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-

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I’ve been a busy li’l bee at work this morning.

We had a major upgrade — a full build — to one of our enterprise systems. Everything went swimmingly over the weekend, when the new build was deployed. Then came Monday morning, when, you know, people tried to use that system.

And it promptly crashed.

As of this writing (about 11:46AM my time), there’s no resolution to the issue. They keep sending out updates, but there’s no fix in place yet. Nice.

So, to prepare for the new system — because, in theory, it will eventually be resuscitated — I’ve had to do a few things alongside my regular Monday morning reporting routine. So I’ve been haggard. And last night, my charming, trailer-trash neighbors decided to have some sort of outdoor gathering at all hours of the night, not to mention the banging and thumping like someone dribbling a bowling ball. So today, I’m tired and a little grumpy.

Nevertheless, I’m only halfway through my day and still busy. I’ve finalized a VBA macro already, and tested it (enough…I hope). And now, I’m off to launch my IDE so I can fix some pages I “fixed” last week which, y’know, aren’t fixed.

Over the weekend, I became the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new digital SLR. It’s a Nikon D3100, and so far, I love it. Now, I just need to learn to take pictures. Then the REAL fun begins…Photoshop the pics to make ’em look better! W00T! Can’t wait there.

I also have to get back into my training videos in a more serious way. I’ve really slacked off on how diligent I am about them for a few reasons, but primarily I’ve been doing Photoshop work and (re)publishing my stories on Kindle to keep interest up. So far, so good. I didn’t get one done last weekend though, so this week I’ve got a pair of stories going up which should make me feel better. It also gives me an excuse to do Photoshop work. How bad can that be?

I’ve decided I love Photoshop, and if I could be a professional retoucher and ebook cover designer and charge people enough to make a living at it, I’d be happy doing it. Unless, you know, it ticks me off. Then it’d suck.

Anyway, I hope you had a nice weekend, and, you know, I’ll see you next time.

-jdt-

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-

Things I Learned Last Weekend

I learned a few things over the weekend. I’d like to share them.

Writing

Writing is a lot easier when you write. If you don’t actually do any writing, it’s tough to get anything written.

Outlining is fun. I mean, this is FUN. I don’t ever have to write anything ever again. I can just outline ideas for books and stuff and then be content. I wonder if anyone will pay for an outline?

I have a lot of novels outlined. I have no time to write them with work pressing on me the way it is. I’ve considered speech recognition software but I hate listening to myself talk.

I don’t have any more novel ideas beyond this six or so. I don’t think that’s going to make a career.

I’ve finished reading the book about hooking readers. There’s actually a couple of lines in the book which reference writing the rest of the book well too. But they’re sort of afterthoughts, in my opinion. I don’t recommend the book.

Beside that, the book is really, really geared toward boot-lickers looking to get through the gatekeeper system. The largest chapter in the book (which I ignored with malice) was a bunch of agents and one editor who wanted to remain anonymous talking about how you can “hook” them and what not to do with your opening. (Of course, no two exactly the same.) That boot-lick section turned me off.

I’ve been learning about story questions and story goals lately, and I have to admit, I really like the concept. I like the idea of leaving the reader asking questions at the end of every scene, too. But where I get all freaked is in trying to determine if I can even do that or not. Can I pose a story-wide question the reader is dying to have answered in the climax? It’s something which sounds so easy…and when I think about practical ways to do it, I get overwhelmed. Then I freak and decide I’m lousy at this and get all discouraged. *Sigh*

I love outlining. Did I mention that?

Work

I really need to become a competent computer programmer. I’d like to have the luxury of learning a new language like C#, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t keep up. I have to stay with Visual Basic .NET because I don’t have the time to learn a new language.

I have to also learn SQL. Both the language (which I know a little bit about) and the relational database system, which is an entirely new thing for me. I’m supposed to become a database developer, I think. I wonder how long that’s going to take, and what that will cost? Hm.

I should be freaking out about losing my job, but I’m not. I don’t know why.

I have until January to improve my productivity. I should be scared of that based on the progress I’ve made since Friday. I’m not. I wonder why?

I ask a lot of rhetorical questions relative to my job. I wonder if anyone noticed?

Life

I’m supposed to have a life after work and writing? Gimme a break. How many hours in the day do you have?

Have a great day.

-jdt-