Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Is this possible? In a perfect storm kind of way, yes, one has to allow that it is possible. I can't recall ever seeing or hearing about it in the real world, but maybe I'll win the lottery, too. It could happen.
How likely is it? Probably on a par with winning two lotteries at the same time. That ten-thousand-hour rule doesn't always apply to every thing, all the time, but the logic is solid. If there is a guy who is relatively adept studying and practicing a thing every day for ten years. somebody who walks in the door and can do that thing better in a few months is either some kind of physical genius ... or a fantasy.
People who like to think it is more likely often point to the Rookie of the Year. Some kid point guard gets drafted into the NBA, he kicks ass and takes names, and outscores a slew of other point guards who have been doing it a long time. Happens every season, doesn't it? and there you go.
Not so much, no.
The newbie in the NBA almost certainly has twelve or fifteen years of practice at basketball. He shot hoops in the driveway or at the gym every day, was on his primary, middle, and high school teams, maybe did a year or four of college basketball, summer camps, and now he's stepped up to the big league. It's a whole other level of skill, top of the pyramid, but he's not some guy on the street who doesn't know a basketball from a bong. Yeah, he has to up his game, but nobody who steps into the NBA and gets to be rookie of the year comes from total inexperience with the sport. Doesn't happen. Or at least it hasn't happened that I can find it.
More likely is, somebody who has been training for two or three years and who has a lot of talent, can stay with players who have ten or fifteen years of practice, but less natural ability.
Michael Jordan was a world-class basketball player, some say in the top three or four ever, but he was a lousy baseball player. How we know this is that he quit basketball for a while and tried to play baseball in the minor leagues. He was smart enough to give that up when it was obvious it wasn't his game. Lot of minor league baseball players were way better than Michael.
Because it has been done so often, and because most people involved in MA know this Perfect Student scenario is primarily hogwash, writers have come up with ways to explain how somebody who doesn't know anything about a thing can get better than somebody who knows a whole lot about that thing in a short time.
Couple quick examples: Tom Cruise, in The Last Samurai. And Bob the Nailer (Bob Lee Swagger), in The 47th Samurai.
In the former, Cruise, an ex-calvary officer from the U.S. is captured while training troops "modern" combat in 19th Century Japan, and over the course of his captivity, learns kendo/iaido well enough to stay with the village's master.
The set-up is that Cruise is a warrior, turned into a drunk by his experiences in battle, but a hero when he was in the saddle and sober. He's quick, and a natural. Able to handle a sword pretty well, albeit a different kind, so learning a new system, he has a good general idea of how to move and not get killed. He has to work at it, but after most of a year, he's there.
Iffy, but still, an attempt to explain something that is a stretch. In writing, this is sometimes called "hanging a lantern on it." If a thing is unlikely or even impossible, but you need it to happen, you do it, point it out, and you let it go.
"Hey! That solid state screen blew up! That's impossible!"
"Yeah, but, dude, look at all that fire and smoke!"
This is the writer telling readers, I know this can't happen, but I did it anyway, and because I did it like this? You can't bitch about it.
In Stephen Hunter's 47 Ronin novel, he knows better than to have his old fart hero, who is retirement age and patched together with pins and plates, learn enough in a few hours to beat a bad ass ninja-type sword-on-sword, so he had a cheat. I won't tell you what it is, in case you want to read the book, but it is very clever, and while it probably wouldn't work, I was willing to suspend my disbelief enough to grin and nod when I saw it.
Supposed to be a movie in the works. I sure hope they don't screw it up.
Mostly, the Perfect Student/Instant Master/Rookie of the Year is not gonna happen, and if s/he does? Better the writer has some clever reason to get away with it than not ...
Monday, April 27, 2015
Sunday Concert Schedule
Went to the show at Marylhurst as we usually do, and if you were local and you skipped it, you missed a great time. Lots of handmade instruments, guitars, fiddles, basses, charangas, flutes, harps, lutes, banjos, and ukuleles. Great mini-concerts, fifteen minutes each of excellent players showcasing instruments. We saw half a dozen of these, including Travis Stine on ukulele, doing his version of Jake's arrangement of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," on a tenor uke by Mark Roberts.
Three bucks apiece for admission. Can't beat that with a stick ...
Some ukulele-related images:
Woodley White, above
Pat Megowan tenor, above
Mark Roberts ukuleles, above
Kerry Char ukuleles, above
Howard Replogle, Ebi Ukkuleles, above
Mark Roberts, above, with the side-port tenor uke
Travis Stine, above, below,
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015
So, I am about to finish the copy-edit on the current book-in-progress, Stemwinder: An Urban Fantasy in 4/4 Time. Probably the subtitle and the cover image are enough clues to tell a potential reader there is music involved.
Bear with me and I'll spin you a tale connected to this biz, and a decision to which I have come regarding this particular book ...
So I am past the Geez-what-a-pile-of-crap-this-is! and to the transient stage where It-doesn't-seem-absolutely-awful, and still a ways from the Hey-this-is-better-than-I-remember-it! phase, which usually comes a few years down the line.
(When I look back at some of my early stuff, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised. I wrote that? Wow. That's not bad ...)
Um. Now the decision comes as to what road I should take to get the new novel into the hands of readers. The choices I see are two, and hereunder, a comparison and a conclusion.
Traditionally, I have gone traditional, i.e., I cleaned the ms up, printed out a copy (and later, emailed a copy) to my agent, and went on about my business while she shopped it around and looked for a New York City publisher to buy it.
Sometimes, I offered up three-chapters-and-an-outline, which sped the process up a bit on the front end.
When things went well, my agent would make a sale within a couple of months, the publisher would put it into their schedule, and a year or so later, plus-or-minus, the book would hit the racks.
Part of that process involved me getting some kind of advance against future royalties, and this stipend ranged from so-so, to not-bad, to whoa! depending on the project and publisher, and how well I had been selling other books. If the new title sold well, I got more money. If not, I still got to keep the advance.
Um. Anyway, when things didn't go as well in traditional publishing, the book took a long time to peddle, the pub date stretched out to a year-and-a-half or longer, and they divided the advance up into bits that came in three chunks: on-sign; on delivery/acceptance of the manuscript; on-publication.
When they really didn't go well, the book came home to live on a shelf in Steve's garage. Some times I'd go back and rewrite 'em and try it again; others abide on the shelf still. Few of us bat a thousand.
When the book market crashed for many of us mid-listers in the nasty recession of 2008, I started poking around in early ebookery, and now have a goodly portion of my backlist up in a couple of places, most lucrative one being Amazon.com, where I get a small monthly check for titles long out of print. It's free money, they never go out of print, and I don't have to do anything past the initial listing.
There were a couple of novels my agent didn't find thrilling, so those I also put up as original ebooks, and they sell a few copies, too. Since my publisher no longer wants any of my Matador titles, any more of those I write will go straight to epub, too.
Now, the either/or:
The good thing about traditional publishing is the advance. The bad things include the process of submission, waiting, wrangling with agent and editor, and elapsed time before the book sees the light of day, plus a short shelf-life.
With ebooks, these are reversed: No waiting, no wrangling, publication the next day, but also, no upfront money. Yes, the royalty rate is much, much better than traditional, unless you are George R.R. Martin or Stephen King, but in my case, the copies sold this way will be smaller in number and spread out over a longer time. At the end of a couple of years, I might make just about as much money in dribs and drabs as I would have in an advance.
Or not. No way to tell.
One of the things about this particular book is that it is skewed toward readers who are musicians. There are things in it that I hope will make singers and players smile, including some lyrics for songs, and gearhead stuff about guitars and ukuleles and amps and such. I hope that I'm good enough so the gist comes through in context, but it might be that a publisher will worry that non-musician readers won't get it. And if they don't, it therefore might not sell a lot of copies.
I dunno, there are a lot of musicians out there. If 10% of them bought the book, I'd make millions, and the publisher would make tens of millions ...
Thing is, I don't want to take all that material out. I find it interesting, and I can't help but believe that enough readers will also find it interesting so there will be some market for the novel. Again, no way to tell.
This is where ebooks shine. They allow a me to produce a work that, even if it does have a limited audience, I can still write it like I want without having to worry that I make a traditional publisher sufficient profit to justify their outlay. I don't begrudge them that notion, if you don't make money, it's harder to stay in business, but I am at a stage in my career that writing what I want and saying it how I want to say it is more important than making a lot of money. Who knew I'd ever get there?
So, yes, this will be an ebook, unless a print-publisher comes calling, and agrees to do it as I wrote it, and I won't be holding my breath waiting on that ...
Onward and upward ...
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Smooth Operator ...
How do I know it is true? Look around. See anybody here who was here a hundred and fifty years ago? Show me. Even if Methuselah lived to be 969–and I would want to see the birth and death certificates, thank you–he's not here any more, either.
The Taoist master back in China? Sure. Him and Bigfoot and the Yeti are roomies, right?
Now, what happens after you shuffle off this mortal coil is open for discussion: You might go to Heaven, you might be reincarnated, you might go out like a candle, but the flesh you wear is going to break down, and whosoever is paying rent is going to move out.
Period, full-stop, end of the organic road. If you can't see this or don't believe it? Have your meds adjusted.
Choosing your parents wisely seems to be of some benefit.
Conversely, are there things you can do to shorten your stay here?
You know there are. Smoke too much, drink too much, eat too much, sleep with the wrong people, engage in risky behavior, your number could be up quicker. The Reaper is coming to your party sooner or later, but ... why hold the door open for him?
So diet and exercise and pills made from goat gonads and meditation and prayer and intermittent fasting notwithstanding, eventually Death will feast upon you.
He's gonna get me, too, which I still don't like, but there it is.
All that is more or less beyond the scope of this discussion. What I would offer is that there are some things that will affect the quality of life you have, and those things are there if you want them. Can't change the destination, but you might be able to make the ride more fun.
Diet, exercise, mediation, prayer, intermittent fasting those are candidates. I dunno about the goat gonad capsules ...
"Quality of life" here goes to to how you feel and move and your capabilities to go through life and do the things you need and want to do. Might have medical maladies or physical problems you can't fix, but some of these can be improved.
Which exercises? What foods, or spiritual practices? You have to figure those out for yourself. If something makes you feel better, more alive? Probably a good start. And yes, some of you will say that bacon-wrapped Triple Whopper with cheese and a side order of Monstro Fries and thirty-two ounce Coke make you feel better, and I suppose that is possible, but I don't believe it. You might love the taste, I surely do, but feeling like a beached whale after you eat something is not feeling better. It's the price you pay for overindulging, and you and I both know it. No wool is being pulled over eyes here.
All that sugar, all that fat, all those calories? You can choose to go there and that's your choice, but there are consequences.
Of course, you could eat healthy, work out like a body Nazi, free your life of stress, Om yourself to bliss each day, and you could still fall over dead of a stroke or heart attack tomorrow. Shit happens. But some of it is the ride and not the destination, and getting up and feeling great is, in my opinion, better than getting up and feeling like crap. Don't think so? How about how you feel on a great spring day with all cylinders working smoothly as opposed to how you feel when you are abed with the flu? That's when you appreciate how "good" feels, isn't it?
Being fit, on a good diet, they won't keep you alive forever. But they might make the time you have so much more enjoyable.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Got an iPhone–not the very latest one–and it's the cat's pajamas, except that after a few days, the camera stopped working. Black screen, neither front nor back cam working, zipola.
So, I went onto the net, saw this wasn't uncommon, and looked at the list of fixes.
Tried them all. Some of them seemed to fix it, but that was temporary. Next time I opened the camera app, I got ye olde black screen and controls that didn't do anything useful ...
There were a bunch of things suggested: soft reset, hard reset, (force-closing the app, powering off and on), resetting the phone's preferences to factory, toggling, trying third party cameraware, erasing third party applications, yadda, yadda.
If none of those worked, as I understood it, chances were it was a hardware problem, and best I get it replaced. So I sent a note to my carrier and said, "Hey, camera ain't working, here's what I did, now what?"
But while I was waiting for an answer, I scoured the boards, and came across this: