“Tainted Roses: Death to a Mind” now available as a Podiobook!

Well, it’s official: the first book of the Tainted Roses: “Death to a Mind” universe is now available on Podiobooks.com. Again, bit thanks go out to Katherina and Mick from Every Photo Tells… for, well, just about everything, from the inspiration of the initial photo, to patiently reading through the submission that wasfar outside their short-story length guidelines, to taking the initiative to produce the novella as an audio book, to finally suggesting and convincing me that it should go on Podiobooks.

Thanks, guys!

And yes: this is the first book of the Tainted Roses. I love these characters, and ever since I finished this first novella, I’ve been wondering about them, what they get up to next, who they are, what they would do when this or that happens. I think I’ve learned a lot since I wrote the book, and listening to it back again has told me even more about it.

So, I intend to write more. I make no promises on when it might happen, as I’ve been overwhelmed with duties and responsibilities in a number of different directions, but I’m thinking a nice weekend with just my thoughts, my laptop and a bottle or two of decent red wine, and I’ll have another draft finished.

Until then, enjoy the novella, and if you have any comments or questions, by all means make them!

“Tainted Roses” – a steampunk space opera novellette, uh.. “thing” :)

A couple of summers ago, while studying in France, I had the opportunity and inspiration to write a few stories based on the brand-new Every Photo Tells… photo prompt podcast. Most were very short little pieces, a moment or two in time and then gone.

One was… longer.

In one weekend, I cranked out about 26,000 words. The following weekend, I revised it, bringing the total of words up by a few thousand. This was a bit bigger than anyone expected. In particular, it was far too big to fit within the guidelines of the inspiring podcast, Every Photo Tells… So, it sat.

I finished a third edit, but didn’t really have any time to do anything with it. I sent it off to K and Mick at EFT, because I wanted to let them know that it really happened, and that the photo inspired me, however obliquely, to write the story.

Well, they went and did something with it! And I’m rather shocked..

They’ve been serializing it on the Every Photo Tells feed, with K doing the voices of the trio of sabateuses and — so far as I’ve heard — Mick doing the narration. It’s truly strange for me to hear the words that I wrote spoken out loud, and it’s not my voice that’s doing the reading. It’s humbling, inspiring and, I have to admit, a little frightening.

I hope to write more, and I recognize the piece for what it is: an early, unpolished and somewhat simple work. I’m proud of it, and it’s completed, but I know that I can write better and more. I’m hoping to get that chance, once my major writing project (the thesis) is out of the way, but it remains to be seen when that will happen.

Until then, go over to Every Photo Tells and listen to what I’ve done so far. I’d welcome constructive criticism about it — I’m still learning after all! — and I want to write more in that universe again.


Oh, and before I forget: many, many, many thanks to K and Mick of  Every Photo Tells, not only for taking on this big task, but for creating what has been a very inspiring idea for many of us who need just that little kick to our imaginations. I’ll be writing more for them if I get a chance, to be sure!


Here’s part 1, covering the first chapter.

Here’s part 2, covering chapters 2-4.

Here’s part 3, covering chapters 5-7.


(I’m not sure exactly how many parts are left, but there were 17 chapters in the third draft (many of them being small-ish), so I’d expect another 3-5 parts.)

“The eBook User’s Bill Of Rights” #ebookrights

I’m a digital kinda guy.

I like digital media. It’s portable. It’s searchable. It’s compact. It’s mobile. It can be easily referenced, quoted, remixed, annotated. It can be scanned through, sped up or slowed down.

Or at least, it should be.

Instead of that, we have illogical restrictions and corporate ass-covering. We have standards — too many of them, and they are too weak to stand up to corporate customizations which make them incompatible with the core standard.

We have vertical architectures where we should have horizontal ones. We have control exerted where it shouldn’t be. We have a fearful middleman business who realizes that they aren’t really necessary, that bits > atoms for most people.

We do lose some things, of course. We lose the physical connection to the material, the ephemeral and secondary qualities which help our minds to remember. Nothing smells like old vinyl or an aging hardcover. The texture of an MP3 is non-existent, the binding and cloth of every eBook on the same reader exactly the same. There’s nothing but an artificial, exactly-the-same-every-time sound to the pageflip on an eReader. There’s no crackle and texture to the virtual buttons on your music player.

But what we shouldn’t forget, what will kill us to forget, is that we have rights. We don’t state ’em often, and most of them we take for granted — right up until they are taken away.

We are being swindled into believing that we aren’t buying things any more — justlicensing the use of things for your temporary, restricted, personal, non-transferrable use.

I’ve been ranting about this a bit on Twitter lately, and this post won’t be much more elaborate than those tweets, at least not at the moment. I’ve declared the current generation of eReaders to be an abysmal failure, for reasons as varied as incompatible formats, vertical book stores, character-less devices, lack of low-end devices, and more.

I also argued that libraries are about making information available for those who can’t afford it — at least, on the high-level of principle, if not always in the low-level of practice — and that eReaders currently offer no viable model for them.

What all this post has been so far is to say: the topic is on my mind.

And then I heard about the following (on episode 188 of Tech News Today), and realized: I’m not the only one.

The Librarian in Black blog seems to have been thinking about this more and for longer than I have (not surprising, really), and has a number of great points that I’ll be exploring as time permits.

For now, however, I’m going to join the voices re-posting the line-drawing manifesto. I don’t entirely agree with all of the points (extending the right of first sale gets rather confusing in the easily-replicable world of bits, and represents a conundrum that has yet to find a good answer, following the very bad answer of DRM), but I think it’s a good start, and the solid beginning to a vocal stand.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

A Self-Portrait in Three T-Shirts

I’ve done my laundry today.

In packing to come to France, I had to pack only what I needed. It was confirmed that there was a laundry room in the building, so that meant I could carry less, and worry less about having to truck laundry around a new city.

Then it came down to the question: what do I pack?

Far beyond the simple question of the ideal blank forms of things I’m going to need (so many each of shirts, underwear, socks, pants), the question really revolves around a much deeper point: who am I going to appear to be?

Perhaps it is inevitable that I feel some nostalgia now, with less than a week left in this town that has been my home for three and a half months. It’s not all been good — often quite stressful and frustrating, actually — but I’m trying to take what gems I can from it all, see what of myself I have learned or how I might have changed, see what of the world I have learned or experienced.

And yet, it was while going down to get my laundry out of the dryer that I had this more interesting thought: what does my laundry say about me?

Continue reading

A Long Way To Get To A “Reflection”

I’m not one who generally talks about his own life. Being inherently hyper-critical of myself means also having a hard time celebrating successes — or even believing that they are successes…

I’ve been working on my PhD all summer, trying both to pin down the topic long enough to build something, as well as keep my cynicism in check as to whether it is worth building. So far, I’ve seen some success: I have a basic framework together (a bit buggy, but it runs) and now I’m building the real brains, the stuff which might actually show some worth, and the stuff I have to measure.

I’ve fought back the insanity as much as I can, and tried not to get distracted. That’s a pretty constant battle. When the heat got too much, I started working overnight and sleeping during the day. I discovered that my laptop battery had expanded in the heat (which was causing more overheating, and the keyboard to stop responding from time to time), so I removed it.

My internet became.. problematic, so I started duplicating things on the one external drive I have and trying to just listen to the backlog of podcasts, and the selection of music I brought. This is my entertainment, beyond two books (one fiction, one not) that I brought (that aren’t connected to my PhD work).

I know: I should get out more, right? Well, during those hot days, the only thing I could do was “get out”. But, lacking significant funds, there’s only a few things to do. Generally, I wander down by the waterside — used to walk along the top of the old wall, but they’ve blocked it off, apparently to resurface it. Almost inevitably, I end up by the side of the quai. There are picnic tables there, and they offer alternately sunshine and cool breeze, making the days tolerable.

Of course, no tech is really available there, besides my iPod in my pocket. So, there I sit with my journal, debriefing my brain, running through a few ideas. That’s actually been quite nice, and I’ve nearly filled the journal I brought with me. Granted, I rarely re-read these things, but I think I’ll try this time. I think there are some gems to mine…

Maybe I’ll try blogging more often — which brings me (finally) to the actual reason that this post is going up: I’ve written something, again. Well, two somethings, really. Once again, they are in response to the monthly photo from the Every Photo Tells… (EPT) podcast.

The first story hasn’t been published yet. It grew out of my steady frustration and madness, and the determination that, to take my mind off of it, I would spend every moment indulging in writing for the weekend, rather than doing any sort of actual work. I’ve been working all the time, and the distractions otherwise are short and meaningless, blog reading and RSS feed reading, meant to “not be work” but not be anything significant, either.

I wasn’t regarding writing as anything more than “not what I should be doing”, because it means something to me. And if I am supposed to be doing anything during this summer which means something, its supposed to be my PhD work. That’s the logic, as near as I can figure, which caused my heart and my mind to be in conflict. My heart wanted to write, to explore stories, to create; my mind, well, it wanted this to, but it felt duty-bound, obligated to work only my PhD.

That sort of conflict tears you up inside. People for the last month or so have heard me struggling with this, have seen the edges of madness (and beyond) that creep in, from time to time. When the Internet restrictions went in, I lost it entirely, for a while. Complete dissociation from reality, yet an acute awareness of it, an outside point of view, distant and yet so close..

That was when I decided I needed to write. An idea came to mind, and I started. By the end of the weekend, I had 23,000 words, something which surprised me, but the words flowed. I sat back, surprised, and then said: “I want to write more.”

I had the decision: keep writing on this story, edit this story, or try something else. After consulting on Twitter, I chose the latter. That story, “Reflection”, is a much shorter, much more brutal, and much less “story”-like piece, that went up over the weekend on the Every Photo Tells… podcast, episode 23. It was practically pure word expression, no real plot, no development, just an expression of the anger that had built up, and the uncertainty in identity; I wanted to shock, just a little bit, and wanted to carve away at myself.

That story is attached, if you want to read it for yourself. I caution you: it’s graphic, it’s foul, and it’s meant to be. But, I kinda like it.

The other story, the novella, is currently being revised. I like the characters, I like the universe, and I like the ideas. I think I write there again, and already have a few ideas, but want to polish this one first. A few people have it to beta-read, and I’m curious as to what they think.

I should be done with the manuscript next week — I’m only taking the weekends to write, still — and after that, it will hopefully appear on EPT. I’ll probably post the PDF here afterwards, but I’m toying, ever so slightly, of actually looking at proper publication. I think I need more practice, and I’ll need to work harder at figuring out how stories really get sold, but the idea has merit.

It’s what my heart wants to do… After all, my heart hasn’t been in my research for a long time.

After that, I’ll write some more, I imagine. EPT is monthly, after all, and perhaps I’ll find inspiration elsewhere.

Reflection [PDF]