Inexorable Monday

Well, I put yet another short story collection up on Amazon’s Kindle store over the weekend, and the reception’s been quite warm. It went up on Friday, the launch promotion went live on Saturday (wherein it’s free for five days), and so far, I’ve gotten 140 downloads. Not bad. Not as jaw-dropping as when eReaderLove.com picked my books up, but not too shabby just the same. I’ve also opted to promote this one on Twitter. I didn’t do that with the last couple and they didn’t seem to take off as well. Not bad, but not well. So we’ll see if this helps. I guess. It should pay off sometime, right? Maybe? Ah well. It’s been fun anyway.

I’ve noticed a tiny bit of trickle-down to other stories, too. Not much, but a trickle of trickle. I’ve sold a handful of not-free books, but I’m not going to be able to retire on my writing’s earnings anytime soon. Still, it’s something, and the more readers with my work in their hands, the better.

I might’ve done a better job pimping the book on this blog too. I don’t know how many “followers” I have, but every little bit helps, so I might just do that next time.

For the record, it’s called Shudderbugs and already has a five-star review! W00T!

Speaking of reviews, my buddy and loyal fan Raga has posted a review for me too, on The Case of Lenny Tiggleman – in which she appears as a character! Thanks, Raga! God bless ya, darlin’! I really appreciate it.

Other than that, I did absolutely nothing over the weekend except shoot off a message by my buddy Bryce, who hasn’t responded yet. I hope to hear back from him about helping him get the sequel to his novel “Oasis” out in early April. Hey, B, let me know what’s up, brother.

I’ve got to get back to my training videos, but LORD HELP ME, I can’t seem to find the motivation to do it. The prospect of sitting through them and taking notes excites me about as much as the idea of having my gums scraped.

On the other hand, I’ve fashioned yet another book cover for a new short story I’m mulling. I hoped the cover would spark inspiration. And it would be sci-fi/horror, maybe. Something scary in space, y’know? And it would be a short story, so I can peck at it a little at a time. But I really need to pump out a full-length novel sometime. I just can’t ever seem to block out enough time to do so. Can you say “time management”? I knew y’could.

Anyway, I hope you had a nice weekend, and Bob, I hope your bachelor party was a blast, bud. I’d have been there if I could.

Take care and see you next time, everyone.

-jdt-

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Writers are Artists, Too

A few years ago — five years ago now, I guess — I was very active on the deviantART website.

If you don’t know — and why would you, really, unless you’re an artist? — deviantART is MySpace or Facebook for artists. It provides a community and showplace for artists to display their work and, if they get lucky enough, receive feedback on their displays. Comments, however, can’t be moderated or controlled — anyone can say anything they’d like, not only to the artist, but to any commentator as well. (This is an issue, in my opinion, and something dA needs to look at modifying.)

Now, dA allows almost anything to be posted as "art" — things which could be considered masterpieces, or at least the work of modern masters — to borderline pornography, to children’s drawings (or worse) can all be uploaded. The medium isn’t very limited either. Raw Photoshop files can’t be uploaded, but they can when converted to PNG or JPG images. SWF files can be uploaded, too, and so can film clips (!) and short films in various movie formats. It’s wide open.

Among the many visual art pieces out there, of course, are photography and photo-manipulation pieces. Paintings done traditionally can be photographed and uploaded, or pieces created digitally can be converted and uploaded. And writers have their own creations there too.

There’s no problem with providing artists a way to get their stuff seen. But until recently, writers were treated as second class citizens in the art community.

I wrote about this extensively before. I don’t remember whether here or elsewhere, but for the most part, attention isn’t evenly divided among artists on art communities. The priority seemed to be hand-created artwork (whether traditional or digital), then photography and photo manipulations, and then any other visual art remaining. When all is said and done, writing and literature is at the bottom of the list.

Before I stopped actively posting on deviantART, things were being done to help level the playing field, but honestly, not much inroad has been made in that regard. For one thing, a lot of writing is ignored on art sites because people go there for…well, artwork. The problem lies, in my humble opinion, with the definition of "art" as a base.

Words are the most abstract form of art there is. Think about it. If I write the word "hand", your mind can visualize an actual hand. But that’s because you’ve been taught to associate that particular word with that particular object. It took training, practice, and a lot of positive encouragement for you to learn the letters H-A-N-D mean the five-digit appendage at the end of your arm. But the letters H-A-N-D don’t look anything like the thing they describe, and therefore, it’s not considered "art" — despite the fact it’s a series of lines which describe an object. Just like a drawing would, or a painting would, or a series of pixels might.

The art of language is so abstract, it might take several thousand words to describe what a single drawing, painting or photograph might render. It is, to borrow an analogy from the immortal Mr. Spock, akin to building sophisticated electronics with stone knives and bear skins. Yet, when the discussion of artists comes up, the writer is left out in general. Oh, great writers are discussed with similar tones, but honestly, they’re not often considered in discussions of art.

I suspect this is due to "art" being defined as visual creations of a less abstract nature. In general, we admire most images which closely represent the objects of which they are representative. That is, in Homer Simpson speak, things which "look like the things they look like." The more true the image is to the object it represents, the more we (typically) like it. But, even more abstract "visual art" — you know, paint blotches and swooshes all over a canvas and hung in the MOM in most major cities — finds more favor than the abstraction of words.

Literature, as a result, is classified on it’s own, separately from visual media.

Should it be?

Your voice matters to me. Tell me what YOU think.

-jdt-

Dichotomy

No matter what I do over the weekend, I never really feel productive unless I do something work-related.

For instance, I could write 10,000 words in a new book or story and get LOADS of Photoshop images made for book covers. I could read vast volumes of fiction and spend quality Facebook time updating my author page, getting feedback, and promoting my latest and greatest endeavor. I could do almost anything every single weekend and still come away feeling like I didn’t accomplish a doggone thing.

I can spend quality time with my computer programming training videos, though, and even if I only get to a couple of ‘em, I feel like I’ve done huge amounts of work. I feel satisfied, proud of my achievement(s), and the sensation I deserve to relax.

I don’t know why that is, or what it is inside me which drives the disproportionate slant that way. I’m watching a series right now about MVC, which stands for “Model/View/Controller” and is a web site structure which separates the business and data access logic from the presentation and uses something called a “Controller” to route the user’s requests between the two. There’s a great deal of background into how the controller knows how to handle the requests from the user, and where to go with it when it receives them, but in the end, this series doesn’t seem to benefit me as much as I hoped. I have a couple of looming projects and need to get them done, and despite how much I think this has potential for future projects (like Appmageddon, if I can ever get back to that), it’s not having much impact on me and my ability to code now.

So I sit and don’t feel much like returning to those videos on the weekends. I want to watch movies, and write, and make book covers for books I haven’t even written yet, and play with the kids. I want to do all sorts of things and can’t do any of them because I can’t seem to get past the nagging sensation I have to watch those videos. If not the MVC ones (I’m 37.5% of the way through), then something. And nothing strikes my interest right now.

Sometimes I wonder if just making up projects to practice coding is better.

But I find it strange how accomplishing things in other areas of my life feels so insignificant and how little can make me feel accomplished in this area.

How ‘bout you? Did you accomplish anything this weekend?

-jdt-

And Around Comes Monday, Again

No matter how I try, I just can’t outrun Mondays. How ‘bout you?

Over the weekend, I took my friend Spark’s encouragement and my loving spouse’s advise and just…did nothing productive. I played video games on Saturday, which means I didn’t do squat in other areas of my life. You know…like training videos. And then on Sunday, I sat around and wrote a second installment to a short story I’m working on. I like the way it’s turning out, even if it is a little repetitive to something else I wrote a little while back.

I’m experimenting in noir and trying to keep it…well, me. So that’s going all right. Maybe I’ll peck away at it a little at a time until I get the hang of it. I want to write full-on hardboiled detective type stuff with a horror twist. Maybe someday.

Still, I laid down about 2000 words on Sunday without much effort. That’s AFTER I fixed my broken fantabulous keyboard. The “x” key popped out of place, for no apparent reason. It happened after I’d had the keyboard about a week, but I fixed it then. I was able to get it back on without trouble. This time, not so much.

I had to Google the solution and found out how to do it. It went lickety-split when I followed the video instructions, but the key wasn’t right. It didn’t have the right action. I think somewhere along the way the little mechanism under the key itself broke. So I took a rarely-used key (for me anyway), the NUM LOCK key, and I swapped the mechanisms. Then I replaced both keys. Now if the NUM LOCK key isn’t springy and have the same action as the other keys, I won’t care. The ones I type on day in and day out work fine, and the number pad works fine too.

So, all’s well that ends well I suppose. Although for the amount of money I paid for this keyboard it shouldn’t be so fragile, frankly. I also discovered it’s a flaw with this model; a LOT of people contact the manufacturer about it. At least, they did as of 2012.

No need for that drastic a measure for me, though. I’m happy as a lark again. So onward. I was able to then sit down with my outline and bang out those 2K without any further keyboard issues. I do believe I’ll pick up the wireless version soon, though, because the wires are killin’ me in my tiny, cramped space.

After writing, I did some Internet searching for a woman wearing a sheath dress. I need some free stock for the cover of this thing, so I can put it on Amazon’s Kindle store. But I couldn’t find a single piece of FREE (that’s big!) stock. And even the pay stock I found isn’t really what I wanted. Besides, I sell so few of the stories, I’m not willing to start it out financially in a hole from which it will not likely dig itself out.

I gave up on that Sunday evening, and thought about writing again. But then I thought, you know what? I ought to quit while I’m ahead.

Next week, I need to get back into the learning videos. Back on your heads, as the old joke goes. But for this weekend, I just let myself go and do something I love doing.

Hope you had a good weekend too, and have a good Monday.

-jdt-

Breakthroughs

Well. I haven’t written a line – not a single word – since my last blog post. This represents the first bit of writing I’ve done since then. I’ll try to provide some updates on what I’ve been doing.

Work

The move is done. DONE. And, everything works. There was a single macro which needed to be updated. I guess I didn’t crawl through it far enough, but there, down in the code lines near the bottom, I found references to our old IP address for the server. Changed them in a single, simple maneuver, and re-ran the macros. They’re fine. Just fine.

Next came the website. It’s fine. Now I have to go about updating the heck out of it. On that front, I’ve also made progress.

Programming

I started a new module from the video series my boss paid for. As you may recall, I paid for one set of programming video training, and my boss paid for another. When I first started taking them, I learned a lot, but didn’t feel I was “getting” it. I was worried the value from those videos wouldn’t be there and the money was wasted.

But.

Today – actually, last night as you read this – I launched a new module which spoke about the exact problem I’ve been wrestling with for more than five months.

I can’t tell you how my jaw hit my chest. I can’t tell you how stunned I was. I sat in stupor for something like ten minutes watching as the exact problem I’ve been wrestling with got point-by-point deconstruction and walk-through. I almost fainted with relief.

The first thing I did was give thanks to God, and glory to His name. The second thing I did was eat dinner. The third thing I did was watch the video again and take a second set of notes on it. I’m likely going to do that again – and even again if necessary – until I feel I can implement that solution on the problem which has plagued me, vexed me, taunted me since May. Now, I’m going to end this. I have the tools. I just need to gain the skill in using them.

I will win. And I am so glad.

Writing

While I’ve not written anything, I have done a lot of reading about writing. (Which just seems strange, doesn’t it?) I have a new favorite book on craft, which shows so much about subtext, structure, how to construct scenes, build subplots… good, good stuff all over. Fantastic.

I’ll be sharing some of what I learn over on my fiction blog, but for now, I want to continue to absorb and learn. For the first time in my life, I felt the need to take notes and highlight in a book on writing craft. I’ve learned that much.

I also learned a new method of outlining, using what’s called the step outline. It’s amazing and while I’m not much of a non-digital guy, I believe this is the method for me. I’ll be describing it in some depth as I struggle to get the hang of it.

I’m ready for a weekend. How ‘bout you?

See ya on the other side.

-jdt-