Brown River Queen cover art

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Roundup

This has been one heck of a busy week.

Fletcher, our shall we say mature dog who was recently diagnosed with canine diabetes, is now on a new form of insulin. The old insulin simply stopped being very effective, and after a valiant attempt to find a dosage that worked, our vet suggested we try another type of insulin altogether.

Let me pause to give a shout-out to Dr. Ware Sullivan, of Oxford, Mississippi. He cares what happens to Fletcher. He and his staff don't just do their jobs, and stop there. No. They're genuinely and sincerely committed to treating their patients with everything they've got, and if Mr. Fletcher could say thanks out loud, he would. But I can, so I do. Thank you.

There is no canine-derived insulin. We're using human insulin to treat Mr. Fletcher, which makes the possibility of rejection by his doggy physiology a good possibility. It's common in these cases to switch insulins at least once, and that's what we're doing.

Fletcher endures the blood tests and vet visits and the days spent away from home with an easy, good-natured grace. I don't know how, but I believe he knows we're all working hard to help him, and he appreciates it and shows his appreciation by being a trooper.  Is it obvious my wife and I love dogs? Well, we do.

And there's been the usual hectic business of life. Today culminated in a long drive in a small pickup with no air conditioning, one large dog, a pizza, motorcycle gear, two backpacks, and two adult humans. But it was fun. We even made it there and back with the pizza intact.

Best of all, I've gotten some writing done! I'm really pleased with Brown River Queen, and I hope fans will be, too. Markhat's world gets deeper and older and more interesting every time I write about it, and I think that's a good sign.  I'm thinking I'll be sticking THE END on this one in the matter of a couple of weeks, at most.

Of course, I'll still need to edit it and then submit it. I wish I could say my fame had reached such lofty heights that a sale was not just certain but inevitable, but that isn't exactly he truth. Heck, it isn't even in the same building with the truth.

But it's a good book. I think it will sell.

I'm also writing a short how-to book, which I intend to use as a text when I teach a summer fiction writing course to a group of talented teenagers this June. That's been fun too. I'm going to give it away for free on my website during the course, so if you're at all interested, stay tuned. I'll provide links shortly.

And of course there's the upcoming podcast.  I've decided to name it BRACE FOR IMPACT. Because that sounds evocative and adventurous, and honestly, what could be more adventurous than a 48 year old fantasy author sitting behind a microphone and blathering for 20 minutes?

So I've been busy. Busy in a good way.

It's Friday night, and it's nearly eight o-clock, and that means only two things -- SUPERNATURAL, and FRINGE. Yeah, I dig the Winchesters. And Agent Dunham. Hey, even writers need to relax, right?

See you folks soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Live From the Dark Side of the Moon

I've also been fascinated by radio.

And gadgets. Radio and gadgets. And loudspeakers.

So that's radio, gadgets, and loudspeakers. Along with other things. But, for the sake of brevity, we'll stop there.

There's always been something inherently magical in the idea that a hairy man can sit in a tiny room somewhere and speak into a metallic contrivance and have his voice heard, if not all around the world, for hundreds of miles away. I can remember, as a kid and even as a young adult, listening to a lot of late-night radio. I spent most of the 80s working the graveyard shift, and in those ancient days of yore it was the radio, not the net, that kept us supplied with music and entertainment throughout the night.

And the DJs were the masters of the air. Rock 103 in Memphis was the closest genuine rock radio around, and many a night we busted a proverbial gut listening to the decidedly offbeat musings of the DJs. Ah, youth.

But this is the space-age a go-go 21st century, baby, and radio is something old folks talk about (see above). No, this is the Age of the Net. No more fiddling with antenna or tuners. Well, okay, some of us still do that, but we do it quietly, and in the privacy of our homes. At night. Wearing masks.

But I digress.

I still believe there's something unique about hearing another human voice. Too, to be perfectly honest, I've been told that podcasting (the new equivalent of a radio show) is a good way to promote one's books.

I have books. I like money.

It seems a natural fit.

And so, I have decided to embark upon a journey of creation. In addition to this blog, I will also soon begin publishing a twice-a-month audio-only podcast. Why audio only, you ask?

Have you seen me lately? Sure, back in the day, I was always being mistaken for George Clooney, so much so, in fact, that I actually starred in the sequel to 'Ocean's Eleven.' But time has not been kind, so it's an audio only podcast.

Now, when I decide to undertake a task, I do it right. I research the topic. I analyze other works in the field. I hurl abuse upon street mimes. Granted, that doesn't really help the process, but I hate those guys.

Researching and preparing for a podcast has been great fun because, as I mentioned, I love gadgets. Especially audio gadgets. I've got a bunch of loudspeakers that I designed and built, and they sound great, if I may say so.  And when my research immediately indicated that I'd need to get a decent microphone, I was ecstatic.

Sure, I could get by with a twenty-dollar WalMart special. It would allow me to record my voice.

And it would also sound like, to be blunt, crap. As do the microphones built into pretty much any piece of consumer electronics (and yes, that includes Macs, sorry).

That led to a bit of a problem, since I lost most of my fortune in the Great Dirigible Crash of 1911.  Happily, my research turned up a pro-grade mic I could actually afford.

I give you the Blue Snowball microphone!

It lists for a hundred bucks, which is a steal for the quality and specs. I got mine from Tiger Direct for a mere $69 plus shipping.

My Snowball arrived today, and here she is, in all her chrome-plated metal glory!

Yeah, I know, but I'm my own photographer too.

Now, was the Blue worth the money? Let's just see.

Click on the thingy below to hear an audio sample of my voice recorded by the mic in my Dell netbook. I'll wait right here.

Frank speaking into the built-in microphone.

It's intelligible speech. It does sound distant, and lacks any kind of tonal character.

But now try listening to the Blue, and hear the difference...

Frank on the Blue Snowball

Now that is a microphone.

I did notice a slight pop when I pronounced the P (say that really fast ten times), so I rummaged through my junk drawer and came up with a pop filter, shown below.

Yes, it's a piece of scrap felt sandwiched between the metal grille elements of an old air filter, supported by a length of flexible aluminum wire, a hose clamp, and a heavy metal thing from who knows where. But it works, as you can hear below:

See all the fun I've had? I got to play with a gadget, build something, record audio clips, move them from netbook to PC using the Cloud, and mess around with Audacity, the free sound editing software I'll be using.

Oh, and yes, I actually wrote, too. Brown River Queen is coming to a close, people! And it's been one heck of a ride. 

I'll leave you with one last image. I found this while clearing up free space on my website -- it's a genuine, unretouched screen shot from June of 2009. It doesn't need any explanation -- just look at the names and the rank numbers.

That was a very good day.