Garbage In, Garbage Out

Built for Murder

I am finally feeling motivated to write some more. As always I’ve got more ideas than time to write them all and I’d really like to get some of the longer pieces finished and released, specifically Built for Murder mystery novel and the follow-up Festival of Murder, as well as the Alexiandrolarn fantasy novella.

But both need serious rewriting and lots of polishing to kick them into decent shape. So this week I started a spreadsheet on each to get some idea of where I was at and what needed fixing. Basically what I did was plot every scene in each story onto a separate row of the spreadsheet. Doing so allows me to see at a glance the story flow, highlight the good scenes versus the bad, note the weak or useless ones that are pure indulgence or filler, and see how all the plots and subplots line up. Finally, I made a note of what the purpose was of each scene or comments on how to improve it.

Built for Murder came across as absolute garbage plot-wise in my spreadsheet.

It was written using a stream of consciousness model. I wanted an easy flowing narrative that allowed for some personal observations, a slow build, and a generally relaxed story that didn’t involve a lot of fisticuffs or shootouts as is all too common in American based stories. I wanted to avoid mindless action for a more nuanced approach. I guess I did but that lackadaisical style tends to make the story wander, which really shows when you break it down into individual scenes.

And so, like rebuilding an engine I’ve got to restructure the whole story, make the subplots stronger or throw them away totally in order to strengthen the main narrative.

I have to say it was a worthwhile learning experience. Also a bit humbling. Some of the scenes work really well, they flow, they engage, they make the story as real as I can possibly make at my current level of fiction writing experience. But I can see how to make the novel better and that’s what I plan to do, make it better.

Did the same spreadsheet exercise for Festival of Murder even though its not anywhere near completion. Even with the 8 chapters I have the weak ones leapt off the page at me.

Now I just need to do the work and make it happen. Wish me luck.

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I Broke Down and Bought One

I couldn’t wait anymore and succumbed to the pressure to buy a 15-in MacBook Pro as a replacement for the MacBook Air I’ve used for mobile writing these last few years. Came with a 256Gb SSD, 16GB RAM, and an I7 Intel CPU with speeds that make the MacBook Air look anemic. It’s a gorgeous machine with an amazing retina screen (my first on a Mac).

I have to say my writing never looked better. LOL

The best feature so far is the Touch Bar fingerprint sensor. No more password typing to log into my account. Instead I simply press a fingertip against the sensor and boop, I’m logged in. Nice. Very nice.

The Touch Bar also provides dynamic function keys based on the current frontmost application or the standard FN keys of the macOS. Still not using it to find app options there yet but I’m sure the habit will settle in as more developers update their applications to take advantage of the hardware. Looks slick and modern but not sure how truly useful it will be. I guess only time will tell.

Got the important stuff installed but will need some more time to get it right. Always seems to be one more app or utility to install but I’m getting there.

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Please Apple, Take My Money

Long time Apple Macintosh user here. My first Mac was the original Mac 128 bought within 100 days of it’s initial release in 1984. It eventually led me into a career as a technical writer where I worked on many software releases that supported Macs, CPU chips (68k, PPC, etc.) and software developer systems for Apple (CodeWarrior) and Nokia (Carbide.c++). I described my job as “informing people how to use our developer tools to write the software used by everyone on the supported products (Macs, cell phones, etc.).

It’s been 3+ years since my last Mac purchase and yet I’m sitting on my money and waiting for the right release for me. I want/need a new iMac just because I want an update. After 30+ years of working on pre-release software and hardware I can say without a qualm that I like new things. Unfortunately, Apple is playing hard-to-get and releasing products that while interesting and beautiful they aren’t what I’m looking for as my newest machines. Besides the iMac I own a several other machines including a MacBook Air, an iPad, an iPhone, and a Kangeroo PC (my only non-Mac machine purchased simply to run Civ III). The MacBook Air is also ready for an update as well but isn’t the highest need right now.

I was hoping they’d release a new iMac last fall so I could replace my aging 27-in 2013 model (3.5GHz i7, 16GB DDR3 RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX-780M).  It still works like a champ and is my core machine for my writing needs, but its showing its age now. Not when writing as it spends more time waiting for me to type something than anything else but because it limits my gaming possibilities. Modern games continuously push the graphics envelop and while my iMac runs most of them fine it’s at a reduced frame rate using lowered video configurations. Not unsuitable, just annoying.

Instead of releasing new faster iMacs they released MacBook Pros with a new Touch Bar feature on the high-end models. An interesting feature but not something that calls to me. I wanted, no I desired the latest and greatest Intel processor which didn’t happen with these particular machines. So I passed. It wasn’t a new iMac and it didn’t have the right CPU to make me replace my MacBook Air either.

I was severely disappointed.

Months later a rumor surfaces of possible new releases in March. My hopes were raised again, only to be crushed when on March 28 slightly updated iPads and watch bands were released. A week later there’s the surprise announcement the Mac Pro will be updated sometime after 2017 but I’m not really interested in that model. A decade ago I’d have been highly desirous of such a high-end machine, but now its overkill for my needs. However, they did mention new iMac Pros were in development and should arrive later this year so hope springs again.

I’m still waiting with money in hand.

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Annual Books Read in 2016 Statement

2017 has begun and its once again time to review the number of books read in the last year. I’m almost ashamed to state the number was way down from the previous 2 years, with only 64 books purchased and read in 2016. Here’s the breakdown:

64 digital books
3 audible books
67 total books read/listened to in 2016

The largest attention of the year went to reading all of the Hieronymus Bosch mysteries written by Michael Connelly. A close second was his Lincoln Lawyer books as the leads in both series are actually half-brothers on opposite sides of the law in many ways. Interesting and highly recommended if you like biographically rich backgrounds with enough character growth to make them continuously intriguing. If you like them be sure to check out Bosch, the Amazon Prime series for a very good telling of the stories.

Beyond that I read a few of the Kris Longknife series, a sci-fi series by Mike Shepherd. It follows the military adventures of one Kris Longknife, billionaire and heir to a political empire, who wants to make her own impression on the galaxy. While it adheres to many common sci-fi tropes it denigrates itself by having characters using dialog, mannerisms, and decisions that were laughable in the 1950’s let alone centuries in the future. It’s as if culture stood still and events from centuries before was better known than the most current events of the series. Every time I ran into one it made me wonder the author included it and his editor left it in. A pretty mundane series that rolled from one semi- self inflicted comical situation after another and eventually solved by the heroine’s grit and massive bank roll. Avoid unless you have absolutely nothing else to read.

Also reread a bunch of paperbacks when new ones weren’t plentiful enough but can’t say exactly how many. Some Parker (Spenser series), some Heinlein, and some Grafton (Kinsey Millhone series) were in there but the rest is kind of lost.

Seemed to be a bad year for releases as nothing much caught my eye and the ones that might were hideously expensive due to publisher greed. Anything over $10 is too much to pay for a digital version of a manuscript yet publishers continue to push prices of $13 and above for the latest releases.

That’s all for now.

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