I’m over at SFNovelists today — that’s the site I help to maintain with over one hundred other published authors of fantasy and science fiction.  I’m writing about my new E-reader in a post called “My New E-Reader and Me:  A Match Made in ‘Meh.'”  I hope you enjoy it.

My New Writing Toy

November 20, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post.  Really I have.  I had resolved to post everyday this week.  But then I downloaded my new writing toy, and, well, it’s made the gathering of my research for the new project much more fun.  And it’s kept me fro doing much else.  The new toy is Scrivener, and I know many of you use it already.  It’s a mac-based program designed for writers who are piecing together a project and blending research information with story ideas.  It’s kind of hard to describe really.  I’ve only had it for a few days.  But I like it, and I’m finding it incredibly useful as I begin to pivot from research to writing.

More as I explore further.

So there’s this site, connected to the Apple site, from which you can download apps that are designed specifically for macs.  Many of them are shareware or freeware.  Others are demos for programs you have to buy to really use.  A few days back I downloaded a couple of games — solitaire type things — thinking, “Where would be the harm in having a couple of these games on my computer?”

Well, the harm is that they are totally addictive!  I just got sucked into a game and only emerged 45 minutes later.  I have no idea where that time went, but it certainly didn’t go into anything productive.  Dangerous.  Very dangerous.

I think I should delete them.  Maybe tomorrow….

New Computer’s Here!!

April 4, 2009

 Just coming up for air from my iMac immersion.  The new computer arrived yesterday and I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours trying to get the thing to work the way I’d like it do.  I’ve already discovered that my laser printer won’t work with it at all, but I can create files in Pages, save them as word docs, put them on my pc laptop and print them out from there.  A pain, but frankly I only need the laser printer for printing books.  My inkjet will work fine for less important documents.

Getting Mail to accept my addresses took a while, but that’s working now.  I’ll have to recreate my groups, but I can deal with that, I guess.  I love the way the thing looks, and I love photoshop for mac.  Wonderful.  Other aspects of it seem pretty straight forward.  I suppose the real test will come with I start my next book.

More later.  Bye for now.

Finally took the plunge and ordered my iMac tonight.  I should have it by next week.  I’m very excited.

Now if someone can just tell me how to get my Outlook Express (not real Outlook, but the Express version) information over to the Mac platform, I’ll be most grateful….

Computer Decision Update

March 3, 2009

So some time back I posted about my desire/intent to get a new computer to replace my ancient desktop. I was trying to decide between another Dell PC, with Vista, and an iMac. Well, I put off that decision for a while, mostly because I was torn between wanting to get away from Windows on the one hand, and not wanting to spend lots and lots of money on the other.

Well, I am SO glad I waited. Two things have happened in the last few days to make up my mind for me. First, on Sunday, my daughters’ brand new (December) Windows Vista machine came up with a malware problem. A pernicious program called Antivirus-1 had gotten on the machine, no doubt while one of my kids trolled around the web visiting game sites or shopping for clothes. It took me hours to get the computer back to normal, and by the time I was done, I was ready to take a sledge hammer to the thing.

And then today Apple announced that it has dropped its prices on the iMac significantly. My mind is now made up. I’ll be buyng my new Mac within the next few days, probably right after I finish my WIP, which is very close to completion.

Thanks again to all who offered advice.

Warning: Sarcasm Alert

February 19, 2009

My new version of TurboTax came today and it’s already installed on my computer!  I can’t wait to play with it.  Should be a great weekend!

Suddenly I feel such a kinship to Tom Daschle….

Calling All Apple Users

January 9, 2009

On December 21 of 2008, my Dell Inspiron 4300 desktop computer turned seven years old.  That’s 49 in dog years and probably 204 in computer years.  Let me tell you a little about this machine.  It’s got a 40 gig hard drive, which is darn near full.  It’s got 512 megabytes of what was once smokin’ hot RAM, but which nows seems to wheeze and cough when asked to do much more than boot up.  It’s running Windows XP (Service Pack 2, but only because I upgraded a couple of years back) on a Pentium 4 chip at 1.7 Ghz, and it’s got several USB ports, all of them USB 1.1 (except for the entra ones I installed myself, which were supposed to run at 2.0 speeds, but didn’t until I installed the XP Service Pack).

This computer has been wonderful to me.  [Knocks on wood.]  It has never crashed.  [Knocks on wood again.] I’ve written many, many books and stories on it. And it only occasionally does annoying stuff, like shutting down programs that I’m still using or closing Internet Explorer while I’m in the middle of looking for a site.  That said, I’m ready for a new computer.  I am SO ready for a new computer.

I had convinced myself for a while that I was going to get an iMac, that I was finally going to make the big jump over to Apple.  I’d heard all the horror stories about Vista and I wanted no part of any of that.  Then we had to get a new computer for my girls and because we couldn’t afford an Apple for them, we got another Dell desktop.  Yes it has Vista.  And to my surprise and delight, Vista has been fine.  More than that, it’s been great.  The girls love it.  I love it.  [I’ve heard the Windows 7 is just about ready to come out, but the other day when I tried to go to a site and read about it, my computer closed IE.  I tried again.  Same thing.  Every time I went to that site, it closed IE.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It’s like it knew what I was thinking.  Creepy.]

Anyway, now I’m back to trying to decide between a new iMac and a new Dell.  The iMac costs more by quite a bit and I’ve been using PCs a long time, so I have lots of old software that I’d have to abandon if I made the jump.  But I’m ready for an OS that doesn’t need to be handled like a pinless grenade. 

So, all you Apple users out there (Stephen Leigh, I’m talking to you!), this is your chance.  Proselytize away.  Convince me.  Talk me down from the Windows ledge.  Why should I switch?  Why is it worth the extra hundreds of dollars?

I have a confession to make:  I like to spend money.  I like to buy myself cool new toys.  I’m not always good at spending — I agonize over purchases and need some time to convince myself to buy a big ticket item.  I’ll do a ton of research to make certain I’m getting the right brand or model or whatever, and I’ll look around for weeks looking for the best combination of good price and trustworthy vendor.  And even when all that groundwork is done, I sometimes have trouble pulling the trigger.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s more fun to want something than it is to get it.  You know what I mean by that?  Sometimes that research stage is fun, even as I obsess over the item in question.  Anticipating the purchase, exploring all the possibilities, searching for that perfect deal — there’s something really enjoyable about that part of the process.

But then there’s also the fun in finally plunking down that wad of cash and getting the new toy.  

Yeah, I like to buy stuff. 

Not all stuff.  Some guys are into cars or sporting equipment or expensive clothes.  Cars don’t really do much for me, and I don’t usually need to look much beyond the L. L. Bean catalog for my next shirt.  And though I have been known to spend a bit of money on a bicycle or a new golf club (back when I played golf regularly), that’s not the stuff that makes me salivate.

So what are we talking about then?  Well, I love to buy new music, and books, and I’ve been known to get excited about stereo equipment.  But none of those is my current focus.  As most of you know at this point, I’m a pretty avid photographer.  Over the last several months as I’ve sold some of my pictures, I’ve squirreled away a bit of cash.  Enough, at this point, that I’m looking at buying myself a new digital SLR.  Yup.  I’ve been looking online, and in magazines, and even in mall photography stores, though I’d never actually buy the thing at a mall store.  Too much money; not enough service.  At this point I know which camera I’m going to get and about how much I’ll be spending.  It’s just about time to pull that trigger.

What about you?  What do you like to buy?  What are your favorite types of toys?  Electronics?  Clothes?  Sports gear?  Jewelry?  C’mon and share!  I won’t tell a soul.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking at a few more camera sites.  And then I think I need a new computer…..

Today’s music:  Larry Carlton

My Talismans

January 18, 2008

My friend Faith Hunter (http://faithhunter.livejournal.com) posted today on the talismans (Talismen?) she places on her computer to keep the techno-gremlins at bay.  It got me thinking about the charms I have on my computer.  There are two in particular that I look at every day.  Neither has anything to do with the workings of my computer (though, now that I say that, I think I should find something, as an offering to keep the computer gods happy).  Rather, they remind me of the earliest days of my career, when I wondered if I’d ever really make it as a writer.

I’m a refugee from academia and I actually gave up an academic job to pursue what was, at the time, just the chance of a promise of a possible book contract from Tor.  Not much to go on.  I had a conversation with my Mom in the midst of making this decision.  She thought I was making a terrible mistake, throwing away six years of graduate school and a great job for something she saw as dubious at best.  The conversation quickly degenerated into a fight.  The next morning, I happened to glance at my horoscope in the local paper.  I’m not a big one for reading horoscopes, but this one caught my eye.  Here’s what it said:  “What began as mere fantasy undergoes metamorphosis, becomes real.  Hunch pays off, you win by adopting unorthodox procedures.  Those who say it can’t be done will be startled by results.  Aquarian involved.”  

Oh, yeah:  forgot to mention that my Mom was an Aquarius.

That horoscope, yellowed now, despite the fact that it’s completely sealed in plastic, is taped to the base of my monitor.

That same summer, not long after I signed my first contract with Tor, Nancy and I went to New Mexico for a week.  We visited the Acoma pueblo and while we were there I found a tiny little sculpture of The Storyteller, the mythic figure of the pueblo culture who passed on stories to children, keeping alive the oral history traditions of the Native American peoples.  The Storyteller is usually depicted as a large woman surrounded by small children, who perch on her knees, on her lap, on her shoulders.  This particular sculpture had been done by a little girl — her mother sold pottery and she wanted to sell something, too.  At the time I was still wrestling with the decision I’d made, still wondering if I had made a mistake in giving up my academic future to pursue something so uncertain.  I saw this little sculpture and knew immediately that I wanted to have it on my desk, that it would be a symbol of sorts for what I’d decided to do with my life.  It’s a simple piece, made out of clay of course.  I’ve dropped it or knocked it over a hundred times and it’s still in one piece.  Symbolic indeed.

Anyway, those are the talismans I have on my desk.

Today’s music:  Nickel Creek (Nickel Creek)