What Have I Been Watching? October 2020 edition

Well, I have not been getting out to the theater much lately, but with the pandemic, very few of us are. However, I have been streaming a lot lately. I’ve also converted my entire DVD/Blu-Ray library over to Plex and have been watching a lot more of the things I already owned as a result. You know, now that I no longer have to face that epic struggle of standing up, walking over to the DVD player, and putting in a disc.

As part of her ongoing cultural literacy, we have been watching Star Trek (TOS) with my daughter. We’re in early season 2 at this point. We’ve also been watching Star Trek Lower Decks, and of course, half the references are going right over her head. But she’s enjoying it. Why this? Why now? Because I made a reference to “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario,” a few months back, and my wife and I realized our daughter had no frame of reference for it. So, it’s family TV night—something we weren’t able to do for most of her childhood. For reasons that are a whole’nuther story.

I’ve also been watching Masters of Sex. I’d heard good things about it, and it is good, but I have to pause every so often because I get fed up with Bill Masters. At least Don Draper was a handsome asshole. I’ve also been watching Killing Eve, which is all fucked up in its own unique ways. And I’ve been rewatching the old M*A*S*H series from the 70s. I’m about halfway through season 2 on all three of these.

It’s interesting watching M*A*S*H because this particular transfer seems to have gone back to the original film stock and done an HD 1080p widescreen transfer. That’s nice and all, but I’m noticing a lot of issues that were hidden in the lower resolution and general fuzziness of the original 480i signal. In particular, the lighting looks much more like it’s on a soundstage, while the original version’s lighting looked much more like they were in those real environs.

I suspect it’s that the original crew had a gut feel for how what they saw with their eyes would end up looking on the old TVs and could light and shoot for that, but the HD transfer from the film just aimed to faithfully capture what was there. It reminds me of how the bandana worn by the real cavalry was often brown or dark red, but it became yellow in films because the darker colors didn’t look good on black-and-white filmstock. They shot M*A*S*H for their target medium, and it doesn’t look quite right in this new one.

As for movies, I did see Mulan but not Tenant. I saw Old Guard but not Hamilton. And I’d say I didn’t see Bill & Ted Face the Music except that I really mean to say that I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll get to it. The last film I actually saw in a physical theater was Emma back in March, two days before we went into lockdown. It was OK, but overall “meh”. I’m looking forward to getting back to the theater, if for nothing else than I wouldn’t want that to be the last film I ever got to see on the big screen.

I’ve also been watching some TV series on the treadmill, though for various excuses reasons excuses I haven’t been so good about it in the last month or so. I’ve got those on a 7-day rotation to keep me motivated to not skip a day. Clearly that hasn’t been working so well recently, but here they are:

Sundays: Supernatural, currently in season 13 – NO SPOILERS!
Mondays: Netflix’s Marvel shows, in order. Currently in Jessica Jones Season 2.
Tuesdays: a bit of a wildcard but currently in season 1 of Star Trek Discovery
Wednesdays: The Expanse, currently season 2
Thursdays: Battlestar Galactica, the reboot, currently late season 3
Fridays: Babylon 5, currently late season 3
Saturdays: another wildcard, currently iZombie season 5.

And that’s it for now. Who knows, maybe I’ll manage to get back to iZombie tomorrow.

Some Improvements

I thought I should post an update since my last entry was pretty bleak. I’m working with my doctors to make some changes to my current array of medications for treating my PTSD and chronic pain, and I’m already seeing some improvements. I’ll detail those some other time, but the short version is that it’s been a turn for the better.

I’m making progress on the books. Short version: I’m updating the old books a bit and getting closer to the new ones.

  • Beneath the Sky: This one is getting a new cover, a couple of minor corrections, and updated back matter to point to the current website, etc. The proof copy of the print is on its way from Createspace right now, and the e-book update is mostly ready. I’m still tweaking the link stuff in the back for that one. I hope to have all that done by the end of this week. Once it is, I’ll be putting it into Kindle Select, which means it will be available in the Kindle Unlimited lending library. It’s already Amazon-exclusive, but I haven’t properly enrolled it yet.
  • Ships of My Fathers: This one is just getting updates to the back matter and tweaking once sentence to clarify something a reviewer pointed out. I expect it will be sorted out by early next week.
  • Debts of My Fathers: The print version is mostly formatted, and the e-book version will follow shortly. Mostly I’m sorting out the details on Beneath the Sky to relearn Sigil on an existing book rather than starting with the blank slate of a new book. I may be setting up some review copies on that, but the final will have to wait a few more details. (I’ll say more about that once they’re resolved.) I’m working on this somewhat in parallel to updating the others, so it’s not entirely idle. I’m hesitant to put out another estimated date, but I am shooting for early October.
  • Hell Bent: This is that new Urban Fantasy series that none of you have any reason to care about yet. It’s effectively on hold until I get Debts of My Fathers out the door, but I may do some of the formatting work on it soon while all the formatting issues and skills are still in my head. I hope to get this one out before the end of the year, but there are elements to this one that are out of my hands.

So that’s the update. Things are moving, just never as fast as I want them to.

2013: The Year in Review

Each year I set out goals rather than resolutions, and as part of that, I monitor my progress and make some assessments at the end of the year. So, how did I do this year?

My writing goals this last year were to
1) Publish two new novels, and I managed only one: Ships of My Fathers
2) Write two new novels, and I only managed one and a half: Shattered and part of Stone Killers
3) Keep up the blog, and I feel down on that more than I wanted.

In more detail, I probably could have pushed Hell Bent (the first of my urban fantasy series) out the door this year, but I decided I should be focusing my efforts where I already have an audience in space opera, so I spent the latter part of the year focusing on getting Debts of My Fathers out the door. It is not out yet, but I did make progress.

As for the writing, I did crank out a draft of Shattered, my first attempt at a mystery, but it will need a lot of work before it can even make it to the beta readers. I started on Stone Killer, the sequel to Hell Bent, but when I decided to delay the release of Hell Bent, I put Stone Killer on hold. It’s still sitting in the draft mode about halfway through.

On the blog, it fell apart over the summer for one reason and then again in the fall for another reason. A full schedule of posts would have been 156 posts, and this little gem will bring it up to 107, or about 68%, compared with last year’s 135/85%.

I also had a few other goals where I had varying levels of success. I wanted to do better multitasking, so that when I was blocked (or waiting on someone) with one project, I would be working on another. I did some better this year, but there was plenty of room for improvement. I also set the goal of doing a little bit of marketing/promotion this year, and I dipped my toes in with some success. I think my biggest boost, however, came from Nathan Lowell pointing me out to his many fans – in whose number I am proud to count myself. Mostly, though, it was having some business cards and a book-promo card that gave me a more professional feeling.

I also had a vague goal of making friends with more writers, particularly those who are cohort, i.e. those in about the same place in our careers. This, I must say, was one of my greatest successes of the year. Between Google+ and a local Meetup group, I befriended several authors who are about as early in their careers as I am, give or take a couple of years. Some are coming up fast, and some are racing ahead of me. Others can use a hand up, and I’ve done what I can to pass along the help that other writers have been so generous to grant me.

I did battle two problems throughout the year that severely impacted my ability to make progress on these writing goals. First, as bad as my health was in 2012, it was worse in 2013 and included a hospitalization and then later on, some long-delayed sinus surgery. As if to make a point, as I write this, I am running a low fever from a GI bug that’s been working its way through the family since Christmas. I do have some plans to make this better in 2014, but only time will tell.

The second problem was from my kids. I don’t talk about this much, but I have special-needs children. This year, the eldest (who is autistic) took something of a turn for the worse in August, and it has made the rest of the year much more difficult. I don’t want to gripe with the details, but it as the kids say these days, my difficulties here are “totes legit!” I do not have much of a solution going forward except to stay the course and keep trying.

Still, I did start seeing some commercial success this year. At one point, an agent challenged me by saying it was not quite “quitting the day job” money, but I was able to reply that it was enough to pretty much pay all the monthly bills short of the mortgage, i.e. electric, water, phone, cable, etc., with a little left over. Some of my favorite people sold well and even won some awards. I also put out a novel that I’m very happy with, and I’m very grateful to live in a time that I can choose to do that rather than merely hope to do that. So, while I’m a little unhappy with the things I did not get done, I’m full of warm fuzzies for things I did get done.

Check back tomorrow where I plan to lay down some epic goals for 2014.

Got Busy

Sorry for the missed posts the last couple of weeks. I do most of my blogging on the weekends, and I was travelling (actually camping) the last two weekends, and then I got caught flat-footed when the week arrived. I’m getting back to the content queue now.

In other news, my self-publishing efforts are moving forward. I setup my publishing company, Quantum Forge Press. It has a domain, a blank website, a bank account, and ten ISBN numbers. I’m starting on the book cover now. While I missed my self-imposed deadline of April 1st, I’m still hopeful about getting it out this month.

See you later!

One Righteous Smackdown

While I have written a couple of novels, I have not yet published them. In truth, I have not yet submitted them, but they’re both still in the editing phase – more on that another time. Publishing through the large New York houses has become harder and harder in recent years, both for economic reasons and simple changes in the Industry. Of course, various forms of self-publishing are available (from Lulu.com to Lightning Source and Kindle/Nook e-book options), but being selected by an established publishing house has great emotional appeal. Fortunately – no, not really – there are countless scammers ready to feed on those frustrated writers, promising fame and riches while only delivering shame and expenses.

Fortunately – really – there is a team that sorts out the good from the bad. The website Writer Beware has been shining the disinfecting light of truth onto this problem for years. They keep lists of legitimate agents and publishers as well as calling scammers on their scams. Even on some that fall somewhere in between, they point out the areas of concern and tell you what to watch out for. They get some support from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), but mostly it’s a labor of love.

Most scammers either keep on scamming or scurry away into the corner only to return under a different name, but a few have been doing what they can to muddy the water. A largely anonymous group called The Write Agenda has been making claims against Writer Beware for a while. It’s not really enough to completely undo their scam-busting work, but I guess these scammers hope to reduce their stature to being merely one of two mudslinging opponents. Writer Beware has mostly ignored this in the past. After all, why point folks towards your worst character assassin? However, now the Write Agenda is apparently going after a number of other folks who support Writer Beware or even SFWA.

I guess if you can’t bully someone into submission, you start going after their innocent friends.

Well, that’s probably not the best idea when you’re trying to bully the righteous, because they will haul out their wrath and deliver one righteous smackdown. Earlier this week, Writer Beware did just that. In addition to documenting many of The Write Agenda’s illegitimate activities, they are making some attempt at breaking through the group’s anonymity to reveal the true scammer’s sour grapes. It would appear that he has done battle with Writer Beware before and lost.

So as we move away from newspapers, perhaps it’s time to update the adage: Never argue with someone who buys his electrons by the barrel, especially if his friends do too.