Back it Up!

See that computer in the photo? It had a little oopsie, got caught in a little fire. Before you ask, no it’s not my computer. I wish it were my computer though, then I’d have an excuse. Because really, I should know better.

As a programmer–as a WRITER— I should have known better. In my work career, I have been a network administrator, a web host provider, a site designer, programmer and developer. Constantly managing data and storage, and what’s the most important thing about data? You need to back it up.

Typically, I have 2 to 3 copies of a file with various versioning, multiple storage locations. I may lose a part of my work, but rarely all of it. Of course, there’s always that one time.

I had been working on an important story to myself, hopefully when finished others would at least be entertained. I was working from a local copy during my spare time at work. I was revising directly with my draft version. Not what I typically do, a new file for each new draft.

At home, I have the latest version of software, it autosaves as often as I want and to multiple locations. At work, where I don’t work with document files on a daily basis, I have a 12/13 year old version. No autosave, no multiple save locations, and to top it off I wasn’t saving to my DropBox account because of network issues.

I had essentially typed * THE END * on this important story and because I didn’t have network access decided to save the copy to my phone. That’s when it got weird. As soon at the folder from my phone appeared on my desktop, BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH.

Reboot the computer, cursing the probable loss of a couple pages of revision. Went to load up the file. It wouldn’t load. The archaic document program didn’t auto-recover. The story was gone. Finito! The only place this story existed was my mental hard drive, and to be honest most days that needs a reboot.

This was a bit unusual, but since I’m still reeling from my stupidity, I thought I’d share and offer these 5 bits of advice.

1. AutoBackup or AutoRecover – Set your document software to back up automatically every 5 minutes. And if you have an AutoRecover feature, make sure that is selected as well.

2. Save to Multiple Locations – It’s safe to say you won’t be left hanging if you save your file to multiple locations, even on your hard drive.

3. Utilize remote file storage – I use DropBox to pass projects between work and home. It’s a great service and offers 2gb of storage for free. And of course you can purchase a package with more space.

4. Never work on live copy – If you are going to edit, which I hope you will, always save a final draft of each story revision. Not only will this preserve the chain of development, but you may decide that scene you cut out of draft 2 really needs to be in the final draft.

5. Never assume it won’t happen to you – It will.

The Greenhorn Redux

Five months ago, just shy, I participated in one of writing zenfoodu Chuck Wendig’s writing challenges. A string of five words which included: “Figure”, “Dusk”, “Flirt”, “Mobile Phone”, “Wig”. Minds being the way they are, and mine meanders quite a bit, I instantly thought of writing a Western.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Western, at least in the TV and Movie format. I even took a stab at Louis L’Amour because I had a serious man-crush on both Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott. And of course there was ol’ squint-eyed Clint and his Spaghetti Westerns, and then his astounding The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Unforgiven.

From F-Troop to the Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, I was mesmerized by the Western in all its forms.

I had never written it. Not a Western story in my repertoire, until Wendig’s challenge. And even then due to the word usage, I turned it around at the end and cheated.

Ever since though, especially with the original comments, I’ve wanted to revisit writing a Western. A true Western and not something with a fandangled twist at the end. The thought lingers.

This morning those thoughts were amplified when a good friend, Ray Dillon, who in his own right is a talented renaissance man who can write as equally well as he can draw and perform miraculous feats of digital art, sent me a link to my story, The Greenhorn, that he on a whim narrated.

I know I might be biased, but it’s a pretty good story to hear and Ray reads it well. Well except for pronouncing Godot. 😉 And his natural Kansas twang was perfect for this reading.

Go have  a listen. It’s a good 5 minutes.

Leave him a comment and then come back and let me know if I should tackle a Western story head on?

F3 Until Again and Meanderings

I have a lot of kettles, personal and professional, to watch right now, but this last week Thomas Pluck joined the crew of Flash Fiction Friday as the Week 3 moderator and came up with a dandy of a prompt. There was an eloquent introduction to the prompt, but the balls of it was write about the old man in the picture above.

I went back and forth, because the story that came to mind — which could have been a bigger story, better told — isn’t in my usual wheelhouse as they say. I may go back and rewrite/edit it for submission somewhere. I think it’s got legs.

Read “Until Again.”

As for writing, I’m at a crossroads. In late winter I had a very clear idea of what I was going to do in preparation for my weekend at BoucherCon 2011. Have a finished draft of DIMES FOR DYING or ONE WITH A GUN. Then life got a little wonky in April, leaving me with little time to focus on the larger projects. Just bits and pieces. Doubtful of a finished product, at least in terms of finding an agent.

Shotgun Honey continues to do surprisingly well. Enjoying the submissions from all the great talent. I have some favorite new writers now. We’ll be running an interview series over there soon on the off Tuesday or Thursday.

Next week I’m going to announce a writing contest. You’ll get roughly a month to complete. The prize will be a copy of Frank Bill’s CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA. A book of short stories from the darker side of rural Indiana. I can’t recommend it more, but I will. You don’t have to wait until the contest, go ahead and pre-order a copy today.

“Fish Stew” and other edibles

I haven’t posted much lately, which doesn’t make this blog all that interesting to most, I aim to change that in the new year. Like with with most of my writing I need to do more of it.

I’m sure I didn’t mention it here, particularly, but Christopher Grant, the mind behind A Twist of Noir (ATON), announced a challenge in early Fall and I accepted. ATON has been publishing some of the finest bits of fiction on the web, nearly 600 stories by the time Grant got a marvelous idea. For the next hundred and one stories, 600 – 700, contributors would have to match the word count to the post count. I opted to write two stories, so for story 641 I had to write a story exactly 641 words. And I did.

“Fish Stew” published today. I guess this technically is my first non-self-published story. I’ve posted quite a few stories these last few months thanks to prompting from Steve Weddle, Patti Abbott and my own workings with Flash Fiction Friday.

Hopefully it will be received well. My next story for the ATON 600-700 challenge is story called “Killing Hope.” I’ve got a few drafts down, but well over the 672 my story is required to be. When I’m done, I should be a killer.

Speaking of Steve Weddle, Steve has put the finishing touches on the Winter Edition of NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir. It promises to be great one with the first part of an ongoing serial by Ray Banks and stories by Anthony Neil Smith, Kieron Shea and quick up-and-comer Matthew McBride. I put my order in, and you can too. You can even save the cost of shipping by using promo code: HOLIDAY305.

I was laid up a bit the last couple days, so I spent it reading some shorts online. I especially got caught up in the work of Ian Ayris, a Londoner, who writes this bloody brilliant twisted tales. I been gobbling them up over at Pulp Metal Magazine. I don’t what I like better the completely British names of his protagonists or the twisted endings? My favorite has to be “Cold” about poor Jonathan Sideboard, his stony father and an old bike. Actually what I love the best is the language. Spot on as they say.

Will try to post more. If I don’t before Christmas hits, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

F3 – Cycle 1 – Mary Lou’s Lost Shoe

I’ve Tweeted and Facebooked about starting up Flash Fiction Friday last week, but hadn’t mention here on the Between Blog. Basically, I guess because I want F3 to be about the stories and the contributors, and not me.

Cycle 1 submissions were a little slow, so I decided to see if I could get the first story prompt to work for me.

I’ll admit. After I posted the first F3 prompt, “Why aren’t shoes ever abandoned in pairs?” I was pretty apprehensive. I had done a story years ago, in college, about the lone shoe on a highway phenomena. I got an A, but thinking back on it, it was a pretty miserable story. Not tone, it was just bad.

So last night, and way early this morning. I wrote “Mary Lou’s Lost Shoe.”

I hope you enjoy. Be sure to leave me comments, critiques.

Link: http://ronearl.com/fiction/mary-lous-lost-shoe/

Flash Fiction Mondays

I tweeted last week asking what people would think of a Flash Fiction Friday section to my site. Not much reaction. Hey I get it, I’m just a regular Joe who likes to sometimes write. And I’ve got a following of about 3 people. That’s including myself. :/

I do like to write, and someday I hope to make it pay. But nobody’s going to pay if they’ve never heard or read me. So while I write, submitting to various venues for short and long fiction, I’m going to give people a chance to read me for FREE.

OK, not exactly FREE. I do want something from you. I want comments. And if you feel capable or inclined criticism. It’s inspires me and good criticism I hope will improve me. So can you do that for me? A little tit for tat?

To make it easy for you, I’ve set up a special page to link to all the available stories: http://www.ronearl.com/flash-fiction/

Since the first two stories posted on Mondays, I’m going to continue that most every Monday.

Hope to see you Mondays. Till then, Good Reading!

In progress …

Rounded out my site today by adding content to my projects page. For now it lists books I’m working on in one fashion or another, ordered by importance. For now TERMINAL is still my main focus through Winter/Spring, as things move forward I’ll add posts and progress reports on the page so you can have a one stop link to know how the writing is going.

Goal is to work through these in the next 24-36 months. Some day the horse will catch up to the cart, I promise.

http://www.ronearl.com/projects

Where do ideas come from?

I’ve never asked nor been asked the question, but having read dozens of comments and accounts of professional authors it appears to be a common one among fans and would be writers.

Where do your ideas come from?

Everywhere.

Seems like a simple answer doesn’t it? It’s a rather simple question to be honest. Writers in particular, humans in general, innately learn from experience. Take mundane moments in life and apply them to future events.

There is an old adage “write what you know” that is driven into every creative writing student. Taken literally, this is crap. If we wrote only what we knew there wouldn’t be Harry Potter, there wouldn’t be monsters, there wouldn’t be super-heroes, and there wouldn’t be Stephen King. Well I’m sure there would be Stephen King, but he’d be a literary hack who writes riveting stories about the human condition in small New England towns, without all the gore, horror and intrigue.

“Write what you know” isn’t meant to be taken literally. What it means and how it should be taught to mean is to take your experience, your encounters, and apply them to atypical scenarios.

Let’s say you live in a small community and close enough to work that you can walk each day. This is routine, it’s mundane. On that walk each day you meet the postman. He gives you a smile and you watch him walk up and down walk ways and driveways. One particular house you notice he always gets out a milkbone for the dog. Knowing the long history of dogs and postmen you assume its a bribe to prevent an attacked. A writer on the other hand suspects conspiracy. An unnatural interaction between the postman and dog can only mean bad things are afoot.

This has germinated an idea. The postman was trying to save himself from a dog bite, but in your reality as a writer, the postman lime-lights as a burglar and has cleverly canvased his route for houses with dogs who he has trained to welcome him and not see him as a threat. From there you could write any numerous outcomes in any various genres.

See it wasn’t necessary to be the postman or to be a thief to build the idea for a story about body snatching — oh, is that where the story went — only thing necessary was the seed, the fragment of experience that you could build upon.

If such a little element as a man giving a dog a bone can generate a story of post-apocalyptic alien domination, then any little bit of your experience if you let it can phantasmagorically blossom into a story that even Stephen King would be envious of.

Your story ideas come from everywhere. From anything you encounter:  news, books, dreams, television, co-workers or a chance encounter with an alien postman. Your job, your challenge,  is to take that experience and put it somewhere it doesn’t belong. Where it can cause the most effect and stir a chain of events turning the mundane into something adventurous.

Are you ready for adventure? Are you ready to write?

After these messages …

If you’ve been following me during my crush through the NaNoWriMo experience, you might have noticed I didn’t update yesterday. I know that makes me a bad NaNoWriMo writer. Horrible for stalling out at 10k+ words.

Yesterday was a hectic day. Usually I have time in the work day to wind down, take a brake, let my brain cool down and relax. I’m a programmer and web developer, most days entail working out coding issues or update previous code. Yesterday I hit a loop in logic and just kept at it until I was mentally drained. On top of that, I haven’t had the best of sleep lately.

After work, all I wanted to do was crash. And that’s what I did after dinner and vegging with some TiVo’d Venture Brothers.

Today I’m rested. I could knock out a couple thousand words or so, but — yes, always a but — today I had lunch with a college buddy and tonight I’m going to celebrate my grandfather’s 94th birthday. With alcohol to compensate for all the yelling he’s going to do because we’re celebrating how old he’s gotten. I’m of two camps here when it comes to birthdays. You can hold them in reverence, especially upon hitting certain milestones, which after a certain age is any that you manage to live through. Or you can just go with the flow and ignore them because somewhere in the middle it doesn’t really matter if you’ve lived 24 or 42 years. Getting belligerently upset really shouldn’t fall into play. I’m a celebrate and hold them in reverence kind of guy. If I live to 94, I’m going to dance with my artificial body parts like it’s 1999.

I hope he doesn’t tear us all new assholes, but he probably will. The man is remarkably healthy for his age. He worked as a lawyer until 85 and didn’t stop playing tennis until he was about 89. I can’t even run up the stairs without getting winded.

Tomorrow I should be back to the grind. Goal is to have 20k by Monday. Two fifths of the way. Then I’ll decide whether to step back to 2k a day or keep on rolling the fast track.

Thanks for the support, and if you want, you can wish my old codger of  grandfather a happy birthday. Silently. You don’t want him to find out.

The Fruits of War (poem)

I found a few more of my lost gems. Many of the poems seem redundant, I guess that’s the phase I was in. Common themes back in the late 80’s, towards the end of my high school career on the precipice of adulthood, mostly dealing with war, annihilation, racism, hate and an occassional possitive piece.

I don’t think I need to give this one much introduction or explaination. It’s about War, what is it good for?

Welcome back to Throwback Thursday.

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