Tag Archive for writing

2014, or the Year Fink Beats the Stomach

2014Resolutions

2014Resolutions

A tradition since 2002, here are my resolutions for the year…

  1. Fitness: this is the big one. I’m going to be 40 in October, and I want to be able to take one of those “this is what 40 looks like” photos that make people jealous. I’ve got a spare tire around my gut that I’m weary of carrying. To that end, I resolve to…
    • walk/jog/run the neighborhood, every street, 3 times a week
    • go to the gym at least 1 time a week, I get up at 6am every weekday but don’t go to work until at least 8, so I figure I should be able to fit a gym visit in there somewhere, especially since I’m already paying for it, and when I don’t go to the gym I will be doing the 5BX, I bought the book last year and figure it is time to do it, I’d like to make it a habit
    • do 10 pushups, 10 situps and 10 squats for every TV show I watch, either I will watch less TV or exercise more, so it’s win-win
    • do random exercises while working, I already stand for 8 hours a day, so throwing in the occasional set of squats or dropping down for a few pushups should be easy to incorporate
    • eat better … I loath nebulous goals like this, it just isn’t S.M.A.R.T. but after a bout of buying veggies from the farmer’s market, I know it is something that can be done but can also waste a lot, so I need to spend some time educating myself on diet and figure out how best to change in a way that doesn’t result in so much compost
  2. Writing: I think I resolve this every year, but I don’t actually follow my own advice and make a plan that is capable of being followed, so this year I resolve to…
    • write in the mornings, I get up at 6am every weekday but don’t go to work until at least 8, so I figure on days that I don’t go to the gym I should be able to fit some writing time in there
    • blog about the fitness stuff, this is a good excuse to write, so as I walk and hit the gym and eat better I will write here about it, something I should be doing anyway
    • start using my phone, or buy a special device, to record things I think about in terms of writing, lots of times I have ideas when I am not in a position to write it down, and I need to solve that

I think that’s a good set of things to resolve to do. I wanted to include something about publishing a piece of writing, but I really need to just get down the habit of writing first. Perhaps at the mid-year 4th of July update on my progress and course correction I will feel like adding it in.

I resolve.

Resolve

ResolveThe title is to be read with the punctuation.

I wasn’t going to write a kick-off Happy New Year post, but then I thought about the fact that I’ve done one every year since 2002, so I couldn’t just let it go. I was looking back at last year’s post. I don’t think I was terribly far off for predictions of how the political arena would turn out. While I am thrilled at some of the people who got turned out on the street, I also think the people replacing them are still politicians and have no interest in actually making things better for everyone.

I was also completely wrong. There was an Apocalypse in 2012, but it was a personal one, and it happened just after Thanksgiving with my father’s passing. I never imagined I would be 38 and parentless.

That combined with a number of other things is why my resolutions will be so simple this year. There are two.

First, I resolve to write every day. It is so generic and simple. I am giving myself every possible chance to succeed.

Second, I resolve. Like the title of this post, that is meant to be read with the punctuation, “I resolve, period”. I’m going to work on planning things less and doing things more. The problem with planning is that you can feel accomplishment when you plan. You finish the plan, it feels good and then… you never get started. So, less planning, more starting.

And that starts today… see you later… I’ve got stuff to write.

City of Fallen Heroes

In yesterday’s post I said that City of Heroes was “inspiring”. But what did I mean by that?

Obviously, as linked in that post, it drove me to create a character who wasn’t a hero, just a reporter who wrote about heroes: Calvin Meeks and the Front Page. But it also heralded my first serious foray into fan fiction.

Sure, I’d written things about my characters in EverQuest, but those were just short stories, a few pages. City of Heroes inspired me to actually write an entire outline of a book, a series of intertwining stories that culminated in a cohesive plot. Sadly, when I allowed myself to get dragged off into other games, I also allowed myself to abandon that work, entitled City of Fallen Heroes.

I dug through my office the other day and found most of the outline and a bunch of jotted mini plots for the chapters. I’m going to take a stab at finishing that, if I don’t get too depressed about the closing of the game.

In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters, which I did complete and placed online way back when.

To me, it was an interesting concept. Write a story set in the Rikti invasion, the event that happens just before the launch of the game, and write about all the heroes who don’t survive. I know from the start that none of my characters will make it. Some will die “on-screen” while others may survive to take the plunge with Hero 1 into the Rikti homeworld. Or maybe they won’t, because I have to say that I developed an unreasonable attachment to the main character of Chapter 2 and actually made changes to my outline at the time to account for it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I hope I can churn out more worth reading.

Transformation

Over at the Broken Forum there is a thread for writing in which one of the community is running a series of writing exercises, the first of which is due today. The subject: a transformation. This is short-ish, and I want to revise it again. A couple of trips through editing and I think it could be pretty good.

Anyway, enjoy….


I scratched at an itch beneath my watch band, then turned my wrist to see that she was a half hour late. The dinner rush was still a little while off but the restaurant was busy with the employees setting up all the tables, switching out the afternoon settings for the evening finery.

The waiter brought me another basket of rolls, my third, refilled my water yet again and asked me once more if I wanted to go ahead and order or if I wanted to wait. I told him I would wait. He rolled his eyes at me and walked away.

Another thirty minutes, a basket of bread, and three glasses of water later, Clara finally stepped through the door.

She was looking as good as ever. Her red hair was pulled into a loose pony tail, and it swayed across her back as she looked around the room. I shrank in my seat a little. I wanted to see her, but something made me want to hide, to run.

My waiter tapped her on the shoulder and pointed in my direction. As she walked toward my table I became mesmerized by the measure of her steps. She was tall, nearly six feet, and the grey dress she wore was short enough to reveal her legs with every step. Each foot touched the ground in time with the steady slow beat of my heart.

I exhaled as she reached the table.

“Hi Clara.”

“Jeremy,” she said. It was stiff, not the friendly hello I’d been hoping for. We hadn’t spoken directly to each other in nearly ten days. Trading voicemails, emails and texts.

I stood and pulled out her chair. She sat. There was a little smile as she did. I wiped a droplet of sweat from my brow and then took my own seat.

My forehead bumped the table as I leaned forward to scratch an itch above my ankle.

“Did you say something,” she asked. She’d been looking around the bar. It was getting more crowded.

“Me? No. Nothing. It’s good to see you.”

She didn’t smile. “You too.” It was matter of fact, not pleasant. “Should we order?”

I laughed nervously. “If we don’t, the waiter might explode.”

“How’s that?”

“Nevermind. I’ve just been here a while, drinking water and eating bread.” I indicated the empty basket, the half empty one, and the array of water glasses.

“Sorry, I lost track of time.”

She buried her nose in the menu. I glanced down at mine as well. I didn’t need to look as I was familiar with it, I’d even memorized the prices and which items were recommended as lighter fair for those watching their waistlines.

The waiter approached and asked if we wanted to hear the specials. I shook my head and Clara launched directly into her order.

“I’ll have the chicken fettucine, with the house salad.”

The waiter didn’t write it down. “And you, sir?”

“I’ll have the same.” He nodded and started to turn. “I’ll also take a steak, medium rare. No, make it rare. Can I have two of those?” He nodded again and wandered off.

Clara was staring at me. She blinked slowly and collected herself. “Should we start talking now, or should we wait for the food?”

“Now is good.” I pulled at my collar. My hand went to loosen my tie and then I remember I wasn’t wearing one. I pulled at my collar again and drank another half glass of water. “Where have you been?”

“I’d ask you the same.” Clara unfolded her napkin and laid it out on her lap. “But I already know. You’ve been at home, on the computer perhaps, or maybe you’ve been down to the bar.”

“I went to see a movie.”

“Of course you did.”

“I’ve just been trying to get back to normal.” My left shoulder itched, so I rubbed it through my shirt with the opposite hand.

“And I’ve been trying to avoid normal, Jeremy. I don’t think I can go back.” She sipped a little water from her own glass. “I’ve changed.”

“Is everything so different since we went camping?” I tried to keep the pleading out of my voice but I didn’t succeed.

“It’s all very different, Jeremy! We almost died!” People were looking at us as her voice raised, but then she breathed deeply and regained her composure.

I was scratching at my thigh without thinking of it. My nerves were frazzled now and I was sure I was breaking out in hives. “It wasn’t that bad. We ran them off.” My voice trailed out at the end. She’d actually run them off, while I was busy holding the bandage. It had been sort of amazing, like she was some Amazon warrior princess or something.

“Since we’ve been back, though, all you want to do is stay home, which isn’t much more than we did before. But I want to get out.”

“And do what?” I slugged down another glass of water and the waiter brought me three more along with our salads.

She busied herself with her salad. I could see she was trying to pick out all the right word, she was preparing a speech, or perhaps just recalling from memory she’s already written and practices.

I mopped at my brow with my napkin and pushed my own salad aside. My stomach grumbled. I could smell the kitchen, the steaks being lightly cooked, just enough to warm them without browning. I swallowed the saliva that was pooling in my mouth.

“I started biking to work.” She said it between bites.

I kicked off my shoes under the table and curled my toes. “For exercise?”

“Not really. Just to see more of the world. You know?”

“I guess.”

“I took a pottery class.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Down at the continuing education building. I’ve also signed up for some self-defence, and I joined a book club.”

I ran my hands through my hair and kept tossing glances at the kitchen. I was starving but I also felt like I wanted to bolt.

“What’s wrong?”

“With me? Nothing. Why do you ask?”

“You’re just very fidgety.”

She was right. My hands almost didn’t stop moving. I scratched at the itches on my wrist, my thigh, my shoulder. I was using my feet to scratch at my shins. I rubbed one hand behind my ear and mopped my brow with my napkin again. I took in a deep slow breath and tried to calm myself.

Clara and I locked eyes for a moment, and then she looked away. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

She took another sip of water and pushed the remains of her salad to the side. “I met someone.”

“What?” It came out higher pitched than I wanted.

“It’s just, I’ve changed, and you haven’t, and I need someone who fits the new me.”

“It’s only been four weeks,” I snarled.

She sat back in her chair, pulling away. “A lot has changed in four weeks.”

“We almost died and you run off and find someone new,” I growled. I growled.

Her eyes opened as wide as they would go, and then as I stood they opened wider. I could feel the low rumble in my throat as I rose. My fingernails dragged along the tablecloth.

“Who is he?”

Clara’s mouth moved but no sound came out.

I asked her again, slower this time, stopping after every word, the rumble in throat coating each one with anger. “Who is he?”

She managed to squeak out, “I met him in my pottery class.”

“Pottery,” I grumbled through a mouth now full of extra teeth. I looked down at my hands and saw the elongated nails. Past them I saw my feet. My toes had ripped out of the end of my socks. I glanced toward the bar and caught my own reflection. My ears were pointed just slightly at the tips, my eyebrows were thicker and my hair was growing as I watched it. Hair was appearing at my wrists and my collar.

I thought back, four weeks, to the camping trip, to the attack, to the bite on my arm.

The waiter arrived with our dinner.

I stared at him and the low rumble emanated from my throat again. He didn’t flinch. He looked bored.

“I’m going to take these to go,” I said as I grabbed the two rare steaks from their plates with my increasingly furry hands. “She’ll get the check.”

I ran out of the restaurant, howling into the night.

And I was doing so well…

Two weeks. And not long before that there was a ten day gap. I blame a lot of things. The untimely end of the Rebuild project was a bit of a blow. I had intended that to be a weekly feature here on the blog for a long while, and my motivation to start back up has been flagging. I will though, as I plan to sit down on the coming weekend and play through the entire game in one or two sittings to get all the details and screen shots I need, that way the game can’t delete on me again. This will have the unfortunate side effect of me knowing how it ends before I start, knowing who dies before I create them, which is less fun for me as I enjoyed the idea of being shocked and then forced to write out the scenes. I also needed to revisit how I did the screen shots. Before I was manually doing Alt+PrtScr and then pasting into GIMP, but now I’ve got IrfanView which will give me a simple key combination that will screen shot directly to a file in a directory of my choosing, so I can speed through the game. Then I’ll probably take a week or so off and start writing, hoping I’ve forgotten exactly what happens to any individual character.

I’m also working on Season 2 of Man vs Wife. I’m calling it Season 2 because of the, at first, unintentional break we took. In part this was because Dungeon! was such a bad play. I mean, I like the game, but the 2 player version in the manner we chose to play it was rough. The wife hasn’t really felt like playing much, though I did manage to get her to play Fluxx (the write-up for which is going to be hilarious). Any way, so I decided that we are going to line up about 8 games and then do a marathon weekend, which will become Season 2, eventually. I just need to find 8 games worth playing. And I might cheat in order for me to actually win a game – I’ve got a copy of Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition from the mid-1980s that I’ve played a lot, plus I am a fountain of inane and useless information, and she isn’t.

In spite of not doing much writing for the blog, I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. Reviews for Shakefire as well as my own stuff. I got crafty and took a couple of Sharpies to my NEO and now instead of being Sherman Tank green it’s black on the back and has a nice blood-red top. I haven’t colored the keys yet, and I’m not 100% sure I will. I kinda like that the keys stand out. I’ll post a picture at some point, once I’m sure it’s done.

Speaking of crafty… Dragon*Con is also coming up, and we’ve been trying to actually put together ideas for costumes AND execute them. That second part will be a new endeavor this year as we usually just dream them up and never do anything.

Also, I’ve been sort of working on an idea for a podcast. It’s still in idea mode and I’m working out some of the logistics, but I think it’ll be pretty cool, and different. Maybe… it also might suck royally. Or I might drop the idea and simply not do it.

Anyway, more to come, I promise.

The AlphaSmart NEO

AlphaSmart NEO

You are the One, Neo. I have spent my entire life looking for you.

So, a month ago, I wrote about wanting an eInk writing device. I then purchased an AlphaSmart NEO from a seller on eBay for around $40. The idea is to have a tool, with a good physical keyboard and free from distractions, to take with me anywhere and be able to write. As bizarre as this thing may look, it’s actually pretty incredible. Though the memory is limited (not really) and you get only 8 files, the total storage capacity is around 72,000 words, which is enough to win the NaNoWriMo and then some. The screen IS small, but this isn’t an editing tool, it’s a writing tool. Just write, edit later. Boot up time? Instant. It saves after every keystroke. And it runs over 700 hours on 3 AA batteries. I’ve only used it about 50 hours so far.

I’ve hauled this thing with me to places like the Renaissance Festival, the back yard, the mall, work, the hospital. I get inspired, I bust it out and write. It helps that I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a small backpack with me most places.

One of the coolest parts of this device is how you get the files off. For most other portable electronic devices these days, you’d either be saving to “the cloud” or you’d plug it in via USB and drag & drop the files. The NEO, however, is a fully functioning keyboard. When you want to get a file off, you plug it into your PC with a USB cable, the PC recognizes it as a keyboard, you open the program you want your file in (Word, Notepad, Google Docs, WordPress, etc), put the cursor in the correct field, select the file on the NEO and press Send.

As an example, yesterday I had to take my father to the doctor. I also needed to write a review of a movie for Shakefire. I took the NEO with me and wrote the review while I was waiting at the doctor’s office. When I got home, it was lunch time, so I made some lunch. I then sat down in front of my PC, hooked up the NEO, opened up the entry form for the site and pressed Send. While I was eating, I got to watch as the NEO typed out my review. It types a little faster than I do – well, I probably beat it in raw typing speed, but it types at the same speed without stopping. And as it typed, I read. Because I could read comfortably and my eyes were incapable of glancing ahead (the NEO hadn’t typed it yet), this lead to more critical reading. It was as if I was reading someone else, not me.

In addition to the editing, there was a certain… gravity? weight? added by watching the words type out. Something very satisfying. I’ve written a lot in my life, but when I’m done I’m always done, the writing just is. Watching the NEO re-type everything I’d written, it just adds a level of “I wrote that” pride that I didn’t have before.

Another nicety, since this thing can’t do much more than write, I get more writing done. When I sit at a PC and write, if I have a question about what I’m writing, some detail, I’m tempted to Google it.  Doing so often leads to a lost twenty or thirty (or more) minutes reading sites, checking emails, and doing stuff that isn’t writing. The NEO allows for much more focus on my writing. Sure, there are programs you can get to disable your Internet access, but as easy as it is to disable it can also just as easily be re-enabled. With the NEO there is no Internet access to enable.

Anyway, I’ve written more in the last month than I did in the previous 5 or 6 before it. The freedom the NEO has given me is unparalleled. I can’t say I’d recommend the device to every writer, because every writer has their own style, but if you haven’t found a style that works best for you yet, I’d totally recommend giving one of these a shot. Buy one on eBay, and if it doesn’t work for you, sell it on eBay.

eInk Writer’s Companion

I like to write. I hate to write sitting at my desk. I would love to be able to write anywhere. Being a left hander brought up in a school system that refused to teach left-handed writing styles, I have horrible form and it hurts to write manually for extended periods, which prevents me from using pen and paper for any long form writing. I love computers. I have a completely bizarre typing style that has developed over years that doesn’t result in any discomfort or carpel tunnel issues. And when I say write anywhere, I mean anywhere, including sitting on a beach in broad daylight.

So, what I really need is essentially an eInk Kindle, in landscape mode, perhaps a slightly longer/wider screen, with an attached clamshell keyboard – a real keyword, for use with fingers not just thumbs. It could have wi-fi, but really only for some sort of wireless sync. All I need it to be able to do is create new document files, open existing document files, save files, delete files and support some form of hierarchy so that I can associate multiple documents to each other – such as chapters to a book – and see it visually. Something that simple, with no need for additional software and browsers and Internet and such, could run for hundreds of hours on a single charge, and being that the files are only text, a small amount of memory can go a very, very long way.

I know these days people and companies are in love with multi-function devices. Phones that are also music players and cameras and PDAs and web browsers and email clients and so on and so on. But I still like my single function devices too. I like having a Zune for my music/podcasts and nothing else. I like having a Kindle for reading books. And I would love to have a device that is simply for writing and not for gaming and a million other functions.

Looking around at other simple eInk tablets/readers that exist, I think this could be put together and sold for around $79, probably less, and at that price I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I doubt such a thing would ever exist. It’s too simple, and whenever I bring up the idea to someone they always respond with either “Get a Tablet” or “Get a Netbook”. I have a netbook and a Kindle Fire, and neither of them are what I want – mostly because the screens are less than useful in sunlight, and the Fire lacks a full physical keyboard. Plus, the battery life on them both is terrible. 8 hours? Bah!

I’d be happy to be wrong though. If there is an eInk document writer with a full keyboard, let me know. I’d be forever in your debt.

Rabbit

The dead began to rise, and the rest descended into chaos. In the after, humanity returned to an oral history. Stories told by campfire and candlelight, to ward off the dark.

Rabbit

Molly, her mother and a group of others had stumbled upon the warehouse. It was like a dream. Shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle of food and supplies tucked away in this nondescript little building. It did not appear guarded, but surely something like this was planned and whoever planned it would return. So rather than stay in the little warehouse, they cleared out an apartment building a few blocks away that gave them a clear view of the stock of goods.

The group worked together, slowly clearing other nearby buildings, creating an intricate maze of pathways, bridges and ladders, from building to building leading from their chosen home to the warehouse. Each bridge, each ladder or swing, could be pulled up or disabled from either side and hidden, lest they giveaway their safe living to anyone passing through with ill intentions. But also they made sure not to do anything that drew attention to the warehouse itself. They always entered from the roof, and while they barred the ground level doors from the inside, they made no attempt to obscure any of them from the outside or to chain them or lock them with visible locks. The warehouse was made to simply look uninteresting, just as it was back when they almost passed it by.

They limited their trips to the store of supplies, carrying as much as they could back to their apartment homes, but never so much as to make them slow when the world had become a place where quickness was most precious. A few days worth was all they could bring safely, and so they had to return every few days to get more.

[ read the whole story ]

 

Star Wars Day

Caution: Children at PlayMay the 4th be with you.

Yeah, it’s corny – but sometimes being corny is the heart and soul of being a geek. I’m not often big on celebrating Star Wars Day, mostly because if you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose I’d have to pick Star Trek in the Star Series debate. The science just worked for me a little better than the mysticism.

Amazon is celebrating by having Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) on Blu-ray for 44% off. $79 for 9 discs – 6 movies and a whole mess of extras. Sure, you get the Very Special Re-re-edited Editions for the originals, but still – very cool.

As for me, I’m going to use this day to drag out something I wrote 13 years ago. I was sitting in the theater, not yet full disappointed in the new Star Wars prequel I was watching at the midnight showing, and there was a scene that sparked something in my brain. I went home that night and sketched out a quick idea. It took a few weeks to flesh it out, mostly because I needed the Internet to get the images from the movie I needed. I’m certain some were promotional while others were grabbed from pirated copies of the film. But I finally slapped it together and Card Wars: The Phantom Balance was born. Take a look. I’ll wait.

It’s funnier if you remember the Visa Card commercials that I’m parodying. Do versions of those even air anymore? I don’t watch enough commercials to know.

I remember at the time really being excited about that, because the movie had been a let down. It isn’t a bad movie, but the prequels represented a large series of broken promises to fans of the original. So many bits and pieces, and large plot elements, contradict things we were told in the 1977, 1980 and 1983 films. I’m not going to spend time pointing them out, just go Google “star wars inconsistencies” and you’ll get lots of results. Some are silly nitpicks, and still others can be explained away, but there are plenty that are slaps in the face. So, I was excited because I felt like, at least for myself, I had salvaged something. The movie was broken, but at least I was inspired to do something creative.

Over time, I’ve come to accept the movies in their imperfect forms. I can enjoy them, even if I still feel a twinge of sadness at how awesome it could have been if Lucas had simply accepted his own work as cannon and written within those constraints. We’ll never know…

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is an awesome fan made version of the original Star Wars film. Random groups of people signed up to make their own versions of 15 second segments of the movie which was then edited together. The result is worth watching.

Anyway… Enjoy your Star Wars Day.

NaNoWriMo 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011I didn’t post much about this year’s WriMo. After last year’s horrid experience which resulted in my first win but in my complete dissatisfaction at what I wrote where normally I fail but am happy with my writing, I wasn’t 100% sure I would play.

But I did, and after waffling between a couple ideas, I picked one and ran with it.

This year’s major hurdle was a lack of planning. Not on purpose. You see, I was planning pretty well for Idea A and then I ran into a snag. A huge central element of my story turned out to not be feasible. So I could either A) write it anyway and fix it later, B) spend the first week or so of November fixing it and start way behind, or C) go with Idea B. I chose option C.

With my second idea planned only half-assedly, I jumped in. Things were going well to start but my lack of an outline began to show and I stalled out around 10,000 words. I needed to break and fix my outline so I knew where I was headed. I took a couple days off and did that. I wrote a little each day, very little, and about a week later I’d finished the outline and got back to real writing. Only now I’d lost my momentum and my passion for the project. I’ve continued piddling with it and I’ll end the month with around maybe 25,000 words. Half way.

Anyway, I’ll back burner the project and come back to it when I’m inspired. In December I’ll be tackling a different writing project, a re-write of a previous work. In January I’ll be taking on another re-write. In February I plan to be starting on an entirely new project, assuming my research goes well. I am excited for all three projects. And I have a goal now. I want to polish up a couple things enough so I feel comfortable letting other people read them, another pass of re-writes/corrections and then actually paying someone to copy-edit them, either learning to format them myself or pay someone to do it, and then make them available for purchase for Kindle, iBooks and other markets.

I want 2012 to be a good year.