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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Most Improved

Unless it's your birthday, the second-to-last day of the year has all the qualities of a Most Improved trophy. So here's to you, December 30, 2009, at least you're not the most depressing day of the year.

I am constantly reminded that we live in a world where winning is a battle of me versus you, us versus them, or, more specifically, the groups we belong to versus every other group that does not let us in. I'm reminded of this every time I get a form rejection; I'm reminded when I read about some idiot celebrity that sells a bazillion books after saying how stupid books are; and I'm reminded when I see hardworking authors struggle just to get some of the scraps left by the big dogs. So when I read Jeff Vandermeer's post Using Your Leverage, I thought he nailed so much of what is wrong with the publishing industry, if not every industry.

Sadly, Jeff's message will fall on deaf ears because the people who believe what he is saying don't have to be told, and the rest just keep on keepin' on.

Maybe today, the second-to-last day of the year, is a good reminder that winning isn't always an achievement of this group versus that group, or me versus you. That we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Apocalypse Fiction

If you've been coming around here over the past--gasp!-- year, you've probably noticed some changes. For one, the layout is new and improved. For two, I've changed the name of the blog to Shades of Gray. While the site is still a work in progress, I think it's coming along swimmingly. So let me know what you think, Dear Reader.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I began a new story. This latest is a YA apocalyptic novel about a young group of people who are exiled from their village and journey to the far away land of New York City. I've been calling it Stand by Me meets The Road. So far I'm in about 50k words, and I have no idea where I'm going with it, but I'll save the post about creative wells for another day.

This story is a different direction for me, but one I've been tinkering with for some time. I've always wanted to write an apocalyptic novel, something as a homage to some of my favorite childhood apocalyptic novels like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Stephen King's The Stand and Robert McCammon's Swan Song.

But mostly I'm writing an apocalyptic novel because these authors seem to get on Oprah's book club. Just look at the success of Cormac McCarthy's brilliant novel The Road. I mean who cares that it won a Pulitzer Prize, it was featured on Oprah for Christ's sake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Decade Nearly Gone ... Whatever the Hell Its Name Is.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, the decade is coming to a close, and I still have no idea what to call it. I will miss the 80's, 90's and the ... Ones and Zeroes? The 0's? And while I'm brooding over this decade, what about the next decade? Is it the Mostly Teens? The 11's? It's like the whole he and she business; a very confusing mess that will never have a solid support system.

I demoed the nook over at my local Barnes & Nobles today and was fairly pleased with it. There was no, Oh my God! I need to pre-order one now, and then complain endlessly when it doesn't arrive on the promised date ... more like a, that's cool, can't wait for the next version.

Most of the issues I had with the device could be fixed with some minor firmware updates. Coming from an iPod Touch world, which has a really intuitive touchscreen, I was less than impressed with the nook's touchscreen, or what I like to call in more technical terms: the touch-flick thingy. The nook's touch-flick thingy reminded me of browsing the apps store on an iPod Touch with a bad Wi-Fi connection ... you know, that bit of lag you get while the images are waiting to load? Well, that's the nook's whole browsing interface in a nutshell.

I also found features like search, dictionary and highlight a bit awkward and jerky. The main problem with all of them is that they were slow and cumbersome. For example, I could easily pick up a dictionary and find a word faster than it took me to look up a word in nook.

But overall it's about the reading experience right? And in that area I was mostly impressed. The screen is pleasing to the eyes. After a few pages I could see myself even forgetting I'm reading on an electric device. Unfortunately, some of the books I previewed were formatted poorly, the spacing and paragraphs looked choppy, and some of the letters were hacked off at the corners. This, I was told, was a problem with the publisher not properly converting the book for an e-reader, but it was annoying. It would be like buying a movie and seeing green screen instead of the intended special effect, and the sales guy saying, well, you know, not all movies are formatted properly for your television, but whatever.

So my verdict is I'll wait until they make a few more firmware updates before considering a nook. It also gives me some time to see how Amazon and Sony respond.

Later Fiends,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Chronicles of Commuting

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, welcome once again to another installment of complete nonsense from your pal Robert Gray.

When I left for work this morning it was pouring rain and the wind was banging my little car around the road. By the time I got to work the sky was cloudless, the sun warm, and I was pretty sure at some point the storm had carried me away to an alternate world. Though I'm fairly certain that I didn't leave this world--I have yet to see any talking lions, munchkins, or gunslingers-- I'm still a bit suspicious....

In the next issue of Fangoria magazine, which will be available December 15, Stephen King talks about those things that scare him. A snippet of the article is available on Fangoria's website.


Something else I saw at Fangoria, which should help you all get into the Holiday spirit, is the trailer for Silent Night, Zombie Night.

And finally, here's a treat for those who managed to make it to the end: a rare interview with Dean Koontz. You can click here to see the full interview with Dean Koontz from the Tavis Smiley show.

Later Fiends,

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