Saturday, February 28, 2009

Turning South

Time has run out, and after three nights at Rocky Mountain National Park, we're heading south, and home. But not without stopping at every available photo opportunity, like these big horn sheep on the side of Highway 40 on the south side of Berthold Pass. Mary Ann says the lighting was bad, but it was an opportunity anyway. We're in Alamosa tonight, with yet another pre-dawn excursion on tap–a visit to the local national wildlife refuges looking for sandhill cranes.
On a writerly note, I've begun a reboot of the 'written on an iPhone' novel that I started a long time ago on by ill-fated original iPhone. I have some special plans for this one, if I can make it all come together. As yet, it doesn't even have a name.
One will come.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Just Moose and Squirrel

Yesterday, in all the scenic beauty of the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, we saw three moose and several squirrels scampering across the top of the snow. This morning, as we headed out again before dawn, it occurred to me that I could write a Rocky and Bullwinkle themed blog entry because those were the only animals we saw.

Not ten seconds later, I saw something brown beside the road, and it wasn't the right size or color for either Moose or Squirrel. I slammed on the brakes (gently) and Mary Ann handed me the camera. About once or twice a year I get to take the pictures, usually because there's an animal that might bolt, and it's only available out my side of the car. The last one was a fox. So was this one.

This was the first photo opportunity of the day, and we had to add a battery, take off the lens cap, and because I'm no photographer, she had to make all the settings while I fumbled with trying to hold the camera steady. The fox watched me, judged me no threat and let me take several shots before getting up, stretching, and wandering off.

The rest of the drive up to the end of the road, we saw tracks. Sometime last night, the fox had come down from higher country, doing a little hunting, and rested beside the road until we came along. Unsurprisingly, I saw no squirrels this morning.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Office is Never Closed

While traveling, I still have to find a good network connection and keep all my 'office' activities up to date. Sometimes, after a long day, it's easy to allow myself to slack off. But then I see what others are doing.

Ethan and Christine Rose are currently on a book tour, pushing their fantasy hit, Rowan of the Wood. I'm following them on twitter and watching them travel from one bookstore in one city to another and then another. In spite of all this, I was grateful to see a review of my novel Roswell or Bust show up on their website. If I followed the events straight, while traveling with their fancy trailer, they pulled into a Texas roadside rest area with an internet connection and worked into the night keeping all the writerly irons in the fire, and one of those was this review.

It's encouraging to see them keep at it, and it gives me no excuse to slack off.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the Road - Headlights

Mobile Blogging from here.

When you're on the road, with lots of driving left, it's best to get a burnt out headlight replaced as soon as possible. I really hate to drive through town and against oncoming traffic with the brights blazing away.

I don't know what caused this lowbeam to go out on our Trailblazer, but it's brother on the other side had to be fixed just a month or so ago.

So, being close to Silverthorne Colorado, we pulled into the local Chevy dealer and put them to work. It seems the Trailblazer needs to have the grille removed to get to the bulbs.


But it also gives me time to play with another iPhone blog app. Let's see how well this works.

UPDATE: It was the same headlight as before, with the same fried connector. So ... We have to replace the whole light assembly for $$$. Lovely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading an Old Novel of Mine

Sometime in 2009 or 2010, I'll publish Pixie Dust, one of the many novels I've written, but have been waiting in the wings until their time comes. It was written in 1999 and I haven't touched it since 2004. Needless to say, when I read it over the past few days, it was clear it needs a lot of work.

The story is great. The plot will survive untouched and most characters are dead on. In fact, of the novels I shared with my mother, she liked this one the best because it was more of a mystery than a science fiction story.

But, I've written a lot since this one, and I've improved. Every scene will have to be re-written. Some sub-plots have to be re-paced. I may even have to tidy up the ending. Looking at the story from this distance in time gives me a better editorial perspective. I love the story, but the text needs work in many ways. There's a lot of work to be done–much more than dropping the text into InDesign and laying it out.

But that will be fun. I bet I can make a good story great.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Living in Motels

Three ways to travel, at least for me. If I've got a budget, and exotic destination, and the right motivation, I pull out the passport and head to the airport.

But most trips lately have been on the road, and that means a choice between the RV and motelling it. This current trip has become motel based because budget issues has left my RV with a flat tire and needed repair work still pending. So that means I need to love motels rooms.

The first leg of the current expedition is the NANPA annual convention for Mary Ann in Albuquerque New Mexico. With last minute scheduling and the budget in mind, we only made our reservations at the Motel 6 (instead of the convention hotel) just a few hours before arriving. I can live with this room, at least for a few days.

Mary Ann is spending 18 hours per day either attending convention events, or slaving over her computer to annotate and prepare her photos for presentation. My schedule is limited by hers. I ferry her to the convention center and provide a bit of computer support. I was up to 3:30 this morning getting a massive photo upload completed in time for one of her commercial projects.

During the day, I make do at the tiny desk in the room, working on my regular writing and publishing projects, just as I would do if I were at home. I update web pages, work on book promotion and scan my internet resources for inspiration. Today, after a long morning nap, I worked on the script for a book trailer I intend to produce and YouTube, highlighting the Falling Bakward novel. I've never done one of those before and it's interesting. When it becomes closer to reality, I'll give you a look.

When the convention is over, we'll be heading for scenic areas for Mary Ann to take more photos. I'll keep you updated. Follow my Twitter for more immediate news.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Falling Bakward Podcast is Complete

The last of the 50 bite-sized chapters have been posted to the podcast and the novel can be enjoyed in its entirety. If you have iTunes, just click here and subscribe. If you use something else as your podcast application use this link to the feedburner URL. The only difference is whether your click is added into iTune's popularity statistics.

It has been an interesting exercise to read and record the novel this way. It will also be informative to see how many people actually take advantage of this free audio-book. I would love for this to be a success. It would encourage me to do more.

The paper version will be on sale by March.

Here is a blurb about the novel:

Falling Bakward is set in Chamberlain, South Dakota, with a tale of the wonders that just might be waiting under your feet.

Jerry Ingram never wanted to be an interstellar explorer, just a bit more special than a sixth-generation farmer in South Dakota, and that’s why he spent hours after school digging at the mystery spot in the back fields, searching for Indian artifacts. But those bones he found didn’t even look human.

His family were ordinary folks, just struggling to make sunflower seed farming pay, but with maybe a few secrets his father never discussed. Why did Sheriff Musgrave always pick on them, and how did dad lose the fingers of his right hand? It would be great to be more like lucky Uncle Ted and his rich cousins down the road.
But when a cave-in forced Jerry deep into the derelict flying saucer buried there since the last ice age and through a portal to the world of the Bak, both branches of the family came together to hunt for him and reveal just why the Ingrams of Chamberlain S.D. were the perfect people to make first contact with the Bak and why the zebra-striped gentle giants on the alien world had been waiting thousands of years for them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Latest Podcast Discovery

One more learning experience. Sigh.

When I submitted my podcast Falling Bakward to the iTunes listing, I was confident that the feed was working fine. I could get all the episodes directly, and I had routed it through Feedburner and it showed no problems there. So I added it to iTunes ... and the first eight chapters were missing, as well as my short introduction. Did iTunes limit it to 25 episodes? Did the questionmark in the chapter 8's name cause problems?

No, the issue was that I had installed iLife '09 shortly after I had uploaded chapter 8. Somehow, the internal bookkeeping iWeb kept on the episodes had a glitch between the chapters uploaded to last year's iWeb and this year's version. Today, after finally trying to tinker with the feed (all this is invisible to the user-friendly iWeb) I went and 'touched' each of the early chapters and made iWeb re-index everything. I unsubscribed and trashed my iTunes downloads and resubscribed and now everything is appearing as it should.

I bet I'm messing up someone's feed who subscribed earlier, but it's better than making everyone start listening to the novel at chapter 9.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DRM vs Copyright

DRM. Forget what its intials mean. Who cares. What it is, is crystalized copyright.

Back when I first dabbled with computers (IMSAI–I mean ancient), software was all hand-coded and freely exchanged among like-minded tinkerers. The only software you bought came from the kit manufacturers, and was really just another part like the power supply. But quickly, the idea of software as a product popped up. My first attempt at the genre was a version of Conway's Life I wrote, coded, and sold as a cassette. My biggest was the Clean Slate Word-Processor for the TRS-80, sold through Howard W. Sams publisher.

While neither had any copy-protection features, I was already well aware that software's origins had bred the culture of cheerful piracy. I tackled the issue by linking legal sales of my word-processor with wonderful documentation, full source code and design discussion. Other issues, related to the immaturity of the software publishing industry and the birth of the IBM-PC, sank the project after a year's sales even with wonderful tech reviews, and I moved back to my first love, writing fiction.

Hard drives accelerated the rate of piracy, and as other digital items like ebooks, music files, and movies were born, the learned disrespect for copyright spread there too. Somewhere in the process, copy-protection was born. It had to. Respect for copyright laws had been severely damaged.

If people respected copyright, there would be no DRM. If there were perfect DRM, there would be no need for copyright. They are inversely related. (See my fake chart.) The various media crackers who rant about DRM are the reason for its existence. I see perfect DRM as being transparent as air for a legal buyer, for any use, and giving no ground for the thief. Current DRM that keeps the legal user from what he purchased is ugly.

Of course that's just a two-dimensional view of the situation. There are big dollar commercial enterprises that could not survive, nor produce product, if piracy is rampant. There are also smaller producers who can play the percentage games and gain viral advertising by leaving their products easily copyable. And of course there are many who give away their material freely for their own reasons. I'm down in the lower end of that scale, I have several free tales available on my website, partly to let people know my site exists, and partly because I would rather people enjoy the stories for free rather than let them bit-rot in my backups. My current experiment with a free podcast of a new novel is an effort to let people know that it exists so they will buy it once it hits the marketplace.

But, my relaxed stance on DRM for my ebooks is just a reflection of my small-fish position in the marketing pool. If it were reasonable to do so, my ebook versions would be sold without any DRM, but many market vendors require it. But that doesn't mean I have any respect for the cracker who cheerfully steals his media, leaving the legal buyer to pay more to shore up his habit.

The best of all situations is like what has evolved in the music arena. From ugly DRM came the friendly iTunes DRM. As the market expanded to include people who are quite comfortable respecting copyright and paying for what they use, the DRM has dropped away. It's an inverse relationship. For that to happen in the ebook and movie areas, the market has to expand and the cheerful crackers have to retreat to a little criminal niche. We need simple markets with standardized file formats with friendly DRM, where it's easier to click the buy button than to track down the cracked versions. When we can reach that level of legal sales, I feel the DRM will drop away, an unnecessary expense, like it did with music. The DRM crackers are just delaying that day from coming.

Billions, Sort of

When I picked up my 100 billion dollar bill from the mailbox, I thought, "Hey, now I can blog about how I'm a billionaire!" But when I opened the package and pulled out my fresh, crisp 100,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollar bill, I noticed that it had an expiration date on it.

Not only is the currency worth nothing, it even expires. You can click the images for more detail. Still, I was never intending to actually spend the thing. I just love foreign currency, as I've blogged earlier.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Last Chapter of the Podcast

At long last, I've recorded the last chapter of Falling Bakward and now have the complete set for my podcast. I've been uploading two chapters per day, so in a little less that two weeks the whole thing will be posted.

This has been a two pronged effort.  One is to test the podcasting waters–learn the tools and discover how to get something like this out there where people can discover it.  The second is to get a well-marked-up galley so I can apply apply a last polish to the text before publication.

Part two is complete, so for the next few days I'll be pouring over the scribbles and getting the InDesign document fixed up and ready to convert it to the PDF that the printer will need for the 304 pages of content inside the covers.  

Part one is still a little uncertain.  Yes, I can make the podcasting files and get them posted to my website (see previous postings here and here ).  But getting people to find it is not as clear as I thought it would be.  

I've been using iWeb for my web posting, which has podcasting templates and appears to have iTunes support as well.  There's a cute little check mark which implies that, at least, the podcast is composed with a feed that is compatible with iTunes.  I had hoped that it meant that notification about the podcast's existence would show up in the iTunes Store in-basket as well.  It might, but it's been nearly two weeks since I started and there's no sign that it's shown up in the iTunes podcast listings. Time to start googling about that process, I guess.

I also signed on to Podcast Alley and added the feed to their system.  It's there alright, but it hasn't shown up in their search system.  A search for "FallingBakward" or "Henry Melton" returns lots of entries, but not my podcast.  I guess there's still a lot for me to learn.  

When I first announced this podcast, there were a few hits, but I haven't seen any indication that anyone is actually listening, but I don't have any tracking hooks into the feed, so I'm just running blind.  I need to fix that as well.

So, for those of you who want to listen to an author reading aloud his soon-to-be-published novel, click this link, then click the subscribe icon to load the tracking and loading feed into your iTunes or other preferred podcast listening application.  Alternately, scroll down to Chapter 1 and click on the direct link to load and play each section immediately, and then proceed up the list.  There are a total of 50 chapters, each roughly 10-12 minutes long.

I would like feedback, both from people who have listened, and from those who have podcasted something themselves.