Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #10

I did relatively well on my writing goals last week … until Thanksgiving hit, and everything went out the window. Whoops. I’ll be back on it this week though. I need to do a bit of plot-work on my current project since winging it isn’t going to work on a piece this long.

Obviously, this isn’t up on Saturday. Turns out it takes more time to make mashed potatoes from scratch than I thought. I should probably figure out how long it takes for me to make one of these too.

  • Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs by Leonard Richardson on Drabblecast. They normally don’t do full cast productions on Drabblecast, but it was totally necessary on this one and since they did full cast, everything was perfect. This is one of the funniest audio productions of all time, and if you dislike this episode, I’ll probably cry.
  • The Tinyman and Caroline by Sarah L. Edwards on PodCastle. Interesting concept, but the real catch is the characters. Also, fantasy dystopia? Quite shiny.
  • Infestation by Garth Nix on Escape Pod. Infestation is an actual Science Fiction vampire concept, and one that manages to avoid the biological virus trope. How does it do that? I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
  • Science News Update from November, 2009. There’s no clean way to link to the audio segment except to link directly to the mp3, and I’ll spare you finding out the hard way whether hot-linking works on their server. Just check the last content link on the page. This is a really fantastic science news thing. Podcast doesn’t seem to be quite the right word for it. These segments go on StarShipSofa, so if you already listen to that podcast, you’ve probably already heard the segment.
  • I Should Be Writing #130 LITE: Fear by Mur Lafferty. If you’re a writer and not familiar with Mur’s I Should Be Writing, get familiar. It’s a great podcast about the ins and outs of writing from the perspective of someone who has been a “wanna be” writer. This episode is about dealing with your own fear when writing. Excellent quote from J.C. Hutchins in this episode: “Done is better than perfect.”
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Shrink-Box

You couldn't fight the machine. Everyone told him so and he knew they were right, but he had to keep fighting anyway.

He had lead the machine to dead zones. The box stopped and didn't follow him, but in a few hours it had tracked him down again.

He'd tried several variations on that theme including a Faraday cage. If it hadn't come back with the same dents every time, he would have thought someone had deployed a new machine.

As it was, the familiar husk stared him down as it asked him the infuriating question. “How does that make you feel?”


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #9

I hit my 50K in NaNoWriMo! Woot. I was going to do a first pass edit on it right away and then drawer it for awhile. However, I may end up drawering it first. Helps to get perspective. We’ll see. I’m still going to be writing every day though.

  • PodCastle’s East of Chula Vista by Samantha Henderson. This one is a wee bit on the dark side. Combines elements of death anthropomorphization legends with modern immigration issues. May not be everyone’s taste.
  • Hypersonic Tales’ Herman Meant No Harm by Guy Belleranti. Though perhaps a bit predicable, it is still a fun little story.
  • Drabblecast’s Quantum P.I. by Igor Teper. Every Drabblecast is cast in solid platinum bits and blessed by the gods. Quantum P.I. is just my favorite of the stories on here. The drabble (one hundred word story) by Steve Lidster is quite awesome too.
  • Dunesteef’s The Strange Affair of the Artisan’s Heart by Joshua Reynolds. This one is for all my Steampunk loving folks. First Steampunk story ever done by Dunesteef, and some interesting alternate history concepts. The alt history ideas aren’t explored well, but that’s to be understood due to the length of the story.
  • Tee Morris and PJ Ballantine did a Steampunk story reading at the World Fantasy Con and released a recording of it on Tee’s site. The story is called Books and Braun, and is a prelude to a larger work. Possibly a novel.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tactical Delay

This week's Tactical Highlighter will be late. I had switched it from a Monday schedule to a Saturday schedule so it would be more useful for finding things to listen to on work commutes. If things go really well on my NaNo, I may have it up some time tomorrow. However, it will probably be at some point on Monday instead.

I try not to load the world up on excuses, but I've been sick most of the week. It's affected my writing, and it's affected my listening. So, rather than give you a crappy update, I'll put it off for a little while longer.

Hope you are all well, and have nice dreams about intelligent rats in London and saucy vampire slayers.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Walking

It had been six months before she realized her couch was sentient. It wasn't that she was insensitive to the needs of a burgeoning intelligence. The couch just wasn't very assertive. It had probably happened when a friend dropped beer near the circuit. They had gotten on fairly well since she made the discovery, though she really wished it would stop sleep walking.


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Monday, November 16, 2009

Black Maw

I wrote this one on January 26 of this year. I had planned on doing something with it since it ended with the triple tilde which used to mean “new section” in my notes. However, I didn’t leave myself any other info so this one isn’t going anywhere.

It should be written as General Relativity Horror, but I have no intention of re-writing it. Enjoy the appalling unevenness.

Oh, I forgot to mention, swearing disclaimer: There is swearing in this piece. Two words, I think? Same word both times. I'm not offended and I hope you aren't. But if you think you might be, you should skip this one.

Ancient Earther jazz played over the ship’s speakers. If she closed her eyes and ignored the metallic echo, she could almost imagine she was in some cold dark corner of that planet. Assuming there was such place on that giant golf course.

The distorted sound of an alarm quietly clashed with the music. Shit.

The flashing red light that went with the alarm meant trouble aft. She checked the sensors to make sure nothing was going to jump her ship, and pulled herself through the pit door. The gravity was turned off everywhere but the pit, her sack, and the engine room. She jumped out of the pit and went floating aft.

She could see a blackened mark on an instrument box. She pried it open with a screwdriver on her belt.

Two resistors and a capacitor had blown. It was primitive, but it was a critical part of a system that made sure the internal radiation didn’t rise much above the cosmic background radiation that permeated the entire universe. If she was lucky, it wouldn’t matter that it was gone. If she was unlucky, she’d be glowing in the dark.

She had replacement resistors and a soldering gun in the compartment, but she’d have to cannibalize the capacitor from something that mattered less than not getting radiation poisoning. She launched herself back toward the pit.

Beeping persisted in the pit. “Shut up already!”

“Oh, shit. You’re not the radiation sensor.”

Her ship was falling into a black maw. She was too far inside its grasp to pull out again. She turned the ship to face the maw and plunged straight in. There was no sense in waiting for time’s unending approach to zero to arrive.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #8

This has been a pretty crap week. If anyone has the mystical ability to spend a week in my shoes and was contemplating it, pick some other week. It’s been fairly productive though. I wrote 29,343 words in NaNoWriMo as of yesterday and should be at about 31.2K before the end of tonight. Go me!

Of course, if I ever start thinking too highly of my word count, I’ll remember Nathan Lowell had 44,800 as of yesterday. Gee whiz, dude. Way to make the rest of us look bad.

Anyway, welcome to this week’s episode of Tactical Highlighter. I felt like I did very little listening this week, but still managed to find enough shiny things that I haven’t included all of them. Save some room for dessert, folks.

  • PodCastle episode: The Small Door by Holly Phillips. This story has a lot of elements I really love, but it’s hard to talk about them without spoiling things. Let me just say it has an ambiguous ending, and things aren’t as they appear.
  • Drabblecast B-Side: Jeez Louise by Robert Scotellaro. You hear about the cheeto that looks like some saint or another, the Madonna on the back of a highway sign, or the toast that looks like Jesus? Amateur hour. This is just a wee bit bathroom-humor-esque so if that bothers you, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
  • Well Told Tales: The Gangster’s New Clothes by George Wilhite. Well Told Tales is a sort of DIY podcast that features a lot of noir and pulp stories with a science fiction element to them. This particular story has almost nothing to do with the old classic The Emperor’s New Clothes, but really shines as an example of something that combines noir and SF together. Plus, it’s a fantastic story.
  • P.G. Holyfield has been releasing a series of short stories related to his Murder at Avedon Hill story. The short stories are from a variety of writers and I think this week’s story is exceptionally awesome. It’s called The Old Gods and the Sea and was written by Patrick E. McLean. If you like fantasy or just plain enjoy good stories, you should check out Murder at Avedon Hill’s podcast. I’m not the hugest fan of Fantasy, and I absolutely loathe prologues. P.G. taught me a prologue doesn’t have to be boring and Sword & Sorcery fantasy can be thrilling. Of course, it’s not straight up Sword & Sorcery if that bothers you like it bothers me.
  • Symphony of Science created an auto-tuned song from Carl Sagan clips called A Glorious Dawn. The closest thing I can compare the feeling of listening to this song is spiritual ecstasy. You might not like it, but give it a try. They’ve made the MP3 available for free download if you enjoy the song as much as I do.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Ladybug

A ladybug winks at a guy in Berlin and Brachiosaurs get their wings.

Chaos theory? It makes beautiful things.


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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #7

NaNo is going fairly well. As of this writing, I’m at 15721 words and my Calc sheet shows my average per day at just above 2245. I haven't started writing for today so that's why the numbers may not add up.

Unfortunately, that pace throws off my listening because I don’t have as much capacity for listening to stories if I’m working hard on stories. It’s an emotional thing rather than a time issue. So, this week’s Tactical Highlighter is a bit light and it’s being posted later than I hoped. I had wanted to start posting these on Saturdays or early on Sundays to give people a bit more time before the work week to download the stuff I’m talking about. It’s looking like that won’t happen during November. We’ll see how things work out for December.

  • Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, Peanuts is one of my favorite comic strips, and Norm Sherman is one of my favorite podcasting voices. Too bad there’s nothing that combines those three things together! Oh, I’m a failure at being a tease. Here’s The Great Old Pumpkin by John Aegard. It’s definitely the best thing ever. I usually delete an episode of whatever I’m listening to right after I finished listening to it. For this one, I listened three times in one day, and I’m sure it won’t be deleted anytime soon. The introduction and outro are every bit as entertaining as the story and I laughed bunches.
  • Jennifer Hudock, author of the Goblin Market podcast, posted up a short story podcast based in the universe of James Melzer’s Invasion storyline. I’m not familiar with James Melzer’s work, but if Jennifer’s story is any indication, I’m sure it’s wonderful. Not appropriate for children, probably ok for most adults.
  • There’s another great Dead Robots Society interview up. It includes some talk about Scott Sigler’s book deal and where he sees the future of publishing, and some hints about a business plan Scott is using for his self-published books. I think Scott has a great idea and if you have an interest in self-publishing, you should definitely listen. DRS’s interview with Philippa Ballantine and Dan Sawyer (who wrote Cold Duty, a story I reviewed for Dear Editor) is also quite good, but it’s more entertaining than informative from a new media perspective. Ugh, I hate saying “new media” about as much as I hate saying “social media.” Someone needs to invent a name for it that doesn’t make you sound like a sleazy douche bag when you use it. Enough with the ramble though.
  • On the subject of Dan Sawyer, his second launchcast for Down From Ten is really good for writers. It’s been awhile since I wrote the note to myself to mention this, so I don’t remember the exact topic, but if you’re a writer, please listen in. I’m sure part three is excellent too, but I haven’t listened to it and part one was more entertaining than informative. Entertaining is good, but I generally stick to linking fiction for entertainingness.
    Bonus: Video
  • I love Pomplamoose's cover of Beat It. Amaaaaazing. I haven't heard the original, but it can't possibly be better than this.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Cheese

The Martians didn't mind the cows. Really. They were more annoyed when we took them away than when we'd left them there in the first place.

If we'd realized they were going to get on so well, we probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. As it was, wondering what they could find to talk about for endless hours had us a bit paranoid. Can you blame us?

The cows might know many secrets or harbor untold grudges!

There was no way of knowing how the cows felt about hamburgers and leather chaps, and, if they felt weren't fans, the Martians might respond poorly. Neither cow nor Martian was known for rigorous logical exercise.

Unfortunately, the Martian sense of humor decided Giraffe burgers were awesome, and that they should be made out of humans.

According to my sources, we taste good with barbecue sauce, but forget the cheese.


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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Triangle Transit for Complete Nubs

With a title like that, it’s only fair to explain that I am writing this article because when I was a Compete Nub in this area, I very much would have appreciated the opportunity to read this article or one like it. There’s a first time for everything, and if you can’t do adequate research because information just simply doesn’t exist, then being a nub isn’t your own fault.

This article is a supplement to the GoTriangle websites, not a substitute for reading what’s already there. Do your own research.

If you’ve already ridden on buses, this article will be pretty boring. If you spot any mistakes, let me know.

Park and Ride

Park and Ride is a pretty handy concept in an area like Raleigh. You literally drive your car to the Park and Ride you need and catch the next bus. Parking there is free.

I use the Sertoma Arts Center and unfortunately both the signs and the information available online is inaccurate for this site. The information on line will kind of get you to the right parking lot, but the signs themselves are horribly incorrect. You can’t take the Millbrook entrance to Shelley Lake to get to the Park and Ride. You have to go into the Sertoma Arts Center, take the first available left, drive to the second entrance, and drive all the way back. On your left hand side facing opposite the Sertoma entrance road, there’s a sign for the TTA 201 bus route. That’s the only route that picks up from that location.

Make sure you pay close attention to which bus routes serve what or you’ll likely end up stranded somewhere.

Stopping the Bus

Some buses (possibly all?) have certain stops where they only stop if it’s requested. Old buses have a nice cord to pull on. Raleigh’s newer buses have a different system that really isn’t that obvious. There are tiny little signs on either side of the front end of the bus to explain it, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t find it.

It’s a black, rubbery strip that runs along the length of the bus on the side of the top consoles. Press the button far enough in advance that the driver can easily stop in time. If you can estimate 500 feet, I’d try that distance.

Regional Pass

The 30 day regional pass is pretty nice. You can use every bus system in the area (except the Express Buses) with one low fee. The problem comes into play if you’re like me and can really only use a particular TTA route. If I was only using Raleigh buses, I could get a month long pass for 33 USD (after electronic handling fee). However, there is no discount for only using TTA buses. It costs me 65 USD (after fees) for 30 days of regional pass.

One of the awesome things about transit in this area is that you can order the tickets online and they’ll be mailed in 1-2 business days. I’ve looked into public transportation in other regions, and this sort of turn around time seems to be a rare exception. Other places may make you wait as many as three weeks. I ordered mine Sunday, and I was out of town so I don’t know what day they came in. However, they were post marked for Monday, so they probably arrived Tuesday. Super shiny.

The 30 days on this regional pass starts on the first day you use it. You could order yours today and not use until two weeks from now and your 30 days would count from the date two weeks from now, not from now. When you put your card in for the first time, the machine will print the start date and end date on the back of it.

The website says to swipe your regional pass through the swipe thing. In my experience, the swipe thing doesn’t work for that and you can just put your card into the fare card slot.

Buying Tickets On The Bus

There’s decent information on GoTriangle about buying your tickets on the bus. The only thing I have to add is that the bus uses a vending machine cash reader. If the soda machine won’t take your cash, I doubt the bus will. Bring pretty paper or buy ahead of time.


The Triangle Transit sites all say that you should arrive 10 minutes early. That’s probably a good idea in general. North Carolinians seem to count “five minutes late” as “just about on time.” There’s a time and a place for that, but the bus driver doesn’t know you’re just two minutes away. He or she only knows you’re not there, and he or she is going to drive off.

That said, once you understand how punctuality works in a world based on accurate clocks, you’ll probably notice your bus is 4-6 minutes late every time. I’ve never seen a bus in Raleigh arrive early. If you have actually seen the bus sign and you can arrive at a specific time, then five minutes early is probably good enough.

Other Stuff

Oddly, the best way to get answers about things that their sites don’t cover is to ask on their Facebook page. I got answers to my questions within 24 hours. I will warn you that the answers were somewhat incomplete, but you also get a chance to see what other people have been asking about. I used some of the information that other people had received in order to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge. A lot of that ended up here.

Previous Post in Series: Thoughts About Public Transit

P.S. Did you know that you can hire me to make lousy graphics like those above for a mere 60,000/yr USD? Well-written guides like this come free with the deal!

In all seriousness, though, sorry about the graphics. I tried.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #6

I'm thinking about having these release on Saturday or Sunday instead of Monday because I figure if you listen to podcasts during your commute, you probably load up your player before 6AM Monday morning. Thoughts? Leave them in the comments or send me a tweet.

It’s been a long week, but I have finally figured out the bus! I ran into some hitches that I wasn’t expecting, but that’s actually going to make my eventual post about RTP transit that much more informative. But I’m sure that’s not what you’re here for. Lots of good stuff this week. Enjoy!

  • Christiana Ellis and, briefly, Mur Lafferty discuss SF&F from a female perspective in a pretty awesome episode of the Dead Robots Society. It’s actually inspired me to finally read Twilight so that I can do a proper feminist critique of it. So, that may not be such a great thing overall. Whoops.
  • Gabrielle Harbowy did an interview with P.G. Holyfield which was divided into two pieces. Gabrielle is one of the main editors for Dragon Moon Press, a small but growing independent press. The interview is not about the press, however. It’s all about the process of editing and submitting. If you’re a writer, this is an invaluable interview. It takes up about an hour and a half. It made me sad though. Apparently, ‘alright,’ ‘towards,’ and ‘nevermind’ are UK conventions and should be replaced with ‘all right,’ ‘toward,’ and ‘never mind’ in the US. Weak. Sauce. Not her fault, them’s the breaks.
  • Escape Pod episode 221: Little Ambushes by Joanne Merriam. This is short, very sweet, and gives an incredible perspective on art and human life. Plus carnivorous squirrels! If that sounds disturbing, don’t worry, they’re only mentioned.
  • PodCastle episode The Curandero and the Swede: A Tale from the 1001 American Nights by Daniel Abraham. I actually read this in the March 2009 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was really delighted to hear it read for PodCastle.
  • Drabblecast 134: Bone Sigh by Tim Pratt. This one is really disturbing, but really awesome. Norm Sherman classifies it as horror. It’s not Saw or anything like that. Tim’s character is truly disturbing, but at the same time incredibly sympathetic. Not for kiddies!
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

November: The Plan

For any one paying close attention, I blogged the place up in October. An average of .5 posts per day.

November is going to be a bit quieter than that. I’m participating in NaNo again this year. Some things will continue as planned. The Bedtime Stories for the ADD have already been written, and I’ll probably keep listening to podcasts during November so Tactical Highlighter should also continue on track.

The random essays will probably not happen so much. My “Triangle Buses for Nubs” essay has already been written (just needs illustrating) so it will show up on Tuesday … with or without illustrations.

I’ll probably post a few status updates for NaNo, but I won’t be posting a daily word count. I sincerely doubt the number matters that much to you. If it does, check my twitter. My planned strategy is to write 2000 words per uber-writing day so that I can have two days of reduced writing per week. Mondays and Wednesdays are reduced days so if you see a low #wordcount on those days, don’t fret. I’m not much of a joiner, so it actually won’t be possible to friend me on NaNo’s site. Well, if you bribe me and I accept the bribe, I may create an account for that purpose. Otherwise, not so much.

My idea is Neo-Victorian Romantic Science Fantasy. Yes, I know. It sounds complicated. It’s really not.

If I finish it, I hope to use it as my first podcast novel. I’ll probably take the month of December to edit it and then start trying to get vocal talent together in January. In short, don’t expect to hear my story before March at the very earliest.

So, about the October Noise … how do you feel about the extra essays and stuff? Some of it is going to happen regardless, but there was a lot of optional content like Thoughts on Florida, Florida Revelations, and Markdown: Web Dingus which I could have just posted up on Facebook and left alone. Not really about writing, but still creative.

Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter if you have a feeling about them one way or the other. This isn’t a democracy, but I am listening.

P.S. I have two stories ready to be sent off for rejections! October was an awesome month so far as writing goes.

EDIT: Sorry if this shows up in your feed again. I had a misunderstanding with respect to how Dingus treats certain types of links which resulted in a broken link that I only just now remembered to fix. Blah! 2009-11-08 2:51 PM EST.

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