The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard

Edited by David A. Goodman

Buy the hardcover at Amazon

Buy the Kindle edition at Amazon

I was browsing the TV and Media tie-in section at Amazon yesterday scoping out GameLit books since that’s where they live while authors wait for Amazon to come up with an appropriate LitRPG/GameLit category. While there I spied The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard which caught my interest. Then I saw it was on sale for $1.99 and decided to give it a try.

I’d call this book a page turner, but I was reading it on my Kindle so it’s more like it was a battery devourer. I couldn’t put it down. I missed an update of my ongoing serial Spellcraft over on RoyalRoad because I was so caught up in this book.

I grew up with Star Trek: The Next Generation. My parents were both Trekkies who grew up on the original series, and so it was a no-brainer that TNG would be a staple in our household. Some of my earliest TV memories are watching TNG. I’d regularly sneak into my parents’ bedroom well after my bedtime but before theirs so I could watch episodes when they came on at 10:30PM after the evening news on Fox 59.

This book reads like a love letter to TNG fans. Minor characters who are given a brief appearance in the series, those “I have a deep history with this character to add gravitas to their inevitable death a minute before the commercial break” characters who only ever get their due at Memory Alpha or in the old Star Trek Encyclopedia. Relationships with familiar characters are explored from new and interesting directions.

More than anything, Autobiography fills in the holes of Picard’s early life and the career trajectory that took him to the bridge of the Enterprise-D. The book is peppered with fun references for fans, such as a tongue firmly in cheek explanation of why there were so many Chief Engineers in the first season that I won’t spoil, and is a definite for anyone who considers themselves a fan of TNG.

My only quibble with the book is an issue that must’ve been a Kobayashi Maru scenario for Goodman as he was writing it. Most of the book is dedicated to Picard’s life before he became the famous Jean-Luc Picard we all know and love, and then his career about the Enterprises D and E is rushed in the last sliver of the book before moving on to talk about what he’s been up to since.

I don’t fault the book for this. The stuff we’re interested in is the before and after. We’ve all seen the series and the movie, else we wouldn’t be picking up the book. I can see where recounting episodes that already have an ending wouldn’t be as interesting as telling new stories about years of Picard’s life that haven’t been explored.

Still, for a book that hews closely to the autobiography template it does feel odd that such a substantial portion of Picard’s life is glossed over so quickly, and the few observations that we do get from his point of view in the book give us a tantalizing tease of what a retelling of TNG adventures purely from Picard’s point of view could be while not completely delivering.

I know I spent a few paragraphs on that, but it really is a minor quibble. Overall this book is excellent and worth the read. It’s very rare that I read a book that I feel is an unreserved recommend, but if you’re a Trekkie then you’ll enjoy this one.

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Motivrite 3: Vanity Publishing vs. Self-publishing


For the longest time vanity publishing and self-publishing were one and the same. If someone couldn’t get a deal with a traditional publisher then their only other option was to go with a vanity publisher who would gladly print up anything the author wanted, for a price. This naturally led to a bunch of not-so-great stuff being vanity published, and there’s a stigma associated with vanity publishing that still lingers around all self-publishing to this day.

But vanity publishing and modern indie self-publishing are far from the same thing, and it’s time for that old stigma and snooty attitude about self-publishers to go. Today’s episode of Motivrite dives into a brief history of vanity publishing, and the differences between old school vanity publishing and modern digital self-publishing.

Show Notes:

0:30 – The distinction between vanity publishing and self-publishing. One of these things is not like the other.

Vanity publishing and self-publishing used to be the same thing. That’s not the case anymore. Good work is being done by indies now that digital self-publishing has democratized the process, and this podcast is going to delve into the history of vanity publishing and compare it to modern digital self-publishing.

1:20 “Publishing companies” that weren’t publishing companies at all. My introduction to the world of vanity publishing.

A brief story about my introduction to the world of vanity publishing. Aka how I learned to stop worrying and accept that I wasn’t actually getting a publishing contract for a short story I wrote for my high school newspaper.

2:35 What is vanity publishing?

A history of old school vanity publishing and why it has a much deserved bad reputation among writers and publishers.

4:37 Not knowing the distinction between vanity publishing and digital self-publishing held me back from my future career. Don’t let it hold you back.

For the longest time I thought that digital self-publishing was just the new version of offline vanity publishing, and this held me back from self-publishing my stuff for several years I could’ve been using to build my career. Don’t let this happen to you.

5:40 Digital self-publishing is a whole new world of indie publishing.

There’s a whole new world of opportunities for writers because of the digital publishing revolution. I go into the differences between the old and busted self-publishing and the new hotness, and why one is still a costly dead end and one is your path to a potential new career.

7:45 Sturgeon’s Law is alive and well, but digital self-publishing allows the cream to rise to the top instead of relying on gatekeepers.

I tackle one of the most common criticisms against self-publishing: that a lot of the material that’s put out there isn’t that good. Which is true. There is a lot of crap out there, but there are also plenty of new systems in place that help the good stuff rise to the top that are far better than the old gatekeeping system of agents and publishers, because it’s the readers who get to decide what’s worthwhile in this new paradigm.

8:30 Digital markets are the great equalizer that puts indies on an equal footing with trad publishers.

We’ve never lived in a better time for writers to make money from their craft. Vanity publishing was a last ditch way for writers who couldn’t cut it in the old system to get their stuff out there, and it almost never worked. Digital self-publishing is a great new level playing field where anyone writing good stuff can stand out from the crowd and make a career!

Motivrite 2: What makes a career author?

In the second episode of Motivrite I do a dive into what it takes to be a career writer. There’s no one path to making a writing career, but there are some skills and habits that will make it a lot easier for you to take your writing from hobby to career. I talk a little bit about what it takes, and how you can get there!

Show Notes

0:27 – What makes someone a practitioner of an art?

Is it the act of doing, or is it getting paid? Is it getting paid or is it getting paid enough to do full time? Which gatekeeper is right?

1:40 – What is a career writer?

Career writers are working towards or making enough money to do this as a full time job. What does it take to hit this goal?

2:50 – What makes a career writer?

I talk about some of the skills and habits that career writers all have in common.

  1. Be a reader
  2. Be able to write
  3. Be disciplined
  4. Have a desire to learn
  5. Have ambition that’s paired with a work ethic and a desire to make it
  6. Treat writing like a job if you want it to be your job

13:20 – It’s not as difficult as you might think!

If you’re listening to this podcast then you’re taking the first step towards achieving what you need to make writing your career.

 

Introducing Motivrite

I’ve been wanting to do a podcast about writing since I first went full time back in 2015. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but a variety of things kept me from actually hitting the publish button. Until today.

That’s right! I’ve finally got the time to put together some podcasting, and after a year of spending time here and there putting together a home studio, Motivrite is finally ready to go! You can hit play up above to listen to episode 1, or have a look at the show notes below. Thanks for listening!

Show notes:

Episode 1 is a quick introduction to Motivrite that talks about what I see the podcast covering, including:

Business tips

The career indie author has to be a businessperson on top of being a writer these days, and Motivrite will help with that.

Advice for newbies and pros

There’ll be advice in Motivrite that will help people just getting started and people who have been doing this for a few years and are old hands at the business.

Health advice for writers

Writers aren’t slaving away in the word mines, but there are health pitfalls associated with this sedentary job. I’ll have health tips, tricks, and advice for the career author.

Inspiration

Everyone needs a little inspiration, and Motivrite will occasionally feature inspiring stories of authors who made it!

Productivity

Productivity is tough. Motivrite will help with tips and tricks I’ve learned doing this full time for four years that will hopefully help you out and help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

Writing tools

Sure writing can be done with a pencil and a notebook, but the modern indie author is going to have to be a lot more high tech than that. Motivrite will cover all sorts of nifty tools from the absolutely necessary to the stuff that’s nice to have but not a must have.

 

Progress update: 11/1/2018

November! The start of NaNo, which I won’t be participating in, but that’ll be in its own post. This is my daily progress update to keep me honest!

I didn’t get anything done yesterday. I went on a field trip with my kid which ate up most of the day, and when I got home I was so exhausted that I took a nap that lasted just long enough for me to feed the kids and go out for trick or treating.

Today was more productive from a writing standpoint! I wrote 13,223 words and revised 9,951.

On the podcast front it was also a productive day. I finished chapter 8 of Dice Mage and will be launching that in the next couple of days. I also changed the intro and outtro to a couple of episodes of a podcast about writing that I’ve been working on. I’d originally conceived of the podcast as daily, but if I’m also doing fiction podcasts that’s not possible so I’m changing the bumpers to reflect the new weekly schedule.

That should launch here pretty soon as well considering I have quite a few episodes in the bank.

All in all it was a productive day. Here’s hoping I continue the streak tomorrow!

Progress update: 10/30/2018

A bit of a slower day today. Didn’t get much sleep the night before because of a sick kiddo, and as such I ended up sleeping a good chunk of the morning away which hit me right in the productivity.

I wrote 8336 words today and revised 4,129. Not a bad day, but I didn’t get much other work done aside from writing because the morning was shot.

On the podcast/audiobook front I recorded and finished chapter 7 of Dice Mage. I also submitted a support ticket to the good people at Libsyn to get the slug for the hosting I’m paying for there switched to reflect Dice Mage rather than Blake Byron, which I’ve abandoned for the moment. Once that’s sorted I’ll upload the first seven chapters and start my great experiment seeing if podcasting is a decent way to build an audience!

That’s it for today. It was an abbreviated day so it’ll be an abbreviated day.

Progress update: 10/29/2018

I’m going to start a new thing where I do a quick update at the end of a work day talking about everything I accomplished that day. I figure it’s a way to keep myself accountable while also providing some encouragement to get my butt in gear and get stuff done.

Today I wrote 11,941 words across seven projects I’m currently working on. I had a bunch of outlining in there as I’m currently outlining one book for my pen name, and another that I plan on releasing under my name.

I also revised 9,086 words on a project for my main pen name that I’m putting the finishing touches on. I’m a little behind on that one, but what can you do?

I’m getting closer and closer to finishing the sprawling 200,000 word doorstopper GameLit novel I’ve been working on for almost a year now. Even when I finish that there are going to be heavy edits to be done, but simply being close to the end on a project that’s the longest book I’ve ever written feels pretty good. I’m going to have to bust my butt on revisions to get it out by the holiday season though.

I also made progress on the Dice Mage podcast audiobook experiment I’m going to try with that book. Everyone keeps talking about how audio is the new hotness, and I figure I’ll give it a try and see if it’s any good for audience building. I finished editing chapter 5, and recorded, edited, and finished chapter 6 as well. I plan on releasing that to the world now that I have six episodes banked to get those download numbers up when it goes live on various podcasting services.

I also started, but didn’t finish, a couple of blog posts. One about making dining reservations at Disney World, based on a recent experience I had dealing with that frustration, and another about my experiences with the Sega Genesis on the occasion of that system’s 30th birthday.

That’s it for today! Time to hit the sack and prepare for another full day tomorrow.

Huion GT-191: Final review

So if you’ve been reading this blog then you know I’ve had some good and some bad experiences with Huion and the GT-191. I have one sitting on my desk right now so I’ve decided to go with Huion, and I figured I should write a final review about all the pros and cons and why I ultimately decided to go with the GT-191 despite some problems.

Huion GT-191

So here’s the thing. Huion is giving you bang for your buck. They’re not giving you perfection. If you’re an amateur artist or someone who only uses Photoshop from time to time then it’s going to be a great tablet for you. If you’re the kind of person whose professional livelihood depends on color accuracy and things like that then it might or might not be the tablet for you, but it’s definitely a contender for the price.

The good:

Price:

The price on Huion products can’t be beat. I got mine through a sale they were running on eBay that gave me a brand new device, straight from Huion, at a substantial discount. I think they were trying to get rid of older versions of their Kamvas line now that they’re releasing newer versions with pens that don’t require charging. Either way, a 19″ pen monitor at Huion prices is a great deal. Especially compared to Wacom and their exorbitant and prohibitive pricing.

Setup:

Setup was quick and easy. Everything on the Huion is using old technology that’s well tested. It uses an old fashioned USB 3.0 connection and an HDMI cable to provide signal from the computer to the monitor. If you’re running a fancy new MacBook Pro with its USB-C connections that might be an issue, but there are a lot of people out there running on hardware that isn’t at the bleeding edge and these older connections are appreciated.

Actually setting up the monitor only took maybe fifteen minutes. That includes attaching the stand, connecting the wires, and downloading the Huion software.

The user experience:

This is what really matters. The experience of putting a pen to the screen is about the same as using a Cintiq 22HD. There’s a little bit of parallax that really becomes obvious when you’re moving the pen around, but you also got that on older Wacoms. It doesn’t hold a candle to the new Cintiq Pro line and the complete lack of parallax, but it’s pretty easy to train yourself to look at where the cursor is on the screen and adjust your stroke accordingly. This is especially easy if you’re upgrading from a tablet where you’re used to the disconnect between pen and cursor.

I’m not saying the parallax is a deal breaker, just that it’s there and is about the same as what you’d expect from a last gen Wacom monitor. You’re not getting the complete lack of parallax of the new Cintiq Pro line, but you’re also not paying the equivalent of a down payment on a cheap car on this monitor either.

Other than that the experience is natural and easy. Drawing on the screen or on the provided screen protector is a pleasant experience. With the protector on it feels like drawing on paper. The screen protector does blur everything just a bit, but you’re going to get that from any screen protector that has a paper consistency. Again I’d compare the screen resolution to the Cintiq 22HD in terms of quality and graininess.

The stand:

This is wonderful. Seriously. I wish Wacom would figure out how to make stands like this. All it takes is a little pull on a lever and the stand moves forward and back providing whatever angle you want. The real beauty is the stand has a tiny footprint that makes it easy to fit the GT-191 on a desk.

Compare that to the 22HD and larger in the last gen of Cintiqs. That stand was a beast and it ate up desk real estate. One of the reasons I ended up getting rid of my 22HD was the thing was just so damn big that it was unwieldy and unpleasant to use. Or compare that to the Cintiq Pro line that doesn’t come with a stand at all.

The Huion doesn’t have this problem. The stand is compact and gets the job done, and it just works. Wacom could take a page from Huion on stand design.

The extras:

The tablet comes with an extra pen and drawing glove as “gifts.” This smacks of marketing speak to make me feel warm and fuzzy about something they would’ve included anyway, but whatever. Having a second pen is a must with a pen tablet that relies on battery driven pens. You can always have one charged and ready to go.

The bad:

Color accuracy:

This is the big one that was such an annoyance with the first one I tried out. No matter how many times I tried to calibrate the screen there was a blue tint to everything that drove me nuts. Trying to return the GT-191 to Huion and not get charged a restocking fee also took some back and forth that was annoying.

Still, I couldn’t beat the sale price they were offering and I figured for that price I could put up with a little color inaccuracy. I’m pleased to say that the screen I have now doesn’t have that tinting issue, but it’s still washed out and not all that vibrant for an IPS panel. It’s really obvious looking at my calibrated Asus PB-278Q which sits just above the Huion tablet.

Another consideration is that the Cintiqs also appear “washed out” compared to monitors designed to pump out more saturation, and this is deliberate. Huion is doing the same, but the colors on the Huion are definitely a little more washed out than what you’ll get on a Cintiq.

It’s not a huge issue for me though. Like I said before, this is a bang for the buck unit. If you’re doing digital art or photo manipulation seriously then you have a second monitor you can mirror your current Photoshop window to anyway so you can periodically check on what you’re working on, but it’s definitely a concern if pinpoint color accuracy is something you absolutely have to have.

Parallax:

I talked about this up above, but wanted to include it in the cons down here. Parallax is there, but it’s about on par with what you can expect from a Cintiq 22HD or a 13HD. It’s especially obvious if you twist the pen around as the tip will quickly become disconnected from the cursor on the screen. This wasn’t much of an issue for me. I’ve worked with tablets long enough that I can deal with the disconnect between what my pen is doing and what the cursor is doing, but it might be an annoyance for some. Watching where the cursor is versus where the pen is can be helpful, though, and the disconnect is way less with the Huion than it would be with a traditional non-screen tablet.

Does it compare to the lack of parallax on the new Cintiq Pro line? Not at all. Parallax is nonexistent on those bad boys. Is it a small enough annoyance that the price difference more than makes up for it if you’re starting out with digital art or on a budget? Most definitely in my opinion.

“Only” High Def:

This is really a matter of opinion. The last gen Cintiq displays were all good old 1920×1080. The picture looked decently crisp on the 13HD and a little grainy on the 22HD.

With the GT-191 you’re also getting “only” 1920×1080 resolution. The display looks a little grainy, especially with the protective screen over it, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s definitely not as crisp as a display on a Cintiq Pro 16 or running AstroPad Pro and an iPad Pro, but again it gets the job done. I’ll also note that the Cintiq Pro running at 2K also looks a little grainy and pixelated, and running at 4K on a 15″ monitor made everything so small as to be uncomfortable.

The GT-191 really is a nice compromise between screen size and resolution. 1080P works for a monitor that size. Would 4K be nice? Yeah, but that would up the price and we wouldn’t be having this conversation about a value pen screen.

No tilt:

The GT-191 doesn’t have tilt functionality in its pen. I don’t use tilt so it’s not a big deal for me. If this is a big deal for you then you’ve been warned.

Cable placement:

Cable placement is a little awkward on the back of the device. The ports are on the bottom of the screen, and that means if you’re sliding your monitor forward and back on the aforementioned stand a lot then you’re going to spend some time pushing the cables out of the way. This also doesn’t seem like a great arrangement in terms of cable strain over the long term, but I also haven’t seen any complaints about this so who knows if it’s really a potential gripe.

Just be warned that the cable situation in the back isn’t ideal, and you will spend some of your time moving cables out of the way if you move the stand up and down a lot.

The verdict: bang for your buck

Bang for the buck. That’s what it all comes down to. A last gen Cintiq 22HD will still run you $1700. A last gen Cintiq 13HD will run you $800. To get into the new Cintiq Pro 13 you’re looking at $1000. For the Cintiq Pro 16 it’s $1500. When you go higher than that for the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 you’re looking at behemoths that swallow your entire desk and cost the price of a cheap used car with some mileage on it or a good down payment on a new economy car.

Does Huion still have some issues with their tablets? Yes, but in my experience they’re all issues that existed on the last generation of Wacom Cintiq tablet screens, and they were all things people learned to live with. That’s something else to consider. Every generation of Wacoms has had their issues, and people pay a premium to deal with those issues.

Weigh all of that against the price, because damn. That price is amazing. If you’re on a budget, dipping a toe into digital art, or only need to use a screen tablet occasionally for work like I do then that price can’t be beat. Wacoms are expensive. Like “I do art for a living and can justify this expense” or “corporate bought all of these with a line item in the budget that was going away if we didn’t spend it by the end of the year” expensive. That’s a lot of money to spend, and I think for the money the Huion is a great, if slightly flawed, alternative whose price more than makes up for those quibbles.

Bang for your buck. That’s what Huion delivers. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re willing to shell out an extra thousand bucks to get something slightly better in quality and way smaller in terms of screen size to have Wacom on the branding.

Dragon 13 discontinued, Dragon 15 discounted

Do you use Dragon Naturally Speaking? Specifically are you on Dragon 13? Well I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you.

The bad news is Dragon 13 is being discontinued. Nuance is no longer going to support it after 2018. It’s pining for the fjords, and at some future date a Windows Update is going to break functionality and Nuance isn’t going to fix it.

Now for the good news. If you own Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Professional they’re offering Dragon 15 Professional at a steep discount of $99. Check the software notifications you probably ignore every time you open Dragon 13 and you’ll see a notification and a link to where you can get the discounted rate.

It’s only good through October 31, 2018, so be sure to act fast. This is a great deal on 15 and well worth the upgrade. Especially if you’re using it for a business purpose!