With My Head In The Clouds

This past week, I finally knuckled down and did something I’ve been meaning to do since…well, since NaNoWriMo last November.

No, not that cloud. At least, I hope my cloud isn’t that dark and stormy looking!

I moved my works in progress (WIPs) to the Cloud.

I still have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, it means I can edit from any computer or device, as long as I have a wi-fi connection.  And it means I have a backup copy that’s not on my hard drive (I had a painfully expensive encounter with data rescue a year ago December, one I’m not anxious to repeat).

On the other hand…there’s that little “as long as I have a wi-fi connection” issue.  Because sometimes, it’s nice to unplug from the Internet and go hide someplace where I’m not connected, and just write.  Better for productivity, too.  No Facebook or Twitter to tempt me away from my work.

I just have to keep reminding myself that I still have the option of saving a copy onto my hard drive, for when I’m going to be off-line.  I’ll need to work out some kind of version control, though.  Because having to reconcile two different versions of a novel, one of which got some of the edits, while the other got the rest, is a pain in the tuchus.  I know, because that’s what I’m doing now with the first book of the Winterbourne series.  (That has nothing to do with cloud storage and everything to do with user error.  Sigh.)

I chose GoogleDrive as my solution, and so far, it seems to be working well.  It’s also free, which fits my budget nicely.  I’ve installed it on my netbook, laptop, and iPad so far, and only had problems synchronizing files between them when I couldn’t get the netbook to connect to the network at work.  (Apparently her wi-fi adapter is too old and slow.)  Installing the GoogleDrive app creates a virtual drive to which you can save documents just as if it was a hard drive or network drive attached to your machine.  It really is simple.

The true test will come in July, when I’m thinking about doing a mini version of NaNoWriMo, to see if I can make some further headway on any of my current WIPs.  My plan is to spruce up my front porch and find a comfy chair to put out there, so I can have a little writing “retreat” for the summer.  I’ve only been meaning to do this for the last three years.  It’s time I got off my tuchus and did something about it.  Right?

But there will be times when I need or want to take my mini-NaNoWriMo on the road.  I find a change of scenery is often helpful.  Fortunately, there are a number of outdoor locations in the Denver area that have wi-fi availability, including the Botanic Gardens and the 16th Street Mall.  So having the ability to store my writing in the cloud and access it from my iPad, which is lighter and easier to carry than the netbook, would be handy.

I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Have you experimented with cloud storage/backups?  What solution(s) did you choose, and why?


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Cooking Gets Creative

Okay, so I also haven’t been very good about posting anything about my cooking adventures.  That’s because I really haven’t had any.  Or rather, the one I was having just wasn’t any fun.

When we moved into our house, one of the first things that happened was that the oven door broke off.  Well, that was less than optimal.  But you know, you can do quite a lot of cooking without an oven.  (We do have plans to replace it, eventually, but we plan to replace the gas model with an electric one, and that will require $$$$ for wiring.  So it hasn’t happened yet.)  I have tabletop roasters, and a couple of toaster ovens.  And we’ve gotten better at cooking pizza on the gas grill.  So not having an oven isn’t horrible.

But when you lose the stove as well, that can be a problem.  And that’s what happened.

Have I ever mentioned that my Beloved Husband can sometimes be hard-headed?  I didn’t realize just how hard-headed until the night I came home from an outing with a friend to find the range hood dangling by its cords over the stove.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I hit my head on it,” came the sheepish reply from the other room.

“Do we need to take you to the ER?”  Because the range hood is old and not light.

“No, I think I’m okay.”

But the range hood obviously wasn’t.  We had plans for the next couple of days, so we found some boxes and propped the hood up so at least it wasn’t dangling.  And I made a foray into sub-zero temperatures in inadequate footgear to stand out by the circuit breaker box and flip switches until we had the power to the thing turned off.

As it turns out, most of the other electrical outlets in the kitchen are on that same circuit.  So no microwave, no crock pot, no rice cooker.

We set up a camp table in the living room, and set up a microwave in there.  And then spent the next couple of months “camping”.  Because first I had the flu.  Then he had it.  Then we both had it again.  And just when I started feeling better, I came down with a nasty bout of norovirus.  And there were other things that needed to be done.  So the range hood didn’t get fixed.  And it didn’t get fixed.

Finally, three weekends ago, we got it put back to rights and turned the power back on in the kitchen.

So now there will be cooking adventures — of a happier sort — once again.  Starting with our annual Steampunk-themed tea party at the Denver Botanic Gardens this weekend.  Pictures and recipes to follow!

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Back In The Saddle Again

I’ve been a bad, bad person.

Not only have I been neglecting my blog, but I haven’t been getting a lot of writing done, either.

I could lie and make up some excuse about how life has been busy (it has, and the City of Aurora, with its draconian yard maintenance rules, hasn’t helped in that respect), and that I’ve been sick a lot (two bouts of flu and one of norovirus, ugh!), and that my netbook has been needing some maintenance (it’s five years old now, and sometimes cranky).

But the truth of the matter is that none of these are the real reason I haven’t been writing much.

No, if I’m being brutally honest, the real reason I haven’t been writing much is because I gifted myself with an inexpensive Android tablet at Christmastime, and then my employer gifted me with an iPad at about the same time, and, well, I’ve been playing games.  A lot of games.

Beloved Husband got an Android tablet, too.  And for a couple of weeks, we obsessively played Tiny Death Star morning, noon, and night.  Oh, there were some short bouts of Angry Birds and Angry Birds Go!  But TDS sucked us in.

Beloved Husband lasted longer than I did.  I got tired of how long it took for anything to happen.  And then I stumbled upon the worse obsession:  Pocket Trains (from the makers of Tiny Death Star).

Evil, evil, time-sucking trains

Evil, evil, time-sucking trains

I don’t recommend either of these games to anyone who is trying to write in their spare time.  Because these games will make sure you don’t have any spare time.  It all just gets sucked away.

In the last couple of weeks, though, I started to notice something.  Little voices, tickling at the back of my head, wondering when I was going to come back and finish writing their stories.  Celia Winterbourne, in particular, has been getting downright insistent.  (Nicholas Fletcher, on the other hand, doesn’t nag.  Oh, no.  He sits and glowers darkly at me from his seat in the corner.)

So I think the time has come.  Time to put down the trains and pick up the keyboard and start writing again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Writing Thursday: NaNoWriMo, Week 3

This week, I feel obliged to start off with a link to a list the Denver NaNoWriMo group shared on Facebook:  Ten Signs Someone You Know Is Doing National Novel Writing Month.  I have to admit doing at least some of these (though with me, it’d be tea instead of coffee).  And #5, well, I might be guilty of that:  “She can be found on Facebook and Twitter at weird hours of the night and early morning posting things like, “1,837 words in an hour!” and “What’s another word for ‘burnished’?” and “Did Vikings wear bedroom slippers?”

Also, I did just Google “adjusting to blindness in one eye.”  Though my query didn’t include tropical diseases or pirates.

So things are going along swimmingly.  Word count goal for today is 35,000, and I’m currently at 39,958.  Almost three entire days ahead of schedule.  The NaNo website says I’ve been averaging 1,900 words a day.  Not bad.

Story-wise, I’m also kind of pleased.  I have a tendency, in my stories, to land my main character(s) in a world of hurt, only to come along a chapter later and make everything all better for them.  So this time, when the story offered me an opportunity to heap more misery onto my beleaguered young wizard, I made a concerted effort not to tidy everything up for her.  Which means she’s now got to deal with both a minor disability (sharp minds will note the topic I Googled, above) and a renegade wizard with a major grudge who’s out to get her.  And he’s already killed once in order to evade the authorities…

I had originally planned to remove the renegade wizard from the story, once he’d done his small bit to further the plot (which was to allow my young wizard to reveal/discover that she has the ability to sense when other wizards are casting spells on her).  But looking at the outline for the rest of the story, I realized there was a bit that comes later where I would require an apparent villain who was actually a front for the true villain…and this particular renegade wizard would fit the bill perfectly.  Not to mention giving my poor main character yet another thing to worry about as she goes about her daily business.  He’ll be a bit tricky to write, since his wizarding talent is the ability to cast spells that keep other people from seeing him.

Of course, the story has now topped 100,000 words, and I’m about a third of the way through my outline. {facepalm}  This story’s definitely going to have a theatrical version and a director’s cut!  You’ll just need a small U-Haul to carry the director’s cut around with you. {sigh}  Obviously, I need to add a second middle initial, then contact HBO regarding television rights…

Okay, time for me to toddle off to bed.  Good night, everyone.  Hope you’re all having as good a November as I am!

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Writing Thursday (on a Tuesday): NaNoWriMo Week 2 (just a little late)


I really meant to post last Thursday. Really, I did. But, you know, life hap–

Okay. I’ll be honest. Sometimes life doesn’t just “happen”. Sometimes you do it to yourself. So since I’m, being honest, the real reason I didn’t post last week was because I distracted myself with a new gadget. A tablet computer, to be exact. A really, really basic (and inexpensive) one. But still a lot of fun to play with. (Specs here if anyone’s interested.)

And I’ve been pretty good about at least getting in my 1,667 words/day before I let myself go play. Yes, I could have been using that time to build up more of a cushion. Sometimes, though, we’re all still kids at heart. And play is good for the soul–and the creative juices–right?

Distractions aside, I’ve been doing pretty well with my daily word count. As of last Thursday, when I should have posted, I needed 23,338 words in order to be on a pace to finish by November 30. I actually had 24,427, and I’ve widened the gap a bit more since then. Granted, I’ve had a few days when I haven’t been able to make my minimum word count, for one reason or another. Two Sundays ago, we attended an awesome wedding up near Estes Park, which is about two and a half hours away, each way. It was a beautiful drive (though a bit sad, when we passed through areas devastated by the flooding back in September), and a simple but heartfelt ceremony, followed by a nicely laid-back dinner and reception. But it did mean that word production–other than a short burst on the first part of the drive up–didn’t happen that day. But on days when I can, I’ve been trying to get just a little more than the bare minimum, so I have a bit of a cushion. For those days, when, you know, life happens.

Story-wise, the words are rolling along. I’m a bit alarmed by the fact that the story is now well over 80,000 words and my young wizard hasn’t even reached the first day of wizard school. (I know, yikes!) I spent about 20,000 words just describing a simple shopping expedition to get her properly outfitted–and to have a crucial encounter in the marketplace. It includes a lot of detail that I, as the author, need to know–what different fabrics are called, how money works, how bath houses work, a fairly detailed description of The Big City, and some character building for a secondary character–but which would probably put the reader to sleep. A lot of that will be trimmed down or edited out later, so I’m not as alarmed as I could be. (If I’d done proper NaNo prep, this is all stuff I’d have written in advance, so as to be better able to concentrate on the story now. Oh well.)

But the thing that pleases me most is that I’m finally, once again, finding the joy in writing. I’m not having to chip words out of my head with a pickaxe. I’m not staring at the screen wondering how to resolve a scene. I’m putting my hands on the keyboard and words are flowing out in all their repetitive, overblown, exuberant glory. Inner Editor has finally been kicked to the curb, and instead of fussing over whether I’ve chosen exactly the right word, or straining to find a more succinct way to say something, I’m connecting with my characters and their world. I know what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling and tasting and smelling, and what they’re going to do next. I’m in their heads, and they’re in mine. So what if I’m using twice as many words as I need to describe it all? I can always edit later. For now, I’m just letting the words flow. And it feels good. Damn good.

Because, this. This is why I write.

{looks around}
{realizes audience is staring as though I’ve lost all marbles}
{sheepishly steps down from podium}

Ahem. So. How goes everyone else’s November?

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Writing Thursday: NaNoWriMo, Week 1

Well, week 1 of NaNoWriMo has passed.  And I’ve made good progress; at the end of the first week, in order to keep on target, I should have written 11,669 words (that’s 1,667/day times seven days).  I’ve actually written 12,748, and I might squeeze in a few more before I go to sleep.  So I’m a little ahead of the game, which is good, because sometimes unexpected things come up.  Having a cushion can really save your backside in those situations (yes, pun intended).

In many ways, continuing a Work-In-Progress is a lot easier than starting a new story from scratch.  For one thing, since I spent all of last NaNoWriMo struggling to define this character and her voice, I can now just sit down at the keyboard and let her take over.  Or at least I try to; I have a tendency to be wordy, and she wants to be a touch more terse.  I keep trying to tell her that terse doesn’t build the word count, and we can edit later.  She conceded the point, but I can feel her glaring at me.

In some ways though, I’m finding it a little more difficult.  For starters, I keep having to go back and see how I worded something before, and which terms I used for things, and where certain scenes took place.  Plus, I’ve introduced some inconsistencies–for instance, I gave my main character an interesting faith to follow, one that involves extreme bodily modesty.  So when she’s out in public, she’ll want to have her head covered.  She won’t wear low-cut bodices or short sleeves or skirts that might show {gasp!} her ankles.  Of course, I now want to go back and edit out earlier references to her head not being covered or her neckline being too low, but I’m forcing myself to wait until next month to do that.  I figure by then, the beliefs will have penetrated her character thoroughly enough that the inconsistencies will stick out like sore thumbs (as my dad used to say).

As far as my pre-NaNo goals, I achieved most of them.  I did get my second computer monitor installed.  I did get my desk tidied, at least a bit.  And while I didn’t get them finished, I did at least get started on my maps.  Unfortunately, they’re on another computer at the moment.  So I guess I’ll save them for next week’s post.  Unless I decide to do a bonus posting over the weekend.

The other thing I did was to acquire a new writing buddy.  My Beloved Husband and I went to the Denver Zoo last weekend, and this little guy followed me home:

WriMo the Rhino

This is WriMo the Rhino, and he’s here to help me pile up the word count–and stomp out occasional fires [1].  (And as an added bonus, you can see my sorta-tidy desk and my second monitor in the background.)

So that’s how my NaNoWriMo is going.  Is anyone else out there taking part in this craziness?  If so, drop me a comment and let me know how your month is going!


[1] This is a reference to “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, a cute, quirky little film in which a rhino plays a minor part.  If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

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Writing Thursday: NaNo Is Coming…

Okay, so unless you’re brand-new around here, you know that NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, in which I and millions of other people across the country endeavor to prove ourselves certifiably insane by attempting to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days.

And you’ll know that I’ve previously participated in six NaNoWriMos, and that I’ve reached the 50,000 word finish line, er, six times.  With four novels that were later completed, and two more that are “in progress.”

The problem is that the two that are “in progress” haven’t been making a lot of “progress” lately.  So I’m seriously considering turning this year’s NaNoWriMo into a NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month).

I’m pretty sure I can write at least 50K more words on either story.  And at the moment, I’m leaning kind of heavily toward spending my November adding to the word count on last year’s wizard story.  So as long as I can convince myself that it isn’t really cheating, that’s probably where I’ll go.

I’ve posted previously about NaNo prep (here and here, among others), and there are plenty of other people who have good and useful advice about how to properly prepare for a month of insanity (like Kronda Seibert, for example).

So instead of going over all of that again, I’m going to share my “to do” list of things I’d like to get done before November 1:

  • Make Maps:  This story takes place in a fantasy realm.  Which doesn’t automatically mean I need to include maps in the final product, but making some to help me keep my own head straight would certainly be helpful.  As I see it, I need a number of maps:  One of the “entire world” (at least a rough sketch), one of the “near world” (my protagonist’s country, the neighboring country–both islands–and “the continent”.  And no, they’re not England and Ireland in disguise).  Then one of just the protagonist’s country, with a fair amount of detail (like roads, rivers, towns, etc.).  And then I need one of the capital city (Tayendia), and of the wizard’s school (Balincove).  I might also need a floor plan of the protagonist’s rooming house.  My plan was to try to find some kind of freeware mapping tool, but I haven’t had much luck with that.  So I may be toting a sketch book off to Mile Hi Con this weekend and doing a little doodling between panels.
  • Review Outline:  Yes, you read that right.  I’ve actually got the entire book outlined–at least roughly.  Some details will certainly change.  I’ll probably re-order some events.  But I actually know where this story is headed, for once.  We’ll see how that affects the writing process and the outcome.
  • Adjust Attitude:  I need to start swapping my brain from Edit Head to Writer Head.  Because Inner Editor is a very pushy bitch and tries to horn in when she shouldn’t.  Perhaps I’ll make myself some reminder signs, like “Write Now, Edit Later” and “ALL First Drafts Suck”.
  • Gather Research Materials:  My protagonist is–or was, before she got picked to go to wizard’s school–the cook at a country inn.  Now that she’s in the Big City, she’s going to earn money for books, supplies, tuition, and clothing by getting a job at a restaurant.  But she’s in for a few surprises.  For starters, the country-style cooking she’s used to back home (based heavily on medieval and Renaissance foodways) is far too old-fashioned to fly in the City.  Not only that, but she now has access to types of fish and seafood she’s never even imagined.  So I need to scan my post-Renaissance cookbooks for some seafood dishes she can make or adapt.
  • Manage Infrastructure:  For starters, I need to clean my desk.  Which means clearing it off as well as dusting it.  Then I need to get my second monitor installed, and do a few other hardware chores (like swapping the DVD drives between my computers, since my old one actually has a better one than my “new” one).
  • Connect With NaNo Community:  I still haven’t registered on this year’s NaNoWriMo website.  (My handle there will be arwensouth, as in previous years.)  And I need to verify when my local write-ins will be happening.
  • And finally, Update Playlist:  I put together a pretty good playlist last year.  I just need to dust it off and fine tune it a bit.  Because picking just the right music for writing is a tricky business.

So is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year?  If you are, what preparations are you making?

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