OneNote on iPhone

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The end of the world is nigh, Microsoft is developing iOS apps!

Well, here’s something of a surprise — Microsoft has just brought its OneNote app to the iPhone, and it’s made it available as a free download “for a limited time” to boot. As with the Windows Phone 7 app (previously the only mobile version), the iPhone app will let you manage notes and shopping lists (and even add pictures taken with the iPhone’s camera), and then sync those with Windows Live SkyDrive so you can access them in either the Windows desktop application or its web-based counterpart. As ZDNet‘s Mary Jo Foley notes, however, perhaps just as interesting as the app itself is the question of what else might follow — a native OneNote app for iPad, perhaps, or even iOS versions of other Office applications? Microsoft unsurprisingly isn’t commenting on those possibilities, but it did note that the OneNote app is the culmination of some 18 to 24 months of development from a team of Microsoft Mac Office and OneNote engineers, which is either a sign of some serious slacking or a fairly significant commitment on Microsoft’s part. No word on when the “limited” free period will run out (so you’ll probably want to grab it while you can), nor is there any world on a worldwide release — it’s currently only available to US users, unfortunately.

See more at www.engadget.com

 

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Sneak Peek: Blind Man’s Bluff

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Thought I would post a sneak peek at a new work-in-progress.  It is still rough around the edges and I’m experimenting with writing from the first person point of view.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Sneak PeekThe low-slung motorcycles sprawled across the parking lot of the squat brick building. Their sleek paint gleamed beneath the harsh arc-sodium streetlights. The litter of broken beer bottles, cigarette butts and fast food wrappers were a good hint at what I could expect inside. I really shouldn’t have worn my brand new Berluti loafers.

I adjusted the knot of my tie and pulled the cuffs of my shirt straight. I took another look at the motorcycles, and my gold watch went from my wrist to my pocket. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be greeted by a local boy scout troop. I sucked in a nervous breath, thrust out my chest and strode forward to push open the door.

I paused inside, letting my eyes adjust. A busty blonde, wearing a t-shirt that was ripped in some interesting places and a little piece of flotsam that may have been a thong, strutted across the small stage at the far end of the room. A group of appreciative patrons banged beer bottles on their stage-side tables and hooted. The room smelled of old cigarettes and stale beer. I wrinkled my nose. You’d think that even a low-class biker joint could steam clean the carpet once in a while.

Bob Seger wailed from the stereo system and a few leather-clad bikers lounged against the bar laughing. One paused, glanced in my direction then leaned close to the bandanna wearing behemoth beside him saying something as he cocked a thumb in my direction. Hey, I always like to make new friends wherever I go, so I decided to wander over and see if they had read this month’s ‘Cat Fancy’. They looked like they might be cat people.

As I stepped forward, a hand the size of a dinner plate appeared and pressed against my chest. I followed the heavily muscled forearm to its owner. He was about six foot five and weighed in at two-fifty. His skin was inky black and his shaved head glistened in the heat of the bar. His muscle shirt was stained and said “Ask me about our blow jobs for drinks program”. I didn’t want to ask and didn’t feel particularly parched at the moment.

“I tink you is in the wrong place, mon piti zanmi.” His voice was deep and rich, with a Creole patois. He smiled broadly, which revealed a gold front tooth. He grabbed my shoulder and turned me to the wall in one smooth motion and expertly patted me down. Satisfied that I wasn’t packing a bazooka or some other weapon that may make a dent in one of the bikers, he turned me to face him. He was still smiling, but the smile never reached his eyes. “What you want, zanmi?” I felt a small ball of ice form in the pit of my stomach and gave him my ‘I’m your bestest friend’ smile. “I only want to ask the bartender a few questions,” I said, flashing a twenty dollar bill. “It’ll only take a moment.”

The twenty disappeared into the bouncer’s big hand and he shrugged. “Is your funeral, mon zanmi. Don’t be pissing anyone off. “He nodded at my shirt. “I don’t want to dirty up your bel chemiz by having to be tossing you out on your piti ass.” He turned and resumed his vigil by the door.

I sauntered to the bar and nodded a greeting to the assortment of bikers, who glared their greeting back at me. “How’s it hanging fellas?” I asked with a wide grin. They turned and moved off to another table, tossing an occasional glare over their shoulders at me and whispering words like ‘narc’ and ‘cop’. “Hey, was it something I said?” I called after them.

The big guy with the bandanna paused and gave me a huge yellow-toothed grin, then spit on one of my loafers. I’ve always been the type who can bring out the best in the others around him. What can I say? It’s a gift.

There was a guy behind the bar whose hair was almost unkempt enough to be considered trendy. His prodigious gut hung over his jeans and was being held in check by a Harley-Davidson t-shirt and a leather vest. “What the hell do you want?”

“Maybe a nice Chardonnay?” I said, tossing a fifty onto the bar. “And a few questions?”

“You a cop?” He planted both hands on the bar, revealing a set of cheap silver rings on each hand. Most were skulls, some were philosophical statements on life such as ‘Fuck The World’. He was obviously a people person too.

“Nope. Name is Xander. I’m a detective.” I pointed at the fifty on the counter. “Any chance of getting a Chardonnay? Doesn’t have to be imported, California is fine.”

“We’re low on Chardonnay, asshole. How about a Bud Light?” He banged a warm bottle of beer down in front of me. It foamed over onto the bar. “You got three minutes.”

I picked up the bottle and saluted him. “See? I knew we’d be pals.” I took a sip of the warm beer, winced, and put it back on the counter. “You ever heard of Sataro Miyazaki?”

Fat boy laughed and I wondered what Buddha would look like in a Harley t-shirt. “Does it look like we serve sushi here? We don’t get chinks in here. You might want to try the Yakuza level.” He grabbed the fifty off the counter and tucked it into his pocket. “That it?”

“Not quite. I have a friend who needs to find Mr. Miyazaki and it was suggested I may find information here that may be pertinent to his–,” I faltered for a second while I tried to think of the appropriate phrase. I snapped my fingers. “Distribution partners. Yes. I believe part of the distribution chain for Mr. Miyazaki’s product may be handled by some of your customers.” I picked up the beer and pointed with the neck of my bottle at the bikers who were huddled at the table, watching us intently.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Fat boy’s eyes narrowed and he leaned closer, lowering his voice. “You need to leave. Now. I ain’t answering anything else.”

“I think you know what I’m talking about. There’s some new amp out there and it’s bad shit. I’ve been hired to find out where it’s coming from so people don’t get hurt.”

“I don’t know nothing about any amp.” He licked his lips and flicked his eyes from me to the bikers.

“Sure you do. I’m not here to bust anybody, couldn’t even if I wanted to. I just want to know where it’s coming from. If I can buy some and get it analyzed, it could be traced by the packet signatures. I really don’t give a damn about your–,” I was abruptly cut off by fat boy reaching under the counter and pointing a sawed off shotgun at me.

It had already been a long day. My head hurt and I knew I couldn’t stay much longer, but getting killed would put a serious crimp in my investigation. I hoped that maybe another fifty and a hasty retreat would be the better part of valor. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding–”

The gun shot was deafening.

I was hurled across the room and thudded into the wall next to the bouncer. My guts were on fire and my legs refused to work. I could smell something like sulfur and cooked meat.

Big black hands lifted me and carried me towards the door. The bouncer clucked his tongue at me as if chastising a small child. “See, I told you.” He shook his head. “Your bel chemiz is ruined.” With that he heaved me out the door. I hit the lamp post and slid to the pavement. It didn’t hurt anymore. I looked down at my midsection and realized that Bobo the bouncer was wrong. Both my shirt and pants were going to be ruined.

Categories: Sneak Peek

Rejections: I reject your reality and substitute my own!

First, my apologies to Adam Savage for stealing his line.

I received another rejection letter for a short story that I have written (one that I am particularly fond of) and have had a few people comment that rejections must really sting.  Well, I haven’t been writing long enough to achieve a large pile of rejections, but I have lived long enough (and sarcastically enough) to collect a lot of first-hand knowledge about rejection.

Most writers view rejections as something to be feared and avoided.  I don’t think they can be avoided. If your writing hasn’t been rejected, chances are your Mom is the only one who has been reading it.

You shouldn’t fear rejection letters, at the very least they are a sign that you’re willing to step up and put your writing out there. I’ve talked to a lot of authors who are going to publish something “some day”.  Make today the day and send out your work in progress, even J.K. Rowling collected a number of rejections before a publisher decided to give Harry Potter a chance.

If you’re lucky enough to get a personal rejection letter, view it as a learning experience.  I have been lucky enough to have a few editors take the time to give me a good idea of why my work was being rejected.  This gives me very valuable feedback on what editors are looking for and what I need to work on.  Nothing feels better than getting a rejection letter from an editor, working on your craft some more and then getting a story published in the same market that previously rejected you.

Rejections are part of the business, take them in stride and try not to take them personally.  Make sure that you send out only your best quality work and make sure you research who you’re sending that work to.  Above all, remember that selection is still a personal preference.  One editor may not like your work, but the next one may have nothing but praise.  The only way to find out is to put your work out there.

Categories: Writing

Jeff Strand: Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary)

An author friend recommended this book to me saying that it was ‘suitably twisted’ for me to enjoy.  I don’t know whether or not to be insulted, but after reading the book, it seems that he may have great insight into my personality.

I hadn’t heard of Jeff Strand before, but after reading this hilarious story of graverobbing gone horribly wrong, I will be adding Jeff to my ‘gotta read’ list.

The main character is Andrew Mayhem.  He is a twit. A well meaning, unemployed, loves his children, danger magnet, twit.  You can’t help but like him and be appalled by his decision making at the same time.

The book opens with Andrew attempting to make a few bucks as a private eye.  He’s the type of detective that hangs out in treehouses attempting to video the neighbor’s husband in a compromising position; not exactly the ‘Poirot’ of the suburbs. Needless to say, it goes horribly wrong, Andrew has to replace his wife’s camera and he still needs some money to pay for other bad decisions.

Enter Jennifer. A svelte patron at a coffee shop who has an interesting offer. $20,000 to retrieve a key. Why so much? Said key is in a pine box, in the park, buried in a shallow grave. Oh yeah, Jennifer’s husband is in the box as well. Andrew and his best friend Roger decide to take the job (have I mentioned his decision making skills?)

Things unsurprisingly don’t turn out well, although they do turn out hilariously (if you’re the reader and not Andrew or Roger). The intrepid duo fail at retrieving the key and begin to investigate the murder of Jennifer and her husband. The couple’s business, ‘Ghoulish Delights’, makes home-made horror films and supplies a cast of characters that keep Andrew and Roger busy guessing who the killer could be. The killer continues, in macabre and gory style, and leaves tapes of his work for Andrew to puzzle out. He keeps it interesting by leaving presents on the hood of Andrew’s car, leading him on a wild scavenger hunt across town.  How much more complicated can life get for a guy who just wants to watch his kids and avoid getting a real job?

Andrew Mayhem is a great character, with a sarcastic sense of humor and a seemingly endless supply of bad decisions. The supporting cast of characters are well-drawn and provide a rich texture to this short novel (it’s 200 pages of fun). His wife is suitably distrustful of his ability to watch the children. Roger, his best friend, is dumb enough to follow along on Andrew’s chase.  His children are a perfect foil, and his daughter, Theresa, may be the most sarcastic character in the book.  There was a chuckle on every page and a splotch of blood on every second page.

Jeff Strand combines humor and dismemberment – how many people can do that and do it with style? His narrative flowed so easily that I read the book in a single sitting, laughing out loud in a number of places.  I must be sick, because two of my favorite scenes were the jack-in-the-box and the puppet show with Mr. Gaggles and Boo-Boo – pick up the book to find out how they turn out.

You can visit Jeff’s website at http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/

Categories: Reviews

Ebooks in CS5 with Jason Hoppe

For an author who wants to get his or her work out there, we have to learn an awful lot beyond story, style, and grammar.  It is tough to get published and the world of publishing is changing. I am not going to pretend that I have experienced it first-hand (hopefully, I will sooner or later), but some of my author friends have. Just trying to keep up with their schedules of blog tours, twitter updates and online interviews for promotion is tiring.  Even with all that work, there seems to be small return for the amount of effort and time.

Many authors find it impossible to even find a publisher, so they self-publish. They manage the resources to produce online and print copies of their books and then go through the never-ending process of marketing and promoting their work.

I can write moderately well. To produce any sort of copy that would look like a professionally published work would be well beyond my artistic and geekly capabilities. I can’t even colour inside the lines.

I was pointed to a great course by Jason Hoppe entitled: Creating eBooks and PDFs with CS5 (Creative Suite 5) which looks to solve a huge dilemma for me: How would I produce something that looks professionally laid out? It is a 10 week course which, I hope, will lead me through the creation process in a simple and straight forward manner (since I have never used CS5 before). I have a lot of confidence in the material since my wife has taken a similar course on Photography and I ‘sat-in’ while she attended. The presenters are professional and really know what they are talking about – and they keep the course interactive with their online audience.  They ‘get’ how the Internet works.

The courses are unique in that they are free to attend while they are filming them and, if you cannot attend all the viewings or you want to have a reference afterwards, you can purchase the final edited product once it is complete. I think that this is a wonderful way to promote the material and get a great targeted audience for the final product.

The course begins July 28, 2010 and runs for 10 weeks. I hope to see some of you there.

Categories: Writing

Craganmor

What, Dave? In the wilds of Georgian Bay at Craganmor Point, with no Internet connection for a week? Well, not exactly ‘the wilds’. With a microwave, hot and cold running water and restaurant (yes, a restaurant) we aren’t exactly braving the wild frontiers with nothing but a swiss army knife and a ball of twine. And, I did manage to find a wireless connection that is usable, but all too reminiscent of dial-up.  It’s painful, but not nearly as painful as complete ‘net withdrawal.

Day one was interesting. There was a water pressure problem that caused the shower to be a less than invigorating experience. I described it as  being pissed on by a guy with a prostrate problem and a mild fever. Not the greatest mental picture, but a good analogy to the experience. To their credit, it was fixed within an hour. Don’t get me wrong, the resort is fantastic, this was just a minor bump that makes for a bit of colour in a blog post – I would highly recommend this resort to anyone looking to get away from it all, without having to suffer complete tech withdrawal.

The scenery is spectacular, the weather is superb, the staff treating us like royalty – making it virtually impossible for me to picture nasty denizens crawling out of the forests.  Even the kids are polite and quiet.  My next story may be about vampires that love the sun, play Canasta and volunteer at the Red Cross.

In amongst all the great weather and relaxation, I did manage to get an idea from a Robert Silverberg article in Asimov’s about a small town in Florida where the pastor declared the town a ‘Satan-free zone’ and actually had the proclamation supported by the mayor. I wonder what would happen if Satan (or one of his minions) showed up with the ACLU to contest that?

The sun is shining, beer is cold and waves are lapping the shoreline. Now, if the kids would only dig up a body on the beach…

Categories: Uncategorized

The Tombs

Added a new feature to the blog – The Tombs – you can now read some of my stories that haven’t found a home.  The one that I posted today – Third Base – is a favorite of mine, although editors disagree.  I submitted it to many, many places that turned it down. I still like it – let me know what you think of it.

Categories: Uncategorized