NAME THAT HERO!

It’s contest time, fans and friends. Time to put your name up in lights!

But first, a little housework.


Now onto the juicy story! I’m going to re-name George after one of you! Yep, there are two protagonists in Beneath White Clouds, and one of you gets to be him/her. I can’t take this to the presses with the guy named George. If you can’t guess why, you’re too young. Let’s just say that the name “George” is just a little too close to the mark. So I’m going to rename him after one of you.*

How?

Anyone to place a super-reader order (3+copies ordered) by Sunday, Oct 2nd (by midnight pacific time), will have their names put into a randomization engine (which may or may not be a hat). One of the lucky ones will be selected to have George re—named after them.

Now you might wonder, “What if the winner’s name is totally feminine, like Samantha or Kisha or something?”

Well, then, it’ll be time for a social experiment of sorts. George is written as a male. If I end up with a feminine name for him, then he’ll go “under the knife”, so to speak.

I’ll change all pronouns and references to match his new gender, and might have to adapt a few gags, but otherwise I’ll leave his/her character, dialogue, behavior all the same.

That’ll be interesting to see, won’t it? Get those orders in – all supporters will be acknowledged in the book, but only one of you will get to be this guy:

I mean, srsly, who wouldn’t want to be that guy? Looks like one happenin’ dude right there. Guy’s got it going on.

*:  If you win, and your name happens to be George, we’ll figure something out. Re-name George after your Mom or Goldfish or something.

Writer ≠ Videographer

Before launching the Inkshares campaign for my “Beneath White Clouds,” the book needed a trailer. An audio-visual wunderfest to introduce people to the story. So I made this:

Making this was a helluva learning experience. Like with any DIY effort, it was a total pain in the ass… but worth it, and fun. I’d like to share with you some of the resources I found to put this together.


7072482_origWindows Movie Maker. This is nothing new. I used this briefly  back in college. Might not be what pros use, but it’s a powerful tool with an easy interface to  handle  the grunt work of  splicing slides, audio and video together. Limited in some ways, and a little twitchy, but it got the job done. Specs don’t say it’s compatible with Windows 10, but it worked just fine on my computer.


Now here’s where the trickiness ensued. Movie Maker was fine for putting my slides, captions and music together, but I hit some hurdles trying to record myself making a statement.

Well, the first hurdle is that delivering a prepared statement to the camera sucks  bad. Took me 50-odd takes. Many people across the web can probably offer better advice than me on that subject. But aside from tripping over my tongue over and over and over, I ran into some technical issues, probably related to having a  cruddy mic and webcam. The audio from my raw recordings was out of synch and quiet as a church mouse. No bueno.

So I had to rip the audio from the video, amplify it, then tie it back together. I found an easy tutorial on how to do it here. But I ran into hurdles with step 1; convert the video to an audio  file. The trouble is that free is not free.  The tutorial video is from 2011, and perhaps then RealPlayer was completely free. Nowadays, if you try to use the conversion part of RealPlayer, it will only convert 2/3 of your file. How lame is that? You have to buy  the full version to get it to convert an entire video file. So I looked around, and found a copycat industry. If you search for anything like “free video converter,” every “free” program you can install will do the same thing – do only 2/3 of the job until you pay up. I think most of them were just re-brands of the same software, and some were infected with garbage. Dookie.


tencoder-logo-iconI found what I needed  when I finally got smart enough to search for “open source.” Duh. I tell ya, reeally dumb for a smart guy sometimes. Anywhoo, I found TEncoder, a fantastic video  converter. I can”t tell you everything this program does, but it certainly had no problem delivering me a .wav soundtrack from a video. Piece of pie. The program’s got that open-source  feel, which means the GUI isn’t all shiny cotton-candy wiping your butt for you. But it does the job, and there are plenty of FAQs,  guides and boards to help you over any hurdles.


audacity_logoAudacity was the last new tool I added to my toolbox in the pursuit of crafting a goofy video.

With the isolated audio track in hand )or in hard drive, whatever) It was a cinch to pop into Audacity, amplify the volume, and export as a new, loud audio track. And that’s just scratching the surface. I don’t know everything Audacity can do, but I know it makes identifying and deleting white noise so stupid easy you’ll spit.


After that, it was a piece of pie to stitch the loud track to the raw video in Movie Maker, tweak it to synch up properly and export a good, useful video file with decent audibility.

The result  isn’t professional-grade, but it’s better than anything I would have thought within my capabilities before trying. So I end with a message of encouragement to all of you doers and makers: MAKE, and DO, and don’t ever think you can’t. We’re in an era where both artistic and technical power are in everyone’s reach. I’m not a director, editor, or sound engineer… but now I am (a little bit). So if you’ve got anything you dream of making, stop dreaming and give it a bash. I guarantee; the results of your attempt will be better than the results of hesitating and dreaming.

Polls are open!

An update on “Beneath White Clouds'” Inkshares campaign.

We start out week 3 with 22 orders – almost 10% of the way to Quill publication. WooHoo! That’s great, but we’ve got work to do yet! Put your name on a copy, and please help spread the word.

Now for the fun stuff. When working on cover art for this book, I couldn’t stop myself at 1. I had to go an make 4 conceptual drafts for the face of Beneath White Clouds.

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So, these are drafts, not finalized versions. Now I need your help to figure out which concept I should develop into a final version.

You get to vote! Follow this link to pick your favorite!

Which image grabs you? Which one looks the most like a book you’d want to pick up? Take your pick, then share the poll with your friends. Vote early, vote often, let your voice determine the face  of my next book.

Feel free to leave feedback on how you think the art could be improved in the comments at the end of the poll or on the Inkshares page.

Happy voting!

Dear Windows,

I often spend hours doing useless stupid stuff on my computer, and you’re always there to help me with this. But why is it, when I scramble through my chores and approach my computer with a very real intention to do very real work… Why is it you choose that time to black out and update yourself? You could have blocked me from watching stupid videos or reading about cave bugs. But instead you kept me from accomplishing worthwhile tasks.

Why, Windows?

Why do you hate me?

Excerpts from Beneath White Clouds

Here are some choice lines from my upcoming book. Director’s favorites 🙂


The Boss opened one of its little blister-pods, displaying a crackling, energized prod. “That is your work. Work is your function. Comply, Unit.” -02 – Grind Below


George spun and tumbled through the sky, screaming. He would have lost Comet but the dog, in a move of timely genius, had clamped down onto the extra flesh of his left moob. –03 – The Plunge


You’re here to stick your official bullhorn up my keester and speak my mind for me! -05 – Spin


“I watched them tear her up, and I saw what was in that swell. No cyst. No pus. She’s a fruiting shrub. Just like a Lord.” -06 – Swell Sickness


You make me nervous. You’re not safe. But I doubt anyone else will listen… -09 – Pushed to the Fringe


“You were fit to bend over and let it prod ya, just like the rest of us! Shiny do-nothings know they can make us do whatever they want!” -10 – The Mess


Maybe it was all the late-term donkey-rompin’ that addled your brain in-utero. I dunno. But you couldn’t figure out the first step of building a quad-blind self-nulling dummy account through a nested avatar interface, so I’ll make this easy for you. -11 – The Fringe Pulls Back


He stared up into the gold… and saw a glimpse of blue. Then the clouds shifted. The hole snapped shut like a bothered sphincter and left him in darkness. Modun fell back and wept. –12 – The Light Above


Oooohhh boy, I really should work on some dumber plans. -13 – Clever Espionage


“Organic constructs have a thing, I think, a drive, way down in the deep-down of ourselves, that wants to make more life. I don’t understand it. But the Bosses want to control it and they can’t. Not 100%.” -14 – Aberrations


“I can’t believe how far I’ve already gone down the road to crazytown. But no further.” -15 – Family Man


In the hours since as it attempted George’s mission objectives, the tiny, fuzzy, bedraggled robot had further edited its programming and enhanced its problem-solving capabilities. It had also developed a capacity for getting pissed off. -16 – The Scorn of Fuzzmutt


The Boss Unit spun about to block his path. “Repeat.”

Modun staggered to keep from running into the robot’s extended prod. “Nothing. Nothing. Flatulence.”

-17 – Back in the Saddle


“Next time you wipe your ass, make sure you get all the sunshine out.” -18 – Off-Balance


“Something unwanted. In my Plot. Our Plot!” Modun stepped closer to the planted rows, lip curling upward, the spade heavy and perfect in his hands. “Get it!” -Chapter 19 – Territorial Instinct


“Aw, cripes! Averting your eyes? Really? Is that what he’s doing?” -20 – Re-Plunge


“Bite him! Mom! Bite his face!” -21 – Criminals


“Arming these Units will not yield a cohesive fighting force.”

George shook his head. “I don’t want cohesion. I want them to get mad!” -22 – Calamity


“I’m not comfortable hearing such a sound justification for murder from my six-year-aaaaauuuugggghhh!” -23 – Rebellion


Back to Beneath White Clouds on Inkshares

Good Stuff: Monkey Business

28650515This book breaks narrative rules. I mean, the narrator staggers drunkenly from one side of the fourth wall to the other. Sometimes he plops down on the couch next to you and starts eating your cheetoes. And he/she/it/disembodied-narrator-voice isn’t even part of the story. Chats all over the place in a familiar storytelling manner as if he was someone involved, someone there, but he’s (I’ll settle on the masculine pronoun) not. He’s just a voice. It comes off like some dude, maybe your bartender, telling you this really long yarn about a couple of nut-jobs living out a trippy mashup of Gilligan’s Isle and Castaway…

And it works beautifully!

Monkey Business is pure, cut-loose fun. Any lessons about life, love and how to be are purely coincidental. (But present all the same.)

The story is a buddy adventure about two guys trying to escape a tropical island. It’s also about angry monkeys, indigenous dudebros, the fragile, shifting borders of reality and exploding fish. It kicks off in the aftermath of a failed attempt at escape. The most recent of several. No appendages were lost in this failure, and the protagonists’ frustration has an accepting, fatalistic edge. The protagonists are longtime friends, caught on this island for some time, but the author deftly skips all the backstory and jumps us right into that special kind of humor born from watching other peoples’ pain and ineptitude. Exposition creeps in naturally… along with the monkeys. This is a big plus for me, as massive expository blobs make me want to fling massive excretory? blobs.

What really stuck with me with this story was its frenetic edge-of-reality scenes. If you’ve ever seen the psychadelic trip-scenes from Simpsons and Futurama – yeah, Monkey Business has parts like that, just as vivid, scenes that burst like a vomiting kaleidoscope inside my brain. The characters blur across the ragged edge of sanity as the world gets weirder and weirder around them, as if some ancient disgruntled god (probably that asshole narrator) is absently messing with them. The slippage of reality works beautifully to pull you in and keep you reading as the story gains more of a fantastical flavor. By the end of it Monkey Business has the feel of an American tall tale, with mundane reality shoved off into the wings to make room for a good story – Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Big Fish, Monkey Business.

Happy reading.

Or, As Pratchett might have written:

Oook.

.

.

.

I know, I know! The Librarian was a great ape, not a monkey. Cut me some slack!

The world of Beneath White Clouds

A broad overview of the history and split-world setting of my next novel.


Let’s wobble a bit into the future.

Humankind managed not to wreck the planet. (Yayyyy us!) But only because Mother Nature’s never-ending cosmic snooker game got the best of us first. Yep. Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi hit the snooze button, and the big rock hit us. Ben Afflek tried on his own but, you know… Ben Afflek. Poor Dude. Icing on the cake; the asteroid was mostly radioactive garbage, so the whole world got dirty-bombed.

Bogus.

***Let me interrupt myself for a minute. This whole scenario may not be feasible. If current astronomical science doesn’t support the notion of big balls of radioactive junk flinging around the universe, then I invite Neil deGrasse Tyson to write a foreward for this book. That’d be dope.***

So back to the story. We did not have the time or means to evacuate the planet before Fenrir hit. Not enough fuel for that many rockets, not enough time to prepare places to live on other worlds.

But one pioneering dude had managed to master kinetic-field manipulation enough to levitate large objects into the stratosphere. (He was great at parties.) Decades before Fenrir the Asteroid’s approach, his invention allowed for the development of luxorious levitating condos in the sky. That was the model the world followed when it came time to build shelters for the world’s population.

The doom and gloom that killed all the dinos off with seasonal affective disorder (ok, and freezing, too) was all below the clouds. But the particulates that make up clouds stay mostly down in the troposphere. So, instead of building our survival bunkers way underground, everyone got to move here:

Sweet digs, right?

Meanwhile, all our fusion plants, heavy industry and sealed hydroponics facilities are down on the ground, run by robots. In the world of Beneath White Clouds the dynamic is clear to every single surviving human on Earth: people live in the sky. Below the clouds is a hell of radioactive frozen grit and heavy industrial pollution. Nobody goes there.

(But, man, let me tell you! Got some ppphhhheeeeenomenal deals on timeshares down here!)

So it’s a balanced system. Humans above. Robots below. Say it with me now: What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Back to Beneath White Clouds