August to-do list results

August 31, 2011

Well, August is really almost up now, so I guess it’s time to see how I did on some of the goals that I set myself 31 days ago:

  • Revising “The Way Back Home” – partially complete. This was one of those projects that turned out to be completely different than I thought. That’s mostly because of Lani and the Storywonk class – I had an epiphany or two and made some progress in figuring out what the book is supposed to be, maybe, but didn’t make as much tangible and measurable progress as I’d hoped.
  • Cleaning the apartment – partially complete. Tidying up the kitchen went well, but the living room table just sneered at my efforts. I’ll have to prepare much more carefully to tackle it again, hopefully before it actually begins to lurk in the middle of the room. (Yes, that’s a “Long dark tea-time of the soul” reference.)
  • Rewriting “How to talk to Earthlings” – DONE!
  • Submitting a story for publication – failed.
  • Writing a list-based smartphone app – DONE!
  • Continuing fanfic works in progress – Exceeded expectations, with 2 and a half chapters complete!
  • Posting old fanfic to – met quota!
  • Blogosphere participation stuff – exceeded quota!
  • Fan expo stuff – Done!

So – not too bad, all things considered. Didn’t achieve everything I wanted to, but I certainly kept busy.

Did you have a goals list for August? How did it work out?

Blogosphere spotlight: Cerebral Lunchbox

August 30, 2011

Hi guys. I’m winding down from Fan Expo and gearing up for Dragon*Con at the same time, so I’ll toss out a somewhat overdue blog spotlight for you to take a look at.

Cerebral Lunchbox is a place that I found looking through the blogroll over at Elizabeth Twist’s. It hasn’t been updated that much since the A to Z challenge back in April, but even those older posts make for great reading, and there’s a great piece up today listing the four best reasons to watch the new Doctor Who episode. Plus rambles and snack-sized pieces of information. Come on, admit it – your brain needs a snack!

Fan Expo ends with a LARP and a half!

August 29, 2011

It’s been well over 24 hours since I’ve been home now – didn’t post yesterday because I just felt worn out, but it was another great day, mostly full of LARP-ing. I did get Lexa Doig’s autograph and went to visit a writer friend in the gaming demo room, as well.

The first LARP I tried out was Shadow Realms. Because it was early in the day, and not very well publicized, there was only me and two sisters participating in the demo, and four members running it. I played a dark elf mage character, with a lot of complicated spells to try and memorize: “I cloud your mind to fumble!” …and a very weak-ass fire sword. There was a silly ice-breaker scene to get started with involving some kobolds in a sideshow run by a huckster, and then a more serious fight against goblins, which involved a lot of running around, throwing fumble spells, and then the goblins throwing their friends spare weapons and picking up the fumbled weapons when we couldn’t guard them anymore. But it was great. I’m sorry I didn’t think to have somebody take a picture of me in my blue wizard’s cloak.

The NERO Canada demo was much larger and more elaborate – I took a warrior class that time, who had two special one-use skills of parry and death blow, and the organized adventure had four different fight scenes – vine creatures in the forest, bats along a narrow cave ledge, (so the bats could fly in the open part of the room, but adventurers had to stay along the edges,) undead creatures summoned by standing on squared of a grid corridor, and a minotaur and living statues defending the villainess. I didn’t make that much account of myself with a sword, but our group outnumbered the monsters most of the time and were able to make use of that advantage even against powerful damage numbers.

One little tidbit of difference – with Shadow Realms, you shout your damage number with every swing, and with Nero, it’s only when you actually hit.

Once the Nero Canada demo wrapped up, I was ready to go home, so I checked for Eliza Dushku photos, (still not ready, hope it comes in the mail okay,) picked up my suitcase at the Fairmont luggage check, and headed over to Union Station.

And I got a Union Dairy Freeze: An ice cream headache brought on by buying a soft-serve cone and eating it all before boarding the next available bus.

Fan Expo day three update

August 27, 2011

Well, it was all about Eliza Dushku and Lost Girl, it turns out. Not that either has anything to do with the other beyond sharing my time today.

I was in line by 8:45 to get in, and so I arrived at the autograph booths close enough to ten AM to get the number 67 ticket. They’re using a new system of number tickets in addition to the lines for autographs this year, it seems – once the space allocated for the line is full, anyone else has to get a ticket, and they call a certain block of numbers that can come and join the line when there’s room. So once the easel said ‘up to 75’ next to Eliza’s line, I rushed forward to take my place. If you miss the call for your block, you can use your ticket to join the line later.

Got plenty of good stuff, both for myself and for a friend who’s also a big Eliza fan. Then it was up to the Lost Girl panel, which was really cool, because there was so much positive energy in the room – you could tell that the cast loved working on the series, and had a lot of fun together, and there was a huge turnout and everybody in the audience was excited, and the cast was thrilled to see that they had so many fans. After the screening, the cast had a special limited-time signing, so I got a bunch of signed mini-cards. Then it was time to quickly grab a pizza and head up to get my picture taken with Eliza at the ‘photo op.’

After I’d left the photo op room, things kinda got less eventful. The convention center was very crowded by that point in the afternoon; I went to one panel that I thought looked cool, but I was late and it was standing room only, so I didn’t stay. Then another event got cancelled, and I ended up sitting for about an hour and a half in the waiting line for Eliza’s question and answer session, which was pretty cool – I got a good seat and recorded some of it on my camera. And then a dinner shindig with the Toronto Firefly group to round out the day.

So it was a fun time, despite a lot of waiting around. But even the waiting time I put to good use – reading on the iPhone! I finished reading “Prisoner of Azkaban”, read Terry Pratchett’s “The Light Fantastic” through from beginning to end, and started on “The Rock Rats.” The battery went down more than halfway just from all of that reading!

PS: Since I see that somebody was searching for it, the autograph fee for Eliza Dushku was a bit on the pricey side – forty dollars a signature, and fifty for the photo op ticket.

Fan Expo continues: Friday memories.

August 26, 2011

Well, the lines and the crowds are back to a certain extent, but still not unmanageable.

I arrived around 9:30, and lost a little time trying to come in directly off the street instead of the south entrance, but still, wasn’t too far back in the entry line. Once I got inside and down to the main floor, I headed immediately for the Hayden Panettiere autograph line – only a few guys ahead of me, and neither a star or a handler in the booth, so I figured I’d wait around, hold a place in line and see if she’d arrive in twenty minutes or so, which she did, and she was quite nice as she signed my picture.

After that, I was also interested in getting an autograph from Lexa Doig of Andromeda, who was supposed to be around on Friday, but there was no sign of any life at her booth and nobody else waiting, so I went browsing through the vendors and checking back every so often, depleted most of the contents of my wallet on Joss Whedon comic books and a Doctor Who companions guide.

It turned out that Lexa had a flight delay and won’t be in Toronto until tomorrow – I found that out about five minutes after her Q&A was about to start. But at noon I headed up to check out a few panels – combining different worlds in writing, writing young fantasy, (which I left early to grab a slice of pizza,) and a presentation for a web series about girls in gaming, Pretty in Geek.

I had a little time to kill wandering around the sales floor again, wishing I had brought more money from the hotel, and then it was time for the Serenity RPG session, which was a lot of fun, we had a good crowd of players, the same great GM that I played with last year, and a storyline with flying a passenger and crate to Sihnon, then trying to track down the passenger for his ‘boss’ when he goes missing. I was the captain.

And despite an initially missed connections, I managed to meet up with two local writers after the con, and we ended up talking about pushing each other towards our goals and critiques over the loud music in a sports bar.

This has really been a great day. And tomorrow I’ll be meeting Eliza Dushku! (Weather and airplanes permitting.)

Fan Expo 2011 impressions – day one.

August 25, 2011

So I’ve been to Fan Expo for the afternoon, and the first thing that struck me was how much more orderly it was than last year – possibly just on account of it being Thursday, and nobody being around, but still, I was expecting to wait in line for a while with my wristband for a while before being let in at four o’clock. Instead, the people who’d got their armbands delivered were just about put on the greased skids until they got to the sales floor entryway, which suggests to me that the convention actually opened a little bit earlier than it was supposed to. Not that I’m complaining.

I had a lot of fun playing a D&D 4th edition low level adventure, (though the rules were kinda confusing me,) and got one email address in the speed dating – that I can’t entirely decipher. 😦 Oh well, quite possibly it was from one of the girls who I carefully left my cell phone number with, and maybe she’ll get in touch with me.

I also scouted out the sales floor and the signature line spots, and made my first purchases of the weekend – a little hardcover copy of “Doctor Who: The Glamour Chase” and a Doctor Who sound effects key fob.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the convention, and planning to be smart and careful when it comes to the potential for crowds and lines. I signed up for another gaming session, for the Serenity RPG tomorrow, and I’m interested in doing the introduction to LARPing on Sunday. That’ll leave all of Saturday free for signature lines, Q&A’s, and other panels.


Lookit all I’ve been reading lately!

August 24, 2011

So, I told you last week about how I was joining the Consistent Reader’s club and reading from new-to-me books for at least 15 minutes every day. I thought I’d touch base to let you know how well that’s been working out!

I’ve kept up with the program, and often read a lot more than that per day. I haven’t read any books through from start to finish, but I’ve finished two, started one, and loved a lot of what I’ve been reading:

  • Finished ‘Mixed Magics’ by Diana Wynne Jones, a collection of short stories connected to the Chrestomanci series, which I got for my birthday last year and read a story and a half from around the spring. This was really fun stuff – there’s a great adventure bringing Eric Chant from ‘A Charmed Life/The Pinhoe Egg’ together with Tonino Montana from ‘The Magicians of Caprona’, and also including callbacks to characters and history from “The Lives of Christopher Chant.” I also read a fun dreaming story involving the daughter of one of the minor characters from “Lives of Christopher Chant”, and a little fable about overly organized gods that Chrestomanci has to help untangle.
  • Finished: Flatlander, (the short story collection) by Larry Niven. The last story, the Woman in Del Rey crater, was really good, and there was an afterword in which Larry comments on how he wishes he could write more Gil Hamilton stories, but mixing science fiction with the mystery genre is harder than it might look.
  • Started: King Kelson’s bride, by Katherine Kurtz. Actually, I’ve skimmed through this ebook before, at least, but wanted to start from the beginning because I couldn’t remember much of the plot.
  • Continued: The Gripping Hand, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I’ve been reading this on and off ever since I got it with some other books using Christmas money. I brought it with me to Kansas, and didn’t read much from it until I lost ‘Prisoner of Azkaban.’ It’s fun stuff, a worthy sequel to “The Mote in God’s Eye”, which I really liked. Horace Bury hasn’t managed to scheme his way to get to the Mote Blockade yet, though I know he’s going to go soon.
  • Continued: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Didn’t read much from this, just found my place in the ebook where I stopped reading from the paperback copy before I lost it in the Cleveland airport.

So, have you read anything interesting lately?

Guest Post: Three Proven Job-Hunting Tips

August 23, 2011

Greetings readers!

Once again, my name is Mark Allen and once again, I’m writing in the place of Chris on this particular entry while waiting for him to get back from helping the strange man who had some sort of problem with his mysteriously appearing Blue Police Box which has now mysteriously disappeared with both of them inside!

Normally I be a bit worried, but after our last involvement with time travel which landed us both smack in middle of the infamous Noodle Incident (‘nough said) I took the liberty of planting a 5 dimensional tracking device on Chris so I know he’s fine…Sort of…Well, aside from the invisible Yetis that are currently hunting him!

But in the meantime, while Chris is out gallivanting throughout space and time having fantastic adventures some of us remain stuck at work (not that we are in any ways bitter about that of course) and the blog must go on!

Speaking of work, this lends itself to an interesting topic as I’m pleased to say that after doing a lot of consulting and on call work for IT Infrastructure I was just recently hired after a long and arduous job in an engineering capacity for a major IT network security technologies firm!

Although I realize this is probably a case of too little, too late, in order to try to avoid sounding like this whole post is me blowing my own trumpet, I thought it might be nice to offer a few helpful tips  that I learned this time around during my journey to my next employment opportunity!

Oh, and if I sound slightly condescending, don’t worry, it’s just a side effect of excessive UNIX use to help cleanse myself from my Windows infested surroundings!

Now odds are, most/a lot of you are not Engineers, so as a result I think we’re safe to skip the really basic stuff as I’m making the assumption that you have enough social skills to be able to be considered functionally social, unlike me, for whom even a purely superficial appearance of normality is simply not a realistic goal in the workplace and by extension, life in general!

Hence there are three major tips that I can offer when pursuing a job in today’s abysmal economy: Read the rest of this entry »

Make It So! A Star Trek Blogfest

August 22, 2011

Yay! It’s finally Star Trek Blogfest day.

Sorry I didn’t post earlier, had a lot of running around to do – where’s the transporter room when you really need one? But I’m ready to share my favorites now, and then I’ll do the rounds as soon as I can get the warp drive up and humming.

My five favorite installments of Star Trek:

Original Series: Mirror, Mirror. The original mirror universe storyline in Star Trek – always fun and memorable.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Best of the movies, in my opinion, and the best ‘contemporary time travel’ story that’s even been told in the Trek franchise. The bit in the setup about the search for whales sounds a little corny when you try to explain it to somebody who’s never seen the movie, but it always worked for me when I was watching, and the story knows how and when to be funny, and when to be more serious. Catherine Hicks turns in a great supporting performance as Dr Gillian Taylor.

The Next Generation: Remember me. Another installment that shows how Trek can bring the funny. I’m not a huge Doctor Crusher fan, but she pulls off this episode quite well, including the sense of surrealism when Jean-Luc is the only one left and sees absolutely nothing unusual about the idea of the two of them warping around the galaxy in this giant starship, and of course the discussions with the computer. The twist to the episode’s puzzle is a nice one as well, with Crusher worrying about where everybody else in her life is disappearing to – only to realize at the end that she’s the one who’s dropped out of everybody else’s world.

Deep Space Nine: Call to Arms. This was the first episode that I knew had to make the list – one of my favorite episodes of television ever. From the first subtle foreshadowings of the Federation ‘losing the peace’, Sisko telling the Bajorans to sign a pact with the Dominion because the Federation can’t protect them, through the desperate last stand to protect the Defiant long enough to seal the minefield, the Federation abandoning the station to be re-taken by Cardassians, and Sisko blowing up Ops – it has all the elements you need for epic drama, and it delivers on that. There’s even a god living amongst mortals – at least, that’s how the Dominion see him.

Read the rest of this entry »

Novel revision: Structure and conflict

August 21, 2011

Well, I had my final class session for the Storywonk revision class this afternoon, and overall the class wasn’t really what I was expecting.

I learned quite a lot, but I guess I thought that the manuscripts that I had were ready to the point where they just needed some fairly small changes made to them and they’d be ready to get queried.

Now, I don’t think that anymore. Most of the class wasn’t about the small-changes stuff, though Lani did cover that in ‘The paper edit’, which was today’s topic, actually.

But everything up to this point has been on more fundamental stuff – the structure of the book, the conflict, the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist, the role of the major supporting characters – and I’ve started to see that I have a lot of work to do here. I think I’m nearly finished rewriting the basic structure of “The way back home” to up the stakes of the conflict between Naveli and Merlik, but I’ll have a lot of rewriting to do to match things up to that structure.

Which in a way, should be exciting. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m terrified or just disappointed.

So, here’s the first part of my structure – what do you think, does it sound like a story that you’d want to read? Are the stakes high from the beginning? Do things keep on getting worse?

Opening scene: While having fun with her friends at the Royal Jubilee, Princess Naveli is taken prisoner by rebel agents, along with her pet ferret Ereyu, her friend and bodyguard Tuma – and her possibly-crush, the Lady Jenna.

Things get worse: At the rebel fortress, Naveli meets Merlik (change name?) the warlock who arranged for her capture. He scoffs at her references to ransom, and tortures Tuma and Jenna in front of her to try and break her spirit. Naveli tries to use magik to escape, but the rebels have taken precautions against the few elementary wind magik spells that she knows.

Read the rest of this entry »

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