Archive for December, 2015

Some Years Are Better Than Others, Aren’t They?

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

20151225_202334-ANIMATION.gif

1995 was one of the best years of my life: I got engaged, I published my first scientific paper, and I published my first short story. All that gave me a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, but that happiness was short lived: that engagement ultimately disintegrated, my PhD dragged on, and I didn’t publish another short story for years.

r1d1-vertical.jpg

Now, there were great sparks in there – successive internships at CMU in Pittsburgh in 1996, SRI in the Bay Area in 1997 and Yamaha in Japan in 1998 – but I didn’t really start feeling great until 1999, when my thesis advisor started an internet startup with me and one of his graduate students – Enkia, my first taste of the inside of a healthy startup.

e_400x400.jpg

But the dotcom crash happened and everything got acrimonious (as things do when external factors turn sour, since people are no longer glossing over problems that didn’t bother them before) and my father grew gravely ill and we all agreed it was better to part ways, so that happy time evaporated too. I don’t even really have good pictures of this time, not digital ones.

gigeresque_full.jpg

The pattern repeats – ups and downs, good times and bad, a few really so-so jobs with really nice people, meeting my wonderful fiancee and having a terrible-post wedding experience with my mother, and so on, and so on. It’s really easy to focus on the bad, sometimes, to think of all the things that have gone wrong.

20150918_114445.jpg

This year was no different: loss of the family matriarch, extreme disruption at work (I lost 2 SVPs, 2 directors, 2 bosses and 2 teams in the last year to other-than-normal churn) and the delay of my latest novel, the CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. But at the same time, I had a great novel published – LIQUID FIRE – found a wonderful new team, and had a great time with friends and family.

20151227_004919.jpg

You know what? Crap happens. But wonderful things happen to. And the way that we choose to take things affects what we get out of them. If you focus on all the bad stuff, you may end up feeling like your life is in the shitter. But if you take the time out to appreciate the good things as they happen, to share them with friends and family, and to remember them …

20151212_203149.jpg

… you might find everything really did turn out all right.

20151213_113525.jpg

-the Centaur

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2015

20151224_214016.jpg

Merry Christmas! Isn’t it great that we made it to another one with the Earth still circling the Sun? After all the stresses and strains of the past year, it’s really good to get together with friends and family to celebrate this holiday. But what’s the reason for the season? Why are we doing this? As a Christian, I didn’t just get exposed to Santa and Christmas trees, but also to a lot of irate people convinced that we were missing the point – that the reason for the season was to celebrate the birthday of Jesus?

20150726_111146-EFFECTS.jpg

But why did he come to the Earth? To bring hope! Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’s death, sacrifice, and role in our salvation, but Christmas is when we celebrate our hope, his arrival, and the beginning of his message of hope and forgiveness on Earth. Whether you’re a Christian or not, Jesus’s message that we should forgive each other, forgive ourselves and start life fresh is perennial – it’s worthy of celebrating again and again – which liturgical churches do every Advent.

20151129_174151-ANIMATION.gif

But church rituals often seem disconnected from everyday lives because they’re held in special, sacred places. Christians aren’t just followers of Christ; we’re also ritual people, people who perform traditions again and again – each day, each week, each season, each year – to help remind us what’s important in our lives. So it isn’t surprising that we’ve found ways of bringing those rituals out of the sanctuaries and into our homes.

20151225_101428.jpg

The exchange of gifts can seem to be crass commercialism … but it’s also a reminder to each other that we care, a chance to do something nice for our friends and family, and if we really think about a gift, an opportunity to learn about each other and discover what really matters to our loved ones. Shared meals give us not just a chance to celebrate our success, but to get together with loved ones and share our stories, our companionship, and a few hours of our lives.

20151225_135942.jpg

Not everyone is fortunate over Christmas, and not everyone enjoys the season. So take a moment to do something for someone who needs a little lift, respect people who need a little distance, but above all, take a moment out to remember why we’re celebrating the season: to commemorate Jesus’s message of hope and forgiveness, and to share moments with the friends and family that we love.

-the Centaur

How to Be a Better Writer (the Short Version)

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

20151207_002854.jpg

Recently a colleague asked me if I had any advice on being a better writer. I thought I’d posted about that, but it appears that I hadn’t, so I tried writing up my thoughts. That was too much, so I summarized. That was too much, so I summarized it AGAIN. And then it was short enough to share with you:

The super short version is to be a better writer, just write!

I often recommend morning pages – writing three pages about random topics at the start of your day, even “bla bla bla” if you have to – you’ll get tired of writing “bla bla bla” quickly, and this will help cure you of the feeling you need to wait for your muse.

This advice comes from the book The Artist’s Way, which is a great course to take; I also recommend Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Brooks Landon’s Building Great Sentences on grammar and style, Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction and The Art of Nonfiction on writing and structure, and The Elements of Editing and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers on editing.

I also recommend that you read a lot more than you write, especially writing of the kind you want to emulate; take a look at it and see what makes it tick.

For fiction and other similar writing I recommend finding a writing group first, not a critique group; there are several good ones in the Bay Area including Write to the End and Shut Up and Write.

For the kind of internal communications you’re talking about, you might try looking at marketing and documentation literature or the great writers internally that you admire – also popular writers, technical and nontechnical, in the computer field.

As for blogging, my recommendation is to just blog – try to do it regularly, at least once a week or so, about whatever comes to your mind, so that you create both a growing store of content – and again, a habit that helps you just write.

20151207_002839.jpg

I’ll try to expand on these recommendations, but if I had to boil it down even further, I’d say: just write!

-the Centaur

FROST MOON On Sale on Amazon!

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

frost-moon.jpg

Like magic? Like tattooing? Like werewolves? Like feisty magical tattoo artist fighting off a charming rogue werewolf suitor with a stick, while the two of them might just be prey to a serial killer targeting the magically tattooed? Well, if so, you are in luck, because the first book in the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series, FROST MOON, is now on sale on Amazon!

  • FROST MOON – werewolves and magic tattoos and serial killers, oh my! for $1.99
  • BLOOD ROCK – vampires and magic graffiti and magic arson, oh noes! for $4.61
  • LIQUID FIRE – dragons and firespinning and fire ninjas, my goodness! for $1.99

I’m hard at work at Book 4, SPECTRAL IRON, and Book 5, PHANTOM SILVER, and even a spinoff series starring Dakota Frost’s adoptive daughter, Cinnamon Frost, starting with the book provisionally titled HEX CODE. So if you read these, I plan on having a lot more where that was coming from! I hope you enjoy!

-the Centaur

Eight Hundred Fifty Thousand Words

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Nanowrimo 2015-11-30a.png

So another Nanowrimo draws to a close. The title says HEX CODE, but today’s writing was finishing out a few details in scenes in BOT NET (the second part of the Spellpunk trilogy manuscript I’m working on) and then a new beginning for ROOT USER (book 3). That new beginning, which played out a scene I’ve had in my head a long time, was very easy to write.

“That’s a damn shame,” says a distant voice, “so large an animal, in so small a cage.”

Muzzily, I grogs awake. What the fuck? Can’t they see I’m sleepin’? But then the words they’ve spoken starts to set in, balls in a Pachinko machine, rattlin’ in through the Pascal’s Triangle patterns in my brain to rack up a score of maximum annoyance.

The cage, you see, is large, for its type—a safety cage. Eight by thirty, made of elaborate wrought-iron vines, fashioned special from a welder we knows in Little Five Points, the safety cage is the largest and nicest I’ve ever been in—and the largest we could fit on our front porch.

The porch is big, and Southern, in front of a house big, and Southern, a third of the way down Fairview from Moreland, not three blocks from L5P. Pretty big even by Atlanta standards, but county code sez leave the front door unblocked, so thirty feet wide is was the cage limit.

Not that it feels limiting; there’s lamps and books and ferns and an ahw-SOOOME sectional sofa we found at an outdoor patio store, which stretches almost from the porch door on the left to the <regulation width with code #> stair down to my den.

It’s a full fourteen feet of sofa, fully twelve feet of it usable—which is a good thing, because stretched over it right now, covering just about its full length this very instant, is the enormous animal that the annoying interpopers have named.

Me.

That’s why the last day of Nano has that spike: let your inspiration flow!

Nanowrimo 2015-11-30b.png

That brought me to over 65,000 words, the most I’ve done in Nano, as far as I know, ever:

Nanowrimo 2015-11-30c.png

SO I have a new record to beat. But I also cracked 700,000 words on my spreadsheet … which means, since I’ve done Nano at least three times before, my total Nano total is 850,000 words.

Nanowrimo 2015-11-30d.png

I feel pretty happy about that. Nano has brought so many creative ideas to the table, I can’t even begin to describe it. Easily a half dozen completely new ideas came to me this month – one even within the final writing session just before midnight tonight. I have to credit Nano for giving me this inspiration.

Now, onward to the next round of edits on THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE … and the 50,000 other projects I’ve been putting off, like my library … though I *might* take out a little time to play a video game, or, perhaps, read a book … you never know …

-the Centaur

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon …

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

20140725_201514_HDR.jpg

… when I claimed Scott Adams appeared to be right on the question of Donald Trump’s supposed meltdown. Scott, as you recall, claimed this was part of an elaborate three dimensional game of chess designed to trounce Carson, whereas I was claiming that Trump was possibly sabotaging his own campaign. Trump’s initial bounce and Carson’s stumble led me to award this to Adams.

Since then, Trump has publicly mocked a handicapped reporter, and demanded CNN cough up five million dollars to appear at the next debate. My predictive filter says Trump’s doing more self-sabotage. Scott’s filter says Trump will suffer a slight dip, then increase in the polls. Trump is actually just increasing in the polls, no dip. So, um, advantage to Scott, me, randomness?

My high school history teacher’s predictive filter would say, “Populist demagogues are always popular.”

Your predictive mileage may vary.

-the Centaur