Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Favorite Book

As a writer sitting at my table, showing off all the books I’ve written, I frequently get asked, “What’s your favorite book?”  That’s a very hard question to answer, because I have very strong feelings about all my books.  I wouldn’t have written them otherwise.  None of these are commissioned works designed to meet somebody else’s order.
So, instead of answering the question, I usually try to read the person talking to me and try to figure out what they would like best.  That usually works.
However, I’ve decided to write a little introduction to each book, telling you what I feel about it.  In essence, I’ll describe why every book is my favorite.
I’ll be posting these little descriptions every few days on my henrymelton.com site, and then collect them all on the  wordpress archive for future reference. 

If you read them all, you’ll probably be able to make your own judgement about which book is my favorite -- at least from your perspective. http://henrymelton.net/2/blog/

Thursday, December 04, 2014

It's Getting Crowded in the Batcave

I'm not going to talk about Batman, it was just too good a title.  But how about the Flash?  I've been watching the numerous superhero TV shows that have come out lately.  Arrow and Flash are on my mind in particular.  My how things have changed.

When I was introduced to the Flash, I bought comic books off the spinner rack in Brooks Drug in Amarillo.  The price was ten cents, for a while, until it went up to twelve.  The Flash was probably my favorite super hero.  His name was Barry Allen (there have been numerous people with that title) and he was a police scientist in real life, before he was struck by lightning and got his super-speed.

Does that sound familiar?  Unfortunately, that's about the only thing that's the same.  Now, I've come to a peaceful co-existence with the idea that superheroes get their life story re-written every few years.  I may not like it, but I can live with it.

But I've noticed a massive shift in storytelling with all of these video versions.  Ten Cent Flash was a lone scientist that worked out his powers alone, keeping his secret identity for a long time.  He solved all his problems alone. His thoughts were shared with the reader as he whizzed along at super-speed, logically discovering who and what and how to stop the disaster.

All the superheroes were the same.  Occasionally there were side-kicks to talk to, and there was often dialog with the villain, but in the heat of battle, it was the man with his own thoughts.

Switch the media to video.  Now, super-heroes are just the athletes in a complex team of actors.  There's the hacker and the scientist and the strategist -- all communicating with the guy in the suit via those invisible in the ear radios that easily have the best range of any radio I've ever seen for the size.

I can't say the super-teams are all that inspiring, where the lone individual was, to me.  And the secret identity is the first casualty.  Everyone knows.  Why do they even bother?  Do they think they can keep it a secret, when dozens of people know, including half the villains?

Every storyline is horribly complex, keeping all the personal lives of all the team in turmoil.  I can say I miss getting to know the title character.  They all seem a little flat.

Now all of this may be necessary.  Perhaps video demands a cast of characters to be a sounding board.  But contrast this with the new show Forever.  The immortal character has a lot of personal thoughts and flashbacks taking up time in the show, and I think it has made him a more interesting hero.  I wonder what it would have been if Flash had taken that path?  I suppose it's not my call.  I'm just the viewer, and a graybearded one at that.

The real people making the choice are the video production team.  Could the fact that their media is collaborative have influenced their storytelling?  Is it hard for a video crew to imagine a lone action hero?  I wonder.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Time to Mow

My schedule is... complex.  Yard work does not have as high a priority as watching my grandson, or getting the next book ready to publish.  As a result of heavy book promotion and other priorities, mowing the yard has taken a back seat -- until today.  The next book has had the beta-reader versions printed and mailed out to the select few.  Now, for the first time in quite a few weeks, it's time to mow.  Unfortunately, that means that some of the vegetation (it's not all grass by any stretch) is taller than my head, even when I'm seated in on the tractor.

By this time of the year, most of the wildflowers have gone to seed, so I don't feel all that bad about mowing down the stalks.  One thing that does bring the sighs is the wildlife.  If you've seen the movie "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh", there's the dramatic scene where the farmer fires up the tractor and it's 'Moving Day'.  In real life, it's exactly like that.  Rabbits and rodents who have made their homes in that tall stand of wildflowers huddle in fear until the tractor gets too close and they make their frantic dash to the nearest line of trees.  I didn't see any cute furry babies this time, but I have in the past.

I'm lucky that I can choose not to mow until I'm ready, but unfortunately, I can't put it off forever.  I really don't want tall stands of dried vegetation next to the house when it wild fire season comes around.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Testing a Chromebook

Stopping off at Office Depot to pick up some ink cartridges, I notice a Samsung chromebook on display for two hundred and some dollars.  While I'm firmly an Apple user for decades, I am aware that there are several of my most used applications, like Pages and Numbers, with a web portal.  I had a few minutes, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I mean, if this little laptop substitute, available for nearly throwaway prices could handle my most common applications, I could use it on trips.

So, I fumbled around and keyed in the iCloud.com address and brought up the Pages application.  Right off the bat, there was a warning that the chrome browser wasn't fully supported, and that was a bad sign.  However, I was allowed to continue.  I created a new document and typed a few lines.

I was barely thirty seconds into my test when I knew that this laptop gadget was much too sluggish to get anything done.  It took a couple of tries before it would even capture my keystrokes.  I suppose this was due to delays loading the application software from the web, but there was no cue as to what was happening -- other than I was tapping the keys and staring at the blank page.  Eventually, it started to capture my text, and after that, I could type a line okay.  Accessing the menus, such as changing the text style, was still slow.  I couldn't use it for productive work.

I suppose the chrome book is probably tuned to use Google's document apps, not any random substitute, but for me, it wasn't working.

At least I was able to find the settings page to clear all my cookies and passwords and usage history.  That is, if Google is telling the truth about what's running under the hood.

In summary, the idea of a web-only laptop is intriguing but that test machine didn't do the job well.  I'll be sticking with an iPad for minimal travel use.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Switching Websites

For longer than I can remember, I've had a website.  Before websites, I had a Gopher site, if you have any idea what that was.  But as technologies changed, and the tools for updating a site changed, I have had to reengineer my little home on the Internet.  For some years now, I've used iWeb to update and maintain my HenryMelton.com site.  Before that, it was hand-crafted pages, sometimes using Dreamweaver to handle the link-checking and automated tasks.

Now, it's come to pass that iWeb has been abandoned so long that I can no longer safely use it to update my pages without risking horrible formatting errors.  So, I did what so many other people have done, I took a look at WordPress.  My hosting service has many software tools already installed, so it was effortless to set up a new branch on my site.  Henrymelton.com/0 was my iWeb site.  Henrymelton.com/2 became the WordPress version.  The learning curve wasn't too bad.  I replaced the functionality of my landing page easily enough and set up the links needed to make everything available.

From long experience, I know that changing any links is hazardous.  People find interesting pages and share them to their friends.  Those links are out of my control, and often, totally unknown to me.  As a result, I intend to keep the zero branch active and unchanged for as long as I can -- years certainly.  But everything new will now be done on the WP branch.

I invite you to go visit.  If you want, you can compare the old with the new.  In any case, if you have HenryMelton.com bookmarked, that's fine, it will be redirected to the new site.  But if you have a link that says "henrymelton.com/0/something_else" then know that you might be wise to search out the new alternative and change it.