A Note About Reviews

So I’ve decided not to use the boring old A-B-C-D-F scale for rating movies.  Instead, I’ll rate them by how fast they would put my wife to sleep.  For instance, Dragons of Autumn Twilight would put her to sleep in about five minutes.  (This doesn’t count time that she spends awake making fun of the movies before getting bored and falling asleep.)  The “This Puts My Wife To Sleep” scale will go from “Immediately” (J-Men Forever)  to “An Hour” (The Namesake), while the very best (Pan’s Labyrinth) will get a “Didn’t Put My Wife To Sleep At All” rating.

Books don’t put her to sleep, and she doesn’t play video games, but I’ll use the same scale for them.  We’ll just pretend.

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A Review: Dragons of Autumn Twilight DVD

My wife thought I should write some reviews … I’m probably not a good choice for a reviewer because I like almost every movie I see. I’m a little harder on books and video games, but not by much. Still, it might be fun to play Leonard Maltin (Chef: “That thing just beat the crap out of Leonard Maltin and Sidney Poitier!”) now and then.

So, having just declared that I like almost every movie I see, let me start with one that I didn’t like all that much.

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Free Software For Writers – OpenOffice.Org

A comment on my last post got me thinking about the software that writers can use to do their work. Microsoft Word is of course the dominant word processing program on Windows and perhaps on the Macintosh, but for those who can’t afford it or (like me) don’t run Windows or Mac, that’s not an option. So I thought I’d do a post or two about other choices that are available.

I do my writing in OpenOffice.org, a free and open-source office suite that includes a word processor (where I spend most of my time), a spreadsheet (which I use to keep track of submissions), a presentation package, a diagramming/drawing program, and a database application. I find the database a bit primitive, but the rest of suite is quite polished, with functionality comparable to Microsoft Office circa 2000-XP. (This is fine with me; I use Microsoft Office 2003 at work and to be honest I think Microsoft Office 2000 was better.)  OpenOffice.org will open files from other office suites, up to and allegedly including Microsoft Office 2007 (if you have the correct plug-in for Office 2007).  I haven’t tried opening an Office 2007 file so I can’t verify this ability.

One of the most useful features of OpenOffice.org Writer is the ability to export directly to PDF, creating a file that (a) will look the same for everyone who views it, and (b) cannot be easily modified by anyone who gets it. This comes in extremely handy for things like electronic manuscript submission and self-publishing (I’m using PDFs in my Lulu self-publishing project).

For the average user, OpenOffice.org is a more than adequate substitute for the Microsoft Office suite.  Power Office users may find that some critical feature that they use is missing, but as OpenOffice.org is free to download and use, there’s no risk or cost to trying it out.  OpenOffice.org s available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux, although I would recommend that Macintosh users try NeoOffice instead.  NeoOffice is an OS X port of OpenOffice.org, so it fits in better with the OS X environment.

Laying Out A Book Isn’t As Easy As You’d Think

So I got the printed version of my first stab at a Lulu book and, as a book, it looks surprisingly good — quality binding, nice solid feel to the cover, good weight to the pages, dark and legible text inside. The problem is, the interior looks like one of the manuscripts that I print out when I’m editing. It quite frankly didn’t occur to me that I would need to:

  1. Change the font from courier to something reader-friendly
  2. Add the page numbering and book title in the header and footer
  3. Replace underlining with italics
  4. Insert the sort of pages you typically find at the beginning and end of a book — you know, a little blurb, a title page, a copyright page.
  5. Turn off double spacing, for crying out loud … jeez, what am I, a moron?

Also, the margins are too close to the inner binding, but that’s not on the list of things that didn’t occur to me, because it did. I just didn’t make them big enough. I’m correcting all these things and getting ready to try Lulu Book Revision 2. I expect this one to look nicer, but there will probably be a couple more iterations before it’s ready to go.

For anyone who’s waiting with bated breath for this to be ready (i.e., no one), I’ll drop you a teensy tidbit … it’s a vampire novel set in the mid or late 90s. It was actually written in the early 90s, but later updated to account for the newfound popularity of cell phones. (I am not, however, going to be updating it to account for wireless Internet, camera phones, etc. I have to draw the line somewhere.)

my diry of destrukshun

hello nice reederz its dennis the vizsla dog hay gess whut my dada is giving me my own blog isnt that neet its at http://dennisthevizsla.wordpress.com so yoo can follow all my ad … advench … all the trouble i get in ther now i mite even let tucker and trixie and even dada rite sumthing ther becuz thats the kind of dog i am ennyway see yoo over at the new site ill be ther licking myself ok bye

That First Step Is A Lulu

So seeing as the mainstream publishing world has never quite known what to do with me — I have a portfolio of rejection letters eight inches thick full of comments like “highly enjoyable but we have no idea how to market it” and “skillfully written, but not everyone wants to read The Books of Blood by Clive Barker” (I used to get compared to Mr. Barker fairly regularly) — I’ve decided to bypass them and start publishing books myself, with the first one being that old standby, the vampire novel, coming soon via Lulu. Watch for Long Before Dawn to be available in the next few weeks.

I’ve set up a small homepage at Lulu which for now will serve as my main writing, media, and publishing-related site, although I’ll likely continue to cross-post material here … assuming Dennis lets me sit at the keyboard every now and then.