Tag Archives: apps

Technological nightmares and extra work

I’ve been working on my storyboards in drips and drabs. Right now I have six in various stages of completion, and some are nearly complete.

There are two stand alone novels, the finale of the Lanternfish trilogy, and three future stories for Lizzie and the hat. I was feeling pretty good about the process. That’s when everything started failing.

The app I’ve been using is called Pinnic. It randomly erased one of my ledger cards. I tried opening and closing, even a reboot. That’s when I discovered another board had the same thing happen to it. Then it started throwing out a random index card that could not be edited or deleted. It also covered another card I would really like to read.

What happens is these developers stop updating their apps. It’s happened before. I used to use an app I really liked, but the developers stopped updating and eventually it became unusable. This one was so long ago that I don’t even remember its name. That’s when I switched to Corkulous Pro.

Corkulous Pro also went the way of the dinosaurs and I downloaded Pinnic. They haven’t had an update for a long time, but Apple has had many. You can see where this is going.

Lo and behold, a new developer bought Corkulous Pro about a year ago and resurrected it. It became a subscription based app. It’s like $1.99 per month, but half that for a year at a time. In theory, this is to allow them to keep it updated and trot out some new features on occasion.

Oddly enough, they refuse to tell you what the subscription fee will be in the App Store. I would kind of like that data prior to committing and it seems like the ethical thing to do. I even tried googling it to no avail.

Ultimately, I decided to download the free app and hoped to learn what the fee was. This worked, but I thought it might just be a blank check of some kind.

Something is lost and hopefully something is gained. I had a bunch of old storyboards on Pinnic that will be abandoned. I really don’t need them for books that have been published, but things like Yak Guy, Serang, and Grinders were in there. I see no reason to recreate them now.

I spent part of last night and all of this morning recreating the next six storyboards by hand in Corkulous. The split-screen feature in my iPad helped, but I was using two different apps with different controlling actions to accomplish that. There were many times I used action A on app B and it slowed down the process.

None of this involved a drag & drop, or a copy & paste, because they are different apps. It involved retyping everything I had.

I always got along well with Corkulous. There were features in other apps that it does not have. It has features the others don’t. Honestly, I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Give me some index cards, a few sticky notes, and I’m golden. It will allow me to attach images and I like to do that on occasion. My old images were sacrificed, but I may spend some time dropping a few into the new boards.

The downside is losing the time. I was supposed to be reading the next Lanternfish on an editing pass. I still haven’t started that task. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.

On the plus side, I have six storyboards that are pretty close to ready. I may have an app they will keep updated to the new operating systems. Does anyone else have problems like this, or am I the only one who uses apps when I create things?

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Another batch of Macabre Macaroni

Lisa Burton

The Halloween Pack

Nadine’s jaw fell open in disbelief. Sara Spears wrote her up for receiving a personal email. Her mother invited her over for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t like she invited the email. She watched Sara strut away from the cubicle, obviously congratulating herself for a job well done.

Several deep breaths later, Nadine awoke her computer from sleep-mode. Sara’s constant pacing the floor to make sure nobody looked at Facebook convinced her not to use company time to look for a new job.

Nadine’s coworkers ducked their heads and pretended to work. There was no hiding what happens in a cube farm. They all heard.

When lunchtime rolled around, Nadine grabbed a light jacket and walked to a corner bistro. Some fresh air, and a huge cup of their coffee might improve her outlook.

She took a chair at one of those outside, wire-mesh tables and waited for her half turkey sandwich. An alert banner lit up the screen of her phone. “The Halloween Pack. Free today only.”

It turned out to be one of those photo manipulation apps. It came with a bunch of Halloween themed stickers, green filters for faces, and more. If she didn’t like it, she could always delete it later.

She entered her data and gave the app permission to access her photos. She flipped through her pictures and stopped at those from the summer picnic. Nothing seemed to be good enough for photo manipulation.

“Excuse me, ma’am, were you the half turkey sand?” The waitress asked.

“Oh yes. Thank you.” The fresh bead smelled wonderful. They baked every morning here.

“Let me top off your coffee.” The girl filled her cup without waiting for a response.

This place has great food, a great setting, and great service. The people seem happy too. I wouldn’t mind working at a place like this, as long as I could make ends meet.

She took a bite of her sandwich, and looked across the street at the autumn leaves. Waves of fresh bread and avocado helped improve her mood.

She looked back at her phone. Time for Sara Spears to get hers. She was always strutting around, sticking her chest out, and looking down her nose. What a narcissistic bitch. Nadine found a photo on Sara’s Facebook page. One of those professional shots with Sara standing against the city skyline while the camera looked up at her with crossed arms like she owned the damned place.

A double chin wouldn’t do. Nadine used the graphic twice, and by sizing the sticker a bit, gave Sara a quadruple chin. She added a couple of feet to her hips until Sara looked like a pear. By the time the lunch hour ended, Sara looked like a mildly transparent, gelatinous, blue blob against the skyline. Oddly, she still looked exactly like herself.

Nadine poured herself into her work that afternoon. She would check out the job market tonight, but nobody was going to call her a slacker. It was nearly three o’clock when she looked up again.

She took a restroom break, but Sara was nowhere to be seen. On the way back to her desk, an arm shot out from the cubicle next to hers. “Sorry about what happened,” Aaron Davies said.

“No problem. Guess it was just my turn on her list. Where is she, anyway?”

“Went home. Said she didn’t feel well this afternoon. To tell you the truth, she didn’t look well either. She looked almost bloated and like her skin was turning blue. Hope there isn’t something going around. I have to umpire for the kids this weekend.”

Nadine stared off into space, and absently said, “Me too.”

After work, Nadine took the elevator down to the parking level. Helicopters roared overhead, then down the street toward the city. The sound of sirens echoed in the distance. She walked past her car to look toward town.

The streets were gridlocked. It would be hours before she could get home tonight. She thought of the little bistro, and returned to the elevator. She could wait out the gridlock there, save some gasoline, and enjoy some of their wonderful coffee.

She pulled her coat tighter as she wove between the stopped cars and crossed the street. The mid day temperatures dropped rapidly this time of year. She’d be taking an indoor table this time.

“Back again?” The waitress asked.

“Yeah. Figure it’s nicer here than waiting in my car. Just coffee this time.”

“On the house. I’ll call it a refill of the one you bought earlier.”

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“Let’s see if there’s any news about what’s going on.” The waitress turned on a small television.

Images of helicopters filled the screen. Nadine hoisted the coffee to her nose and smelled the wonderful aroma. The news cut to a shot from one of the helicopters. A gigantic blue blob, nearly seventeen stories tall, rampaged through downtown. She sat her cup down and gripped the edge of the table with both hands.

The helicopter flew around the tower for a better angle. There was no mistaking Sara Spears’ face from the photo.

The monster had absorbed several cars, and one fire engine was clearly visible inside her. The flashing red lights filtered through the blue gelatin came out as purple. As the helicopter moved past, several wire tables appeared inside the monster, like the ones Nadine had lunch at. She spotted at least three people inside the blob too.

She grabbed for her phone. Maybe she could undo the manipulation and set things right. Sorry, your free trial has ended. You can buy the Halloween Pack…

Nadine deleted the app. The news kept running. Maybe it would take a second or two before things went back to normal. But they didn’t.

She opened the photograph. There was Sara, standing against the cityscape as a giant blue blob. The positioning of the photo made it look a bit like Sara was as tall as some buildings.

The news kept running as Sara moved on to the Shriner’s Hospital. Those poor people were about to be absorbed too.

Nadine held down the photo until the option bar appeared. She deleted the photograph.

The news image reacted almost immediately. Sara completely disappeared.

Those poor people inside the blob didn’t deserve this. Hell, even Sara didn’t deserve this. She was a horrible person, but this was beyond what she earned.

Nadine went to the App Store, maybe she could repeat the process, not modify the photo, and set things right. The Halloween Pack was nowhere to be found, like it never existed.

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Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

A few loose things

I watched old movies, played with an app, and wrote another short piece. I also ordered some promotional material that I can use during some future promotions. I’ll address all of them in sections.

The new app simply allows me to take a photo and add text to it. All of the ones I’ve tried so far are kind of burdensome to use. This one is even worse, because it doesn’t allow me to squeeze it into a vertical shape, it simply flows beyond the box and doesn’t show everything I typed. I have other apps that work better.

Sometimes it’s nice to make up an image for a pinned tweet and get a few more words by making them part of the photo. Still, I made this and it might give some of you a chuckle.

I spent some time with my old mentor, Sir Alfred Hitchcock today. Since Halloween is on a Monday, they decided today was a good day for a film festival. I caught some of Vertigo, watched all of Psycho, and turned it off when The Birds came on. I think The Birds had a great concept, but failed to deliver. No doubt there are people who disagree with me, but that’s my opinion. I wish one of these outfits would rediscover Rope, I loved that one.

Psycho was ground breaking in its day. It was the first one that showed murder so brutally. Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense, but he drifted into horror territory with this one. (Aside: I could sure see Jamie Leigh Curtis’ face in some images of her mother.)

Psycho started kind of an arms race. Prior to this, monsters lumbered, howled, and threatened. I believe this was the catalyst of all the gore that’s come to be expected in the horror genre, and I think that’s what eventually killed it off. If Psycho were to be made today, Bates would have had sex with Janet Leigh’s corpse before dismembering it (Requiring power tools that are deafeningly loud), and possibly eating the evidence.

I kind of wish we could go back and erase all the blood and gore from this genre. That’s why I try to include a bit of suspense, but leave the rest out.

I broke down and used a coupon to order some promotional stuff for the next time I decided to do a push. Maybe people don’t want another gift card or ebook, but something unique will garner more attention. Maybe not, but I’m going to find out.

Finally, I wrote this thing. I don’t exactly know what to call it, but I’m calling them anthems. I am looking for input as to what they actually are called. They are from a narrator’s POV and use second person perspective.

I had another of my crazy thoughts, and intend to include them in my collection of short stories called The Enhanced League (TEL). They have nothing to do with the stories, but they might be fun to break things up. I like the idea of between three and half a dozen of them. TEL will be about a futuristic baseball league. Some characters will recur in the stories and some are one shot wonders.

Anyway, I don’t know how to solicit your input without sharing one, so here goes nothing. It’s draft material, but will give you the idea. Let me know if it’s too crazy to live, or has some merit.

Anthem #2

The Hardest Day

 

You took the wife and kids to the ballpark more religiously than most folks go to church. For you, it was church. Didn’t matter if it was blazing sun, or frosty nights, you were there.

Your wife was the life of the party. Everyone knew her, and she always seemed to draw the television camera the way she stood and led cheers. You wound up on the kiss camera more times than you were comfortable with.

You named your son after a Golden Glove winning shortstop. When the team travelled, the two of you played catch in the backyard and practiced that shovel toss to second base.

The kids grew up, and your wife passed away. Some of your old buddies from the trucking company bought your seats for a game or two when you didn’t have someone to take you. It wasn’t much, but the money helped pay for your meds.

Your son took you to a few games, until his own kids started playing sports. Now they spend most of their time kicking soccer balls around. Your daughter and her new husband took you once, but it felt like meeting your new step-parent.

Finally, the day arrived. You offered up your seats and sold them for five figures. The guys from the trucking company were pissed, but they couldn’t pay going rate.

You thought you were going to have a stroke. You sold out, Buddy. You sold a piece of your soul that day. You worried that you might have cursed the team somehow.

You wanted to give them to your kids, but they couldn’t have cared less. Your son-in-law would have sold them too and used the money to bet on horses.

So here you are, in assisted living with no family around. You bought the league pass and get every game on your new big-screen television. The old farts come around to watch, and they seem to be enjoying the team as much as you do. You finally admit the air conditioning doesn’t ruin the experience.

You’ve seen more games this year than the last three combined. Your doctor even approved a beer, provided you only have one. You never told him about the hotdogs Mrs. Corrigan brings. A hotdog never killed anyone anyway.

It was the worst day of your life, the day you sold the seats, but none of this would be possible if you hadn’t.

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Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes, Writing

A day, in which I don’t like things

If you aren’t into tantrums, here’s your opportunity to skip this post. We will still be friends.

I am not a patient guy, but I try. One of the things I do is give things time before making a judgment. I still have to force myself, but I’m improving.

After much deliberation, and a reasonable amount of time, I don’t like the new and improved WordPress.

I still think it’s the best blogging platform out there, but they’ve certainly made it less user friendly for those who blog. Here are my examples:

  • I can’t stand the new and improved stats display. It looks like bad chibi anime to me. I vote every single time I check stats, but apparently it was to placate serious users with no real value behind it. I’ve been clicking to display the old stats page, but now they forced me to swipe through all the new displays to the bottom before I can see any stats that make sense. It has the feeling of a close out sale. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
  • I am pretty disappointed that I can no longer open a page of my comments, likes, and follows. I am getting a lot of action these days, and the scroll thingie doesn’t work all that well. I would be mortified if I couldn’t acknowledge someone’s comment, and am afraid I might have missed one or two.
  • None of the changes work well with iOS. I’m sure there aren’t many Apple fans out there, so why bother. (Rolls eyes.) When I try to respond to a comment, the display actually jerks around, and I wind up hitting the wrong button half the time. The send button isn’t reliable when I do manage to hit it.
  • I know it’s old now, but I don’t like the new post “beep beep boop” version either. I always click through to the older one, but wonder how long that will remain. Even it doesn’t like iOS very well. I write most of my posts in Pages these days, and paste them into the new post.
  • I want the link option to work every single time. Two thirds of the time, when I highlight a section, the link option greys out. I have to choose a different word to highlight until the link option is available. ( Three or four times, minimum.) Only then can I make the link I originally wanted.
  • I want the ability to include a picture when using my iPhone. I usually write these on my iPad, but sometimes it isn’t available. The entire iPhone version is frustrating.

I feel like a hacker whenever I use WordPress these days. Nearly everything is becoming a work around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going anywhere, but I feel like WordPress developers ought to actually use the software on various platforms before they release it to the masses.

I loved BlogPad Pro, but they decided not to update it when iOS 8 came out. It has a bug now that allows me to type faster than it can think. I’m not a fast typist.

Do any of you know of a reliable app that does WordPress better than WordPress?

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Filed under Blogging

Something for the readers

This is not intended to be about my fiction. You can read it that way, if you like, but this is supposed to be more general. I’m taking a few shortcuts, because this is a blog post and not a novella.

Once upon a time, there were the big six publishers. They are the big five now. There also existed a group of smaller publishers.

Writers were required to submit manuscripts to literary agents and try to get someone to represent them. The agent shopped the manuscript around with the big six. If they failed to pique someone’s interest they went to the smaller publishers.

For an author it was a matter of appeasing the various gatekeepers along the path. An agent might require a rewrite, an editor might require another, and on down the line as long as it took. Many times the story actually changed from the author’s original vision.

Once the deal was struck, the manuscript was sold. This means the author had no more right to it, or to the characters in the story. They got paid an advance which was theirs to keep. A royalty was established, and each book sold was credited a small amount until the royalty was “earned out.” Then, and only then, the author might earn royalties for subsequent sales.

It sounds like a reasonable deal in some ways. Consider that many advances today are $1500 or less, and royalties float around 17%. Remember the author has to pay the agent out of his slice. The point is, very few writers were getting rich.

Along came Amazon with a way of selling electronic books. They also invented a device to make it easy. Consider they are paying 35% royalties, or 70% under the KDP program. Hold this thought for a moment.

People love paper books. I do too, and own many collectable ones myself. The newest generations have taken to ebooks with gusto. Hold this thought for a second too.

Most books out there are entertainment. We read them and move on to the next one. I expect nothing greater for my own stories. Producing hard bound books with gilt edges is not worth the cost.

Gatekeepers are good / gatekeepers are bad. The gatekeepers prevent a lot of bad fiction from being circulated. On the other hand, they are interested in a bottom line, and push what’s popular right now. Think of it like the influx of reality television. People want it, and the networks deliver. What program didn’t get a slot, because Hillbilly Hand Fishing sounded good?

I may have fallen into this myself. When I wrote a story about a robot that was built in a concept lab, the world wanted sparkly vampires and red rooms of pain. I, and many like me, write what I would want to read. I’m not going to write about sparkly zombies in a pink room of pain just to get picked.

I believe readers want what they want too. Many enjoyed the books I’m poking fun at. That other group that wanted robotics was left out of the market. Amazon changed all this. Independent authors are writing the kinds of books you might be looking for. (Westerns, historical pieces, horror where the vampires kill you.)

So here I am, self publishing. I own my characters and my books. If sales demanded a reappearance of Lisa Burton, the robot, I could deliver. If I’d sold her to a publisher, I couldn’t.

The younger generation always replaces the older generation. It can’t be stopped. I can see a possibility where paper books become a boutique item only.

What about that crappy fiction? Amazon let’s you read the first few chapters for free. You can read in a bookstore, and you can do the same at the Amazon store. If you’re not into the book, move on to the next one.

People complain about buying a Kindle just so they can read ebooks. I have two arguments in reply. First the newer Kindles are more than ebook readers. Many will rival an iPad for usability. Second, you don’t need a Kindle to read ebooks.

There is a Kindle app for almost every electronic gadget in existence. You can read an ebook on your PC during your lunch break. I’m going to provide you with a link: Kindle Apps. You probably already own the suitable gadget.

My challenge to you is to get the app and give an ebook a chance. You aren’t limited to self published authors either. If you really want to read something by Cheri Priest, you can. I have, along with Jim Butcher, Stephen King, and others.

Give an ebook a chance. Put the app on your Droid or iPhone. An author somewhere will thank you. Your book is portable, available while waiting in line, and works well during long layovers. (As I recently learned.)

Maybe after you’ve read a mainstream book or two, you’ll give an independent author a chance. Will you rise to my challenge?

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Filed under Writing

The Idea Mill # 5

For newer readers, I save articles I find in a folder. These are articles that make me scratch my head and think about the fiction I write. When I have enough, I post another idea mill article. Let’s all speculate, shall we.

The first one is based on the eyesight of the mantis shrimp. This is a beautiful, but strange ocean creature with no real value to humans, beyond the esthetic. This story shows why the world’s odd creatures should be protected, and what might be lost when a species goes extinct.

It seems the mantis shrimp sees the world a bit differently than humans. It has to do with the way his eyes interpret polarizing light. Using this special skill, the mantis shrimp is capable of seeing human cancers. Cool, but how useful is that?

Scientists have built a camera that replicates shrimp vision. Rather than create another $10,000 procedure for insurance to pay, they seem to think it can become a smart phone app. This restores my faith in humanity, to a degree. Part of the article said shrimpie sees neurons. Since I’m a speculative fiction writer, this trips my trigger.

What about an app that goes down the police state path. Check someone out with your camera, and know whether they are a child abuser, rapist, or terrorist. Can you imagine picking your girl up for a date, and having to pass muster for her father under these circumstances? What if dating became more like qualifying for a loan. “Sorry bud, you have a predisposition for osteoporosis. I can’t inflict that on my future children.”

Read about the mantis shrimp here.

Our next story is something that could add some spice to a science fiction story. In fact, I may redesign this and include it in my current manuscript. Someone has designed, and built, a tiny camera drone. This one can snap around your wrist, like a bracelet. Read the article here, then we’ll speculate.

The design seems to indicate availability to the general public. What might happen if a pervert gets one of these? What if they start clusters of these on a pattern through our malls, schools, and airports? Maybe your amateur girl detective needs one of these to get herself into trouble. Could these cruise our workplaces and watch over our shoulders at every move we make? Maybe your bad guys want these locked in a safety deposit box, only to deploy after closing time. What would you write about these?

Next, it seems the U.S. Navy has built, and is about to deploy, a rail gun. This gun fires a projectile at seven times the speed of sound using an electro magnetic pulse. It has a considerable range and appears to be capable of pinpoint accuracy. This will allow replacement of million dollar missiles with $25,000 projectiles. Good news or bad news depends upon which end of the gun you happen to be on. Read the article here.

I recall a failed attempt to build a space gun. I may have posted this article in a previous Idea Mill. The U.S. tried for years to build a gun capable of launching items into orbit. The original is scrapped and rusting somewhere. The rail gun might see this become reality. What if we could launch a satellite for $25,000? Even a relatively small business could have a satellite in space. Could this mark the end of the cellular network? Would we all get satellite phones? What would this do to the Internet?

What if organized crime had its own satellite network? Would there be multiple internets forcing us to subscribe to several, like cable TV?

I have one of my Macabre Macaroni stories coming soon that references a space gun, only mine is a mortar.

The last one today is about Ebola. This one includes charts to show just how fast this disease spreads. Read about it here.

Ebola could become the Black Death of our era. Others have written about this, but if you write about a zombie virus or any kind of dystopian settings, you really ought to be watching this unfold. How is the world reacting and responding? Is anyone making money here? Does anyone want it to spread? Are the terrorists watching? Are we watching celebrities as the world crumbles?

PS: I changed my background early. I’m off to Coeur d’Alene for a week, and wanted access to my Mac for this.

Speculate with me people, what would you write?

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Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing