31 December 2010

This Week's Gem From Kate's Music Library

(If anyone has a better title for these posts, don't hesitate to recommend it to me!)

The last Christmas song recommendation of December!
This is a gorgeous arrangement of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' by Phillips, Craig and Dean. They're quite popular in the gospel music circuit but I don't really care for their other material because of how much it's overplayed (there are songs that they released three years ago that still play at least three times an afternoon on the local Christian station).
Here it is on YouTube (you may have to turn up your computer speakers to hear it). Buy it from iTunes here.

(By the way, if anyone out there is wondering if I'm getting paid to endorse this, the answer is no. I just love music and quite like the iTunes Store and I want you to experience all this great largely-unheard-of music and the wide (legal) selection on the iTunes Store. I'm getting nothing out of this except the thrill of sharing great music with people.)

30 December 2010

The Birth Of A Computer Nerd -- Part One

(This wasn't meant to be a two-part post, but it became rather long during composition...)

As you have probably figured out by now, I'm a bit of a computer nerd.
Okay, I'm a regular computer nerd.
Okay, okay, I'm one of the most obsessed self-taught computer nerds you might ever meet.
It wasn't always that way though. Ten years ago my family didn't even have a computer. To me, windows were those glass panes you look out of to see the boring treeline across the road, and an apple macintosh was the dyslexic term for that slightly crunchy reddish fruit. I would have assumed that Linux and DOS were acronyms for some political 'undertaking' or (in the case of Linux at least) perhaps a new brand of toothpaste. Computers were those little beige TV screens that apparently were madly intelligent and going to take over the world.
My only exposure to a computer before age nine was playing a side-scrolling plunger-shooting game on my best friend's family's computer. (It's aimed for the younger set, but it's still slightly addicting if you're not wanting to think much for a few minutes.)
When I was nine, my grandmother (always farther ahead of the times than my parents, whether she understood the technology or not) got a brand-new computer. At the time that meant Windows ME and probably at most an eight gigabyte hard drive (I don't know how much exactly, but the tower's in my possession now so I could look it up. Come to think of it though, I don't think it works anymore).
Probably one of my most ridiculous memories of childhood was when my little sister and I got to use our grandmother's computer for the first time.
We were enthralled by Solitaire and even managed to figure out Spider Solitaire. We also played a bit of Minesweeper, but we couldn't figure out the point of the game and therefore just kept clicking squares until one turned red and it wouldn't let us click anymore. We knew to click the face at the top to start over, but we bored of that quickly because of the seeming lack of purpose behind it. (Flash-forward: I didn't know what the goal of Minesweeper was until I was probably about fifteen. But I digress.)
We also discovered Paint. As a result of this, my grandmother's computer became inundated over the next several years with random doodles created in Paint by my sister and me.
However, we eventually got bored with the computer and wanted to turn it off.
There was, in Windows ME, a neat little button in the Start menu that said 'Shut Down Computer.' Perfect.
My grandmother and I (my sister had wandered off by that point) clicked it and a little box came up.
It read, 'What do you want the computer to do?' then displayed a drop-down menu with the options Shut Down, Sleep, Hibernate, and Restart. We didn't know what Sleep and Hibernate were, but we knew we wanted it to shut down, so that's what we selected.
Nothing happened. Several times we selected the Shut Down option, and the computer gave no indication that it was doing anything resembling turning off. We tried selecting Sleep and Hibernate, but to no avail.
Even with my complete lack of experience with computers, I knew that you never pressed the power button to turn it off. Never. Ever. I didn't know what would happen if we did, but I didn't want to wreck my grandmother's nice new expensive computer.
So we closed the dialog box, thinking maybe it didn't 'take' (or something) and tried again. We clicked 'Shut Down Computer,' selected the 'Shut Down' option, and waited.
Nothing happened.
The only buttons along the bottom of the dialog box were 'OK,' 'Cancel,' and 'Help.'
We clicked Help, and (as I've come to realise is typical of Microsoft's Help files), learned nothing.
Finally though, after quite a while, my little nine-year-old mind had a thought.
'If you click 'OK' to make the other boxes do something, what will happen if we click 'OK' here?'
Brilliant, I know. And it only took half an hour.
Anyway, I suggested it to Grandma, who, lacking any better ideas, tried it. Lo and behold the computer shut down.
From that day forth I never forgot how to shut down a Windows 95/98/ME computer.

24 December 2010

A Gem From Kate's Music Library

Merry Christmas everyone! (Christmas Eve to those of us in the west.)
I've arbitrarily decided that my music recommendation day will be Friday. Don't ask why.
Well okay, it might perhaps possibly be so I can post two Christmas songs before December ends and the 'legal' period for Christmas music is over.
Today's song is 'One Small Child' by Connie Scott. Unfortunately doesn't appear to be on YouTube (gasp!), but you can buy it from the iTunes Store here.
Seriously, go buy it. It'll be the best dollar of your Christmas money you will ever spend. (Until next week anyway.)
I'm not too familiar with a lot of Connie Scott's work (I've heard some, years ago), but the Christmas album is beautiful. Sure it has some eighties overtones, but we can all use a little eighties music in our lives, right? (Says the child of the nineties...)

21 December 2010

A Proposition

I was thinking the other day about things I could post on this blog so it doesn't end up getting neglected for so long. Then I thought, 'well, I've got a rather eclectic/obscure music collection. Perhaps I could recommend one song a week and get some of these excellent bands some well-earned (and in most cases posthumous) attention.'
So... there's the idea. What do you, my readers, think of it?

12 December 2010

How To Write A Novel: A Step-By-Step Guide

For anyone who might be wondering how to write a novel, here's a step-by-step guide to the process (updated November 2010 during the writing of my most recent novel).

1. Turn computer on. Wait fifteen minutes for the dumb thing to boot up.
2. Open iTunes, some kind of web browser, and Notepad (for plot hashing, of course).
3. Open several tabs in the web browser -- one for Facebook, at least one for your webmail, one for your Blogger dashboard, and anywhere between one and... dozens to catch up on your blog reading.
4. Read your email. Catch up on your Facebook news feed and read notifications. Ignore twelve FarmVille requests.
5. Look at list of twenty people that you really should email back.
6. Decide that you'll reply to those people later. After you've made your quota.
7. Read blogs for a half hour.
8. Refresh Facebook.
9. Get up and go to kitchen to get food. Find nothing of interest. Return to computer and refresh Facebook again.
10. Consider actually digging out flash drive containing novel.
11. Read more blogs.
12. Refresh Facebook. Write status bemoaning lack of inspiration.
13. Scroll through iTunes, trying to decide on music to listen to.
14. Remember you wanted to search for a song on the iTunes Store.
15. Search song. Add to wish list.
16. Click on interesting-looking album at the bottom of the page.
17. Preview entire album.
18. Add ten songs to wish list.
19. Click on interesting-sounding song nearby.
20. Add three more songs to wish list.
21. Check wish list.
22. Decide to buy some songs.
23. Check wallet. Find no money. Sigh and return to iTunes library.
24. Scroll a little bit more, looking for a musical selection of interest. Find nothing.
25. Go back to Facebook. Hit 'refresh.' Get no response.
26. Spin circles in desk chair for five minutes.
27. Threaten computer with hockey stick. Computer calls your bluff.
28. Bite back nasty words and check how much money is in the 'MacBook Savings' envelope.
29. Sigh. Pound desk in frustration.
30. Ctrl-Alt-Delete and kill off web browser program.
31. Wait ten minutes for computer to realise 'End Program' actually means 'End Program.'
32. Reopen web browser and all tabs.
33. Scroll through iTunes library a bit more. Narrow your current listening choices down to five different albums.
34. Get flash drive with novel out of drawer/bag/pocket/trash can.
35. Refresh Facebook.
36. Plug in flash drive.
37. Spin more circles in chair as you wait for computer to load flash drive.
38. Start playing a song in iTunes. Decide you don't want to listen to that song now. Start playing a different song.
39. Open file on flash drive that isn't at all related to novel.
40. Come up with brilliant plot twists for nine other stories you're putting off until the current one is finished.
41. Oh yes, the current novel. Go back to drive contents window.
42. Refresh Facebook.
43. Remember you wanted to update profile picture.
44. Open resource-hogging photo editing program.
45. Scroll through three folders looking for photo you have in mind. Realise it wasn't as good a photo as you thought.
46. Scroll through eleven other folders looking for suitable photo.
47. Stumble across those lovely family portraits you took three months ago and never did send to your grandmother.
48. Email photos to grandmother.
49. Do some light editing on about a dozen photos.
50. Get bored with photo editing. Decide to write.
51. Go back to Explorer window of flash drive contents.
52. Click on 'Screenplays' folder.
53. Open two screenplays-in-progress.
54. Reread them and remember why you abandoned them in the first place.
55. Correct spelling of main character's name in four places.
56. Close files.
57. Go to 'Novels' folder.
58. Open novel file.
59. Wait three minutes for Word to open and load file.
60. Refresh Facebook.
61. 'Like' two posts and comment on another.
62. Look at four or five profiles, chosen largely at random.
63. Read another blog.
64. Check email.
65. Refresh Facebook.
66. Get up and go to kitchen.
67. Look for food. Find nothing of interest.
68. Make stop at washroom.
69. Return to computer.
70. Refresh Facebook.
71. Think up potential simple math problem for a different story idea.
72. Write out problem in Notepad file, using spaces to line up columns perfectly.
73. Solve problem.
74. Forget what answer to problem was for.
75. Realise that computer seems sluggish.
76. Look at Taskbar to see what programs you can close.
77. See novel file. Bring that window to front.
78. Hit 'Enter - Tab' to start a new paragraph.
79. Watch blinking cursor for a few minutes. (Optional: Spin a few circles in chair.)
80. Decide to write blog post about lack of inspiration.
81. Refresh Facebook.
82. Write blog post.
83. Revise blog post. Extensively.
84. Publish blog post.
85. Notice typo.
86. Edit blog post.
87. Refresh Facebook.
88. Publish newly edited blog post.
89. Go back to Facebook. Realise the idiots changed the layout. Again.
90. Spend twenty minutes trying to figure out how to update your status.
91. Write angry status update about stupid Facebook developers.
92. Check email.
93. Add three sentences to novel.
94. Refresh Facebook.
95. Start playing a different album in iTunes.
96. Play air guitar, air drums, and/or air keyboard to seven rock songs in a row.
97. Refresh Facebook.
98. Pick a new album to play in iTunes.
99. Decide to actually take a stab at writing this time.
100. Start writing. (Hint: See if you can introduce a talking fish or a random fireball or something. That will help with this exercise.)
101. Get lost exploring random unrelated-to-plot thought in main character's head and manage to scrounge up 6,000 words by bedtime (meaning four AM, of course).

There you have it. Repeat this schedule every day or two and you're bound to come up with a novel eventually (as long as you work on the same file every time).
You're welcome.

08 December 2010

Jumping Off The Carol-Killing Cliff

Being a sort of casual music nerd, I naturally pay a fair amount of attention to Christmas songs, and over the past few years it seems that there's always one song that everyone covers in the same year. This results in the same radio station being forced to play varying versions of the same song twenty times in an hour for twenty-five straight days because there is nothing else to play.
Why is this? Why do all the artists pick the same song to cover every year? And why is it always the annoying songs? In the past few years, 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree,' 'Jingle Bell Rock,' 'Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland,' and 'Sleigh Ride' (barely tolerable songs in their own right), have all been slowly bludgeoned to death by the warbling voices of past-prime 40-somethings trying to be cool, screeching guitars (fine in other cases, but please don't touch the Christmas material), and a ghastly overload of lyric-drowning drums. (I won't even get into the lyrical mutations of what used to be 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas.')
This year the victim seems to be 'Let It Snow.'
I've never really cared for that song -- too much fluff (no pun intended) and not enough substance if you ask me. For some unknown reason I've always thought the lyrics to be bordering on nonsense.
I would ordinarily be glad of this -- one would think that hearing the same song literally thousands of times between the first of December and Christmas day would result in a total boycott of the mangled songs over the next few decades or so. Unfortunately, if the past few years are any indication, that will not be the case. Usually the 'chosen' song enjoys an extreme spike in intense popularity for one Christmas season, then returns back to its slightly-lower-profile-but-still-overplayed status the next year... only now there's seven hundred different remixes of it and they're all equally unbearable.
Another one that's suddenly become the Christmas song of choice is 'I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.' This mystifies me, as I'd never even heard of the title until this year, and believe me, I know nearly every Christmas carol in existence. I would never have expected such an obscure song to go mainstream, at least not for a few more years. It's a nice song, but its sudden popularity and the resulting avalanche of hard-rock remixes worry me. To beat the annoying 'cutesy' songs to death is bad enough, but to ruin the classics is bordering unforgivable. There are just some songs that are not screamo material, and Christmas carols make up at least 95% of that category.
And to think I used to wonder why everyone seems to hate Christmas.

06 December 2010

The Plight Of The Short

I am five feet, three inches tall, and have been for about four years now (at least).
The next shortest person I know is something like five feet, seven inches tall.
This wouldn't be so bad if I lived in, say, the Philippines. But, no, I live in North America, where everyone and his chihuahua is taller than me. Unfortunately for me, North America is also the place where you must be a carbon copy of everyone else or they all ignore you -- while, of course, being politically correct and non-racist about it.
Do you know how socially awkward it is to be in a conversation with people two or three years younger than you and they literally talk over your head? It's made even worse by the fact that after a few minutes your neck gets sore and you can't look them in the eye because you have to lower your head. And then they think you're antisocial and abandon you completely.
So if you happen to be a tall person (five feet, five inches or more if you ask me), I ask you on behalf of short people everywhere to please at least look us in the eye every once in a while. I know it does wonders for my day after being (I hope) unintentionally ignored for weeks and weeks on end...
And if you happen to a short person, know you're not alone. My chiropractic bill for neck problems is frightening too.

01 December 2010

Prodding My Memory

Computers really are smart, aren't they? The Windows ones are at any rate. They make sure you will never forget how much you hate them and how much more money you'll need to save before you can buy a Mac and actually get some work done instead of doing diagnostics on your computer every time you attempt to use it.
Today -- rather, yesterday -- the intelligent Windows computer must have thought I was overdue for this reminder. So, being the helpful device that it is, it... well, reminded me (as if I'd forgotten).
I had reached the end of my novel at just over 74 000 words. The goal is 50 000, so of course I'm far past winning.
However, the NaNoWriMo website requires that you upload the text of your novel for them to count so they know you have actually written 50 000 words or more and can give you access to a well-deserved winner's certificate. Verification, they call it.
It was 11.20 PM and I had just polished off my novel, milking a few extra words out of it here and there, and was finally ready to upload it to get it verified. So I went to the website, pasted the text into the 'verification box'... and Firefox froze.
Completely, totally froze. I know it's probably at least twenty below zero (Celsius) outside, but honestly, this computer has been on for a few hours now, it should have generated enough heat to handle a simple copy-paste operation.
I managed to close the stubborn thing via the Task Manager (the Windows computer user's best friend if you ask me) and restart Firefox (this takes twelve minutes). It allowed me to log back into the site, get to the verification box... and once again froze on the copy-paste.
I began to panic. I have less than a half hour until the verification box is closed to me, because then it will be 1 December local time and the contest will officially be over.
Once again I manage to force Firefox to close and get it to reopen. By now it's 11.40 PM. I have twenty minutes. Again it lets me log in only to freeze when I try to verify.
I'm in tears. That only happens once every six months or so -- I do not cry easily. I have worked so hard on this novel and now I can't even get it verified and get the official winner status that I so richly deserve?
The computer is moving more and more slowly every time. Recovery is taking longer and longer. I figure I have one more chance to get it right before running out of time and thus officially losing the contest.
I'm completely fed up with Firefox. I try Internet Explorer, but it freezes before it even loads the home page.
Fine and dandy. I've never particularly cared for IE anyway.
So I try Safari. I haven't the faintest idea why or how we've got Safari installed on our Windows computer, but it's my only hope now. I double-click it... and am pleasantly surprised.
Within seconds I am logged on to the NaNoWriMo website and at the verifier. I copy and paste my novel into the box. For a split second nothing happens and I began to panic even more, thinking the blasted thing's frozen again.
But then the pointer returns to normal and I am allowed to scroll down to the 'Submit' button.
I think I was happier when I clicked that little baby blue button than I was when I reached 50 000 words.

So I am now officially a winner of National Novel Writing Month for the fourth time in a row. The novel was 74 834 words and 247 pages long. Hopefully I can write the next one on a MacBook.

29 November 2010

The #1 Reason I'm Not A More Prolific Writer

As you've probably deduced by now, I 'need' writing music in order to write. Unfortunately that's also the greatest existing deterrent to actually getting any writing accomplished. It's a bit of a 'chicken and egg' problem really.
You see, I recently rediscovered some rather potent writing music in my iTunes library and was listening to it while finishing up my novel.
It was wonderful... my mind was falling into the famed 'zone,' mental pictures were abounding, the story was practically building itself before my very eyes.
However, I have this habit of singing along with nearly every song I know the lyrics to. Since I listen to music almost 24/7, I know the lyrics to quite a few songs.
I can type while singing. That's no problem. I can read something and type it out while singing something not at all related to the document I'm copying.
However, I cannot compose a completely new (and half-sensible) plotline while I'm singing about something else. Most often I end up typing the lyrics I'm singing. While this does add to the word count -- and a high word count is the goal in NaNoWriMo -- it unfortunately does nothing for the story. Really, what is David Meece doing in the Red Cave while Patrick is destroying the jewel key?
Intruding on an otherwise perfectly feasible storyline, that's what.

25 November 2010

One Among Millions -- A Short Story

I am nameless.
I am literally a mere number in this realm.
In a world where every new thing, no matter how problematic, displaces the old with startling speed, I have been predictably forgotten.
I am buried deep within her 'My Documents' folder... 'Serena's Documents > My Pictures > January 2008 > Dance > DSCN4671.'
There. That's me.
614 KB.
Taken at 11.53 AM on 17/1/2008 in a dance studio in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Focal length 15.1 mm. 1/448s. f/4.5. ISO 720.
When my binary bits are decoded and assembled properly, five children are depicted in the resulting image -- Naomi, Jane, Anise, Vera, and Tricia. They're wearing little blue suede dresses with pink polka dotted sashes around their middles. In their hands they hold blue umbrellas with pastel coloured polka dots.
This is their last rehearsal before the performance three days from now.
I show you a lovely scene -- the girls are gracefully pointing their right feet to where the audience will be in three days' time. They hold the little umbrellas in their left hands, their arms extended completely opposite to their pointed feet.
What I do not show you is that seconds after the shutter was snapped, sealing my existence, Tricia's umbrella slipped out of her hand, landing on Jane's foot. You do not see the large gaping hole in Naomi's tights because it so happens that the side of her leg exposed by the hole is facing the opposite direction. The slight bulge of Anise's dress from her insulin pump is hidden from your sight. I have concealed from you Vera's nervous habit of biting her nails and the fact that a bobby pin flew out of her hair forty-five seconds later and scratched the mirror slightly.
Odd how one moment was immortalised and the other details hidden or forgotten completely. What were the odds that the shutter would click at that exact time -- that the camera's operating system would create me and my depiction of that exact moment, not the one in which Tricia's umbrella was hurtling toward the floor?
An artists' eye perhaps, but I think a lot of it had to do with chance. And I'd also like to think that chance is what has regaled me to this forgotten folder -- that the beauty contained within me won't be hidden forever.

(This is just a little something I whipped up late one night (more accurately, very early one morning) back in January and expanded slightly to put here. Comments are welcome -- compliments, constructive criticism, overall impressions... whatever. ~ Kate)

22 November 2010

The Death-Point Of Plot

I know this is a rather late announcement, but I thought I'd mention to you, dear readers, that despite my lack of good writing music, despite having to write exclusively on a time-shared computer (supplemented only by Lila), and despite having to do the better part of my writing between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM (the hours when I most want to curl up and sleep), I finally reached 50 000 words on the novel!
I officially crossed the threshold on the evening of 20 November. I haven't reached the end of the plot yet (which was my goal, so that's nice), but I haven't got as much left in the plot as I thought.
Last night I was forced to introduce a rather impromptu flood (which wasn't supposed to happen until the sequel), simply for the sake of staving off the final climax. I was hoping to at least come close to 75 000 words this year, but unfortunately my brain has completely checked out and it appears that I'll finish off the novel in a similar fashion to an Olympic speedskater -- race around the ice at speeds that reach 60 kilometres an hour, then at the end stop almost on the proverbial dime and then practically collapse with exhaustion.
This has been my ending for the previous three novels, and I was so determined that it would not be the case this time. This time I was going to keep writing after 50 000 and actually have a nicely-sized novel at the month's close, since I've discovered that revising my previous novels usually means they go from 51 000 words to 45 000. Not the direction one wants to go when they're writing a novel they want others to take seriously.
I've found that my main problem is detailing. I hate writing details, not because the details don't interest me (the setting I often have in my head is usually slightly eccentric and thus rather fascinating), but because I get so bored just typing out anything resembling detail, I tend to skip right past all of it. I've tried so hard to make my writing fast and interesting that instead of simply keeping the details to a minimum I've completely obliterated them.
Which is why I'm so frustrated now.
I can think of at least five scenes off of the top of my head that could easily have a little more detail infused in them, but when I go back to try to add some so I can get more words, my brain completely freezes and I get bored before I even type one word.
However, this flood I've arbitrarily injected into it is aggravating me to no end. The flood simply does not belong in this story. There is no way I can twist it or bend it to make it fit nicely. However, I've completely run out of more feasible stalling techniques, so flood it has to be I suppose...

18 November 2010

A Test

Do you know the easiest way to tell if your 'friends' and relatives think you're stupid or not?
If not, I shall now enlighten you. It's very easy, only three steps.

Step one: Get in a motor accident in which you very easily could have been rather violently killed BUT be perfectly okay except for some breathing problems thanks to the air bag. (For best results, make sure the vehicle you were driving is crushed beyond recognition. Also be sure to take pictures, although a very graphic verbal description will do in a pinch.)

Step two: Get a new vehicle, get back on the road and improve your driving skills over the next few months or so.

Step three: Nearly six months later, go on an hour-long (one way) drive in broad daylight after a snowfall (note that the snow must not still be falling. This is very important. If the snow is still falling it will affect the results of the test).

On the morning of the aforementioned two-hour drive after a snowfall, people will come out of the proverbial woodwork, people who haven't spoken to you in several years, telephoning and asking if you're still going on that trip and if so is anyone coming with you.
The amount of panic they display when you tell them that yes, you are still going on this trip, and yes, you're the driver will tell you exactly how stupid they think you are.

Interpreting the results:
If they say, 'Oh okay. Well, drive safe. Anyway, the real reason I called is...' and continue on to give another perfectly legitimate reason to be calling you, then they most likely do not think you are stupid at all and are merely displaying a normal healthy amount of concern for your safety. These individuals obviously trust you enough not to panic but love you enough to care about your well-being. (Either that or they are very good actors, especially when downplaying the actual real reason they telephoned.)

If they say, 'WHAT?!? Are you insane?' they most likely think you are completely daft for even considering the notion, but do tread carefully when met with this response, as they may think you're crazy for different reasons. This response is particularly tricky to figure out despite its simplicity on the surface.
They may be genuinely concerned for you. Perhaps they have already driven some of the roads that day and know that they're worse than they appear. If this is the case you can safely feel that they actually love you and think you're a wonderful, mostly intelligent person and want you to not run into any hardship because they can't bear the thought of you being involved in another horrible accident.
However, they may also think you are too stupid to realise that you need to use caution and they figure that it's safer for everyone (including themselves, if they happen to be going anywhere) if you stay off the road.

If they say, 'Oh' or 'Oh really?' in a rather high-pitched surprised sounding voice, followed by a rather long awkward pause, you are dealing with someone who thinks you're a complete and total certified idiot and you should terminate the phone call as soon as possible. (Saying, 'yes, see you at my funeral' and then hanging up may be the most effective manner of doing this, but please note that this particular method has not yet been tested and therefore if you attempt this please know that you are doing so at your own risk.)

What you do with the results of this test is not certain. Studies have shown that generally the results of these sorts of experiments get published, but you may not want to publish lists of 'friends' and relatives who think you're stupid in any public place. Doing so may result in being disowned or sued. I suppose you could write the lists down and stash them in the drawer of your bedside table for reference when you move out in five years though.

Please note: Results may vary depending on your particular friends and relatives and how well you know them. Sarcasm or 'gentle teasing' on their part may be a factor in their response. This test is not scientifically proven to be 100% accurate. I assume no responsibility for any strained or destroyed relationships that may result from the use of this test.
If you are a subject of a test similar to this that a friend or relative is conducting, please know that while they may be quite aggravated if you freak out every time they have to go somewhere, they do appreciate concern when shown in a gentle, loving way. Do not rub their failure in their face -- they already know that they screwed up. If they didn't they would still be driving around the piece of gnarled scrap metal that went through their first accident because they wouldn't know that their car was totaled and it was their fault. (If you do happen to know anyone like this, do society a favour and notify the proper authorities; as anyone who has been in a serious accident and doesn't know it likely should not still be driving, especially if the lights, steering wheel, doors, windshield, and/or motor of their vehicle have been severely damaged in the accident.) However, the accident victim may still want to talk about their experience as long as you are not judgmental about their role in it. Be considerate and give them a second chance. You're not perfect either.

11 November 2010

Rediscovering Music And The Downside Of Shuffle

In my quest for writing music that I already own (and thus don't have to pay for), I have been going through my iTunes library song by song to see what I've been overlooking recently.
It's amazing what gems one can forget they own -- the other day I heard a song on the radio that I've always liked and thought to myself, 'I should look that up on iTunes.'
Then I remembered that not only had I looked up that song on iTunes, I had bought it. Four months ago.
It's also unbelievable what sort of trash is unearthed that one used to listen to obsessively. It's painful to listen to some of it at three years' distance.
However, the main problem with this sudden mining for gold is this: I'm discovering rather a lot of gold. And now I want to do choreography to it when I'm supposed to be writing. That or I'm too busy reading every individual line (at least the song title) and trying to decide what old neglected favourite I'd like to listen to next.
I'm rather picky about this. I can't just click 'Shuffle' and let the computer decide what I want to listen to. At first I held this opinion simply because I'm one of those purists who (generally) likes listening to an album in order, or at least certain songs in a specific order (I have dozens of playlists that I made up for this purpose that lasted about a month before they got old and I abandoned them). I also find it jarring to listen to a different artist every four minutes.
However, I also hold this opinion because once I did put my music on shuffle. I was rather enjoying not having to go back to iTunes and pick new music every ten minutes as I typically do.
After a while, it started playing a soft, slow, mild song. That was perfectly fine, but at the end of those sorts of songs, your mind's rather in the mood of a soft, slow, mild song. That and you've turned the speakers louder so you can hear it.
This was the next song.
Perfectly good song; it's been a favourite of mine for years. I just wasn't expecting that sort of intro directly after something so calm and soothing.
I wouldn't say I 'swore off' shuffling my music after that, but it was a definite contributing factor to my personal dislike of the practice. I suppose, though, if I get quite pressed for time on the novel I could shuffle my music to save time (although I doubt it'll be needed). I just hope the computer will consider my tender heart if/when I give it free rein.
But knowing this computer, it probably won't.

08 November 2010


Apparently writer's block carries over into all areas of life.
I have written over 20 000 words in the novel so far, but currently I'm completely stuck... and unfortunately that appears to include this blog.
I've come up with several ideas that might make a good post, but they've all fizzled out as soon as I've tried to write them, unless you'd like to include the slightly stream-of-consciousness ones that have a drugged-up dreamlike quality to them...
So... any topic suggestions any of you might have are completely welcome. This blog is feeling rather neglected...

30 October 2010

The Bitter End -- And The Ramifications Thereof

Part Three of a three-part series.

23 August 2010. 11.45 PM (or something to that effect).
I pulled my chair up to the computer, woke it up, and plugged in the flash drive containing my nearly complete novel.
I am practically giddy. I have already passed the 45 000 word mark, that being the goal for the 28th day. If my pacing keeps up I will easily finish by the 25th. My previous record is 29 days.
I am so excited I can hardly sit still.
I navigate to the folder containing my precious novel, double-click the file, and wait for Microcrap Word to spring to life.
After several (uncharacteristic) minutes of waiting, a dialog box appears, saying that Word is updating. This puzzles me, as this computer hasn't been on anything resembling an Internet connection for nearly a month. Where is it getting this 'update' from?
I hit 'Cancel,' assuming that will circumvent the 'updating' process and start Word so I can work on my novel.
'The updating process has failed.' Hmm, I wonder why...
I click 'Close' -- the only button available -- and wait for Word to open.
It doesn't.
So I go to the Start menu and attempt to open Word from there.
The dialog box reappears, and again I hit 'Cancel' and give it a few minutes to open Word.
You know what happens next -- absolutely nothing.
However, the computer is evidently doing some strenuous task -- I can hear the hard drive churning and gurgling, but the only program currently running is iTunes. It is by now at least 12 AM.
Once again I attempt to open Word. This time when the dialog appears I leave it and allow it to do its 'updating.'
After nearly fifteen minutes the progress bar disappears and another dialog box takes its place.
'The updating process has failed.'
I wait for Word to open, but it does not.
Rather disappointed, I abandon the novel for the present and open Notepad -- my writing warm-up tool of choice.
It takes a full five minutes for the most streamlined program on the computer -- perhaps in existence -- to load. This brings me to a conclusion.
This is ridiculous.
And that means a reboot is almost certainly in order.
I close Notepad (a process which takes another two minutes) and iTunes (three minutes). Then I select 'Restart' and sit back.
Because I have the attention span of a goldfish, I pick up a piece of paper or something (I don't even remember what) and read it while I wait for the computer to finish the reboot.
After a while I realise that it appears to be taking a rather long time for the blue login screen to appear. I look up.
The monitor is displaying an odd screen of text that I've never seen before. However, I don't get to read any of it before it disappears and the POST takes its place.
The POST text finishes and the Windows XP splash screen comes up for an instant before the screen goes black and white text appears.
My heart sinks before I even begin to read.
'We apologise for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully.'
It goes on to give a thoroughly uninformative 'possible explanation' for said failure and then lists several options -- start Windows normally, in Safe Mode, in Safe Mode with command prompt, Safe Mode with networking, and Last Known Good Configuration. A countdown clock is at the bottom of the screen -- 'Windows will start in 20 seconds.'
Odd. However, my previous computer would frequently go into a similar sort of boot loop, often fixed by a simple tug of the power cord for a minute or so. So I unplug the computer, wait thirty seconds or so, and plug it back in.
The POST runs, then the error screen appears again.
At this point I begin to panic.
I select Last Known Good Configuration. The Windows splash screen appears for a split second before reverting again to the POST, which then gives way to the error message.
This time I select Safe Mode. Same result.
I yank the flash drive out of the USB port, hoping it hasn't somehow been reformatted, unplug the computer again, and sit back. Tears pool in my eyes.
Then, after a few seconds, I reach into my book bag.
Lila, my faithful little Neo 2, had at that point been with me for a year and a half, the equivalent of one and a half novels, one script, and copious amounts of plot hashing and note taking. Never once has she failed me, even with the amount of salt water that's dripped into her keyboard.
I pull her out of the book bag and hug her.
It's just her and me now. Us against the world of Windows.

And that, dear reader, is why I have no money for writing music this November. MacBooks don't come cheap, and due to my utter lack of a computer that will at least start up, I need one as soon as possible. I was saving for one before, but not with the ruthless intensity that is now required.
I only hope that my lack of decent music and the inability to write during my best hours won't put me in a madhouse next month...

28 October 2010


Part Two of a three part series.

For the remainder of July (for it was July by the time I set the computer up), I added programs and photos with rather reckless abandon, and spent nearly every waking moment either working on my Spider Solitaire winning streak (it ended at 19 games, if I recall correctly), customising preferences, or writing.
Two rather good short stories were born out of this writing, as was the nebulous of a poem of sorts.
In late July, I got an iPod touch (an early birthday gift). After it was purchased, I read the packaging and found that as far as Windows XP goes, it was only compatible with Service Pack 3 or higher.
The computer I had been planning to use it with (the only computer in the house that had both iTunes and a working USB port) had SP2.
For a split second I was horrified... my (very generous) grandmother and I had just spent a collective total of nearly three hundred dollars on this and I couldn't even use it?
Then my mind flashed back to the System Properties dialog box on my new computer. If my memory was accurate, it might just have said 'Service Pack 3.' However, I wasn't sure.
So when I got home, I rushed to the computer and called up The Official Windows Box Of Nerd Stats.
Sure enough, it read 'Windows XP Home Service Pack 3.'
I was elated. All I needed to do was install iTunes, add my music, and hook up the iPod.
Six hours later I had finally installed iTunes and added (I hoped) every song I could think of that I might possibly wish to listen to (it would have taken far longer if I hadn't had a partial backup of the other computer's music files). Exhausted but excited, I plugged in the iPod. And got an error message from iTunes.
It needed to connect to the Internet in order for me to register the iPod and thus, sync it.
Due to lack of finances (or more accurately, laziness preventing us from researching the actual cost), there is no networking in the house. If you want to get onto the Internet, you have to get onto the one computer that's connected to it.
The SP2 computer.
Upon researching the potential pitfalls involved in upgrading that computer to SP3 I (wisely, as I would realise later) dropped the notion. However, it looked as if I would never get to use the iPod for anything more than note-taking.
That night, however, an idea came to me and the next morning I put it in action.
It took me a good half hour to rewire the Internet connection, moving it temporarily from the 'primary' computer to mine. With my computer on the Internet, I registered the iPod, bought a few songs, and synced it before moving the Internet connection back to its designated place.
I had been quite grateful for the computer before, and this only heightened my thankfulness. Without it, my iPod would have been the next thing to useless.
Then dawned 1 August (actually, it didn't even have a chance to dawn; I opened Word and started writing as soon as the clock read 12.00 AM), and I started my novel -- the one about the murder.
I quickly discovered that I do my best writing between the hours of 11.30 PM and 4.00 AM (something I'd suspected, but hadn't yet confirmed).
So, every night, as the rest of the family was falling asleep, I woke up the computer, plugged in my trusty flash drive, and wrote until I could no longer see the monitor for the black spots before my eyes.
The story took shape at a blinding pace, and the computer was quite patient about the whole thing.
For twenty-three days (rather, nights) we worked together, racking up over 45,000 words out of the goal of 50,000.
And then in the proverbial home stretch it choked.

27 October 2010

The Beginning -- Acquiring 'The Computer'

Part One of a three-part series.

I suppose it started back in early June. My neighbour/friend was getting rid of her old computer because she was upgrading and asked if I wanted it. My primary computer at the time had a 20 GB hard drive, 256 MB RAM and a processor whose speed was measured in MHz, not GHz. Oh, and a nasty habit of restarting itself every time I tried to plug in my USB thumb drive.
Needless to say, another computer was quite an attractive offer, even if it was used. I reasoned that anything had to be better than the beast I was currently fighting with and a hundred dollars was a reasonable price to pay for something that should last until I could acquire a MacBook.
Alas, I underestimated the wrath of circuitry that has been forced to run Windows.
I bought the computer and toted it home. For several weeks the poor thing languished in a corner of my bedroom because its new owner was too lazy to set it up (that and there was no room on my desk for it).
Finally, though, I cleared off the desk, rearranged a few things, and set the thing up.
I was amazed when I started it up and looked at the System Properties.
It boasted nearly twice the RAM, three times the hard drive space, and a far more sophisticated processor. Not top-of-the-line, but certainly better than anything I'd previously owned. Further poking around showed that this was a well-maintained computer. The previous owner had obviously taken very good care of it and as far as I could tell it was almost like new.
Naturally, I was overjoyed and within a few days I was doing all my writing on that computer. This was for three reasons: one, it was far faster than either of the other computers in the house; two, since it was my computer, I could stay up writing on it as late as I wanted; and three, it read my flash drive without argument.
Over the next week or so, I developed only two complaints about it -- one of the USB ports was dead and it had an older version of Microsoft Word, meaning I couldn't read or edit some of my documents. (However, since I work primarily in Notepad, that wasn't all that much of an issue.) I kept my old computer only for my iTunes library and Microsoft Word 2007.
Ah yes, it was glorious. At last I had a computer that didn't look as if it would explode any day now. With my plans to write a novel in August, I couldn't have asked for more.

26 October 2010

From One Novel To Another... Tracing The Path Of A Crisis

NaNoWriMo starts in six days and in the wake of planning for it I am facing a very disturbing reality.
I have no writing music.
All right, I'll admit that's a bit of an exaggeration.
What I really mean, I suppose, is 'I have no new writing music.'
This is not a trifling matter. Speaking as one of those who needs music and oxygen to survive -- in that order -- this could potentially ruin the novel before it's even started. Nothing mangles a writer's output like hearing the same pop-fluff song for the three hundredth time in two days because everything else has also been listened to already.
This situation could be so easily rectified if it wasn't for one thing... nearly every cent I earn is currently going into an envelope, not to be touched until the desired amount is inside it. And unfortunately for me, that envelope is not marked with the words 'Music Fund.'
For that, I blame THE COMPUTER. (*dun dun dunnnn!*)

To be continued...

23 October 2010

A Rant

If there's anything I absolutely can't stand, it's this: some acquaintance of yours (not a best friend or anything) posts a status update on Facebook. It's witty, it made you laugh, and what's more, you have the perfect comment for it. So instead of simply 'liking' the status, you comment on it, certain that they'll get a laugh out of it, if nothing else.
Five minutes later, you happen to glance at your home page again and find that your carefully crafted comment was deleted.
It wasn't offensive, it wasn't inappropriate, it wasn't insulting to anyone in any fathomable way.
So why did it get deleted? Is it merely this friend's 'polite' way of dismissing you without actually removing you from their friend list? Are they trying to eradicate you from their life without having to tell you to your face that they hate you? Is this bloke such a control freak that if your comment isn't exactly the one that he was expecting when he posted that status, he deletes it so as not to 'muss up' his page?
Perhaps I appear to be overreacting too soon and I suppose you, dear reader, are perfectly justified in thinking that. To that I say this: one incident, even two or three, is forgivable; even more so if an explanation for it is provided.
Having every. Single. Comment that you ever post on anything of this friend's deleted, however, is not. Especially if you only comment on something he posts once every three months or so. (Deleting obvious stalker comments is a completely different discussion.)
If they didn't want to be your friend, why did they accept the stupid friend request? Obviously they have some kind of major problem with you, why didn't they just click 'Ignore' and spare you (not to mention themselves) this kind of aggravation?
And if you happen to be one of these selective-reality-obsessed chronic comment deleters, this is all I have to say to you:
If you don't want people to comment on it, don't even post it on Facebook in the first place.

21 October 2010

Indecisiveness... Ended?

I think I might possibly, maybe, potentially, perhaps have decided on which story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo in November. And it's only the 21st!
It's a fantasy story -- sort of a 'Lord of the Rings' setting.
It starts in modern time, however, and as a result of the tried-and-true stumble through a hidden portal, the heroes (Patrick and Melissa, next-door neighbours) end up in a fantasy world.
They learn that Rebecca, Patrick's late sister, was practically a national icon there -- rather a Queen Elizabeth I. According to the people, she saved them from their enemies several years before, and in gratitude for her service, they gave her the key to the healing spring (yet to be officially named) and told her to hide it where their enemies would never find it.
When they discover that Rebecca was Patrick's sister, they beg him to bring her over because there is now a devastating plague (my characters do seem to run into those, don't they?) that is threatening to wipe them out and they need her to access the healing spring for them. Upon being told that Rebecca is dead, they name Patrick Rebecca's successor and send him and Melissa off on a quest to either find where Rebecca hid the key or find (and enter) the healing spring itself. Naturally this isn't easy, and they run into several pitfalls and must jump through several hoops along the way...

18 October 2010

My Top Ten Writing Songs (18 October 2010 Edition)

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, I thought I might list some of my favourite songs to write to (when I'm not dancing to them). Naturally it varies according to the genre of the story and the particular scene I'm working on (not to mention my mood), but these are a few standbys... (in no rigid order)

10. 'This Time' -- David Meece

9. 'Alive' -- Hawk Nelson

8. 'How To Save A Life' -- The Fray

7. 'Existence' -- Kevin Max

6. 'My Last Amen' -- downhere

5. 'While You Were Sleeping' -- Casting Crowns

4. 'Sara' -- Jacob Moon

3. 'Breath Of Heaven (Mary's Song)' -- Amy Grant

2. 'The Promise' -- Michael Card

1. 'Stay Strong' -- Newsboys

Truthfully, this could be the Top 704 Writing Songs, but for simplicity's sake I limited it to ten and picked a few largely at random (coincidentally, 704 is the number of songs currently in my iTunes library). (Don't laugh, that's all I can afford at this point. If money was no object it would almost certainly be over 1 000.)

14 October 2010

Doing choreography ...or trying to.

So in order to see if I really want to pursue this dance idea that I have, I'm going to try my hand at choreographing dances to a few of my favourite songs.
The thing is, there's next to nothing out there in the form of choreography resources. Writing the choreography on paper, that is (actually dancing it and figuring it out that way is no problem). I've searched the library, I've tried several differently worded Google searches, and nothing comes to light. I know at least one form of choreography notation exists, but I've no idea where one could learn it. So I'm writing it in a rather cryptic format that even I struggle to understand when I review it two days later.
There has to be a better way to do this.

09 October 2010

The Dreams of Childhood

I haven't updated this in longer than I thought. Terribly sorry.
Anyway, the novel I was writing did get finished in a month (by some miracle... all I will say is thank goodness I had the novel backed up to a USB drive). 51,200-some words by 31 August. That makes me the author of four novels, with another one planned for November (not entirely decided on which plot though).
My interests are being pulled elsewhere, however. Writing is still my primary escape, but dancing is a definite contender as of late.
I've been dancing for years (nearly ten years of ballet under my proverbial belt), and it's always been something I've really enjoyed, but now I'm giving serious consideration to making it my career... somehow.
The problem is, I doubt very much I'm at a level to perform with an official dance company, and even if I was at a professional level, there aren't really any opportunities around here to do that.
So I've got a different idea, however, it's far out there. I'll likely spend the next year working out the kinks in the idea itself before even attempting to move past that. I'm almost afraid to, though, because this, indirectly, has been my dream since the age of seven. If it doesn't work, a lifetime of anticipation will be shattered.
Is it better to make an attempt at seeing one's childhood dream realised or is it better to leave the notion untouched, to not find out it isn't possible and thus keep the dream alive in one's mind?

05 August 2010

August Writing

It turns out I am writing another novel in a month. This time it's a suspense sort of thing.
The basic premise is there are these two guys, best friends. One day they're hanging out, no big deal, with a local girl. They've known her for a while, although neither of them are very close to her.
As the conversation progresses, though, one of the guys ends up in an argument with the girl. He loses his mind and, in a fit of pique, kills her before his best friend's eyes. When he comes to his senses, he panics and flees the scene.
The story picks up again seven years later.
The girl's murderer has yet to be found. The witness had fled the country, unable to bring himself to turn in his best friend. And that friend, although still in the area, has been laying low and has, so far, escaped the reach of the investigation.
And that's all I've plotted so far. It's turning out to be a real problem because I'm supposed to have 8,335 words by today's end and I'm only at 7,192. And I'm thoroughly exhausted; I can hardly see the screen to type this.
I doubt I'll have enough plot to make 50,000 words at this point -- the murder scene was rather the pivotal scene; the one that drives the book. And I've already finished writing it. Everything after that scene is comprised mostly of the characters' boring internal monologues as far as I can tell.
Well, I suppose it's still only Day 5. We'll see what brilliant plot piece my brain can come up with in the next several days.

28 June 2010

Decisions, decisions...

I am (tentatively) planning to write that novel-in-a-month in August. And then, of course, I'll do another one in November; the official National Novel Writing Month.
And now to decide which idea I'd like to bring to life.
There's always the sequel to last November's novel; but I also have a kidnapping story, a fantasy, a science fiction story, and a sort of 'supernatural thriller' in my head, among others. At least I have a month to decide, although last November, following months of time available for planning, I decided which story I would write literally two days before I had to start writing it.
Then of course, promptly went nearly mad trying to keep myself from starting it before 1 November.
Such is the life of a writer... Mad unstoppable writing sprints followed by several months in which only ten sentences are written.

24 June 2010

To write or not to write...

So I'm considering doing another novel in a month in either July or August. My friends are behind me, but my family's against it.
It's understandable I suppose... I'm rather the 'black sheep' of the family. Nothing I like coincides with their point of view and vice versa. It's caused a lot of conflict over the past few years, and it's getting quite tiresome.
I often wonder how they think... and more often than that, I wonder how it's supposed to make sense. They get upset with me for spending so much time on the computer writing, but when I give in to their pleas to spend time with them, they use that opportunity to pick apart anything and everything I've ever said or done. It doesn't seem to occur to them that I spend so much time writing precisely to get away from all that. I'm certainly not about to willingly subject myself to such belittling.
When I write, I can escape into another world. A world where a deadly virus that levels anyone in its path is the least of my characters' worries. A world where a young woman is kidnapped and discovers she has a brother who's been missing since before she was born. A world where time travel is possible and Pac-Man can be threatening. A world where the clouds are pink, the skies are lavender, and a lost necklace hidden in a parallel time is crucial to the future of the inhabitants.
Granted, most of the plots I come up with are depressing, but at least I have control over it. At least my characters don't berate me for every thought I have, even if it spells their demise. I know I shouldn't be bitter, but wading through contradictions every time I have to associate with my relatives is frustrating.

22 June 2010


Welcome to the crazy world of my blog. Population: my thoughts. Most of them are pretty bizarre; hence the title. Being a science fiction/fantasy writer will do that to you. That and attempting to revise your writing. Ugh. If that doesn't get you committed at some point in your life, I don't what will.
I've written three novel manuscripts and am revising two of them. One is science fiction, the other is something resembling a mystery (suffice to say it's not my best work).
Which reminds me... I should really get back to revising that mystery. I've been trying to revise it for over a year now. I know it's supposed to take a long time and therefore I shouldn't be complaining; but the real reason it's been a year is because I keep procrastinating, not because I'm doing that much actual revising. I spend all my free time whipping up new rough drafts instead of editing previously written ones. Sad but true.