Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Looks like Santa's reindeer have been upgraded this year.
No updates this week due to Christmas spirit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

An Unfulfilled Promise

I am way behind schedule. Back when I was a kid I thought that by the time I was as old as I am now I'd be a published author. Oh how I've let the little guy down.

This trip down memory lane makes me ponder the reason of why I actually write.

The year was 1993 and I was in elementary school. To say that I did not enjoy school would be an understatement. I wanted out, and I was desperate to find some way, any way, to quit school. Little me hatched what he thought was an ingenious scheme. For whenever he balked about going to school and asked the grown ups why they almost inevitably responded that I would need school to get a job.
"Why do I need a job?" I would ask.
"To make money."
Money, I found out at an early age, was the be all and end all of life. If I had it I could do anything, without it I had to play by the world's rules.

My dad had told me about this kid who collected stamps. He got so good at buying and selling them that left school. He was rich and got driven around by a chauffeur all day, he never even got his licence.

So my brilliant plan was to find something that I could do that would make me money. Just like the stamp kid. Little did I know (oh how ominous those words are) the path that this plan would set me upon.

How was I a mere grade school kid supposed to make money. I wasn't even old enough for a paper route. The answer came to me rather quickly. I would write. It was something that I already liked to do so I figured I could use it to get out of school. It all seemed so simple. But I had to make sure that my parents would let me quit school once I made my millions. Parents can be obnoxious about things like this. "Sorry son we don't care if you can afford to buy yourself a small island your still going to attend school."

And so I made them sign this:

They signed it. A sort of promissory note. Oh I had them now.

Or so I thought.

It was my promise that never got fulfilled. A promise I made to myself to get out of school.

Sometimes I wonder if I write because I really want to or if I have just hardwired it into myself because of my desperate need to escape school. Even now that I'm out of school that need to write is still there. I can't help but wonder if it's genuine.

But then I remember that I did indeed write a book. Way back before the promissory note. Back before I knew how to write. It was an illustrated story about a presidential election between Fire and Water. I still have it somewhere, I'll have to dig it up one day. Remembering it makes me think that maybe I really am a born storyteller. I mean if I was telling stories before I knew words that should count for something right?

At any rate both these events get to the heart of the question of why I write. They aren't the whole answer. I don't know if I can put the whole answer into words. It is something that is felt and thought and spoken. But this is part of it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Progress Report

So to explain about my Progress report

Pages Transcribed is the amount of pages I've transferred from my hand written text onto the Computer.

Pages On Word refers to the grand total page number on my Word file. I have from time to time made some effort to get my story onto the computer. I took all these files and dumped them into one document. Also on this document are the pages that I've transcribed.

And just to give you a visual of the work cut out for me.

The stack on the left is what I've transferred into the computer. The Stack on the right is what I have left. And making it's second appearance on this blog, the the lovely flower print couch.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Update

So first off shame on me for not posting something sooner.

Second off I think I'm going to start posting over on the side there, a notice on how many pages I have gotten onto the computer. I'm trying to get my story which is spread over heaps of handwritten pages onto a word program. I got about twenty pages so far using my handy Dragon software.

So that's about all for now. I plan to update my page count every Monday. Hopefully this deadline will help me stay on track. If I don't make any progress then feel free to virtually kick me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writing is hard

A while back Lynners had a post on her blog which had some advice for bloggers (blogers?) It was very good advice. One point was about posting on schedule. This is a feat I've never been able to accomplish.
Oh I dream and wish, and I even told myself, "Self, when you write this blog make sure you post at least once a week."
Well once a week turns into once a month, if I'm lucky.

Writing is just so darn hard. People who don't do it think it's easy. I have from time to time shared my desire to write a book with people and they have flippantly responded,
"Oh I think I'll write a book too someday."
Now if they really mean to write a book I got nothing against that. It's just the vibe I get from them is that they seem to be saying that once they have some free time, like a weekend or something, they'll just sit down and write whatever they've got in their heads. Bam, instant book.


Or at least not for me, and near as I can tell not for anyone else. Writing, if done well, is not something done on a whim. It takes skill and work.

It's so hard it scares me. Scares me to the point of avoidance. Yeah that's right. This writing thing that I am supposed to be so passionate about terrifies me. And the mountain of work set ahead of me is so daunting I find excuses not to attempt the climb.

So I need to do better. I'm telling myself to forget about the worry and the weight of the work. Just enjoy it and make an effort. It will still be hard but nothing worth doing is ever easy. (I hate it when platitudes are right. They just sit there and are so smug about it too. Grumble grumble grumble.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writing Excuses

To say that this is my favorite podcast would not be fair. It is the only podcast I listen to. I've tried others but they all miss the mark. What mark is that you ask, well I'll tell you.

When perusing the vast expanse of itunes I sought out writing podcasts. Specifically a pod cast with a emphasis on fantasy writing. It was pretty slim pickins I'll tell you that much. I tried listening to Grammar Girl. Which isn't to bad except her show is really short, and it deals with the actual nuts and bolts of English, you know the mechanical stuff. All that is very important but it wasn't really what I was looking for.

A bunch of other podcasts that had a fantasy orientation seemed to focus on the casters story. I didn't really feel like listening to someone talk about their story and why it worked or didn't work.

Then I found Writing Excuses. It was nearly everything I could have hoped for. It consists of three hosts, all of which are established professionals. Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy writer, Howard Tayler is a web cartoonist, and Dan Wells is a horror writer. They get together once a week and produce a fifteen minute program about writing. They specifically target genre fiction. That includes fantasy, science fiction, horror, and the like. It's a really great show, though sometimes I wish it was longer than just fifteen minutes. I happily recommend their podcast to anyone interested in genre writing and even fiction writing in general. It can be downloaded from itunes for free.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hope Fulfilled

So a while ago I bought the Dragon Naturally Speaking program. I must say that I am rather happy with it. In fact I am using it right now to write this post. It has made transferring my handwriting into the computer much quicker.

It does seem to have problems with proper names. Also it messes up when you mean to say "two" instead it comes out "to." But all those problems are not insurmountable. Working with the Naturally Speaking program and a keyboard I am able to write several paragraphs in a matter of minutes.

Where before it would take me hours to get a single page of a handwritten story on to the computer it now only takes me an hour to get three pages. So all in all was a good buy for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Here's Hoping

In my effort to discover hand writing recognition software I learned that no such thing exists. Or at least there is no software available that does the job I'm looking for. Most OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software works wonders provided that what you are scanning in is already printed text. Meaning if I printed something out of my computer I could scan it back in and the software could read it and then process it in a word document. Then I could edit it. This of course is completely useless. If I already have it in text form it would stand to reason that it is already on my computer, or could easily be transferred to it. Now granted if your dealing with people that are handing you a ton a printed material that you need to edit this software would be ideal for you.

I was told that OCR programs might, just might, be able to read handwriting. As long as it was nearly identical to print. Also if the document I was scanning in was arranged as a form chances for the OCR program to successfully read it would increase. The IRS uses software like this to process taxes, but it wouldn't be very helpful to me. I tried to find out if the powerful "Programmers That Be" were anywhere close to a program that could do what I wanted. The vague "don't hold us to it" answer that I got was ten years. Ten years away from hand writing recognition. My heart sank.

But then I stumbled upon this.

Speech recognition software. If it works all I would have to do is read my stories into the computer.

I have been writing stories since before I knew my alphabet. (First story I ever wrote was about a presidential election between Fire and Water.) So I have literal heaps (I call them heaps even though they are trying to be stacks, but lets face it, they're heaps.) of paper scattered throughout my domicile. I have accumulated them over several decades. The prospect of waiting yet another decade before I could get them onto a computer was not an appealing one. Sure I could type them out. But that might take anther decade, or more, in and of itself. It takes me about twice as long to transcribe my hand written work onto the computer as it does to write them.

So this Dragon program (and as I fantasy writer I can't help but love the name regardless of how little sense it makes) promises to cut my work in half, maybe more. The promo claims that the average person types at 40 words per minute. I'm probably slower. I know other people have said to me that while them may like writing by hand they just can't do it that way because it's too slow. I marvel at that as I have a hard time typing because I can write by hand faster than I can type. The Dragon promo says that people on average talk at about 120 words a minute. That's three times faster than typing, and in my case it might be four times faster. I'm really a lousy typist. I utilize a odd alchemical mesh of home key position and the good old hunt and peck technique.

I am really excited about this and have already ordered myself the program. I am a bit worried as the product has gotten mixed reviews. Yet it does seem to be the best speech recognition software out there. I'll let you know how it goes. here is a link to the promo

and a link to the amazon product page

I think it can be inferred from my admittedly bad typing skills I am not terribly tec savvy so please forgive the messiness of the links.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Better than Socks!

So it has been a little while since my last post. I have a good reason for this. Literally every free moment that I have had has been devoted to writing a story for my sister’s birthday. I was giving up sleep to get it done. I am pleased to report that the story was finished in time. It wasn’t quite publishing quality but it was presentable. I used my mad Macgyver skills and whipped up a rather nice looking book if I do say so my self. It consisted of a three ring binder, pager protectors, stolen art from the internet, my printed text, and a hand drawn cover illustration. Throw in a paper clip and a pocket knife and it will not only ninja kick smugglers but also do your taxes.

All in all this is what the finished product looked like.

Pretty snazzy if you ask me. The nifty blue thing in the back was the wrapping paper. It was in truth a faux leather document case. It came with the coolest lock I've ever seen. So cool I can't describe it. At the bottom was a hand made treasure map which would lead her to the first clue in a set of hidden clues. That's right I wrote a story about Space Pirates (titled originally enough as Space Pirates) and gave it to my sister as a gift, but before she could find it she had to go on a treasure hunt. Get it? Pirates and treasure. I'm sure you got it. Your smart people. I write this over explanatory explanation simply to rub my genius in your face. (Now please note that I am just being silly here. I'm not a genius, I was just trying to joke around. But there I go over explaining again.)

And... in case you wanted a better look at my stellar artwork here it is

Now before you start flooding me with requests for drawings of your own, I feel I should point out that most of what you see above was traced. The only things I drew myself were the octopus, the ball of light, and the big rock dude. But much of the other figures I had to ad lib their poses , and that took no small effort and I don't mind telling you. I also did all the coloring myself. The very astute may notice that I directly ripped off Wobbuffet from Pokemon. I have no apologies and no regrets for this. Now to be honest I had something different in mind when I set out to make a cover. But I don't think that this is that shabby either.

What I am pleased with the most about this whole endeavor was my sister's reaction. I was hoping for her to either cry tears of joy or jump up and down screaming with excitement. She did both. That right there is part of the reason why I write.

I learned a lot of things from all this. There are many things I need to work on. Getting this story done helped me realize what they are. But lessons learned are the subject of another post on another day. For now I wish to simply bask in the warm glow of accomplishment.

Keep Writing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Woes of Paper and Pen.

I'm a pen and paper guy. I think everyone who writes has their own favorite medium to work with. Some prefer the old school typewriters, others like these newfangled computers. Some are like me and choose the pen/pencil and paper combination. It’s important to be comfortable with your tools and for me I never feel better than with paper and pen. It’s like a first love. Sure computers may be faster and easier, but there is something that just feels right about my preferred method.

This of course causes me untold grief. Because I like paper and pen it means anything I write must be rewritten on the computer. I have to get it onto the computer because lets face it that’s the way the world is. Word processing programs make it so much easier to edit. The Internet makes transferring documents fast. And when I print something out from my computer I know it’s legible. Many people would be hard pressed to read my hand writing. Shoot I can’t even read some of what I’ve written if it’s been a while since I originally wrote it. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve lost due to this. At least I think they were great ideas. There’s no way to know for sure now. But they must have been great, why else would I have written them down?

I wish that there was some technology that could help me get my hand written material into the computer. Now maybe it already exists and I’ve just not heard about it. If it does and if anyone reading this knows about it please let me know. What I’d like is to be able to scan my hand written text into a word program. Now hopefully the software could read and identify most of what I’ve written. But even if I have to go through it once its on the screen and correct things here and there it would be worth it. It’d be a ton better than what I do now.

I don’t have a scanner yet but if this technology exists Id’ gladly pay for both. It would save me an enormous amount of time and energy.

Space Pirates anyone? Bettered only by Space Ninjas.

So I am currently working on a story for my sister. She has a birthday coming up and I thought a story would make a great gift. It will be great because she helped come up with the idea for it.

We were texting each other a couple months ago and somehow we started making up characters. We were influenced by Disney’s Treasure Planet.

So basically it's a story about space pirates. She has no idea I'm working on it. I'm having a blast getting it ready. I've been more productive with this idea than any other idea I've ever done. I think that this is due largely because I am operating under a deadline. I’ve never had a deadline for my creative stories before. I mean I’ve set deadlines for myself but they’ve always fallen through. That’s because there’s no real penalty if I fail, and no reward if I succeed. But now I have one. The penalty will be giving a mediocre store bought gift instead of a awesome homemade adventure. The reward will be her shout of joy (and there will be shouting), and her bright smile.

So that’s what I’m working on. I still have a ways to go and it’s beginning to get into crunch time. I still want to get some people to proof read it and get feedback and then adjust it. That and I wanted to illustrate it. So I have a lot on my plate. If worse comes to worst I can save this project for Christmas. But I really want to make it for her birthday.

Now onto some side notes. I can whole heartedly recommend Treasure Planet. It’s a great adaptation of Treasure Island. I tried to read the book when I was a kid but I was too young and the book was out of my depth. Since then I have seen several versions of this story. There was a Disney live action movie, a Chipmunk tv episode, the Pagemaster version, and a Muppet Treasure Island.

Now *SPOILER ALERT* (although this book, and the movies have been around for forever so if you don’t know the plot then where have you been hiding?) In the end Jim Hawkins lets Long John Silver escape. Long John was a pirate who betrays Jim and I never understood why Jim lets him go. It never made any sense to me. Not until I saw Treasure Planet. If you want to know why I understand it now then you’ll have to watch the movie.

Nextly, although the inspiration for this story was drawn from Treasure Planet it is an original tale. It would be more accurate to say that it just shares the same flavor as Treasure Planet. And because it is meant as a gift I don’t know if anything more than that will come of it than that. Will I be able to get it published? I don’t know, I’m not sure if I’m even going to try.

Yet it just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere. In this case a movie and a text conversation. Maybe it wont be a story that I can get published but I’ve learned things from it. I’ve learned that deadlines help me. I’ve also learned that I can be funny with my writing. This is a skill that I once thought was completely beyond me. Now I know that if I work on it I can make people laugh. I may not be Terry Pratchett (he’s a funny writer, hilarious actually) but I can get a chuckle here and there. I think... well I hope anyway. The point is, if your reading this, that it’s important to make use of your inspiration. You never know what you might learn or what you might accomplish, all you have to do is try.

Monday, March 30, 2009