Sunday, April 15, 2012

What the heck have I been up to?

So it's been a while since I last posted. Here's what I've been up to (click for larger sizes):
All of these were created in Daz Studio 4 Pro, currently available free at (some of the models and props shown in my images were not free). I'll post more soon, including some character portraits! (I'll also try to make more frequent blog entries here...)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Of Distant Shores: a new blog (maybe)

I'm thinking of starting a new blog called Of Distant Shores, focusing on world news, immigration, and US foreign policy. It's an idea I've been mulling over for several years, and now starting to think more seriously about. I'm curious if there is anyone out there who would be interested in collaborating in any of the following ways:

  • Co-writing the blog with me
  • Contributing on a regular basis
  • Contributing on an occasional basis

In terms of writing style and posting schedule, I'm leaning more towards frequent updates and numerous short posts with links to external sites. These would be supplemented with occasional longer pieces containing in-depth analysis.
I think there's a market for this sort of thing, and that this could potentially become an influential voice within the blogosphere IF its author(s) devote sufficient time and attention to it, and I know I can't do that all by myself. That's not to say that I won't start this blog unless I have help; I'm just gauging interest at this point.

Please comment (or e-mail me) if you are interested in contributing, or if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Read on for the FAQ:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reading & Writing Goals Update

At the beginning of the year, I made a series of lofty resolutions. Now that a full month of 2012 is behind us, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share my progress towards these goals, particularly those involving reading and writing. To meet my goals, I'll have to complete roughly 8.5% of each goal per month (or, to put it another way, if I can get to 20% by the end of February, I'd only have to average 8% for the remaining ten months). So far, I'm feeling pretty good overall.

Resolution #1: Read the Bible
After finishing Genesis and Exodus in late 2011, I managed to get through Leviticus and part of Numbers this month. Decent pace, so far. I'm reading the English Standard Version, which is a very readable translation (planning to switch to the KJV for the Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament).
Current Status: 12% complete - On Target

Resolution #2: Read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare
I didn't start until late in January. I'm beginning with the sonnets, and am steadily making my way through them. It's not the sort of thing that lends itself to fast reading.
Current Status: 1% complete - Way Behind

Resolution #3: Read the Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe
Started this in late 2011, and have finished five stories so far: "The Unparalleled Adventures of Hans Pfall," "The Gold-Bug," "Four Beasts in One--the Homo-Cameleopard," The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Mystery of Marie Roget." I think the completion percentage refers to prose works only.
Current Status: 17% complete - On Target

Resolution #4: Read all 14 books of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan
I've started Book 1, but haven't gotten too far yet... I'll probably focus more on it this month.
Current Status: 0% complete - Way Behind

Resolution #5: Read a fair sampling of contemporary short fantasy and science fiction
Have read the eleven stories in the January/February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which is probably the top venue in the world for short fantasy, and number two or three for short sci-fi. Next month I'll read some stories from other professional publications. Hopefully, I'll be reading my own work in one of them someday soon...which brings us to #6...
Current Status: On Target

Resolution #6: Get Published
Probably within days, I'll be submitting my work to a publisher for the first time. We'll see how it goes.
Current Status: ???

Resolution #7: Write 100,000 words
Currently at around 15,000, if you include: new fiction, blog posts, and my story "The Witch Hunt" (which I wrote the first draft of in 2011, but since I've put a ton of time into it, and made a couple of new drafts this year, I feel justified in counting it). Counting new fiction only: 2,049 words...not bad, given that it wasn't my focus this month.
Current Status: 15% complete - On Target (counting everything)
2% complete - Way Behind (counting only fiction and only first drafts)

Resolution #8: By end of year, start active novel writing again
So far, nothing to report.
Current Status: N/A

Resolutions #9-11: Blogging goals
Haven't posted new updates each week as I had promised, but I have worked on my sites at least weekly.
Current Status: Nearly On Target

Resolutions #12-13: Personal goals
I'll talk about these at some point in the future.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good Reads

In my New Year's Resolutions post, I set some lofty goals for the year, particularly with regards to reading. I'm planning to post an update describing my progress towards these goals around the end of the month. I've also finished a series of books that I had started in 2011 and didn't include in my resolutions list: The Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. This young-adult fantasy series has been a favorite of mine since I was first introduced to it as a teenager (by Carrie, I think). It was also one of my main inspirations in becoming a fantasy writer. Having read it now for the first time in fifteen years or so, I'm happy to say that it lives up to my memories and my expectations. In fact, I have an even greater appreciation for certain aspects than I did back in the day (especially the fourth book, Taran Wanderer). You can find my reviews of the individual books in this series here:
The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

I guess this is an opportune time to promote Goodreads, a reading site and community to which I belong. One of the great things about Goodreads is that it's flexible enough that you can use it the way you want to. If social networks interest you, it can be a social network (some members have hundreds of friends and followers). If you enjoy reading and writing reviews, you can do that--that's my main activity, for example. If you want to get recommendations based on your tastes and preferences, it'll do that too. And if you want to be part of a literary community: networking with readers and writers (including some very successful authors), participating in reading groups and discussion boards, posting stories you've written for others to comment on, browsing and contributing to ranked lists, etc., those possibilities all exist there too. And if any of those things doesn't appeal to you at all, you can pretty much ignore that aspect of the site without it affecting your ability to take advantage of the rest.

If you like reading, and if any of the above sounds interesting, then I recommend you check it out (and feel free to friend me if you do). You can find all of my reviews and other stuff at the link below:

My Goodreads page

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts on the Presidential Campaign, Post-NH

Note: the post below represents my attempt at a relatively evenhanded, unbiased analysis. If you want to know my personal opinions on the various candidates and issues, following the links will give you a strong hint!

Romney in control

I could start by saying that the Republican nomination is now Mitt Romney's to lose, but that's been true since Iowa, or even earlier (since October, when Rick Perry's swift collapse left Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich as Romney's main rivals).

In that sense, Romney's victory in New Hampshire doesn't really change anything: he's still the front-runner, Gingrich and Rick Santorum (who fought Romney to a near draw in Iowa last week) are still fighting to consolidate the support of conservatives who are skeptical of Romney, and Ron Paul remains relevant to the extent that he'll win a fair number of votes--but not a threat to win the nomination.

The fact that the state of the race hasn't changed, though, is great news for Romney, who really only needs to ride this one out. Although he's struggled all year to poll better than the 20-30 percent range nationwide, and despite the appearance that he is many Republicans' last choice, at this point, having won two races and having managed to avoid the rise of a unifying conservative "anti-Romney" candidate, he will be practically impossible to stop.

Read on for my analysis of the challenges Romney must face, and my forecast for the general election...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa Caucus Predictions

My predictions for the Iowa Republican Caucus, held today:

Top Tier: Romney, Paul, and Santorum

These three could finish in any order and it wouldn't surprise me. Romney has a slim lead in most polls, and is generally considered the most presidential and most electable, but he's had a hard time winning converts and his reluctance to commit fully to Iowa until late in the process could allow better organized competitors to outcompete him. Paul has a fairly large, highly committed base, but will be hard pressed to convince undecided voters to support him. Santorum has the momentum, but his organization is lacking and I'm not convinced he'll be able to get his supporters to turn out in large numbers. Plus, if undecided voters Google his name, they might not like what they see (consider yourself warned).

Romney 24%
Paul 23%
Santorum 19%

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. --Benjamin Franklin

Here, I believe I am at least achieving the first half of Ben's advice; the second half I suspect will prove too challenging to achieve in full, but I'll at least give it a good try and provide updates on this blog of my progress.


My reading goals for 2012

1. Read the Bible...the whole thing

I've never read the whole thing...I doubt most Christians have, let alone non-believers like me (I'd call myself either a deist, an agnostic, or an atheist, depending on the definition of "God"--more on that in a future post). I have read significant chunks of both Old and New Testaments. It's impressive literature and mythology, to say nothing of its value as a historical record, as spiritual inspiration, and as an influence on civilization. My primary purpose in reading it is for literary (rather than spiritual) enlightenment, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. The plan is to read the Old Testament, aside from Psalms and Proverbs, in the English Standard Version, a modern literal translation; and the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, in the classic King James Version.

I got a bit of a head start, having gotten through Genesis and Exodus in late 2011. Current progress: 8%.

2. Read the complete works of William Shakespeare

I'm in awe of Shakespeare's talent, although I've only read a fraction of his work. I think it's time to read the rest.

3. Read the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe.

A master of prose and poetry, and of horror, adventure, mystery, early science fiction, and comedy. I got a head start on Poe in 2011, too. Current progress: 9%, not including the poetry.

4. Read all 14 books of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan

I loved this series in high school, and devoured the first eight books. But once I'd read that far, I didn't keep up with new releases in the series. Part of this was impatience with the slowing pace of the story, and part was impatience with the slowing pace of publication. Now that the final volume is due out in the coming year, I want to go back to the beginning and read the series through, consecutively. Jordan died in 2007, but fellow fantasy author Brandon Sanderson is completing the series in accordance with Jordan's notes and his widow's wishes.