On Piracy

I like Chuck Wendig’s beard. If my wife would let me, I’d have a beard like Chuck Wendig. Maybe a cross between Wendig and Rothfuss, but probably patchier and infinitely worse looking. Alas, she’s threatened to shave my face in my sleep if I try. (Including my eyebrows.) I also like the man’s writing. Blackbirds was great, and I postively loved Shotgun Gravy. I like his blog even more. And thus the point: Chuck has declared today February 6th International Please Don’t Pirate My Book Day. (I’m running a little late this week.)

I don’t sell all that many books. Judging by Amazon, nowhere near as many as Chuck. I’m good with this. I’ll get there one day. If this writing thing were so easy, everyone would be doing it. But I do sell some books, and I have seen some of my writing on the backwaters of the internet. When I show up on ThePirateBay, I’ll know I’ve really made it.

I understand casual piracy. When it comes to intellectual property, my generation is the one screwing things up for those that came before us and setting a bad example for those that came after. We brought you Napster and ThePirateBay and MegaUpload. I’ve been a broke student. Hell, the first 25 years of my life I was either a broke student or the child of a broke student. So if buying my book means you pass on your cup of ramen for the day, choose the ramen. But do me a favor. Do us all a favor. Don’t pirate it. We have to eat, too, you know? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

So I will say this: if you really can’t afford one of my books and you really want to read the book, email me. I’ll send you a DRM-free e-copy in the format of your choice. See that domain name up there? Slip an “@gmail” in front of the .com and you’ll get to the mailbox I check.

If you love it or hate it or even something in between, let me know. Post a review here. Or post a review on Amazon. Or just email me and bitch. Whatever floats your boat. And if you do love it, consider buying another of my works in the future. By the time you can afford it, I’ll probably be a better writer.

Yours,

Brent

P.S. New book will be out in the next month or so. It depends on how much weekend time I have to give to the final editing pass and when I have a cover. I’ll post again when it’s available. I just uploaded a couple new short stories this evening. They’ll appear on Amazon, B&N and Kobo in the next day or so, and Apple eventually.

Turkey Noodle Soup

My brother stopped by last night and our conversation wandered around to the topic of food. It’s not surprising. If I’m in a conversation, it often does. I like food. Mostly I eat because the alternative is dying, but I figure that if I’m going to be eating, it may as well be something good. Anyway, Jeremy mentioned that he’s doing more cooking these days and he asked for some noob friendly recipes. I love noob friendly food. Food that’s noob friendly means food that’s easy to prep and generally quick to cook. You know, weeknight food. I just got in from work and I’m starving and I don’t feel like waiting three hours to eat kind of food.

I made chicken noodle soup a few weeks ago and it was amazing. I actually dubbed it chicken noodle potato soup because I put in way more potatoes than the recipe called for. I like potatoes. Anyway, I made a turkey a few days and it was less amazing, but still pretty good. It gave me tons of leftovers, and after four days, I was getting tired of turkey. So I decided to make soup out of it.

So let’s talk ingredients. We start with protein. I’m using turkey, but you can use chicken. I commented to Carissa that we should pick up one of those $5 roasted chickens sometime, carve it up and use it for soup. That would be a real easy starting point for something like this. Soup’s a versatile thing, though. You can use whatever. I used chicken breasts last time and they were fine. I used four day old turkey today and it turned out great. The recipe I based this on calls for two cups. If you really like meat, use more. If all you have is a single chicken breast, that’ll work, too. Whatever. Soup don’t care.

Chop the protein into bite sized cubes and cook it in a big pot. I used a wide 2.5 gallon thing. You probably want something close to that size. Throw in some fat to keep the meat from sticking. 1 tbsp of olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, whatever. Cook the meat, set aside.

Next you need vegetables. We’re more or less going for a mirepoix here, but I go easier on the onion. I used normal carrots last time. It took a few minutes to peel them and chop them. Today I had a bag of baby carrots in the fridge. I just cut them in half. We’re aiming for about a cup here. Celery is required. Rinse it. Chop it. Easy. Again, about a cup. Onion is the third part of the holy trinity. I used a big, yellow onion. Chop it. It may be a cup, it may be more than a cup. Whatever. It’s an onion. They’re self-contained orbs of flavor. Take all the chopped veg and throw it into the pot where you just cooked the meat. Add some more fat (and tbsp or so), stir. Cook for 5 minutes or so, enough to soften the carrots and celery.

While the mirepoix is softening, crush three cloves of garlic. Chop. Throw in pot. Then you have to make a choice. Do you like potatoes? If yes, chop up half a dozen or so red potatoes. If not, chop up one. Or not. Soup don’t care. I like potatoes. I use half a dozen or so. Throw those bad boys in on top of the veg.

And finally the liquid. If you used the 2 cups of chicken, 1 cup of carrot, 1 cup of celery ratio, you need about 4 cans of chicken stock. Or 2 of the 28 ounce boxes. Puncture. Pour.

Now we need some things to add flavor. Get thee some fresh thyme. Alternatively, one of those little 99 cent plastic packages of thyme. You could probably use the dried stuff. I haven’t. Don’t be a heathen. Throw four or so sprigs of thyme into the pan. Throw in 3 chicken bullion cubes. If you have turkey bullion cubes, feel free to use those instead. Is there such a thing? I have no idea.

Stir all this nonsense up and bring it to a boil. Add the protein back to the big pot of bubbling goodness. Add half a bag of egg noodles. Or 8 ounces. It’s not an exact science. I used Always Save today. It’s a soup. Soup don’t care.

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, chop some parsley. Half a cup or so. Throw that into the pot and stir. As you stir, look for those thyme twigs. Pull them out.

At this point, sample the broth. It’s expected that your tongue gets burned here. If it doesn’t, grats. I hate you. This would be a good time to add salt and pepper to taste.

Congratulations, your soup is done. Enjoy.

***

Summary:
2 tbsp olive oil
1c celery, chopped
1c carrot, chopped
1 onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2c cooked chicken or turkey
3 chicken bullion cubes
4 cans chicken stock (about 56 oz)
8 oz egg noodles
1/2 c of parsley, chopped

Cook protein in 1 tbsp oil. Remove
Cook celery, carrot, onion in remaining oil until celery and carrot soften.
Add thyme, stock, potato and garlic. Bring to boil.
Add chicken and noodles, reduce to simmer for 30 mins.
Add parsley at end. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sundry

Apple’s self-publishing platform took a step forward a few weeks ago and now allows self-publishers to publish books without an ISBN. The downside is that you still need a Mac and while I’m not opposed to owning one, I don’t own one yet. Maybe next year.

I’m still working on the current book. The title is tentatively The Demonhunter’s Apprentice, though it may change if something else strikes me as better. If I had to summarize it one sentence (cough elevator pitch cough) I’d say:

When a sixteen year old girl’s grandparents are abducted, she learns that her family are secretly ghoul hunters, and that she must follow in their footsteps in order to save her grandparents.

Or something awful close to that.

Carissa bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday. She also bought me a hardback copy of David Brin’s newest book, Existence. I immediately read Mira Grant’s (Seanan McGuire’s) Deadline on the paperwhite. The book was very good. The device was amazing. It’s so much better for reading than the Kindle Fire. So much better in fact, that even though I have Existence in hardback, I honestly would rather have it in an ebook format. I find myself reading and wanting to highlight words, then I realize it’s actual paper and there’s no dictionary a fingerpress away. Two years ago I would have never thought I’d be such a convert to e-readers, but I am.

In a perfect world (in my fantasy world), owning the hardback would entitle the reader to a free copy of the ebook. In that world, I’d happily buy hardbacks, even paying a premium for them. In this world, I’ll be moving more and more to ebooks as my format of choice.

I also read Brandon Sanderson’s new novella, The Emperor’s Soul. Again, highly enjoyable. I’m looking forward to A Memory of Light in January nearly as much as I’m looking forward to Cold Days in two weeks.

It’s a good century to be a writer, but an even better century to be a reader.

New Story

I wrote a short story for the girls a few weeks ago. Then I looked at the word count and compared it to some of the chapter books Sophia has (that are emblazoned with the Scholastic ribbon), and realized that for the first and second grade age group, 4,000 words is a book, not a short story.

I wrote a children’s book for the girls a few weeks ago. That sounds weird. It’s a fun little story, and of course it includes a dog. One can’t write a story for Sophia without including a dog. And since both girls are now in ballet lessons, I’ve worked that in, too.

The Girl Who Danced on the Moon Cover

After the older girls in ballet make fun of her, Jersey wants to quit dance forever. The only thing that can cheer her up is her dog, Bromley. When Bromley leads her into the trees near her house, she discovers a world unlike any she’s ever known–a world of fairies. The fairy Luna flies her high into the clouds and dances with her in the moonlight. Luna teaches Jersey what it means to believe in herself, but will it be enough for her return to ballet?

I’ve looked into getting it published in dead tree form through CreateSpace, but once I got the proof back I decided that I didn’t like how Word made the text look. I’m in the process of learning Adobe InDesign so I can make it look better, but InDesign is hard and I end up finding that I’d rather write something else or read something else, so I haven’t learned it well enough to get the book layout finished yet. Someday. Maybe.

Available for Kindle
Also available for Nook
And let’s not discriminate against Kobo
I’m discriminating against Apple because their process for self-publishing is terrible.

On Laptops

So I bought a netbook. I’ve been wanting something small that I could use with a real keyboard, and being home sick and unable to sit at a desk finally made me look into my options. I wanted something like a Macbook Air or maybe one of the Windows ultrabooks, but the $1000+ price tag was more than I wanted to spend. I did some poking around on Newegg and found a netbook that looked perfect.

I ended up with an Acer Aspire One 725. It has an AMD C60 dual core processor, a 320 gb hard drive (not solid state), 2gb of RAM, and a Radon 6290 video card. It also had Windows 7 Home Premium. Oh, and an 11 inch screen. When you consider that most of the other machines in the $300 price range had single core processors, 1gb of RAM, integrated video, a 10 inch screen and they were trying to run Windows 7 Starter Edition, this one seemed like the best value BY FAR. From the reviews I read, Windows 7 runs terribly with 1g of RAM, so one of the big selling points to me was that this had 2gb AND it had Home Premium.

So those are the specs, but how does it work? Really well. I’ve been using it non-stop since Friday afternoon when it arrived. The 11 screen gives the case a little extra width, so I have a nearly full size keyboard. The hardware specs have left me with no complaints. I’ve been doing a lot of typing and a lot of (too much) web browsing, and everything has been snappy. I haven’t seen any of the slowness that was a major complaint for other netbooks. Granted, it doesn’t take much to run Word and Chrome, but I’m not getting any lag when switching programs or poking around in Windows Explorer.

Even the battery life is good. I’m getting about 6 hours on a charge. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to write for 6 hours straight, but if I did, it’s not really a hassle to plugin somewhere and keep going. If I wanted to go outside and brave the 100 degree heat, I even have outlets on my deck. The only time I could see the battery life being an issue is if I’m traveling and the airport has no outlets. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. (To be honest, I’ll just run the battery down and then break out the Kindle.)

How does it handle games? I have no idea. I am conscientiously avoiding installing any on it. I really do intend for this to be my writing machine and I’m trying to avoid distractions. I hear that siren call of Football Manager, but I have my body lashed to the mast.

I have two complaints so far. I use the Home and End keys frequently when I’m in Word. On this keyboard, Home and End are only accessible by pressing Function and then Page Up or Page Down. To make matters worse, Page Up and Page Down aren’t on the top right where they belong—they’re on the bottom right tucked in with the arrow keys. I’m working around it, but it’s irritating. The second issue is the touchpad. I find myself typing along and suddenly I’m typing in the middle of a word somewhere two paragraphs above where my cursor should be. I think the problem is that my thumbs are brushing against the touchpad occasionally when I hit the spacebar. The touchpad works fine, but I really wish I had some easily accessible button that I could use to disable it when I’m typing. The worst case is that I end up plugging in another keyboard, but I’m going to try to adapt for a week or two before I take that step.

Overall, I really like it. It’s perfect for my needs and the price was excellent. I’ve already told Carissa that I’m planning to give it to Sophia in a year or two and buy myself an ultrabook of some sort, but in the meantime, this little Acer will do nicely.

Blackbirds

I finished Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds last night. It was very enjoyable. It’s the kind of book that grabs you by the throat, squeezes off the air and drags you along to the end where it finally lets go and leaves you there, gasping for breath on the pavement, wondering what just happened. The protagonist, Miriam Black, made me think of Marla from Fight Club, or least Helena Bonham Carter’s version of Marla. She’s a self-destructive lunatic, but she also has a strange psychic ability that lets her see how people will die. Wrap that up with a mouth that would make a sailor blush and an imagination that would would make Tim Burton squirm, and you have a fascinating character to follow around for 75,000 words or so.

A Quick Story

I’ve been great about updating this blog. I’m still writing. I’m midway through another novel. It’s a stand alone book rather than a sequel to Antigen. The idea right now is that I’ll finish this one and follow up with a pair of sequels to complete a trilogy.

In the mean time, here’s a quick story I wrote a few months ago.

 

The Sentinel and the Beast

The nearly silent creak of hinges woke me enough to half open one eye and check the room. Nothing seemed amiss, other than a closet door that was two inches open. The boy had closed it before he went to bed. I opened my other eye and watched, but my body remained still. Still and ready.

The door creaked open a few more inches and I saw the first sign of the beast. A green claw had hold of the bottom of the door and a glowing yellow eye peered out. A low growl rose in my throat, but still I waited. The door opened further and the beast emerged from the dark of the closet.

Snarling, I pounced.

The beast’s powerful claws wrapped around me, its odor clogged my nose, its bitter ichor stuck to my muzzle as I tore at it with my teeth. The beast roared and twisted. I growled and shook.

Round and round we went. I forced it back to the closet. It pushed me back to the boy’s dresser. A shake of my head threw us against the boy’s bed; a swipe of its tail tossed me against the door.

The boy awoke crying in the middle of the battle.

“Mommy!” the boy called to his mother. As if she could defend him.

I snapped out a pair of quick barks to ensure the woman would hear his cries, but also to summon his father. I thought I could handle the beast, but discretion has always been the greater part of valor.

The barks unsettled the beast and it retreated toward the closet. I closed in again and harried it further. Get thee gone, foul creature! The beast finally slithered back into the darkness of the closet and pulled the door closed behind it. I stood mere inches away and focused my concentration on it. A couple more short barks let it know I was still there and it stood no chance should it venture forth again.

The door to the boy’s room opened and the light flicked on.

“What’s going on in here?” the boy’s father demanded.

“Oh my,” his mother said a moment later.

I looked back over my shoulder and saw them standing in the doorway, looks of shock on their faces. Coming so close to the enemy can do that.

“My dinosaur,” said the boy. He sounded afraid. He should. White tufts of the beast were scattered about the room and stuck to my fur. He’s lucky I was here.

The woman sniffed. “Is that my eucalyptus lotion?” The beast’s ichor coated the room.

“Bad dog,” the father said. He dragged me by the collar from the room to the front door. “You can sleep on the porch tonight, Elmore.” He opened the front door and nudged me outside with his foot.

My body may be cold tonight, but my heart will be warm with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Throne of the Crescent Moon: Reviewed

Somewhere in the last few months I read a blog post by an experienced author where he said that a book should be judged by whether it does what the author intended. All books should entertain or inform and should avoid boring the reader, so that goes as a given. But beyond that a book shouldn’t be judged by comparing it to the reader’s expectations, rather by whether the writer’s intent was realized. It is with this in mind that I’m reviewing Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

But first, qualifications. I have none. I write software for a living. I love to read and I especially love to read fantasy and science fiction. I write some, too, for what it’s worth. I’m just a reader that also has a humble pulpit.

What I Liked
The Setting. The author had a blurb on John Scalzi’s blog where he talked about wanting to put the Middle Eastern setting at the center of his story. He did. And it was great. At times I thought I could smell Dhamsawaat. He painted a picture with enough little details that I was able to fill in the larger swaths in my imagination.

The heroes. Adoulla, Litaz and Dawoud were all interesting and had enough backstory to make me care about what happened to them. Does Adoulla give up the kaftan and live happily ever after? I hope so. Do Litaz and Dawoud go on to a quiet life in the Soo Republic? They should; they deserve it.

The villains. Mouw Awa the manjackal is a wonderful villain. Honestly, he’s one of my favorite villains in recent memory. He’s a horrible, horrible creature that’s untouchable by sword or magic. And on top of that he toys with his victims like some kind of man sized demonic cat.

The Falcon Prince is hard to pin down as his role changes with the story. He isn’t as well developed as I’d like, but he’s some kind of mashup of Robin Hood and Aladdin and Superman. I hope he features prominently in the sequel.

The hook. The interludes with the captured guardsman were brutal and terrifying and they took me by the cheek and dragged me wriggling through the story. The prelude in particular was great. It gave me setting and raised questions and just worked.

The prose. It was good. The author has a clear, highly readable voice, may it please All-Merciful God.

What I Didn’t Like
My momma taught me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Writing a novel of my own and getting very little feedback taught me that you can’t improve what you don’t know is broken.

The story was boring for the middle 70%. The hook was solid, the fight scene where Zamia was introduced was excellent and first encounter with Mouw Awa left me wanting more, but the book never returned to that peak. The try/fail cycles just didn’t feel like they had tension. Raseed had a little tangle with the Falcon Prince and Litaz had a little tangle with the city watch, but neither really upped the stakes any.

The love story was boring. I don’t think it could have been cut since we needed to see Raseed’s inner conflict to get an idea of who he was, but… no, it could have been cut. Raseed’s inner conflict was boring. I never really cared about Raseed or Zamia. If there’s going to a prominent inner conflict, I need to really give a damn about the character.

The Falcon Prince seemed all powerful. Characters are compelling because of things they CAN’T do, not just because of what they can. He seemed to be a paragon of Robin Hood virtue with no weakness. I know I said I liked him, and I did like him, but it he just seemed like he could have been even more compelling.

The ending. The throne rising up out of the ground with no forewarning? It felt contrived and out of the blue. Overall, the climax didn’t feel like it reached the same level as the opening battles. It seemed too easy. The premise of the resolution was fine, just the execution left me wanting.

Conclusion
I liked the book. You, dear reader, should read it. The things it does well far outweigh the things I thought it got wrong. I will absolutely buy and read future works from the author.

Throne of the Crescent Moon

I Bought A Hardback Today

I did. A real honest to God dead tree book. The first dead tree book I’ve bought in months due to reading on my phone and then on my Kindle. I don’t think I’ve gone this long between physical book purchases since I finished my undergrad.

The book was Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed.

A New Story

I wrote another short story and put it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. It’s called The Kite and the Cage. It’s the story of a boy that goes outside on a windy and day with a kite and gets carried high into the sky. He lands in a clearing outside of town and discovers a cage full of neglected puppies. The boy has to decide whether to run for home or to try to help the pups. Things get complicated when the puppies’ evil owners find out what’s happening and the boy has to flee for his life.

http://www.amazon.com/Kite-Cage-Animal-Adventures-ebook/dp/B006YGSE8Y

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-kite-and-the-cage-db-baldwin/1108296269

 

Blue letters and a colorful box cite