Ah, Sweet Procrastination

Hopefully you won’t see something akin to the picture above in July.

Some time around the beginning of the year (or earlier), it was announced that Apple would be dropping MobileMe in favor of iCloud. Almost all of the services available on MobileMe were available on iCloud and there was no reason for the redundancy. Those of us with MobileMe accounts automatically got iCloud account, we synced our calendars and contacts across all of our mobile devices and there was much rejoicing.*

Unfortunately, not all of the services would continue to be available.** One of the most obvious was web hosting. Now this shouldn’t be an issue for those of us here at the Roost.*** We moved off of MobileMe years ago.

The main concern is that there will be no more iWeb support or development. OK, no big deal. I had been thinking about switching to a different web design program anyway. This would just be the impetus I needed to finally get off of my butt and do it. I did some research, solicited advice on the Zuckerberg experiment, and made my decision. I downloaded the full version of one of the programs I had been testing (there were seven or so). Then I started remaking The Dragon’s Roost.

I did like a page and a half.

Then I sort of forgot about it.

Well, not really forgot. It was always on the list of things to do, it just kept getting pushed further and further down.

So why am I going into all of this now? Because the bell is tolling for MobileMe. As of 1 July it will cease to exist.

Hopefully this website will not do the same.

I think that I have done everything I need to do to insure the continued existence of my little rant platform. Hopefully I will also be able to continued to publish to it as well. I won’t know for sure until this weekend.

Until then, rest assured that if I find out that I have disappeared from the internets, I will rush the project and get
something up. In a similar vein, be aware that one of these days you will surf over here and find that it looks radically different. That will mean that I figured out what I was doing and started using the other program. There will probably be an extended period of time**** where some of the old material will be unavailable. I will do my best to get the archived Napalms up ASAP.

That’s all for now. I would start working on the new website design now, but I’m headed out of town.




*Huzzah

**It’s always something, right?

***Fingers crossed.

****I mean let’s be honest. Hopefully you won’t see something akin to the picture above in July.

Some time around the beginning of the year (or earlier), it was announced that Apple would be dropping MobileMe in favor of iCloud. Almost all of the services available on MobileMe were available on iCloud and there was no reason for the redundancy. Those of us with MobileMe accounts automatically got iCloud account, we synced our calendars and contacts across all of our mobile devices and there was much rejoicing.*

Unfortunately, not all of the services would continue to be available.** One of the most obvious was web hosting. Now this shouldn’t be an issue for those of us here at the Roost.*** We moved off of MobileMe years ago.

The main concern is that there will be no more iWeb support or development. OK, no big deal. I had been thinking about switching to a different web design program anyway. This would just be the impetus I needed to finally get off of my butt and do it. I did some research, solicited advice on the Zuckerberg experiment, and made my decision. I downloaded the full version of one of the programs I had been testing (there were seven or so). Then I started remaking The Dragon’s Roost.

I did like a page and a half.

Then I sort of forgot about it.

Well, not really forgot. It was always on the list of things to do, it just kept getting pushed further and further down.

So why am I going into all of this now? Because the bell is tolling for MobileMe. As of 1 July it will cease to exist.

Hopefully this website will not do the same.

I think that I have done everything I need to do to insure the continued existence of my little rant platform. Hopefully I will also be able to continued to publish to it as well. I won’t know for sure until this weekend.

Until then, rest assured that if I find out that I have disappeared from the internets, I will rush the project and get
something up. In a similar vein, be aware that one of these days you will surf over here and find that it looks radically different. That will mean that I figured out what I was doing and started using the other program. There will probably be an extended period of time**** where some of the old material will be unavailable. I will do my best to get the archived Napalms up ASAP.

That’s all for now. I would start working on the new website design now, but I’m headed out of town.




*Huzzah

**It’s always something, right?

***Fingers crossed.

****I mean let’s be honest.

Hooray My Ass

The rant button got punched early this morning.

Yes, it’s that rant again.

I took a perfectly pleasant discussion about sequels on
Facebook and though my invective all over it. The worst part is that it wasn’t even my thread. I went all pre-coffee crazy on something ML had started.

Well that’s hardly fair so I would like to once again apologize for that. I would also like to continue the discussion, or at least a portion of it. The question of the worst cinematic remakes and sequels was implied. I wan’t to know your opinion. Rest assured, there are no right or wrong answers.*

In the name of full disclosure and so you know
why I am collecting all of these, I will include my responses** from the Zuckerberg Experiment here:

Before any Hollywood producer is allowed to remake a movie they should have to pay for the widespread theatrical rerelease of the original. If what they really want to do is introduce a new generations to the characters and stories what could be better. If the movie hits they will have made their money and there is no need for a remake. If it tanks they might think a remake would not be financially viable.

Alternatively, all those involved in the remake decision process should be gathered in a room and fired to watch the worst remakes, sequels, and reimaginings Clockwork Orange style. For added torture they should have negative viewer responses piped in as well.

And ECT. Just random bolts of electricity right into the brain pan.

Maybe that nutshot hammer thing from the Japanese game show segment of that episode of
Supernatural.

And then later, the reasoning behind the severity of the punishment:

Before we discuss levels of cruelty, allow me to provide my rationalization. My idea stems not from an emotional attachment to certain pieces of cinema but out of a need to protect future generations (Won't someone think of the children?!?)

Movie Producer A decides to remake a film. For this argument I won't even got with a "Classic" like Casablanca (which would probably create too much of an uproar) but something from my own formative years. I'll even stay away from my usual genre and go with a comedy which is slated to be remade.

Ferris Bueler's Day Off.

Jackhole Producer decides this is a good idea. Seven different screenwriters hack away at the original script until it is barely recognizable (we have to update it for today so there will have to be metal detectors and guards in the school and Homeland Security will have to get involved in the search).

In order to totally capitalize on the chance to pull in every possible dollar from the new audience, the casting director panders to the masses and hires the most recent flashes in the pan.

For example: Justin Bieber.

As Ferris or Sloane, not sure yet.

and

This doesn't even address the poor bastards with OCD

waves

who are compelled to see each subsequent sequel. You know, the ones who sat through all 27 Hellraiser movies.

Really? I'm pretty sure it was 27. It felt like 27.

The movie is, of course, abysmal. However, those too young to know the original now take an attitude of "Yeah, I saw that and it sucked. I don't know what the big deal is."

And they never see the original.

Punishment for all this? I think I took it easy on them.


and finally:

I'll admit it, some of these movies feel like a slap in the face of people who are creating original content.

So there it is. I’m not (necessarily) talking about myself here. I have read a
LOT of good books lately many of which would make great movies.*** I would rather see a new stew with different spices which I may or may not like the taste of than the warmed over, watered down soup from last week.

What I want to know is what movies are we going to make those hangnails watch? List your choices for worst remakes and sequels here or on the corresponding FB post. Feel free to defend your answers.

Remember, no right and wrong.****



*Yes there are. I’ll try not to comment on all the wrong answers.

**The sad thing is that all of this came from a simple 6 word post:
The Crow III: Salvation is terrible.

***
Crap, there’s another thread.

****This will count as 30% of your final grade.

Hooray My Ass 2: Electric Boogaloo

Yes, two posts.

I can hear you now:
“Wait, we are used to one a month. We can’t handle two in one day.”

Don’t worry. Breath deep and slow and it will be fine.

“Another post on the same thing? Boo.”

Don’t rush to judge. This one is more positive. Oh, and much shorter.

“Wait, wasn’t the last post extolling the virtue of new material and how much you hate sequels? Doesn’t this make you a hypocrite?”

...

Shut up.*

Anyhoo, if none of that made sense, go here and read the previous post (or hit that little arrow marked
previous). That will give you the basis for this.

This is the place where I want to hear the good stuff you’ve read. Not just any good stuff, that’s what
Goodreads is for. No, I want you to list the recent books you have read that would make a good movie.

Or at least that you would like to see made into a movie. As before, there are no right and wrong answers but feel free to defend your responses.**

List them in the comments section here or in the corresponding
Facebook post.



*Seriously, shut up. Don’t be a dick. That’s my job.

**This is another 30% of your grade. The final will be 30% and the final 10% is attendance and participation in classroom discussion.

The Future is NOW!

I love living in the future!

Granted, I don't have a flying car or jetpack, but I don't know that those would be good transportation choices for someone with acrophobia. I don't even like going up in high buildings. I certainly wouldn't want to live in one of those flying apartment things. You can keep your Jetsonian future, thank you very much.

I think I am relieved that the Gibsonian* cyber-punk future hasn't become the present. Not because of the dystopian thing like you would think. I remember reading Neuromancer and thinking how cool it would be to be able to plug directly into a computer. Considering the drain on productivity that Facebook and the Zynga games have become, perhaps it is best that I don't have that direct interface.

No, I am quite pleased with the futuristic items which are now part of my present. I carry a communication device which allows me to connect to anyone almost anytime and anywhere. If I choose, this communication can be textual (my preferred method), vocal, or what-ever the "al" word for face to face video conferencing is. This same device is also a still camera, a video camera, contains a library of reading material, a second library of music, and a whole toy chest full of games that I can play alone or with others.

That's just the one I have in my pocket. There is also the slightly larger device which does all of that and more. The one that I am writing this on right now.

To be honest, the inspiration for this entry was neither of these devices but actually an accessory which works with each and the applications which are associated with it. I'm not really sure why I am making such a big deal out of it. What I do know is that when I set it up I had that "I live in the future moment."***

The item in question is a little gizmo which plugs into the audio out jack of my iPhone/iPad and allows me to read the magnetic strips on key cards.

More simply, I have a credit card swiper.

The
GLAHW has been knocking around the idea of accepting credit cards for about a year now. We make a number of appearances each year. We usually have books, magazines, and other merchandise available for sale. Sometimes people just simply do not have the cash on hand. Being able to accept credit cards would solve this problem.

I am going to pause here for a moment and draw your attention to what has me all wired.*4
Credit cards went from being something used primarily by traveling salesmen to the predominate method of making purchases in a roughly my lifetime.*5 I distinctly remember standing in line while people wrote out checks for their groceries. The bookstore I worked at in the late 80s was using cutting edge technology when it moved to the Veriphone Zon Jr (a smaller swiper/numeric keypad/printer) and we only had to use the big CHA-CHANG thing when the system went down. You know what I mean. That thing that looked kind of like a shoe store foot measuring device that the clerk put your card in. Yep, we were very glad to not have to spend five minutes every night washing the purple mimeo ink off of our fingers.*6

Fast forward 30 or so years. Last year I used my credit card for a couple of purchases at the Renaissance Festival. And no CH-CHANG for some of them. Just a quick swipe and a sign the screen please.

In a temporary storefront without electricity or phone lines in the middle of a wooded area.

Think about all of the developments that were required for that to happen. Not only did someone have to develop the actual technology to read the magnetic strip on the credit cards, it had to evolve to the point where it could be carried anywhere. Miniaturization and coding, hand in hand. There had to be a digital infrastructure in place which allows immediate access to financial information (thank you internet). Mobile technology had to develop to the point where it could access the internet from anywhere. This meant network coverage which extends just about everywhere (in North America).*8

We won't even start on the touch screen signature part.*9

And now I'm part of this!

Well GOOOOL-LY!

There were actually a number of things for the group to consider. Most of the credit card verification companies will give you the little swiper dealie for free when you sign up, so price wasn't an issue that way. The financial question was how much use of the service would cost us. Some of the services charge a monthly fee, others a per transaction fee. Our sales cluster around specific times of year, namely the spring conventions and Halloween appearances. Paying a fee for the other 8 or 9 months doesn't seem all that practical.

One area where the actual gizmo did have to be considered was who would be using it. The four or five people who usually work the convention tables own a diverse selection of mobile devices. All of the big ones are represented: Android, Apple, and Blackberry. The gizmo would have to work on all of them.

Similarly, the software application would have to be able to be run on multiple devices. By this I mean that it would have to be compatible with them. Also, it would have to allow access to the account from different mobile devices. We couldn't ask someone to give us their phone for the weekend so we could work a con that they were not attending.

SquareUp seemed to fit the bill nicely. We will get our first test this weekend at the
Motor City Comic Con.

So the gizmo itself is pretty cool. That's not what put the ridiculous geek grin on my face. I got up one morning and was goofing around with the application. I wanted to get familiar with the interface and what I would have to do to use it before I actually have to use it. I discovered that you can create inventory lists with pictures and price points. You don't have to put in the price, just tap the picture of what the person is buying.

How cool is that?

While I was taking pictures of all of the GLAHW anthologies, a little pop up appeared asking if I would like to download something called Register which would allow me to better control inventory and bonuses for repeat customers.

Would I like to have the ability to organize the information about the items for sale in multiple ways? Is CDO the correct order for the letters in OCD?

I downloaded that application (free!) and set it up on my iPad as well. I am logged into the group account in one and my own in the other. Yeah, I set it up so I can sell my own merchandise as well as the group's.

Now that you have set through all of this techno-hype, I just know that you are dying to come see it in action. I'll look for your bright shiny faces at the
Suburban Collection Showplace (46100 Grand River, Novi, MI 48374) for the Motor City Comic Con. Hours are:

Fri (18 May): 12:30 - 7:00
Sat (19 May): 10:30 - 6:00
Sun (20 May): 10:30 - 5:00

For more information on the MCCC, see the previous post here.

Looking forward to see you all (and maybe even selling you something)!



In the spirit of full disclosure I will mention that this entry was going to be about two different technologies that I was playing with at the same time. The second, my surprise for
Penguicon, did not quite pan out. I am going to tweak it and try again next year so mum's the word for now.

Besides, this was long enough without it, don't you think?



*Please pardon my neologism. I'm sure most of you got the reference to the Jetsons. For those not familiar with William Gibson what you need to know is that his book Neuromancer (the first book to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K Dick awards -- a sci-fi trifecta) started what came to be known as the cyberpunk** movement. If you haven't read it (or have only seen the Keanu Reeves cinematic adaption), I highly recommend it. While reading, keep in mind that it was published over a quarter century ago. Gibson imagined a future where everyone is jacked into a virtual computerized world back before HTML was invented.

**Hopefully you aren't looking for a definition of cyberpunk. This foot note is just me stating that cyberpunk was the first of the literary "punk" sub-genres. If cyberpunk focuses on computers and the melding of mind and machine in a gritty future (there, I defined it anyway), the other subgenres focus on other aspects while maintaining that dark tone. Just about anything can be and has been termed something-punk. The more recognizable include biopunk (genetic hacking), splatterpunk (ultra-gory horror), and the new favorite steampunk (variations of modern technology set in the Victorian era).

***When I consider what actually inspired this feeling I feel a little shallow. Have I really embraced consumerism that much? Apparently so.

*4 Pun intended.

*5 However, there have been credit cards since before I was born. I'm not that old. Stop talking about bartering for chickens and animal skins.

*6 Sadly we did not generate much revenue so we were among the last stores in the company to get barcode scanners. We never did get fully computerized. We used to look up titles on microfiche.*7

*7 Yes, microfiche. Look it up kids. Go on. Google it with your phone you whippersnapper.

*8 We can debate the pros and cons of this at another time. Right now we're relishing in the "gee whiz golly."

*9 The best thing about touch screen signatures? I no longer have to be embarrassed by my handwriting (I once had a sales person look at my signature and ask when I was legally changing my name to Illegible Scrawl). I can just blame it on the screen.

Con Season!

Clothing, including new ties and crazy blood spatter shoes.
Check.
Echinacea, hand sanitizer, Gartorade, Red Bull.
Check.
Books, bookmarks, promotional material.
Check.
Gearing up for Con Season.
Check.

The next few weeks will be busy ones for myself personally and for the
GLAHW. Representatives of the group already made an appearance this year at the Grand Rapids Toy and Collectable Show. The big appearances are still on the horizon, but they are coming up fast.


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Penguicon:
27 - 29 April
As usual I will be making a trek to the premier Computer/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Gaming/All-Things-Geek convention. It doesn't look like I will be presenting this year. I will be making the rounds, hopefully with the latest in self-promotional ideas.

If you are interested in where I will be, a tentative schedule can be found
here.
(The full schedule is located
here: )


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Motor City Nightmares:
27 - 29 April
If you noticed that I have nothing scheduled for the Sunday of
Penguicon, then you are probably observant enough to have noticed the total overlap between Penguicon and Motor City Nightmares. In the past con weekends worked out perfectly: MCN, work, Penguicon, work, MCCC, work. Hopefully this "having two cons the same weekend" crap isn't a new trend. I really wanted to be at both shows, but my attempts at inventing a device which allow me to be in two places at once were a qualified failure.*

The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers will have a booth at MCN. How could we pass up Metro Detroit's big horror themed show? I plan on being there for a little while on Friday and all day Sunday. There is also a distinct chance that I will pop over at night to check out some of the movies. Regardless, the booth will be manned (womanned?) by GLAHWers much more attractive than myself.

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Motor City Comic Con
18 - 20 May
This is the big one, folks. As usual, the
GLAHW will have two tables to better serve you, our rabid fan base. This year's list of celebs is crazy, you have to check out the website. We will have our usual themed dress days (no, I personally will not be in a dress this time around). Friday will be come as you are, Saturday Anime character day, and Sunday we will be dressing as characters from Firefly. Unfortunately I will not be in attendance for Anime day (otherwise I would not have time to be posting this as I would be frantically trying to fashion a bio-mechanical arm for my Jet** costume) due to familial obligations.***

Can't make it to a Convention but still dying to see your favorite group of horror writers? Don't worry, there are other appearances in the works including a writer's workshop in Aug and a reading in October. Of course there is the Monster Mash for Literacy Bash as well. More details on these as we get closer to the dates.

If you are just looking to spend some quality time with yours truly, it is a pretty safe bet that I will be at the remaining Detroit Roller Derby bouts unless I am working. I already have my tickets for the finals. I also already have my tickets for Baconfest in June.



*The device did not result in bilocation, but it did produce a new fat-free yogurt.

**Cowboy Bebop. Really? You didn't know that instantly?

*** 2012: The year I was kept from Cons.

Time For Some Horn Tootin’

A couple of years ago an idea popped into my head based entirely on a pun. I was sitting at the laptop when the two definitions of the word “digital”struck me. It was one of those rare occasions where the title inspired the plot.

The result was a gruesome little story which blends computer use and torture involving severed fingers: “Digital Media.”

That was the official title. After a few* attempts at placing it, the story gained a new name: The Story That No One Wants.

Rejection, ah sweet rejection. The Universe’s way of making sure that my head does not get to big to fit in my car.

TSTNOW, of course, was a misnomer.
Someone out there was interested in the story. I just had not found that person yet. So I did what authors have been doing for years. I shut it away in a trunk to ferment.**/***

Then I did the other thing that authors have done for years. I opened the envelope from Calliope and got to work on the next story. I kept my eyes open for some place to send “Digital Media,” but let it rest for a while.

Then I saw a listing for an anthology of “extreme horror” which was looking for submissions. Perhaps the thing that was keeping this story from being placed would become its selling point.*4

Long story short,*6 the story was accepted. The anthology it appears in is
DOA: Extreme Horror. It was nominated for Best Anthology of 2011 in the Predators and Editors Readers Poll.*7 It came in fifth.

Why am I revisiting all of this? I thought you loyal readers might find a little bit of background interesting. I also thought it might be nice if I posted something.

However, the real reason that I decided to do all of this was to draw your attention to one of the
reviews of DOA which appears on the website Horrorphilia.

In case you missed that link, click on this sentence.

If you are a skimmer, then I will direct your attention to the ninth story which the reviewer describes as one of the “highlights” of the anthology.

Aw screw it. This is what it says:

Michael Cieslak’s “Digital Media” is unflinchingly gory and violent, but it’s also a story about karma and being very careful about what you wish for. With unseen assailants and fingers dropping like leaves in autumn, this sinister tale of bad online behavior manages to make the reader contemplate the true meaning of justice.


All right, I fully recognize that of the 28 stories in the anthology, the reviewer lists 15 (more than half) of them as “highlights.” Still, this is the first time that something I wrote has been singled out in a review. At least it is the first time it was singled out by someone I did not know (thanks
Peggy!)

That being said, I have allowed myself a little celebration time and I wanted to share it with all of you. Now if you will excuse me, I have a muse knocking at my door. Can’t keep Calliope waiting.





POSTSCRIPT: It did not dawn on me until recently (like when I was putting together this post recently) that one of the editors of DOA is the same guy I met at the GLAHW Holiday Horror Movie Fest (the one who had me laughing so hard I almost passed out from oxygen deprivation). David Hayes is one of those renaissance types, director, producer, editor, writer. In fact, one of his stories appears in comic book form alongside one of MontiLee’s*8 You should check out his website. He posts way more frequently than I do.


*”Few” is a relative term. It was easier than saying “a non-zero whole number greater than five but less than one billion.”

**An “electronic trunk” to be sure.

***This is not completely accurate. When one receives a rejection one is forced to wonder why. My own process is to examine the story, see if there are any areas which should be tweaked, and then send it out again. This is an arduous process which can really wear one down, but it is an important part of the process. Somewhere, someone (maybe me, who knows?) said the difference between a writer and a published writer is the ability to handle rejection.

*4 Yes, I was assuming it was the little bit of the old ultra-violence that was garnering the rejections and not some fatal flaw with the writing. I’m self-assured like that.*5

*5 HAHAHAHAHA! No, I’m really not.

*6 Too late.

*7 For those who don’t find this strangely familiar, my
begging request for votes can be found here.

*8 I’ll pause while you hum “Its’ A Small World After All.”

Happy Birthday T & T


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"Happiness is a warm puppy."

-Charles Schulz

January 2011 was a particularly, spectacularly crappy time for me emotionally. It had been roughly a month since we had said good-bye to Dervish and I wasn't taking it well.* I was dealing not only with grief, but also with the knowledge that we would have to get another dog some time.

Most people are not very insightful when it comes to themselves. As a species, we have a great capacity for self-delusion. When we know something about ourselves, truly know and acknowledge one of the facts our our existence, it is a rare and wonderful thing. I have taken very few steps down the road to enlightenment. Hell, I think I may still be in the parking area that leads to the road to enlightenment. That aside, I do know a few things about myself. One is that I am at heart a dog person. I am not designed to live without canine companionship.

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog."
    -George Graham

Of course, since I am an emotional basket case on the best of days, even this brief glimmer of self-awareness came with a side of self-loathing. After ten years, how could I just throw myself into another canine-human relationship? Was the fact I was even considering a new dog tantamount to being disloyal to Dervish, a dog who was nothing if not loyal?

"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."
    -Roger Caras

It may seem obvious to everyone else, but it took a good friend actually saying it to make me understand. Sharing our home with another dog would not diminish how I had felt about our previous dogs. In fact, Dervish would certainly want us to be happy and if this meant opening our hearts to another dog, then he would think that we should do so.

"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
-Will Rogers

My friend, perhaps knowing me a little better than I knew myself, pointed out that there was no harm in simply looking.

Thus began a period of searching on
Petfinder which can only be described as multi-target cyber-stalking.

The Mrs. made it very clear that this time around, we were going to get her small dog. Probably a pug or some type of toy dog mix.** If, she said, I wanted a "real dog," I had better think about getting one at the same time. That way neither dog would feel like the other was intruding on their territory.***

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.  Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment." 
-George Eliot

At this time I had absolutely no interest in actually contacting any of the people who were adopting the dogs out. Instead I just followed the lives of the ones who interested me. I would do a search for the type of dog that I would look for, were I looking for a dog (puppy - 1 year old, large or extra large, etc.) then keep track of the ones who popped up. I was always happy when the status changed to Adoption Pending.

While I was doing this, the Mrs was doing searches of her own on
Petfinder as well as contacting various rescue organizations. She contacted a couple of people but each time found out that the dog had already been adopted.

"No Matter how little money and how few possessions, you own, having a dog makes you rich."
    -Louis Sabin

This continued for a while. Then one day I saw a dog which I didn't want to wait around and see someone else adopt. I contacted the rescue organization
Last Day Dog Rescue In one of those bizarre quirks of fate, one of the dogs which the Mrs had been looking at was at the same place.

That was a misnomer
Last Day Dog Rescue does not actually have a physical location where the dogs are sheltered. They go to shelters in South east Michigan and northern Ohio and rescue animals which are scheduled to be killed and foster them in the area.

Perspective adoptive parents would meet the fostered animals at adoption events. These were held at pet stores, at local happenings, and occasionally in individual's homes. We were in luck, there was an event like this schedule in the near future. A woman who had been fostering a litter of puppies having people come and meet them, almost like a coming out party for the puppies. We contacted the people who were fostering the dogs we were interested and arranged to meet them there.

If this was a Disney movie, that's where the story would end.

"Acquiring a dog, may be the only time a person gets to choose a relative."
    -Unknown

There were other people interested in the dogs that we hoped to meet. The small dog that the Mrs was interested ended up being adopted before the event took place. When we arrived at the house in question, we found another family (with two small children) playing with the puppies. This included the ball of boundless energy which I had come to meet.

It became apparent that the highly energized boy who was playing with the dog was a good match for him. Meanwhile some of the other little balls of fur were busy trying to climb into my lap. Two had already claimed the Mrs as their nest.


"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."
    -Josh Billings

We talked it over and she agreed that the puppy would probably be happier with a young child to play with. Then she broached the subject of the other puppies we had seen. Instead of getting a large dog and a small dog, maybe we could get two medium sized dogs? After all, they expected the members of the litter whose cotillion we had attended to be between 35 and 40 pounds when full grown.*4

The big problem was going to be narrowing it down to which dogs. There were six in the litter. Three had very fuzzy coats, three smoother coats. We both gravitated towards the smoother coated half of the litter. The Mrs was hoping to adopt the sole female, Danika, but like before there was another couple who had their eyes on her. The choice then was between Gordon and Stewart. *5

After talking with the person who had been fostering them, we discovered that Gordon and Danika were fairly inseparable. During play they would team up against the other four. When it was time to sleep, they always curled up with each other. Hopefully, the two would not have to be separated. If they could find one family willing to take both, well that would just be ideal.


"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.  For me they are the role model for being alive." 
-Gilda Radner

So we began the adoption process. This involved quite a bit of paperwork, a couple of interviews, and an in home visit (to see how the puppies interacted with the people in the house and to make sure the house was a good, safe environment to raise puppies). The waiting was excruciating.

This is where the Disney ending comes in.

We were approved and one fine Saturday we drove out and picked up Gordon and Danica (who immediately got name changes). They did not immediately get new names. The original front runners: Finnegan and Fiona, just didn't seem to fit. Fiona was too small and girly for the fearless female. It was the Mrs who came up with Tesla. She cited her electric nature and magnetic personality. I was incredibly impressed that she actually knew who Nicolai Tesla was and said so.*6

Poor Titus went a day and a half without a name. We tried various T names on for size. He needed a big name, something he would grow into. Titus seemed appropriate. It still is. *8

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
-Unknown

The reason that I am presenting this story today is that while I was busy being depressed, Tesla, Titus, and their litter mates were busy being born. It is hard to fathom the happiness that these two have brought into our lives, how they have made our family complete, and how they have turned our house back into a home.

Happy Birthday Dingoes






*It was also 10 years, almost to the day, since we had said good-bye to Kai-Long. I harbor an extreme mistrust of the first two weeks of December.

**The word "puggle" was used.

***For those not familiar with the back story, here it is in a nutshell. I prefer large dogs, the Mrs. small. When we first met she had a tea-cup poodle that you could literally carry in your hand. When we got our first dog together, we were told he would probably be around 35 or 40 pounds full grown. Kai-Long was 120 pounds. When we got our second dog, we were told he would be around 35 or 40 pounds. Dervish ended up being 100 pounds (the first time we brought him in for a check-up at the vet where he had been born and adopted out of, the vet tech said "He is one of Sugar's babies? Oh crap are we in trouble!").

*4 See footnote ***

*5 Yes, all of the puppies had been named after NASCAR racers.

*6 "He was that vampire guy who could control electricity on that show we used to watch."*7

*7 NOT named after the metal band which recorded "Love Song."

*8 Although I would like to say that when we saw the name Titus on the list of baby names we immediately thought of Shakespeare or the Bible, I won't lie to you here. We both thought of comedian Christopher Titus.

And the award goes to...



Pasted Graphic 1


All of you who are connected to me on the
Zuckerberg collective have already seen this, but for those two people who refuse to join Facebook (you know who you are -- yes you with the eyes and the tattoos) here is the news again.

From the Shameless Self-Promotion file: I just found out that
DOA: Extreme Horror (which contains my short story "Digital Media") has been nominated for Best Anthology in the current Predators and Editors poll. It is currently ranked #7 in the standings. Now I am not one to beg any more than I am one to boast, but if one wanted to vote for said anthology all one would have to do is click the link. All that is required is about a minute of your time and a valid email address.

http://www.critters.org/predpoll/antho.shtml

For those unfamiliar with
P&E, it is a brilliant website for writers. It contains a wealth of information about publishing, agents, editors, and more. Included in this “more” category are the important Warning pages. This is where authors can go to find out the latest scams, skels, and unscrupulous business dealers.

Not that I’m pushing or anything, but if you could see your way clear to dropping a vote in the ballot box, I would sure appreciate it. To quote my good friends Bartles and Jaymes

“Thank you for your support.”

No NaNo

This feels weird.

We're almost a week into November and I feel relatively stress-free.*

The Halloween decorations are shelved for another year. I have been off work for almost two weeks. Hell, Lisa at
Essential actually ran out of bad spots to work on.

However, this is nothing new for this time of year. By now I should have everything stored. I almost always take the last week of October and first week of November off. Last year I think I took two and a half weeks. So how come I am not my usual ball of stress?

Because this year I am not doing NaNo.

For all of you new folks,
NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It is equal parts glorious and aggravating. It is a chance to meet up with other people exactly crazy enough to try the challenge. Personally, it is an exercise which forces me to turn off the internal editor and just write.

I have participated in NaNo eight times and completed the 50K in 30 Days six times. I really enjoy it. This year I wrestled with the decision and finally chose not to participate. I have a number of writing projects which I have to work on including getting ready for a public reading next weekend. I am a little concerned that if I did NaNo as well I wouldn't give these projects the time they deserve.

I also can't ignore the fact that the reason I did not complete NaNo last year was the sudden illness which took Dervish from us last year. I am not quite ready to have those reminders.

Another thing which usually happens in November is a flurry of activity over on the "other" blog, the Nth Word. The plan has always been to update that blog every day with my writing performance. That simply hasn't been happening lately.**

I like the idea of having the blog which is devoted purely to writing, but I know that I haven't been as dutiful as I should be. I also wonder about readership.

I will be thinking on this for a while and I would appreciate any input you may have.

All of this aside, I wish the best to everyone who is participating in NaNo this year. Look for me back on the boards in November 2012.



*Well, as stress free as I ever get.

** Yes, those updates are even rarer than here.

The Monster Mash for Literacy Bash IV

We just keep getting bigger and better.

This year's Monster Mash for Literacy Bash was the best one yet.

For those who are scratching their heads and wondering what I'm on about , every year the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers hosts a Halloween party/fundraiser. Our first was somewhat sparsely attended, mostly group members and their families, and was held in the community center of one of the member's condos. After that we moved through a succession of bars. Each year our attendance has increased. Each year we've raised more money for charity.

Yes, you read that right. The reason the word "Literacy" is in the name is because while we all enjoy a good time, the real reason we get together is to raise money for the
Dominican and Siena Literacy Organizations. We do this via ticket sales, a 50/50 raffle, and a Chinese auction filled with amazing prizes. This year's auction included autographed books from Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, and Cherie Priest, artwork donated by Amber Guffey, products from Lush and Vintners, gift certificates from Essential Massage, TCBY, and our generous hosts Dick O' Dow's.

What would a Halloween party be without a costume contest, right? As per our tradition, attendees voted in five categories: Scariest, Funniest, Sexiest, Most Original, and Best Overall.
Peggy Christie (dressed as a nurse from the Silent Hill video games) took scariest, Steven Jensen (Zombie Jesus) won funniest (and would have taken most sacrilegious id we had such a category. MontiLee Stormer (Red from a Red Riding Hood game that never made it to production) won sexiest (again), and Jamie Hill, who came as his own Facebook page* won both Original and Overall.

The venue was outstanding. Dick O'Dow's staff was wonderful, they put up with a bunch of crazy people in crazy costumes, had no problem with letting our DJ take over their stage and sound system. Over all it was a great place. I hope that we have found a forever home for our party.

Of course what really makes any evening out is the people who you spend it with. A number of people from work attended. I was happy and more than a little amazed. I am very appreciative.

It was a great evening that I got to spend with some of my favorite people.

The fact that the Mrs and I won a bunch of stuff in the auction didn't hurt either.



*Rightly so. The costume, which you can see when I finally get my pictures posted here, consisted of a dry erase board which allowed other people to actually post to his "Wall." He also had a friends list running down one side which had the actual avatars of various people at the party.

The End is Near

Less than a month.

Yes, that’s right, the Mayans were close but they were off by just a little.

The world as you know it will come to an end on the 29th of October. At 8:00 pm the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers will be sponsoring the Fourth Annual Monster Mash for Literacy Bash. With the help of our generous hosts Dick O’ Dow’s Irish Pub and our equally generous benefactors the GLAHW will be honoring the spirit of Halloween with specialty drinks, dancing, an auction filled with great items, and of course a costume contest.

A portion of the evening’s procede will benefit the
Dominican and Siena Literacy Organizations. That’s right, your fun is actually helping people!

Tickets are only $10.00, a paltry sum to celebrate Halloween with a group of horor writers. Tickets are available a the door or may be ordered
here. Pre-orders will also receive 10 raffle tickets.

The world may continue after 29 October, but it will be forever changed.


If you want to help spread the word, click on the image above. Invite your friends, help increase the body count.

Why I Love October

Wow, back online for less than a week and I am already changing things up.

If you’ve been here for a while you have been expecting it. If not, allow me to explain.

October is the coolest month. Period.

We’re one month away from Halloween. You have to love a holiday which gives you the chance to be someone else, if only for one night.*

In the build up to Halloween we have a whole month of horror to look forward to. I’m already setting up the TiVo to record the movies showing up on TV.

Then of course there are the Haunted Attractions. We’ve already purchase tickets and made a date to visit the
Scarefest Scream Park. I’m also scoping out weekends to visit Erebus, the world’s largest walk through haunted house.

As if that were not enough, October is also the month where we focus on protecting some of our most valuable possessions -- boobies.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

If you skip back to last 1 Oct. you can read a well thought out entry on why it is so important to do monthly self-examinations and get regular mammograms.

I encourage you to look for for organizations which are donating a portion of their procedes to research into this horrible disease. Most of my friends are women and the thought of cancer terrifies me.**

Until then, why not head over to the
Boobiethon page. Bloggers and other concerned individuals are doing their best to raise awareness...by posting pictures of their breasts.

Yes, mine are up there this year too.

Once again you have a chance to do something great, build up a little good karma, and this time you get to see boobies.***




*Or multiple nights depending on how many parties you plan on attending.

**Yes, the dreaded C has once again touched the lives of those I care about. All prayers, good thoughts, and well wishes are appreciated.

***We established earlier this year that many of the best things in life start with “Boo.” Big scares, books, boots, and of course, boobies.

Slinking Back On-line

Ah, so this is where I left the internet.

If you are a regular visitor to the 'Roost you are used to the periodic bouts of radio silence which arise, often for no good reason. Then you'll get a post (like this one) in which I apologize profusely and either attempt to catch up everything that happened since the last post or promises that I will fill in the gaps with postdated posts which make it look like I have been up to date.

Sad, I know.

The really bad part is that I couldn't have picked a worse time to take an internet hiatus. No, not because the last four months (I KNOW!) have been filled with all kinds of exciting stuff (they have) but because I stopped posting right after the end of Spring Con Season.

In other words, all of those people who grabbed a business card have been thrilled by a complete lack of new content.

To you new visitors, my heartfelt apologies. If you are actually reading this I thank you for coming back one more time.

For you steadfast stalwarts who have checked periodically, sipping your morning coffee and exclaiming "Seriously? When is he going to get off his ass and post something?" a special apology. Of course if you are that loyal you have probably been kept up to date by following me on Facebook* or Twitter.**

So, what has been going on since my last post? When was that anyway?

Oh sweet merciless Cthulhu, APRIL?!?

Cheeses. Where to start?

Pupdate

Since the last post was about our sweet little puppies, maybe I should start here. Last time we checked in Tesla and Titus had been with us for about a month and were part way through Puppy Class at
Trainer's Academy. Since then they have both grown quite a bit. Little Tesla is now 32 pounds. Her brother Titus is now 61.

Yes, he is almost exactly twice as big as she is. Yes, they are from the same litter. I'll explain all of that eventually, I promise.

They both graduated from Puppy Class and from the Beginners Class which followed. They are both wonderful, healthy , and happy. There are about a billion funny stories, but I can't decide on which ones to include right now so you get nothing.

You lose.

Good day, sir.

Conventions

As mentioned earlier, falling off the face of the internet right after passing out handfuls of business cards was probably not the best planning on my part. There is a partially written post discussing
Penguicon*4 which may eventually see the light of day so I'll save those details.*5
Penguicon went great. Motor City Comic Con was amazing and fun as always.*6 If you've been looking at the pics on Facebook then you will have already seen the group as characters from the animated series Archer. You will probably have seen the pictures from "Alice Day" as well. If not, you should go peek. I'll get them up here soon, but they really are worth a gander.

Men really do look at boobs first. That makes the fact I was dressed as a busty Alice from The Brady Bunch even funnier. Never seen so many double takes.

Members of the
GLAHW also participated in a charity walk at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the first ever Art on the River Festival/Convention in Port Huron, and had a part in creating the World's Longest Lemonade Stand.

It's been a busy summer.

And the Rest*8

Let's see, there was a really cool birthday weekend which included seeing
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn on the big screen at The Redford Theatre (it was like a gift from the gods of geekdom. I had totally forgotten that the movie begins with Kirk's birthday) and martinis with some of my favorite people at one of my new favorite places to imbibe, Amici's.

The downside to that birthday weekend was that I got to spend most of it without electricity due to the extreme heat. Yep, it got so hot that the electricity that makes the air-conditioning work took a vacation. It was not pleasant.

I tripled the number of tattoos (or quadrupled depending on you you count them). There will be a special post about that for sure. For now I will just say that
Laura Kondon is an amazing artist and well worth the drive to Almighty Tattoo in Flint.

I've been to the
Renaissance Festival twice. Both times we met another couple (part of the afore mentioned "favorite people."). R and I went in costume one week, in boring lame street clothes the next. I'm quite glad we were not in costume the second time we went because the temp was in the nineties. I felt sick from the heat as it was. I probably would have passed out if I had been in leather and suede.

I would like to say that I have not been posting here because I have spent so much time writing and then announce a bunch of new publications, but sadly this is not the case. My last published piece was "Digital Media" which can be found in the anthology
DOA: Extreme Horror Anthology (which can be purchased here, here and here). I have been writing, but most of it has been little side projects. That should all change soon.

I'm sure that there is plenty of other stuff that I should mention, but I'm surprised any of you read this far. Besides, I know you are all dying to get to the footnotes (if you haven't already read them).





*/** By "up to date" I mean "annoyed by the auto-posting of my
Foursquare account." Hey, at least you could figure out where I was, if not exactly what I was doing there. ***

***What? You thought I was going to post my FB and Twitter addys for you? Fine. Here you go, stalker:
Facebook and Twitter
Not that I've been that good about posting there either.

*4See, I was thinking of you. I was thinking of you the whole time. I swear.

*5While I try to remember them.

*6SURPRISE! WHORES!*7

*7Either you get it or you don't. I'm not going to explain it for those who weren't there.

*8 or
the professor and Mary Ann if you prefer.

Farewell to Borders

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will never be having an autograph session at Borders Bookstore.

I had to get a little distance before I sat down to write this one.

Border's Bookstores are now closed. All of them.

Well, ok, maybe not all of them. I guess there is a handful that have been purchased by some company in Texas or something. For all intents and purposes, however, they are all closed.

All of the books are gone. The shelves have been picked bare by the literate carrion feeders who arrived to scavange the carcass of...

Oh who am I kidding? If you follow me anywhere on-line you know from my FourSquare check-ins that I have been to at least five different Borders since they first started closing. Most of them were visited more than once.

Yes, I officially have "enough" in my To Read pile.*

I am not going to get into a discussion of what factors led to the bankruptcy of the company. I don't have the ability to wrap my brain around business practices and such. Finance reports make my eyes glaze over. Seriously, I can't listen to them on news radio without getting into an accident.

Nor am I going to wail about the death of the book or how digital readers have destroyed a way of reading or any such nonsense. If you think I am anti-e-reader, you haven't been paying attention.** There is no reason that e-readers and analog books can't coexist. Mass market paperback did not kill the hardcover. Audiobooks didn't kill the paperback. A big meteor did not kill the dinosaurs.***

In all seriousness, I do not believe that pieces of paper bound together are going to disappear. At best the paper book may become the preferred medium for specialty books and collectors, but I don't see this happening anytime in the immediate future.

If you came here looking for a rant, I am sorry to disappoint. This is more of a wistful, nostalgia piece.

I don't know if it was my first ever trip inside a Border's bookstore, but it is the first I remember. The bookstore in question was the original Ann Arbor location. I was a young lad, precocious for sure and curious beyond my years. *4 Visiting Ann Arbor was always a big deal. Both of my parents graduated from U of M (as did my sister and a smattering of other relatives. I'm the black sheep of the family because my degree was earned at the Dearborn campus). There was always a trip to Ulrich's to pick out school supplies (yeah, I still get geeked buying school supplies) and new U of M gear. On this particular trip we went down the street to the book store.

I won't be trite and say it was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was, in fact, quite a bit like other bookstores that I had been in.

Only cooler.

I vaguely remember chairs and maybe a couch or something. Keep in mind, this was way before the days when one went to the bookstore to purchase a latte and check your e-mail on your lap-top.*5 What I remember most, were the shelves.

They moved.

There was a section of bookshelf which was on casters and connected to a rail at the top. It slid to one side to reveal a second set of shelves behind the first.

It was a totally practical way of essentially doubling the shelf space and thereby creating a means by which to offer a larger selection of titles.

It was THE SWEETEST EFFIN THING EVAH!!

Ahem.

At that moment I decided that when I got my house, I was so going to have sliding bookshelves like those in my library.*6

Sadly, this has not come to pass yet, but there really isn't a specific "library" at The Dragon's Roost.*7

I don't remember much else about that particular trip, but I am almost certain that I purchased one of the books I found when I moved that shelf to one side.*8

From that moment forward, Border's was my bookstore of choice. Fortunately there was one much closer in Southfield. It was just up the street from the mall I worked at in high school. If I wasn't working all the way to close, I would sometimes head over there after a hard day of selling books at Waldenbooks.

Yeah, you read that right.

I have a lot of fond memories of various Borders. Sitting in the Southfield location trying to decide which paperback to buy. Studying, writing, or just killing time at the Birmingham location. Standing in line for autographs -- everyone from Elmore Leonard to Michael Connelly to Mitch Albom. I was at the Arborland location when Laurell K Hamilton insisted that the store remain open hours past closing time in order to accommodate everyone who was in line for an autograph (despite having to ice down her wrist at one point).

Sure, the closing of the Borders bookstores is not going to stop my book purchasing, only shift it. Yes, I have a metric ass-load of books to read before I even need to start to think about buying another book. I will, however, miss the people who worked there. I will miss the tables pushed against the window. I will miss the joy of discovering a new title by a favorite author (or a new author).

I know it is just a building, a company, whatever. Still, it feels like I said goodbye to a friend I know is never coming back.






*Not that this will stop me from adding to the pile. When it comes to books I'm rather like Navin R. Johnson: "I don't need one more thing, oh, I need that."

**In fact I just downloaded the new Steven King to the Nook app on my iPad (while writing this on it).

***It's all a cover up. Dinosaurs are still
[REDACTED]

*4 All of which is my way of saying I have no idea how old I was. Call it late grade school.

*5 This particular trip pre-dated the popularity of the latte, the use of e-mail by anyone other than scholarly types, and the invention of the lap-top computer. Yeah, dark ages, baby.

*6 I was also going to have leather furniture, brass and green glass reading lamps, an old fashioned globe, a telescope, hidden passages behind the shelves, a fire pole which led from the bed room to the kitchen, a moat, and a rocket launch pad on the roof. What do you want? I was a kid.

*7 Partially for reasons of space, but mostly because every time I mention a library among my friends they get antsy. Particularly Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard.

*8 One of Keith Laumer's Retief collections.

Pupdate!

There are certain things which responsible dog parent should be prepared to do. One of these things becomes extremely important when you have two puppies, one of each gender. Yes, I am talking about neutering/spaying. We have utilized the narrow window between Puppy and Intermediate Classes to have the puppies fixed.

I wont go into all of the reasons why. I'll just briefly mention that besides the obvious benefit of not having unplanned litters, there are also a great number of potential health hazards which can be avoided (or the chances of them rearing their ugly cancerous heads greatly reduced).

The operations were done at the Centerline Vetrinary Hospital. All three surgeries went well ((Titus also had an abdominal hernia repaired). Tesla had a little post-op pain, but by the next day they were up and bouncing off of each other.

At this point Titus has already destroyed one Victorian collar. They will have them on for another few days at least. With any luck the sutures and staples will be out in time for the start of class.

Pupdate!

As I write this post, there are two sleeping puppies lying next to me cuddled together on the couch. It is a wonderful, heartwarming scene which would be more idyllic had one of them not just passed gas.
It has been a wonderful and frustrating month. Neither R nor I has ever had more than one dog at a time. Puppy training times two is...interesting.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has helped with this so far, especially R’s brother and my mom who have come over to let the dogs out during the day. You guys are awesome.

For the most part, life with Tesla and Titus is a joy. There have been a number of firsts over the past few weeks. These included:

The first baths: certain unfortunate accidents necessitated the puppies’ first baths. Both were small enough to bathe in the kitchen sink. Despite their small size, they managed to soak me fairly thoroughly. The only thing sadder than the whining* of the puppy of the puppy being washed was the crying of the one waiting on the floor.

First Vet visit: technically not their
first but their first with us. I have been taking them to a place recommended by a coworker, the Center Line Veterinary Hospital** I was very impressed with the care they provided. We have definitely found our new vet.

It was a little weird going there. I am not used to dogs who resisted the vet visit. Dervish considered his vet a second home. He usually rushed out of the car to get inside where he often tried to jump through the receptionist’s window to get to the back. Once there he would check out the kennels and exam rooms to see who else was there as well as who was working. Kai didn’t particularly like going to the vet, but accepted it in a resigned “all right let’s get this over with so I can get back to my day” way.

Titus and Tesla, however...not so happy with the idea. I was very surprised that Tesla, my little fearless one, started whining while we were in the waiting room. Both of them calmed down a bit when we got back to the exam room. They took some time exploring and sniffing everything. When the doctor came in, I swear Titus stepped in between him and Tesla.

All right, I may be anthropomorphizing just a little but you should be used to that by now, right?

Both puppies have also started Puppy Classes.
Trainers Academy uses positive reinforcement methods (so none of the punishment based pack theory stuff endorsed by a certain individual who claims to whisper to dogs***). R is taking Titus on Thursdays and I am taking Tesla on Wednesdays. Both puppies seem to be enjoying the classes and are taking to the lessons quite well. We have already signed up for the Intermediate classes.

There have been some other interesting developments from the dogs’ class experiences. Part of each class is devoted to “puppy play.” This is the real reason we are doing puppy class -- to allow the puppies to socialize with other dogs. We want T & T**** to be used to being with other dogs and to be able to play well with others. This was very important given the way they play with each other...roughly.

Before classes Tesla would knock Titus around despite being 2/3 his size. After the very first class Titus started holding his own a little more. We had hoped that he would gain a little confidence and it seems to have worked. We also hoped someone would knock Tesla down a peg so she would be a little calmer.

Um...yeah. About that.

When they divided the puppies into two groups based roughly on size, I almost said something. I had visions of Tesla dominating the other wee ones like young Ned Flanders before the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol was administered.*****

Um...yeah.

Rather than running forward and annihilating the other dogs as I expected, Tesla stood next to me, refusing to play. When I stepped back so she couldn’t hide behind my legs she looked up at me as if I had betrayed her. She spent most of that session running from the other dogs and batting her eyelashes at the other owners hoping one of them would pick her up.

The trainers, who had already heard about her wrestling matches with Titus from R, were almost as surprised as I was.

Three classes in, she has finally started to engage the other dogs. Last night she allowed herself to be sniffed without running away. Towards the end of the session she even jumped over a few of the dogs.

I suspect she was trying to jump into them and bowl them over like she does with her brother, but her depth perception and aim were a little off. They just weren’t big enough targets.

There is plenty more to tell, including some surprising information about their origins, but this post is already ungodly long. Besides, I have to save something for later.

Yes, for all of those who are not seeing all of the pictures on Twitter and/or Facebook, I will be putting up an album of puppy pictures. Soon.

No, I don’t know when.

Jeez! I said soon, all right?





*By whining I mean unholy screaming that sounded like someone was skinning a banshee with a rusty knife.

**Because as much as I loved the vet we went to with Dervish, it is Hellalong ways away. We went there because that is where he was born and everyone knew him (as the smallest of Sugar’s babies).

***For the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’ position on punishment based/dominance theory training click
here and here.

****It’s dynamite.

*****I’m Dick Tracy! Bang! Take that Pruneface! Now I’m Pruneface, take that Dick Tracy! Now I’m Prune Tracy, take that Dick...

Penguicon 2011

The pleasant yet slightly bittersweet feeling that you have experienced something wonderful but will have to wait a year before you can do so again. The satisfaction that comes from having done something well, even though you were very nervous about it. The utter exhaustion that keeps coming up in waves when you least expect it.

Another
Penguicon, come and gone.

Those not familiar with
Penguicon haven't been paying attention. That or they were too lazy to click on a link. Shame on you. Try to keep up with the rest of the class.

Penguicon 2011: The good, the great, and the not so much.

Let's get that last category out of the way first (since it is the shortest). This year's
Penguicon was held, as it has been for the past few years, at the Marriott in Troy, MI. It is a fine hotel and has many good features. The rooms are great as is most of the convention space. That being said, lectures in the Food track are always held in a room converted into conspace which is usually crowded and a bit hot (especially during really popular panels like LN2 Ice Cream and Whiskey tasting). Also, depending on where panels are placed, you can get a bit of audio bleed through. Normally this isn't an issue but if someone is lecturing in a quiet voice in one room and the How to Flirt panel is doing bar simulations complete with music on the other side of the wall...Unfortunately, I think that Penguicon has outgrown that space.

It appears that I'm not the only one who thinks so. Next year's convention will be held at the
Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, MI. This should give us all a little more elbow room.

Moving on.

Check-in and Registration was a breeze. I think I waited all of 2 minutes combined. Granted, I did arrive right when my room was supposed to be available. The shocker was the lack of a line for Registration. I think I had one person in front of me. I am not sure how it was when Registration first opened. They started earlier than last year so I wasn't waiting for Registration to open and wondering if I was going to make it to my 4:00 panel.

Oh, and I didn't have a panel at 4:00, so that helped.

No, my first panel was not until 5:00. That's so much better.

No, seriously. It really is a lot better. I had time to get everything all set up in my room, change (into my "con-wear" I am going to need some new ties soon), scope out where everything was (almost all of my panels were in the same room), and take a quick tour of the Dealers' Room. Then it was on to Ballroom A for my first panel.

Crossovers Revisited
All right, confession time. I signed up for this one thinking that I would be sitting at a table full of people just dying to talk about how SF/F elements are creeping into mainstream books, TV shows, and movies. I figured I would say my little spiel about horror's history of mash-ups and the latest trends in literary mixtures spurred by the success of
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I even had visual aids (the book Classics Mutilated). Then I would sit back and let the other panelists talk, occasionally tossing in a bon mot or brilliant observation.

A good plan for a topic with a large number of panelists. When it's only me and one other person? Not so much.

Despite my initial concerns, the panel went really well. I made my little confession up front and then proceeded to speak from a fan point of view. Fellow panelist Steven Lake did a great job of bringing up topics and engaging the audience (which was a pretty good size considering most people were still checking in).

After this I was free for a couple of hours so I jetted up to the Food Space area to watch the Cryo Demo because it is alway fun to freeze stuff with liquid nitrogen. Then I headed out to grab a bite to eat (and a bottle to drink). I intended to attend the Personal Conflicts panel but was still munching.

I did catch most of the Green Myths panel which was interesting. It examined certain things that everyone knows to be best for the environment and whether or not they actually are. An example would be buying food from a local food co-op at a farmers market vs buying them at a chain grocery store. When examined from the standpoint of fossil fuels burned and subsequent pollution, it turns out the co-op might not be the way to go. Interesting stuff.

Then it was back to the Food Space for Whiskey Tasting. In my case it was more like listening to people talk about whiskey. There were a limited number of spaces available for the tasting portion and they were snapped up in minutes. Since I knew this ahead of time, I had purchased my own alcohol and was all set.

I left the tasting a little early to give myself plenty of time to make it to my next panel:

Why Zombies? Why Now?

This panel was cross-listed under both the Literature and the After Dark tracks. It was the only panel that I was on that was not in Ballroom A but the larger Dennison 1 room. It's a good thing that it was, because this one was packed. There is just something about zombies that draws a crowd, especially after dark. I shared speaking duties with The Ferrett, Jeff DeLuzio, Micki Hedden, and Christian Klaver. Shortly after I sat at the table one of the other panelists (I won't say who!) passed out Le Fin du Monde beer. We were talking about the end of the world after all.

This was a fun examination of zombies in popular culture from a number of different views including literature, philosophy, psychology, and medicine. The inclusion of someone who had done charity work in third world countries was an interesting extra.

[From the It's a Small World/Is There Anyone She Doesn't Know file: one of the panelists was someone who attended school with R and with whom she had just reconnected via Facebook.]

My panels done for the day I wandered around the hotel, hitting a few of the room parties before heading off to sleep.

I am not really sure how, but I managed to be up, showered, and fed in time for the 9am panel on Social Learning/Hackerspace. I am glad I was because it was just fascinating. I never knew that there were places where kids could go and learn in a non-threatening environment while doing hands on experiments.

Then it was time for my next panel:

Humor in Writing

Yeah, it can be a little difficult to be funny at 10:00 on a Saturday morning. That being said, I think Steven Lake, Daniel Hogan, Jim Hines, and I did a pretty good job of amusing and enlightening the audience.

At this point I took a break from the Con to run home to see the puppies (because I just couldn't go a whole day without seeing them!). I got back in time to catch most of a lecture entitled Skynet 1.4 in which Richard Herrell examined recent advancements in computing and robotics to discern how close we were to having the robots take over. At the end of the lecture we were divided into five groups: two humans and two robots which tried to figure out how to annihilate. I was in the fifth group, the one which was called to the front of the room and told we were robots disguised as humans and sent off to infiltrate the human groups. That’s right, I was a Cylon! Then it was off to learn how to make cheese in the Food Space (or in Penguicon terms: Open Source Mozzarella).

ML joined me for a little while and even sat through my next panel:

It's OKAY the First Draft is SUPPOSED to Suck!

Stephanie Osborn, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Hines, Lydia Nyx, and I discussed the finer points of first drafts, editing, having others read your work, more editing, and finally more editing. The Guest of Honor moderated and did an excellent job of including everyone at the table.

ML and I then walked around a bit, each dropping a little money at the Ties that Bynde booth. After dinner and drinks she headed home and I headed off and I caught most of a lecture on home storage (which I understood about 80% of. I might have done better if I was a little more sober). Then I went to one of my favorite things at Penguicon: The Smithee Awards (with my new creation: the Doctored Pepper). I always find this hysterical. I just feel bad for the poor people who sift through some of the worst movies ever made to find some of the worst clips ever filmed which then get nominated in categories including Most Ludicrous Premise, Stupidest Looking Monster, Worst Science, and my favorite Cutting Butter With A Chainsaw.

Sunday was a relatively short day for me as far as con went. I chatted with some people in the Con Suite, then went down to my last panel (and the one which I suggested):

Writer's Groups

I was a little concerned because one of the panelists (Stewart Sternberg) had been in a previous group that I belonged to. I was also concerned that Jim C Hines would think I was stalking him since this was the umpteenth panel we were on together. Both concerns were unfounded and the panel went really well. I got in some shameless plugs for the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Most of the people who attended this early morning panel were interested in finding critique groups, but I still had a bit to say.

At this point I was pretty much done. There weren't any panels I was dying to see and quite frankly, I was going through a severe case of puppy withdrawal. I hung around just long enough to get my discount (I got a reduced rate because I was on so many panels!) then headed home.

While I was waiting (in the Dealers Room -- no, I didn't buy any books or tee-shirts!) someone came up to me and said that he had enjoyed listening to me on the panels he had seen and asked if I had a business card. Of course I didn't, since I had packed everything away in the car. Fortunately I was parked close and ran to fetch one in what can only be described as a reserved and professional manner. It was a great way to end Con.

All in all I had my usual great time. I think that I am actually becoming more comfortable not only with speaking in front of groups but also in my own knowledge and experience. I feel a lot less like a sham and more like someone who actually belongs behind the table talking to people.

Yep, I'm already looking forward to next year.

Pupdate!

Yes, it is true, my little babies are all grown up.

OK, that's not true at all. They both have a lot of growing to do (especially Titus if one goes by the size of his paws). What they have both done is graduate from Puppy Class.

This may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but for us it is a happy little milestone. The kids are now coming when called (sometimes), sitting on command, walking politely on leash (most of the time), performing a couple of tricks we taught them (High Five, Titus rolls over, and Tesla wipes her paws), and other things. They have gotten used to being around other people outside of those they see every day, other dogs (which is very important), and a host of environmental things which normally frighten puppies and big dogs alike (like that mean, nasty vacuum cleaner). They have also learned to take food without snapping, the limits of how much pressure to apply when playing; Hell, they're just great.

Even better, they are now able to start Intermediate class where the dollar values are doubled and the questions get harder. I mean where we will work on sit, stay, heel, recall, etc.

As you can see from the pictures, Tesla made us very proud by winning the Fastest Recall in her class (which involved walking politely across the room with me, then waiting while I ran back across the room, and coming back to me when called).

The experience was very positive and both dogs and handlers loved the classes. If you are in the area and looking for dog training, check out
Trainers Academy. They also have Day Care!

The Turnaround Lane

I know what you have all been missing so desperately. You’ve all been waiting for a really good rant. Well wait no longer!

What is it with drivers who don’t merge into the left turn lane?*

Allow me to explain. I had to drive up and down Woodward Avenue a number of times today. For those who are unfamiliar with the streets of the Detroit Metropolitan area, Woodward is the main drag which divides the city: East and West.**/***

Suburban Woodward (which I had been traveling) has three or four lanes running north and south divided by those islands of grass and trees which make everything look so pretty. There are breaks in these concrete oasisses***** every quarter mile or so which allows traffic to turn and go the other direction. This is especially important if you want to make a left turn. In most instances you have to make a “Michigan Left” (which everyone else in the country calls an idiot turn).

For example, if you are traveling north and want to turn west on eleven mile (like I do every day on the way to work) you actually have to cross eleven mile, take the first idiot turn, then drive south until you reach eleven where you make a right. Easy peasy, right?

The problem is that many drivers in the area don’t realize that the lane leading up to the turn is for them to pull in to so they ARE NOT SLOWING TRAFFIC IN THE FAR LEFT LANE! Instead of utilizing this area, usually many car lengths long, they stay on the main road way right up until it is time to turn. Even worse, the move over so only their left tires are in the turn lane and the rest of their vehicle is blocking the way of good drivers who just want to get the Eff around them.

Look people, it’s really not that hard. When the lane starts to appear in the island, get over. Not at the turn, not half way down, right the eff away. You will greatly reduce the risk of having someone rear end you, not impede traffic, and best of all, not force me to follow you to your destination and beat you about the head and shoulders with a tire iron.



*Feel free to read this aloud in your best Jerry Seinfield voice.

**West Siiiide!

***Despite what certain Journey songs would have you believe, no one here would ever refer to any area of the city as “South Detroit.” Know what is south of Detroit? Windsor, Ontario.****

****There’s a little trivia for you. Around here Canada, our “neighbor to the north,” is actually south of us.

*****Nope, it’s not “oasisi,” I looked it up.

One Down

Con season has officially started. The GLAHW spent the weekend of 15 - 17 March at Motor City Nightmares. We had a great time talking to people, networking, selling books and magazines, and discovering the joy that is the cake pop.*

I am in the middle of a busy set of weekends. I have a convention every other weekend and I work the weekends I am not at con. Next up is
Penguicon where I will be speaking on five panels over two days. The full schedule is available here. For my schedule, check out this post at The Nth Word.

The final convention is the big one for the
GLAHW: The Motor City ComiCon. We will have two tables of merchandise for sale, both group publications and our own material. We are also planning special themed costume days. Come out to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi 13 - 15 May.

All right, all right. I know what you have really been waiting for. Go ahead and hit next or just click here.

*Of course we bought a few souvenirs of our own. R should be happy because I managed to not buy any books or tee shirts. I did come home with a plush Alien Facehugger, a couple of buttons and zipper pulls, and two tiny dolls Sam from
Trick r’ Treat and Hellboy.

Introducing the New Editions

There is something horribly depressing about coming home to a house and not being greeted by a dog. After Dervish died there was no way that I could run right out and get another dog. However, the silence wears on one. There was a dog shaped void that needed to be filled.

It was quite a while before I could even entertain this idea. I started looking at
Petfinder, just looking. There are a lot of animals looking for homes.* There were quite a few which looked, ah, promising. I started keeping track of the ones which I would be willing to adopt if I was ready to adopt. Which I wasn’t. Just looking, remember?

It made me very happy when Echo, the GSD mix, found her forever home** Some people recommended I look on Craig’s List, but I was looking for a rescue dog.

Actually, I was looking for two rescue dogs. R has always wanted a small dog (specifically a Pug). She decided that this time she was going to get her little dog. If I wanted a bigger dog, I had better be prepared to bring them home at the same time.

So I looked and tracked and smiled. Then I saw Bastian. He was originally listed as a St. Bernard/Border Collie mix (later revised to Springer Spaniel/Border Collie). He was being fostered in the area. I contacted the rescue organization,
Last Day Dog Rescue. They are a great organization that rescues dogs from various high kill shelters who are about to be euthanized and then fosters them until the can be adopted. Arrangements were made to meet Bastian and a Puggle that was being fostered by the a different person associated with the organization.

To make a long story short (TOO LATE!), neither one of us got the dogs we were looking at originally. Those playful pups were brought to a “Meet and Greet” being held at the house of someone fostering a litter of puppies. We fell in love with two of them, completed the application process, and a week later were able to take the picture you see up there.

After almost 2 days of deliberation the names of our new family members are Tesla and Titus. At their foster home they always curled up and slept together. Here’s hoping they remain that close.

So, we are now embarking*** on puppy training X2. Twice the housebreaking, twice the chewing, twice the poop to pick up.

Twice the smiles, fuzzy kisses, and puppy love? You betcha.

Totally worth it.



*If you have room in your house and your heart, why not adopted one? Or more than one?

** Or ”Furever home” Sorry, just can’t do it.

***Pun intended

Rumors of the Website's Demise

I was sitting at my desk the other day, organizing things for Penguicon and the panels that I’m going to be on. Yes, I realize that the convention is more than a month away, but I like to get things squared away. It assuages the CDO (OCD, but with the letters in alphabetical order like they should be). I have plenty of ribbons from last year, so I am all set there. One stack has the GLAHW moto “Don’t Be Afraid, Be Terrified.” The other has this website’s address. I was kind of excited about the idea of driving people to the website when a thought slammed into my head.

“You know, if people are going to be checking out the website, you might want to put up some new content.”

Damn.

Yes, I realize that almost a quarter of a year has passed since I last updated the website or posted to either of the blogs. I do have a perfectly legitimate explanation.

You know what it is like when you look down at your odometer and realize that you are a few miles over the number on the little sticker reminding you to get an oil change? At first it isn’t that bad. You can go to the dealer any day so you put it off a little while longer. Soon you are at the point where you feel like you need an excuse but you can’t come up with one so you put it off and put it off...

Or like when you receive a gift and that little voice that sounds just a little like your mother tells you that you should send a thank you card but how often does one get to the card store? Then you finally get to the store but it’s been weeks so you stand there wondering if you should get a “belated” thank you card if they even make such a thing. You buy the card, but you feel like a heel for not sending it earlier so you put it off and put it off...

Or like when you don’t update your website for a while. You announced that posts would come at irregular intervals so you don’t feel bad for the first few weeks. Then you notice that a month has gone by and you have not posted and you should really start off with an excuse as to why you haven’t posted but you can’t think of one so you put it off and put it off...

So, there’s that.

Honestly, I spent a lot of time off-line. Those of you who follow me on other websites know this. The past few months have been relatively Tweetless. Facebook went unupdated. There was some lurking here and there, but very little participation on my part.

Don’t feel bad, it wasn’t just you I was ignoring.

Much of this electronic withdrawal was the result of depression. The first set of holidays without Dervish were very difficult.

The healthy thing to do when I start one of these spirals is to reach out to people to help buoy my moods. So naturally I do the opposite and pull away.

Interestingly enough (at least to me), it wasn’t just my participation on social websites that flagged. I have a set of bookmarks, comics, other people’s blogs, bulletin boards, that I checked every morning. It was part of my morning ritual: stumble downstairs, take my pills, grab a cup of coffee, and look at something which makes me smile. I stopped looking at these as well. It was even difficult for me to write.

On the up side, I got to spend a lot of time reading. In fact, reading is part of what got me back on-line. I felt compelled to review every book that I read on
Goodreads. From there to Twitter and Facebook and finally here.

What made it easier to finally jump back in is that there is plenty of good news to share. Because it has been even longer since I updated The nth Word I am going to put all of the writerly good news over there. For the other news, go ahead and hit that next button. Or just click here.

(Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of good stuff which happened in between. R’s birthday was a blast which she managed to stretch out for more than a week.)

The Creative Process of Writing

If you are in the Detroit area next weekend or the following weekend and you interested in how writers, well, write, plan on being at the Main Branch of the Detroit Library Sunday afternoon. A number of GLAHW members (including yours truly) will be describing how we do that thing that we do.

In one week we will be discussing the creative process (click the image above for a flier). The following week we will be discussing the ins and outs of publishing.

I would go into more detail, but I need to work on my portion of the presentation.

Thankful

Many, many, many things.

Most of all the people I care about and who care about me. Wherever you are today, I hope you are surrounded by people who love you.

All of you who I care about, wherever you may be today, you are in my thoughts and in my heart.

So, You're Thinking About Buying A Digital Reading Device.

I have been getting a lot of questions regarding e-reading devices lately. I assume it is because of the upcoming holiday season. People must be deciding what to buy for their loved ones or what to put on the own lists for Santa. I have gotten enough questions that I have decided to take a moment away from NaNo, Thanksgiving prep, and eating M&Ms to provide some answers, at least the best ones that I can.

I hope to provide some answers to the questions that I have been asked recently. However, one question that I can not answer is “Which reader should I buy?” I can not answer this, because it will depend upon a number of different factors and personal preferences. I can tell you which one I purchased and why.

Another thing that I won’t be doing is providing an unbiased opinion either. I absolutely love my own device. I have reasons to prefer it over other devices. I am sure that this will come through.

I am always hesitant about using Wikipedia as an ultimate source of information, but this
entry provides a nice comparison of some of the things we’ll be discussing here.

The first question that you have to examine is, do you actually want an e-reader? Are you the kind of reader who wants a device which is specifically designed for reading? Can you justify the purchase of such a device?

Now before you get all up in arms, remember that I already own one. Two actually.

It is, however, something to consider.

Odds are, you already have a device capable of performing as a reader. There are numerous applications available for iPhones, Androids, Blackberry’s (Blackberries?), and other smart phones which allow them to function as digital readers. There some definite positives associated with this. The most obvious is that you already own the device. The only money you will be shelling out is for the application (which may actually be free). This means you have more money to buy books! Another positive is that if you are like most Americans (my wife excluded) you have your phone on you 90% of the time. If you get stuck in line at the bank or in a waiting room, boom you have your books as well. I have a couple of apps on my phone for exactly this reason.

There are some downsides as well. The one that springs immediately to mind is the size of the screen. Some people balk at the idea of reading an entire book on a screen the size of the palm of their hand. “I could never do
that.”

Yeah, but you said you would never send e-mail from your phone either, didn’t you. You would never use your phone as a calendar, to update Twitter...

Wait, that reminds me...

I personally do not find reading on my phone comfortable, not because of any eyestrain caused by the screen size but by the fact that I constantly have to turn the page. There’s just not enough data on the screen at any one time for me. I am sure that I could get used to it, but I would rather not.

My other main reason for not using my phone as a reader is the same reason I do not use it as a music player: I don’t want to run down the battery. Between texting, Twitter, Facebook, and the inevitable game I burn through the battery life quickly enough as it is. I would like to have at least a little juice left should I have to, oh, I don’t know, make a phone call or something.

So, if we are ruling out phones, what other device do you have that you can use as a reader? Perhaps the one I am composing this post on -- the laptop. The laptop is a great device for reading in terms of storage space, availability to read multiple formats (but I am getting a little ahead of myself, here). The major downside to using your laptop as a reader is size. Even the slimmest of the new skinny butt laptops is still pretty clunky compared to a slick e-reader. There is also the form issue. Laptops are designed to sit on your lap. They are generally not made for one-handed use. Reading on a computer is less like reading a book than reading on a reader is. It’s more like...well, like reading on a computer

This is an issue I see mentioned frequently, the “I use a computer all day long and I don’t want to read on my computer when I get home.” To these people I say: an e-reader may not be for you.

Then again, I bet you watch YouTube at home and surf the interwebz after using your computer at work all day.

I do not mean to be flip. There are some real differences between computer screen reading and paper reading. Some of these issues have been addressed by the creation of
E Ink. Many e-readers use E Ink or similar software which is designed to make the reading experience less like words on a monitor and more like actually reading words on a page.

This is not an issue for me. I have been reading things on computers for so long that it would not come close to bothering me. If this is something that may bother you, than this is something to consider.

This would be a good place to segue into a discussion of how reading on a dedicated digital reading device differs from reading on a computer, but there is another type of device we must discuss first. Actually, it is two types of devices but I’ll lump them into the same category as they fulfill many of the same requirements. Personally, I think that they will be what introduces many people into the world of digital reading: tablets and netbooks.

When most people think about “reading” in the context we are discussing, they are thinking about reading for pleasure. The device which they will read on should be portable and easy to use in lots of different situations. It is difficult, although not impossible, to read on a laptop in bed or on a train on the way to work. This is where a smaller device domes in handy.

The other benefit is that like the laptop and smartphone, tablets and netbooks do more than allow you to read your books. This means that like the other devices, you will have other reasons to carry it with you. There are a number of different applications which will allow you to read your digital books on your brand new tablet or netbook.

The downside, of course, is going to be price. You are going to spend a lot more for a multi-tasking device of this sort than you will for a dedicated reader. There are also issues of whether or not you will be reading if you have dozens of other applications available to you on your new device. To be honest, I have very little experience with these gadgets and besides, isn’t this supposed to be about digital readers.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of features which one must consider before purchasing (or asking for) your digital reading device. One of these is price, but if you are asking for your reader as a present, you can probably ignore this one.



[This is coming from someone who purchased his device with gift cards he received by trading in his credit card bonus points. Yep, that’s right. It was free.]

All kidding aside, let’s examine the features you may be interested in.

One of the major reasons I selected the Sony is that it supports a huge number of formats. At this point there is no industry standard when it comes to digital publication. I am personally in the “rooting for ePub” camp. This is not to discredit other popular formats like PDF, TXT, RTF, DOC, HTML, Mobi, and a whole slew of others that I have never heard of. A device which reads multiple formats fits well with what I use my reader for. I can read a wide variety of publications. I can also read unpublished material of my own and that written by members of my
writing group. I have also used my reader to review submissions for Ghostlight magazine.

This could also be detrimental. If you want to use your device for nothing but leisure reading but are of the type who may guilt yourself into reading work related projects on it, you may want to look at devices with a more limited range of formats. This is becoming increasingly difficult as many new readers recognize the benefit of having more content available for those who use their devices.

Another important consideration is where you are going to be purchasing (or simply downloading) your material. Most readers have some type of dedicated site. There is a Sony Bookstore which I can access for my Sony reader. Barnes & Noble’s Nook has Barnes & Noble. The Kindle is, as we all know, tied to
Amazon. [Yes, it is one of the most widely recognized websites on the planet. Yes, I still have issues with many of Amazon’s practices. Yes, it is one of the reasons I do not own a Kindle. I’ve already done plenty of ranting about that elsewhere on the site.]

Owners of e-readers are by no means limited to the one website tied to their device (although Kindle owners are pretty close, ahem...sorry). I highly recommend checking out
Project Gutenberg. It is a user supported site which has links to thousands of free e-books. The majority of these are books which are free in the United States because their copyright has expired. This includes most of the classics -- Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Stoker, Kafka, Bronte, Dumas, Melville, Machiavelli, Christie, Wells, Doyle, even the brothers Grimm.

Science Fiction readers will want to check out the
Baen Free Library. Many authors have retained their digital rights (or fought for them) and are making their material available on their own websites.

Hmm, sounds like a topic for another post. I’m getting a little sidetracked here.

Where was I? Ah yes, other things to consider.

Backlight: this is a very popular feature which my reader does not have. This is great if you do a lot of reading in bed with a partner who has trouble sleeping if there are lights on. Fortunately, I am not plagued by this problem. In fact, I find backlighting very tiring on my eyes. I generally have my screens dimmed, whatever the device. [Sidenote: This may be a throwback to the white or green lettering on black screens that I associate with my early forays into computing. I even have my Tweetdeck set up to resemble this old school setting.] Yes, sometimes it may be easier to read without an external light source, but this was not a feature I required.

Touchscreen: This was a feature I deemed necessary. It is why I have the middle priced Sony instead of the less expensive one. I love the fact that I can highlight, edit, and make notes on documents that I have on my reader. Not all devices have touchscreens and not all those that do have the ability to highlight, edit, and make notes. Some devices which do not have touchscreens do (using the built in keyboard). Research the device you are looking at and see if it supports these features if you want them (or if you want to avoid them so you have an excuse to not sully your new gadget with crap downloaded from work).

WiFi: Speaking of downloading (see what I did there? Almost like I planned it or something.) many e-readers feature wifi connectivity. Stuck in an airport and need something to read? Hear about a really cool book while sitting at the coffee shop? Just connect wirelessly and in a few clicks you can be downloading your new book.

I purchased a reader which does
not have this feature for exactly that reason. I know my limitations and my weaknesses. If I had the ability to purchase books on a whim I would certainly do so. I need a device which requires me to link up to my computer in order to make a purchase. As it is I have more books than I can read in five years.

Battery Life: You do not want to be at a gripping point of the story only to have your reader crap out on you. Similarly, how easy it is to recharge your device? Do you have to link it to a computer to do so? This will mean carrying your laptop with you on vacation if you plan to read longer than the life of the battery. I have a rapid charger and a car charger for the Sony.

Accessories: Does the device have chargers available? Covers? Book light attachments? Most of the bigger name devices do, but some of the smaller (or newer) models may not.

Memory: This should probably be much higher on the list. It is one of the selling points for all digital readers. How many times have your heard the announcer voice say “Carry your entire library in your hand” or something like it? Well, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but your device should have the capacity to carry a large number of titles. How about expansion slots? Many devices have the ability to slap in a memory card and add to the number of titles you can carry. Notably, Kindle does not. If you fill that bad boy up (and it will take a while, don’t get me wrong) you will have to start deleting things in order to put in new material.

Or just wait until Amazon deletes them for you.


Sorry, sorry. I know.

Interesting side note which will explain the beauty of my reader: I was at Convergence this year, recording video of the various panels I was attending. Half way through one of the readings, I realized that the memory card in my camera was full. Fortunately, I had my Sony PRS-650 in my bag as well (which has expansion slots for both Memory Stick Duo and SG cards). It should be no surprise that my Sony camera uses SG cards. I popped the card out of my reader and into my camera and kept on shooting.

If you are looking at a device which has expandable memory, make sure it is a standard format. Having to search dozens of computer stores to find an oddball memory card is a true pain in the butt.

Compatibility: Really, this should not be an issue any more, right? I mean, those of us with Apple products should not be limited to only a few devices. Honestly, it probably will not be an issue unless you are buying something straight out of the far east, but it never hurts to check. That goes for the kind of connections required, too. Everything
should be USB and the cable should come with the device.

Size: How big a device you do want? Do you want something that fits easily into a jacket pocket, just like your favorite paperback? Those devices exist, but you may have to pass on some other things like a full keyboard.

Input: Do you want a keyboard to take notes with? If you are going with a touchscreen, do you want one with a stylus? There are a number of different ways in which readers access the information on their devices. Make sure that the controls on the model you are looking at are comfortable for you. Don’t just look at them, play around with them a little before you buy.

Other functions: Do you want Text to Speech? This was the big flap earlier this year, the Text to Speech vs. Audiobook debate. My Sony does not have a Text to Speech function, but it does support audio files. I can’t get the reader to read to me, but I can listen to audio books.

If you are looking at a device which support audio of some type, how will you listen? Earphone jacks should be standard for devices with audio functions. Make sure the jacks are standard as well. You don’t want those awesome noise canceling headphones to be useless, do you?

What about pictures and video? As the popularity of “additional content” rises, you may want a device which will allow you to watch interviews with the author and other video. If you are going to be reading textbooks or other technical books, make sure that your reader supports popular graphics files (PDF, TIFF, JPEG). You will probably want one which displays these in color (mine does not).

I know that I am forgetting something here, but I can not think of any other considerations at the moment. If something else pops into my head, I will be sure to add it.

Finally, for those who are interested, I have a
link to a panel from Convergence which discussed e-readers and digital publishing. I apologize for the sound quality, it’s not the greatest but I have cleaned it up as best I can.

You Didn't Really Expect Updates in November, Did You?

Just a brief drop in to let you all know that no, I did not die. I am, of course, consumed as I am every November with banging out a 50,000 words novel in 30 days. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you have not been paying attention. Maybe you can catch up by looking at the writing blog The nth Word, previous posts about NaNo (here, here, and here). You should probably head over to the NaNoWriMo site too.

Since we last spoke I have taken down all of the Halloween decorations (which took depressingly little time). I reorganized them into giant tupperware containers (which took
forever) and shlepped them out to the storage facility (which took three trips). P and I did a little post holiday shopping on the 1st. The Halloween stores don’t want to ship and store their merchandise so stuff gets severely discounted. It also goes really quickly so we hit them early. She picked up some items for her growing graveyard and I replaced the fogger which died unexpectedly Halloween night after so many years of valiant service.

A moment of silence.

There has been quite a bit else that has gone on during the last two weeks. There have been changes at work, a
GLAHW meeting (the party did quite well), and I need to rant about Christmas carols taking over the radio already.

All of that is going to have to wait because my dinner just got here and I’m famished. If I work up a little word count cushion this weekend I’ll be back.

Happy Halloween!

The end of October has arrived. My favorite holiday is upon us. It has been a month full of fun and interesting activities.

Lord I am exhausted.

At the beginning of the month I had a couple of posts (here and here)about my potential plans for my favoritest month of the year. I have mentioned a couple of this that I did, but not all. In the spirit of completeness, here is a quick run down of what my October looks like.

Boobiethon -- Yes, I submitted photos as did some other people I knew. Over $10K was raised for Breast Cancer Research.

The Crocker House Cemetery Walk and Funeral Tea - This was a LOT of fun (and educational!). I wrote about it here.

Costume Creation - I actually had a lot of fun working on my Halloween costume. I don’t know how many people recognized that I was dressed as The Slender Man. I spent a lot of time with R’s old sewing machine (because I did not want to screw up her uber-expensive quilting machine). I altered a jacket, created extra arms out of pool noodles and black fabric, attached said arms to the jacket, and created a hood/face mask that would hide my facial features. The down side was that the hood was a little warm and the bar the party was at was a little on the warm side so it stayed in my pocket for the whole evening.

Phantom of the Opera at
The Redford Theatre - R and I treated ourselves to a night at the Opera (sorry, had to do it). They had a great print, the organ accompaniment was wonderful, and the movie is a classic. I absolutely love this theatre.

Speaking of theaters, I hit the
Main’s Midnight Movies twice -- for Poltergeist and The Evil Dead.

I sat with
ML and D for the show. She has a great story about seeing Poltergeist as a child and spending a portion of the film hiding under her seat. Naturally it is now one of her favorites.

Brief Aside: She likes the movie so much that it is one of the films she recommends watching on Halloween.
ML, P, and a number of other horror authors (some of whom I know!) were interviewed regarding their recommendations for Halloween night frights. The article was released today and can be found here. Scroll down for the English version.

After the film the three of us spent a little time discussing the problems which will be associated with the eventual remake.

SPOILERS:

Seriously? You have not seen
Poltergeist? Get off of my site.

The opening scene is a stickler. We pan around the house, looking at the sleeping family, while the national anthem plays in the background. We follow Carol Ann back to the television in time to see the usual patriotic images, then the network signs off for the night and goes to static.

I would be willing to be that half of the people in the theater did not get that reference as they had never lived in a time when networks actually went off the air! Now the “television people” who contact Carol Ann are going to have to be the same ones trying to sell her a Sham Wow!

D pointed out that you can’t have the panicked scramble to get the key in the ignition (near the end of the film) compounded with having the key upside down, because we no longer have keys that only fit one way in the ignition (nor do we have separate keys for the trunk/door and ignition). Hell, some cars don’t even have keys anymore.

The final scene is going to lose a lot of umph, too. The family, dazed, shell-shocked, exhausted, file into the hotel room. Dad slams the door. A few moments later he opens the door, shoves out the television, and slams it again. In order to do this today, he is going to have to shove out the entire cabinet (including the cable and video game system) because that sucker is bolted down. Even the remote control is bolted in place!

Last Friday I had thought about heading out to hit a couple of haunted houses. I had originally intended to visit one of the outdoor, haunted hayride places with some people from work, but some untimely and unhappy events prevented this from happening. I waffled about going all day. When decision time finally came, I opted for thrift and exhaustion. I stayed home watching horror movies until I drifted off. I woke around a quarter after 11 and decided that was a sign to go see
The Evil Dead. Sure, I’ve seen it a jillion times, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it with an audience. The first film, unlike the sequels, is played for straight scares not laughs. It is a little difficult to watch it without thinking of the other movies, but if you can, you are in for some creepy fun. Some of the FX are a little dated, but some hold up, as does the shaky cam. The scene where Cheryl is assaulted by the forest is still shiver inducing.

Rounding out my movie experiences, I went and saw
Paranormal Activity 2 as well. The sequel has more of a slick feel than the original, but it was still spooky enough that when I returned to the empty house I had to fight the urge to check all of the rooms. The only thing I really had a problem with was the reason the cameras were installed in the house in the first place. Once there they are used extremely well, providing different views as well as verification that something other worldly is going on. I would recommend seeing the film (I saw the IMAX version).

Interesting sidebar: After seeing the movie I saw the commercial on TV. There are scenes in the commercial which do not appear in the film. I wonder if the DVD release will have these deleted scenes along with an explanation of why they did not appear (I can already guess why one of them doesn’t).

The big event of the month was the
GLAHW’s Monster Mash for Literacy Bash III. I had a great time, we raised a bunch of dough for charity, and I already talked about it here.

The following day there was another
GLAHW function, the Bad Alien Night at AJ’s. Check out that same post for more.

The house got decorated (with some new stuff, as always). Pictures will be posted soon. The Trick or Treaters received their treats. I estimate 300+ kids based on the amount of candy I passed out. We had to turn the lights of at 8 which is a lot earlier than usual, so I can only imagine how many we might have had otherwise.

If you want to see some highlights of the evening, check out my Twitter stream. There’s some funny stuff in there.

One thing I forgot to add to my To Do in October list was the
NaNoWriMo Kick Off Party. It was held on the 30th. It provided me with a good excuse to take a break from decorating. A goodly number of people showed up to talk about their plans for November, catch up with friends from previous years, and meet people they knew only by Forum handles. This year there is also a book drive, the proceeds of which will go towards funding NaNo. I brought one box of books to the kick off party and will bring more to the write ins.

Saturday evening one of my co-workers dropped by with three of her children. She just swung by to see the display. This made me feel really special and smiley all night.

This was great because I spent another portion of the evening watching UofM lose. Fortunately I also had the annual viewing of
The Crow to look forward to.

All in all it was a very enjoyable, if exhaustingly busy month. I did not visit any haunted attractions (which makes it two years in a row now). I also decided to skip the Damned art exhibit.

Although I want nothing more than to sleep for a month, there is still lots to do. I have to pack up and store all of the Halloween decorations (which is always sad). I will also hit a couple of the Halloween stores tomorrow and see what I can pick up on the cheap. It’s always fun to unpack and say “What the Hell is...oh, right. I bought this last year.”

I have a convention and a series of speaking engagements to prepare for. Who can forget that November means
National Novel Writing Month. I have a nice little germ of an idea that I am looking forward to starting. In fact, I could start it now as it is after midnight, but my brain is a bit fried at the moment. I should probably get some sleep.