So Its the End of the World Again

So its May 21st, which if you haven’t heard was supposed to be the end of the world. Hopefully this isn’t a spoiler, but nothing happened.

My thoughts? Well… I guess for one thing it means I’ll still have to go to work tomorrow. So there’s that.

Aside from that, I’ll say today was fairly amusing for everyone. I especially enjoyed CNN’s coverage of the non-event. Unfortunately I couldn’t track down clips in time for this post, but it was hilarious. Journalists are in general supposed to be good at reporting without letting their own opinions get in the way, but you could tell that every single anchor on CNN thought that this was like the dumbest thing ever.

Aside from that, as many people point out, this isn’t the first time people thought the world was going to end and it didn’t. When I was growing up, I remember people thinking 1999 was going to be the end of the world because that date was predicted by Nostradamus (and to a lesser extent, the video game Chrono Trigger).

Then people said it would be 2000 due to Y2K. I still remember people also being kind of nervous about the date 6/6/2006 as well. And I think the same thing will happen in 2012 too.

Basically, it seems like the world is always ending and we’ve done pretty well so far. No matter what you believe, I think it’s best not to worry about such things. Maybe the world will never end. And even if it does, there’s not much we can do about that anyway, so we might as well enjoy the little things while we can.

I hope you all had a nice, safe Apocalypse, and hope you have a good day tomorrow as well.

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Good Books: Smoke and Mirrors & Fragile Things

April 22, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been having some writers block on my novel recently. I’ve been working on the first draft for nearly five months at this point, writing almost every day, and it’s gotten to the point where everything I’m writing seems forced. Part of it is stress I guess, but mostly I think that I’ve been working on it so long that it’s hard to get immersed in it and hard to ignore the sense that everything I’m writing is crap. Most people who have to write anything fall into this trap every once in a while. It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before, but it is still annoying. So I did what I usually do when I’m in this situation. I read something I enjoy to relax my mind for a few days and to remind myself what good writing looks like.

The two books I turned to in this situation are actually two collections of short stories by Neil Gaiman, Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things. I’ve always loved short stories and Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers, so it’s a no-brainer I enjoy these collections. And I’m glad I did because they do a good job of showing well-done storytelling and interesting concepts that really helped restart my brain.

Neil Gaiman, in case you don’t know, is the writer of the popular Sandman comic series, as well as many popular books such as American Gods and Coraline. I enjoy almost everything he’s written, but oddly enough I think his short stories are what I enjoy the most. Don’t get me wrong, all of his novels are fantastic, but I think his short stories play more to Neil Gaiman’s strengths. Neil Gaiman clearly has a very robust imagination and can build stories on pretty interesting concepts (one of my favorite short stories in Smoke & Mirrors, for example, has a fantastic concept: a detective story… in Heaven. With angels). A lot of his short stories pretty much allow him to showcase these concepts in an interesting way with believable characters, without having to introduce other elements that distract from the main purpose of the story.

I think one of Gaiman’s biggest strengths as a story teller is his skill at being able to “show, not tell,” and his short stories make that a lot clearer. The majority of Gaiman’s stories in general contain very little exposition. He’s very good at showing the reader what is going on without having to explain it and very skilled at leaving stuff to the reader’s imagination without it being frustrating or disappointing the reader. Almost all of his short stories carry this to some extent, so if you’re a writer, its very enjoyable his stories just to see how he’s able to pull that off.

And, just to put it simply, they’re all very good stories. There are some stories in both collections I feel are a bit weaker than others, but there are none that I outright dislike. I do have a few favorites though. In Smoke & Mirrors, my favorite stories are “Murder Mysteries”, the detective story I already mentioned above (which is probably the best story in both collections that shows Gaiman being able to show things without explaining them), and “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale,” a darkly humorous story about a man who tries to hire a hitman and is convinced to buy assassinations in bulk. In Fragile Things, my favorite story is “How to Talk to Girls a Parties”. The basic plot of the story isn’t that complex (two young guys go to talk to chicks and find out that all the girls are humanoid aliens) but the character interaction is solid and the background on the characters is so interesting that it leaves you thinking about them for a while. While those are my favorites, each story is well done and hints at a much larger world than what is shown. I think the best short stories are the kind that leave you wanting more, to see another window into that world or into the characters lives to find out what happened, and Gaiman is a master of that.

I can safely say that reading these books helped me out of my writing funk and I don’t think anyone should miss out on them. If you are a fan of fantasy or horror, pick these collections up.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wait, People Read My Blog Now?!

April 18, 2011 5 comments

Hey guys.

So I was checking the stats for my blog yesterday when I noticed an irregularity in the page view data. Take a look at this scientific chart of my page views to see if you can spot any change.

Red arrows and bar graphs mean it's scientific

It was a bit surprising to me to say the least. Upon further investigation, I found out Chad Rocco,  the creator of Familiar Faces, linked me on his Deviantart page after seeing my post about his show earlier this year. I thought that was very cool of him and I was flattered that he liked my post about his show. I never expected him to even notice my post about his show, let alone enjoy my blog as a whole, so I am very grateful for that. Thanks CR!

It is pretty encouraging to know people are actually, you know, looking at the stuff I post. I never really set out expecting this to be a popular blog, outside of my group of friends and maybe a few other people. To be honest, up until now, I had basically operated under the assumption that this blog was a slightly high tech version of talking to myself. Considering I’ve always wanted to be a writer (and am currently preparing to try my hand at self-publishing), it is encouraging that there are at least a few people who read this blog and are interested in what I have to say.

So I suppose I’ll try to be a bit more regular about updating than I have been. I consume enough media that I have plenty of stuff to talk about. I’ve already got of bunch of ideas. So I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for reading and I hope I’ll be able to hold your interest from hear on in. Thanks guys.

It’s Good to Have Friends

So sometimes you’re helped out in ways you don’t really expect.

Since my last post, I’ve been considering putting one of my short stories on Amazon’s self-publishing platform and selling it for 99 cents a download. I’ve been trying to send this short story to different publications for months now, but it hadn’t been accepted. The story is called “Speedster,” which is sort of a dark superhero story about a normal girl whose brother is wanted for murder and is addicted to a drug that gives the user superhuman speed. It takes place in a world where using something that gives you superpowers is not only frowned upon by almost everyone, but also dangerous and addictive to the user. I really liked the story and thankfully so did most of the beta readers, so I thought this would be a good way to put it out there and see how well it would do.

I used to avoid letting anyone but my closest friends know I write a lot, which admittedly doesn’t make a lot of sense since my whole goal in life it to have a lot of people read and enjoy my stories. I’ve been trying to be more open about it to hopefully have more people read my work once I make it available for people. So I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking if people would be interested in a story I put out. The first person to respond was Mike, one of my managers at work. He was very supportive about putting the story on Amazon and seemed interested in the idea. It was pretty encouraging on its own, but what I didn’t expect was what happened the next day.

The next day, both Mike and I happened to be working and, unbeknownst to me, Mike let a lot of people at work know about what I was doing. Normally this would be the kind of thing I’d feel embarrassed about, but this wasn’t the case. I really didn’t expect the reaction I got. Pretty much everyone in the store who heard about it was asking me what the story was about and all seemed very supportive. Most of them said they would download it once I put it out. As an author who has never been published so far, this was very encouraging. It was honestly touching. I was secretly afraid that once I published the short story, nobody would buy it or care. Now at least I know quite a few of the people I work with will read it.

So, if anyone from my work is reading this, I just want to thank you guys for the reaction. Especially Mike for helping spread the word the way he did.

I want to return the favor a bit. Mike is the front man for a band called Mikey Rukus. Its actually a pretty badass band. They’ve done a bunch of custom entrance music for mixed martial arts fighters and lots of other songs as well. You can check out his songs for free on his soundclick page, but if you enjoy it, I do urge you to purchase his music as well. So yeah, check it out. It’s all good stuff.

Anyway, I’ll keep you guys posted for when I roll out the short story on Amazon. Right now I’m working with one of my friends to get cover art for it, so I’m hoping to be able to get that straightened out very soon. As soon as its ready, I’ll be sure to let all you guys know. Thanks again for all the support.

On Self-Publishing

March 19, 2011 3 comments

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about self-publishing lately.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve been serious enough about it that I’ve read about how traditional publishing works. Until recently, I never even considered self-publishing an option if I wanted to be a serious author. As far as I knew, self-publishing was something people did when they couldn’t have real publishers.

Over the past few days, I realized that view was ignorant of the way things are going. A good writing podcast I follow called Writing Excuses recently had an episode about epublishing, centering around publishing online. After I saw this, I started to get curious and I read up on the issue. To my surprise, not only is self-publishing becoming a reasonable channel to reach readers, but many have already been quite successful at it and likely made more than they would if going through traditional publishing. JA Konrath has a very informative blog dedicated to talking about this, after he proclaimed he made more money self-publishing than he did when he was published traditionally. Other authors, such as Amanda Hocking and Wil Wheaton, have had a lot of success with publishing their work online.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean every author who self-publishes is going to make money (in fact, most don’t because sadly most of the stuff people do publishing online really isn’t that good). However, it does seem like self-publishing might not be a bad idea for writers who have talent and work hard to tell a good story and revise their work into something presentable. It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I’m currently working on a novel and was fully prepared to spend a long time trying to get it published after I finished and revised it. After reading all this, I still intend to make it presentable but I’ve considered trying to publish it myself on Amazon. Amazon allows people to publish their work as a digital download (priced anywhere from .99 to 3.99) and the author gets 70% of each sale in the US (35% for each sale everywhere else). Compared to the 15% royalties authors usually get, that’s not bad at all. Not to mention that most people wouldn’t mind as much spending only 99 cents on a book. I haven’t made a firm decision on whether I’ll attempt this with my novel (it’s too early to think about that anyway since it’ll be a while before it’s finished and revised), but I think I might experiment with it by putting a short story on amazon for 99 cents.

Self-publishing seems like it might be a smart way to distribute short stories considering most publications now pay very little for short stories. Selling a short story for 99 cents doesn’t seem unreasonable. I’m seriously considering putting a short story up and talking it up just to see how many would read it and how well it would do. I don’t expect to make any substantial amount of money from a short story, but it would be a nice experiment and I certainly am anxious to see how it would do.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts on self publishing. Anyone whose interested should definitely check out the links in this post since they have of good info about it.

Now I should probably get back to working on that novel. Until next time…

So They’re Making Human-Hunting Robot Cheetah Terminators Now

February 27, 2011 2 comments

And I for one welcome our murderous cheetah overlords.

This isn’t a joke. This is a thing that is actually happening.

Geekologie is one of my favorite sites, since they post interesting gadget related news with a humorous editorial voice. The Geekologie writer has a horrible fear of robots that comes through in every robotics related post and, after seeing that article, I sort of sympathize.

The Cheetah bot will be able not only to run faster than the fastest human on earth, but can also zigzag and evade. I find it amusing that the company behind it, Boston Dynamics, lists one of the applications of the robot is “advanced agriculture”. Because, you know, I imagine retractable flesh shredding claws come in handy when harvesting eggplant.

The article says the Cheetah will be able to “chase and evade” and will be able to “stop on a dime.” So really the only way you could make this robot sound scarier is if it turned out its fuel cells ran on gore and FEAR.

If that didn’t sound ominous enough, if you read the original article the Geekologie post references, it turns out these same guys are also working on building a HEADLESS TERMINATOR.

"Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service... us"

I am honestly glad that Boston Dynamics is on our side and everything, but holy crap, they build scary stuff. I really hope they don’t have a mad scientist working for them who will ultimately usurp control of their robots and lead an invasion force. Because the last thing I want to wake up to is a robotic cheetah shredding my torso apart with its rotating saw blade teeth, while its headless terminator handler rips my head from my spinal column for its human head collection. I like holding on to both my head and torso.

Again, I’m sure Boston Dynamics is full of responsible individuals who know what they’re doing (and certainly wouldn’t send robotic death cheetah squads on innocent blog writers who were totally only kidding before).  Still… it might be a good idea to lay low for a few decades, in case these guys decide to build AM from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream next.

Good Stuff: Familiar Faces

February 23, 2011 3 comments

I’m on the internet a lot. More often than I should be, to be quite honest. And out of all the sites I frequent, the one I probably visit the most often, aside from Deviantart and Facebook and the like, is That Guy with the Glasses.

It’s hard to go wrong with the site, considering it has some of the most talented reviewers on the web. Of course I like the Nostalgia Critic and Spoony, and I have to say that Linkara‘s reviews are brilliant for having the perfect balance of being funny as well as insightful (after all, he was so cool I did an interview with him a while back). However, after Linkara and Spoony, I have a favorite reviewer that really doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves. That reviewer is Chad Rocco, better known as CR, the host of Familiar Faces.

Familiar Faces is a show where CR takes a look at minor characters from different television shows, animation, and other mediums (animation being the most prominent) and analyzes what made them unique. This might seem weird at first, and I will admit he might not be quite as hilarious as some of the other TGWTG reviewers, but his character analysis is well-reasoned, intelligent, and very entertaining to listen to. Every time I watch his show I’m reminded of another show, or just a character from a show, that I’ve forgotten entirely.

My favorite episodes thus far are his 12 Forgotten Christmas Specials episode, where he talks about 12 christmas specials that people either haven’t seen or don’t think about much (I remember seeing several of the specials on the list, but had almost forgotten them much until he mentioned them and brought back some nostalgic memories), and the episode where he looks at Baby Doll from the Batman Animated Series. Not only is the character fascinating to look at, but the episode was a crossover with the Nostalgia Critic. It was very well done and very funny. And I just have to say, as someone who prides himself on remembering obscure cartoons and tv shows, I have to give the man props, he knows his stuff. I mean, I swear I thought I was the only person who remembered Duckman, but he had a whole episode about two characters from that show too. And really, when your show is about minor characters from obscure mediums, when you remember something sadly underrated like Duckman, you’re in pretty good shape. (Now if only he would do an episode about somebody from Hey Arnold…)

Honestly, I’m not sure why his show isn’t as popular as some of the others on TGWTG. It has a very interesting premise and it delves into some cool, obscure material. Not only that, but the man is also a very good artist, so almost all of his title cards look really cool. You can see all his title cards, as well as his other art, on his deviantart page.

If you’ve never seen his videos, I urge you to check them out, especially if you’re a fan of animation since a good percentage of his episodes are about animated characters. His videos are great and I think it’s kind of sad they haven’t yet got as much attention as some other shows on the site. Check them out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.