Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chemically Tuned to a Minor Key

So, that's a week between posts. Nothing shocking about that, is there?

Things are getting better. One of the things that keeps me going is that I recognize that most of my down times are either the direct result of, or exacerbated by, my natural chemical imbalance. I'm tuned to a minor key. No fun, but it's a good thing to know. So no matter how down it gets, I know that time will, uh. Get it up. And I realize how bad that sentence sounds, but by God there's no going back.

Point is, yesterday was a good day, and if not for work today would be going pretty well, too.

There's going to be a little chaos here while I get moved into the new house and establish my office. I got a new standing desk, which is an experiment I've been looking forward to. I pace when I write, and all this standing and sitting and then getting stuck so I have to disentangle and walk some more and then go a couple rounds with the heavy bag and then sit again... it sucks. So I'm looking forward to standing while I write.

Little things, man. It's the little things that make it good.

Anyway. I hope your lives are going well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Driving means I can carry more books home

After a great deal of consideration and not a little drama, I've decided to attend World Fantasy in Columbus this year. Membership and hotel room were purchased last night. It's going to be about a 6.5 hour drive, I'm guessing.

I did this mostly because I'm in terrible need of socialization. I miss my people. I sort of despair of ever having people I can just hang out with locally, both because my prospects are poor and because I'm kind of terrible at that. Also, The Horns of Ruin will be just about to drop, and I'm kind of excited about that. This will be a fine kick off for the release.

So anyway. See you in Ohio.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bottom line numbers.

I said I wasn't going to complain about work on here anymore, but come on. Come on! Don't tell me you actually believed that. Goof.

I want to unpack (corporate talk!) something that happened last week. I was having a terrible week for a variety of reasons ranging from the personal to the corporate to the authorial, so it was better that I didn't just lash out a post at the time. I'm still a little furious about this, so I think you'll get the idea.

We have this internal system for timekeeping. It's essentially a database, where you log your time and assign it to a job and a task associated with that job. I have to keep a pad of paper to track my time by task and then input yesterday's time at the beginning of every day. I assume something like this is common in the corporate world.

Theoretically, this is used to keep track of how long tasks are taking and to find inefficiencies in the system. For example, there are certain client teams who make their jobs incredibly complex. Most jobs take me about two hours, but these teams consistently clock their jobs at six to eight hours. Or if there are mistakes on the front end of a job that cause it to be redone over and over again, that should be reflected in this system. We're told that it gets used to improve our performance and hammer out bad systems.


What actually happens is that the boss gets a bottom line report of how many hours we've worked each week, and how many we (as individuals and departments) average per week, and then uses that number to berate us for working too few hours. They don't care if our work gets done, or if we're meeting all of our corporate obligations. They only care about the hours. It's silly, but absolutely typical for the corporate environment.

In fact, they just re-issued the employee handbook, and the only difference any of us have been able to find is a little sentence that states that full-time employees are expected to work 40-65 hours/week. And that's illegal in the state of Illinois (God bless ye, merry Wobblies) so I won't be signing this document.

Anyway. Everything is ridiculous. I'll continue doing my job well, and putting in whatever hours that requires. And if that's too few hours, then they can stuff it. Stuff. It.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seven months. That was a long time.

This has been a terrible week, for none of the normal reasons. Leave it to me to find new ways to be internally miserable. I'm amazing. But these things, along with many other things, have really been interfering with my ability to write. I can't tell you how many times I've sat down at the table and just...come up blank. For example, this was originally going to be an exercise post. Just a bit of description, maybe a scene. I got nothing. I've saved and edited and written and resaved this post about a dozen times now. It's not working.

I'm hoping that once the house is settled and I've got an established place to work, things will sort out. But that's a month away, and there are deadlines. I have to start being realistic about my abilities. For a long time I've been trying to really push myself on this book, and it's just not going to happen. Need to settle into something I can actually do. Be realistic.

Okay. Another grim post. This is why people flee from me.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Is it for "Reading Nook" or "New Book"?

So for Christmas last year my wife (surprise) got me a Nook from B&N. I wasn't planning on doing the e-book thing until the market had shaken out some, but I was pleasantly surprised. That was eight months ago, and I've used the device extensively in that time, so I thought I'd do a little sum-up/review/rumination thing. That's right. This post will have actual content. Amazing.

First, I'd like to talk a little about ebooks in general. I'm a big fan of the format. I'm in the process of moving, and I gave away something like fifteen boxes of books and still had to move another fifteen. It's ridiculous. I'm at the stage of trying to reduce the baggage in my life, and this is some pretty bulky baggage. Having a single item that could be my entire library? Awesome.

Also, I like being able to just buy a book wherever I am. I have no patience for bad books, so a great number of those books that I gave away were things that I only read half of before I lost patience and threw it (quite violently, on occassion) to start another. Being able to browse, buy and download a new book while sitting in my living room is all kinds of wonderful. Oh, and I can download samples, so maybe I buy fewer books that I'm just going to end up hating. My record on that isn't so good so far. But the theory is good.

The only bad thing I'm going to say about ebooks in general is that they're a single use device. I don't remember where I saw it, but someone pointed out that we used to have standalone word processors. Kind of a transition between typewriters and computers. I think ebooks, ultimately, are a transitory form of the ebook between paper and... something else. Maybe the iPad, or something similar. But I don't think this market is settled yet.

As to the Nook specifically, I experienced a lot of the stuff that you've heard about. Slow page turn. Awkward and counter-logical user interface. I had some network issues. It was definitely rushed to market, but that's all behind us. There have been several software updates, and I think the page thing is mostly hashed out. Download speeds have definitely improved. They've implemented a page turning feature with the touchscreen that lets you flick from page to page. It's not perfect. If you do it too slowly, nothing happens. Too fast, nothing happens. If you don't drag your finger over enough of the screen, it opens up the menu instead of turning the page. It's touchy. I spend too much time thinking about how exactly I should strike the screen, and then end up using the button instead. Hopefully they'll work it out.

I'm not entirely convinced about the ability to browse covers. Postage stamp sized covers don't cut it. And even when I filter my search pretty tightly, I end up having to flip through hundreds of books, squinting at these tiny covers that don't really speak to the book that well. It's a nice idea, but I'm just not feeling it.

The other thing that annoys me is how hard it is to flip through a book. If there's a cast of characters or a map or something at the beginning of a book, it's really tough to stop and flip to that and then come back to where I was reading. Right now, that's a failing of the format, and the Nook's still awkward user interface.

Final thought about the format. I read books, and I read manga. I can read all the books I want on the Nook. Manga, I have to buy the real thing. This has me thinking about the iPad, and I'm sure my brothers in the comic books world think the same thing. That's something the Nook (and its e-ink brethren) will never be able to do. So there's that.

But understand. I've got a lot of complaints on here. I haven't bought a single physical book in the last six months. The technology is still figuring itself out, but we as an industry need to accept that this is how we're going forward. There's a lot of infrastructure in place to support the paper book market. It's all going away. Adjust your expectations, and advance.

*Edited to add* Joshua has noted that the whole "word processors were popular for a while, too" thing came from this article in the NYT. Read and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wordcount! Brought to you by caffeine and desperation

Okay, let's be honest. Progress is progress. I've spent a lot of time at the front end of this book dithering about how the plot is going to be formed, how it's going to differ from what I originally proposed (God) almost two years ago. The simple answer is that I submitted the second book in a series, and what I'm writing is the second book in a trilogy. Significantly different things. Plus I didn't want to handicap this book by requiring absolute knowledge of the first one. That's more stylistic than structural, but still. It required some thinking.

And then I remembered how I felt when I finished Heart of Veridon. Tired, sure. Ready for a break from the constant writing grind. But I was so comfortable in the voice and with the trickiness of plotting that particular kind of story that I remember thinking "I could just sit down and write another one of those right now. No problem."

And then two years passed.

But I've got that feeling again. I've put down 3300 words in the last two days. I've learned to stop questioning every decision I make in the plot, and just write. I can fix things later. God knows I did a pretty significant rework on HoV. Even The Horns of Ruin (first book of the upcoming Eva Forge thing) required some architectural work at the end. But right now? I'm writing. And it feels good.

Oh, and sometimes I complain about work on here. I'll do that again soon, but let me give you a brief idea. When I was a vendor for this company, I couldn't fathom some of the decisions they made. When it became clear that I had to jump from my last job (or a bridge. metaphorically, of course) and that this place was my best option, I convinced myself that all of that was probably just distortion from an outsider's view. And when I first started, well, there were a lot of things that pleased me. Most of them were things that stood in stark contrast to my last job, as in "people care about their work" and "each other".

Anyway. I was right the first time. This place is fucked.