Thursday, July 31, 2008

Give 'em the Vulcan tusch pinch

Got a link for you: Play it again, Jim...

Yep, you guessed right.





Tell me someone who was there during the days of Project Apollo who didn't watch Trek. I mean, it's horses for courses, and in 1966-69 Trek was hot stuff.

The used to paint near-nekkid chicks bright green. They had aliens of indeterminate gender. They had geniuses who were overwhelmed by the urge to rut like mountain goats. They had great, big spaceships and space battles. And sadistic Klingons mowing 'em down. And slave girls. And a bed-hopping skipper who didn't look too bad at all with his shirt in the laundry hamper. And this dude with the ears and the eyebrows. And a black chick (woah -- black, my gods, I don't believe this!) actually on the crew. And weird drugs. And cloning, and androids. Slave planets, giant intelligent lizards, chicks in glued-on costumes, hunky guest stars with great legs, in skimpy Ancient Greek kilts (!), tribbles, tricorders, time travel, exploding planets, immortality, religion-busters, insane computers, mindgames, empathym telepathy, mind-melds, sadism, masochism, adultery, murder, sabotage, revenge --

It was hot stuff way back when. It's just that four decades takest he spit-shine off of anything, and sooner or later you have to polish it up again, or archive it.

(I had a firsthand taste of this when I went through the NARC books, from the early 1990s, to bring them up to date ... and I'm even yanking AQUAMARINE firmly into the twenty first century: it's in the nuance of the technology. How far in the future is the world of Eric and Russell? In their day, who in hell will be using disks? Yet, 10years ago disks were cutting edge and flashdrives, jumpdrives, ramsticks, where a "Say what?" item. In the universe of Jarrat and Stone, they use "datacubes," which one imagines to be something like a 10 TB flashdrive too small to see, which is housed in something about the size of a die, to make it big enough for blunt human fingers to handle without breaking or dropping and losing.)

It had to happen, sooner or later. You KNEW the adventures of Jim, Bones, Scotty and Spocko would HAVE to be brought back up to spec. All writers do this, if they're given the ghost of a chance, and when you're in possession of a Hollywood franchise like STAR TREK, you don't wait to be given chances, you make your own. (George Lucas paved the way. Can you imaging what he'll be doing for the next update on STAR WARS?)

Of all the TREK series, I do believe I kinda liked ENTERPRISE the best. It had the "down and dirty" look about it, to which I gravitate. The original series is just too quaint now ... sorry, guys. It's the 1960s jingoism, sexism, racism, whatever "ism" you want to look at -- they come through the old scripts loud and clear, and they make 2008 nerves jangle. I say this sadly, because I also know Trek was one of the front runners in the field of equal opportunity ... but they also had an uphill battle with Hollywood producers who were in the business of selling a very expensive product to existing marketplaces. The best the 1966 Trek could do was go out and break trail. They did well, in their day; but that day is long past.

NEXT GENERATION had some excellent ideas and designs, but to me ... well, their universe is so squeaky clean that I have (and have always had) reservations. Don't get me wrong: the show was extremely well done, within its own parameters; but Picard's cosmos doesn't even get dusty. (Compare this scenario with ALIEN RESURRECTION, which is happening in the same approximate, and just as hypothetical, time frame. I can *believe* the ALIEN movie inside and out; I simply enjoy the hell out of the Trek show as an interested onlookers. There's a big difference.)

VOYAGER ... I was traveling when this went to air down here, and I missed most of it. I think there's 3 - 4 seasons I still haven't had the chance to see. (Same story with FARSCAPE, incidentally: nothing personal, just a clash of time, work and place). And DS9 ... I lost track of it about two seasons before the end, so I have no idea how it finished up. It's on the "gotta see one day when I have the time" list.

So, I guess I have more than a nodding aquaintance with Trek, even though I wouldn't say it influenced my own science fiction much at all. (For example, even when I do get into the military aspect, "my" Starfleet and DeepSky Fleet are built on the Air Force, not the Navy. For the life of me, I can't see how the Navy will get itself into space. Sure, by now you (the viewer) are well accustomed to seeing the space-going Air Force model on STARGATE, but (he he he) Keegan got there first! I was doing this stuff in the early 1990s, years ahead of SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND, and any of the STARGATE incarnations, including the James Spader and Kurt Russell movie.)

And I, for one (and I'm starting to think I'm just about the only one!) am actually looking forward to seeing the old Trek scenario polished up, dragged into the new millennium, albeit kicking and screaming.

From what I've seen on a Google surf (admittedly not in any obsessive depth), when you get past the official sites, the games, the merchandising, the magazine sites, Hollywood sites, etc., etc., etc., and see what the "hard core Trek fans" are saying ...

Wellllll, here's the part where Keegan gets to play Nostradamus.

Get ready for a big stink in the Old Guard, who are going to hate the new movie with a passion. They're going to take it as a personal insult that Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and our erstwhile heroes have been recast (read: replaced) with new faces. Meanwhile the new movie will score big with the vast "gray area" of the audience which likes Trek well enough but doesn't live and breathe the original show. (For those fans, Shatner, Nimoy and company ARE the show, the characters, the magic; take them away and, they won't know what you've got left, 'but it sure as hell aint Trek.')

But the vast "gray area" in the middle of the audience will like the movie, enough to make it a financial success. Way on the other side of the audience is the Glittery end: folks who are maniacal fans of the the new movie, won't hear a syllable said against it, and will go to e-war with anyone who disagrees ... all of which usually means these new fans have fallen like a tonne of bricks for one or more of the new actors, and the cosmos is revolving (however temporarily) around their (current) magnificent obsession.

Get ready for the Trekker Wars of 2009. I predict blood. They'll make any atrocity committed by the Klingons, Romulans, Borg, Predators, Aliens AND the Go'aould (all cemented together into an alliance focused on hammering the humans into extinction) look like Walter and Grommit.

Meanwhile, Nostrakeeganus, he say, the new movie will be a great financial success; they'll do several more movies which go over nicely at the box office -- quite nicely enough to rationalize doing a TV series, which will premier in the fall of 2015, when the publicity campaign will read, "Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Gene Roddenberry's immortal Star Trek..."

Write this down somewhere, and when it happens -- in 2015 -- I shall officially hang out my shingle and charge $25 per squint into my crystal ball. Because by that time you'll know I'm psychic.

So, give 'em the Vulan tusch pinch, and enjoy the damned movie!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Possums 5, Keegan 0

I want to talk to you about Possums.

Not O'Possums -- our possums are not of Irish extraction. Ours are the McSupial variety, clearly of Scottish lineage, as you can tell not merely by the name but from their habits.

They're a highly-evolved species; or at least, evolved enough to form into social groups which are known to naturalists as Football Clubs. Which is to say, being of Scottish extraction, and not being able to play the bagpipes (bagpipes were hunted to extinction in this state, in the nineteenth century), wear tartan (they could, but they just don't bother, because they're nocturnal, it's dark, and nobody would notice) or eat shortbread (McPossums are vegetarian*), they fall back on the one thing they can do, and do well. Play football.

(*shortbread? No. They prefer anything in your orchard or your vegetable patch. I promise you, you can bait your McPossum trap with shortbread, and the little buggers utterly ignore it.)

The local football league convenes at about one in the morning, on or around the best metal roof they can find. Ours seems to fit the bill to perfection.

Last night's game (played out in the early hours of this morning) went to extra time, injury time, and tie-breakers.

It's a good thing the little bast--darlings are so cute, or there would be shotgun holes through the ceiling today. Incidentally, the Scottish McSupial possums living downunder are very different from the Irish variety, the O'Possums, from the US, which are not in the sightest cute. Ours look like this, which is the ONLY reason most of them are still alive:





Aren't they just too cute? They're about the size of a big cat, and anywhere you find gum trees, you find possums. Suffice to say, city and hills alike are full of gum trees.

(And no, there is absolutely nothing going on in the Mel-o-sphere; hence the sports results from last night: South Adelaide Celtics v. Adelaide Hills Highlanders. Rooftop possum soccer, brought to you by Match of the Day. Night. Whatever.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blue genes and gay publishing

As you go by the solstice of winter and don't have anything bright and shiny to look forward to until your birthday (which is a date of mixed blessings: My gods, are you still alive? How old are you? You're kiddin. Be fair, nobody's that old!), you start to ponder upon the meaning of Life, the Universe and similar Jazz. The days are short, gray and bloody damned cold (this is the coldest winter in anyone's memory), and you wonder what you were bitching about last summer, when you were flaked out on any available horizontral surface, chugging anything cold, and begging for a flurry of snow. Of course, come January and February, you'll be saying the exact same things again ... humans are not terribly adaptable.

There's a bright, lurative future for the geneticist who isolates and markets the adaptability gene. They'd sell it by the pill or by the shot, and you'd go get your shot in, say, October, and start mutating for summer. Your body would change shape and consistency between then and Christmas, and by New Year you'd have the body and constitution of a Masai warrior, to whom 110 degrees is peachy. Then, you'd go back to the clinic and get another shot in April, and by June you'd look like a native Siberian or Canadian or Alaskan ... Inuit, or Inupiat, or Yupik ... folks to whom 50 degrees is balmy and warm. On a day like today (the forecast is for 12 degrees Celcius, which is something like 54 in real degrees), with your Inuit body and constitution you'd be sipping on a cool drink, lying on an air mattress by the pool.

Was talking to the other side of the family (in Alaska) at the weekend ... they're having the coldest summer in anyone's memory. They've tickled 60 degrees F on a couple of occasions in Anchorage, and in the Valley (Mat-Su), it snowed last week. In July. Most of Alaska is rain-soaked, and folks are wondering where in the hell their summer went to --

And here's Keegan bitching about the climate, the winter, while "enjoying" almost identical weather. Yes, BUT --

It's what you're used to. You get acclimated to summer, and then it ... stops.

Okay, I'll shut up about it now.

There's a new screensaver at the Tenth Dimension (the members' zone at MK Online). No hunks this time -- next time, guys. Be patient. This one is an SF screensaver which is rated "office safe." You can go ahead and install it wherever, without getting glares. I'll save you a trip to the website, and give you the direct links right here:

Click on this to download the XP self-installer;
and...

Click on this to download the file for Vista
(This Vista one doesn't instll itself. Extract it from the archive to your desktop, double-click it, and you get a pop-up menu.)

And a very good question from a thoughtful reader, while I'm here. This visitor from the UK asked, why did GMP cease to be, as a publishing entity? It's a long and complex story, but I'll try to be brief. The business was started quite a long time ago now, by a group of people (I think there were five guys, Richard Dipple, Aubrey Walther, David Fernbach, and two others) who were all investors in the enterprise and worked for GMP too. The business started with a couple of books and at its zenith was doing 26 new titles per year -- which was the point where Keegan signed with them. The future looked bright indeed; at that point, I had no idea Richard Dipple was seriously ill. Richard was one of the nicest human beings I have ever known, and his death was not merely a tragedy in human terms, but also for gay publishing. Without him, GMP unraveled itself. The four other founder members went in different directions; two stayed (Aubrey Walther and David Fernbach), but things were not as lucrative as they might have been, and ... frankly, I should think the inspiration had gone. When the joy goes out of something, it turns into work, and sometimes damned hard work. A day arrives when you're glad to let it go. That day came, and GMP passed into the hands of Prowler Press. Now, Prowler was a magazine publisher which had become interested in having a gay book list, and it might have worked out, if Millivres (the big, BIG gay magazine publishing house) had not assimilated Prowler in the perfectly natural process by which huge publishing combines consume their more modest competitors, in order to iron-clad their market share. Here was the problem: Millivres had no interest in running a gay book list. Over the space of several years the last titles (which had already been contacted for at the time of the takeover) were published; anything else was scrapped; on-shelf stock was run down, and ... it was over.

The really sad thing is that with the loss of GMP, gay publishing outside the USA suffered a major blow from which it's never, really, recovered -- or at least, not yet. Many writers (myself among them) are out there on the Internet, breaking trail, and doing very nicely at it. But (and I cannot stress this enough!) writers like Keegan had an existing "name" to tout, when we started self-marketing. MK could quote a stack of titles from GMP and Millivres, and even a credit from Alyson (Breakheart); I could rattle off the reviews I'd received yonks ago. All this builds a foundation under the new Internet book marketing project. Gay books, any kind of books, makes little difference: you have to find readers and get them to part with their money. And it's easier to do this when they either know you already because they have a shelf full of your old books, or they're reasonably impressed with the fact you were professionally published much more than one time.

Not for a moment am I saying that new (gay or otherwise) writers can't make a go of markering their books on the web: they can. Have you heard of a book called "The Didymus Contingency", by Jeremy Robinson? No? Google it. Seriously. It was self-published, he paid Kirkus Reviews their pound of flesh for a write-up (and they have become bloody expensive), and before you know it's he's signing a contract with a pro publisher. Another writer who went the DIY route and succeeded massively was Matthew Reilley: from self publishing to signing a high-six-figure contract with a major UK house, in about three years flat.

I guess what I'm saying is ... new writers have to be prolific, dedicated, incredibly talented, and have quite a lot of money to invest in promoting their books. Then, they need some real, genuine luck. Not everyone has the investment capital, or the luck. And I think it's so sad that a good, solid gay publishing house no longer exists -- a house that's been established so long, the publisher can afford to take a risk on someone new.

This is what happened for me: Richard Dipple took a risk on Mel Keegan. Now, ICE, WIND AND FIRE got some stinking reviews (for being sexy; can you believe that?) but Richard looked at actual sales figures, which were good, and gave me another shot...

That next shot was DEATH'S HEAD. The rest is history. DEATH'S HEAD had a good many teething problems of its own, but David Fernbach and I got through it, and ... here we are.

The bottom line is this: I would love to see another publishing house come along to fill the void left by GMP. I'd be involved with it myself, on some level, if I were given the opportinity. And now --

I have to go back to work, guys! More tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What, no periscope jokes?



As promised, sample readings from AQUAMARINE (40% of the book) are on the blog as of, uh, now. There'll only be minor changes between here and the paperback release. The widows and orphans have yet to be attended to (so just ignore them in the typeset you have here; I think there's something like three of the little buggers; we make them disappear, but don't actually ship them to a gulag, so it takes time) and we're still waiting for the ISBN.

Now, ISBN generation is supposed to take about three working days and sometimes takes two working weeks. You see, "ISBN" is an acronym standing for Interdimensional Superstring Boson-type Neutrino," and they're a bloody nightmare to catch. It takes a special kind of cyclotron to generate them. You key in the title of the book, the author's byline, the publisher, publication date and number of pages, then you shoot the request into superspace with the cyclotron, and get ready to "catch" the returning particles. They come blasting back through the fabric of space-time, and where they pass through, they leave micron-tiny fractures (the technical term is "holes") which, when scanned with an argon laser, can be read in binary code. The zeroes and ones of the binary are then converted back into numerals, and voila, you have your ISBN. But it's hellaciously hard catching the ISBN particles, and sometimes they have to fire up the cyclotron two or three times to get a result.

Anyway, all that lies in the hands of professionals. We don't profess to be in charge of the cyclotron, and the ISBN will be delivered when it's delivered.

In the meantime, here's the link to download 40% of the book, and -- enjoy!

ONE WORD OF CAUTION: these chapters and complete and uncut. There's some good, old fashioned raunch. Consider yourself warned! If you're underage, or if you're disturbed by gay relationships, you know what NOT to download, right? Everyone clear about the content of the PDF?!! Okay, here goes:

Download the first eight chapters right here; it's a compressed PDF, sile size is 1117k.

The sample readings will be up on the website in the next week, and the paperback will be about a week behind that. After which, my next project is to get my fantasy novel into the hands of DreamCraft, so it'll fill the temporal gap while I plot myself right back OUT of the deep, dark hole I'm in, with my haunted house novel.

I can't believe I did this to myself. I shot myself in the foot, and this is so rare, for me. The last time I did this was with SCORPIO. You remember the battle at the end of the book? I held hostage a pressurized city, floating in the air over an arctic wilderness ... and I had to get NARC riot troops in there, without punching a hole in the pressure skin, which would bust the city wide open and kill a quarter million people. Oof. I designed the scenario to be a page-turner; I didn't want a repeat of anything readers had seen in either DEATH'S HEAD or EQUINOX. It had to be all-new, and a king-sized challenge for Jarrat, Stone and crew. Visualize this, if you can: the fingers are flying over the keys, the scene is set, the Blue Ravens gather in the ops room aboard the carrier NARC-Athena for the briefing ... all eyes turn to Jarrat and Stone. "Okay, boss," says Gil Cronin, "what's the deal?" The silence was deafening. You could have heard a pin drop. Jarrat looked at Stone; Stone looked at Jarrat. They both looked at Keegan and Stone said, "All right, smart ass, what IS the deal?" It took me three weeks to get out of that one. Jarrat and Stone, and the riot troops? They had it easy. All they had to do was get in there and do what they were told -- by me. As for myself, I think I toasted about a billion brain cells, running scenario after scenario, while every one of them blew up the city.)

Let that be a lesson to me, never, NEVER to leave fine-tuning The End till I'm writing the middle. Ever after SCORPIO, I write the ending of the book in note form (maybe 10 pages which will be expanded out to 50 in the finished version), before I settle on what the fine points of the plot are actually going to be. In oher words, you don't just jot down, "The city is taken hostge, Jarrat and Stone lead the descant troops in there and liberate it." You figure out exactly (not approximately!) how it's going to be done. APHELION was another major challenge, but no real problem, and I've known for eons where the HELLGATE series ends...

All of which made me complacent. Did I get sloppy, planning the occult book? Or did I get too clever? I'm not quite sure, yet. Suffice to say, readers will be getting a full-on, full-throttle fantasy in the meantime, while I, uh, clean up my mess.

Anyway, enjoy the sample readings, and watch out for a newsletter from DreamCraft in the next day or two. There's a new screensaver uploading tomorrow, too. I'll put a link to it on the blog here, also.

All the best,
MK

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour blues, grammar and electrical tape

Okay ... like every other person downunder who follows the sport of cycling, I'd been hoping Cadel Evans would be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat. But -- like anyone who knows a thing or two about bike racing (and I do), I knew he had a 1% chance of working the mojo. So I'd describe today's Tour blues as "disappointed but not at all surprised." Message to Cadel: "Good on you, mate, bloody good try ... and get yourself onto a stronger team next year!"

Because, like it or not, winning the Tour de France is a team effort. You can't do it on your own -- but Cadel sure had to try, and he got to within a couple of minutes of it. He had almost no support from the rest of the Silence Lotto riders, and -- what a surprise -- after the trial by ordeal of the run through the Alps, there wasn't enough left in the old legs for him to ride the wheels off the leaders in the individual time trial. He's a great rider; he's not Superman.

(It also didn't help that this year's Tour course is the most gruelling I've ever seen; and I've been following cycling for ten years or so. The route through the Alps was designed by a career sadist.)

Having said all that, cheers to Team CSC for their performance ... it takes a TEAM to win the Tour, and they've done just this. Carlos Sastre had all the help in the world in setting up this win, but -- hey, nobody ever (to my knowledge) chewed chunks out of Lance Armstrong for winning seven times while being surrounded by the strongest team in the world. You remember the familiar sight of a yellow jersey surrounded by blue ones, driving the peloton like the Intercity express? This is how tour wins are made, and what's sauce for Lance is sauce for Carlos --

It'll also be sauce for Cadel in 2009, when he shows up next July with a strong team.

Other events in the Mel-o-sphere are equally exasperating. There aren't any, and the lack of them makes for a certain inability to tell Sunday from Thusday. I think it's Sunday today. I'll have to check the calendar and make sure. The car just had a brief flirtation with the RAA Roasdide Service, but it turned out that four square inches of electrical tape fixed the problem, so we're almost event-free there, too. (Not that you actually want the kind of event where you wait an hour for a tow truck, put the car in the workshop for a week and pay five hundred bucks to bail it out. Electrical tape? Bring it on!)

Work-wise, all progresses smoothly. Have been contributing to the 'write a novel' website which is growing rapidly now (not online yet; I'll give you the URL when she goes up). Mind you, I never realized what a boring subject grammar is, till I had to sit down and quantify a few specific chunks of it. Good gods, it's better than a handful of sleeping pills. Insomnia-stricken Heath Ledger (rest his soul) should have skipped the doctor and talked to a librarian. "Yes, ma'am, can you give me a really good book on grammar. Something that explains every nuance of the language." He'd have been asleep in three minutes. I certainly was, trying to quantify and explain a couple of bits and pieces of English grammar. I fell face down into the keyboard on at least two occasions.

In the next few days, however, things might get a tad bit interesting: apparently, we're expecting a major, full-on truckers' strike. Those in the know are giving the major supermarkets about three days, and gas stations about the same, before the shelves are empty and the bowsers are turned off. A few days later, the old song 'The Pub with no Beer' will turn out to be strangely prophetic.

Frankly, I'm supporting the truckers. The government is doing its usual, ridiculous stuff, while truckers are being worked to death and underpaid. (If politicians worked a tenth as hard, or earned the pay truckers get, they'd quit the job ... always supposing you can call sitting on your duff in Parliament House and sleeping through people's speeches 'working.' It's not quite the term I would use.)

Sorry: I'm talking politics here, and I confess, I've taken a vow of political silence. Every morning I stand in front of the mirror and repeat four times, "I will not blog about politics." And here I am doing it. Again. Mea culpa.

Look out for the sample readings from AQUAMARINE, hopefully tomorrow, on the blog here (later on, for the website upload). The book is ready to go, and is just waiting for some final formatting and the Lulu publishing process ... which takes a little while and can be frustrating indeed. Font issues. We went through hell and high water with the NARC books, but lately we believe we've discovered a way to make absolutely certain the fonts are fine, before uploading. To forestall the Q&A, the ABCs are, it's done in the IBM PC, after DOC to PDF conversion, concerning EPS formatting of PDFs, before the FTP, to make sure TT fonts don't beome SOBs, FO without trace, and turn up DWI in NSW three weeks later.

There, that made everything pellucid. Right?

In short: nothing's happening right now, and I'm going out to make a pot of coffee.

Cheers,
MK

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Read it here first!

Middle of next week we'll be issuing a press release (part of the advertising campaign which has been pending, imminent, around the corner, overdue, for a looooong time). You won't read this on any online news service till next week, but you can see it here ... well, now. Here it is -- our press release.

Access All Areas:
Major gay website redesigns for visually impaired visitors


Adelaide, SA, [date will be middle of next week] -- Australian multimedia studio DreamCraft and favorite gay author Mel Keegan have conspired yet again, to produce what they believe to be an Internet first.

Visually impaired gay readers find all too few websites suited to text and Braille browsers. Traditionally, gay sites are graphics-heavy, focusing on photos and videos. But websites celebrating gay writers, gay books and publishing are inspired by text ... so why not take the next step, accommodating visitors for whom text is the ultimate Internet experience? Time to boot up your LYNX browser!

Mel Keegan OnLine has crossed into this wider world. Keegan and DreamCraft take pride in the move. "Until recently we had no idea," Keegan says, "so many Internet users are struggling with a medium that's, frankly, poorly designed for folks who can't see pictures or watch videos. It's a rough deal when any minority group, no matter how small, gets locked out of an experience. But visually impaired Internet surfers are an absolutely vast group. We're talking about millions of people -- and a significant percentage are gay. It's time gay webmasters seriously considered catering to these visitors. We're proud to be among the first." All Mel Keegan web pages and blogs are now fully accessible to visually impaired visitors.

The Mel Keegan OnLine site (www.melkeegan.com) was designed and crafted by DreamCraft, a multimedia studio in Adelaide, South Australia, which has been active since 1996. In 2000 they signed with gay author Mel Keegan to produce reprints of long-time favorite gay novels like EQUINOX and FORTUNES OF WAR, originally published by defunct UK gay publishing house, GMP.

Since 2000, DreamCraft and Keegan have produced twenty gay books, including the award-winning THE DECEIVERS, the "readers' choice gay historical" DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, and several novels in the "queer SF" series which began with gay cult classic DEATH'S HEAD, nominated for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

In 2008, manufacture moved to the US and EU, with paperbacks and hardcovers produced by Lulu (http://stores.lulu.com/mel_keegan), and ebook downloads handled by Payloadz, via the eBook Kiosk at Mel Keegan OnLine (www.dream-craft.com/melkeegan/ebooks.htm). Keegan's web presence continues to grow, with one of the most exciting new blogs, "The World According to Mel" (http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com), where visually impaired visitors find much of interest -- all of it accessible.
####


In the next day or two we're going to do another kind of 'blog special.' The sample readings for AQUAMARINE won't be up at the website for 10 days or so, but you'll be able to read them -- 40% of the book -- right here. Gotta like that.

Gotta get some work done, too.
Ciao for now,
MK

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mars or bust!

Here's the stuff of dreams: a bald statement which takes a little while to permeate the basic denseness of the human cranium (even mine):

Within a decade, NASA plans to begin building a permanent lunar colony to serve as an outpost en route to Mars.

No, Keegan did not make that up! It's an outtake from a feature article which you can find right here:

WISbsiness.com, Wisconsin's Business News Source.

It's well worth a look ... a quiet little article, no fanfare, no noise, no flashy pictures or videos. Just a plain text feature which frames the future of space exploration in no uncertain terms. There's a saying: "Great storms announce themselves with a single gust of air."

A few days ago I was talking about the 39th anniversary of Man on the Moon, and my own memories not only of the event, but of being a kid in the late 1960s, when even our teachers firmly believed we were headed for the stars, and that kids like you and me (well, maybe not you; you're probably too young to have been there at the time!) could expect to live and work in space.

Alas, Project Apollo turned out to be little more than a Cold War publicity stunt, but several decades down the track the future of this planet, not to mention the people living on it, is going to pivot on the NEED to get back to the Moon. It's all about fuel. You can't get helium 3 here. You CAN get it there. And nuclear fusion ain't gonna work without it. I can take or leave the part about the Lunar base being a jumping off point for Mars. I mean, I would love to see it happen, but I'll be damned if I can see any shrieking, screaming, blue-in-the-face necessity to go to Mars. And that's what it would take to get us there. But ... rust, we have plenty of right here ... and Mars is too problematical to make a practical lifeboat for the Earth, in the next century.

Hang on --

Hold the phone. Keegan's getting a plot idea. I mean, a novel concept ... the pivot point around which books revolve, and without which you wind up with soap opera.

Something mildly phenomenal in an entirely fictional context just hit me. Oooooh, man, there's a novel in this...

[long pause while plot idea gets hammered into the computer; further pause for mug of coffee; slight extra pause for re-reading the last few lines...]

Sorry, guys, but this is how it happens. I was about to remark that Mars doesn't have enough gravity to hang onto an atmosphere for long, even if we managed to give it one, and an idea/image/scene 'happened' in my mind. The story will weave itself in the next few hours, and this one gets added to the list of books I just have to write. Eventually. (Actually, book sales via Lulu and Payloadz are doing so well, lately, once again I'm close to seriously considering concentrating solely on writing; now, that would be a day long remembered. Can't wait for it to happen.)

Back to Mars, though. It's actually fairly easy (or, the concepts are easy, not the technology!) to endow Mars with an atmosphere. Buzz out to the Ooort Cloud, find ice asteroids which are comprised of water ice, shunt them back in here, with the ion engine, crash them into Mars. Instant atmosphere, as the water divides into hydrogen and oxygen in the heat of the impact. Problem: Mars only has 30% of our gravity, and the atmosphere we just pumped in will escape to space.

Sad to say, I know a thing or two about Mars, and why it'll be a bear to go there for purposes of colonization ... much less to convince the people of Earth to spend trillions on spaceflights to get there! I've researched Mars for three books and actually written one of them -- APHELION.

Wraparound cover for the 2008 DreamCraft edition of APHELION

Don't get me wrong: Mars is a fantastic place. I had a load of fun with APHELION, and I'm definitely going to return there for a fictional vacation. Jarrat and Stone might not be there; the NARC books tend to touch down in a location and then go on. (The next stories will involve Rethan, which we visited in both DEATH'S HEAD and STOPOVER, also Aurora, where we were in SCORPIO; but I can't figure out how to get back to Mars. Worse luck. The great Martian citites, and the farming town of Lassiter were fantastic places to write about.)

So much the better that you were just witness to The Epiphany, the actual moment when a new novel was born! (It might not be a big thing to most visitors, but to me, as a writer, it's a "wow" moment. I love those moments.) It might be a few years before you see the novel, but this one? Yeah, I'm, going to write this one. It doesn't have a title yet, but I have a feeling it will by tonight...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who needs to sleep, anyway?

Down to Earth and back to work with an anti-climactic thuddd today. That's the downside to days off: the routine seems all the more borrrrrring when you get back. I used to notice the same thing, amplified maybe 50 times, when I'd get back here after being in the States for months. You'd be en route for something like 40 hours to get back, and then ... zap. Nothing doing. Welcome to the Event-Free Zone, where the Scotch tape is keeping the eyelids open --

And it doesn't help that the Tour de France is in the Alps this week, and the day's stage is concluding at about one in the morning. Steady, Keegan: it's all over, Sunday night. (No, seriously, I enjoy the hell out of Le Tour; you can sleep anytime, right?)

A couple of questions from readers today. First, just how 'text browser friendly' is the new version, REALLY, of my website? This one comes from a visitor who would like to be able to recommend Mel Keegan OnLine to a friend or relative who has a profound visual handicap, in addition to being gay.

Well we actually got the LYNX browser up and running, and we ran the whole site through it, and it works. There are two or three pages that, for the life of us all here, we can't figure out how to make them text-compatible. An art gallery, and the giftstore, which pivots on its images. How do you make those come up in LYNX? We're still scratching our heads at that one. But otherwise, you have my guarantee, both the main site, the NARC site are 100% friendly for visually impaired users, and we'll be bringing the Members' Zone into line in the very near future.

If you're wondering what in the hell the LYNX browser is, anyway ... it's a pure-text reader. It logs onto a website and renders the text only. All pictures get dropped, and are represented by their alt text. Any material buried in JPG of GIF images, plus Flash and MPEG content, is ignored. What we've done with the site -- and in particular the NARC site -- is to add 'invisible text' to all images, where there is meaningful content for the text browser, plus we've kept the Flash content to 'significant plugins.' Obviously, LYNX won't see these plugins, but they gussie-up the site beautifully for those of us who can see, at the same time as not rendering the site a waste of time and brain cells for those who can't.

On the slim chance that anyone out there is intrigued as to what it all looks like in text, you can download LYNX here: Vordweb, a UK site. In fact, webmasters do need to think about this...

It had never actually occurred to us that the blind or visually impaired part of the Internet community was so large ... like everyone else with more-or-less normal vision, we careened blithely along without thinking about it. (I, in particlar, have no excuse for this, because to say I have an up-close experience of deafness is putting it mildly. But you don't use your ears on the Internet; you don't read with them, nor do you watch movies with them. Urk.)

To one and all who waited a rather long time for us to get our collective act into gear on this score: sorry. Sincerely. It's done now, and the site is very, very rewarding in LYNX. Would someone like to tell me how a Braille browser works? I have no experience with this whatsoever. We can only assume that it offers a dynamic version of the websites, rendering text to Braille, and once again ignoring images. If this is so, we're fine -- we got it covered.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the rights of folks with disabilities lands squarely under the umbrella of 'human rights,' directly beside gay rights ... and if you were both gay and blind, my gods, you'd have to be feeling the kosh on most gay-centric websites.

Here's hoping that our contribution will maybe inspire others to get their sites made over into more friendly places. (And incidentally, if we missed something on the site, ie., something doesn't work for your text or Braille browser, let us know.)

Second reader's question (slightly more left-field than the above, but still a good question). I write more than a few military and paramilitary characters and situations ... am I military or ex-military myself? Simple answer, no. More complex answer: almost. I'm the first non-military bod in this family, in four generations. My father was Royal Army, my mother was civilian attache to the Admiralty Department of the Navy. My cousin was in 3 Para, my uncle was Air Force, and so on ... and on ... ad nauseam. Sorry, people: if you were waiting for the 'gays in uniform' stories, I can't help you there. (I think I have 'issues' with authority figures. I was never unaware of how resoundingly stupid some of them are, and could never bring myself to take orders from them! Me, in the armed forces? I'd have brought the Commonwealth down.) My writings are based on firsthand research, and a lot of it comes from the horse's mouth. You could say, I'm one step away from the military. But that step's a doosey.

Also, I do want to point out something important (well, important to me) here. NARC is paramilitary. There is a world of difference between the department for which Jarrat and Stone work, and any branch of the forces. I can get away, literally, with blue murder, because (a) it's my world, and I decide how it works, (b) it's four centuries in the future, and, thank gods, things have changed.

Thanks to all who send through their questions ... thanks for reading here, and also for swinging by the website. The next items online will be the screenreader format ebook for WHITE ROSE OF NIGHT, plus a new (free) screensaver. And right after that, we'll have the sample readings (as always, 40% of the book) of AQUAMARINE. The novel itself will be going up in August, both to Lulu (the paperback) and Payloadz (the ebook, in two formats).

Always supposing I live that long. Terminal sleep deprivation, that's my trouble...

Cheers (yawwwwn),
MK.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight - movie review


A darkness incandescent...

Don't sit around reading the reviews (or even this one). Get your butt out to the cinema, pay their pound of flesh and see the damned movie! Or let me put it like this: if you only see one movie this year, THE DARK KNIGHT has to be the one.

I saw the movie before I looked at the reviews, and for once the critics have got it right ... though, of the reviews I read last night, only the Rolling Stone critic picked up on the real fangs and claws of THE DARK KNIGHT.

It's a movie and a half. It's an acid trip. It's one of the very few films in a long, long time that will exercise your brain as well as your adrenal glands. Viewers and reviewers around the world are already touting Heath Ledger for an Oscar; and if he doesn't get one, I'll want to know why. Yes, he was that good.

Which is not to undermine the other performances in the movie. Gary Oldman is nothing short of fantastic as Jim Gordon, who has become the very personification of common decency and human integrity. His performance is so subtle, his character so 'un-glamorous' that Gordon takes on a haunting realism which makes him stand out at the very moment he is being surrounded by the macabre, the grotesque, the surreal. If Heath Ledger doesn't get the Oscar, Gary Oldman should get it: his performance as Gordon is of necessity crafted from the ordinary, the mundane, the tatters of rampant normality. By contrast, Ledger was handed the whole machine shop, with the welding bay fired up, and given an engraved invitation to let rip. Sure, the Joker thoroughly eclipses everyone and eveything else in the movie ... but look at what Heath has to work with. Gary Oldman's task must at times have looked like Everest: create a Jim Gordon who's middle aged, and thin, and tired, and scared ... and not for a moment swamped by the Joker or even the Batman himself.

The courage exhibited by Christian Bale in this movie is startling: he spends about 80% of his screen time masked, with only the glint of his eyes and the gravel-like hiss of the voice to express emotion. No critic has yet, to my knowledge, recognized the brilliance of this performace; and they might never comment on it, because they're uniformly (and understandably) dazzled by the Joker. Bale is an enormous talent in his own right. I first noticed him in REIGN OF FIRE, an Irish SF movie (which is almost anomalous; an Irish science fiction movie??), which came out in Aus in 2002. He was astonishingly poweful at 28. Six years later, he seems to be a case of nitro about to explode ... and in the third Batman movie, he might get the chance to do just that.

This time around, however, the prvilege of explosion was for Heath Ledger -- and thank gods he actually scored this opportunity; because it was to be his last. He did some wonderful work, beginning with the short-lived TV series, ROAR, when he was still a teen. In A KNIGHT'S TALE he was the classic pretty face, which was a good place to start. Hollywood loves a pretty face. Later, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN gave him the opportunity to show that he could act with the best of 'em, while THE BROTHERS GRIMM let him demonstrate that he wasn't bothered about glamor and good looks.

In THE DARK KNIGHT, the pretty face is so absent, you really can't see through the crust of old, smudged pancake makep to the man underneath. If you didn't know it was Heath Ledger, you'd never guess. He was as talented as Johnny Depp when it came to doing accents and voices: you can't hear Heath Ledger's own natural voice in any word the Joker says. The characterisation of the Joker is so complete, the actor never peeks out for a tenth of a second; and the Joker is all your nightmares rolled into one.

This is the guy who can, and does, take the Batman apart at the seams. And here's the rub: he doesn't do it with the muscles of the Hulk, the super-powers of the Wolverine, Tony Stark's flying armor, or the Terminator's firepower. He does it with words, and with perhaps the most ferocious intellect ever depicted in a movie.

He is fearsomely intelligent. Much more intelligent than Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, and the rest of Gotham's finest. It's just too bad he's also stark, raving mad. His insanity is incandescent, it lights up the darkness both of director Christopher Nolan's bleak view of the city, and of a region of the human psyche which has seldom been explored on film.

This is the first comic-book-movie which has, to my thinking, transcended the genre. THE DARK KNIGHT is not a comic. It's art. What characterises art? Is it vision, design, intellect, and the courage to be, say and do the extraordinary? In any analysis, the film slides itself neatly into the category of art.

Only once does it cross an imaginary line, and for a few minutes threaten to look and feel like a comic. Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) is an extremely difficult character to portray. He works better on paper than in film; on paper, his grotesque appearance can be hinted, suggested. On film, there's no option but to get on and depict the nightmare face ... and by 2008, to do any kind of justice to the face, the depiction has to be grotesque indeed. Shades of Heavy Metal and 2000 AD. Here's the rub: moviegoers have been so bludgeoned by the grotesque, the horrific, that if the appearance of Two-Face were toned down, the character would no longer work. People would say, 'What's so bad about that? Deal with it.' We're so desensitized to horror and ugliness, it takes one hell of a lot to shock us in this area (just as we're so desensitized to movie violence that it's starting to turn into a joke ... showing with THE DARK KNIGHT was the trailer for Tropic Thunder. I rest my case.)

Aaron Eckhart is very good as Harvey Dent. He's very good as Two-Face, come to that ... even if Two-Face is the single facet of the movie where THE DARK KNIGHT passes back over the line from art to comic. Moreover, Christopher Nolan must have been keenly aware of this, because rather than keeping Two-Face alive at the end of the movie, he is thankfully laid to rest. The character of Harvey Dent is used as the motivation for Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon making the decisions that make all hell bust loose. Because of him -- his presence, what he stands for, what he's prepared to do -- they literally tear Gotham to bloody tatters between them, and all in the name of Good ...

And, enter the Joker at stage right. The rot has already set in by the time the Joker shows his smudged, scarred clown face. The city is already teetering, though it needs one more good shove to make sure it goes over.

Who the Joker is, we don't know. He has no name, no background, no story. Just the ferocious intellect of a genius, the soul of a psychopath, the mind of a madman, the face of a nightmare. These qualities come together to mold the guy who could, and did, break the Batman, without recourse to kevlar or titanium, or superbikes and indestructable cars.

His weapons are the words of the script by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and this script should be registered as a weapon in its own right. It has an acid-eaten lethality, showcasing itself: You wanna know how to take down Batman? Not with guns. Not with high-tech. You do it with mind-games.

Heath Ledger's performance is off the scale; but remember, the Nolans wrote these words. The script is the scalpel with which the city, the society in which we live, and much of the human psyche itself, are peeled like an onion. Don't lose sight of the script, in the incandescent darkness of Ledger's and Bale's performances.

The film is rated, absurdly, PG-13. For myself, I'd have slapped an R rating on it. Not for the sex scenes (there aren't any), not for the nudity (there isn't any), nor fo the coarse language (there isn't any), or the on-screen violence (it's Hollywood violence, no one takes it seriously enough to stop six year olds watching Jurassic Park).

It's what happens just-offscreen, just out of our field of view ... it's the passion and joy the Joker takes in inflicting, and suffering, pain and destruction ... and, more than anything, it's the sheer, insane brilliance of his arguments in support of chaos, horror and death. The man makes a terrible logic. You see the sense his argument. Part of you agrees with him, though you shock yourself to the core by agreeing. With words, the Joker (read: Ledger, Nolan and Nolan) take that scalpel and they flay alive society, justice, civilization, humanity, morality, courage.

Would I want any teen of mine watching this? No way. They might actually be listening to the dialog! For 15 years, parents, teachers, priests, doctors, elder siblings, have been working to instill into this hypothetical kid a little grasp on what's right and wrong. Right? Give THE DARK KNIGHT exactly two hours and thirty-two minutes, and said kid won't know who's right, who's wrong, and who's a big, fat liar. The fact is, a lot of adults will be asking the same questions about now. (And here's the scary part: in a couple of years, some psycho, somewhere is going to be parroting back the Joker's insane brilliance to criminal psychiatrists, quoting his philosophy, his world view, as motivation, reason and absolution.)

The movie needs an R-rating, but our film censorship bureaus are so strangled by their own codes and ethics, they can't work it out. No nudity? No profanity? No bonking? No buckets of fake blood, and dismembered bodies? Okay, it's PG-13, right Dead wrong. THE DARK KNIGHT demonstrated with absolute acuity, that the most lethal weapons are not guns, knives and explosives. They're words.

That said, the film is supremely beautiful, on many levels, from the purely visual to the deeply emotional. Gary Oldman, Christian Bale and even Michael Caine (who is almost but not quite restricted to sarcastic wit) surpass themselves. Bale must overcome the costume itself: he doesn't even have benefit of his face and normal vocal range, with which to act. Gary Oldman is similarly impeded by Jim Gordon's mantle of incredible 'normalcy' -- middle-aged, plain, tired, frightened -- among a legion of the beautiful and young, and the macabre and grotesque.

Kudos to all who were involved with the movie, from the cinematography and scripting, to the effects and editing. THE DARK KNIGHT has a handful of flaws, which occurred to me at the time, while watching. But here's the mark of a great movie: I can't even remember what most of them were, now, and the two I do recall don't seem to matter. Great soundtrack music; effects and stunts par excellence; and an ending which will rock you.

Keegan's score: Five outta five, and an extra gold star for the courage to just do it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just a link in the chain, today

Today is Keegan's Official Day Off (hereafter referred to as KODO), and since I'm trying to not even look at the computer (fat chance; I've been here for the last hour ... but not working. There's a difference), my post today is going to consist mostly of a link, to a page where someone else is going to say it all for me ...

Because I couldn't have said it better. In fact, I've said all these same things so often, I'm hoarse, and I know for a fact there are legions of GLBT actors, writers, directors, producers and (!) VIEWERS out there who are saying the exact same thing.

I received an email forward of the body of this essay from a friend who is still plugged into a 'list' which began as a movie-review 'circular' eons ago and morphed into a 'GLBT political rant' list in later years. And there's lot to rant about. Still. (You ever feel like you're invisible, or that you've falln off the radar? We're not out of the woods yet, kids.)

Ayway, KODO and all, here's the link:

Ilene Rants a Little ...

...on the network page for The L Word (which, I confess, is a show I haven't even seen. To the best of my knowledge it does't air down here; I don't get cable (don't have time for it); and to begin with, I hardly ever watch TV. (The closest I've come to following a TV show in the last several years? Torchwood. And its parent show, esp. when the Cap'n is aboard. And I've had a look at Dante's Cove on disk, but by the end of the second season (where it turns into gay softcore with soap opera plots), I gotta admit, I don't know if I can even be bothered even watching the third season. It's already so stutteringly weak in all departments save the ripped muscles and bronzed limbs and bonking, can the next season, dramatically, get any worse???)

One longs for GLBT characters in real, serious, 'proper' TV shows. God knows, I'd watch the damned things myself. But even Torchwood Season 3 is slithering into the family entertainment end of the market, and John Barrowman won't be there for most, or all, of the five-episode short season.

Someone needs to get in quick and cast John as a sleuth, a detective, a coroner, a pilot, a troubleshooter, something that would make for REAL stories. I want a gay take on shows like JAG, and TOUR OF DUTY, and FIREFLY. The central character can have boyfriend woes and delicious gay romances on the side, but (sorry!) the story has to pivot around the hub of REAL drama, good writing and so forth, or the next time you look, you're sliding the way of Dante's. Now, don't get me wrong: Dante's Cove is fine and dandy when you're in the mood for ripped muscles, bronzed limbs and a whole lot of gratuitous gay bonking ... but think about this: straights, who can stand any amount of the above so long as it's dedicatedly co-ed, get blushingly embarrassed and tune out if/when it's gay ... which is not what we want. The whole object here is to craft shows that are so bloody good, the mainstream audience tunes in religiously, despite the fact (not because of it!) that the hero is gay. And I don't mean 'subtext' shows like Xena; nor do I mean 'gay reference' scripting like Firefly. I mean the real, genuine McCoy. Shows that will give the GLBT community visibility and credibility in the big world picture ... or at least in the slightly gaga landscape of TV Land, where most people seem to live these days.)

And I really am going to throw to that other page right now, and get started on KODO. We have tickets booked for an afternoon show, THE DARK KNIGHT, following a healthy(ish) lunch, and Keegan's out of here. Here's your link again: Ilene Rants a Little.

Batdude, start polishing the car; we're on our way!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Unsung Heroes of the Event-Free Zone

Thank gods the Tour de France only has a week to go. I don't think I could stand much more of this ... it's unmittigated sadism. They used to call this torture -- forcing a person so stay awake, force-feeding them chemicals, such as caffeine, in a desperate attempt to keep the eyes open, because they keep the best part till last ... and it's invariably about two o'clock in the morning when the leaders zip across the line. By that time, these guys have been in the bike saddle for maybe six hours, and have slogged up mountainsides in the heat, the cold or the rain; they've fallen off and picked themselves up, ridden through hundred-degree afternoons, left their skin on the bitumen --

And they look a hell of a lot better than the poor buggers at home, we unsung heroes who make up the Viewing Public without whom the whole bloody event would be cancelled, because there'd be no one to watch the damned commercials!!!

(I debated about putting half of the above paragraph in captitals and then decided against it. Caps would make it look like I'm yelling. I'm not. I'm whimpering pitifully while trying to find the scotch tape. I'm going to need it if I intend to get any work done this afternoon, because my eyes are not going to stay open by themselves. Whimper.)

Today is a rest day for the likes of Cadel and Robbie and Simon and George and Fabian and about another 160 just like them.

Tomorrow is a rest day for Keegan: first day off I've scored in two weeks. I'm going to a movie. Last time I blogged about going to a movie, I didn't actually get the chance -- stuff happened, as it usually does, and my moviegoing activities were postponed. (I'd seen IRON MAN and the new Indiana Jones in the previous month, so I can't complain too much. I defiitely want to see the third MUMMY picture. And tomorrow, THE DARK KNIGHT.)

Incidentally, the new Indiana Jones is very good. If you read critiques to the contrary, don't believe a word of it. Some idiot said he wished the movie had not been made ... presumably because he can't stand to watch Harrison Ford getting older. That's fair enough. Ford is about 66 now, I think, and sure, he looks like Han Solo's father. Thirty years have gone by! What, a person should look the same after three decades of rough living? Ford hasn't exactly coddled himself through those years, and the truth is, he was showing the mileage a loooooong time ago.

(Interestingly, though, Brad Pitt doesn't seem to be showing the mileage at all. How the hell does he do it? He has to be mid-40s now, and there are photos where he looks younger than the missus, who's only 33. Damn.)

Anyway, it's THE DARK KNIGHT for me tomorrow, and I'll let you know what I think. I expect to like it a lot. (Then again, I also liked IRON MAN a lot, and subsequently read some genuinely stinking reviews of the movie, which sorta-kinda surprised me. Some critics can't seem to get one salient point through through skulls: it's a FANTASY! It was never going to be structured like MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, scripted like OUTBREAK, with acting performances like Russell Crowe in GLADIATOR. Movies like IRON MAN are strictly for fun. It'd be like tuning in to THE SIMPSONS and breaking your heart over the deeply-moving human drama that unfolded in the next 25 minutes, between the Coke, Pizza Hutt and Bigpond commercials. I would often love to tell some of these critics to 'get real,' but ... what do I know? I'm just a viewer, the poor nong who puts the money down to actually BUY the ticket.)

As you can probably surmise from the diatribe on movie critics, Indiana Jones and ... so on, this neck of the woods continues to be an Event-Free Zone. So I'll fall back on Plan A and put up some pictures. Australian pictures this time, since I did the Alaskan shots yesterday.

Same story: they're parked on Jade's Flickr account for sheer convenience (meaning, Keegan hasn't bothered to get an account yet, and might not be bothering, since it's so much easier to shoot the pictures to the existing account, and Jade doesn't seem to mind, so ... what the hey?) If you'd like to use a photo, just drop me (or Jade) a line either here, or at Flickr, or on the website.

Pictures, now...

Australia-barossa-vines-2
Laden vines stretch away to the Barossa hills. Some of the best wines in the world are made in this part of the world ... not all of them. I'm admittedly biased because I'm from the southern wine-growing zone, but I actually prefer the McLaren Vale wines over the Barossa vintages...

Australia-Morialta
Morialta is a deep river gorge a few minutes' drive from the city of Adelaide. It's a sort hike through to the waterfall (which actually flows in winter), and you think you've stepped back in time a million years. You wouldn't be surprised to be stalked by raptors. This shot was taken from the Giant's Cave, high in the cliff...

Australia-fallcolors-loftia
There you are, you see: we DO have fall colors in Australia ... just not many! Seriously, the native trees don't shed their leaves, so the foliage never 'turns,' but early settlers planted European trees wherever they went, and obviously these do change. (The only northern trees that don't do well down here are birches. They call them 'weeping birches' downunder, because they droop like weeping willows -- and you can't get anyone to listen when you say they're not supposed to.

Australia-colonial-ruins
Speaking of early settlers, this is the kind of structure they built. Of course, they originally built them with roofs and windows and everything. (!) This colonial ruin is probably Heritage listed. I think it's somewhere in the Scott Creek area, but the truth is, that's only a guess.

Australia-silversands-beach
Yeah, yeah, okay, you were waiting for pictures of the beach. This is Australia, after all, and we're one BIG beach, we admit it. This one is south of Adelaide, at Silver Sands.

Australia-victorharbor-horsetram
Also the sea shore, but not quite what you were expecting: the horse tram at Victor Harbor, which carries passengers over the causeway to Granite Island. This shot was taken (plus about 1000 others) on a winter's day. It's very cold ... which would suit the Little Penguins which are native to the area. Doesn't seem to bother the clydesdales, either.

Now, I gotta find that scotch tape ... or maybe duct tape...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where were you, when --?!

They do say that everyone who was alive at the time (and old enough) can still remember where they were and what they were doing when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Adrin got their boots firmly onto the surface of the Moon. (These days, 39 long years later, it would probably be prudent to explain to most people that Armstrong didn't ride a bike there. It's been ... a wee while since it all happened.)

On this side of the dateline at least, it's July 20th, and I can't help remembering the night when it happened. I was a little kid, but old enough to still remember sitting by the hearth with my parents, watching, entranced, as the drama unfolded in glorious black-and-white ... that being the capacity of our TV. Fortunately, the Moon, and spacesuits, and space, tend to actually BE black and white, so it turned out the upmarket folks with the color tellies didn't benefit much -- and some of them actully phoned up the broadcasters, asking why they were receiving black and white pictures. Because, sir or madame, Outer Space is black and white. It's Star Trek that's in color. Easyto see how you could confuse the two. Neil Armstrong, Bill Shatner? Amazing likeness, there. Twins, I agree. It's the pointed ears, they're a dead giveaway.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary, and one would hope something major will be done to mark it. The technology has become antequated, and the fact Project Apollo was little more than a political maneuver in the Cold War has become public knowledge, which tends to somewhat tarnish the early space program. But, damn, it was a thrill when it was happening for real.

And yes, the little kids who watched it happen (I was one) really did think humans would be on Mars by the turn of the century. Our teachers used to tell us to study hard, 'cuz we'd have the chance to live and work in space.

Right. Uh huh. Okay. In retrospect, you have to wonder how naive we all were, but -- shoot, it was fun while it lasted. The dream ebbed away during the 1970s, when the public became bored with moon missions. (South Australian TV didn't even cover them. We had bigger things to spend broadcast time on, like "Hey, Hey, It's Saturday!", and the "The Don Lane Show.") But I do believe the whole thing is going to turn full circle.

In fact (if anyone's interested -- and actually, it's pretty interesting) I updated the whole article, "The Future According to Mel Keegan," for the NARC page, just recently. Let me save you a trip to the website:

A history of the future, starting ... well, right now!

The original article is four years old now (and archived right under this one on the same page), and I gotta tell you, it's a little bit creepy, how 'right' ol' Mel picked it. Have a squiz, see what you think -- let me know.

The next 10 - 15 years could easily be as exciting as '65-'75. Here's hoping.

Otherwise, the dead calm of the Mel-o-sphere continues, and is so featureless a horizon that I'm going to upload pictures instead.

Today, I'm pasting in Alaskan shots, largely for Aussie and European visitors (of whom there are many -- and thank you, all, for dropping by!) ... tomorrow I'll paste in Australian pics, for US'n and European visitors (again, thanks for visiting, and don't be strangers, now!) ...

NOTE: pictures are parked on Jade's Flickr account for sheer convenience at this time. Keegan took 'em, but if you want to use 'em elsewhere, contact either one of us either via Flickr, or the blog or the website...

potter-marsh-alaska-1999
Potter Marsh, the bird sancuary just below the suburb of Rabbit Creek, on the shores of Turnagain Arm, maybe 12 minutes outside Anchorge itself. Glorious place ... so quiet, you can actually hear yourself think. Imagine that. It's even more quiet in the wintertime, but on this day in the summer of 1999, the salmon were running and the creeks were teeming...


chugach-sunfire-turnagain
You would not believe the miles I covered in this little car. It's a mid-1990s Pontiac Sunfire, and on this particular day it was parked on the far side (reckoning distance from Anchorage) of Belugah Point, somewhere between Bird and Girdwood. That's Turnagain Arm in the background. The Chugach is a mountain range which surrounds the city and seems to guard it like a fortress.


Tesoro-Alaska-gas-prices-1998
Here's food for thought. Sure, it's a gas station. Tesoro Alaska, not too far from the Portage exit, as I recall (or is it the one closer to Girdwood??) ... but, take a look at the price of gas!

moose-turnagain-alaska
This might even have been the same day ... I'm honestly clueless. Moose, grazing in the puddles off the side of the road along Turnagain, maybe 20 minutes out of Anchorage. Daddy Moose is the guy with the 'rack' of antlers, obviously.


Anchorage-across-the-bay
And here's the city of Anchorage itself, seen from the Coastal Trail, Earthquake Park. The fluttering blobs in the foreground are swallows, which nest in the cliffs.

More tomorrow, either pics or blather, if anything has actually happened in this neck of the woods worth the blathering space!

Ciao for now,
MK

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Domestic scene with DVD recorder

Big, big discussion today, between folks downunder and their counterparts upover: Yuletide. Winter solstice, whatever you choose to call it. Does it mark the dormant time of the year? It's certainly supposed to. The tradition is that (and I'm quoting), "deity is reborn at mid-winter, escaping the underworld in the form of an eagle." Loosely ranslated into English this means, 'life gets a kickstart off the lengthening days as winter gives way to spring." In the north this is the perfect metaphor, but down here ... nope, sorry. Winter is the season when things GROW, everything goes gangbusters (including the people), trying to make up for the blister zone of summer. So, how difficult is it to make the model of wintertime dormancy fit into any traditional model that's going to encompass Australia?

I was on a bus one time, two thirds of the way to downtown Anchorge (Alaska). There was a Native guy sitting beside me, talking his head off. I got about one word in four, both because of the racket of the bus and the thick Athabascan accent, which can be difficult to follow. He suddenly broke off and said, loudly, "Goddamnit!" I thought that, at the very least, the bus had run somebody over. But no; he had just noticed how the grassed areas around Westchester Lagoon had gone brown. Which, to him, meant that summer was gone. I laughed a little bit and told him, "Where I come from, when the grass goes brown it means summer just arrived."

So there you have summer as the dormant period down here, while, simultaneously, winter is the dormant period up there ... or, to put it another way: both places are dormant at the same time, albeit for different reasons, and despite the fact they're a complete spin of the compass apart. How weird is that?

(Speaking personally, I'm an interested spectator at such discussions. Get folks onto the topics of politics, spirituality, the environment, best recipe for chicken soup, and they can get pretty steamed up. Stick your nose in, and you can get yourself into the market for a nasal splint.)

For at least an hour this morning I pushed and shoved the plot of my haunted house novel; I think I killed off about a half-billion brain cells, to no decent avail. Yup, I've plotted myself into a deep, dark hole. I had an intuition that I was getting a little bit too clever for my own good, but there are times I ignore the still, small voice at the back of my mind, and carry on regardless.

This appears to be one of those times, so -- you'll have to wait a while for the haunted house piece, and DreamCraft will be publishing the fantasy instead. That's okay: the fantasy was next on the list. We're just jigging the order a little, it all works out. Writing is like that, so long as you have a publisher who will cut you the slack. I can't imgine anything worse than being on contract, writing what you're told to write, when you're told to write it. Writing would become a job, and as soon as anything turns into work, 90% of the fun goes away. (I wonder if anyone's even bothered to ask hustlers?!)

Otherwise, the Mel-o-sphere is a flat calm. It isn't brillig, and no slithey toves are gyring or gymballing in any wake I know of (let's see what the spellchecker makes of that). Work chugs along, the Tour de France has a week to go, and it looks (mind you, looks) like an Aussie might actually be standing on the podium and wearing YELLOW in Paris. This one, I gotta see. I enjoy the Tour de France a lot ... which is not the same as saying I'm not relieved when it's over for another year, because after three weeks, sleep assumes the top spot on one's agenda.

Thank gods for DVD recorders.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Welcome (back) to Sherwood

You know those popup commercials which sprout like mushrooms behind the browser window, when you're following a news link from site to site? You don't realize it when you have a small(er) monitor, like the laptop was used to looking at until a few weeks ago, but some of those commercials are programmed to pop open at 100% width of the monitor ... and when your monitor as 22" wide, the damned commercial is the size of BEN HUR, as well as flickering in fluorescent, dayglo colors.

I just followed a link through to newspaper in India (!) to chase down a rumor regarding who's going to play Robin Hood in the new Russell Crowe movie, NOTTINGHAM ... and I'll have spots before my eyes for a week. (Don't these advertising genii know, also, that flashing crap is one of the fastest triggers for migraine! You'll be selling a lot of [whatever it is you were trying to sell; I didn't even look] with your customers holding their heads and puking!)

All right, Keegan, off the damned soapbox already! It's Russell Crowe people want to read about.

Which is a pity, because I'm not actually talking much about Russell Crowe today, but about the movie, NOTTINGHAM, and the genre itself (Robin Hood is a genre all his/its own).

I heard about the new Robin Hood last week. At that time, the only firm info was that Russell Crowe was going to be in it, and -- woah. Russell as Robin, thought I. That would have been grand. Naturally, though, he'll not be playing Robin (looks like Christian Bale might be, but he's not the only one being ground up and spat out by the rumor mill at this point). Just so long as Russell isn't playing the Sheriff.

And then again ... wellllll, there have been two fantastic Sherifs of Nottingham that I can remember. Nickolas Grace was probably the best, in the TV series, Robin of Sherwood. (I also liked the pagan take on the legend, in that series. Also the soundtrack music, by Clannad.) He's one of the best gay actors to come out of the UK, immensely talented, and his take on the Sherrif was delcious. The other great Sheriff was as completely different as it would be possible to get and still be in a Robin Hood movie: Robert Shaw, in ROBIN AND MARIAN (Audrey Hepburn was the Maid, and Sean Connery was Robin.)

Of the two takes on the Sheriff of Nottingham, I'd have to choose Nickolas Grace ... and not beause he's gay, but because he played the part with a sharpness that was acid-etched. Brilliant. He has the ability to oscillate from the evil to the benign, to the amusing, to the sensual, seemingly at whim. One would guess he'd be the director's dream actor. Marvellous.

Robert Shaw played the part exactly like ... Robert Shaw, which is enough said! With THE DEEP, JAWS, SWASHBUCKLER and so on, he'd established himself as the 'forty something, steel-eyed anti-hero.' It was a niche Clint Eastwood would dominate, after Shaw's untimely death in 1978. (Good gods, has it been 30 years?) There was something very 'real' about Robert Shaw: warts and all, wrinkles and all, he was so human, you believed him in the midst of the "dress up and pretend" game actors play (and for which they get paid megabucks).

So, the upcoming Robin Hood movie will be vatly interesting to me, because I grew up on the genre. The first movie I remember was THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD ... yep. Errol Flynn. Nope, I'm not that bloody old! Not yet. I saw it on TV. Also fell for Errol Flynn like a load of bricks. What a surprise.

I suppose I should nominate my candidates for the best Robin, after having rambled at length about the best Sheriffs. There have been many of them, but I'd have to go with Flynn ... and not because he was gay (although that doesn't hurt), but because he was the one who gave Robin the biggest (over)dose of verve, vitality, energy. I also liked Michael Praed in the pagan-take TV series, but Flynn remains my pick. Praed was introverted and dark; Flynn was ... Robin Hood on uppers. Made you exhausted just watching him.

All of which leads me back to Russell Crowe and (possibly) Christian Bale in NOTTINGHAM, and I'm trying to picture one as the Sheriff and the other as Robin. I know, I know, Russell is playing a character called Sir Robert Tornham ... but that's his NAME. 'Sheriff of Nottingham' is his rank and title. Nickolas Grace's Sheriff was called Robert de Reinault (or however you'd spell something in French which sounds oddly like Draino. The above is a best guess).

At the moment, I'm just not seeing it. I guess I'll have to wait for the movie!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Racehorses, gravitons and gremlins

Thursday finds me still trying to work out how to get a YouTube video to play without vertically squishing itself. It's really weird, and difficult to describe, so rather than try to describe it, I'm just going to paste the thing in here, and let you see for yourself.

This is the clip I was talking about a few days ago, where John Barrowman is getting eaten alive by a racehorse. It's a great clip, and about six months ago (when I discovered it) it used to play perfectly. Then something happened either on this end of YouTube's end, and now ... it's squished. Someone, somewhere must have a clue about what's going on here! A little help, please??




...like I said, great clip. You gotta love the man. And the horse. The only wrinkle is the way it plays back -- and it's playing back this way from YouTube direct and from this link, on three different computers that I know of, including two XPs and a Vista machine. I could have understood it, if it was just Vista was stuffing around. I've been an observer at the high-jinx of trying to get Vista to play nice, and ... I think I'll stick with the ol' XP.

Speaking of which, Microsoft must know they've got a turkey of epic proportions on their hands, because they said a short while ago, they're going to support XP till 2014. By which time, one hopes, they'll have come out with a whole new operating system. Like, maybe, one that works.

The latest episode of Tales from the Mel-o-sphere is about the frustration of not being able to get on with what I want to do (WRITING) for the avalanche of fiddling little details in other projects which have to be attended to first. I know, I know: you get patches like this, when the gremlins get into the machinery. What one needs is a tiny little baseball bat, with which one can reach into the aforementioned machinery and bash their tiny little gremlin brains out. Or a cricket bat, for that matter. I've never been fussy. Put it this way: just wait till I get my hands on the little buggers.



And now, welcome back to the world of HELLGATE, as I try to answer a very, very good question from a reader in the Chicago area, without rambling on and boring everyone else to death.

In the HELLGATE books (and particularly in PROBE), I talk about gravitons, and the existence of this particle is pivotal to the development of the technolgy that's going to drive the rest of the series ... and I do mean drive! Moreover, I talk about J-type gravitons, known in the world of HELLGATE as Jung particles. The question is this: are Jung particles real science? Come to that, are gravitons real science?! (Like I said, it's a very, very good question.)

Gravitons: yep. They're almost certainly as real as photons, though at this moment they're stll theoretical. String theory predicts that they most certainly do exist --as 'closed strings' with the tiniest possible 'packet' of energy ... the gravity equivalent of a photon. As for Jung particles (being J-type gravitons), sorry, those are a product of my feverish imagination. The J-type graviton is one of many kinds of gravitons knowin 600 years in the future; this one exists on the very line where this dimension of ours nudges up against e-space, or hyperspace. Does hyperspace exist? String theorists are developing math to describe many more dimensions than our own, so ... oh, yeah. More than likely hyperspace is very real. Now, as to WHAT a graviton actually is --

Want to drive yourself nuts? Chase links around on this site: World of Physics. There's a couple of books you need to read, too. HYPERSPACE by Michio Kako, and THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS by Brian Green. Here's my thinking, in a nutshell (and this is what's driving the technology in the later HELLGATE books). Mass and energy are interchangeable, if you remember your basic Einstein (E=mc|2 ... I have no idea how to make this thing superscript to get the 'squared' symbol, so you'll have to interpolate there). The graviton is predicted to have micrcoscopic amounts of energy, which have to be derived from mass (ain't nowhere else energy is going to come from), so if gravitons carry/transmit gravity, and they're made of converted mass, and they pump out of black holes at the rate of how many gazillion tons per nanosecond? Well ... you chase this snippet of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and you might get a glimpse of where HELLGATE is going. Then again, maybe not!

To answer an oft-asked question (actually, two quesions), YES, I know exactly where HELLGATE is going, at a detail level which would probably surprise you. And YES, the next book is on my agenda. In fact, this is one of the reasons for the frustration I was talking about above. How sweet it would be, to be able to tell the world to go away, and have time to WRITE. I imagine it's every writer's dream.

'Work' is the other four-letter word ending in 'K.' Somebody needs to put that on a bumper sticker. Or a teeshirt.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tropic daydreams, cold feet and ... so on

Editing a book set in a warm, balmy, tropical future ... and doing it in the middle of winter ... makes you feel COLD. I never noticed this before, but I'm working on the new version of AQUAMARINE (obviously), putting the final polish on the 2008 edition, getting it ready for the DreamCraft issue (due in August), and I have a four-bar, fan-forced halogen heater blowing on my feet. Of course, my feet are bare. They always are. (More information than you needed about Keegan's feet, right?) That's not the point.

I have a theory that our perceptions of temperature are comparative, and come the middle of summer, I'm going to test this out. The mercury will be reading 40 degrees C, and I'm going to put on something like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, or FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, or SECRET OF THE SAHARA, and see if the reverse-logic works. If editing a book about the tropics in winter makes you feel the cold more, then watching movies set in the blistering desert should make you feel the heat less. And if that doesn't work, I'll put on SNOW DOGS, and ASPEN EXREME, and THE EDGE, and see what happens.

The spirit of experiment is one of life's most piquant spices. We did a great experiment a while ago, to discover the compative sinking and floating properties of olives immersed in gin, tequila, or gin+tequila. It was a great experiment. I don't remember much about how it turned out, but I do recall it being great.

The good news is, AQUAMARINE is plain sailing. It'll be wearing a fresh layer of polish when it comes to you in its brilliant new covers, and we'll be having a book launch for both paperback and ebook. Stay tuned --

Speaking of which, we got the RSS feeds for the boog and the website up and running. You should be able to bookmark and get feeds at a click. Technology to the rescue yet again.

Strange, how reality catches up with science fiction. When I wrote AQUAMARINE (way back when, in the last century. Seriously, ten long years ago), the concept of an artificial island was fairly outrageous. Now? It's been done -- and of necessity. The islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans are perilously close to going under, and at least one nation -- Maldives -- has tackled the problem of keeping their lower lips above water. Their home island is a patch of sand, less than three meters above sea level at its highest point, and it won't be lasting much longer. Their solution is to build themselves a new island.

They've actually done it, and are in the process of building a new city for 150,000 people on it. Check out this website:

The Sinking Maldives Artificial Island. It's a slow-loader even with broadband, so be patient.

SF and reality in collision. Amazing stuff. Mind you, much of what's happening around us at the moment would once have been called SF. We don't notice it, since it snuck up on us ... the 'Boiled Frog Syndrome.' (There was a somewhat depressing gay novel of that title, if anyone remembers.) One of the SF concepts which has already become reality, which I like most, is the compressed air car engine. This comes as excellent news, since the long-range forecast is that gasoline will cost $36 per gallon in ten years. It'll cost a dollar to drive one kilometer. (There's a good feature article at CNN.comon this, but I can't get the page to load for love or money, so I can't give you a link. Go to Google and search on "pneumatic car engine," and plenty of results come up.)

Speaking of the comparative cost of things ... I noticed the exchange rate this morning. The Aussie dollar, which at one time used to buy .48c's worth of American currency (!) is now worth 98.1c. Like the rest of the world, I'm agog, waiting to see what happens next. This would be the perfect time for Aussies to visit the US. Not so good for US'ns coming down here.

One can't help wonderering how far the trend will continue. The last time the Aussie dollar was worth more than the Greenback was way back in the 1970s (we were worth about $1.10 - $1.15 at the time), but you have to remember, the Australian dollar was 'fixed' back then, not free to trade. In other words, it was worth what somebody in Canberra decided it was worth! So, in those days, being worth $1.10 didn't mean a hell of a lot, whereas the current exchange rate leaves one ... curious.

Got to go, folks. Thanks to all who are visiting here, and on the website. I do have your latest questions in hand, and will try to answer tomorrow.

Cheers,
MK

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What did I say about clueless?!

Back again, same day ... I forgot to give you the links to the new screensaver for Vista and XP. Like I said, seriously clueless today (something to do with a majorly ailing back and a headache, I should think). Here goes:

This is a direct link to the Windows XP file. You're downloading a ZIP archive which is a bit uner two megs, and the file inside is a self-installer. Just extract and double
click, and you're done...

This is a direct link to the Windows VISTA file. Again, you're downloading a ZIP archive which is a bit uner two megs, but the file inside is NOT a self-installer, it's the SCR file itself. On Vista systems, you extract the screensaver to your desktop, then right-click, and you get a popup menu from which you choose 'install.' You also get to configure the screensaver right there.

Ain't computers grand? Mac users: sorry, we don't have the ability to make Mac files. Isn't there some kind of Windows virtual mode that you can use, which lets you run PC programs?

Here's a little screen-cap of what appears on the webpage, to show you some of the
images. There are upwards of a dozen pictures in the full screensaver ... and you
can go ahead and run it at the office. It'd take somebody incredibly weird to object.

Clueless. Seriously, clueless.

Two questions were put to me today, one to be answered on the blog here, the other to be answered on the 'write your novel' site (which is expanding exponentially, and should definitely be up in August). Both questions are thoughtful, both are welcome ... and one of them is the kind of question that makes writers go blank.

Where, she asked, do you get your plot ideas? And the truth is, most of the time I have no bloody idea where they come from. They're just kind of ... there. One moment they're not, and the next -- wham. There they are, jabbering at you, whining like a bunch of juvenile galahs demanding to be fed, "Write me, write me!" Nine out of ten ideas don't even get written down, much less slotted into a new story. The tenth will be good enough that I'll make notes; and maybe ten percent of those will find its way into a book. All very well, Keegan, but --

Where do they come from?! I think the stork brings them when you're not looking, leaves them on the doorstep along under the home direct marketing catalogs, and they sneak in when you open the door to let the cat in.

So, thoroughly blank, I had to look at my fallback plan: where do I get ideas when I'm uninspired, yawning into the keyboard, subsisting on coffee, riding the thin edge of a deadline, and would rather be sitting in a nice, comfy chair at the dentist's office while Doctor Nick (that really is his name; I should think he gets hell) pokes about with rakes and shovels and his sadistic assistant drags in the jackhammer and hooks it up to a handy compressor --

Idea. Plot ideas. Right. So I screwed up my courage and told the truth.

I grow them in the back of the pantry, behind the big bags of flour and spuds.

No, actually I contributed some useful paragraphs. At least, I hope they were useful.

The second question is far easier to answer. Is the Tarot reading in NOCTURNE (he asked) genuine; and if so, do I read Tarot cards?

Yes; and ... depends what you mean by 'do I.' Can I read them? Yes. I had to learn how to 'tell' them to write that section of NOCTURNE ... it's odd, the things you learn when researching for novels. Do I make a general practise of reading them? No. Not because I'm inclined to pooh-pooh them, either. The fact is, they are creepily correct in an incredible majority of cases. Don't ask me how or why. Superstition is the last thing you could accuse me of, but I was born with a mind so open, the wind blew through my skull unimpeded till I was six. (Then someone had the bright idea of stuffing cotton wool into my ears, and the roaring sound turned off.) That open mind is what made me literally put the Tarot to the test; and no, it won't pick the winners of horse races for you. But it will very, very often give you an unambiguous 'yea' or 'nay' about how important things and goint to turn out in the next couple of weeks. Often enough to be weird. Correct enough to be bloody damned creepy. And here's the rub: if you knew the answer to what you wanted was 'no,' you'd never get off your bum and do anything, would you? And the anwser is usually 'no.' So, here's the bottom line: leave the cards in the box, take your best shot and get on with your life. And I have absolutely no idea how, or why, they come up with accurate answers in a vast majority of cases --

But there's enough of a scientist hiding, latent, inside me, to report the data abrolutely without bias: make of it what you will. Me? I put the cards back in the box, put the box in the cupboard, and closed the door. 'Tis better to have loved and been slapped in the face than to have stayed home watching the tube.

Damnit, thought, I wish you could use them for picking winners in horse races. Or dog races, come to that. And I wouldn't mind winning the Gordo, either.

Here's news which astonished me: the ebooks are currently selling at 2:1 over the papebacks! It's jaw-hits-floor time here. I've been resistant to the chore of getting the books 'up there' as ebooks for a long time, because I honestly didn't have too much real faith in them. Turns out, they're doing very well. Time for Keegan to eat a few aforementioned words!

Look out for a newsletter from DreamCraft tomorrow. Some new screensavers are on their way online right now. They're done with new software that makes high-quality SCR files with small file sizes. I'm impressed. (Mind you, for fifty bucks, the software wants to be good. The screensavers themselves are free ... enjoy!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tales from the Mel-o-sphere

We managed to get the code working for the eBay connection ... well, I saw 'we' but I basically stood back and watched while DreamCraft's tech-head and fixer did something to it which made it, uh, work.

All of which means, if you've been hunting around for the old GMP versions of my early works, and if you were predisposed to shop via eBay, and didn't mind giving me a click from the blog here (or the website), when the sale goes through, a percentage comes this-a-way like a royaly. Which would be very nice indeed.



It's been a long time indeed since GMP passed into history, and like many people (writers and readers alike) I still mourne their passing. Something very like GMP desperately needs to be launched right now ... a publishing house that caters to both new and sesoned writers, delivering books with gay themes or issues, characters or content. If I had the time or the investment capital, it's a project I'd be in without hesitation.

(Fair enough, I'm doing nicely as a writer, but -- you have to be realistic. I have 20 books at Lulu, and about 25 at Payloads, and a half dozen more in the works, plus giftware galore at Zazzle, and a marketing campaign working for me. Now, what writer just coming along with his (or her) first book, or first couple of titles, is going to be able to do that? There's a vacuum left behind with the extinction of GMP, and I'd be delighted to see it filled by a new publishing house with eclectic tastes and the ability, and the compassion, to give new writers a try.)

Work continues in jigsaw-like bits and pieces; there's an odd sense of dislocation right now, where various projects are complete, others not quite begun, loads of loose ends to tie and fiddling details to be resolved -- like the eBay code, which wouldn't work till it was given a swift kick. (It worked on the webpage, I admit; just not on the blog. Turns out, Blogger runs on a software platform which can be persnickity when it comes to add-on code. Ain't computers wonderful?! Mind you, can you imagine trying to live without them? [asthmatic whining sound]

Little of interest is happening in the Mel-o-sphere ... it's bucketing down, which is good, because we need the rain; the high winds in the last couple of days tore the TV aerial loose, so it was pointless even trying to watch the new Doctor Who, with two words out of three being snipped by a digital feed gone bonkers. David Tennant turned into a lot of little colored squares and danced off the side of the screen, and that was that ... and I spent the afternoon writing an article for the 'write your novel' website, which is due up in August or September.

When it goes up, I'll give you the link and invite you to the launch. It's actually a hell of a good idea for a website, and is turning into a very attractive website to boot. (Jade strikes again: some of the best looking sites on the web start right there. Apparently, the knack comes from spending 12 years reading code, and 15 years before that designing for the print media. Makes you cringe, doesn't it?) Put it like this: the new webpage is already the kind of website I'd have been damned glad to find when I was a late-teen trying to figure out what the hell I as writing!

And if the quality of a lot of the writing on the web is anything to judge by, there are several million people out there, all trying to answer the same fundalemental questions. Like, "How many b's are there in 'rubbish?'," and "do you put a a 'K' in pathetic?'") I've been surfing around a bit on fiction sites, right across the spectrum, to get a feel for what's out there. Damnit, some people need help.

With nothing interesting happening ... at least, nothing I care to blog about ... I'm not going to talk about politics; I swear to gods, I'm not going to talk about politics! ... I'll cut this one short.

Oh -- before I go:

I wanted to put in a link on the blog here to a really great video on YouTube, where John Barrowman gets halfway eaten alive by a racehorse, but the vide (which used to play just fine six months ago), is playing vertically-squeezed. Does anyone know how to configure a YouTube feed to get the damned video to playu right? If anyone knows the answer to this one, great. Because the video will be enjoyed by all and sundry. Advice would b appreciated muchly, guys. I don't have much more than a nodding acquaintance with YouTube.

Ciao for now,
MK