I am a songwriter, and also a writer of wicked fiction. I'm in a writer-centric business, too: creating eBooks, cover design, as well as typesetting for print. I am English - so naturally self-deprecating. ;)
I shouldn’t complain, I really don’t have the right. I’m lucky in that I live in a country where I’m not in fear for my life because I’m of the wrong tribe, religion or ethnicity. I’m lucky in that I’m not starving or having to walk ten miles to get a drink of polluted diseased water. And I’m lucky in that I have a roof over my head, some food in the cupboard, and an occasionally loving cat to stroke.
So why on earth am I moaning?
Human nature, perhaps. No matter how well off we are we always think we should be doing better. Perhaps Santa, rather than doling out another what-have-you, should swap us around for a day or two: you go to bed, fall asleep and wake up in a village in the middle of Somalia. Would I cope? Frankly, no. I’d like – in a very Hollywood action movie sort of way – to think I’d cope, but realistically I’d be screaming in terror.
Anyway, enough about my weird fantasies and onto the picture. Admittedly it’s at night and raining, but it’s not much better in daylight. A few years ago there were loads of decorations and lights strung across the street as well as a splendidly lit tree. Now, most of the shops have closed and the powers-that-be either can’t afford more lights for the tree or they’re worried about the electricity bill.
It’s 2013 and the must have gift is a tablet (not the pharmaceutical variety) whilst there are more homeless than ever.
It’s 2013 and the cost of living has gone through the roof, the population is growing at an alarming rate, there aren’t any jobs and yet (oddly) the unemployment figures are shrinking.
I get depressed on the summer solstice as the days begin to get shorter and the year winds down. Daft really, considering the summer solstice is in June, but I can’t help it. Conversely, on the winter solstice I’m a grinning lune! Yep, daylight is in short supply, but ever so slowly they’ll be more of it as the days begin to get longer. Peachy.
I could have put up a pretty picture of the sun over Stonehenge, but I thought the pale blue dot was apt. Taken by Voyager in 1990 as it left the solar system traveling at 40,000 miles an hour, the pale blue dot is where we live. All of us. All seven billion of us. There’s nowhere else to go, so let’s make sure our planet survives. Hmm?
Prior to the ‘off’, which for me is in just over six hours, and because I’m getting antsy – as I really have no idea what I’m going to write – I thought I’d post about the various things that help make the next month passably passable. I’m writing on a PC.
No matter how you’re going to novel (a terrific verb) – be in pen and paper, typewriter, computer, or dictating (for those with a copy typist) – you need a space to do it. The above is mine, which is a wide corridor on the top floor. Occasionally I get interrupted by holler from below, or a cat demanding stroking, or someone wanting a bath. But mostly I’m on my own, which is good for thought. However, there is a downside: it’s easy to fritter. By that I mean the lure of the internet, or catching a quick snooze which ends up being anything but quick. Still, It’s better than retiring to the car – which I’ve done in past years – and certainly better than trying to write in a recording studio.
The next problem is software. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles. What you really want during NaNo is wordage, and that’s most easily achieved with a simple word processor. You don’t need a gazzillion fonts, or a corkboard, or a complicated file structure. You need to write. However, once NaNo is over and you come to re-write and edit, then it is good to have a corkboard you can re-arrange scenes on, and a file structure that’s easily tweaked without a major kerfuffle. Scrivener offers all this. It’s not expensive, and, if you get to 50,000 words and ‘win’, you get 50% off.
The wizards at Literature and Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have recently come up with another tool so useful I’m surprised it hasn’t caused a revolution. Scapple is … Oh, I’ll let them tell you:
Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.
At $14.99 Scapple is ridiculously cheap and I’d use it NaNo or not.
If you fancy a more traditional mind-mapping program the open-source Freeplane is very good.
And then there is timeline. Every tale has a timeline and story arcs. Aeon Timeline lets you create a complete timeline (BC-AD or fantasy) for your story including multiple arcs, multiple characters, multiple locations, etc. It then allows you to zoom in and see what’s happening at every moment during your story. It sounds complicated and, to be honest, I haven’t entirely got my head around it. However, I think that once I have grasped it fully it will be invaluable … probably. It’s $40, and there’s 40% off if you’re a NaNo winner.
YWriter 5 was created by novelist Simon Haynes to help him write. Besides being a published author – the Hal Spacejock series – Simon is a a programmer. YWriter is a very good solution to a lot of the problems you come across writing a novel. But, as with Scrivener, there is a learning curve. It’s entirely free.
Page Four. I’ve been using it for ages. It’s like a paired down scrivener though it’s as expensive.
Writer’s Cafe is a suite of programs designed to help you write. I’m not entirely convinced. $40
Liquid Story Binder is another product that some love. I’ve never got on with it. During NaNo it’s 50% off and costs $22.98.
Q10 is a beautifully simple word processor that is both forever free and perfect for NaNo. It’s small, fast and makes concentrating on writing a breeze. You can also run it from a USB stick, so it’s perfectly portable.
Personally, I’m going to use Scrivener (without its bells and whistles), and Scapple (utterly brilliant). I’m also going to carry a copy of my novel along with Q10 on a USB stick as a ‘just in case.’
All of the paid software has a demo version available that lasts past the end of November and into December. What you use is obviously a personal choice, but take it from one who knows. Write during November; put the result away for at least a few weeks without reading it and then examine, tweak and organise, re-write and edit it later.
All the very best to those of you embarking on the NaNoWriMo express. Have a great time and enjoy it!
I wasn’t. I really wasn’t going to do it. Yet when push comes to shove NaNoWriMo is not only a huge amount of fun, but it’s quite cathartic too. And cathartic I could do with.
‘Yeah, thirty days of bubbling hysteria. How can that be cathartic?’ I hear you ask. Well, I can’t claim to have a definitive answer. But to me, coming out of it on December 1st with 50,000 plus words in hand … is as peachy as winning the lottery. Almost. 😉
If you’ve always thought there was a book in you that ‘one day’ you’d get around to writing, then DO IT! It’s not too late to sign up.
I’ve been doing NaNO since 2006, and whilst it’s true that some years have been better than others, I’ve managed to ‘win’ it more times than I’ve failed. And even when I’ve failed I’ve still come away with a worthwhile experience. I only wish I lived in San Francisco, where they have a core of lunes who get together on a regular basis throughout the month. Then there’s the ‘Night of Writing Dangerously‘, a write-a-thon I’d give my eye tooth to attend. Ah well, a garret in St Leonards will just have to do.
What I think I’ll do is post what I write, warts and all. HERE
Although I’ve been blogging for a while I don’t seem to have got the point, yet.
To date this hasn’t really been a blog; it’s more a collection of musings and bits and pieces I’ve come across. It’s higgledy-piggledy in the extreme, and though that’s not a bad thing for a personal – slip it under the mattress – journal, it’s pointless as far as a public blog goes. People want surety from a blog: that what is said will amuse, or instruct, or have gravitas, or, at the very least, have a point. Congenerous (belonging to the same genus – as all of us do) doesn’t yet have a point. Why? Because it’s too higgledy-piggledy: like my mind, apparently.
So, rule number one should be: have a point. Don’t be seduced by everything that’s shiny – unless of course that is your point. Confused? Yep. me too.
Rule number two: Categories are not tags! This is something I’ve been aware of for a while, now, but to begin with I really wasn’t sure. I have far, far too many categories and at this stage it’s going to be a royal pain to remove them. But remove them I must. Use as many tags as you like, but the fewer categories the better. At present I have thirty, and a bunch of sub categories. I should have used tags but I didn’t know I should have used tags – daft. It’s no wonder I’m so confused!
Rule three should really be rule one, and is obvious: don’t plagiarize: EVER! You wouldn’t like it if your writing appeared under someone else’s name in their blog, would you? No, you jolly well wouldn’t. Quoting attributed snippets within quotation marks is fine, but never claim it’s yours.
Rule four: take photos of every interesting thing you see as you never know when one will inspire an idea for a blog. Most of us have phones with cameras and you can get great free software for tweaking your snaps (I use Paint.net and Gimp).
I’m sure – as eggs are eggs – that there are a lot more rules of thumb to bear in mind, though at present I can’t think of any. Finally, you really should read Lynne Truss’ book on punctuation: ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves.’
It’s available in all good bookshops and on Amazon and Kindle, though I think it’s best to get the paperback as mine came with a punctuation repair kit. 🙂
Oh, and Croit says hello. He’s a very happy chappy as his cousin is in, and on the cover of, the book.
I was on my way back from the shops last week when I stumbled across a box on the pavement outside a closed charity shop. It said: ‘Free – Help Yourself.’ I had to wait my turn as a woman with a shopping trolley had her head in there. Still, she left a few trinkets of which my panda was one. I say ‘my panda’, but he’s really a very self aware, shy, stoic beast. We have yet to become firm friends. Let me introduce you to Croit.
Now, it might seem daft to you to have a panda as a talisman, and I’m sure most would rather have a 24 carat gold thingummyjig. But each to his own, eh? I too am lost at the bottom of a writerly cardboard box, and I’ve come to the conclusion that having Croit as a talisman is a good thing – at least, it can’t hurt. That he’s a panda is neither here nor there, though I won’t tell Croit that.
Remarkably, on the very same day I found Croit in the charity shop ‘free’ box I made the determination that I wouldn’t write a jot unless I was going to submit it for publication. Of course, this blog doesn’t count. This blog is my mind’s way of venting stuff. Some occasional good stuff, I hope, but stuff nonetheless. Stories, short or otherwise, are now for submission. That said, seeing as I’ve already got more than thirty shorts under my belt some of those will be appearing here. Pleiades is one.
As I write it’s numbers three and four that are most on my mind, which is a good thing as I have the attention span of a… oh! Look! Shiny thing!
There comes a time when one needs a bit of help to clarify thought, and hone in on what’s important. The course: How To Think Sideways (HTTS), might just be the key that sets my aberrant writer’s brain back on the tracks… so to speak. Sheesh. Of course Croit’s going to help, though he hasn’t actually agreed yet.
Wish me luck! I know Croit does… don’t you mate? Hmm?
After the recent trials and – it’s fair to say – tribulations of the Catholic church with its various scandals (cough – gay sex and blackmail), it’s not a big surprise that we have a new Pope. After all the church is a large multinational, and it’s generally accepted that in any corporation the CEO exits stage left to take the incoming flack of any foul misdeeds.
Admittedly, Popes generally don’t resign. Normally, they shuffle off their mortal coil before there’s a new incumbent, but hey! Let’s be Christian about it. Pope Benedict XVI was looking a tad ragged around the edges, and who can blame him. If I’d been in his shoes I’d have retired before I took the job.
If it’s not obvious I should say I’m not a Catholic or a big church goer. In fact I’m an agnostic leaning toward atheist: you can’t help but give up on a god that lets such misery rain daily on his people. And, I didn’t like Benedict XVI, whose motto ‘Cooperators of the truth’ sounds a bit too much like something a member of the Spanish inquisition might have said. Neither did Benedict strike me as being kind, and kindness is, in my view, a prerequisite for being Pope. Benedict also didn’t advocate the use of condoms – in a world that is overpopulated and suffers the horrors of Aids. And Benedict didn’t, even vaguely, think it reasonable that it is a human right to fall in love with whoever you choose. No, he wasn’t the right man for the job, and I’m glad he retired.
So then conclave! All I really know of conclave is from Ron Howard’s ‘Angels & Demons.‘ All those Cardinals locked into the Sistine chapel until a new Pope is elected. Exciting stuff. The world waits until white smoke is seen from the chapel chimney….
The excitement – it happened, fortuitously, during the early evening news – was palpable. Immediately, we switched to a BBC2 special. The commentators told us it was only a short wait until we knew the identity of the new Pope. So, along with the vast crowd in St. Peter’s Square we waited… and waited.
When finally the cameras zoomed into the balcony I was sitting on the edge of my chair bellowing at the cats who’d decided it was a good time for a spat. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and the camera zoomed out again to the restless and excited crowd below.
Then the camera zoomed in again, the white curtains parted, and the Cardinal Protodeacon came out and told us who the new Pope was and the papal name he’d decided to take.
The commentators were floored. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and a Jesuit to boot! This was not who they were expecting at all! They were bemused, and you could hear it in their voices, though as all good commentators do, they soon recovered.
The Cardinal Protodeacon went back inside and the curtains closed… and opened again to reveal:
I don’t know a lot about Jesuits except Jesuits are known colloquially as ‘God’s Marines.’ I immediately liked the look and demeanour of Pope Francis. Yes, at 76 he’s quite old. But he doesn’t look or act old, and above all he looks like a kind man. I hope I’m right.
Maybe there is a god, and maybe he’s (or she’s) managed to pay enough attention to this small blue planet to realise we’re in big trouble and badly need some help. Maybe he thought “Yep, it’s time to send in the Marines!”
There’s a sweet old lady I help out with her computer. Just before Christmas she phoned and the problem was thus: her laptop, just two years old, was dead. Dead, in that it did everything it should except display it. The monitor was kaput.
Now I’m not, by any stretch of imagination, a computer tech. I’ve put together towers, but really, that’s more like lego. Laptop’s no, primarily because you need weency fingers and a lot of spare screws. Anyhow, I trundled her laptop up to the local computer shop and almost before I’d opened my mouth they said ‘HP? Pavilion? Oh dear. Hmm, too expensive to fix even if we new what was wrong with it, though it’s probably the GPU (graphics processing unit). The best thing is to bin it.’
Can you say ‘built in obsolescence!’
The result was that, since she didn’t need a laptop as she wrote at home, the sweet old lady bought a new tower and asked me to dispose of the ‘wretched thing.’
Now, I’m not a horder. But I’m keen on ‘projects.’ Besides, it was an immaculate HP Pavilion DV2, and if I could get it going… well, peachy. So off to Google I went.
To cut an inordinately long story short I found out that:
There was a class action suit against HP for the bad design of the Pavilion series.
It was the GPU that had the problem, and that most excitingly:
it was fixable!
Ah ha! I thought. A viable project. All I had to do was take the laptop apart, reflow the GPU, and reassemble it. Easy-peasy, and very Maker-ish.
There are oodles of video’s on YouTube.com showing exactly how you should reflow a GPU on a Pavilion motherboard. The thing is that none of these videos agree on how to do it. The concept is that because the design was flawed, the GPU got very hot. The hotter it got, the hotter all its solder connections became until, eventually, they fail. To reflow means heating up the GPU chip until the solder joints sort themselves out. Well, ish.
There are three methods I came across. The first, which I instantly decided against, was to put the motherboard in the oven on gas mark 6 for 20 minutes – this is not a joke. The second was to buy the pro kit needed to do the job properly. That was out for financial reasons. So I went for the third: using a miniature propane torch to heat the chip. It sounded the least mad and the most affordable. So I dismantled the laptop in preparation….
Two months later I finally got the propane torch and the tube of liquid heat sink required. I dusted off the motherboard, and, with heart in mouth, fired up the torch.
Letting it cool is an anxious time, as is testing it. Nothing.
I tried again. Nothing.
Back to Google where I found a thread that suggested anybody who tries reflowing their GPU is mad, if not carted away in a straight jacket certifiable.
Grumbling and in a last fit of pique, I trotted downstairs, grabbed the big kitchen Crème brûlée blowtorch and had at the motherboard with that. There might have been some pleading, intermingled with cursing, involved, too. Nothing. Nothing, nada, nowt, dead as a dodo.
So there you have it. Although I’m no better off as far as laptops go, it has been a fun, if fruitless, afternoon. 🙂
I have to admit that, to my chagrin, I’ve never seen Tim Minchin live. I’ve found him on the net several times and always meant to get tickets. But he’s either not playing anywhere closer than Sidney, or I wander off elsewhere and the mists of time obscure the desire. You know what it’s like online; you click a link and BANG! the next viscerally exciting new thing appears. You know: shiny things. So, back to Tim Minchin.
“Who?” Some, with a quizzical lift to an eyebrow, might ask. To them let me say you’re in for a treat. Tim Minchin is an Australian English-born skeptical atheist musical comedian who lives in London, and I think he’s very, very, spot on and funny.
Earlier today I visited Patrick Rothfuss’s site. That’s the Patrick Rothfuss who wrote the utterly stellar fantasy ‘The Name of the Wind’, it’s sequel ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’, and yet hasn’t got around to finishing the damn trilogy. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s a true trilogy with a story arc that won’t be complete until the end of book III. It’s rather like having some yahoo tearing off the last third of the best book you’ve ever started reading and taunting you with it. Anyway, I had a gander at his blog and though there was no news about the book, there, live as any link to YouTube can be, was Minchin’s ‘Storm.’ As I hadn’t seen it in a while I thought I’d post it here.
So, without further ado, sit back for a few minutes and enjoy.