Story Hack, Issue Zero Cover

Here’s the cover:

Hopefully, all the names are now right.

Here’s what to expect now: This week I’ll polish up the last few edits, lay it out, and start uploading to the various sites. The short crowdfunding video is filmed and edited and I think I have the content written for the campaign page.

I’m hoping to make the issue and the crowdfunding campaign live by the middle of next week. Once that happens, I’m asking for all the help I can get in getting the word out. I’d love to stop by your blog or have other pulp-minded souls stop by here. Just comment here or shoot me an email “bryce” at this site if you’re interested. Retweets and Facebook posts are also always appreciated.

StoryHack Action & Adventure, Issue 0 Call for Submissions

Submissions are closed. They will open again probably mid May or early June, 2017.

I recently started reading lots of short fiction. As I’ve picked up a few different magazine titles, I’ve noticed that there’s not really a lot getting published of the stuff I like to read best, which is pulpy action/adventure. A couple of genre-specific titles have come and gone, with one or two still having a go at it, but I’d like to see a place that specializes in action/adventure across genres. So that is what StoryHack Action & Adventure is intended to be.

My end goal is to launch a professional-rates-paying magazine. Lofty indeed, I know. To this end, I’m going to fund an “Issue 0,” paying less-than-professional rates, as I’m not made of money. I’ll do a magazine-sized print layout, and I’ll also commission a cover and a bit of interior artwork. And then I’ll use the produced Issue 0 as a part of a crowdfunding campaign, to prove I have the skills to bring it all together. If the crowdfunding thing works, then I’ll see if I can get the magazine to be self sustaining. If it doesn’t crowdfund, then it will still- I’m just kidding, It’s going to work. I’m going to crowdfund the crap out of it.

What I’m looking for

To steal a joke, StoryHack Magazine will publish both kinds of fiction – action and adventure.

I’m open to any genre, as long as there’s at least one good meaty action scene in there. Bonus points for extra adventure. And I’m serious when I say any genre. Sword & sorcery, lost world, occult detective, alien fighter pilot, western horror, you’re limited only by your imagination. Think Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett, Doc E. E. Smith. Think fun and energetic.

You should know, however, that I’m not going to select erotica or extreme gore.

note 3/20/2017: I have a ton of excellent fantasy / sword & sorcery submissions. I’m still open to them, but I’m trying to hit a variety of genres, so you may have better luck dusting off that space opera thing, lost world yarn, or modern thriller short.

I’ll consider any short story/novelette length 1,000 to 14,000 words, but I do have to cap the payments. Sorry.

What I’ll pay

$0.01 / word, $50 max for worldwide 1st print and ebook rights with 3 months exclusivity. I’ll make a sample contract available if you want.

Other stuff

Stories simultaneously submitted elsewhere are fine. Multiple stories submitted at once, no.

How to Submit

Just send your submission, formatted appropriately, in a .doc, .docx, .odt, or .rtf file to submissions at storyhack.com, with the subject line of “StoryHack Magazine Submission”. Make sure in your email you include your name, the name of your story, and your pen name (if different). Also please include a one or two sentence synopsis/teaser.

I’m going to give submissions about a month. They will close on 12:01 AM, April 1, 2017. Now closed.

Once I’ve selected stories, It’s time to send out contracts, pay authors, commission art and do the layout. I think that’s about 3 weeks worth of stuff, but I may be a tad optimistic.

Once everything is all set, then I’ll upload the magazine to all the stores and get on the process of making the electronic version free everywhere. That should happen relatively fast.

Then I’ll launch the crowdfunding campaign.

If you’re interested in following my progress on this, sign up for the StoryHack Irregular (emails)

Get Your Horrorscope Today

A while back I was going to play with building apps for android/ios, so I built a little app that generates bad fortunes/horoscopes. I never followed through on the apps, but I did build all of the text-generating stuff. It’s kind of like a hyperactive cross between a long-winded magic 8 ball and a pessimistic mad libs book.

I dug up the code while organizing my mess of a “open projects” folder and decided to put it up for all to see/mock.

Dr. Bilk’s Horrorscopic Misfortune Telling Machine

And comments/suggestions/whatever about it should go here.

Dr. Bilk, the fortune-telling scientist.
Here’s Dr. Bilk. He lives a life of science and mysticism.

Send a Secret Message! One-Time Pad Generator for Pen and Paper Encryption.

Mary Robinette Kowal recently launched a novel called Ghost Talkers. In the book, there are men and women who can talk to ghosts. During World War I, there is a special corps which uses the ghosts to receive information from the front. It’s a fascinating idea, and cryptography plays a big role in the story. During the warm-up for the launch of the book, Mary has been playing a bunch of secret message games with her fans. I have long had a interest in cryptography. It was one of my favorite things to study in my programming classes.

So Mary’s launch games got me to thinking again about passing secret messages. One of the the most secure systems for doing this is called a one-time pad. I poked around the internet for a bit but I couldn’t find a good printable way to use it by hand. There is some software, but it all appeared to be lame. So I have built one that you are free to use.

I’m not going to explain the ins and out of why a one time pad is awesome. There’s plenty of resources on the internet for that. I’m just going to tell you how to use it. In the version I’m presenting, you will only use uppercase letters, numbers 0-9, and a few selected symbols. 48 characters in all.

What You Need

  1. An Encrypt/decrypt chart. pdf format
  2. A Encrypt/Decrypt Worksheet (not strictly necessary, but super useful)
  3. A one time pad. This is the generator. Just click the link and it will generate a one-time pad for you. Print two copies, one for you and one for your secret-passing buddy. The pads are randomly generated in your browser. Once you hit reload or click away, you will never ever get that pad back.

Using the One-Time Pad

Encrypting a Message

First, get the things I mentioned above.

images002

Once you’ve printed two copies of your one-time pad and given one to your messaging partner, it’s time to encrypt your first message. Write the message you want to encrypt in some boxes on a message worksheet. I’ll encrypt the message HI! I AM BRYCE. And I will use underscores for the spaces. Some people just omit the spaces altogether.

images003

Look at the first box on your one-time pad. The character in that box will be the “shift” for your first character.

images004

On your Encrypt/Decrypt chart, scan down the leftmost column to find the row with your “Clear Text” character, in my case an “H”. Then move to the right until you are in the column of the “Shift”, in this case “#”. the box where that row/column intersect is your encrypted text. In this case, it is an “A”.

images005

Now cross off that first square of your one-time pad. You will never use that square again.

 

images007

Continue, using one square on your one-time pad for each character in your message.Remember to cross out each square as you use it. Here’s my message, encrypted.

images008

Now you are done! Write the encrypted message on another piece of paper, or send it in an email or a tweet. It doesn’t matter who else sees it, because it is encrypted!

Decrypting a Message

Now your friend has received and read your message, and sent you a message, J#NP8?X_!HJ,  . Continue using the remaining boxes on the same one-time pad. For ease, you can write the encrypted message on a worksheet. Take note of the next open box on your one-time pad, this is the “shift”. Then follow the column down until you see the encrypted text. Go left to discover the clear text. In my example, I scan the first row until I see the column that has the “shift”, in my case the “C”. Then I look down that column until I see the encrypted text, in my case a “J”. I follow the row left to discover what the clear text character is. In my case it’s an “H.”

images010

Write the clear text character above the encrypted text character on your worksheet, cross off the used shift on the one-time pad.

images011

Now I continue in the same pattern until all characters have been decrypted.

images001

Keeping it Secure

If you do two things, you’ll keep your notes ultra secure.

  1. One-Time pad means use it one time. Once you use up the pad, generate another and use it.
  2. Both parties must keep their copies of the pad safe.

Weaknesses

  1. I’m using javascript’s built-in random number generator. Mathematically speaking, it is only pseudo-random, not “truly” random. Maybe someday I’ll make a version that uses random.org’s api. Random.org uses atmospheric data which is much more “actually” random. For a regular person, though, I think you’ll be fine.

In Conclusion

Use this to send love notes to your spouse, or have the coolest pen-pal ever. Don’t use this system to plan your crimes or commit acts of terrorism. In fact, don’t do crimes or terrorism at all. Just be cool, all right?

How to Self Publish a Book

Off and on for the past several years, I’ve been writing a free book to help authors to self publish a book. I’ve had a version up on a separate blog for a while, but I’ve been finishing it and editing and reformatting and such, and now I’m posting the book on this site. It is probably the nerdiest way to prep your files for self publishing, but it is totally slick and once you get it up and running, it is super easy.

How to Self Publish a Book

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or corrections for the book, please post them here.

AudioScripter, version 2

Current Version: 2.0, released Jan 19, 2016 – download AudioScripter 2.0

Introduction

AudioScripter is a little piece of free software I wrote to help format scripts for audio dramas. It takes a plain text file and produces a super-useful html file.

Here are some benefits of recording using a script produced by AudioScripter:

  • Scrolling a screen is quieter for a voice actor to do than shuffle paper – and everybody has a laptop, tablet, or smartphone these days.
  • Script is easy to read on any device. pdfs and doc files almost always require horizontal scrolling/zooming on phones and tablets.
  • It is easy to distribute, either via email or by putting it in a dropbox’s public folder.
  • You can restrict a script to show only one scene at a time.
  • You can highlight a character’s part, so an actor can quickly pick out his or her lines.
  • Easy to give direction to actors, as scenes and cues are automatically numbered.

Example

I will give directions for working with your plain text file in a moment, but first let me show you an example of how AudioScripter works. I’m using a script I got from the generic radio workshop. It’s an episode of the hardest boiled show ever, Pat Novak, For Hire. I did minor formatting changes to the text and added scene breaks.

AudioScripter Text Files

The text format AudioScripter needs is quite simple. Here are the rules:

  • At the top of your script on the first line type the title.
  • Next line down put the subtitle or byline.
  • You can add as many lines as you want to this “top of the script” information.
  • Leave a blank line after the top of script stuff – this tells the program to start looking for scenes and cues.
  • Start a new scene with “SCENE:” at the beginning of a line. Anything after the colon on that line will be the scene title/description
  • New cues start with a line in all capitol letters with the character’s name.
  • FX and MUSIC are entered in just like a character.
  • You put asterisks around text to give it emphasis.
  • You add in stage directions by putting them in parentheses.
  • Other than the first blank line (that signals the end of the title area) blank lines are ignored.
  • Start a line with a pound sign ‘#’ if you want AudioScripter to leave it out of the exported script.

To see these rules in use, just check out the example script I mentioned above.

My favorite plain text editors are:

But there are a slew of plain text editors for free for all platforms.

Distributing a Script

Once you have written your script, you can distribute it to your actors/crew in a number of ways. You can load the script into AudioScripter, then export it. AudioScripter will spit out a html file. You can either send the html file as an attachment to anyone who needs it, or you can sign up for Dropbox, then put the script in your public folder. Once the script is in your dropbox public folder, you can right click on it (in windows) and click “copy public link” then paste the link into an email or a blog post. It’ll come up like any other web page.

Or you could send the text file to your cast and crew and tell them to download audioscripter, but I think the html file is a more elegant solution.

Screenshots

I guess I have to add screenshots at some point.

Download

You’ll need to install the adobe air framework first.

Future Plans

I may build a version that is a WriteMonkey plugin.

Version 1

I have changed things dramatically from the first version of the program. The biggest change is that AudioScripter no longer has any text editing capabilities. I also dropped support for encrypting the script. I have my reasons for doing this.

So, if you still want to use Version 1, that’s fine I guess, and you can download it here.

Version History

2015-01-19 v 2.0

  • All new everything. Rebuilt from the ground up, cuz it works better with my workflow.
  • No more editing.
  • Watches the open file for changes and automatically updates.
  • Added scene chooser that can show only one scene at a time.
  • Better looking exports.
  • Added character list for each scene.
  • Added character list for whole script.

2013-09-08 v0.1.1

  • minor graphical changes
  • testing to make sure the automatic updates work

2013-09-07 v0.1.0

  • Initial release

Verseless KJV Bible Project

I’m a big fan of Ben Crowder. Among his many projects, he has produced reader’s editions of several LDS books of scriptures. These reader’s editions remove most of the chapter and verse notations so that the text is re-flowed into paragraphs. I especially enjoy reading the version of The Book of Mormon that he produced.

Recently, I came across a bible project that had a similar aim with the bible. The creator calls it Bibliotheca and it looks amazing.

I personally use the King James Version of the bible and that is not the version that is being used for the Bibliotheca project.

Still, I was intrigued, so I set out to find a Verseless and Chapterless version of the King James Bible that I could read on my kindle. I could not readily find one, so being the nerd that I am, I set out to make one.

I used http://printkjv.ifbweb.com/ as the source, because it looked like it would be the easiest text file to work with. For whatever reason, it looked cleaner than the one on Gutenberg. Plus it showed the paragraph breaks as well as the verses. I did some heavy find and replacing then ran it through pandoc and calibre to get the ebook files. I would have used Kindlegen, but it kept choking on the full size Bible for some reason.

If you are interested, here is what I came up with:

The Holy Bible, King James Version, Reader’s Edition

If you do use this, let me know if you find anything weird with the text. You can contact [http://twitter.com/BryceBeattie](me on twitter) or email me at the address you see in the image below.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

PlayPlay

It is no secret that I love audio theater. One of my favorite programs of all time is Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. My favorite part of the overall series are the five part serials on weekdays. Most of the run of the show was put up on archive.org by a group called the Old Time Radio Researchers (thanks otrr!)

I like Johnny Dollar because he was not just another Phillip Marlowe clone. He could handle himself, sure, but he wasn’t nearly as pessimistic as the standard hardboiled detective. I can hardly tell the difference between a bunch of those shows. Also, there are a lot of clean recordings of this show, so it’s easy for a non-super-fan to listen to.

A while back I decided to edit a couple of the serialized stories so that they would play as single seamless episodes. So if you’d like to listen to the tales of America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator, just click the download links below.

The Phantom Chase Matter

Most of the serialized stories came in five parts. This was the only nine part storyline. It runs almost two hours long. In this story, Johnny is hired to track down an embezzler to help recover the funds he stole. The embezzler’s wife always seems to show up, but is she protecting her husband, or just trying to find him, too?

Download the Phantom Chase Matter ~110 mb

The Silent Queen Matter

A man is found murdered, having left all of his possessions to a silent film actress. Was he just an obsessed fan, or is there another connection? This was the final serialized Johnny Dollar story. Running time on this one just over an hour.

Download The Silent Queen Matter ~60 mb

 

DIY Yeti Balaclava, Version 1

I often play with sound recording equipment. I wish I would actually spend more time recording stuff, but I don’t. A while back I found out about a deliciously cool product call the Kaotica Eyeball. It’s a sound isolation shield that fits directly on a microphone. If you visit the site, please ignore the tragically skinny hipsters they put in the marketing pictures.

Anyway, the thing costs $200. Maybe that’s not a lot for pro sound gear, but it’s more than I am currently willing to spend.

So I said to myself, “Self, I bet you can make a similar device for one of your mics.”

The mic I use most is my Blue Yeti. It sounds great, and it is super easy to set up and use. Just plug in the USB and go.

Because Blue names its USB devices in a winter theme, (Yeti, snowflake, snowball, icicle…) I’m honoring the tradition and calling my device a balaclava, which for those not in the know is a ski mask.

The first step was to figure out what to make it from. Now, I’ve never had a chance to squeeze an eyeball, so I don’t know how firm it is. So I decided to use a more firm packing foam for the first go round. I’m pretty sure it’s polyethylene foam, and it’s about an inch thick. I figured the firmer foam would be easier to glue and such. As a bonus, I ended up with several sheets of the stuff when I ordered a big server case for work, so I had it lying around. If I decide to experiment a second time, it’ll be with a much softer foam.

foam

I couldn’t find specs online for the barrel diameter of the mic, so I busted out my wife’s sewing tape measure and my junior high math skills.

measure

Let’s see, 8 & 11/16 divided by pi equals about 2.77 inches. (Note to google searchers: A Blue Yeti is about 2.77 inches in diameter) As it happened, the can of spray glue I bought for the project was just barely bigger than that, so I could use it for a template!

measure2

I marked the foam and guessed at how much space I’d need between the mic and the walls of the balaclava (about an inch?) I then dug out my wife’s crafting exacto knife (Hey! my tools were clear on the other side of the house!) and cut out the base. I made sure it fit then cut a top to match.

fit

I then cut a strip to use as a circular wall and tried my hardest to glue it together and hold it in place while the glue dried.

This attempt was a dismal failure. In fact, it was so embarrassing I couldn’t possibly post a picture. So here’s a picture of the glue I used instead.

glue

As I said, glue alone was not working, so I reinforced the connection with a bunch of toothpicks.

toothpicks

Toothpicks + glue = win.

And here’s the mostly finished project.

finish

finished_top

The only real issue with the balaclava is that it partially covers the gain knob, but I like to think of it as “holding the knob in place.” So it’s really more of a feature if you think about it…

finished_back

 

But how does it sound? That’s the real question.

 

(Testing the Yeti Balaclava ~2mb)

When I get around to it, I’m going to buy a white pair of nylons to use as a pop filter. That’ll be the last step in this version.

One thing I noticed in the recording is that I’m getting some kind of weird hum when the balaclava is on. Now, a lot of the ambient noise is screened out, but that constant hum is now in. I wonder if that is the balaclava itself vibrating. It might have been reverb of a more steady stream of cars going by, too. Hmm. I may have to build a second version with some lighter weight foam.

Or, you know, just save my pennies for an eyeball.

A Quick Publishing Story

Okay, so I’m going to be volunteering some time at a local school teaching a programming class. I have things arranged at work and I’m pretty excited about it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been going over there to set up a computer lab for them. This has given me a much need full on nerd experience. I used Edubuntu to set up a server and a bunch of thin clients. It’s totally slick. Big thanks to the folks who developed the Linux Terminal Server Project and those who built it into the Edubuntu distribution. You all made me feel like a hero.

Anyway, because I’m basically in total control of the class, I had to figure out what to teach. After much hair-pulling (okay not really, as I’ve been shaving my head for over a year now…) I settled on scratch. It’s a simple programming language developed by MIT. It has a simple gui interface and through it you can learn a good overview of programming concepts. One of the big selling points for me is that Harvard has produced and open sourced a curriculum for scratch. As in, a curriculum that can be used with kids, not CS majors in college.

There’s only one issue I had with it – there are only pdfs available for the teacher’s manual and the student workbook. I didn’t want to have to print off 119 pages of worksheets for each student. That sounds too much like work.

Fortunately, I have experience self publishing!

I would like to stress at this point that Harvard has released the manual and workbook under a creative commons share alike licence, and they have made no physical books available, only the pdfs.

Anyway, as you probably guessed, that means I have taken matters into my own hands. I took the pdf for the workbook, made a simple cover, and uploaded to createspace. I’m not really looking to get into the educational publishing market, but dang it, I need printed cheap workbooks for my class. So I have it all set up now and published. I’m charging only enough so that I can use the global distribution and make it available everywhere. The book’s live on Amazon now.

And then I realized that the pdf didn’t include page numbers. Sigh. Now, Harvard does make a .doc available of the workbook, so I could open that up and try to mess with whatever formatting they have going on, but again, that sounds like too much work. So I searched around and found A-PDF Watermark, which is in fact pay software, but it’s a lot less than the full adobe acrobat, and it let me overlay page numbers in a way that looks nice. Anyway, things should update soon and then no one can complain about the books at all.

And that’s my story. I should probably do the instructor manual, too.

Merry Christmas, all.

Some More Freeware

Yes, I have project ADD. It doesn't help that I have some programming knowledge. Every time I want a piece of software and I can't immediately find exactly what I want, I start making my own. I have hard drives filled with half finished projects.

A little while ago I was digging through some of these old project ideas and I came across the framework for a very simple dream journal. I wrote it intending for it to be released for android and iOS via phonegap.

I hit a technical problem at the time that I could never get straightened out, so I got bored and set it aside.

Fast forward a year or so, and I decided it would be pretty straightforward to make it work on the desktop instead. A couple of days later, I had it working.

If that sort of thing interests you, go check it out: Free Dream Journal Software

Book WP version 2 is here.

Okay. I think I’m satisfied enough to release version 2 of the Book WP theme. It may not be perfect, but if I don’t release it, I’ll just never get around to it.

BookWP_header

This theme is meant to help authors use wordpress to write an online book, rather than just a blog. You can see the theme in action on my site on self-publishing.

More info and a download link can be found on the Book WP page.

Now I’m going to see if I can get it listed in the official WP Themes gallery…