Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Fun with Paper

31 January 2014

Paper is an iPad app from fiftythree.com and it’s pretty awesome. So when my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, for once I actually wanted the stylus designed to go with it, Pencil. It’s got extra features when used with the Paper app, but it’ll also work as a regular stylus.
Now, I can’t draw for crap (though I have resolved to learn to draw better), but I had a lot of fun making this little pic.
paper-drawing

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Writing Quality: Where I Aim

30 January 2014

When I posted this about self-publishing the other day, a friend messaged me and said, “I know you worked quite hard on it, but I really envy your writing ability.”
Even my close friends–hell, even my husband–don’t realize how hard I worked on it.
Let me put it this way: writing is a learnable skill.
My SATs weren’t stellar on the writing side. I got in the high-80s, percentile-wise. I’ve forgotten my exact scores. I had a decent but not outstanding vocabulary—the one thing I studied the hardest for SAT prep.
I don’t even remember how many times I took freshman comp. Without finding my transcripts, I want to say five times, and at least one of those times I probably got an F. Not because I sucked that badly, but because I “failed to drop.” I was working two jobs and I tended to get busy and miss things. For part of that time, I was too busy making sure power plants weren’t polluting and writing software to control them.
Because I started working as a developer while I was in high school, I didn’t go to college on the usual plan. I’d take a class here or there and wasn’t particularly worried about graduating or finishing.
Finally, I got a great freshman comp teacher. He’d sit outside by the lunch truck with me at a table and we’d jointly copyedit my work. Something finally clicked. I wound up with my second published piece then. I went on to quite a few publications over the next handful of years.
When it came time to gather up my paperwork for community college graduation many years later, I was closest in French, Economics, and Film. But, because any English degree, including Creative Writing, required far more literature classes than I’d taken, I wasn’t close to a degree in English.
No one was more surprised than I was when I finally went into an upper division program and I was closest to a degree in fiction writing. No one. But, over a period of years, I’d taken various writing classes and fiction writing classes, and poetry classes, and more fiction classes–and it added up.
I applied to Clarion, but didn’t get in, though I did get into Odyssey, so I did that.
Then I got my M.S. in Computer Science, then I wanted an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I wound up at Seton Hill in an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction program, so I wound up with two master’s degrees. I call them “left brain” and “right brain.”
In the middle of my M.A., I got into Clarion and did that. Stupidest. Juxtaposition. Ever.
Since Clarion, I’ve done Viable Paradise twice and Milford once. I haven’t even mentioned all the conferences, volunteering for conferences, workshopping, etc. that I’ve done. Let’s just not. Now, I’m not saying that you should do this. At all. It was what I needed to develop the skill I have.
What I can say is this: If I can do it from where I was, you can do it—but only if you really, really want to.
I really believe that what you put out there should be your best effort. It doesn’t have to be a serious work, but it should involve a serious concern for craft.
So when Wendig gets reactions like the one he posted in this followup thread,, I sigh right there along with him.
“Creativity” without control is the difference between a tornado and a jet engine.
Good writing requires control. Mediocrity does not. But then, neither does a tornado.
Me? I’ll go for the jet engines. So far, they’ve gotten me there. Every. Time.
Now, what you write is what you write, whether it be high-falutin’ or not. There were aspects of The Hangover that were way, way smarter than that movie needed to be. Same with Sharknado. Because there was that extra layer to both films, they delivered more than they promised, and I enjoyed them. More than once.
And that’s all Wendig’s asking. Don’t be almost adequate for the genre you’re writing in. Go that extra bit.
Instead? Go for memorable.

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A Few Book Covers

28 January 2014

Things coming out Real Soon Now, in probable release order.

Coffee & Canopy

Coffee & Canopy is a forthcoming book about our experiences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Monkeys! Crocodiles! Bats! Venomous sea snakes! Volcanoes! Cover photo is one I took of Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano.

The “travel diary” series will be novella length, have selected color photos (as well as the occasional black and white), and will be digital only. I’ll also have PDF as a format option for this series. Price will be $2.99.

So You Want to Travel the World

Would you like to travel more? See the world? Get discouraged by how many things there are to do and see? So You Want to Travel the World will help you divide and conquer the problems so you can get more of your travel goals accomplished. The cover photo was one I took in Venice, Italy in December, 2011.

This book will be in both digital and print. Pricing will depend upon final size, so I’m waiting to announce that.

Deep Pacific

Deep Pacific will chronicle our journey from San Francisco to Valparaiso, Chile to Easter Island, Pitcairn, Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and finally back to San Francisco. The cover photo is one I took on Easter Island.

This is also a digital-only member of the “travel diary” series. Price will be $2.99.

For more titles coming out later in the year, see my home page.

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Some Traffic Analysis Around the House

28 January 2014

One week number of http hits: 75,233
Number of those that are from bots: 30,406
(using the extremely scientific method of matching a regex of “bot”)
Number of the bot hits that are in the pipermail (mailman) directory: 10,592

In other words, 1/7 of this one computer’s web bandwidth is being used for bots to crawl mailing lists each week.

To which I say: really? Seriously?

You have all the freakin’ bandwidth in the world (we do not), and that’s how you use it? To see if a post from 2005 has changed? (one of the requested URLs is: /pipermail/conspire/2005-August/001382.html)

Are you freaking mental?

What the hell does that tell you this week that it did not last week?

Anyone want to guess who the biggest offender is?

Anyone?

Bueller?

sudo grep pipermail.*Googlebot /var/log/apache2/access.log.1 | wc -l

6,787 hits (a little less than half the total hits from said bot, fwiw)

For a handful of lists that each have, at most, a handful of posts each week.

How many Ph.D.s do you have working there?

And they haven’t figured this out yet?

And you pay them how much?

Well, okay, less than you would have had not CEOs conspired to suppress engineering salaries. Thanks, guys. Thanks a fucking lot.

Still.

That’s almost 10% of the hits of this web server last week. For nothing of any credible gain.

And yeah, I can (and will) use a robots.txt, but I shouldn’t have to to say not to waste bandwidth for a thousand hits a day on ancient history that isn’t mutable. Spot checking would be far saner.

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Self-Publishing and Quality

27 January 2014

Chuck Wendig has a great post out: Self-Publishing Is Not the Minor Leagues

I have to admit something: I’ve only ever submitted fiction to a semi-pro market once.

The letter I got wasn’t a rejection, it was more “You misread the guidelines, but if you do A, B, and C, I’ll publish it.” Though I don’t think the publisher figured out that I’d misread the guidelines. I wrote a near miss story despite that.

I withdrew the story, because what they wanted wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.

It’s a good thing I did withdraw, because the story happened to have an unfortunate trope in it, and now I can cringe at the Bad Trope in the drawer and not be embarrassed every time someone calls me out on it. Some day, I may pull the stuff I like out of that story and evict the Bad Trope.

In all other cases, I held my stories until I thought they could go to a pro market, and basically wasn’t going to go to semi-pro markets until I was selling more consistently to pro markets.

It really only was for the reason of wanting to avoid the obvious stupid mistakes. I figured I’d probably learn something by then, and there might be more pro markets–or at least some different editors at the same pro markets. I’ve avoided having a lot of stupid stuff published because I haven’t bothered digging down to the “Bazooka Cannibals in Space” tier of possibilities.

I’m at the stage of personal rejection letters, which is a nice place to be, but it hasn’t been translating into sales. That is likely more a function of my paucity of submissions.

On the other hand, because I am really selective about submissions, I can say that “A Sword Called Rhonda” sold both the first and second time I submitted it anywhere.

So you can imagine how I felt, given that I’ve just confessed to basically being an obsessive perfectionist, when I was at a NaNoWriMo meeting and someone said they wanted to self-publish their book because they “didn’t want to do all that extra work readying it for market.”

You’ll be very proud of me: I did not leap over the table at the pizza place with an editorial pen of my own devising.

Meanwhile, for a book I’m planning to come out with later in the year that’ll be both in paper and e-book form, I realized that Pages wasn’t going to cut it, and it was driving me crazy anyways. Pages does allow you to save to EPUB, but the book templates are really only designed for PDF books, and no one’s making ones for common trade sizes.

Which leaves InDesign, and I have forgotten so much about using production aspects of PageMaker/InDesign it’s not even funny. Back in the day when I worked at agencies in between contract programming gigs, I would frequently wind up at a specific ad agency doing page layout. I’ve always enjoyed it.

I’ve continued doing it over the years, but some of the advances in book publishing in InDesign were features I’d never learned. I’m not going to argue that it’s brain surgery, but it takes a non-zero amount of time to pick up.

There’s also a lot of frustration to it. Like, say you want a PDF version of your book. Your main book design has spreads so you can have odd/even pages (because odd/even headers are A Thing). By default, that means you can’t make an interactive PDF (with live links) that doesn’t have spreads.

Honestly, if you think editing your book is all that complicated, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. There’s a lot to it, and it’ll show if you don’t respect that–and I’m not just talking typos or grammar.

For the same reasons, I’m delaying production of a couple of other titles by a bit until I can finish up the conversion to InDesign. In one case, I got pretty close to final draft before realizing I was barking up the wrong toolchain.

So that will be fun.

On the other hand, I’ll have lots more experience with current multi-document production in InDesign, and that could come in handy.

One never knows.

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Travel Annoyances

26 January 2014

  1. Losing your favorite t-shirt
  2. Trying to sleep in coach on a redeye
  3. Periods of no internet
  4. Realizing you forgot the cortisone cream (because you got bitten by a mosquito)
  5. Time zone lag—trying to change 7 time zones in 12 days confuses bodies (I don’t normally wake up at 4:30 or 6:30 in the morning)
  6. The eternal conversations about gluten-free
  7. Trying to find gluten-free, coconut-free food—in Polynesia
  8. Missing the kitty (but occasionally finding volunteer kitties)
  9. Water water everywhere (but not a drop to drink)
  10. Jet. Lag.

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Strange Times

24 January 2014

I can relate to more of this article, originally a study about the underlying history of obese people, than I can easily express.

I don’t have a typical build. This has been annoying for most of my life in some weird ways, especially in interactions with men and doctors.

For example, being told, within the same month, by my doctor that I was anorexic (and needed to gain weight) and the Navy that I was overweight (and if I wanted to join, I’d have to lose 17 pounds).

What I took away from that was that weight was confusing. If I felt okay, I was okay, right?

Catch is, of course, that I no longer feel okay. Weight is a part of the problem.

As mentioned in the article, a lot of kinds of harassment (by men) stopped when I reached a certain weight threshold. I stopped getting catcalled. I stopped having men tell me what mood I should be in. It was a relief. It was something I had control over.

Because “beauty” was no longer apparently a primary factor, I started being taken seriously for my technical skills. I still remember the first time I met a pretty woman who wanted to be an engineer. And I wondered why she wanted to become an engineer. Now, I wouldn’t wonder, but it was odd back then. I’d known so few female engineers, and none in the field she was interested in (mechanical). Now I wish I’d taken the time to learn more from her.

Then, a few years later, I got a serious marriage proposal from an on-again, off-again relationship I had. Unfortunately, it had strings attached: if I were of a “normal weight.” We went out to dinner (there’s some irony I never saw before, heh) so I could tell him no.

He still thinks that phrasing was a big mistake in his life, but there was a lot more to it than that. We just weren’t a good enough fit overall. It’s one of those relationships where his experience of who we were and mine were miles apart.

There were also downsides to the weight, of course. Like the guy you have a crush on who overlooks you, and you feel that weight is a significant factor. And you tell yourself, “What an ass,” but part of you wonders if you hadn’t been, well, you, if it would have turned out differently. And you hurt.

Despite what I was told, though, fewer men have a problem with it than I’d been led to expect. A lot of the “rules” about how women “should” behave stem from a time when many men were killed during wartime and there was a serious long-term disparity between available men and available women.

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How I Came to Be a Mac Person

24 January 2014

I never owned an Apple ][, but I did own an Apple ///. And yeah, the numbering really was like that.

I didn’t immediately take to the Mac. It was different in weird ways, and I was mostly working on CP/M systems at the time.

In January 1985, the year after the Mac was released, I went in to look at buying a DOS system for work-related reasons, and I had to wait almost an hour for a sales guy. I decided I was going to amuse myself with the store’s Macintosh.

One of the things I’d had to do in the past was engineering drawings (of things like circuit boards). On DOS. (Edit: not just DOS. One of the apps we used was actually on the Apple ///, now that I think about it.) Without square pixels.

Ten minutes with MacPaint and I was sold. Square pixels! How revolutionary. I walked out of the store without the Mac, but with the resolution that I was going to have to figure out how to buy one. Not much later, I bought a used Mac+.

Since then, I’ve never owned a DOS machine — or a Windows machine. I’ve owned a few Linux devices, including some weird ones (like a Corel Netwinder), but basically I’ve been a MacOS person at all other points in the last 30 years.

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