Archive for the ‘News’ Category

I happened to be in Korea in 1997 when Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition was released. This is a handout I got from the theater when I went to see it. Just in case you’re wondering, the film was in English with Korean subtitles. 


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The Frame – Jamin Winans

Posted: 23 September 2014 in Arts, Movies, News

Just watched the trailer for “The Frame”, an upcoming movie by Jamin Winans. It’s hard to tell much about the movie from the trailer, but if this movie is anything like Winans’ previous films, then it will certainly be worth seeing.

Jamin Winans is known for the movie “Ink”, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The only reason I don’t rank it number one is because that spot is reserved for “Star Wars”. I first saw Star Wars (now Episode IV) during its premiere run in 1977 when I was in Fourth Grade. No matter how much critics berate it or how bad it really is, I’ll always remember it through a Fourth Grader’s eyes and the excitement I had watching it again and again.

But “Ink” is far better in terms of storytelling, an intellectual movie for the adult mind. The music and cinematography are also wonderful. What’s sad is that no major movie studio would pick up Ink (opting for lower quality crap IMO), so Jamin Winans and his wife, Kiowa, distributed it on DVD, Blu-Ray, and online themselves. Ink’s popularity is due in part to its release onto Torrent sites. Here’s what the Winans had to say about it:

Dear Fans and Friends,

Over the weekend something pretty extraordinary happened. Ink got ripped off. Someone bit torrented the movie (we knew this would happen) and they posted it on every pirate site out there. What we didn’t expect was that within 24 hours Ink would blow up. Ink became the number 1 most downloaded movie on several sites having been downloaded somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 times as far as we can tell. Knowing there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, we’ve embraced the piracy and are just happy Ink is getting unprecedented exposure.

As a result, Ink is now ranked #16 on IMDb’s movie meter and is currently one of the top 20 most popular movies in the world.

This all started as a result of the completely underground buzz that you’ve each helped us create. We’ve had no distributor, no real advertising and yet the word of mouth that you’ve generated has made the film blow up as soon as it became available worldwide. So many of you came to see the movie multiple times, bringing friends and family and many of you have bought the DVD and Blu-ray from us. All of this built up and built up and suddenly it exploded.

We don’t know exactly where this will all lead, but the exposure is unquestionably a positive thing.

Ink hits Netflix, Blockbuster, iTunes and many more tomorrow! Remember to get your signed copies, t-shirts and posters at the Ink Store.

Thank you so much for the constant love and support.

Jamin and Kiowa
Double Edge Films

Here is the full story.

Here’s the trailer for Ink:

Winans has also made numerous shorts, including “Uncle Jack”, which is my favorite from him.

I just read an article on CNN.com about “superbooks” (CNN’s term), interactive books that let you participate in the story.

The full article is here.

It’s an interesting concept, but is really nothing new.

Interactive Fiction as a computer medium has been around since the 70s when Will Crowther made Colossal Cave Adventure (also known as ADVENT, Colossal Cave, or Adventure) circa 1975-76 for the PDP-10 system. Crowther was a programmer and caving enthusiast who based the layout on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. He later collaborated in 1976–1977 with Don Woods, who made significant expansions and improvements with Crowther’s blessing. A big fan of Tolkien, Woods introduced additional fantasy elements, such as elves and a troll. (Wikipedia)

Another well-known interactive fiction work was Zork: The Great Underground Empire, also created on a PDP-10 in 1977-1979 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling, MIT students at the time.

Zork was my first experience with interactive fiction. My father gave me the only copy he had for sale in his video store, the Commodore 64 version.

Zork I C-64 Folio

I was surprised that the article mentioned nothing about the previous interactive fiction games and companies, especially popular through the 80s. Not to mention Graham Nelson’s fantastic (my opinion) interactive fiction authoring system Inform 7.

After reading the article from CNN, I explored the inkle studios website (here) and found that Emily Short is a contributor to their work. Emily is well known in the interactive fiction community, working on the Inform 7 project and authoring several works of her own. Her WordPress blog can be found here. Very interesting reading.

I’m curious to see how “superbooks” catch on with readers.

I still enjoy the Infocom-style (et al) interactive fiction games.

Short Stories Published

Posted: 25 July 2014 in News, Writing

My short story “Lost Time” has been published in the Dark Mountains anthology.

Dark_Mountains

And my story “Eternal Memories” has been reprinted in the What Lies Beneath anthology.

The anthology contains mostly dark horror, so the cover doesn’t really represent the content of my story. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it in print again.

What_Lies_Beneath

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The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition doesn’t officially open until July, but in the meantime check out their new website. Going on 20 years now, IFComp is (according to their website):

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition doesn’t officially open until July, but in the meantime check out their new website. Going on 20 years now, IFComp is (according to their website):

The Interactive Fiction Competition is an annual event begun by passionate hobbyists in 1995 to encourage both the creation and the discussion of new interactive fiction works (also known as IF). While the definition of IF has evolved in the years since then, the IFComp’s format and schedule have remained stable since the 1990s. Anyone can judge the entries on a one-to-ten scale, and the laurels go to the entries receiving the best average rating.

Inform 7, an interactive fiction authoring language/suite, has a new release. 

http://inform7.com/download/

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Eternal Memories Book Cover

Posted: 15 October 2013 in Information, News, Writing

Eternal Memories Cover

Cover for my upcoming anthology of previously published short stories, written with Thomas C. Johnson (together as Patrick Christian).

A friend of mine sent me this link about a 21-year-old author, Samantha Shannon, who has an upcoming novel The Bone Season, the first of a seven-part series.

Is Samantha Shannon the Next J.K. Rowling?

A very late post, but the 18th Annual IFComp voting ends today. Once again, I’ve missed the opportunity to enter a game into the competition (something that I’ve wanted to do since around 2001 when a friend and I started writing it).

From the official site:

http://www.ifcomp.org/

For the last seventeen years, the readers of the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction have held a yearly interactive fiction competition. For fans of the old Infocom games as well as for newcomers to the genre, the competition is a chance to enjoy some of the best short adventure games available anywhere.

Maybe next year.

E-Book Formatting for Novelists

Posted: 15 November 2012 in News

I just discovered on Amazon that K.C. May, author of Venom of Vipers and The Kinshield Saga, has released a free Kindle book on how to format e-books. The process is a bit cumbersome, but her book is helpful in getting first-timers through the process. The only drawback is that it’s for Windows users only, but many of the programs referenced are in fact available for Mac (or a suitable alternative is available).

Translated from Italian news via the Panorama military newspaper, Friday 16 December 2011 edition.

Wine bottle writing contest grows in popularity

According to Italy’s statistic agency ISTAT, more than half of Italians don’t read even a book a year that is not imposed by their work or study duties. One Italian family out of 10 doesn’t have a single book at home, the survey reported. Since people read very little in Italy, winemakers and a leading Italian bookstore decided six years ago to promote reading in a particular way. They set up a short story contest for amateur writers on a subject related to wine, and three winners would have had their works published on the backs of wine bottles. This year, winners will see their short stories published in the form of tiny booklets attached to the bottles of wine. This contest’s popularity grew over the years, to include about 1,000 short stories, and the organizers are now thinking about extending the contest in Europe, as well as in the United States and Canada.

Interesting concept. I haven’t yet seen the stories on the backs of wine bottles here in Italy, but I’ll be looking now that I’m aware of it. I hope this finds its way to the States.

LaTeX

Posted: 31 October 2011 in Information, News, Writing

I recently discovered LaTeX, a typesetting program, while searching for book templates for Microsoft Word.  I began writing a retrocomputing book on the Commodore 64 using Word, but had a hard time formatting the text exactly like I wanted.  I search for various templates and even considered switching to a desktop publishing program, but nothing seemed to work.

I found a few articles on LaTeX.  The Wikipedia definition is:

LATEX (play /ˈltɛk//ˈltɛx//ˈlɑːtɛx/, or /ˈlɑːtɛk/) is a document markup language and document preparation system for the TEXtypesetting program. Within the typesetting system, its name is styled as \LaTeX. The term LATEX refers only to the language in which documents are written, not to the editor used to write those documents. In order to create a document in LATEX, a .tex file must be created using some form of text editor. While most text editors can be used to create a LATEX document, a number of editors have been created specifically for working with LATEX.
LATEX is widely used in academia.[1][2] As a primary or intermediate format, e.g., translating DocBook and other XML-based formats toPDF, LATEX is used because of the high quality of typesetting achievable by TEX. The typesetting system offers programmable desktop publishing features and extensive facilities for automating most aspects of typesetting and desktop publishing, including numbering and cross-referencing, tables and figures, page layout and bibliographies.
LATEX is intended to provide a high-level language that accesses the power of TEX. LATEX essentially comprises a collection of TEXmacros and a program to process LATEX documents. Because the TEX formatting commands are very low-level, it is usually much simpler for end-users to use LATEX.
LATEX was originally written in the early 1980s by Leslie Lamport at SRI International.[3] It has become an important method for using TEX.[citation needed] The current version is LATEX2e (styled \LaTeXe).
As it is distributed under the terms of the LATEX Project Public License (LPPL), LATEX is free software.

This turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.  In a single lunch hour, I was able to produce a document in LaTeX formatted very similarly to what I wanted.

The official website for LaTeX is here:

http://www.latex-project.org/

It says:

LaTeX is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing.
LaTeX is not a word processor! Instead, LaTeX encourages authors not to worry too much about the appearance of their documents but to concentrate on getting the right content. 

Here are some chapter style examples from the Memoir Class (a package available for LaTeX):

http://ctan.mackichan.com/info/MemoirChapStyles/MemoirChapStyles.pdf

The learning curve is a bit steep for LaTeX (at least for me).  I’d liken it to learning HTML.  You could learn the basics pretty quickly, but to be good at it will take some time and effort.  For me, this effort is worth it because the LaTeX system 1) produces professional-quality documents and 2) allows me to focus on writing rather than messing around with the formatting (a pitfall for procrastinators like me).  I’ve decided to move forward with my book using LaTeX.

There are some other attractive aspects to this system:

1.  LaTeX is available in a Mac distribution called MacTeX.  MacTeX contains (from the MacTeX Wiki):

MacTeX is the official release of the MacTeX Technical Working Group. A very Mac-like installation using the Apple installer, so the installation process will be very familiar to Mac users.
MacTeX includes the most recent official standard distribution of TeX Live (the modern TeX distribution standard of TUG) for the Mac, a front end, documentation and extras.
MacTeX 2010 was released 2010-09-08 and is approximately 1.6Gb [1] .
MacTeX 2008 was released 2008-09-01 and includes:

  • selected GUI Applications including:
  • TeX Live
  •  fonts in formats suitable for system-wide use:

Go to MacTeX to download.
See TeX Live for details of installation set-up and administration.

2.  Scrivener will export to LaTeX.  Scrivener is a Mac-based writing program (now also available for Windows).  http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php?show=features

Scrivener is payware, but it’s a paltry $45 (US) for an excellent software program.  (And no, I’m not a compensated endorser for Scrivener — it’s just something I have found useful).

Below is from the Literature and Latte website (the creators/sellers of Scrivener) and shows some of the features of Scrivener…

Corkboard

The cork notice-board is one of the writer’s most familiar organisational tools. Before Scrivener, though, the index cards were not connected to anything; any alterations made to the sequence of cards on the corkboard would have to be replicated manually in the draft. In Scrivener, every document is attached to a virtual index card onto which you can jot a synopsis; moving the cards on Scrivener’s corkboard rearranges their associated text in your draft. Mark common themes or content using labels; stack cards, grouping related documents together; or place cards anywhere on the board using freeform mode. Scrivener’s corkboard gives you all the flexibility of a real notice-board while automatically reflecting any changes you make in your manuscript.

Outliner

Prefer a more traditional planning environment? View and edit the synopses and meta-data of your documents in Scrivener’s powerful outliner. Organise your ideas using as many or few levels as you want and drag and drop to restructure your work. Check word counts, see what’s left to do using the Status column and create custom columns to store any information you need. Scrivener’s outliner is easy on the eyes, too, making it ideal for reading and revising an overview of a section, chapter or even the whole draft.

Scrivenings

Scrivener’s innovative “Scrivenings” mode allows you to move smoothly between editing your document one piece at a time or together as a whole. It’s up to you how small—or large—you want to make the individual sections of your manuscript: novelists can write each scene in a separate document or whole chapters as one; scriptwriters can work scene-by-scene or act-by-act; academics can break down their ideas into individual arguments. However finely you break up your work, Scrivenings mode allows you to collect the constituent components into a single editor, so that you can edit them as though they were all part of one document: in Scrivener, you’re only ever a click away from seeing the forest or the trees.

Text Editing

Who said WYSIWYG is always best?

Scrivener provides access to all the features of the OS X text system: add tables, bullet points and images and format your text however you want using the format bar at the top of the page. Add footnotes and comments in the inspector and choose how they should be laid out when you export or print. Enter page layout view to see your words on virtual pages, which can be set up to mimic your printer settings or the pages of a book. And because the font and style you find most comfortable for writing and editing may not be the same as those required in your final document, Scrivener’s advanced Compile settings optionally allow you to print or export your work in a completely different format.

Tools for Writing Non-Fiction

MathType equationsScrivener isn’t just for writing novels and other forms of fiction. You will find a number of useful academic templates for writing papers, essays, and dissertations in common style formats, including Chicago style essay format, APA & MLA papers, Undergraduate Humanities essay format, as well as general non-fiction, technical writing and research proposals. Integrate your preferred bibliography management software into Scrivener’s menu system for easy on-demand access to your library of references. Using MultiMarkdown, you can create LaTeX documents with a great degree of flexibility. As of version 2.1, you can include beautifully typeset editable MathType equations in your work. Those working with gigantic libraries of reference material in PDF and other formats will appreciate the ability to link to original files rather than importing them into the project, giving you the best of both worlds: Scrivener’s built-in split viewing and full Binder organisation, without the overhead of storing gigabytes of research data in your projects.
Watch the MathType video ●

Scriptwriting

Draft the next blockbuster

While Scrivener is not intended to replace dedicated screenplay software, its familiar scriptwriting features make formatting a script straightforward. So you can draft your script inside Scrivener using the unique research and structural tools and then export it to industry-standard scriptwriting software such as Final Draft. And because you can mix up script formatting with regular text, it makes writing treatments easier than ever.

Statistics and Targets

A live word and character count of the current section is always in view at the bottom of the screen, and you can set a word or character count target for each section. For a wider perspective, though, Scrivener’s Project Statistics panel allows you to check the word, character and page counts of your manuscript so far, and the Project Targets let you set the number of words, characters or pages you aim to achieve for the whole draft or just for the current session. Call up the targets panel to see your progress reflected in the coloured bars as you write.

Snapshots

Never be afraid to make mistakes. Scrivener’s “snapshot” feature makes it easy to return to an earlier version of your text. Before embarking on a major edit, take a snapshot and you’ll be able to return to the current version any time you want. Not sure about the changes you’ve made? Just call up your snapshots in the inspector to compare previous edits or restore an older version of the text.
Watch the video ●

Full Screen—Evolved

Because sometimes you want to blank out the rest of the world while you write—or at least the rest of the screen. One click in Scrivener’s toolbar and you can leave the rest of your desktop behind. Fade the background in and out, choose the width of the “paper” and get writing. Prefer an old-school green-text-on-black look or your favourite countryside scene as a backdrop? No problem. Flexible preferences mean you can set up the full-screen mode as you please. Change documents, refer to your notes, apply keywords—or most importantly, just write—in one of the most beautiful distraction-free modes available.

I’ve used Scrivner to author several short stories and I’m using it for my novel.  Now, I can use it to write my retro book also.

Within Scrivener, some of the formatting for LaTeX can be passed via Multimarkdown.

The Multimarkdown website at http://fletcherpenney.net/multimarkdown/ defines it as:

What is MultiMarkdown?
MultiMarkdown, or MMD, is a tool to help turn minimally marked-up plain text into well formatted documents, including HTML, PDF (by way of LaTeX),OPML, or OpenDocument (specifically, Flat OpenDocument or ‘.fodt’, which can in turn be converted into RTF, Microsoft Word, or virtually any other word-processing format).
MMD is a superset of the Markdown syntax, originally created by John Gruber. It adds multiple syntax features (tables, footnotes, and citations, to name a few), in addition to the various output formats listed above (Markdown only creates HTML). Additionally, it builds in “smart” typography for various languages (proper left- and right-sided quotes, for example).

3.  LaTeX is free.

Although Scrivener is payware, everything else I mentioned here is free — LaTeX (MacTeX distribution) and MMD3 (Scrivener ships with MMD2, but MMD3 can be installed so that Scrivener “sees” it).

I plan to document my journey into learning LaTeX / MMD / Scrivener as I write my book.  So far, I’ve been really pleased with the results I’ve obtained with the workflow, but it will be some time before I really learn how to use LaTeX to its fullest and ultimately format my book with it.

More to follow…