Friday, January 10, 2014

The Season of Keeping It All Together

In case you are wondering why so few updates in the last month… it’s been a long few weeks of Stuff Happening, the worst of which was the complete thermo-nuclear meltdown of my once-trusty iMac — where I do everything and where absolutely everything was stored. After nearly a week of effort, I was able to get it back up and running again and start restoring all my files… only to have it crash again. And again. And again. The hard drive was apparently so corrupt that no amount of reformatting could fix it. The last thing I wanted to do at this time was buy another iMac… but needs must where The Devil rides, as they say.

In the process of getting a replacement I became so angry at Apple that I wish I lived near Cupertino just so that I could throw rotten Granny Smiths at them (the weather would be a nice improvement, too). Who would have thought that a bottom-of-the-line iMac of today would cost the same as the bottom-of-the-line iMac that I bought two years ago — and actually deliver less? Apple has made the new iMacs so thin that they can no longer contain a CD drive… and because of this, I could not install my software.

I have to wonder… why is Apple so obsessed with making things thinner and smaller, even at the cost of required elements? I can’t believe that Steve Jobs would have approved of this design. Sure, it’s less than a quarter of an inch thick at the edges… but it still looks exactly the same from the front, and doesn’t deliver a necessary element. You have to buy a CD Drive as a $90 add-on, and connect it via USB.

— But the new iMac has only 4 USB ports. By the time I add on my extended keyboard (the wireless one that comes with it is useless), the CD drive, a new external hard drive for back-up and the syncing cable for my phone and tablet, it’s full up and I have nowhere to connect a printer, or either of my two remaining peripherals. 

Don’t even get me started about their latest operating system, Mavericks. It is buggier than a mile-long strip of flypaper. I suspect it was at least in part responsible for the downfall of my other iMac. On the new one it was freezing and failing to recognize permissions and forcing me to restart the computer two and three times a day. I’ve managed to get through two-and-a-half days now without a restart, and consider that a minor miracle.

However — at least it does restart. The same could not be said of my old one.

Who knows? Maybe the computer, being brand-new, needed to learn how to be a computer. Gotta learn how to walk before you can run and all that.

In the end, I did loose some important files, including about a third of the Major Arcana for my Tarot of the Zircus Mägi; I was able to replace these with tiffs that the printer had retained, so the designs are safe… but the original Photoshop files are Gone With The Wind. I lost the illustrations and text for a children’s book I was planning for 2015: the illustrations were very rough and would have been re-done and replaced anyway, but I’m not certain that I can recover the text. If I was smart I printed it out and have a hard copy in my files somewhere. 

But since when have I ever been smart? It’s a worry. There’s still so much in the way of restoring my old files, software and music to be done that I haven’t had a chance to look for it. 

Just as vexing but requiring nothing from me other than worry was my father’s tumble in early December down a flight of stairs that tore ligaments in his knee. This required surgery, which did not happen fast enough to please me. He finally went under the knife this week; the total radio silence following the surgery lasted for three days had me more than a little bit nervous. This was made worse by the message that I got from him just prior to the surgery — Dad was acting as if it was All Over and Out for him, as if he expected to die on the table. Word came through today: he’s fine — but there is a long recovery road ahead of him. He and I have had more a few differences and serious rifts over the years… but we’ve both mellowed out some and things are now better between us than they have been for a long while. He’s the only close family that I have left. Sooner or later a person realizes this, and sooner or later a person gets tired of being angry all the time. I can’t help my mother anymore; might as well deal with the Dad I’ve got while I’ve still got him. He must be about 86 by now, and still with a few good years left thanks to his wife taking good care of him — but I know, have seen what falls can do to someone at that age. 

Beyond that — my oven died; a short while later all the electrics in my kitchen followed suit; my furnace hadn’t been cleaned in a year and a half; I nearly ran out of heating oil and when I screwed up the nerve required to call for a delivery, all I got was an attitude problem from the bitch on the other end of the line; and (as many of you have experienced, some more so even than Maine) this winter really has been a tough old bastard so far. The Season of Death has lived up to its nickname.

All that has been attended to, insofar as it can be, and now I look forward to getting back to work. In that area, there is some good to report.

The Kickstarter campaign was a success, the Tarot of the Zircus Mägi has been published, all the backer rewards have been mailed out and the few remaining copies can be ordered from the deck’s micro-site here. Step right up and get ‘em while they are hot, ladies and gents… only 300 decks total were printed, at least half of them are gone, there will be no reprints, and the price is only going to go up as my remaining stock dwindles away. 

My novel for this year is going to be a little something called Baxter Bunny Escapes — a real genre-bender starring one of the supporting characters from 2013’s See Them Dance. With 20,000 words already in the can I’ve hit the ground running on this one and hope for it to be out by the end of the year. You’ll be hearing — and seeing — more soon.

Work on The Circus Tarot Book — companion volume to my Tarot of the Zircus Mägi — is nearly complete… it should be out early in February. I’m dismayed at the price that I’m going to have to retail it out at… but this is what happens when you attempt a profusely illustrated book in full color throughout. One thing I can say honestly — for good or ill — it’s not your typical book about the Tarot. 

It will be followed later in February by Quirk volume 2: “Termination Alley,” collecting another giant swath of material from the webcomic. This volume changes everything, as the good spaceship Frigid (and Carpy with it) is repossessed by its original owners, while Quirk and his pals Smith and Sludge are set adrift in deep space.

After that… I’ve got lots more in the pipeline and hope to release as many books in 2014 as I did last year. Wish me luck! It’s a lot like the old, old joke: There’s just got to be a Pony in there somewhere!

In the next few days I’ll regale you with a catch-up post on the filmic frolics that have passed over my eyeballs this winter, even as I prepare — lawd help us all — to be a presenter at the local PechaKucha night later in the month. How d’you pronounce that, anyhow?

Keep warm, kemo-sabes!

— Freder

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