The Three Hundred and Eighth Post: The One Where I Talk About The Importance of Formatting.

Hello, everyone.  I’m just sitting here listening to Art Bell and having some orange cream soda and vodka.  The Imaginarium is coming up in about a month and I need to get my book re-done.  Apparently when I sent in the original manuscript, I didn’t resize the font.  When I’m writing, I have the font set at 11, but the size of the screen was set to 150%.  I forgot to resize everything when I was setting up the book.  Good news is that I can resubmit everything (especially when I still have the original final draft sitting in offline storage), but it’s going to be a pain in the rear when I have to re-size the font and the cover art…which I might have to re-do anyways.  There’s someone at work who’s far more into photography than I am, so I might enlist his aid in re-shooting the picture.  I wonder if it’s on my DeviantArt page.  I’ll have to go look.

OK — once again I am going to try to build up my meager success in writing today and get at least 1,500 more words done on The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Show.  I want to get this done by the end of the month.  Completely feasible if I put my nose to the stone.  I know I talk about this quite a bit, but it’s the only project that I am seriously working on now.  I am working on a radio play adapted from a game I ran (The Maddening Gyre) and penciling about another fantasy novel that I need to work on after its prequel (the sequel to The Quietest Heart).  As long as I keep talking about it, it keeps me interested and as long as I keep interesting, I’ll keep writing.  if it bores you, I apologize.  I need to really step up my production from one book a year to at least two or three.  I think that’s going to be the key to making a living writing out of it.

One of the things that I am liking about the current work is that I am writing about a guy that’s largely amoral, but not making him so bad that you lose interest about him.  I want him to be bad, but not wretched.  Does that make sense?  if he’s a complete prick, no one is going to want to continue on with the story, unless they want to see him fall further.  If he’s too good, it loses the flavor of the story that I want.  I can do it, I just have to channel my inner jerk for Ehren.  I’m also thinking that this is going to be the name for the main character.  I might re-name his sidekick later on, but for now I’m sticking with Oisin. With luck, I’ll finish the chapter this week and plunge ahead to the next chapter: the meeting with the other mendants — where we find out he has less than a pleasant reputation among his peers.

Well, now that I’ve spilled the beans for the current novel, I am going to head off to write it.  I’m still accepting people for reading The Dreaded Day Job if you think you can sound like Evan, head to acx.com and lay down an audition track.  Click on the links to the right to buy a copy to get familiar with the work.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Sixth Post: The One Where I Talk About Something I Just Discovered!

Hello, all – I’m sorry I haven’t been available for blogging over the past few days.  Mostly, it’s been trying to get my PC back up to full strength (and stop playing this) and working on another idea.  Some good news: I found a company willing to produce The Dreaded Day Job as an audio book and sell it through Amazon, Audible and I think Barnes and Noble.  I’m actually a little excited about this because it’s another way to squeeze some sales out of it, and I think it’s better suited as an audio book (being first person and all) or maybe even a radio play (might work on that rather than “The Maddening Gyre” just because it’s faster to do for me).  So – when that’s ready to go, I’ll put up a link on the right hand side and let everyone know.

Speaking of projects – I’m still working on The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show and I will hopefully get to the end of the second chapter by the end of the week.  Since work has figured that having an iPad out and doing real work rather than fielding calls is for some odd reason ‘counter-productive’ (don’t know why one would think that.  I get about 1K to 1500 words done a session here at work.  That’s highly productive for me), I am going to have to get all the writing done when I get home.  It’s not going to be a big problem since the PC is running now, and I’m using Word Online to write the manuscript.  Eventually, I plan on getting Office Word, Excel and One Note (provided I can get some sort of traction in getting the lost info off of the old main hard drive…and clean my desk off, too.  I know that has nothing to do with hard drives and lost files, but as you can see:

I think this calls for dynamite...

It needs it.

There’s nothing else going on that’s deeply interesting.  I’m working on novels galore (and boy will it be a good day) and I am aiming to have something done by year’s end – Nanowrimo, too.  I’ve found services for cover art and the only thing I’m lacking is a decent (and very cheap) editor.  Most of the people I know who are really good editors are also working writers.  No matter how much I entice them with money, chocolate or tea, they’re up to their gills in their own work.  Not that I fault them, but there are a few people I really trust with my stuff.  I should actually finish something first – which I will do at the end of this month.

Well, thanks for reading.  I hope to have some more news for you tomorrow – especially about the audio book.   If you want to get the jump on everyone, just look to the right and click on the links for what I have up now.

Hope y’all have a good day.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Fifth Post: The One Where I Switch Gears Again!

Hello everyone!  I’m stepping away from “The Mind of Man” plotting and planning for a second to try to dredge up something about the current project (or to be more accurate, one of them): The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show.  I’m hammering away at the main character, trying to show him as really nothing more than a near-useless lump of flesh.  In the end, I am going to give him a shot of redemption.  I’m straddling the line between ‘lovable scamp’ and ‘contemptible bastard’, and it’s not really an easy line.  Right now, he’s trying to tell the healing spirit that inhabits him named Vimala that while he’s not healing broken bones and things like that, he is healing wounded spirits by showing up with his magic infused alcohol and sideshow to distract the people from their weary lives for just a day or two.

I’m hoping that everyone is going to see through this.  We’re not supposed to like Ehren right off the bat, but he does have some redeeming qualities — there is a scene (was in the beginning of the first chapter,but I’m thinking about moving it now and opening up with him rolling into down with a shot up wagon) where he treats a child with bronchitis for no charge, and he does give half his food to a child that’s suffering from malnutrition.  He’s not a good man (the bottles he gives only makes people feel good and full of energy, it doesn’t cure them.  He’s pretty much this land’s version of a travelling drug dealer), but he does get the chance to redeem himself.

I’m wondering if I’m going to the well too many times for that.  Daughter of the Mountain has Anya discovering the old folk tales from Tarjent and going off to make her own legends — you could say that she feels the personal need to redeem herself after leaving the Scholarship.  However, Anya doesn’t feel bad about it — she has a great wife in Rhona and it’s not like they’re going to go hungry at any point.  She just needed something to pour her energies into.  That’s not really redemption.  The Mind of Man has a thread of redemption in it, with the main character unleashing AI onto the world.  Not a huge threat mind you — it’s more of a cautionary tale for AI (or so I hope).  Redemption is the main theme in The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show.  Daughter of the Mountain is about finding faith (with Anya, it’s almost a religious experience) and The Mind of Man is concerning how one’s road to Hell is paved.

I hope you don’t find any of this boring, but I’m the sort of person who likes to chat about the projects I’m working on if only to flesh out ideas.  I’d talk to my plants, but they seem to keep dying on me (I mean…didn’t I water you a week ago?  I think an intervention for your addiction to water is needed, Mr. Aloe Vera.  You’re tearing the family apart!).  I think next time, I might discuss one of my hobbies: RPGs and the world I have in mind for that.

Until then, thanks for reading and please check out the books on the right hand side written by me and some friends.  I highly recommend them — especially Amy Valenti’s material.

Sincerely

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Third Post: The One Where I Talk About AI and Odin’s Pets!

Hello everyone — back again for another installment of project-o-rama: The Mind of Man edition. Yesterday, I talked about the main character (still unnamed, but not to worry) and so today I am going to work around one of the key incidents in the story’s past, and hopefully work through something that’s key to the plot: why is AI forbidden.

In order to start with that, I am going to refer to something that I had mentioned earlier in another post: The Page Wave Incident. Something happened a couple of generations ago that made people leery of AI. What is this incident? Here is the working idea (Warning: Spoilers for another future sci-fi novel are below, but given the pace that I work on things, I think you’ll be safe for the most part).

In A Game of Chinese Whispers, there is an Internet that can be accessed one of two ways: through something that works like Google Glasses with a very limited interface, or through the brand spanking new direct neural contact. Absolutely nothing can go wrong when you give everyone a way to interact directly with other people by shoving metal plates into their brains and their training consists of ‘think of these words if you want to turn it on and these where you want to turn it off’. Well, in the initial post-wackiness, people still wanted the direct neural contact (alphabet groups and the such), but they wanted a way to keep the rioting to a minimum.

Enter a heuristic, quantum trinary system to monitor all of it. It has several parts to it. The monitoring parts were called Huginn and Muninn. Huginn compared current activity of a network with past activities, looking for anything that stood out. Anything standing out was sent to Munnin that looked at the data and compared it with other information about that particular node: mostly looking for indicators of known abnormal behavior (can we do that now? Yes.). Enough hits come up and two other programs are sent out called Geri and Freki. These programs isolate the problem before it can get too big. The steps can vary from a simple prompt to get some help to completely isolating them from the network — even going as far as contacting the authorities if it looks like there’s going to be either self-harm or harm to others.

This system starts small, watching everyone coming in and out of a geographic area to establish some sort of baseline. As it works and learns, it starts to make changes to its own programming to better allocate resources and predict human behavior. Algorithms are discarded when they’re no longer useful and others are picked up. it goes into the existing Internet to learn more. Eventually, all the nodes and information squeeze together in a moment of critical mass. Huginn, Muninn, Geri and Freki all blend together to make what they call… I have no idea what it calls itself. That’s beside the point. The system gets more resources, learns more about the people it’s monitoring…even learns how to directly control people.
However, before the scientists can throw the kill-switch the system shuts itself down. The ravens and the wolves separate themselves and self terminate. Hard programmed into the system was a set of criteria: if any system got to point where it could interfere with the continuing well-being of an individual, or network it would shut down and away updates.

The scientists all heaved a huge sigh of relief — thinking they dodged a bullet, they quickly tore down the system and made sure that no one could have access to the materials or the core programming. AI was declared a dangerous crap shoot; a danger worse than genetic engineering, atomic bombs and cancellation of Firefly all rolled into one.

What they didn’t know was that the system made back-ups of itself. One of these backups managed to evade the initial sweep. Did I ever mention how much information DNA could store? 700 terabytes in 1 gram. I’m envisioning the container that has the back up being about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing in at 2 kilograms (about 5 pounds). That’s a huge program.  Does it have any sort of end goal?  I don’t know truth to be told.  I’m still working that out in my head.

So — that’s why AI isn’t allowed in this world. Next time, I’m going to contemplate some of the themes that are going to shape this story. I hope I won’t be boring. Thanks for dropping by.

Sincerely,
Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred and Second Post: The One Where I Blather About the Main Character

Hello, all – I’m still working through “The Mind of Man”, now I’m shifting from world building to character building…the main character who as of yet has no name, so we’ll call him Bob.  Given that this book is a thriller, there are a number of things that I want to try to avoid with the characterization.

Chiefly, I don’t want him to be an Indiana Jones-esque type of character.  I think we have enough of that out there already.  I also want him to be a clever sort of person, which is why he’s highly regarded in his field, but not the nerdy type.  He’s not Sheldon, but he’s not Flash Gordon either.  I guess we’re going to have to cling to the middle and say he’s McGuyver…of sorts.  Somewhat athletic, really good when it comes to computers and systems, but a little clumsy when it comes to the opposite sex (he lets his profession do all the talking).  I might have to make a character sheet for this.  I wonder if I can still find the old Shadowrun sheets.

Anyways, he’s not really alone in this.  When he’s out under the auspices of the local university, he has some muscle with him (some places that are prime spots for recoverable tech also tends to attract mercenaries, like our main character during his off-hours).  However, when he’s on his own, he does happen to have some friends who are more the rough and ready types:

·         Command: He’s the one in charge of military affairs.  Not military as in acting on behalf of a government, but military as in prefers shooting to computers.

·         Fire Support and Logistics: Makes sure that there is usually more guns aimed at the enemy than there are aimed at them.  Also able to shore up any weak points in the defense.

·         Communications and Control: The ‘voice from the Internet’ – this person coordinates and monitors everything.

·         Medic: Are you bleeding?  Go see him.

·         Access / Scout: This is combo tunnel rat / stealer-in and overall sneaky bastard.  He works in information technology like the main character, but he is more specialized in that he knows all the ways of circumventing security from pin tumblers to RSA encryption.  How Bob knows these people is still one of the many works in progress for this character, but I also have a feeling that there might be money involved in the backstory at some point – but back to Bob himself.

Bob’s not a slouch when it comes to the rough and tumble, but he knows that his role is not to get shot.  Once he gets the materials — he never does anything on-site during these little side trips — and he gets back to his lab (which has some better toys than what he can use at the university because everything that’s done at the university is monitored very carefully).  When he gets back to his lab, it’s here where everything starts going sideways.  His carefully ‘work is here and fun is here’ world is being turned on its axis.  It’s the same theme as Game of Chinese Whispers — the loss of privacy, but this loss is more personal.

If I were to cast someone for the role of Bob — I would pick Alexis Denisof.  He’s got the look I like for a main character and he can play intellectual and a little…one step behind everyone else.  You should see him in Much Ado About Nothing.  He’s a really talented actor.

Well, I think that’s enough for now.  I might get back to the world building a little tomorrow in what exactly is what the AI’s purpose and why it’s a threat to existence.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope y’all have a good day.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundredth Post: The One Where I’m Going to Get Back On Track and Make Up a New Job!

I might being back the party, but right now it’s getting a little too arduous to write.  The party was great (Thanks, Amanda!), but writing it is feeling like filling out an after action report.  I should get back to the day-to-day issues and hammering out this idea I have for another sci-fi novel. I’m going to continue the party, but I’m going to do it later.  Right now, I have an idea itching under my skin that I want to get to.

I was hunting around the various news feeds and I remember someone talking about forensic computer science.  I started think what if that were joined with another field?  Say…archaeology?  What if at some point in the far future, there was a discipline of archaeology that dealt with the preservation of computer data?  So I did some research:

  • Better make multiple copies of that CD.  It’s not going to last long.
  • Magnetic tape is worse.
  • The average age of storage in optimum conditions is about 30 years with current tech.

Not really the time span I was looking for.  I had this bit of dialogue in my head and I needed it to work:

"Yeah, my great-grandmother was one of the people hit by the Page Wave. After that, she didn't
trust any tech more advanced than an e-book."

I wanted this piece of information to give us a sense that what the main character was finding was really old.  So, I’m thinking that there is another sort of storage medium to be found that can last a really long time (at least 100 years).

Did you know that scientists are trying to use DNA as a storage medium?  Yeah.  That’s something that can survive at least 60,000 years if stored properly.  Heck, even if it’s stored improperly, it can last a while.  So — there’s something that I can store my plot device.  I’m only looking at that because I want something that’s futuristic, plausible and hardy for the abuse it’s going to take.  I’m going to tweak it a little just to make it sound more exotic: using silicon rather than carbon, having everything suspended in a noble gas to keep it reacting to any outside elements.  I’m looking to show that whoever put this information in the can wanted it save for future generations.  For the time being, the other methods of storage are going to be mostly atomic or quantum level effects: entanglement, pushing around individual atoms, heating up disks of plastic and affixing magnetic bits (one of these things is really happening).  Our main character is going to be very good at what he does.  I don’t know if I want him in some sort of academic setting, or working in the private sector.  I really want to avoid any sort of Indiana Jones cliches with this.  I’m kinda thinking that he could be a mercenary sort, but he likes the academic world as opposed to the private sector in that he gets all the cooler toys to play with.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  Thanks for stopping by.  As always, current books by myself or dear friends to the right, please feel free to take a look.  Tomorrow, I might leak out a few more ideas for this sci-fi novel.  Oh — the novel is titled: The Mind of Man which is taken from here.  Next time, I’m going to try to figure out the other side of the equation.  Why lock up a DNA program for so long?

Thanks for reading, I hope y’all have a good day.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy

The Two Hundred and Ninety-Third Post: The One Where I Swear I’m Going to Get Off of This Subject by The End.

When last we left Anya, she was heading down to the bakery with some coins and a mission to get some sweetbreads for Rhona.  As she walks down the streets, which are quiet (a very hungover quiet), she gets the feeling she’s being watched.  She keeps a wary eye around her and notices that someone is shadowing her.  Finding the bakery, she walks in and asks for two pastries, watching the reflections of her surroundings for anyone trailing her.  She doesn’t see anything by the time she gets the warm rolls.  She heads back to the inn, feeling a little better that there is a problem that she can really engage herself with — being followed.  Employing tricks she learned, she manages to shake her tail and reverses her path to see who is trailing her.  Sadly, her tail is gone now.  Heading back to the inn, she opens the door to the room with cooling rolls.  Rhona is awake and pouring some tea with a sizeable breakfast set before her.  Skein’s Glow proudly announces that breakfast is served.  Anya looks over everything — this is a breakfast that would feed a small squad.  She sets her bag with two sweet rolls on the corner of the table.  Rhona takes out the rolls and takes a bite (almost going into orgasms).  Anya doubles up on the sausages and bacon while Rhona takes a little of everything else.  They review their plans for the rest of the day…which are mostly dance, drink and have no worries for a week.  Anya gets a little behind it, but she isn’t going to tell Rhona about being followed.  It’s their honeymoon after all.

The meal put away and cleaned up, the pair head out to see if any taverns are either opening early or never closed.  Rhona reaches to grab her mandolin, but Anya manages to talk her out of it (no one works on their honeymoon).  They head down and find a dance hall that didn’t bother to close.  The pair come in and hear that this dance hall is the beginning of the Long Dance — a contest in which a group of people start at one place and dance, drink and carouse to be judged by their peers.  Whoever makes it through to the end is crowned the Master of the Dance and will get a carafe of wine and a nifty title to defend next year.  Rhona pulls Anya along and registers, holding up their bracelet clad arms to show.  The organizer congratulates them and tells them the rules: someone from the audience chooses a song or a style and the group dances.  Those that are voted favorably get to advance, while the losers are eliminated from competition, but not from the general drinking or dances.  The winners are rewarded at the finals stage (think of this as So You Think You Can Dance turned into a pub crawl) with a little pocket money (wagers are common, but not deadly serious).  THey are told that the event will begin in a few minutes, so they have a chance to get some refreshments and food, as there will be little time in between dances.

Anya asks that Rhona wear both Skein’s Glow (which she is wearing as a cloak over her jacket) and Wandersfar (which Rhona is wearing), but that they don’t use them to sway the outcome in her favor.  This is a contest of stamina and grace after all, there is no need for cheating (as it goes against Anya’s principles).  Rhona politely and respectfully chides her for her competitive spirit.

“I’m not being competitive.  I just want to win.”

The dance starts with a morning waltz.  People quickly partner up and dance.  Out of the original crowd of 23 couples and a throng of hundreds of followers, ten couples are removed and Anya and Rhona continue on.  A whirlwind of drinks and they find themselves at the next dance hall where the music is a little more lively and the judging a little more discriminating.  Anya and Rhona hang on, while Anya notices that there is someone in the periphery of the crowd.  She tells Rhona to watch that particular person…there is something about him that she doesn’t like.  Rhona pooh-poohs it away and they continue dancing.  The crowd is now down by four and they head to the next hall.  Anya watches and as sure as anything, there he is.  As the next dance starts, Anya is told she has to dance or forfeit (not a horrible thing all around, but asking Anya to throw a match of any sort — being it fighting, dancing or tiddlywinks is out of the question).  Anya dances on with Rhona, making sure that she tries to keep the stalker in view.  In the confusion of switching dance halls, she loses the stalker.

The dance continues on, getting slightly more athletic and the heroines are suffering from Anya’s divided attention.  They are narrowly eliminated from competition.  The leader calls for a “halftime” so that the dancers can relax and get something to eat.  Anya looks out a window to see what time it is.  It’s late afternoon now.  She makes a quick meal, sitting with Rhona, but seems more intent on trying to find the stalker.  Rhona asks her if there is any danger.  She honestly doesn’t know, but doesn’t want to take chances.

Would your father actually try to send people out to kill you?

“Wouldn’t be surprised.  Congratulations, blessed wife, this is your life now.”

The break comes to an end and the dancing continues through several more halls, leaving Rhona and Anya merrily exhausted at the last hall where it comes down to our couple and a very athletic looking pair from Ozur-Soren proper.  The dance starts — three dances, each couple gets to choose one and the Master of Ceremonies picks the final.  Rhona picks a lively drinking tune and they dance…not badly.  The other couple picks a very active dance and they do well.  The Master of Ceremonies picks a cantata and they go at it…with the couple from Ozur-Soren winning.  Anya, knowing that being a gracious loser is an equally important skill as being a good winner, congratulates the couple.  They say that the two gave them a run for their money.  Now everyone joins in the dance, picking partners pell-mell.  Rhona and Anya end up getting swept apart, but they trust each other.

Anya finds herself in an alley and she sobers up quickly.  The guy stalking her closes the door behind her and takes out a single knife.

“Cheslav sends their regards.”

Anya snorts and comments that Cheslav can’t even be bothered to send their own students, that they have to hire out people to get beaten.  The thug comments that Anya is drunk and can’t even unsheathe her weapons.  Anya punches one guy, knees another and shoves a third down the alleyway.  Even drunk, her training takes over and she holds her own…until someone manages to get run head first into a wall.  Before one of them can actually finish her off, the local constabulary scatter the ones able to move.  Running on instinct, Anya takes off in a direction to avoid having awkward questions (while she’s not a member of the Scholarship, she’s still a Tarjentian and there are some lingering bad blood between the two).

Running down the street, with blood streaming down her face, she’s called to a door deep in another shadowed alley.  She takes it, thinking that at least she’s not in the view of the guards when she’s pulled through the doorway into a room with a stack of books almost twice as tall as she is.  This is Ozur-Soren’s other legacy: The Great Keep.  Every tale, bit of news, experiment and whatever is recorded here.  This is the Library of Alexandria on steroids and raw cow meat.  The man tends to her wounds while asking her questions about what’s been happening, particularly with the Scholarship.  Anya makes a couple of reports, also commenting on what’s happened with her (‘would make a good tale’) and asking if they have any Tales of Kaspar Tarjen.

“Do I?”  He does.  While almost every Tarjentian can recite their favorite tale, Anya takes it one step further: she knows about 90% of the tales…by memory.  Kaspar Tarjen is the (obviously) the founder of the Scholarship and the source of a lot of folklore.  Think of the Tall Tales from the American West, but enshrined in an almost religious sense.  The scholar there remarks that there will always be a need for as Kaspar…maybe not in Tarjen, but certainly somewhere in the world someone needs an almost mythic figure to look up to.  Anya regards Kaspar as almost a father figure.

Then it hits her.  Her purpose in life.  What she can do.

She’s going to be like Kaspar.  She’s going to fight the evil in the world.

She thanks the scholar and makes her way back to the inn.  Anya tells Rhona the idea she had, for a second we might think that Rhona would find this a little silly.  Instead, she asks when can they start.  Anya says they’ll find the next ship out back to the mainland…but she needs to do this without Skein’s Glow and Wandersfar.  The pair understand — they feel it is about time to part ways and be of service to someone else.  They give each of them a parting gift — a metal pin that other Rahsaya will recognise as marking them as allies.  The pair head down to the docks, pausing to find a young lady who appears passed out by a seedy tavern door.  Anya sets the Regalia down next to her (leading off on another tale with the two) and head to a ship.  Wherever they go, they will be together until the end.

…and that’s the quick and dirty run down on “Daughter of the Mountain”.  This is really just a preliminary look.  Things are going to change around and get expanded upon, so what you see here might not even be the same story.  I am looking forward to doing this as my Nanowrimo project.  Hopefully be then I’ll have a better idea as to what’s going to happen.

On news of a much better sort: My Novel Got Reviewed!  4 Stars!  Run and check it out!

Wow — look at the time,  I need to get some sleep.  Thanks for sticking around with me on this.  Tomorrow, I hope to have something else to talk about. Until then, good friends…

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy