are the stubborn bastards of their gene pools -- they refuse to listen to good reason when that reason is telling them to pack it up and leave the game to more talented folks. These are the people who willingly descend into madness, locking themselves up in their basements and refusing sunlight or the succor of family and friends. These are the people who bleed their frustrations, hopes, tears, and joys onto the very pages they type. All for maybe some day attaining that dream.

The talented slob is a nobody. The determined hack is king compared to this fool.

Now, I'm not trying to say I fit into either of these archetypes. *grins* In this one endeavor, I happily steer towards the middle. Halfway between burning talent and mediocre tenacity, I aim to be neither one nor the other, but maybe just a little of both. :)

And yes: I'd rather be called a hack and have published a few books, than to be called potentially brilliant but a wasted talent who never took off.

Not that I've been called either. Not yet, anyway. But I'm just saying . . .

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dream Opposites

I have this strange reoccurring dream. Seems that I constantly dream the opposite of what is about to happen in real life, particularly concerning important events specific to myself. As a teenager, just before end of the year report cards, it was customary of me to have a particular bad dream the night before where I failed two or three classes and would need to repeat a grade. I would wake up terrified and wonder if it was a portent of things to come. Only to go to school and find out that I had passed with flying colors.

Same thing happened with my driving test, and with my thesis review in college. And each time reality turned out to be the opposite. But sometimes I'll dream a "good" outcome, like winning a contest or something, only to end up having the opposite and "bad" result in real life.

Such is the case as what happened last night. I don't want to go into details, because I firmly believe in the power of the jinx, but I just dreamt that I got a letter in the mail saying that one of my stories was purchased by this really important place I've been waiting to hear back from now. And in the dream, everyone was so happy for me. And I remember saying: "Wow, when it rains it pours! A third story, now? I can't believe my luck!"

And then I woke up. I literally yelled out in frustration. Not just because I realized it had been a dream, but because I know what this usually means for me. Yup, the exact opposite of what happened in the dream.

So now I'm worried that this particular story I have in mind has been rejected. Of course, time will tell.

Then again, one bit of hope is this: the last time I sent a story to this place and was so worried about the outcome, I didn't have any dreams about it at all. And then I got the letter saying it was rejected. Maybe I should take it as a good sign that I had a dream at all this time?

Or maybe I'm just thinking too much about it. Yeah, that's probably right. :)

Well, back to revising. I was just taking a quick break, but now I need to get back. Oh, and Fallout 3 is calling, too. I'll jump back on that after my jog later, and then update my sidebar if I have the chance.

Have a good Sunday, folks! Oh yeah, and it's February! Wow, can you believe how fast the month of January flew by?

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...