Category Archives: Introduction

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…

Two more days

It’ll be my 29th birthday on Friday.

The plan for celebration is simple, get together with my monthly poker buddies, drink craft beer, eat Youngstown pizza and play dozens of hands of poker all while trying to win a $7 trophy. There may even be cigars.

I’ve been trying for the last week to remember specific birthdays of childhood or just life, just to see what if any details my brain can pull out of the ether.

I remember putting on a magic show for one of my birthdays as “The Great Trubini”, and becoming a little upset that one of the kids at the party guessed the trick before I had a chance to perform it.

I remember crawling through tunnels and ball pits with my friend Chris pretending they were the Jeffries tubes on the starship Enterprise (remember those “discovery” play places, basically big versions of the play areas at McDonalds?)

I remember putting some of the stickers on my MicroMachine toolbox fold up city, and getting the river a little wonky and needing my Dad or my grandpa to fix it.

I remember when Don Pablos was pretty much the only Mexican restaurant in town and that it was fun to go on your birthday and get your picture taken wearing the huge sombrero.

And I remember year after year (including probably this year) of sitting at my parent’s kitchen table behind that years cake, taking a picture before blowing out the candles.

My early twenties are a little easier to discern because many of the best involve the little red haired girl.

My own 21st birthday is hardly worth mentioning, so I lived vicariously through my girlfriend (now my wife’s). I didn’t know what fancy drinks I should order (even something simple like a Jack and Coke) so I ordered a Manhattan (one of the only drinks I’d heard of and apparently something only Grandpas drink). I still order them, as well as Godfathers.

My 22nd involved a great surprise party thrown by my wife with all my friends and a video created by the talented Mr. Buckley (involving the song “What is love?” and an unspeakable amount of inside jokes).

A few years ago my wife and I drove to Dayton to hear Over The Rhine play in a bar, the way that band is best enjoyed, especially while sipping whiskey in a jazzy smoky room.

There was the “naked cookie day” year which I believe needs no explanation.

There were crazy candy cakes and lasagnas (mine and Garfield’s favorite pasta) and forcing my wife to watch really bad b-movies (knowing I’d pay for it half a year later on her birthday).

I was thinking earlier that I was happy that this was the last birthday of my twenties, that I was kind of an idiot in my early twenties and I wouldn’t mind putting some of that behind me.

But truthfully, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

And maybe next year I’ll get beaten up by a goat.

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[BTW] FAQ v.2014

As of today I’ve officially been writing this blog for two years. I thought it might be helpful for readers new and old alike to get the answers to some common questions about the blog, myself and anything else that might come up:

Who is “the little red-haired girl”?

Well aside from being Charlie Brown’s favorite obsession, it’s one of several affectionate nicknames for my beautiful wife. And yes, she does have red hair. She’s also my editor. I kinda got the whole package.

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What is your next book?

The book I’m currently working on (and yes I’m getting back to it shortly) is Surreality, a noir/technological murder mystery due to release sometime in the first half of this year.

What does “DM” stand for and what is it?

DM stands for Dark Matter and is the working title of another book in the pipeline, a science-fiction action adventure story. I finished the rough draft of this in 2011 at 200K words, though I plan to significantly rewrite it when I have the opportunity. Dark Matter is the working title in part because as it turns out there are a number of books and even a video game or two with that title, so I will likely change it, but maybe not.

What is a fractal?

Well, for starters my masthead is a fractal. Your brain is a fractal. Every tree is a fractal. It’s all fractals man!

A lot of you came to my site from this post, so you may at least have an idea or curiosity about fractals.

A fractal is a category of mathematical shapes or objects, with a variety of methods for drawing or defining those shapes. All fractals have two main properties: self-similarity and infinite complexity. Infinite complexity means the fractal is, well, infinite. You can zoom in to smaller and smaller portions of the fractal and it will still look as complex or craggy as it does at a higher level. Self-similarity means that one part of a fractal looks a lot like another part (they may even be identical). Here’s a good demonstration of both concepts working together:

Kochsim

Fractals can be used to model nature, or create mathematical art. It’s the art bit I probably like the most, and drawing them is a fun programming challenge (probably why I wrote a book about it 🙂 ).

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How do you pronounce your name?

True-bee. NOT Troob. Trube or not trube.

How long is your beard?

Beards cannot be measured only in inches (or feet) but in the memories they carry. So about 7 inches from my chin to the tip.

What is AGFV?

A Game Forever Voyaging was a brief recurring feature in the first year of the blog. Due to a reduced interest and the amount of work that tended to go into each post these are on semi-permanent hiatus. Getting old games to work on modern systems is still a favorite hobby of mine, and if something particularly interesting comes along I might share it (or if you have any requests). I still do quite a bit of technical posts, but these tend to center more on the creation and formatting of eBooks, which is a little more germane to my self-publishing audience.

What happened to CFML?

The Consumers for Fariness in Manufacturing and Labor was another early hallmark of the blog, and one I’m proud of. I still think from time to time about the ways to think about where our products come from and what we can do to encourage fair wages for those who make them. It’s a complex problem and one that needs highlighting so you may see me back in this space again. You can still read all the posts here.

What’s up with all the acronyms BTW?

Blame IVCF. Seriously.

What is your day job?

I am a developer for [a mid to big engineering company]. I work largely in Java, Javascript and C# development for a particular software product or other utilities our team needs. I learned programming with Visual Basic and C++ and still have a strong fondness for both of those languages.

Where are you?

I live in Columbus, OH. I work in Delaware, OH. Both are at about the middle of the state (Columbus is the capital). My state is spelled O-H-I-O!

Who’s this Brian person I keep hearing about?

Don’t bother with him, he’s bad news. Actually he’s my good friend and fellow writer (and occasional anime fakesub partner). He blogs over at BrianDBuckley.com.

Do you do guest posts?

Maybe, but realistically probably not. I’d like to sometime, but each writing year only seems to get busier with projects.

Do you take requests?

Absolutely, in fact if you have any more questions and want to write them in the comments, I might just answer them.

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Hello Greetings!

Welcome to the 2nd year of [BTW], and welcome to the nearly 100 of you who joined our merry band in the last few days! I thought this would be a good time to tell you a little about myself and what to expect from the coming year.

First of all my last name is pronounced Trub-ee. As in:

“Trube or not Trube” or “Too good Trube true”

There are many things you can rhyme it with such as a talking dog, or a part of the female anatomy.

You may occasionally see me mention “The Little Red Haired Girl” (and from time to time she even stops by). This is how my wife has come to be commonly known on the blog, and is also an allusion to my favorite comic strip, Peanuts. I also have a beagle named Simon and a cat named Dax (Jadzia not Ezri!).

As you may have guessed from my cat, or the post many of you read for the first time, I am a Star Trek fan. Don’t worry you won’t be subjected to fan fiction! I do, however, hold the “controversial” opinion that DS9 is better than TNG. If some of you need to leave now I understand.

I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction, working mostly in mystery and science fiction. I’m more of a “futuristic” science-fiction writer rather than writing about big galaxies and empires. I’m not a giant fan of the “crime procedural”, and am more a fan of the noir\puzzle style of mystery. The 40 minute stories on this blog, however, can be just about anything.

I am working furiously to finish a non-fiction book on fractals to be released digitally sometime, somewhere this quarter. For those of you who’ve never seen one, this is a fractal:

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My Blog Banner is also a Fractal. Cool, huh?

In the past year I’ve become part of a great community of fellow bloggers who are always there with an interesting idea, comment, or even just a faithful “like”. I owe a large part of my continued existence here on the web to Brian, Ginger, Chuck, Jo, Mel, Paula, Dad, and of course “The Little Red Haired Girl” as well as the 109 of you who joined throughout the year. Thank you all so very much!

This year I’d like to do more 40 minute stories (maybe 20), try some new writing experiments (like the social writing project from last year), and continue to provide coverage of writing advice\thoughtstechnology or just about anything that strikes me. I’m also hoping to have a few surprises for you in the coming months, but details will have to wait.

Lastly, since many of you came here from a character development post, and since there are so many chain questionnaires going around the blogosphere, I thought I’d start one of my own. Introducing:

The Coffee Quiz!

1) How many cups of coffee per day? 5-6

2) What is your favorite caffeine delivery system? Goes between coffee and diet soda, interchangeably or both at the same time.

3) What was your best cup of coffee? Easily almost anything Crimson Cup brews.

4) What was your worst cup of coffee? Instant, Coke Black (Coffee flavored coke) and Blueberry Flavored Coffee.

5) What does your favorite mug say? The one at work says nothing, but can hold a full 4 cups. As for home I’m partial to my Ohio State Fight Song mug.

6) How do you take your coffee? Black.

7) When was your first cup? When I was 12 years old, on a cold campout in February and someone had forgotten the hot chocholate.

8) Have you ever gone on a coffee date? Yes, but I misinterpreted “get coffee” as “brew coffee” and instead served her home brewed black to someone who took Mocha’s mostly. Thankfully she still married me.

Alright, Brian, JoMel and Paula … What are your answers? Anyone else can feel free to answer too.

What does this have to do with character development you ask? Well, I just came up with eight questions about coffee. Does your character drink it? What other habits, experiences, preferences does your character have? What do these tell you about who they are as a person?

See you tomorrow and Happy New Year!

PS: I’m getting back to everyone on comments as quickly as possible. Thank you all for your likes, comments, follows and congratulations.

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And We’re Back – The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Sorry for the interruption in service. The place where I posted each afternoon is no longer allowing me access to WordPress. For the foreseeable future, I will be posting at 6am Monday through Thursday (and occasionally Friday). The break in routine is a little frustrating, especially since it wasn’t something I chose to do, but I’m seeing it as an opportunity for people to read me with their morning coffee instead of their lunch coffee.

That being said, thanks so much to all of you who stopped by during this brief hiatus 🙂 Traffic, if anything, has increased during this period, due in no small part I’m sure to M.S. Fowle and her kindly nomination of this blog for the “Very Inspiring Blogger” Award. We crossed 50 followers, and we still have a lot of great things planned, including a few badly needed site updates in the coming weeks.

In the spirit of the “Very Inspiring Blogger” Award here are seven blogs and bloggers who inspire me, and seven things you may not know about me.

1. Brian D. Buckley – It should come as no surprise to regular followers of this blog that Brian is an inspiration. We’ve worked jointly on a couple of theme weeks as well as the occasional lively debate back and forth (I’ll get to you and “Pascals Wager” at some point). Brian has been a great friend and fellow writer for many years and this blog has certainly learned a lot from him in the early faltering days (all 5 months ago).

2. The Happy Logophile – Jo was one of the first new faces to follow and comment on the blog, and has been a continued sustaining presence here from time to time. She’s been kind enough to write posts on questions I’ve posed on her blog, and was an early encouragement (liking my comparison of Spaghetti Code to Revision). While her blog seems to be on temporary hiatus due to the joys of life, I hope to see Jo back sometime soon.

3. Mutterings from BJ Kerry – Whenever I see Ireland come up on the country views, I have a feeling it’s BJ stopping by to say hello. BJ is another consistent commenter as well as a fellow poster of stories and thoughts on writing. I love some of her weird stories inspired by Chuck Wendig posts, and her thoughts on names of characters.

4. Buddhafulkat – For as much as Brian brings the poetry, Buddhafulkat takes it to another level. Between 100 word stories, and particpating in NaPoWriMo, as well as some pretty awesome drawings this has inspiring written all over it. Buddhafulkat is also not afraid to show the love with likes and comments, and was an early encourager of this blog.

5. M. S. Fowle (Mel) – A more recent friend of the blog, M. S. Fowle has a number of stories already out on Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords, a brave step that not all of us take. Her speculative fiction offers unique views of the future (and vampires) and she can bring the geek when she wants to. Besides nominating me for my first blogging award, she has been encouraging of many of the main themes here, Fractals and bringing attention back to the CFML.

6. Fresh Ink – A great place to showcase the work of so many people. Always a fresh thought or take on something here.

7. My 2 Old Blogs – While not inspiring in and of themselves, they ended with a fizzle and not a bang, these two serve as a reminder that while previous attempts do not always succeed there are still many more opportunities in the future.

Seven Things You May Not Have Known About Me:

1) My wife and I were married for more than two years (and had dated two years before that) before she ever kissed me without the beard (I’m clean shaven again now after about  a year).

2) I am a lover of all things Peanuts. I even own a copy of Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life, and have a ceramic Snoopy at his typewriter sitting on my desk.

3) I’m 6’4″, but still not as tall as Brian.

4) My middle name is Robert so yes I am Ben-Bob.

5) My wife and I managed to cross the oval at OSU without anyone crossing our path. It was 4 in the morning and it was raining but we did it.

6) My cat, Dax, ran up onto our porch on Halloween night almost 3 years ago. She’s been purring and rolling around on our smelly shoes ever since.

7) I am a sci-fi nut, but I have never seen Alien or Dr. Who.

Thanks Mel for the nomination! See you all next week bright and early!

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I’m Not A Christian Writer

As I continue the process of trying to find a literary agent I’ve been finding it a little strange that I immediately write off any agent who handles christian fiction. There are a couple of reasons for this, some based on content, and some based on the specific genres they handle. The bottom line is that christian fiction is a genre like any other, and just how I must eliminate agents who don’t handle mystery or sci-fi, I equally find myself eliminating christian agents and publishers.

It seems a little odd to me to treat Christianity as a genre, especially since some of my favorite works of sci-fi and fantasy were written by Christians who wouldn’t make the “christian fiction” grade. C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia is an obvious example (his sci-fi trilogy) as well, and J.R.R. Tolkien is in this club as well.

This is not to say that “christian fiction” does not have a rich variety of sub-genres. Frank Peretti writes a lot of stories about very literal spiritual warfare and books that would be considered in the horror category. Still more authors write the christian equivalent of a Harlequin historical romance (all the drama but none of the sex out of marriage). And of course you have the popular Left Behind series about the end times.

What all of these books share in common is an overt christian theme, dealing directly with spiritual matters whether it is the faith of the individual or the trials of a great many. Often these books feature conversions or tests of faith, in other words, christian faith is central to the plot of the book.

But what about books that are written from a Christian viewpoint, but are not as overt in their message?

The Chronicles of Narnia is a story that I think is on the borderline. The stories contained within are fairly direct metaphors for stories in the Bible, including most prominently Christ’s death and resurrection as well as revelation. While all of these elements are present, the story reads equally well to those who do not have that faith background and in fact can serve as a kind of entryway. Tolkien goes a step further in creating a world with a deep history of it’s own with no obvious parallels to the Bible, but still containing many Christian viewpoints. The corrupting power of evil plays a prominent role, as well as faith and friendship through the constant companionship of Samwise Gamgee. The book in fact deals a lot with the notion of trying to save someone, namely Gollum, from being completely consumed by evil.

These are the kinds of stories I want to write. That’s why I say I’m a writer who is a Christian not a Christian Writer.

Take one example, sex. A lot of the agents I was looking at rejected books of any kind that dealt with sex. Some of the ones that did accept it tended to way pretty heavily on the negative aspects. For me it is okay to write about sex in my books if that is something my characters would naturally do at that point, but at the same time I must be careful not to “glorfy” sex. What I mean is that two characters can have sex out of marriage, but if they do I should be honest with the impact that might have on their lives if they do not end up together (or even if they do). The same goes for violence or really just about anything else. I shouldn’t be sexy or violent for their sake alone, but because it fits the narrative (which is something any good writer should do anyway), and if it fits the narrative then the emotional impact should be portrayed as well.

One of the non-literary examples I admire is the Cincinnati based music group Over The Rhine. Most Christian bands perform in a church or in an ampitheatre (and OTR does that too). But they also play in bars, the lead singer sings about whiskey and “sexy cocktail hour stubble” in the same performance as when she sings about “radio-ing heaven” or praying. OTR is not overtly a christian band, but a lot of their music comes from a christian viewpoint. Several of their albums “Till We Have Faces” and “The Trumpet Child” are drawn from christian ideas or literature (“Till We Have Faces” is C.S. Lewis again). You can meet God not only in church, but listening to the jazzy sultry voice of Karin Bergquist while sipping whiskey at the bar.

That’s the kind of writer I want to be. Christ met people where they are, he had dinner with tax collectors and sinners, he dealt with the tough subjects of his and our day, and he did it by telling stories. I can make someone think about God without saying Jesus or Lord a certain amount in every page. That’s my genre.

Note: I fell in love with OTR by listening to their live concert recordings on the internet archive. They make dozens of their performances available for free and you can get a good sense of the 20 year sweep of their music. Check it out here.

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Lost Moon

I don’t watch a lot of movies. Some of this is a taste thing, and some of it is a quality thing, but mostly I just don’t find myself excited about more than a couple of movies a year. Watching the Oscars last night, though, did get me to thinking about the movies that have meant a lot to me, and at the top of that list is Apollo 13.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that part of the reason I am a writer and a programmer is from watching that movie. I was 10 when the movie first premiered, and I was lucky enough to see it in the theater (though I had to wait a day since they were sold out the first time we tried to go see it). What’s great about that movie is that it is a true story of “working the problem.” Both the mission control team and the astronauts in the capsule work the problems one at a time toward the ultimate goal of landing them safely back on Earth.

One of my favorite little moments (and there are many) is when one of the NASA engineers grabs a bunch of guys and dumps a whole pile of materials out onto a table in front of them. He then holds up a filter from the command module and a filter from the lunar module uses and says basically “we need to fit a round peg into a square hole using nothing but this junk.” In a feat of MacGuyver like brilliance the ground team designs a solution, then feeds it to the guys in space and they actually get it to work.

This last describes a lot of the practical challenges I deal with every day as a software designer. When you’re programming under the gun, you often have to figure out how to make existing structures work for you, rather than designing a perfect solution from scratch. It’s not always an ideal fix, but it is often the solution that actually works. My most frustrating moments are ones where people put the theoretical perfect solution ahead of the solution that’s working correctly now.

Maybe this doesn’t sound fun to you, but seeing a bunch of people work through a problem appealed to me. Apollo 13 is also a tight piece of drama. One crisis is averted only to have another crop up in its place. One of the early critics of the film criticized that it had a “Hollywood” ending when everyone made it back safely (even though this is what actually happened), but to get home there were a lot of obstacles to overcome. And the movie is legitimately funny in a lot of moments, when the astronauts tear off their medical monitors, or when Lovell’s mother doesn’t recognize Buzz Aldrin.

Not long after seeing this movie I wrote my own little short story about a disaster in space, and the team on the ground trying to solve it. Though the story line has evolved and changed over the years, this became an early basis for some of the ideas that later led to my first novel. While “Trapped – A Space Adventure” will never see print, the fruits of that early labor one day may.

It can be hard to summarize something that means so much to you (there’s so much more I want to say about the direction of our current space program, but that will have to wait for another day). Bottom line is that while movies generally do not move me, this one did and still does. If you’ve never seen it (where have you been the last 17 years?), you should check it out.

What pieces of creativity (movies, books, music) have influenced the career path you’ve chosen (or have they)?

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Little Red Haired Girl

Today is the fifth anniversary of my wife and I’s first Valentine’s day together. I was still a student at OSU and classes were canceled due to weather.  She picked me up and we played Risk and drank hot chocolate and ate a cheesecake pie I made with just a bowl and a fork.  Five years later we’re still keeping things simple but fun for both of us.  She creamed me today at Monopoly, we ate homemade lasagna, and watched 30 Rock. The best part of it all was spending the time with my little red haired girl (my wife, I’m kind of a big Peanuts fan if you hadn’t guessed).  There’ll be a full post tomorrow, but for what remains of the day, Happy Valentine’s Day! Spend it with someone you love, and spend it doing things you both enjoy.

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