A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Normally, I’m pretty good at computer shortcuts.  I use them all the time, both for writing and for work.  It’s one of the reason my more… ‘senior’ coworkers think I’m so fast on the computer.  I’m pretty good at realizing when I’ve made a mistake and fixing it.  Control-Z is my friend.

 

Sometimes, I admit, I do struggle to switch from my work (Windows) machine to my home (Macbook) one.  Usually I try to hit control instead of command (or alt instead of control, depending on where I am and how hard I’ve been working).  It usually doesn’t work but doesn’t screw anything up, so I laugh and move on.

 

This weekend, I screwed up.

 

It wasn’t funny.

 

I had just spent two hours working through the plot summary (step 6 of the Snowflake method, if you’re curious) for my novel’s potential sequel.  It was brilliant, it was witty, it was even charming.  And I promptly accidentally deleted it (I won’t go into cutting versus copying and why I should have done one and not the other).  And my trusty command-Z apparently doesn’t work on Scrivener.

 

I was crushed.  Just ask poor Mark.  Weirdly, I was more angry with myself than sad, which is a nice change over crying in the corner for a few hours, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant.  It was hard to admit that I’d made that kind of a boneheaded mistake.  But I did.  And now I know that cutting in Scrivener (at least my version) can’t be undone.  So LEARN FROM ME PEOPLE!  DON’T FOLLOW IN MY TRAGIC FOOTSTEPS!

 

All it will do is keep you up to 2 am re-writing what you lost.

 

[Which, oddly, only took about 25 minutes.  Apparently there’s something to re-writing it right away.  It lost some of the sparkle, but the function is all still there.]

 

What’s the silliest computer mistake you’ve ever made?

Big Enough to Drive a Truck Through…

I think I mentioned that I’ve been working on re-plotting Fighter One.  It’s a good storyline, I just needed to do some major surgery to make it all work the way that I wanted it to.  I’ve switched events around, moved the whole thing further forward in the timeline, and played with point of view.  I actually finished the latest write-through during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

And promptly returned to my Snowflake.  You see, although this is a standalone novel, there’s the potential for a five book series, and I wanted to plot that series out before I went much further.  A lot can happen over four additional books, and I want to ensure that I leave the cornerstones of the plot and story world that I will need for those books.

 

I knew from the beginning of the process that there was a problem with the last two books, but not what exactly.  I had a vague idea that the last two books would reveal a sweeping and epic problem that would lead to an awesome climax and end the series with a metaphorical (and possibly literal) bang. I just didn’t know what this problem was.

 

I figured it out on Saturday, at what I would have thought to be both the most and least likely of places.

 

Saturday I attended When Words Collide, which is a local writers/readers con.  I learned a lot, like I fully expected, but I was sitting in a panel that I thought would be relevant to my main character(s) when somebody said something that made me think about my own story.

 

And then I realized exactly what the central crux of the whole series was about, and it wasn’t what I thought.  The plot hole wasn’t big enough to drive a truck through, that’s an exaggeration, but it was quite large and it had been bothering me for a month or so.  To have it sorted out was both a relief and exhilarating.

 

Of course, it totally changed the course of the books, so I have a little bit of re-plotting to do now.  But it’s totally worth the extra work to get everything figured out!!

 

Fortunate

I am very fortunate.  Those of you who follow me on twitter are probably well aware from my retweets that there was something bad going on in my city.  I live in Calgary which is on the banks of two rivers.  On Thursday/Friday, both rivers experienced a 1 in 100 year flood.  The results are devastating and left downtown, our zoo, and the Stampede grounds completely flooded, twenty four (I think was the final total) communities evacuated for over 48 hours.  Mine was one of the communities evacuated and it left me three days to think several very long thoughts.

 

I am incredibly fortunate that I have so many people who love and care for me.  Mark and I stayed with his parents, but my aunt and uncle would have taken me in and I had three separate sets of friends offer their houses as a crash pad.  Mark’s parents were in the process of moving, and weren’t really set up for guests, but they made every effort to keep us comfortable and happily fed.  It was actually a pleasant, if busy, weekend helping them move.

 

I am fortunate that my house was undamaged and didn’t even lose power.  There are many people in my city that weren’t so lucky.  Mark, the cats, and I were all fine, but I worried all weekend that the aquarium would lose power or that my basement would be ruined (since insurance doesn’t cover overland flooding).  Some of my fellow Calgarians (and southern Albertans) lost everything.

 

I’m fortunate that I live in a city where people who wanted to volunteer had to be turned away because there were too many of them.  And supplies that were donated weren’t needed, because there were too many of them.  I’m amazed that, of the 75,000 people displaced, only about 1,500 needed to use the evacuation centres, because other people, sometimes complete strangers, took them in.

 

I’m fortunate to have been able to watch as Telus offered free local and long distance calls to victims, Shaw opened up their usually locked WiFi points so that people had free WiFi, UHaul offered free storage, and too many restaurants and businesses to count offered food to evacuees and clean up crew.

 

My city will survive, and so will the people in it.  As far as I know, nobody from Calgary was injured or killed in the flood and the emergency management team was amazing in ensuring that.  There’s still a lot of cleanup left to do, but with the number of people already volunteering to help, I think that it will take less time than they forecasted.  “Come Hell or High Water” the Stampede will start on July 5 and the city will endure.

 

And we are fortunate to be able to say that.

Why I Didn’t Write This Weekend

Internet, I swear… I have a really good reason.

 

His name is Saffron.

 

Let me ‘splain.

 

Saturday was “annual kitty torturing day” at my house.  For those of you new to the party, that’s how my cats view their annual checkup.  It’s nothing horrendous: the usual listen to heart and lungs, palpitate abdomen, check eyes, ears, and teeth, stick thermometer up butt, and stab with a needle or two (vaccine SCIENCE!).  But, apparently, this is a really big deal when you’re a 14 pound cat.

 

I mean, I don’t enjoy my doctor’s visits either, but I have to shut up when he does most of the above (though the thermometer goes in my mouth because I’m a big girl).  I also have the benefit of understanding the importance of the visit; a bit of trivia I have not succeeded in imparting onto the cats.  So for them, this time of year is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

 

In fact, my boy kitty hates it so much that last year we had to drug him just to get through unscathed.

 

Fortunately, last year, it worked.  This year… not so much.

 

It looked promising, he took the meds easily and tolerated the wonderful tech weighing him to see if he’d lost weight like he was supposed to (he hadn’t).  He explored the exam room like a champ with slightly wobbly legs.  He even jumped onto my lap for a snuggle and attempted to get up on the exam table.

 

Then he saw his sister, who was hiding behind the black laptop like she does every year, trying to blend in and hope that, this once, we forget to examine her.  Apparently, this was a traumatic thing for Saffron, and he started to growl and hiss (the working theory is that he didn’t recognize her.  Or that he was being a jerk).  I thought it was still going to be manageable, if difficult.  The vet came in, did her essential oil magic (the cats smelled really good) and gave Saffron some (dried and fresh) catnip, which calmed him enough that he didn’t mind us being there, examining Socks, whom he was still growling at.

 

He started to get antsy so we ended up taking Socks to the back room (surgery) to give him a break with the lights out, and finished her exam there.  For various disgusting reasons involving glands needing to be expressed, it turned out to be a good thing that we’d moved.  Then we put Socks in her carrier in the hallway and went back to get Saffron.

 

Who had spent the whole time prowling and stalking and generally pretending to be a wild jungle cat.  We (the vet and I) had come in to get his vaccines to prep in the back room in preparation for the usual brief exam, stabby, and put kitty back in carrier when we made the unforgivable mistake of trying to leave the room without him getting out.

 

Internet… my cat bit the vet.  He ran into the hallway, clawed onto her leg, and bit her knee.  And when she tried to close the other exam room door (which was open to the front, where he could escape, he metaphorically lost his sh*t.  When I tried to help the vet, he attacked me.

 

I have to say, that having a cat claw in your bottom lip while simultaneously having your index finger bitten is not pleasant.  Nor is having a cat claw stuck in your forearm with said cat growling and hissing while you’re trying to contain the copious amounts of blood gushing from your lip.  My utmost support to the vet tech trainee who did what neither the vet nor I could do and caught Saffron underneath a quilt and held him there without getting a scratch.  At this point, he also literally lost his sh*t.

 

At this point, I decided that Saffron had enough and needed to take a nice, long nap.  So we put him in a box.

 

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And then we filled that box with gas (kitty nitrous oxide) and waited until he fell asleep.  Then we pulled him out and got on with many things we couldn’t when he was awake.

 

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It was a more thorough exam than I usually get, and included blood and urine panels (and faeces, fresh from the floor) because why not?  He’s the cat version of middle aged and he’s probably due for a good workup.  And it wouldn’t hurt to check his blood work since he’s overweight.

 

We plopped his doped up body into the cat carrier (he barely fit all splayed out like that), I nursed my wounds, hung around until he was more or less awake, paid up, and headed home.

 

Where I had a VERY snuggly Saffron.

 

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They warned me that he would be snuggly, but I was unprepared for how vocal he would be.  He spent most of Saturday sitting and crying, even when asleep.  It was kind of heartbreaking.

 

He also spent about two hours carrying a yellow toy mouse around in his mouth like it was his baby.  He barely put it down to eat.  And yes, my big macho cat cuddled with it.

 

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Even on Sunday, he was still pretty snuggly, which made it hard to get any work done.

 

But Internet?  With something this cute, I find it hard to justify doing anything else but cuddle all day.

 

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I’m sure you understand.

On Creativity

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Breathing out Birds by Roni Amin

 

I’ve been fighting with my muse lately.

 

It’s not that he/she/it hasn’t been talking to me, which is usually my problem.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I actually want to write lately, which has been a feeling that’s been hard to come by lately.  No, lately my problem has been to find the energy.

 

And the self-confidence.

 

The first is a lot easier to control: it means getting enough sleep and eating right and exercising, and making sure that I’m being nice to myself.  I’m still recovering from a very difficult time in my life and, if anything, have a bad habit of over-extending myself, especially on days when I feel well (like yesterday, where I helped my fiance clean his old room at his parents’ house – he was still storing stuff there – and then went shopping for house stuff, food, and new fish for the aquarium, and then went to a NaNoWriMo monthly meet).  That leads to days like Friday and Saturday, where I basically lay on the couch watching TV all day.  Neither of these days are particularly conducive to being productive in a writing sense, but there you have it…

 

No, that part is easy.  The self-confidence thing is a heck of a lot harder.  For example, this week, my wonderful, amazing fiance posted to social media that he had nine (NINE!) novel ideas lying in wait for when he only had the time. A lot of my writing friends claim to have the same problem – more ideas than time.  I have the opposite.  It’s rare for me to have a novel idea pop into my head.  I find that I really have to work at it to make them show up, which makes me worry that they might actually be not all that good.  Because it seems to be so easy for everyone else…

 

So I had a crisis of confidence this week, because I’m clearly doing this writing thing wrong if I don’t have nine or ten more ideas than I could ever write (which is funny, in retrospect, since all I’ve been able to think about has been the sequels to the book I’m currently writing, and how awesome the series is).  And it sucked, because I had finally, after nearly two years of forcing myself, felt like I was starting to re-discover the passion I had for writing.  And spending hours trapped in the conviction that I was absolutely no good at it was frustrating and maybe a little damaging.  Fortunately, I have a partner who’s well used to my confidence issues and knew all the right things to say to make me feel better.  Sometimes it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re trapped in negativity. I’m glad I have him around to be positive on occasion.

 

So I’m being nice to myself this week.  I’m not pushing the writing (there will be time enough for that in July).  Instead, I’m catching up on sleep and trying to feel better physically (because the last few months have been bad for that).  I’m also trying to focus on positive thoughts and reminding myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, I just need to learn how to look at everyday situations in a different light.  Of course, I think that requires me to be a little less exhausted…

 

How do you react when you realize you’re doing something “wrong”?

Phone The Media

I’ve been writing again.

 

Newspaper of New Zealand

 Photo from here

 

Slowly, to be sure, and not terribly effectively, but I’m writing again.

 

I haven’t talked about it much here, but I’ve actually been really struggling to write lately.  I haven’t had the mental and physical energy that I’ve needed to really devote myself to the task.  In part, I think it’s because of the day job, which has some really unusual hours right now, and often gets me home well after 7:00 three days of the week.  After then, by the time I eat and settle in, it’s bedtime.  So those days aren’t writing days.

 

But I’ve also found it hard to settle into a good sleep on those days (only having two hours at home isn’t what I’m used to).  Since the long days are usually Monday and Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday and rarely Thursdays, that means I’m exhausted by the end of the week and I need Thursday/Friday to catch up.  Then comes the weekend, which will be very busy now that it’s summer.

 

I’m probably not struggling with anything that’s terribly unusual to most of my colleagues out there, but I’m finding it difficult right now.  I’m also training for a 5K run at the end of June, trying to lose a little of the weight that I put on over the last few years (the side effect of some medication that I really needed), and attempting, however ineffectively, to spend some time with friends.  Writing time is at a premium these days.

 

Which is par for the course for summer, really.  I should be used to it by now, but this year it seems to be more of a struggle than usual.  All the same, I did a little bit of writing/editing this weekend.  It was mostly planning, since my motivation was stronger for that, and getting back into working again on something that I was motivated to do seemed logical, but at least I did it.  Now I just need to sustain it.  I should be good at this, since squeezing in bits of writing is all I preach during November, but I’m finding it harder to just edit for fifteen minutes like I could if I were writing.  What I’m working on needs a bit of conscious thought and sustained effort.  So I’m just going to have to experiment, I guess!

 

What are your tricks for writing when you don’t have much time?

 

 

 

 

Surprised by my own Skill

I’m having trouble trying to decide where to start this post.  Mostly because I was at work for nearly 12 hours today and doing something resembling work for at least 10 of them (I can call the other two “team building, right?).  I’m tired.  And hungry, even though I just ate.

 

But I’m not here to complain.

 

Not about the long hours, anyway.

 

You see, something unusual happened to me this weekend.  It was a long one for me (my company gives one Friday off a month) and I spent the Friday doing house and grown up things that need to be done when one is a grown up with a house (called insurance company about last year’s hail claim, mowed lawn, took out trash, called doctor, etc.).

 

 

Some of that is unusual.

 

But that’s not what I want to talk about.  Friday night I joined my parents and their dog on a jaunt out to the lake, as it was Mother’s Day. We had a nice visit, hung around in the sun, did some shopping for plants, visited with my cousin, her son, and his puppy, who is only three months and adorably tiny (unlike the baby tiger below – added for visual interest).

 

 

 

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I even read a book or two.

 

 

Okay, so it was a newer Clive Cussler that my dad left on his bedside table.  Nothing fancy or terribly thought provoking, but it was a fun read for a few hours.  Brain candy is sometimes healthy, right?  Anyway, there was a scene in it that involved a husband and wife in mortal danger, which reminded me somewhat tangentially of a scene in the possible sequel to “Fighter One” (which I drafted during a NaNoWriMo a few years back).  I was curious if my memory of what I had written was correct, so I re-read the draft.  And ended up also reading the draft of the next in the series after that.

 

 

The strange thing?  I couldn’t put my own books down.  It was kind of like when I read “The Hunger Games” after having watched the movie: I knew how it ended, but I was compelled to keep on reading just to be sure.  And it was enjoyable.  Much more so than reading the first in the series is right now (after I’ve torn it completely apart and put it back together backwards… twice).  I actually really enjoyed reading the books.

 

Now, they aren’t the pinnacle of literary brilliance, I know that.  They’re first drafts, and NaNo drafts at that.  But the potential is what amazed me.  And, more than anything right now, I desperately want to re-write those two books, and finish the series (I know exactly how it will end.  It’s wonderful and poignant and circular and beautiful, and the changes that I’ve made to the first book will only make the last one better).  Which means finishing the first in the series, but I’ve been looking for the motivation to do that for a few months anyway.

 

The big problem?  The darn day job!  I really wished the weekend had been a few days longer so that I could have capitalized on the wave of motivation that I felt.  Since that cannot be, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself of the feeling until I make the time to actually sit down and write again.  Maybe over the (next) long weekend.

 

Have you ever completely surprised yourself with your own talent?

 

 

 

 

 

Winner… Again!

So…

I’ve been working a series of rather long hours at the day job (the price one pays for having clients 16 time zones ahead) so this will be a short update by necessity.  But guess what?!?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

You didn’t, did you?

 

 

 

I’m disappointed in you all.

Seriously, though, I’m pleased to report that I finished and WON the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo on Sunday April 28.  I celebrated with my fellow Wrimotaurs at our usual restaurant haunt by purchasing and subsequently eating the entirety of a caramel brownie bacon sundae.  It was delicious: although one wouldn’t think that those flavours go together, they totally do!

 

In typical me fashion, I have done absolutely no writing since that night.  Mostly because of the aforementioned long hours.  And my weekend was completely full of social-type events.  But things are slowly growing manageable at work as I get used to 45-50 hour weeks again, along with the hour commute each way.

 

And, as fun as gaming, cleaning the entire house, shopping and prepping for a party, watching Iron Man 3, and entertaining at said party were, I’ll be glad for some quiet time.  Which is kind of the exact opposite of summer, but there you go.

 

But now that Mark and I got the spring cleaning done in advance of entertaining last night… well, there’s going to be some more time for writing in my future!

 

After I mow the lawn and get the gardens in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Chicken WHAT?!?!

Chicken WHAT?!?!

 Photo by Riverseal (flickr)

 

So, last week I shared how I participated in the Camp Marathon for NaNoWriMo (the NaNoThon).  Well, today I had two great pieces of news related to the NaNoThon that really made up for a long, tiring Monday.

 

Not that my day was bad or anything.  Far from it.  It was just a 10 hour day, from start to leaving work, including a 4:00 pm meeting that went until just before 6:00.  Then there was work to finish after that.  This is my normal Monday, and is the curse of working with a client that’s 15-16 hours ahead of us (4:00 our time is currently 9:00 am their time).  I’m still enjoying it and learning a lot, and hey: overtime’s alright.

 

But!  It was long and I was tired by the end of it.  So just imagine my excitement when I got home and checked the mail to find my Camp NaNo donor goodies awaiting me!  A brand new patch to add to my NaNoWriMo hoodie (that I’ll have to show you sometime).

 

Then, I checked my e-mail to learn that I was one of the lucky people that won a NaNoThon Donor Bonus prize!  So I have a Chris Baty Studios poster coming my way (which are beautiful and completely writer-themed.  It will likely be donated to my local NaNoWriMo group if it’s one I already have), along with a subscription to The Writer and an album download from Debs and Errol (which I have been listening to while writing this blog post).

 

So there you go: a rather uninspired Monday that ended up with me feeling pretty excited about NaNoWriMo stuff (we got some more good news about this year’s NaNo plans with our new partner, which I am saving for just the right moment to reveal) and life in general (a health insurance rebate cheque?  Yes please!)

 

What was the best thing that happened to you today?