Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Readings in the Park

It's part of my writing process.  Near the final editing stage, I print out a copy of the novel, take it to a nearby park, and then with pen in hand, sitting at a picnic table, I read it aloud.

It takes several days.  My voice gives out after a couple of hours.  But I make many corrections.  Sometimes they are errors that I had missed during dozens of passes, editing on the computer screen.  Sometimes they are perfectly legal sentences, but I can't speak them from beginning to end without tripping over my tongue.  Nearly all had also eluded the beta-readers than had send me marked up copies earlier.

My personal stamina is about two hours, although if people drop by and I stop to chat, it can stretch out into a three hour session.  I know I absolutely have to have a big drink at hand to refresh my throat.  A session covers about fifty pages in final layout format.

This novel, The Copper Room, is being read at Hutto Lake Park, which is close by.  Other times, I've read in other parks.  It's a little windy the past couple of days, so I camp out in the pavilion next to the wall as a wind-break.  Every day, people stop by, so I have a little display that tells people what I'm doing.  Most times, I'll find a convenient break in the text and talk with the visitors, but sometimes, they prefer to just sit and listen.

I find it interesting how tired I get after reading the text for a couple of hours.  It's not labor intensive, but perhaps it's the process of putting emotion into the words.  I don't really know.  It's satisfying, even though it takes several days to work through an entire novel.

I advertise where and when on my Facebook fan page or on Twitter, just in case people are interested.  Two more sessions to go, if you're inclined to show up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Siri vs. Forget It! (1977)

Back in 1977, I was asked to write a short science fiction story with the general theme of 'memory' for a new computer magazine named ROM.  In it, I imagined my perfect computer assistant.  It was a wrist watch, with a tiny screen and a voice interface.  You can read the story here on my Henry's Stories online magazine.  It's short, in two parts, click the Next Part link down below the comments.

With all the news coverage of the Siri voice assistant on the new iPhone 4S, it occurs to me that there is a lot of common ground between the two devices.  The idea of a voice operated personal assistant device is hardly a new idea, especially in science fiction.  The very first thing Carlos does in the story is make a calendar event, and I bet Siri would do the same task with the same verbal command.  (Unfortunately, I can't justify a 4S just yet, so I can't try it out.)

There are plenty of differences.  In 1977 I couldn't quite imagine the always-connected world we live in, and that was actually part of the plot.  The wrist watch was also voice specific, more as a security feature than because of any limitation.  The voice recognition was also all in the device, rather than Siri's server-based method.

In truth, I want a merger.  I travel in remote areas, so I'd prefer a device-only voice system.  But Siri's 'personality' is better than the one I wrote.  Maybe a wrist watch would be more convenient than a hand-held, but I could wish for something waterproof that rode in my ear, or even embedded under the skin.  The screen output is nice, though, so I could live with either the 4S or wrist watch device.

Just something all-knowing, with infinite storage, that never misunderstands what I ask for.  That would do nicely.  Please.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Superlatives at Restaurants

Several times in the last few months, I've been at a mid-range restaurant.  The food is good but not outlandishly expensive.  The wait-person has done their job, provided the drinks and food with reasonable promptness.

And then a greeter wanders through the room, stopping for a brief visit at each table.  "Is the food wonderful?"  "Are you having an outstanding time?"  "Is your steak cooked perfectly?"

I feel like this is a new trend, and one I don't care for.  I have a life-long sales resistance, as do many other people.  I do not like to be put in such a position.  If I agree, to be polite, I am allowing the vendor to put a superlative description in my mouth.  If I disagree, then I feel like I'll have to immediately complain about some food that is honestly adequate.  So, I am left in frustrated silence.  Usually, someone else in my dinner party says the appropriate words and the greeter moves on her way.  But I'm left with a bad feeling.

I guess it's time to construct a quick come-back.  Some phrase I can whip out at an instant when this happens again.  Something like, "It was perfectly adequate."  Perhaps with a smile, letting them know that I'm aware they've been coached to feed me that line.

Of course, it's probably just one of my quirks.  I have many.  I'm just glad I have a blog where I can vent in a relatively conflict-free environment.

Have a spectacular day.