Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Year’s Eve Tradition

This is worthy of a post of its own; a single tradition that dominates the day (I’m writing this while waiting for the pizza we ordered for lunch, because otherwise I wouldn’t have time).

As mentioned below, we get (at least) one game every Christmas. This year, we all got two, and conspired together to get my mother three. So that’s nine games this Christmas. Add about five for every one of the fourteen other years we’ve lived in this country. Now add all the games that my mother imported when my grandma died (give or take 15-20). Actually, I’ll go check the List. There are 112 games there, but I’m convinced there are more down in the basement.

Anyway, the List is sacred. It gets printed out either today (New Years Eve) or yesterday. But then, this morning, we have to decide what game to play. So each of us get a copy of the List and we mark down a certain number of games. This year, we got to do 10 games, excluding the ones that we got this year for Christmas. Afterward, we tally up the votes and my sister determines the total count. As there are four of us (excluding my father, who never plays games with us, as we are apparently “too stupid”), we decided this year to include all of the games that got more than one vote, plus the games we got this year. This rounded out to an even twenty.

So, armed with the twenty games we are supposed to play (we never play more than three or four, if I’m being completely honest with you, dear lurker) we now must go into a further round of deliberation. We rank the games, from one to twenty, and then I get to add up the totals and order the games from highest to lowest. This whole process takes 30-40 minutes, and would take longer if my mother didn’t have the List saved on the desktop downstairs.

This is a longstanding tradition in our house. We’ve done it at least the past five years, and probably longer. My sister and I love making lists. When we were younger and had a VCR, and needed something to watch, we would pull out all of the videos and make a list in a similar way as described above. The two of us can make a listgame about nearly everything, and we get about as much enjoyment from the list process as we do the actual carrying out what the list says. It’s sacred, and I can’t imagine a New Years without. If I ever get around to having children, I’m sure that I’ll torment them in the same manner.

In any case, I hope that all of you, dear lurky readers, have a fabulous New Years Eve. I’ll be back tomorrow with my futile New Year’s resolutions.

Have fun, and be safe!

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Paper and pencil

I got a comment in my last post about whether I’d started writing the next go-around, and I have. So, the following is the prologue of the umpteenth rewrite of the Novel from Hell, also known in my dreams as America’s Next Great Novel (heh). My (metaphorical) hat goes off to anyone who decides to put themselves through the torture necessary to read my abysmal handwriting, but I thought I’d share it anyway.  And yes. I know that the second sentence is missing a verb. I couldn’t be bothered to add the word and rescan the page. Yes, that’s awfully lazy of me.

I think the difference between typing and writing by hand, as the commenter (Joe Union) mentioned. I will be honest: even not during November, when I type anything, I am obsessed by wordcount.  I have a perverse need to make all my chapters/sections/what have you the same length, and find it incredibly difficult to break myself out of that rut. In some facets of writing, this can actually be helpful. In others, it unnecessarily constrains and makes my life harder, and the quality of the writing probably suffers. On the other hand, I am very good at producing decent text very fast and when you just want to get the story out, that can be a better method for me. There are other cons, too; I’m about as bad a procrastinator as they come and I’m more than capable of playing three straight hours of sudoku or freecell or hearts instead of writing (and I played at least two straight hours on at least one occasion in November).

Writing by hand takes me back to my roots. I can still remember telling my mother, years ago when she did her weekly grocery shopping, to make sure to grab a pack of notebooks for me. I always wrote in pencil; I take notes in pen but write fiction in pencil (and it’s not for ease of erasing; I scribble out pen and pencil both). I had elaborate schedules and outlines stapled or taped to the inside covers of the notebooks. They’re all still sitting in the basement; some of them are falling apart, they were used so much. It’s a much slower and more deliberative process for me, not least because it’s easy to move text around on a computer but much harder on paper (and I’ve never been particularly fond of elaborate arrow-moving-around schemes). It’s harder for me to find somewhere comfortable to write; I type at my desk but I can’t handwrite there comfortably for some reason, so I usually end up sitting in bed doing it.  BUT, notebooks can *only* get destroyed/ruined/lost/stolen, they can’t get virused! (*grin*).

And finally (and not unimportantly) my typing while intoxicated is actually decent (just slower), whereas my handwriting while intoxicated is frequently illegible.

I’ve actually got, other than the NfH, another example which I can compare my handwritten and typed versions. The first book I wrote last November, the beginning of a fantasy series, I decided to rewrite by hand and I think the end result was interesting. In the typed version, I had ten viewpoint characters, each of whom got two thousand words (I think). Unfortunately, interesting things weren’t always happening to everyone at the same time, so there would be a couple of interesting sections and a couple where someone was just rambling on. I can attribute that both to the boringness of their plotlines and the speed of NaNo, I suppose. The handwritten version is  not without its flaws – I have come to notice that I write much more realistic dialogue when I type, but not when I handwrite, for some reason – and it does its own meandering. On the other hand, it was aided by the fact that I already knew exactly what was going to happen by the end of the first book on the rewrite; I had no such concrete ideas during the first, typed version.

I don’t know which is better. I suspect that neither of them is actually better, and I suspect that the pros and cons are different for everyone. There are probably people who swear by handwriting and people who swear by typing. I don’t think I’m either of those. True, since I was about 14 or 15, I switched almost exclusively to typing, and I’m only making tentative efforts back into handwriting, and I suspect that if I ever end up doing this fulltime (hahahaha), that it’ll be a weird amalgamation of both. But only time will tell that. One thing I do know, though, is that this first draft of the NfH is going to be handwritten.

Thanks, Joe, for making me think about this.

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My Reading List

So the bottom two books (Under the Dome and Best Served Cold) I got for Christmas, so I can be excused, just about, for not having read them yet. But for the other two books, I have no excuse. I specially ordered the Steven Erikson book in September from the UK, because it came out there first and I wanted to read it. Five months later, and I’ve only got a couple hundred pages in (it’s 889 pages total). The Kindly Ones, the second book down, I have even less excuse for – that’s an ARC (advance readers copy) that I paid I don’t know how much for so that I could get a copy before it actually released in March.  Unfortunately, I have an unhappy memory to go with it: the day that I got it was the day that my last computer fucked itself up, in early February of this year.  That’s not really an excuse to not read (I had chicken drumsticks that day, too, and I’ve had them since!), and so its been sitting around for the better part of ten months without having been read. I obviously need to kick my ass into gear.

My Christmas haul was pretty good – thanks to my brother being younger than me (14), we’re still able to convince my mother that me (22) and my sister (19) still deserve to be treated Christmas-wise like we’re about 5, and so we still get stockings full of wrapped presents that always include a puzzle book (once used to keep us from attacking the presents under the tree at 5 in the morning and now a tradition that we cannot break: you have to start at the beginning and finish every puzzle even if you hate them and can’t do them!) and an orange. We still get sacks of presents as well as those under the tree (which are mostly those from the three kids to the family, plus those from the relatives), and I told my mother about a week ago that I want sack and stocking until I have a husband/serious bf/family. She helpfully pointed out that I can’t get any of those staying in the house 24/7 (thanks, mom!).

In any case, I got the third season of Dexter (yes, I know the fourth season just ended, but I don’t have the happy joy of having a subscription to HBO and am too paranoid about my computer and viruses – see a couple posts down – to get it illegally online) and the second season of The Tudors. I got a couple of board games (another tradition. When my mom was a kid, her uncle used to give her and her brother a game every Christmas) and my mom always buys really interesting games that you probably couldn’t buy at your average game store – I got a game about exploring the world (Endeavor) and one about ancient Egypt (RA), but we played yesterday one my sister got (Stone Age).  We’ve another tradition: we’ve got to play all the games we got for Christmas – this usually ranges from about 4-10 – before New Years Eve, because we’ve got another tradition for that day, which I’ll talk about in my next post (to keep you reading and coming back!!! – speaking of, I’ve been getting about 50-70 hits a day since November ended, which is awesome). We’ve still got 6 games to play before Thursday, and my sister is going with my dad to the Eagles (go Eagles!) game this afternoon. It’s probably going to be tight, getting them all in before New Years.

Also, it rained late Christmas and washed away all that beautiful snow. But we had wonderful beef for Christmas lunch and these incredible salmon appetizers (homemade!), so it was all good.

Here’s to all of you, my lurky readers, having had a wonderful holiday!

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The View from my Bedroom Window

So, I guess I will be getting a white Christmas this year, after all. Okay, yeah, the snow out there all fell last weekend, but is that important? No! What’s important is that while out shoveling last weekend (take a look at the length of that drive off to the left) is that I seemed to do more damage to my arms and back and hand than I did writing a million words in a month. For about two days afterward, my left arm was practically crippled from muscle over-work. Fortunately, I am still young, and I’ve recovered and I can now pick things as heavy as a pencil up in my left hand and not feel like I’m going to drop them!

I’m heading off to see 2012 this afternoon. I’ve heard all sorts of panning about it, but I don’t care. Ever since I first saw the previews for it, I wanted to see it. I’m a bit of a sucker for end of the world flicks, no matter how bad the acting or the science. I’ll close my brain for a couple of hours and just enjoy myself. Going to see movies on Christmas Eve is a family tradition – back when LOTR was still coming out, me and my dad would go and see it every year. With my sister able to drive (yes, she’s younger, yes I have no driver’s license, no I have no good reason for not having one), we can even go without the parental units, which we might end up doing this year.

In positive news, I think I might have struck on a new beginning for the Novel from Hell. I’m a bit cautious about it, because I know how many times beginnings have flamed out five thousand words in, but I’m going back to my roots with this one: I’m handwriting it. I’m sure it’s a decision I’ll regret when I’m typing it up, but I remember how much simpler it is to write by hand, even if it is slower.  Fast isn’t everything, and November isn’t for another 10 months.

Anyway, happy holidays to all, and I hope that this year brought you all that you could want from life, and next year will bring you even more!

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General Update

Well, my laptop is officially ten months old and the only things fked up with it are software. No soda-spilling, no hinge-breaking. That can only be considered a good thing, I think. I love you, baby Dell. Please don’t quit on me yet!

Second, I’ve done all my holiday shopping. Took me a miserable day in Philly, but everyone has ended up with something that they more or less might like.

Third, my sister has come home, with all the drama that that entails. (*sigh*)

And finally, I might almost sort of have a chance at almost having a job! My dad talked to someone in his office who has a daughter who’s employed who could pass around my resume and it looks like it might be having positive results. I can’t imagine being employed after so long bumming around the house, but it could really sort of almost happen! (I refuse to get my hopes up too high though)

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Post-NaNo writing

I’m sitting here with my story open. It should be the easiest thing in the world to write.

You see, I’ve talked about the novel from hell before on this blog. It’s an idea, characters, plot that I’ve had since I was 12. It’s even a fairly decent one, ten years later. The original, when typed out (it’s actually the second draft; the first is still all in notebooks down in the basement) clocks in at 301,904 words. I’ve reread it only a couple of times since it was typed up. There are moments where it is cringe-worthy awful, where it’s clear that I had no idea what I was doing and everything is stilted and sounds like a monkey could have done better. And there are still scenes in it that I can read over and think “wow. I got *everything* right for those two pages.” It is a massive opus of a novel; there are at least three dozen important characters and the scene changes often and unpredictably. But by the end of typing it up, by the end of those first two handwritten drafts, I know these characters better than I know some people in real life. At it’s core, it’s a story of fear and war and treachery and despair that turns into redemption and courage and heroism and sacrifice. But that original novel, which is now on its fifth computer, isn’t anything even remotely like publish-worthy and the problem is that no amount of editing can make it so. Massive chunks of it need to be rewritten. Entire subplots need to be overhauled. The knowledge of a 22 year old who actually knows something about world politics now needs to replace the hopeless imaginings of a 12 year old who figured she could make it up as she went along. A handful of the characters who are adults need to be rewritten so that they don’t sound like mopey teenagers.

I’ve been trying to do it for the past decade. I’ve got a whole subfolder in my writing folder that’s called “novel from hell”.  It’s incredibly badly organized and things are as uselessly titled as v2.5.2 or such things. Or else “idea” or “something” or “scene”. When I get up the courage to work seriously on it, it usually takes me at least forty minutes to find the relevant file. I have rewritten it so many times. I have jumped back in time and tried to write the story that comes first, which is just as interesting. It has jumped from Russia to Canada and back again. Nearly all of the main characters have switched names once or twice, and some of them have then gone back to their old names. (I mean, come on. A character named Nicolaas and the same one then named Gregor sound like two totally different men to me.) I still haven’t decided if I’m even capable of writing it yet; I suspect I’m not. I won’t ever stop trying and I’m sure that one day, I’ll wake up and some of the more fundamental problems will have answered themselves. I’ll know which bit of the story actually has to be written.

For example, do you start back when one of the  protagonists is in university and first decides that he can/has to fix the world? Do you start after he’s figured out how to do it? Do you start it when he starts the war? Midway through the war? At the end of the war when he dies and his son betrays him (which is where the original story starts)? Because the story *used* to be about his son, Ivan, betraying everything after he decides that he doesn’t want his father’s world any more and turns against his father’s organization, and ultimately leads humanity to victory over it.  But there’s a just as compelling story to be told about Vasily/Nikolai/Nicholas, his father, and the rise to power and ultimate doom. Oh, yeah, and the difference between the two is that the Ivan story portrays his father’s organization, Svoboda (Russian for freedom), as the terrorists that they really are and the Vasily story portrays them as idealists with a cause and the means to get to a better future.

Anyway, one day I’ll figure it out. Until then, I keep the characters alive in a number of ways. Mostly through silly stories that would count as fanfic for the damn thing. One of those is the one that’s open right now. It’s supposed to be emotional and powerful, and I’m sitting in the middle of a pretty important scene. It’s even one of the rare ones that gets a name (as opposed to the dozen documents I’ve got which are all snip[number]). I know what’s going to happen, I know how it’s going to happen. Yet I’m just kind of staring at it; since Wednesday, I’ve written not quite 250 words on it.

I’ve told myself that I’m not allowed to look at any of the drafts from NaNo until January. It’ll take me a while to get through them, even if on the first read I’m just trying to get broad sweeps of what does and doesn’t work.  I don’t want to work on something brand new right now; I’ve not even got any particularly good ideas lately. I could troll through my possibles folder and see if any of the ideas grab me, but I don’t really want to. And I definitely don’t want to sit through the agony of trying to come up with a clever way to rewrite the novel from hell so close to Christmas. Leaving me with “The Last Day that Mattered”. Which obviously just doesn’t want to be written. In that, it gets something from it’s parent/predecessor/family.

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Love/Hate

Sometimes I love my laptop. Really. It’s little and pretty and I haven’t managed to spill anything on it in the nearly 10 months that I’ve owned it. When we got it, (it’s a Dell XPS), my mom was concerned about some issues regarding bad graphic cards on these models. This laptop was an emergency replacement when the evil IBM died, so the decision to purchase was made over less than a weekend. I said I’d keep it, we had a good warranty that would require the people I bought it from to keep replacing the graphic card for a couple of years gratis, or until they got sick of the expense and gave me something new. So, naturally, that was what I worried about. But I don’t do a lot of graphics-intensive things on here and 10 months in, we’re still good. No, hardware-ly speaking, this laptop has been great thus far. No keys flying off, no hinges failing, etc.

In June-ish, MSOffice decided to uninstall itself. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. Eventually, we convinced it to come back, and it’s not gone on vacation since. But I have all kinds of screwy things going on with my windows updater and I was never able to install service pack somethingoranother for Vista this past summer. Honestly, it doesn’t bug me *that* much. Do you know the 4 applications that I use on my laptop? Word, Firefox, iTunes, Y!Messenger. I don’t think I have a single game loaded onto this sucker. So if it comes to the point where we have to just take this thing and set it back to factory default it would probably solve a whole lot of stressy problems. Because I know fk-all about computers, I’m terrified of viruses. Fortunately, I do have a firewall, a secure network, an anti-virus program and windows defender -which I found a way to download updated definitions for directly since updater doesn’t like looking for updates anymore. My biggest fear is that I’ll lose my writing. But I’ve got it on a flash drive and I made a backup on CD last night, so I know that it’s mostly me looking for something to worry about and my computer illiteracy is a great focus for it. And now that November is over, even if my laptop was out of commission for any period of time, there are 2 other computers in the house.

What brought me to write this blog was that my laptop decided to BSOD on me about half an hour ago. Now, with the evil IBM, that sucker would BSOD if you looked at it funny, but this is the first time it’s happened on this one. Naturally, because I know nothing about laptops, it just makes me scowl and squint funny at it.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. I was planning on doing some writing tonight, but now I’m sure I can stress about things I have no realistic way to fix, given I’ve no actual knowledge of anything. Hah! I am such a great procrastinator.

Also, I’m not really looking for advice if you want to comment. Telling me things I can do is actually more likely to set my worry-meter off than anything else. Commiserate. Tell me how much computers suck.

The only thing I console myself with? Unlike the old Dell, unlike the evil IBM, the *hardware* is still good. If I have to wipe it, I’ve still got a machine that turns on and does shit for me. As it’s been made perfectly clear to me that this was the very last one my parents will buy for me, that’s sort of an important reassurance until I’m employed.

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