The Trouble with Port

Trouble-With-harry2While my first love is the California Cabernet, like many wine drinkers I don’t like being tied down to one region or varietal. I even enjoy the occasional bottle of port.

Now, I usually buy tawny or ruby ports, a little more cost effective and ready to drink. However, the other day, my wife presented me with a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV).

So, do you drink a late bottled vintage, or let it age? The answer is, “It depends.”

I did a little research. Wikipedia lists 11 types of port. It also notes that while LBV ports can mature slightly with age, they will never develop the character of a vintage port.

On a wine forum, I found a couple things to look for.

  • Is the wine traditional of unfiltered? Unfiltered and traditional production method allows the LBV to age more gracefully.
  • Does the wine have a traditional cork or a “cork stopper?” The cork stopper is the wine producer’s way of telling you not to age the LBV.

The bottle I had was unfiltered and had a traditional cork, but what if I could find one more source…

  • Delicious. Drink now. – James Suckling – Wine Spectator

Hmmm. As I was puzzling out what to do, my wife told me, “Just drink it, and if you like it, I’ll buy you another one.”

It’s quite good.

Writing Reviews

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I enjoy binder clips.

I promised Dylan Moonfire that I’d write a review of Sand and Blood for him.

I very much wanted to do this. I enjoyed Sand and Blood, and I felt Dylan should get a good review from me because of that. Writing reviews is one of the best ways authors can support each other–or at least those authors whose work we enjoy.

I hate writing reviews, though. Because of this, I make a habit of not writing reviews of books I don’t like. But even when I really like a book, I never feel like I know what to say–not good for a writer–and even when I put down my honest opinion, I have doubts that anyone will believe me or find it helpful and interesting.

Also, I worry that I am biased toward people I like. I shouldn’t have this opinion, because I’ve read plenty of things I didn’t like by people, even professional authors, who I had a great time with in person. Also, I really like writing by authors who I don’t care for personally.

I secretly fear that someday the Amazon or GoodReads police (are they the same police now) will expose me as a fraud, because all my reviews are 4 or 5 stars (more likely five) but I write those reviews in good faith, and I’d probably have a lot of one and two star reviews, but I tend to keep those opinions to myself. Because if you don’t have something good to say about someone’s book, should you say anything at all?

Also, I don’t tend to finish stuff I don’t like.

I’ve made a horrible copyright mistake

public-domain-logo-slightly-nicerOkay, I haven’t really made a horrible mistake, but saying I “almost” made a mistake doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic.

I was looking for some quotable poem for new new manuscript, and I found the perfect thing, however, I knew I’d have to check on the copyright status. In today’s world, figuring out the actual date a work goes into the public domain can be complicated.

O Venus, beauty of the skies,
To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gaily false in gentle smiles,
Full of love-perplexing wiles;
O goddess, from my heart remove
The wasting cares and pains of love.

So, I looked up the publication date of the poem, and found out it was attributed to a poet named Sappho in 600 BC. And here’s where I almost made my mistake. I stopped there.

It wasn’t until I was editing my piece later that I started to think there was something wrong with my logic. Sure, the original was thousands of years old… but wouldn’t the original have been written in ancient Greek?

So, this becomes a translation, and translations, even translations of things like the bible have their own copyright rules. They can be considered derivative works and come under the original work’s copyright, but they can also, if suitably different be considered a separate work, entitled to copyright protection. So, I had to find the history of the translation and determine its copyright status. Fortunately, this particular translation was done by Ambrose Philips in 1711.

So, disaster has been avoided. However, I was lucky in this case. While the piece seems antiquated, it could have easily been done in the 1960s and still have copyright protection.

The Best Show Don’t Tell Advice Ever

Tim Leach wrote this on Reddit today, and it is awesome.

The evolution of the writer usually goes like this:

  • Beginners tell too much. They get told over and over again about show don’t tell.
  • Amateurs show too much. They no longer tell anything, and so everything is over described.
  • Professionals know when to tell and when to show.

“Show don’t tell” is not an overrated rule, as it really is a major weakness that’s almost universal to up and coming writers, so beating people over the head with it usually yields some results. But telling has its place too – it’s punchy, effective, and can be evocative if the voice that’s doing the telling is strong enough.

The rule I do try to stick to with “show don’t tell” is to apply it to character emotions. I try never to write “Dave was angry”, “Jeff was scared”, but to show them being angry or scared. You’ve also got to be careful about using tell too much for exposition, it can be very lazy and super dull. But yes, telling is a useful skill. Sometimes…

TL:DR – Show is usually better than tell, except when it’s not. Sorry that’s contradictory. Writing is hard.

Just some updates

file53d7f85012e10Wow, time can go by quickly. Between work, social commitments, and surgery, this has been a busy summer for me so far.

The surgery seems to have been a success. I’m currently feeling recovery-type pain instead of carpal-tunnel type pain, if that makes sense. I’m still a little weak in that hand, but every weeks is showing improvement.

On the writing front, I don’t have all that much to report. I’m working on the sequel to Minion of Evil. I was around 20,000 words in and I decided to start over with a couple different subplots. Now I’m getting back up to around 8000 words again. I’m also waiting for some beta reader comments on one of my other novels.

I’ve now been an intern at KHP for a month, but it doesn’t feel like it as they haven’t given me anything to do yet. I’ve been promised a pass at Adam J Whitlatch’s new book though, so I’m looking forward to that. I am a little worried that once they do get started they’ll bury me.

So there we are. Nothing big to report.

Two weeks of nothing special except the one thing.

10505493_10152934717752004_967532443341958906_nThere are two different things in this missive, so if the first one is boring, skip down to part B.

So, I finally broke down and got carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. I’d done my right a few years ago, and it had helped considerably. This meant a whole two weeks with my hand in a splint and not being able to do much at all except read, take pain pills, and watch movies. Since this is essentially my ideal vacation, this didn’t bother me too much. I made quite a dent in both my James Bond and Stat Trek BluRay collection, and I watched the excellent British show Foyle’s War.

The biggest downside of my little enforced vacation was the inability to drive myself anywhere. If I’d had the ability, I would have spent some time in the coffee shop or the wine shop. I did spend some time writing, but I only put down a half page the entire time–between the pain and the splint getting in the way, it kind of sucked.

Okay, so that brings us to the part of the last two weeks which is momentous news–wow, I really know how to write a story, don’t I?. I was contacted by a friend of mine, Adam J Whitlatch and offered an internship as an editor at KHP Publishers. After a Skype call with the editorial staff, I accepted the position.

Now, I know what my friends and readers are going to say, “Just one minute. Don’t you need more time to write as it is? Didn’t you turn down a job as a full editor just a year or two ago for that very reason?” You would be right to say that. It weighs heavily on my mind even now. Here’s the deal though, as an unpaid intern, I have a lot more leeway to make mistakes and see if being an editor is indeed for me than if I were jumping into the deep end head first.

So, there it is, I have six months to prove to them, and also myself, if it’s worth both our time for me to be an editor.

Time to get serious and piss around a bit

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This Toulouse-Lautrek is here for no other reason than I am currently reading Christopher Moore’s brilliant book Sacre Bleu

So, I’ve been working on a sequel to MINION OF EVIL. This is not the first time I’ve started this particular book, but I’ve discovered that sequels can be difficult. If you’ve already saved the world and got the girl, what else is there?

However, I have gotten a full 25,000 words into this book, meaning that I can probably proclaim I’ve made it through to the middle. This is a good thing. If I make it to the middle, I can usually muddle through to the other side. In a year or two of serious redrafting, I may even have a readable book. For me, this is an exciting thing. I like finishing manuscripts.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of trouble producing new fiction. And I’m beginning to believe I know why. I used to write to the end of the chapter. If something silly occurred to me, it would go in. But lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the end of the book, and the arc of the story vs. the arc of the character.

At first, I believed these deep thoughts to be an indicator that I was arriving at the next level, as a more mature, tested writers. But lately, they have been weighing heavily on my, like an albatross around my neck.

That’s cool though. It’s all about the learning process. And it’s nice to know that I still know practically nothing this far into the game.

Accusations Suck

The Exodus GateA few years ago, at DemiCon, I met this really cool writer and filmmaker, Stephen Zimmer–work pictured to the right. As I tend to do when I meet someone cool, I friended him on Facebook and read some of his work.

The other day, Stephen posted a message to his Facebook page, which I’ve been thinking about ever since. I’m not going to reproduce the whole message here, but to paraphrase, someone sent their work to Stephen. He promised to give them feedback on their work, but when he didn’t respond in what they considered to be a prompt enough manner, they accused him of stealing their work.

Okay, I know many authors get very upset about the concept of people stealing their works–I would too. I have a friend who worries about sending his manuscript out to his own writing group. Furthermore, I know for a fact that this really happens, especially now that anyone with an Amazon password and some specialty software can be a publishing house. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is going to want to steal your manuscript.

Call me too trusting, but if I send someone my manuscript, and they don’t get back to me right away, I assume they’re working on their own project like–just to pick a totally random example–a novelization of War of the Worlds: Goliath

In my experience, the vast majority of people who offer help with your manuscript want to help you with your manuscript, and the vast majority of people who rip people off and steal their work are well-known enough to find with a Google search–most of them are shady publishers and can be found on Predators and Editors. Most of those will try to rip you off in a totally legal fashion, with shitty contracts and deals too good to be true.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, you don’t have to trust everyone 100%, but don’t just assume that because someone is slow reading your manuscript that they’re sending it to Random House. But if you do steal someone’s manuscript, you should murder them so no one ever finds out.

Wow, that really took a dark turn.

Some Interesting Videos about the NSA

file536d258dde61cFor me, one of the fun aspects of being a writer is doing research. Once upon a time, research was tedious and methodical. Today we have Youtube.

In preparing my presentation for Demicon about the NSA, I did read a lot of articles, but I also put in quite a few hours watching videos. So I thought I’d do a blog entry and some of the better ones.

Through a PRISM Darkly
Kurt Opsahl – Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation speaks to the Chaos Communication Congress
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMwPe2KqYn4

NSA & The Mass Surveillance Society
James Bamford who has written three books about the NSA addresses the ACLU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7MEzWzIIK8

Inside NSA – The National Security Agency
A Discovery program that is a little more pro-NSA. This copy includes some Realty Spam for some reason.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAPh5Pe1Iwk

Nova – The Spy Factory
A Nova program which James Bamford was involved in. I have to admit, because of time constraints, I didn’t get all the way through this one, but what I saw looked very good.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/spy-factory.html

Interview with Russell Tice
Tice was an NSA whistleblower before Edward Snowden.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6m1XbWOfVk

Where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes just a cigar.

file534eec7b74940Warning: This post may be a collection of random thoughts.

I had an interesting day, yesterday. I had to give a deposition to an investigator. I am, of course, going to parlay this experience into a scene in the book I’m working on.

One of the most interesting things they asked me–which was not difficult, as most of what they asked me dealt with procedure and intellectual property–had to do with rumors. I think that I, as a writer, sometimes focus too much on what is really happening behind the scenes and not enough time on what my characters think are happening behind the scenes.

That’s enough about that, however, as I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say.

In a couple weeks I’ll be attending DemiCon in Des Moines. It will be a chance to catch up with some writer friends. I intend to grill Adam Whitlatch on his upcoming novelization of War of the Worlds: Goliath, and twist his arm until he names a character after me. I’m doing a panel on the NSA, which should be interesting.

Speaking of Adam Whitlatch, I’m currently beta reading his book Birthright, which so far is pretty good. I need to spend more time on it though.

Hopefully by the end of this month, I will be releasing a new edition of my novel Minion of Evil through Broken Typewriter Press, a project of friend and author Dylan Moonfire. I enjoy working with Dylan, and I think we can come out with a nice book.