Microsoft Mayhem

Two days ago…

07668051-photo-windows-10-logo1I finally received the message my copy of Windows 10 was ready for download. I was already annoyed with the process, and I hadn’t even pressed the button yet. We have four laptops in our household. My children have had their updates installed for several weeks already, while the wife got hers about fifteen days ago. The real kick in the nuts for me is the fact I’m fairly certain at least two of them never even registered for their copy, while I have been on the waiting list pretty much since the reservation notice went out. I was on the verge of trying their more techie alternative to install my version. I’m computer savvy enough to be reasonably sure I could have pulled it off, but using the more reliable method is always advised.

It was a pleasant surprise when the download and installation went through without a hitch. My wife had hit a snag during her first attempt to get her copy. I was expecting the same. This is the history this family has with Windows. I have considered switching platforms, but that leap may well land me in waters I cannot tread.

Two days ago…

I switched my operating system to the latest, apparently “greatest” version. In the past 48 hours, I have not opened my Scrivener software once to do any editing.
The fans of Knightfall have waited years for the next book to come out, and I am trudging away to finalize the editing stages. I strive to put in a couple of hours each
day to get Trials of the Chosen  Book One:
A ms-logo-site-shareWoman’s Scorn
 ready for the readers. But these hours have disappeared, now that I have to fix what Microsoft decided to overlook.

True to its track record, the software tycoon hurry to get the next “breakthrough in technology” out to the masses, they forgot to make sure to exorcise all the gremlins  first. Instead of working on my fiction, I have slaved away to figure out how to make our laptops work like they should. I won’t list all our issues here, but there have been enough that things still don’t function as intended. And it’s not just my computer, so no one can blame it on my laptop’s manufacturer.

What I now need to deal with are issues voiced by many on the Internet. On the bright side, all these complaining about these issues makes it easy for me to find troubleshooting tips. But I shouldn’t have to make these searches, downloading drivers that were already correctly installed. I shouldn’t have to enter the sensitive folders Windows warns you to be careful opening and delete files just to set up networks that were previously connected just fine.

Windows-7-logoAs I write this entry, two more glitches have robbed me of features I should never have to worry about. I am trying to resist the temptation to return to Windows 7.  At least that was working for me.

But as I make my way through the helpful tips that have saved my family so far, I keep getting reminded Microsoft has plans on patching up all their mistakes in the near future. I also learned the giant in the software industry skipped a few steps to get their baby out to the world. It seems they forgot to consult with computer companies, the ones who create the PCs and laptops that house the program, to make sure the software would correctly run all the hardware. I don’t know about you, but I feel this is one of the most crucial steps in developing an operating system. You need to make sure it will operate the system!

Two days…

I have struggled. And I can see I will continue to fight to get the gremlins out. But there are features I like in this version, things I would like to keep. So I now straddle a fence, leaning one way then the next. Will I keep Windows 10, or revert to Windows 7? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I should wait to see how well the patches bridge the gaping holes.

Have you made the switch? How many problems are you having? Will you keep it?

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You Don’t Know Sh!t

Warning!!! Explicit Language Follows!

Like all the other millions in the world chained to their Facebook accounts, I was scrolling down my news feed today when I came across this:

11902289_956686564374416_7878027558104775490_n

 

I don’t usually put much stock into any meme. Most of them are amusing, and they are much easier to read than the paragraphs some of my friends are wont to post. These are the main reason I check my news feed. I like to have something to chuckle at. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes all I see are pictures I have already seen. In some rare cases, I come across these “gems” that make my blood boil.

I have very limited experience in the construction industry, I freely admit, but I do have some. I have never sat in this man’s chair, but I have hauled shingles onto a roof in the middle of August and swung that hammer. I have no doubt he needs to step down from his machine once in a while to do some hard manual labour. Any job in this field is physically demanding, some excruciatingly so, but let’s face it, this guy does most of his work from his comfortable seat. I’m sure he had to put in a lot of hours doing backbreaking work to get this position, and now he’s reaping the benefits of his ordeals. But look at him. Does it look like he’s working hard?

Now, the restaurant business is something I know much more about. I have spent over ten years in that industry. It all started at McDonald’s, in fact. I’ve done it all: flipped burgers, served customers, maintained the equipment, up to managing a restaurant. Only others who have worked in a fast food joint have any idea how hard the work actually is.

Those people slaving away at minimum wage may not have to hoist 50 lbs of materials on their backs. But they don’t have months to finish a job. They don’t have the luxury of taking their time to get the work done. Every single customer who comes through the restaurant’s doors expect their food as soon as they order it. Hell, some expect it to be ready by the time they reach the counter!

mqysQ2OGo to a well-run McDonald’s and notice how many employees are just standing around, doing nothing. Yes, I said “well-run.” There are always some places that make any industry look bad. But compare a staff that’s doing it’s job like it’s supposed to to a crew of construction workers. How many of these supposedly more entitled crew members are actually running around to get their tasks done compared to leaning on shovels or against those machines that do all the heavy lifting for them?

You think pulling a lever and taking 3 months to pave a street is harder than having to assemble an entire meal in under 30 seconds? You think working an 8-hour day, with at least 2 scheduled, uninterrupted breaks and an hour lunch, is hard? Try staying for 10 hours, with your first break coming 6 hours into the shift, and having to get up to help only 10 minutes in. And an hour lunch? Ha, you can forget that. You’re lucky if you get a second chance to sit down. And you’re not sitting in that plush chair or walking from one spot of the construction site to the other while you work. In a restaurant, you need to run. There’s no taking your time and working at your own pace. The customers want their food now! Falling behind is inexcusable.

Here’s the proof this meme is bullshit!

I know everything above is comparing apples to oranges. The two industries are completely different. But I have experiences that prove my point.

As a restaurant manager, I have learned to avoid hiring construction workers. I still give them a chance, but they go down my list of candidates if this is the only experience they have.

Invariably, a manual labourer who jumps into the hospitality field always quits. Always. They can’t handle the stress. They all think it’s going to be easy because it can’t possibly be more physically demanding than what they’re used to doing. They learn they’re full of shit soon enough. The weight of what you have to handle is lighter, but they can’t handle the stop and go. They can’t keep up with having to run from one station to the other.

And having to stay later than they’re scheduled was also an issue. Most expected to continue having a quitting time set in stone. Having to ask if they were okay to go at the end of their shift was something new to them. Needing them to stay an extra half-hour was a big deal. I’m sure some of them wouldn’t have minded staying for overtime in their old jobs, but the work was easier and they would be compensated for the extra time with better pay. Getting paid straight time was unthinkable! But that’s how things work at minimum wage level.

Most of all, they didn’t like being treated like slaves. That is what we lowly burger flippers are to the rest of the world. I always treat my employees with respect, but I still demand they do their jobs. And their job is to fulfil the customers’ wishes. And a lot of patrons don’t shy away from treating the servers and cooks like shit. The only reason it isn’t called slavery is because the employees are getting paid. But that doesn’t change the fact the patrons expect their waitress to run off when they ask for a refill.

Construction workers don’t need to deal with the public. They just show up for work and do their jobs. Like every other industry, some work really hard while others do as little as possible. But hardly ever do they need to deal with a screaming customer. This happens daily at McDonald’s, and every other restaurant. There’s always someone who isn’t happy who think they can bully their way into getting something for free.

So, while that guy gets to sit on his seat and tans while pushing buttons and pulling levers, the lowly fry cooks bust their ass to get things done and have to take shit for mistakes that most likely have nothing to do with them. And they do it for less than half the pay that guy is getting for smoking and chewing on that straw.

Get the facts!

Before you go and propagate any statement, you should make sure you know what you’re talking about. If you want to compare jobs, you had better have spent time working in both industries. Otherwise, you’ll just end up looking like a dick.

And if any of you construction workers want to call this post bullshit, feel free to contact me. I can find a way to get you behind that McDonald’s counter so you know exactly what the CSR’s and cooks go through. I guarantee you’ll change your tune and become a firm supporter of the wage hike.

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Questioning Ideas

In my as-yet limited fame, I still have the luxury of walking down the street without having every passer-by stopping me to drill me about every single detail of my life. All right, that is a pipe dream I know will never happen. Unless my books become blockbuster movies starring yours truly. But I’m sure the people in Hollywood have enough sense to see early on I’m no actor.

I know very little about the luxuriant life of established authors, but I doubt they have throngs of fans bothering them every second of every day. I have seen videos clips of conventions, where a panel of peers spend their time bestowing their knowledge on the avid listeners.

I have had some readers come up to me and ask a few of the expected questions. The recurring inquiry I wish to discuss in this post is probably the most-asked of them all:

Where do you get your ideas?

thinkingThis is a question I hate hearing, let alone answering. You might as well ask me why air is transparent. How do you decide what to eat for supper? How do you decide which item to buy as a birthday gift for a loved one? How do you choose a name for your pet fish?

Ideas come from the ether, not matter what they are for. Whether you’re in your office and you suddenly realize there’s a better way to perform a task, or you’re in your garage and you figure out how to squeeze more power out of your engine, you have just received inspiration from the same place we authors find the scene depicting the troll missing the knight and smashing his toe with the tree trunk he’s using as a club.

But I know this isn’t what you meant by the question. What you want to know is:

Where do you find your inspiration?

There are as many way to go about this as there are writers. I won’t go through the list, or this post will end up becoming my next novel. Feel free to visit author blogs or corner them at book signings and ask them. Just make sure to not use the word “idea.”

What I do is simple: I write and imagine. My mind is always working, whether I want it to or not. My brain likes to keep me awake at night. Every time I try to fall asleep, that’s when new ideas pop up to keep slumber away. I have forgotten more story plots than I have typed up or put on paper. But the good ones I replay in my mind so I don’t forget. Those will find their way in print or digital editions some day.

I don’t plot ahead, so my stories twist and curve and make u-turns as I write them. Another question I never answer is “what will happen next?”, because I honestly don’t know myself. As my characters dive into an argument, I get swept up in their emotions and before I know it, 500 words have somehow found their way onto my screen. And somewhere along the way, the story has told me where it needs go.

While I lay in my bed, staring out into the darkness, images of magic and dragons invade my thoughts. I envision different ways to portray these classic and stereotypical characters. This brings new plot ideas, which would don’t necessarily fit in the story I am writing, so they are shelves for future projects. I have enough basic ideas to sustain four distinct series of novels. The problem will be finding the time to write them.

What about outside influences?

DSC01343Taking nature walks may help some centre themselves and open their minds, but as far as I’m concerned, a tree is a tree. People watching helps one see the effects emotions have on our expressions and how different personalities react to differing situations. Though that does help, there are not that many brutes out there who would bludgeon you to death to make you their next meal, so finding examples to flesh out the aforementioned troll would prove difficult.

I do read, a lot. This is my equivalent to sitting on a bench in a mall or strolling down wooded trails. I see how other authors form their stories and characters. This is the only way one learns of wyverns and dracolisks, or how gods would act if they interacted with the mortals who worship them. And this is how you learn what other novelists are putting in their stories, so you can avoid repeating the same plot.

So, to answer the question, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Having the knight in Knightfall treat the elf as he did just came to me. It fit in the story. And the story dictated Ohliaman’s fate. I had envisioned it quite differently when I started writing the book. I think of basic plot lines, then let my fingers do the rest. Sometimes I’m as surprised when I finish writing as the reader will be when they read it.

Below would be a good place to tell the world where you’re inspiration comes from. Maybe I’ll even try some of them.

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Review – Nourished By That Which Consumes by Joseph Ephraim

Nourished By That Which Consumes by Joseph EphraimGenre: Thriller

ASIN: B008O7VQLS
59 pages

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Available at the following locations:
Amazon

Visit Joseph Ephraim on the web:
Twitter


Book Description

The author does not include a description of his novel. He opted to use his prologue and first chapter to entice potential readers instead. I will give you a brief description instead.

Zhang Yu-Lin is a young Singaporean woman. Her father is a gambler who racks a debt he cannot hope to repay. He wishes his daughter would help by becoming a call girl. She refuses, unwilling to degrade herself so. That is, until the loan sharks pay a visit to their house and botch their intimidation attempt. Zhang Yu-Lin loses her mother and two siblings in the fire that consumes their home.

Yu-Lin’s woes worsen when her father loses his composure when next faced by the loan sharks. In a sudden rage, he murders the gangster. Yu-Lin loses the last remaining member of her family to a prison sentence.

Yu-Lin vows vengeance on those who had taken her family from her. She uses all her attributes—intelligence, beauty, determination—to infiltrate the criminal organization so she may one day make those responsible for her anguish pay in kind.


My Review3-Star_rating

Nicely Written But Lacking Depth

Joseph’s writing style made this story quite easy to follow. This was an enjoyable read, and I found myself wanting more.

I read the entire thing in one sitting, but found myself unsatisfied despite the quality of the prose. Joseph could have easily doubled the length of the book if he had explored the sub-plots that were mentioned throughout the story. It seemed to me that Joseph was under a deadline and needed to get the project done as quickly as possible. He flew through the story, marvellously writing the necessary parts to still make things flow naturally. But this made his characters a little one-dimensional. He did mention some back stories, but never elaborated on them. This would have made the book even more enjoyable, in my opinion.

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Review – Kaylen’s Rising by Yves Robichaud

Kaylen's Rising by Yves RobichaudGenre: Young Adult Fantasy

ISBN: 978-0993974601
322 pages

Publisher: Water’s Edge Publishing

Available at the following locations:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Visit Yves Robichaud on the web:
His Site
Twitter


Book Description

Book 1 of the Tomes of Taria Series

Kaylen has been in the dark for fourteen years – in every sense. His people are hunted, so they must struggle to survive within underground caves. His community despises his family, taunting him constantly. His parents keep him housebound, forbidding him from wielding sword or wand.

When he is finally allowed to attend school, the harsh truth reveals he has much to learn – including a unique magical ability. Kaylen can summon and control skeletons!

With surface-dwellers threatening war, he will need every friend he can make, and to stay true to himself if he is to survive what is to come.


My Review3-Star_rating

A Fast-Paced Tale That Forces Readers To Keep Reading

Don’t let this average rating fool you. Kaylen’s Rising is an excellent story. It is fast-paced and full of action. There is always something happening, forcing the reader to keep flipping the pages to see what happens next.

What this book needs is a little more depth. The characters are a little flat and their relationships do not evolve much, save for a small few. There is a budding love story, but it goes no further than its inception. Future books will most likely elaborate on these romances (I will clarify nothing so as not to spoil the story), but this novel left me disappointed. Kaylen’s family history is revealed nicely throughout the book, however, so I was quite satisfied with his development.

The final confrontation is a little anticlimactic for me. The tension builds beautifully until the final moment, then it just deflates. The problem is resolved too easily in my view, so I was disappointed.

All in all, though, this novel was a good read. It is meant for an audience of children between ten and fourteen, and I believe most of them would enjoy this story.

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Review – Huntsman by Michael R. Wilson

Huntsman by Michael R. Wilson

Genre: Epic Fantasy

ISBN: 978-1478172352
378 pages

Available at the following locations:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
ITunes
Kobo
Smashwords

Visit Michael R. Wilson on the web:
His Blog
Facebook

Twitter


Book Description

~AD 1011 Ancient Finland~

Once upon a time…Words held more Power and dragons roamed the world.

For Eyulf, the youngest son of a minor lord, the opportunity to train with a Rune-Singer Mage was the chance of a lifetime. He is content…until he discovers a volume of Lost Words, powerful Runes forgotten through the ages. Corrupted by Magic he cannot control, things go wrong quickly.

Jaakko, a simple huntsman, returns to his home late one night to find his village destroyed by a creature out of legend. Obsessed with the monster and his desire for revenge, he spends fruitless years hunting the beast before he realizes that it toys with him and he lacks the Power to destroy it.

When Avitus, an officer aboard a Byzantine ship of war, learns that his captain’s orders are to sell their ship and abandon the crew in the far North, he finds himself a penniless outlander. When he finds work as Steward to a future king he feels all will be well…until the crippled Mage comes to court.

Aila, spurned by Eyulf in his quest for Power, has quite happily made a new life for herself without him. When he returns, and tries to claim her once more as his betrothed, her fear of the potent magic he wields keeps her from confiding in the few people she feels she can trust.

One by one, they are drawn into Eyulf’s treachery.

The Hunted Mage Trilogy incorporates a blend of History, Fantasy and Ancient Finnish folklore.


My Review4-Star_rating

A Tale Exceptionally Told

Michael did an excellent job weaving this tale. The characters are so well rounded and compelling they drag the reader along as they stumble through their troubles. I find myself unable to decide who to root for, but I desperately want to know what happens to all of them.

The book is divided into three parts, with many years passing by between acts. I found myself a bit confused with certain details at the beginning of new sections, which interrupted the easy flow of the story. But these were mere bumps in an otherwise smooth ride that is a fantastic tale.

Any fantasy enthusiast must add Huntsman to their collection. I know I have and will definitely buy the other titles to complete the set.

I simply can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Reviewing the Written Word

In today’s world, individuality is touted and thinking for oneself is encouraged in most cultures. But, when it comes to making a choice for ourselves, most still like to hear opinions from others. Or, in today’s age of cyberspace, they want to read about their options.

5-Star_rating_system_PCAR_01Very little people nowadays will visit a retail site and click on the “Proceed to Checkout” button without first reading the provided revues of said product. The amount of 5-star ratings more often than not makes the consumer’s decision for them. Let’s face it, when having to choose between two similar items, going with the one more people like just makes sense.

This is also true in the book industry. You’ll hear about the die-hard readers who go to book stores and read a few pages before opting for a volume. Most on-line book outlets give you that same option, letting you read a preview. I will proudly admit I am one of these. You can tell if the story will interest you with a quick scan of a paragraph or two.

But what if you’re picking up a novel for someone else? What if that person prefers to read in a genre you would rather not know even exists? Let’s face it. Some readers would prefer to forget there was ever a Twilight, while others will hunt me down to pay for this slander. Personally, I find Stephenie Meyer‘s plot twist illogical and detrimental to the story, no matter how well she writes.  But other members of my family love her books, so I would still buy her novels as gifts.

It’s in these situations when I would rely on revues. Not knowing which volume to pick, I would let the masses guide me. Many do this, as well, when they just want to read the latest best seller. Sometimes all you know is you want a thriller. You don’t care who wrote it or whether it contains vampires or not. In this case, it makes sense to go for the book liked by the most amount of readers.

And that’s why we have reviews!

2301723_sPart of my previous blog dealt with book reviews. I was always open to trading opinions. I know, many disapprove of authors swapping works for revues. A lot of novelists abused the system, using each other to boost their ratings. I never took part in that sort of scam. The authors I worked with knew exactly where I stood. I wanted an honest revue from them, and I would give them the same. I wasn’t looking for a perfect rating. If they didn’t like the story, I wanted them to say so. And they knew I would do the same.

I neglected my blog shortly after that, so I didn’t revue that many books. In the next few posts, I will share those reviews again. Most of these stories are worth the read and deserve the reminder they are still out there, available to the masses. I’m sure the authors won’t mind the extra exposure.

Before we get to those, however, I feel I should explain how I rate the stories. Many sites use different methods and scales, so a 4-star review from on site could mean something totally different than a 4 out of 5 rating somewhere else.

This is how I work:

First, I need to emphasize I rate novels on readability. The important thing is the story, the flow of events and how the author manages to keep my attention. Syntax and grammatical errors only register with me if they detract from the tale. I will not call out a writer for their use of the passive voice, unless it makes me put the book down. I won’t, like, you know, say anything about, well, using the totally unnecessary filler words that dramatically slows down the 10232322_salready languishing pace of the story, like in this sentence, unless it happens way too often. I do not teach the English language and will not pretend to know all the obscure rules nobody seems to follow any more. I’m looking for a narrative that captivates the reader, forcing them to turn one more page despite their need to put the book down.

On this blog, I use the expected 5-point system. Each score designates a specific opinion on the book, as follows:

  1. Did Not Finish — The novel was so bad I put it down without getting to the last page. I loath not finishing what I start, so it takes a lot for me to give up on a story. You should not see many 1’s, but if you do, I strongly suggest to keep away.
  2. Would Not Recommend — Though able to read the entire story, it did nothing to impress me. My copy of this book would be on the list to donate. It would have no place in my personal library. It would not be mentioned when someone asks me what I think they should read next.
  3. An Okay Story — I know a 3 out of 5 doesn’t look that good, but these stories still have some gems scattered through the pebbles. Novels in this categories are those I enjoyed reading, but would most likely not read again. There was something missing, and sometimes it will be so subtle I can’t put my finger on it. The novel may be interesting while I read it, but not enough that I will want to read it again. I might still suggest these books to someone I think would enjoy them.
  4. Excellent Book! — Captivating stories and exciting climaxes get you in this category. These are the tales I will talk about to like-minded readers. There will be minor glitches I dislike, but nothing too glaring to detract from the overall awesomeness of the narrative. These books will find their way onto my shelves, either physical or electronic.
  5. Oh My God! Perfection! — Rarely will I give this rating. When I say perfection, I mean perfection (in my opinion). There has to be nothing in the novel I wish to change. These are the stories you wish to pick up again, even if you just finished reading them a week ago. Not only will these books grace my shelves, I’ll be looking for a second, signed copy, to lock away in a display case.

That, in a nutshell, is how it works here. You will see the structure of my reviews when I post the first one in a few days. I have rambled on long enough to bore you with those details.

I will offer myself to authors out there who wish to have their books reviewed. Simply get in touch with me through my website, MarcLabelle.com. Or send me a private message using Facebook or Twitter.

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And the Spam Flows

mGQB83QI had hoped there was something wrong with my old blog. I had hoped that problem would remain behind when I started this version from scratch. It seems I was wrong.

It did take them a little over a week to find me. That should bring me a bit of comfort. But it doesn’t. I wanted to avoid the problem all together.

I’m talking about spammers. Those robots or dedicated individuals who search the cyber-highways for places to plant their seeds. They are trying to sow the weeds of links back to their websites selling this or that product. Most of them don’t even try that hard to conceal what they’re doing. Did you really think I would miss a comment like this:

As a way of stolpping parallax error, some extents have an adjustable
objective.

Yes, that is exactly how they wrote it. I will never edit quotes (unless it’s to shorten them, but I will use the proper form when doing so). And then they proceed to add a link to their own blog, tagging it:

best rifle scope under 500

I try my best  to get as many of the facts before accusing anyone of anything. So I looked up “parallax error” to see what they were talking about. It has to do with the apparent position of objects when viewed from different lines of sight. I did take physics in high school. It was in French and over 20 years ago, so please forgive me for forgetting the concept. But this research supports the fact this message is about rifle scopes, and not my post.

Needless to say, these comments will never see the light of a backlit screen on this blog. I have no doubt they will still try. I just hope they don’t swarm me. I still shudder when I relive my previous experience with this. With every message I designated as spam, two more showed up–within minutes!

The Akismet plugin that comes standard with blogs powered by WordPress catches some of this spam, but not near enough to my liking. I have no doubt paying subscribers get better results, but that’s just an expense I’m not ready to dish out at the moment.

Of course, I welcome any comments coming from real people, with opinions on this matter. Maybe you know of a plugin that works better. Maybe you have a trick to keep the robots away.

But remember:

NO SOLICITING

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