19 December 2009

The tools for the commons are ready.

When getting ready to launch BULL SPEC, there were a lot of questions about the tools available to use in producing the e-books and audiobooks. Could I afford top end audio recording software, professional desktop publishing software, vector graphic software, and so on; were the open source versions really ready?

The open source tools are more than ready.

14 December 2009

Holy updates!

Note the first: the wonderful Thaumatrope is publishing my holiday-themed serial "Bad Elf: A Dark Christmas Serial (Killer)" both on Twitter and the website. This is a whole lot of fun; huge personal thanks to Mr. Lilly for working me through a month of rewrites to get it into a format that both Twitter and I can be happy with, and I hope at least a few people are amused.

Note the second: BULL SPEC #1 is now open for pre-orders. Source code available to the Google App Engine to Paypal ExpressCheckout bridge over at GitHub.

08 December 2009

BULL SPEC and the gift economy.

So, a quick unorganized mini-rant about the gift economy and BULL SPEC:

We have three "exemptions" right now:

  1. We pay advances on content.
  2. We pay for printing and shipping.
  3. Due to #2: While we're "pay what you want" on all e-book and audiobooks, but, since for us physical printing and shipping cost per issue is a floor, on the print version we are "pay what you want above physical printing and shipping cost". All that means is that every word of the content and every stroke behind the artwork is in the gift economy in all forms; but the paper and ink and how it gets to you are not. (Yet.) (And yes, this means, if you're a person or a bookstore, you can buy as many copies as you want at physical cost, period, no questions asked. We'd love a gratuity back the other way but it's not something we're going to harp on or point fingers about. And if you only like one story: we'll make it easy to direct a little something to that author or artist, specifically.)
We'd love to find a printing and distribution partner to alleviate some or all of points #2 and #3. (Hint, hint.) But point #1 is not going anywhere any time soon. Why? Because that's us at BULL SPEC's input into the gift economy, getting the ball rolling, treating people as we'd like to be treated. And we're hoping to see that paid forward with interest over time.

Lastly, a quick word on ads: no, we don't and won't, ever, have paid ads. If there's something which looks like an ad, it's our way of saying "thanks" or "we like these folks" in a small way. And if there's anything ever annoying about these, let us know. We're not marketers or advertisers or marketees or advertisees. We're humans.

And we're still looking for a symbol which means "pay what you want" where a price tag like "$5" goes. (Again: Hint, hint.) For the print issue it would look something like "$2 + SYMBOL." Thanks in advance for any help.

And while we're asking for help: do we really need an ISBN? Sure they're cheap, but when you add the 1000% "handling fee" for the authorized US resellers they are not. We are working with some local (and sympathetic to the gift economy ideals behind what we're doing) bookstores and shops to have BULL SPEC on the racks and will be talking to them about this and/or UPC codes as well, but would love some input from wherever and whomever you are.

edit: And we will be doing "preorders" as soon as we figure out the physical printing and shipping costs. Look for more info about that, when it's ready, at BULL SPEC. And, not to "scoop" and though this is too premature to post as BULL SPEC (hence my little personal blog) it's looking good for launching our first benefit e-books/audiobooks of Joe Meno's "The Architecture of the Moon" by the end of the month. So preemptive happy freakin' New Year to Durham Literacy and our fingers are crossed and re-crossed that we can make a difference in that way.

25 November 2009

A story's trip through the Clarkesworld submissions queue.

On a dream-like "what if?" hope, tempered with "since they are so responsive, at least I'll be able to submit it somewhere else when they reject me, but still: what if?" I finally submitted a ruthlessly-pared-down-from-5000-to-under-4000-words story (the paring down alone took a month to get to a place which made me somewhat happy) to Clarkesworld on Tuesday morning, and found that my story was #27 in the queue. Before leaving for lunch, it was #25, and I already felt the sense of approaching doom. You can actually watch the clock tick down to your story's death; it's an interesting feeling.

24 November 2009

The Aether Age

I missed its conception and formulation, but I've been following The Aether Age for about a month or so now, thinking about the guidelines, openly lustful at the thought of putting together a story to be included in it. I love the concept of a concept-based anthology; I love the particular concept picked--Egyptian and Grecian steampunk? Yeah, I'm in; and I love that it's all turning into a ShareAlike licensed work and world to be built upon, remixed, enjoyed the world over.

So I finally took the time to research the setting and idea which had been slowly clawing its way out of my brain and into text, pound out a first draft over a few days, and give it a couple rounds of reading and editing. Pretty happy with it so far, and I hope it strikes a fancy with the editors over there.

There's also a Facebook Group for Aether Age along with the blog. Not much discussion going, but the world is really just getting started.

23 November 2009

Well, what do you know.

Well, it's finally happened. One editor was crazy enough to actually accept one of my stories. "The Man in the Mirror" will appear in the 2010 52-Stitches dark flash fiction anthology. It's very flash at 250 words, but that's about double the size of the first manuscript of the story I submitted to them. Very glad they were interested in a rewrite, and: Score one for the good guys! [More]

19 November 2009


I'm a sucker for learning languages. So when Google released Go I jumped in and gave it a look. There's some interesting things in there, part C, part Limbo, part amalgam of new and old and new-old old-new. (Pick where GC and CSP go in that mix.)

Now, there are some growing pains; the "core" language packages include a myriad of fairly functional tools: hmac, json, http server and client, etc. Enough for me to spend a day or so putting together a quick Twitter-OAuth web app in Go.


06 November 2009


Against probably all better judgement, I've put a stake in the ground and hung a sign on it: BULL SPEC is open for submissions: Welcome to BULL SPEC. [More]

28 September 2009


As I ruminated on perhaps learning a lesson about which side projects are appropriate for a software engineer and father of two in a house without a soundproof music room, I realized that I have not properly learned one of the lessons I naïvely thought learned long ago, about getting work done to have in the end more -- and more quality -- time for non-work pursuits.

First, I think that I have come to believe that working on software projects as a side project from work (as a software engineer) are not right for me: (1) By the end of a day at work, particularly in the "crunch time" which has been shifting more and more to "all the time," often the last thing I want to do is sit back at a computer and write and test code, and in the other direction, after working all evening or weekend on my personal programming project my performance at work inevitably suffers; (2) it turns out that I am terrible at web design, and while this might be alleviated by study and practice, see #1, though as a personal development goal I hope to improve in this space through work-study at work; (3) potential IP conflicts with work.

Now, seeing this, what other side projects can I indulge in as an outlet for creative expression? The obvious ones to me are music and writing. Music has been hard to find time and workspace for, as having my equipment out is a disaster waiting to happen with two children under 3, and in any case playing guitar, trumpet, piano, synth, and singing after the kids go to bed is not an option. I'm still hoping to spend much of my December vacation recording new and old music and re-recording some even older songs, but it does not work out as a good fit.

But writing seems to fit. The kids demand stories at all times, so in a sense I'm "writing" all the time, even though half of those stories are "Marco plays soccer/baseball/hockey with his friends" or "Marco goes to the truck/tractor store with his friends." It's even a bedtime story which has uncorked the latest flurry of writing for me, "The Riddle of the Koi," even though yesterday I realized that more than likely that my Tolkien-reared subconscious had produced the "ROTK" initialization of the title. I can write without piles of gear and cords strewn about one or more rooms. I can write while waiting for a dentist appointment, or in an hour and a half of free time while the kids are blessedly napping at roughly the same time, or in the hour and a half after the kids go to bed. I can write! It is like rediscovering a vestigial limb, long forgotten.

Now, the naïveté. I have often thought to myself, proud of my supposed increasing wisdom, that if I had to go back and do college over again, I would actually study and work harder -- in order to in the result have more time for a personal life and personal pursuits, as well as getting the most out of the studies I was there to pursue in the first place. In college, far too often I put off work, put off studying, and in the end this caused me to spend more time and interrupt more personal choices to eventually make up that intellectual debt, and to do so in such a half-assed manner -- just enough to make the grade or pass the test -- that I missed even getting the real, life-long benefit of learning, despite the increased time cost.

But I realize that this is actually a lesson I have not really learned. At work, I too often let distractions sneak their way into my day, causing my work to suffer and slip, leading to work following me home as deadlines grow nearer and nearer, turning an 8 hour work day into 10-12, completely unnecessarily and completely foolishly and wastefully. On that note: to work! So that later, instead of paying the accrued interest of work debt, I can get to that topic which sparked the whole topic: writing the "ninja, pirates, and zombies set in feudal Japan" novelette -- and no, at least I hope not, it is not as trite as that sounds -- that wants its way out of my head: "A team of ninja sent to capture a pirate ship finds more than they bargained for when the corpses of the pirates lurch back to life, as one member of the ninja team's life comes full circle."

16 September 2009

Whiteboarding a terribly drawn cartoon

Well, more than two and a half years since the last post; appropriate the last one was about how being a 'new dad' changes one's perspectives on things.

OK, enough banter.

I finally think I am beginning to "grok" Twitter; I'd avoided it for a long while, and finally I see some fun in it: watching Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, and a few other folks tweet their way through their crazy days is actually fairly interesting, and through those tweets I've been introduced to a few new writers that I've come to like.

But then it gets weird.

I'd been following some good-natured cross-sniping between a few folks, followed a few of them, and, after a particularly interesting (to me) exchange, finally decided that I'd put marker to whiteboard and sketch some of it out in high drama. Very, very, very low art but it's a start; I don't think I've ever actually put a sketch online before, and these may be the first six sketches I've done in over a decade.

Illustration is certainly something I never developed. I like to think I did pretty well on the music side, and passably well on the writing side. But visual art has always escaped me. I doubt I will ever sketch anything worth looking at for more than a second of disgust and distaste, but a 50% improvement will be enough for me, and I actually found the "process" enjoyable. The "process?" Basically: sketch on an 8x10 whiteboard, snap a picture with my (7 year?) old Olympus digital, shrink it to 30% size (using MS Paint no less, if I keep going I'll write a script to do it) and upload to montsamu musings on drunkduck.com.

Unfortunately I have a dozen more drawings in mind for that story alone to reach its conclusion, and already there's another one in mind for the next chapter.