Where's the kaboom?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019 12:27 pm
lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
I am drinking tea out of my Marvin the Martian mug.

For those who don't know me well enough to know what that means: It is never a good thing when I am sick enough to consume large quantities of tea and also in a mood where I greatly sympathize with the desire for "an Earth-shattering kaboom!"

(Awaiting emails on Thing. Contemplating emails on Thing related to Thing. Need to be working on other Thing.

...May need more tea.)

Kill me now.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 02:34 pm
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
Horrible head cold. My nose spent yesterday training for the Boston Marathon. Dinner was hot-and-sour soup and ice cream, and since the soup was from a new place and was basically red pepper flakes with a little soup tucked in around the edges, this was pretty much the nuclear option for cold management.

And it still barely touched it. I've tried everything in my repertoire of cold-treating tricks, and nothing's helping for more than a few minutes. (Eating ice cream non-stop is working fairly well, but there are limits.) I've been trying to work up the energy to go to the store for a cold medicine recommended by a co-worker, but at this point it's probably going to be a phone call to the housemate to pick it up on her way home.

The worst thing about this sort of thing is that what you need most to be able to breathe again is a decent night's sleep, and it's hard to sleep decently when you can't breathe. Dozing in one- and two-hour blocks is not the same thing, though at least there were a lot of blocks.

Today's to-do list is mostly sit-down tasks at the computer, so in theory I still ought to be able to get a decent amount done. Counter to that is the fact that just typing this up has exhausted me.

lizvogel: an old-school DOS prompt, with "Retro" in pixelated green italics (DOS Prompt Retro)
Somebody had recommended f.lux to me as a way to deal with the screen on Skippy, which can be very hard on my eyes. Well, it turns out Win10 and/or the Streambook has a "Nightlight" setting (under System - Display), which does much the same thing. I've got it set to about half-way down the spectrum right now, and the screen's gone from messing up my eyes in a very few minutes to remarkably comfortable for fairly long-term viewing.

This is a delightful thing! The screen is not perfect, but it's sooooo much better. I'll have to see if the Nightlight setting stays on; if not, I may have to program it to start/stop 23 hours and 59 minutes every day.

lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Okay, this marks me as a raving egotist, because this is the first day of the Snowflake Challenge that I've actually done, and it's the one where I get to rec my own stuff. Then again, if I can't be egotistical on my own journal, where can I?

(Actually, I think I did Day 4. Someone wrote a story, it was fun, I said so. I don't think I've commented to that person before, though I've seen the name around. Come to think of it, I think I did a couple of that one.)

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Preserve, Stargate: Atlantis, 5670 words

This story retains a special place in my heart because it was the beginning of this new phase in my writing where I, you know, actually finish stuff. Stuff longer than a page, stuff with plots even! I don't know why this one in particular triggered that all-the-way-to-the-end setting, or why SGA in general was such a productive playground for me. But I kind of date my self-definition as a serious writer from this story. Also, I still think it's pretty funny.

Windy Van Hooten's Was Never Like This (scroll down to page 15), original fiction, ~7200 words

This was the first time I sat down to deliberately craft a story to certain specs, and on a deadline, too. I freely admit that I played to the judges, and, well, it worked. This was the first time since third grade that any original fiction of mine garnered public validation. I still think it's one of the best things I've ever written.

(Sorry about the link to the program book PDF; it's the only place this story is available. I'd love to see it published somewhere else, but 7200-word reprints by an unknown author are not the easiest of sales.)

(Also, yes, I know, it's not a "fan" work. But I'm really proud of this one. And science fiction fandom's a fandom too, even if it's not quite what the Snowflake mods meant.)

Stress Fractures, Doctor Who (new), ~700 words

This is arguably not one of the best things I've written, but it may be one of the weirdest. I still don't know if it works for anyone who isn't me, but I'd be very interested to find out.

(Okay, I am egotistical enough to put up the links, but too strongly in introvert mode right now to link back to here from the Snowflake comm. I suspect this defeats the purpose of the exercise, but we work with what we have. Extroversion roll made. Going back under my rock now.)

lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
I'm not querying any faster for the purring cat who keeps demanding attention, but I sure am querying happier.

lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
Happy New Year! (How on earth did that happen?)

I ended up with a surprise week off from the Day Job, I think because my manager forgot to put me on the schedule. So I decided I would spend it querying Highway of Mirrors. Good plan. I also told myself, way back at the end of November, that I could take a month off from Lightning Strikes Twice, and dive back into it starting in January. Also a good plan.

I somehow failed to notice that these two chunks of calendar overlapped significantly.

I've decided to roll ahead with the querying. I'm making good progress, and it is something that I have so much difficulty getting myself to do, it would be silly to put a halt on it. So I can have at least one week of January for that, and at least three weeks for LST. (We'll see what happens to those few unassigned days in between.)

In other news, I reclaimed the old laptop that I had lent to the housemate, who never got around to using it. I'd frankly forgotten all about that machine. The floppy drive in it does not work, but the USB ports do -- and I've got a USB floppy drive. It's awkward and inconvenient using the external drive, but it does technically function as a designated writing laptop that I can keep by my bedside and haul around the house. I very definitely still need to acquire a new-to-me old laptop and/or get one of the dead ones repaired; the friend I got this machine from is not known for taking good care of his stuff, and the poor thing has really been through the wars. It's missing a couple of keys, and I had to wrap electrical tape around the exposed wires on the power cord; it's also had a couple of glitches that make me suspect a hard drive failure is in its future. But, for a temporary emergency stand-in, it's a darned sight better than nothing.

Of course, now that I finally have a writing laptop again, the urge to mess around with stories at night, which has been nagging at me like a junkie craving a fix, has almost entirely subsided. *headdesk* But I am at least sleeping better knowing I can have my late-night writing dose.
lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
What the hell happened to ThinkGeek? It used to be a good source for tech toys of a practical nature along with the silly stuff, with decent write-ups about actual usability; now it seems to be entirely media tie-in tchotchke. I'll admit the Hogwarts tableware is seductive, but I'm just trying to buy a good low-profile USB drive.

This is after a frustrating trip to Staples yesterday, which no longer has anything like the USB drives I bought for keychain-use a couple years ago. Or much of anything else I went there for. (They did manage the single color copy I needed -- eventually, after walking me over to the self-serve kiosks, making me authorize my credit card -- for one copy! -- because they apparently have no capacity to take cash, printing a blank page on the first try because even their employees can't figure out the interface, and oh yes, charging me for the blank page, which I didn't discover until I got home and looked at the receipt. Note to self: Next time, just go to Kinko's.)

No luck with CDW or NewEgg, either. Though at least they try, especially NewEgg.

Amazon has all the usual issues with having to wade through way too much stuff, unhelpful product descriptions, and reviews that aren't linked to the specific item, but it's looking like they're going to get my money anyway. Not my first, second, or third choice, but they're the best of a bad lot.

ETA: And then I started shopping for laptop security cables. Oh, my god. *headdesk*

lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)

Hark, the herald kitties sing
Food for us, it's time to bring
Fish on plates, and treats galore
That's good, human, give us more

Come on, human, time to rise
What's that mean, "quarter to five"?
With our tails erect we stop
in your path to speed you up

Hark, the herald kitties sing
Food for us, it's time to bring

You're welcome. ;-P

lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
Lindt Hello My Name Is Caramel Brownie

I've never been overly excited about Lindt, mostly knowing it from those little truffle-balls you get at check-out counters, which are a nice fix after a lot of standing in line but nothing too special. But I was getting this to go in a gift basket, so obviously I had to taste-test it first.

Oh, my.

Where bought: Meijer, I think

Aroma: Nice warm chocolate with just a hint of bitter.

Texture: Soft, breaks easily under the teeth. Center is very soft, almost but not quite liquid, with just a hint of crunch.

Taste: Oh, my. Very good milk chocolate surrounding intense caramel, soft brownie, and tiny crunches of hazelnut. Decadently rich and delicious. Almost too much to eat an entire bar in one sitting.

Overall: Yum. Definitely would buy again, though perhaps save for special indulgences.

7-7-7 Meme

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 10:19 am
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
(As picked up from the time-sink that is the Network page) The rules are as follows: Go to page 7 of your WIP, go to the seventh line, and share seven sentences. Then tag 7 people who you know will see this to do the same.

So I pulled up Lightning Strikes Twice and went to page 7, and of course the seventh line is a bracket-note about something I have to go back and fill in later. ;-P

However, skipping down to the seventh line of actual text nets this:
"DeAugustine, are you listening?" the sphere inquired with surprising acerbity for such a small device.

"Hanging on every syllable, I assure you," Aubrey replied, his arm still at full extension to keep the tiny digital voice as far from their ears as possible.

"I'm not doing this for my health, you know. For yours, if anything. You might at least try to pay attention."

"I am riveted with fascination."

The device emitted something very like a snort of disbelief, and Kearsley pictured some poor analyst, trapped in a windowless office waiting for operatives to pick up their devices so he or she could recite briefings that they weren't going to attend to anyway.

I do love Aubrey. And Kearsley, for that matter. And this whole universe, really.

If you're reading this, you may consider yourself tagged.

lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
So I was all set to buy the 20-year-old computer that I previously mentioned, but for due diligence I called them first -- ostensibly to confirm that they tested their floppy drives, but really to make sure I could talk to a human being who sounded legit.

So I asked, and the answer seemed to depend on what machine I was looking at, and when I told him I got "that's been replaced". Apparently the listing on the website that still says it's available isn't valid, and if I tried to buy it the order wouldn't go through. But I can buy something else and tell them in the comments that I need a floppy drive, and obviously I should know this, they sell these machines to businesses that need a particular OS and they sell 20 computers a week and it's a labor-intensive process to refurb these machines and apparently it's completely unreasonable of me to expect to be able to buy the exact machine that their website still says they have.

Yeah. Your website tells lies about what you have in stock and you're condescending to customers who don't roll with that? I think I'll keep looking in friends' closets, thanks.

lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
I had two stated goals for this NaNoWriMo when I started: (1) Teach myself to do this level of output while still working the day job, carrying on with house projects in progress, etc. -- in short, without putting the entire rest of life on hold. (2) Remind myself that writing can be fun.

How'd I do? Okay.

Doing NaNo around working for a living, especially the day job, was as annoying as I expected it to be.

Interestingly, statistically, work days weren't significantly worse for word-count than non-work days. They were more frustrating, because either I was inspired and had to go help people find hardware instead of writing, or I was tired from work and had to slog out words anyway, but apparently I generally managed either way. My very best days weren't work days, but some work days were quite good (even some over 2K), and while some really low days were work days, others weren't.

I had this note for a journal post hand-written in the pocket notebook. I think it's referring to the 28th, based on details in it and the hand-written novel text it was next to, but I can't be sure enough to back-date it as its own post:
Yesterday was a work day. The writing session before work was good, and the one immediately after was pretty good, but the truth is I come home from the day job with a proto-headache more often than not, and writing through a headache is just not a recipe for my best productivity. By the time I got to the third session of the day, I was tired and cranky about being awake and just not feeling it.

If I've got the day right, the statistics do not entirely bear this out: Writing speed per session was 597 wph, 434 wph, and 367 wph respectively. So clearly return on investment was decreasing; on the other hand, even 367 wph is pretty good by my standards. On the third hand, time-on-task was getting longer as words-done was getting smaller, which is never a good sign.

As for fun, the early days were a slog starting at about day 2, but there were some high points. And toward the end, when I finally seemed to get my mojo going, I was quite enjoying myself. I had a lot of fun writing the banter with Schlee, and Kearsley being brilliant at the Customs desk was an absolute delight. So despite spending half the month behind and quite a lot of it bulling through by sheer force of refusing to fail, I did meet this goal in the end. And I'm quite looking forward to writing the rest.

Other things I learned, and miscellaneous bits worthy of note:

Mostly I've learned: Do not go into something like this already exhausted and burned out. Which, duh, and I already knew that, but I didn't appreciate just how bad an idea it was going to be.

Next time, get shinier stars. These are the ones I decided weren't flashy enough last time, and indeed, they aren't proving to be the incentive that the more indulgent, holographic ones I ended up using last time were.

Something to remember for next time: For me, NaNo is primarily an exercise in second wind. I can sit down and write 350-500 words in a session, and that's fine. And I can stop when I'm tired, and under normal circumstances that's okay. But I should never lose sight of the fact that I can, if I push through that tired, usually get another good batch of words done. I don't have to do it that way all the time, but perhaps I should do it once in a while, just to remind myself that I can.

Accomplishing something made for a much more effective break than playing computer games or screwing around on the internet. Doubly so if the accomplishing involved physical activity (such as shoveling snow). But the accomplishing seemed to be the biggest key, rather than the activity.

Just for laughs, I did try one "Cauldron of Doom" word sprint at the last write-in I went to (after I'd hit 50,000). I went into it fully expecting not to hit the number, and I didn't, though I did come closer than I thought I would (target was 425, I did 368). However, I could tell even as I was doing it that the quality wasn't there. One paragraph in particular is repetitive, drivelling... well, drivel. I might be able to get away with it in that particular instance as a bit of word play, but that's for a paragraph. A whole book of that would be unsupportable; never mind editing, I'd have to burn it and start over.

Catching up involved a lot of hard work and stubborn refusal to fail. It also involved the day job finally getting my hours back down to where they should be. I don't know how I would have done it without that extra day.

Blasting selected music really loudly on the good headphones got me going a number of times when nothing else would. Mind you, there were also times I needed silence to work at all.

Statistical stuff:

For days when I wrote at least quota (1667+), average time-on-task was 4.23 hours.
For days when I wrote at least goal (2000+), average time-on-task was 4.46 hours.

For the days when I didn't make quota, the average was 2.39 hours, but it doesn't correlate beyond that; for example, on the 15th I wrote 273 words in 2.75 hours, but the next day I wrote nearly four times as much (1003 words) in almost the same amount of time (3 hours).

The 15th was the worst day I wrote at all; the second-worst day, it took me 2.5 hours to produce 309 words, which is a sure sign it's time to give it up as a bad job if anything is. Some days, it just ain't happening, and more time doesn't change that.

Words-per-hour doesn't really tell me anything useful; many of the really stellar speeds are for very short bursts (20 minutes or so). Oddly enough, so is the worst wph. The other really dismal speeds correlate to very low-output days, which just reinforces that sitting there staring at the screen when words ain't happening is not only unproductive, but a waste of time that could be spent recharging.

I'll do more Nanalysis if I think of anything. Oh, and one more thing I learned; much of the above is notes I took during the month. I've expanded on several of them, but getting the gist down as I realize things makes for a much better process overview.

lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
I have to write an email to someone on a subject we profoundly disagree about.

And I've got nothing. I am just so effing exhausted with trying to fight the good fight whilst simultaneously delicately negotiating around other people's feelings, and slamming my head against brick wall after brick wall on this project. All to create something that I genuinely believe needs to exist, but that I will probably be too busy running to enjoy any of anyway.

NaNo 2018: Did it.

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 10:46 pm
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
50,663 words.

50,644 validated.

/*topples gently sideways*/

lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
And having jinxed it by saying I knew I could do it, I am now struggling. Does that mean it's a challenge again? ;->

Day 29 dawns....

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 09:41 am
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
2728 words to go.

This may be the hardest part: where I know I can do it, so in a sense I don't have anything left to prove to myself. It's all too tempting to slack off. But it's the doing of it that counts, not the mere potential.

Also, I'll look pretty stupid if I flake out now and don't finish, this close. Better get to work.

lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
Okay, I'm still above par; I've written quota for today, if not much more than. More time is not going to make that better, it's just going to make it later. I have a headache, and I'm out of words; it'll have to do.
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
I am caught up!!!

3063 words today, including one run of 1526 in one sitting. Which is huge for me. And that means 5511 words in the past two days, which is more than my standard quota for a month. Hot damn!

The flying ferrets helped, but it was really the banter between our heroes and the foreign agent that did it. I tend to think banter is horribly difficult for me, and often it is, but when it's going well, it's terrific.

And, I'm actually enjoying the writing, today and yesterday. After that 1526, I had to rush my shower, because I kept getting more words and had to get to the keyboard before I forgot them. That feeling when the words keep coming and coming and you can't get out of their way fast enough, y'know?

(I am above par for the first time since the 13th. That almost feels as good as winning. Yeah!)

I almost don't want to stop. I can keep going for another 5000 words (4400, really) and finish tonight, can't I? (And the answer is No, no I can't. My brain will explode. But I love that I'm tempted.)

NaNo, Day 27

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 12:35 pm
lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
I was doing all right despite being up early for the furnace guy (yes, again), until I made the mistake of writing about my characters being sleepy and headed for bed.


lizvogel: Banana: Good.  Crossed streams: Bad. (Good Bad)
To be fair, my earlier remark should have been that I'd rather go shovel than spend the morning writing. The book itself still interests me; it's not coming out quite the way I'd intended, but I don't think it's without merit. I just wish I could let it sit and percolate for a few days. It'd probably be better for the book; it'd definitely be better for me.

Getting something done seemed to make for a more effective break than reading or screwing around on the internet. So I wrote 500+ words, then cleaned all my boots and shoveled the little deck, wrote another 500+ words, then shoveled bits of the driveway that needed it (the predicted snowpocalypse turned into a lot of wet slushy stuff already on its way to melting), wrote 800+ words (!), then dealt with some laundry and took a shower, and I just sat down and did another 500+ words. My breaks were inevitably longer than I'd intended, but that happens when I'm not getting anything accomplished, too.

I may try to have another push before bed tonight, but even if I don't, I'm about half as far behind as I was this morning. And I like a lot of what I wrote today, too. Still behind, but it's getting there.




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