Technology: Harder than It Looks

I love me some technology. Whether it’s editing movies on my iPad, playing games on my PC, or tinkering with webpages online, I’m a self-confessed technogeek. But for as much as I love technology, it’s easy to start to take it for granted. To just assume it’s always going to be simple to use.

Until it isn’t.

The thing is, you never quite know when it’s going to bite you. When you’ll be trying to do something straightforward, only to have to stare in confusion at a screen for a few hours. Sometimes it happens with my A/V system at home. Something goes wrong, and the next thing I know I’m up to my eyeballs in Google searches as I try to figure out why the sound has stopped working. Or something might break on a webpage, and so it’s off to the internet to look for solutions.

Typically these things happen with areas of technology that I’m only generally familiar with. I can get through them on my own, but it takes a long time of research and study to figure out how to do just what I want. Of course, at the end of all that study, I’m good to go, but then I set it and forget all about it . . . until it breaks again, and I’ve forgotten all about how I set it up in the first place.

This also happens when I try to do something I’ve never done before. I’ll approach a new task with an “I’m sure it can’t be that difficult” attitude, only to discover just how difficult it is. Sometimes it’s the very nature of technology that makes it seem straightforward. For example, say you have a VHS copy of a movie, and you want to get that copy onto YouTube. They’re both videos, right? Moving pictures and audio? Isn’t there some sort of . . . cable that could connect your old VHS player to your computer and . . .

Off you go to Google.

(For the record, the way I’ve done it in the past is transfer the VHS to DVD, and then the DVD to mp4, and then upload the mp4 files to YouTube. But all of that takes a lot of time. For a half hour movie, expect it to take you an hour or so, and that’s once you’re familiar with the process.)

That said, I’ll still take technology any day over the old fashioned way of doing things. Because 90% of the time it’s easy peasy, and that’s worth 10% of pain in the rear.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: The First Book of Swords

The First Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #1)

The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You never quite know what you’re going to get when you reread a book you loved as a kid. Sometimes you’re impressed with what wonderful taste you had back then, and sometimes . . . you’d rather forget you ever liked that book to begin with.

I first came across Saberhagen’s Book of Swords series in the public library. I remember thinking the covers were pretty cool (Swords!), and I was definitely in the “I’ll read anything you put in front of me” age. I loved the whole series, though I never really read them in order, because the library continually had one checked out or the other. I remember thinking the magic system was really cool and always wanting to know more about the swords.

So finally I broke down and bought the first book on Kindle, hoping that my fond memories were accurate and justified for once.

I’m ecstatic to say that they were. I finished the entire first book in a day, something which almost never happens for me anymore. The premise is simple: take a standard fantasy world and have the gods of that world create 12 magical swords, each with very specific powers. For example, one can cut through stone as if it were butter. One kills dragons exceptionally well. One makes you very lucky. One helps you find anything you want. The gods take those swords and scatter them through the land, and then they sit back to see what the humans do.

Violence and adventure ensue.

It’s a great start to the series. I loved how the Swords were mysteries to all the characters for the bulk of the book. The gods made them and spread them out, but they never told the humans about them, wanting the humans to find out on their own. And instead of focusing on obscure commoners who end up becoming royalty or supreme magic users, Saberhagen has his protagonists pretty much stay constant through the book. They’re scrappy, and they’ve got a couple of the magic Swords, but they don’t have any other real tools available to help them face their foes.

If you’re looking for a fun series that’s a quick read and has some really cool magic, you should definitely check this one out. I’m already deep into book 2.

View all my reviews

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Tax Time: Author Income and Traveling for Church

It’s March, which means it’s high time for me to be working on my taxes. Part of that process is taking an accounting of everything I was up to the past year from a dollars and cents perspective. Two data points stood out to me this year that I thought would be interesting to you as well.

First off, a candid look at the high flying life of an author. I think there’s a fair bit of misunderstanding out there on just how much you make as an author. I’ll tell people that I got a book deal, and they ask when I’m going to quit my job. Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely authors out there who are able to do that as their main job. But I’d say those are few and far between. Personally, I love the steady paycheck I get as a library director (not to mention the fact that the job itself is rewarding). I’d be hard pressed to give that up for the scattershot approach to payment that’s often the life of an author.

But it’s not making me nothing, and I thought it would be interesting to go back through the data to see how my income as an author has changed over the years, from my first sale in 2011 to this year:

  • 2011: $5,100
  • 2012: $10
  • 2013: $0
  • 2014: $0
  • 2015: $7,243
  • 2016: $3,188
  • 2017: $8,035
  • 2018: $8,960

None of that takes into account any actual expenses. That’s just what I earned. You’ll see there was a nice start with VODNIK, and then several years with no sales, and MEMORY THIEF has been happily churning out money for me since it first sold (and then sold again) back in 2015. I have no real idea what things will look like this year yet. I know I’ll get at least some income from some foreign sales, and hope springs eternal that INKBINDER will finally see print one of these days (or I’ll at least get the second half of my advance for it), and I have a couple other books going out on submission, but you just never know.

So am I raking in the money hand over fist as an author? Clearly not, though I’m grateful to be making what I am. Still, consider that I work on writing approximately 10 hours a week, and my hourly “wage” for writing has been:

  • 2011: $9.81
  • 2012: $0.02
  • 2013: $0
  • 2014: $0
  • 2015: $13.93
  • 2016: $6.13
  • 2017: $15.45
  • 2018: $17.23

Though that’s not quite accurate, since the times I got paid I typically ended up working much more than 10 hours a week on those books. And of course, when you take into account the fact that I started writing in 2000, my average hourly wage over the entire time I’ve been writing comes to a grand total of $3.23. (And remember: that’s before any expenses are taken out at all. Self-employment taxes are significantly more than normal salary taxes . . .)

But hey–the trajectory is definitely upwards, so I’ll take it.

The second data point I wanted to share was total travel for church. I spend a lot of time on the road these days, much of it church-related. How much time? Well, considering all that mileage might be tax deductible, I’ve kept track.

This year, I drove 4,280 miles for church-related service. How much is that?

  • I could drive down to Disney World and then back to Maine, change my mind when I got back to Maine, and drive back to Disney World, though I’d be just shy of making it there.
  • I could drive to Disneyland and still have over 1,000 miles to drive somewhere else.
  • But let’s not worry about Disney. Let’s go international. I could go to Costa Rica if I drove that far south. I could go to Anchorage if I headed north.

That’s a lot of driving.

Why do I drive so much for church? I’m on the high council, which means I drive to Waterville (64 miles, round trip) or Bangor (180 miles, roundtrip) once a month. I also drive to speak at a congregation somewhere in the region about every other month. Some of those drives can be 180 miles roundtrip (or more), as well. Add those trips up and throw in some things that are more local, and it all snowballs pretty easily.

Anyway. Those are my two “gee whiz” facts of the day. Have a good one.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

March Madness Time!

The time has come, friends. To find out what we’re each really worth, in the bigger picture. Who’s better at picking the best* teams?

I’m running the yearly blog challenge, and as usual, the winner gets to have a cameo in my current work in progress. (A steampunk western at the moment, code name SILVERADO.) Who wouldn’t want a cool steampunk character named after them?

And if I win, I’ll still let the runner up have the prize. (How’s that for courtesy?)

So come on over and make your picks, and may the best pick picker win!

Click here to enter.

Group: Bryce’s Ramblings
Password: vodnik

*For values of “best” that don’t include BYU this year. At all.

Yes, I’ve Seen Russian Doll

As a staunch Groundhog Day fan, I think I had at least three different people recommend Russian Doll to me the moment it came out on Netflix. For those of you who might not have heard about it, it’s a time-loop series. A woman starts off at a party and then keeps coming back to that same party over and over and over again.

Post Groundhog Day, this is actually a plot that’s been coming up more and more in movies and television, and I have a soft spot for them. It’s always interesting to me to see how each different story handles it. How they put their individual spin on it. So it’s no real surprise that people thought of me as soon as they hear about the show. And so as soon as I finished The Americans, I turned to Russian Doll.

First, a disclaimer. It’s a foul mouthed show. F bombs are as plentiful as pronouns at times. So this is most definitely Not a Show for Everyone.

Which is a real shame, because it’s a fascinating show with a great mystery at its heart. Great acting and writing. Complex characters that start off as insanely unlikable and somehow turn into people we’re really honestly rooting for. And the language adds literally nothing to anything. Yes, you could argue it helps define who the main character is, but there are so many ways you can show someone’s gruff and uncaring without having them spew profanity with each breath. It’s a sloppy, weak crutch in my book, and I think the show would have been much better without it. Or at least without as much of it. I like salt as much as the next guy, but I don’t throw the whole shaker in.

If you can get past that, as I say, there’s a lot in the show that will appeal to you. Overall, it’s put together well, and the ending doesn’t disappoint. I don’t want to say too much about it, since so much of the show runs on mystery. Just don’t go in expecting answers right away. You’re supposed to be confused and asking yourself a lot of questions. That’s okay. They do eventually get answered. (It’s always nice to know that going in, just so you can have some faith in the show.)

Is it my favorite time loop movie (other than Groundhog Day)? Well, no. Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, FAQ about Time Travel, and Primer come to mind right off. (I have yet to see Happy Death Day. It’s on my list, though!) But this is one of the better ones. Overall, I gave it an 8/10. I just wish I could recommend it more widely than I can . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



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