For those of you who (a) aren’t following and (b) care, I’m using my FA account more, and have added a couple new stories—including a heretofore unseen rewrite of a much older story. Now available are:
- “Why Coyotes Howl”
- “Travelling Music”
- “The Narrow Road in Morning Light”
- “Shattered Stone,” Part 1 and Part 2
I’m likely to update with more stories soon, although I don’t have an explicit schedule. I also plan to update here with info about Claw & Quill’s development soon, too, which is slow but not stalled. (Other web development contract work is taking priority at the moment, due to the whole “needing to get money” thing.)
While haikujaguar is far more commonly having dialogues with her characters than I am, it does happen to me every so often. (I remember many, many years ago, when I was writing the novella The Lighthouse, visiting nerfcoyote in Gainesville and having a distinct dream impression of Revar, the story’s protagonist, sitting on the couch I was sleeping on reading the manuscript.)
About two years ago I had an idea for a story/novel, loosely connect with a story idea I had two years before that, that I never quite got anywhere with. I had a main character—and wrote a vignette about her—and world notes. And world notes. And world notes. The story never really got anywhere, and I decided it was because I’d come up with too much background. That may sound odd, but I’ve always been the kind of storyteller who focuses much more on characters, and I tend to build worlds the way movie companies build sets: there’s enough there to tell the story convincingly, but there’s not much beyond that. This time, I’d ended up with three societies with competing political interests and a sweeping story arc that would have to turn their philosophical differences into physical fights. And this is all well and good for a roleplaying setting, but I didn’t have any other characters. I didn’t even have much about the woman in the vignette (she’s named “Dark Sky” in my notes) other than knowing her personality.
Well. The last week or two I’ve been sleeping better and dreaming substantially more, even though they’re dreams that tend to fade immediately upon waking. Falling asleep a couple nights ago I thought about this shelved novel idea, and Dark Sky showed up to listen as I ran through about what I said in the last paragraph.
“But that wasn’t the problem,” she says.
“No. Your problem is that I’m part of the story, but I’m not the person you’re telling the story about.”
Then who’s the main character?
“That rat girl is,” she says, gesturing to the rat girl.
“Hey,” says the rat girl, giving a wave.
Technically, I know the rat girl, but from another context—she’s never had anything to do with Dark Sky at all. I point this out.
“It’s not my fault you didn’t make the connection. Hey, you’re not attached to all those notes from two years ago, right?”
Um… no, not really.
“Great. We’ll talk later.”
I haven’t done an update for Claw & Quill in a bit, but I did promise I’d make occasional ones. This will be the last “open” one, though—if you’re interested in seeing future highly-occasional progress reports, you’ll have to ask to be put on the filter. (Those of you who asked last time should already be on it.)
So the last 24 hours, I’ve been tweaking an old story I rewrote a couple months ago. This is after taking a couple days post-holiday to play some interactive fiction games; since I’ve been thinking about writing IF, learning to suck less at it seems like a generally good idea.
Of course, this is all while flailing around at Claw & Quill’s database design. I’m not sure whether having more than one big project at a time is a good idea. If C&Q is my “job” while I’m unemployed, is IF my after-hours hobby project?
However! What I should mention that’s only marginally related to any of this is Will Sanborn’s horror anthology Alone in the Dark, available from Lulu. One of my stories appears in it, a short piece called “Carrier.” I’ve only read a few stories in it so far, but they’ve been generally good—and despite the “horror anthology” description, many of the stories I’ve read so haven’t been all that horrific. (Not a complaint, mind you, just an observation.)
What I didn’t realize until I got the book is that I got an illustration by Heather Bruton out of the deal:
So how cool is that?
As the illustration may imply, while some of the stories in Alone in the Dark are actually kind of sweet and light, that one? Not so much.
It occurs to me abstractly that after many years of not having any story published, I have two stories that came out this year that I’m proud of (the other one being “The Narrow Road in Morning Light” in Sofawolf’s New Fables #2). When Ursa Major voting begins next year, you are all requested to
stuff the ballot box keep these in mind.
Every day, explain it to one person you respect.
Edit everything, skip shortcuts,
and try not to be a dick.
— Merlin Mann
In context, this is a slide from a "how to blog" presentation, but it seems to me to have a lot of general applicability for writing. Being poetic and a little crude is, well, very Merlin.
Blogs (other than this journal) that I've tried have failed, I think, because I don't follow anything like this advice, other than the trying not to be a dick part. I've tried for subjects that I'm interested in, but not ones I'm sufficiently obsessed with to say anything very compelling on. I'm a political junkie but generally don't have sustained enthusiasm for writing about it; the same is by and large true for tech. The latter subject I write about here occasionally, of course, and I may yet work my nerve up on the former. But these aren't things I want to make myself known for.
But then, what do I want to be known for?
Storytelling? (You clearly need to write more for that.)
Publishing? (Not so much, probably.)
Community-building? (You've got notes up the wazoo, but no code yet.)
As I've written before—too often, I'm sure—this has been my midlife crisis year, right on schedule despite my "midlife" feeling perversely like, at 40, I've reached about the point I'd wanted to be at when I was 25. Over the last couple of weeks I've found myself taking a few more (expensive) steps in filling up the living room, for instance: still only a single couch to sit on, but there's a TV now and many things to feed into it; this puts me back at about where I was in 1997, living in Brandon, except that there's still a lot more work to do to actually making the living room feel like it's really moved into. Yes, even after being in the place for nearly a full year.
But moping about that ain't gonna get me anywhere, of course. I'm spending a lot of time being, and I need to get back to spending more time doing.
This year hasn't been bad for that; I've written two new stories, and oddly enough, both were written for con books and then sold later. In addition to that I've rewritten an older story ("Shattered Stone") and have started a pretty serious rewrite of A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood, even though I've let it stall in Chapter 2. I'm trying to shut down or back-burner other distractions. I may yet try again with the idea of just spending an hour or so every day, maybe in the morning (grr), writing or otherwise working on personal projects. There's still a lot more I'd like to do, but I have to get serious about prioritizing. Again. (Another recurring theme.)
In the interim, I've worked Merlin's little free verse slide into my desktop background. I know, I know, it's kind of like hanging a "Successories" poster in your cubicle. But I need to focus on, well, focus. On doing. And I think I could do a lot worse than to focus on that advice every so often.
Work has calmed down, to the degree that the SaaS project I’ve been working on passed its demo milestone and indeed its first demo. This doesn’t mean things stop, not by any stretch, but it does mean that I have a chance to catch my breath.
The first three days of this week were a highwater mark of suck for me, at least for the last 12 months or so. I wouldn’t think I’d miss the lonely melancholia of my last journal entry, but the combination of hair-pulling bugs the first two days with a traffic ticket on Wednesday (for an “unsafe lane change,” a subjective charge I don’t agree with, but never mind) had me nearly in tears by Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday evening was one of the few times I can remember drinking with the hopes of getting sufficiently tipsy to destress, a success achieved with a mai tai, a rye and soda and a Kahlua-spiked coffee. Are two strong drinks and a nightcap all that’s necessary to get me tipsy? That night, apparently, even though I’ve had more alcohol at other points to less effect. I’ll chalk that up to stress as well.
Yesterday, Thursday, was better; work was essentially stone quiet for me, the product demo went off apparently with no significant glitches elsewhere, a restaurant I’d been waiting for months to open (the Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto) was yesterday, and I bought two expensive things: a Canon PowerShot G9 and a bottle of Laphroaig 10 Year “Cask Strength” single malt whisky. I’m somewhat worried that both of these purchases were a response to stress, but I’ve actually been thinking about the G9 for months specifically for the upcoming trip, and “learn about single malt” has been a low-level to do item for years. (Although honestly, the choice to learn about single malt this week? Yeah, stress response.)
Today also promises to be quiet. I’ve decided to try and update my personal website, making it something more of a project showcase than it is, and likely putting more stories online there. This raises some interesting issues to chew on with respect to making “in print” stories available for free online; while my first instinct has always been that you don’t put stuff you still want to be able to sell up on web sites, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary, from the Baen Free Library to everything Cory Doctorow does to haikujaguar’s writing experiments right here on LiveJournal. My growing suspicion is that putting a good chunk of Why Coyotes Howl online, for instance, is going to either have no effect on book sales or slightly increase it, and that having a three-month “exclusive window” for stories that get publication in periodicals is, barring contractual obligations, sufficient. Of course, I still want the print work to sell and my gut feeling is that “but it’s print! dude!” isn’t in and of itself sufficient for most buyers, so I’ll be chewing on that, too.
I’d like to have that website updated before the Eurofurence trip, but I don’t know how likely that is, because it’s occurring to me that said trip is in just over two weeks and it will behoove me to have some idea what the hell I’m going to do for an author reading. If anybody has any “you should read that story” suggestions, I’m open.
As I’ve written before, it’s a busy time at work. I feel sheepish complaining, given how many friends I have who’ve had much tougher periods at their tech jobs. But my crunch time has been just enough to keep me off-balance. As inadvertent demonstration, I started writing this on Thursday at lunch and didn’t get back to it until Sunday afternoon. The product I’m working on had its internal demo on Friday, which was an important milestone, but there’s still a small flotilla of bugs and feature requests, and at the moment my best bug tracker is my personal copy of OmniOutliner.
On Thursday I wrote that I think I’m missing “chill time,” time to just sit around without any expectations. When I used to go out driving long distances for trivial reasons, engage in what I called (without as much facetiousness as you might think) driving Zen, that was a way to get chill time; I didn’t see any reason why I’d give that up, but I didn’t see $4.50/gallon gas getting here quite as soon as it did, either. Yesterday I set out on BART to Richmond, with the expectation of catching the Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento, but that didn’t happen; instead I ended up in Berkeley, meeting a friend who lives and works in the East Bay who I should probably see at least marginally more often.
I’ve written recently that I need to see friends more often in general; in a way this is unusual for me. I’ve never considered myself antisocial but I’ve never had a real desire to go out and connect. But over the last couple of months, that desire’s been strong. One might even say desperate. I hate the thought that I’m having a weirdly inverted midlife crisis, but it’s hard to escape: if my path had gone more conventionally, then about now—give or take a year—my child would be preparing to go off to college. Instead of getting a divorce and a red BMW, I’m suddenly pining for a marriage and a minivan.
Of course, as I’m writing this, I’m acutely aware that I’m also behind on personal projects, and that calls for staying at home and, well, being antisocial. That’s an interesting Catch-22, isn’t it? Recently I learned of another Quasi-Secret Project™ to make a writing archive site that sounds… well, not too far off from what I was thinking of with Claw & Quill. While part of me has a predictable competition! I must drop everything and get going on mine! reaction, the truth is that I want to do C&Q because I want a site like it myself and I just don’t think anyone else has done it right. I know other work these folks have done, though, and give them a very high Getting It Right chance. Does it make more sense for me to
give them a list of demands see if I can work with them in some fashion, even if only to say, “Well, here’s what I was thinking, see if you think it makes any sense?” My gut feeling is yes; I’ll see if anything develops.
This doesn’t mean I’m out of personal projects to work on, of course, not by any stretch. I have reading to do for my writing group, writing to do for my writing group, and a couple other ideas I’m kicking around which I could actually bump up in the stack if I’m able to push C&Q off.
One minor downside if I start resuming personal projects: I’m realizing that the chair that I’m sitting in now sort of hurts. I’m going to fiddle around with the adjustments yet again, but I may end up breaking down and finally getting a Herman Miller chair. For now, though, I think my ambition’s a little more modest: an afternoon drink and a push to actually move forward on some stories again, or plot out a little more of one of those programming projects, or… something.
For whatever reason, today I’m finding my head filled with abandoned novels. My abandoned novels, that is.
There’s three I can think of off-hand. One is (in)famous in small circles, a science fiction novel called In Our Image. Another is an untitled fantasy story in a world of dragons and humans, started during National Novel Writing Month a few years ago. The third is yet another science fiction novel, set more in the far future, whose only public face so far has been a short piece for “Rabbit Hole Day” (also a few years back).
Actually, I could count other even more dimly remembered ones from my far past. The short story “Only With Thine Eyes” was originally intended to lead into a novel. (At times I suspect it, Image and the far future one referenced above are all failed attempts at grappling with the same theme, but I’m not positive of that.) All the way back in high school I was working on a dreadful fantasy novel which I think might be my longest incomplete work to date: I think it hit around 40,000 words. And I suspect I’m missing a couple other ones in there that never got past scribbled notes. If so, the chances are good they’re no longer with me at all—I don’t think I have any word processing files that go back earlier than the mid-’90s, when I was using Nota Bene (whose file format is thankfully just marked-up ASCII, not too dissimilar from HTML).
I’ve long wondered at my inability to actually pull off novel-length pieces. I’m comfortable enough with the novella length; my recent stories of 3-5,000 words are unusually short for me. Yet actually developing a full novel has never worked out for me.
Today I had a possible insight, as I was going back over Image and yet again lamenting my problems with telling Tara’s story. The problem may be that I’m not following the advice I give others about storytelling: stop world-building.
This is difficult to follow for people who’ve grown up with science fiction and fantasy, especially if you played a lot of role-playing games, which are often all about the world-building. If you played D&D in the ’80s, the chances are you knew at least knew one Dungeon Master who had hundreds of pages of maps and histories and ethnographic studies and political analyses of his own fantasy world. (Maybe you were that Dungeon Master.) You wanted to have a rich and “complete” world for the players to explore, and that meant knowing lots and lots and lots of crap that probably they’d only scratch the surface of unless the adventuring in that world went on for decades.
RPGs condition us to think of authors as Game Masters—there are even RPGs that refer to GMs as “Storytellers,” right? But the thing is, storytelling doesn’t actually work that way, because you know where the characters are going. You actually only need the part of the world built that they’re in. If the characters are never going to that fantastic trade city on the other side of the continent, you only need to know as much about it as affects the story. That might be as little as the city’s name. It might be as little as, well, nothing at all.
I understand that writing about the histories of these lands may be a whole lot of fun. They can be really cool! But if they don’t even ephemerally influence the story about your characters, they’re not relevant. This is, like it or not, an inescapable truth. I have met more than a few writers in various fandoms over the years who never actually write the novel they’re creating their great universe for. They know everything about that universe, let me tell you.
Except a good story to tell in it.
So. I think the problem I’ve had with more than one of these is that I don’t really know the story that I want to tell. In Our Image is Tara’s story, at least at first, but does it stay Tara’s story? The implications are clearly that her story will have a profound influence on the whole society around her, but how wide-angle a lens do I want on that, and where does the story actually end? (I’ve been accused of “not writing endings” on occasion, usually by people who, I suspect, are upset that there’s clearly more that could be told past where I stopped. Yet there’s always more that could be told past where one stops.) The dragon novel set up a few interesting characters—both dragon and human—but ultimately I really didn’t have much idea why the characters were in conflict, what the stakes were. And the far future novel with the bioengineered wolf girl? Holy crap. I got thousands of words of notes about the setting and about sweeping political conflicts, but I’m not sure I even know the main character’s name, much less what her motivations are or just what she’s embroiled in besides, uh, something involving those sweeping political conflicts.
Does knowing this problem—assuming my analysis is correct—help me solve it? I’m not sure about it. Frankly, I shouldn’t try to solve it quite yet anyway; I have to resume work on A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood version 2 before seeing if any of these are resurrectable. But I think if I do go back to any of them—or, God help me, get another idea for a novel-length work—I’m going to try to keep the scope pretty tightly focused on the main characters, and try to avoid learning things about their world that ultimately aren’t going to help me tell their stories.
In no particular order…
Work is kicking my ass recently. It’s been an interesting experience, in the oh, yes, I am at a startup, aren’t I? sort of sense. It’s made writing difficult and driven out enthusiasm for personal coding, though, and also rather cut down on my time online.
On a not entirely unrelated note, I’m about ready to throw in the towel with the Excursion Society MUCK. I’ve had little time for it over the last year and honestly not all that much enthusiasm, even though I appreciate the diehards who’ve stuck with it; it’s mostly still around just because of them. I may think more on other systems to do in the future, like an MU* set in Ranea. (After I get my other programming projects back on track. After I’m willing to do programming on my own time again.)
I keep starting and stopping other blogs around the web, because I’m just like that. It occurred to me that if there’s any topic I really should be writing about somewhere, it’s not politics or programming or even fiction writing, it’s cocktails. If this thought goes anywhere, I’ll let you know.
I contemplated the “blog like it’s the end of the world” zombie thing that’s going on today, but ya know, it seemed like it would be too much effort for today. (And besides, I already wrote an apocalyptic plague story recently.)
Speaking of cocktails, I’m really tempted to go to Elixir tonight or the weekend, but probably won’t. Probably.
I realize it’s become something of a cycle for me to go several weeks without posting here and then make a post which mostly consists of an apology about how little I’m posting. I’m going to try to stop doing that. Which is not to say I’m going to make an immediately-to-be-broken vow to post more; I’m just going to try to stop apologizing for it.
It feels to me like I’m posting a lot, but that’s one of the combined virtues and vices of Twitter. While I’m tempted to engage in a defense of Twitter, those who want to read a much better one than I could muster can read Rands’ “We Travel in Tribes”:
Via the LazyWeb convention, I expect reasonable, informed, and quick answers to most any question. Where I used to use Google, I now use Twitter for questions, because not only do I get the answer, I also get the opinion. And sometimes I get my world rocked with random, psychic, off-the-cuff, tangential information that Google will never give me because Google doesn’t know who I am.
My own use of Twitter is more prosaic, granted. I’ve had conversations on it, I’ve asked questions (and gotten responses), and I’ve learned a few interesting things. Mostly, though, it’s where the minutiae of my life ends up going these days: stuff that I’d like to share but not enough to write a journal post about.
This does leave me wondering what to actually write about here. I’ve done essays on occasion and I suspect I still will. I’ve sometimes tried to start other blogs elsewhere—a link blog, a tech blog, a political blog (twice)—and all of them have been false starts. I may try to resurrect the link blog, but, y’know, I may not. Tech stuff might as well go here. Political stuff I tend to be reticent to get into. I’m interested in discussing politics but not so much arguing politics; attempts to merely talk about current events a few years back left me feeling rather singed. Besides, looking for things to be outraged about has decidedly limited appeal.
At any rate, I’d like to commit to writing something weekly, but I’m not going to—not yet, at least.
What’s been going on? Work, mostly, and mostly office work. I haven’t gotten appreciably farther on Gift of Fire, nor on the new Claw & Quill software. At the beginning of the month I visited shaterri, quarrel and ladyperegrine in Seattle, which was a wonderful if slightly whirlwind visit. (I have a photo album of that you can visit if you’re so inclined: “Seattle” is the main one, with a food porn type one of the visit to The Herbfarm taken on the iPhone.) Starting tomorrow evening, my mother will be in town to visit for the long weekend; we’ll be staying in Emeryville for no specific reason other than availability and the likelihood of exploring some of the Oakland area, which actually has a lot of interesting there there.
...Of course, I mean "make this suck more for the characters," but it's still sort of perversely amusing to be looking critically at the text and thinking how do I maximize the gut punch effect without increasing the word count?
(N.B.: thanks to shaterri the story's tentative title is "Carrier.")
The observant will, of course, have noted that despite the message bankruptcy I am indeed still using AIM and logging onto MUCKs. I’m trying to do less of each, though, particularly when trying to do something else simultaneously: office work, writing, what have you. Is this “working,” whatever that may mean? Yes, even if I have some distance to go. The next step is getting more serious about workspace organization (i.e., my room) and time management. The latter’s always been a killer for me, but I think if I can take the approach of today I would like to get X done for small but concrete values of X I’ll manage. To pick a real-life example, “write something I can show for Claw & Quill” is so large it’s paralysis-inducing, but “Get something started for Claw & Quill” isn’t concrete enough to attack.
What I have accomplished is writing a short horror story, with the intent of sending it off for submission to the Eurofurence program book. (EF’s theme this year is horror.) I’m going to get a bit of feedback from the writing group before shoving it out the door, and, oh yes, come up with a title for the damn thing. I’m fairly happy with it in its current state, though. It may eventually show up elsewhere, but—assuming it makes it into the program book—you’ll just have to go to the con to read it.
As for why I am sending that off to EF, my answer for now is: because they’re just swell people. (Which is, from what I’ve seen, absolutely true.) Any other answers are waiting on other people to say something. (“You go first.” “No, after you.”)
To reiterate past mentions, I do still use Twitter, as chipotlecoyote, and update it both more frequently and more inanely than I do this journal. If you’re desperate to get in touch but e-mail is too slow and old fashioned for you, a Twitter reply or direct message will reach me faster. Theoretically.
I read an interesting column on TidBITS; while this is a Mac news site, “Instant Messaging for Introverts” isn’t platform-specific. Instead, it’s about the author’s problem using IM and similar apps, and trying to explain first what an introvert is (i.e., not “shy, withdrawn, afraid of crowds, or lacking in social skills”) and why this can lead to the problems he’s describing:
Introverts typically need to concentrate on just one thing at a time, and are often particularly sensitive to interruptions and distractions. Now, I happen to think “multi-tasking” is a concept that should never, ever be applied to human beings (regardless of personality type), but be that as it may, I can certainly say that I’m easily distracted, and having more than one thing to think about actively at any given time is sure to make me both ineffective and grumpy. Chatting online while also working on another task, therefore, is unthinkable.
As Rands observed in his article about “Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder,” or N.A.D.D., the state of having a half-dozen different activity windows scattered about your computer screen isn’t multi-tasking. It’s context switching, or less generously, an inability to focus. I am less sanguine about the upsides than Rands is. People with N.A.D.D. have problems in 2008 that they didn’t in 1998 and really didn’t in 1988. The internet, and particular its flirtations with ubiquitous presence, offer opportunity for immediate distraction that has never existed before in all of history. No, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
In 2006, Internet law guru Lawrence Lessig wrote to his e-mail correspondents, “Bankruptcy is now my only option” and deleted all their messages, asking them to resend anything particularly pressing. I’ve gotten reasonably good at managing e-mail without just deleting it all, but I’m considering declaring IM bankruptcy.
Sound nuts? Here’s the thing. Suppose I have an IM window open and a MUCK window open, as I’m wont to do, and a couple of hours elapse. Now three or four (or five or six) tabs are open in Adium, each a different conversation; two or three MUCK characters are online, at least one of whom is sitting in a room with a handful of other characters, some trying to interact with him or her. In addition, several people will almost certainly be “paging” to one or more of those characters intermittently, in effect creating separate private communication channels.
That’s a half dozen or more one-on-one conversations and one or more group conversations at the same time. You wouldn’t attempt something that absurd in “real life,” but the mental context switching that you have to do online is the same. And if I’m sitting in front of the computer, the chances are there are other windows I’m trying to pay attention to, like a web browser or a text editor.
This is, pardon the language, objectively batshit.
Since many—not all, but many—of my correspondents across the internets read this, I’m going to put this here as a general beg for understanding. My “real job” work often requires real job attention, and I’ve learned from experience that I cannot write fiction and have any other communication window open. Given that at the moment I’m trying to write a novel as well as, at the immediate moment, an unrelated short story I need to get done ASAP… well, here’s my thoughts.
When I am on MUCKs, I may turn off pages more than I historically have. It’s difficult enough to keep up when I have a character in a busy room having “cocktail party” conversations — throw in a couple page conversations and it gets psychotic. (VR social dynamics apparently dictate the only cause for missing someone’s cues is because you hate them.)
I’m going to try to be more aggressive about setting my IM “away” when I don’t want to be disturbed. I’m going to try to do this instead of just not being on IM at all, but respect the away-ness.
When I really can’t be disturbed I’m just going to shut the IM client off, and log off the MUCKs. Sorry. Email, Twitter and even SMS will all get in touch with me in ways that don’t break my concentration (but won’t get an immediate reply).
Oh. And sometimes, when I am online, it may be appropriate to ask me if I’ve actually gotten the shit done today that I need to get done. I have about a decade of NADD to try and dig my way out of.
Yes, I’m still here!
Work is going reasonably well; not much to write about it. Things are likely to get busier as the project I’ve been working on starts getting actively beat on by other people. I’ve decided that the web framework I’m using really isn’t particularly testable in its stable version, and when I try to transfer it to its beta version, it segfaults Apache. Yes. But only when—wait for it—the debug mode is turned on. While I presume this is something peculiar about my code, I can’t imagine just what it is in my code that does this, and it happens on two different installations. Part of me wants to lock myself in a closet for a week, with nothing but the computer and an unlimited supply of nachos and margaritas, and rewrite the entire thing in Django or Rails. But I shall not.
Writing is also going reasonably well; I have about 9700 words written on the new “Gift of Fire.” This is remarkable, given that the old one was about 24,000 words, and I am not 40% through it, but more like 30%. (I think.) I’m writing in fits and starts rather than consistently; I tell myself I should write in the mornings, but my oft-griped-about problem with getting up early has been particularly bad the last month and the time change surely isn’t going to help. I should note that I usually wake up of my own volition by 9 a.m. so we’re not actually talking late, but since I should be leaving for work around 8:30 a.m. or so, to actually get a reasonable amount of work done I’d need to be sitting at the computer, coffee in hand and brain in gear, by 7 a.m. and this should not be as hard as it keeps being.
I have been feeling a little bit of pain in the wrists occasionally again recently, and so I have looked around for a truly ergonomic keyboard. No, no, not one of those dopey curved things. I mean one of these:
Yes, that’s the modern descendant of the old “Model M” IBM keyboards, the ones with the buckling spring switches and are really remarkably loud. This one is made by Unicomp, and it looks, well, pretty much like it always did—except that now it has the Windows keys and is USB. I also discovered, as a minor but pleasant surprise, that OS X Leopard has improved slightly on the modifier key remapping introduced in the previous version: now not only can I flip the Windows and Alt key mapping (Alt sends the keycode for Option and Windows for Command, but they’re in the reverse positions that they would be on a Mac), but I can do that on a per-device basis, so when I’m using the laptop’s internal keyboard or a Mac external keyboard, the remapping doesn’t happen.
Anyway, at the moment I’m just back from a trip to Forbidden Island and then Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub with dracosphynx to meet gatcat and a bunch of other people with him whose names I’ve already mostly forgotten because I suck. While I don’t feel tipsy, I feel tired, so maybe going to bed at a
rational early time is in order.
It’s about ten before nine as I start writing this, and I’m not in traffic this morning; instead I’m sitting in the Millbrae Panera, about 10 miles from the house, with a bagel and cream cheese and a cup of coffee. Yes, it’s a holiday, and one that I’d almost forgotten about having off—it was only as I was leaving the office and called “see you Monday” to a coworker that I got back, “Oh, Monday’s a day off. See you Tuesday.”
The power at the apartment went out this morning, just after seven, and as far as I can tell it’s still out. This means that my web sites and the Excursion Society MUCK are down, as well as haikujaguar’s Stardancer. I did learn, at least, that the UPS monitoring daemon in OS X actually works now, as after about five minutes Parmesan (my PowerMac G5) shut down gracefully. Unfortunately, Agii (the web server) didn’t have that enabled, so hopefully it’ll all come back up without undue stress. (In theory, I back up my home directory to Parmesan via rsync every night, and I back up Parmesan to an external drive… somewhat less frequently than I honestly should. Parmesan is actually due for an internal hard drive replacement given its age, but I’m still debating replacing Parmesan itself. That’s another post, though.)
(Note: around 9:20 or so, Agii came back online. I haven’t reconnected to it to check on my own various web services, but I shall before I leave Panera.)
So what do I plan to do with my day off, you ask? In theory, write. I haven’t done anything on “Gift of Fire” since last weekend. I’ve been having trouble dragging myself out of bed early enough to get in writing in the morning, and both of the weekend days were largely committed—Saturday to a somewhat roundabout trip to Santa Cruz, and Sunday to a large block of role-playing on the Excursion Society, kicking off a long-delayed trip and some of the first interaction that hasn’t been characters sitting around hoping something would happen in months.
In practice, I don’t think I want to sit here at Panera the whole day trying to write, though. The atmosphere’s still pleasant enough in its own way but perhaps it’s become a little too sterile, or perhaps I’m anticipating the inevitable lunch rush with dread. (They’ve also taken to shutting off your wifi if you’re on it for more than 30 minutes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., precisely because of said lunch rush—an understandable business decision but not one that fills me with joy, even though if I’m writing I shouldn’t be on the damn network anyway.) I’m contemplating heading up into San Francisco to check out Ritual Coffee Roasters, which I’ve been to once before, many months ago, and see if I can write there. Will it be magically more inspiring? Maybe. Maybe it’ll just be a waste of time, of course.
I’ve also brought my camera with me. I have a Nikon D70; last week I became a bit technolusty after one of the newer Nikons, the D300. (For those not up on the model line, the D70 was replaced by the D70s and then the D80; Nikon’s newest cameras are the Serious Pro Level D3 and its less buff cousin, the D300, which is nonetheless a serious leap up from the D80.) But, I didn’t use it very much at all last year; if I want to re-engage my shutterbug a little, I need to get re-engaged with the tools I have before buying new ones. And, of course, if I bought a new gadget sometime for the D70—a new lens, a tripod, an external flash—it would transfer to any newer camera body. But the point is to retrain myself to get out there and start taking photos again.
Thinking about computers and camera gear also, not unsurprisingly, makes me think about finances. That too could be another post, but the short form is that on Friday, I got my first direct deposit paycheck. Regular pay means I can put into effect a regular transfer into savings, something I haven’t done since… well, I’m not sure I’ve done it this decade. Last year on contract, I did put money into savings irregularly, but most “savings” actually went to debt payment. At the end of 2006 I paid off my car, leaving just a credit card debt that was, if I recall right, about $10K. I paid that off by the end of 2007. Given the bleak economic outlook for 2008, this is probably an excellent time to not have debt. I now might have the stability to start (gasp) buying stocks and bonds—which at first glance seems odd to think about given that just-mentioned economic outlook, but over the long-term, it’s nearly always a good bet. I’m still doing my research on that.
At any rate, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, it’s definitely time to do something. Upward and onward.