It’s goal-setting time again.

December 31, 2011

Time to set goals for 2012 – yikes, where did 2011 slip away to so fast? – and also setting some more specific goals for January. I’ve been thinking about the whole process of setting my own goals, and I’m obviously not alone – Elizabeth Twist posted this great meditation yesterday about what New Year’s resolutions mean to her:

Gone are the days when accountability to others – my angry thesis committee, impatient clients, or needy students – made me hop to it and apply myself… Left to my own devices, I would be facing the spectre of large chunks of time in 2012 with only the vague idea that I would maybe like to write something at some point. It is not enough.

I definitely agree with Elizabeth about the power of self-declared goals, but I’ve also been feeling a little uncertain about it – uncertain about if I’m pushing myself too hard or not hard enough to accomplish my writing dreams, and about if I’m setting myself too many goals or not enough.

Oddly enough, one thing that’s influencing how I feel on all of this is a relatively minor plot point in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I’ve been reading nearly every day lately – the fact that as fifth-year students facing their OWL levels, Harry and Ron are having a harder time keeping up with their homework and struggling to buckle down, especially when Hermione says that she’s not going to let them copy her notes any more:

They spent the whole of Sunday in the common room, buried in their books while the room around them filled up, then emptied. It was another clear, fine day and most of their fellow Gryffindors spent the day out int he ground, enjoying what might well be some of the last sunshine that year. By the evening, Harry felt as though somebody had been beating his brain against the inside of his skull.

‘You know, we probably should try and get more homework done during the week,’ Harry muttered to Ron, as they finally laid aside Professor McGonagall’s long essay on the Inanimatus Conjurus Spell and turned miserably to Professor Sinistra’s equally long and difficult essay about Jupiter’s many moons.

Order of the Phoenix, pp264-265, Bloomsbury paperback edition.

I suppose I aspire, at least, to Hermione Granger’s work ethic or something, because I actually felt sorry that I couldn’t manage that kind of hectic slog to finish a Holly Lisle revision worksheet on my own deadline. But now that I’m looking back on what I managed to accomplish in December 2011, I’m thinking that maybe it’s a good thing that I cut myself a little bit of slack. Unlike school or (usually) day jobs, when you’re motivating yourself for personal projects, you don’t really have somebody else’s perspective on how much you can accomplish in a certain amount of time when you really apply yourself.

Month by month, I’ve noticed that I tend to push myself a little harder than I think I can go, so it’s alright if I fall a little short. I can just nod to myself and think, “Maybe I’ll get there next time.”

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Character worksheets and Google.

December 30, 2011

I’ve been doing some character worksheets as part of the ‘Magic Manuscript’ story outline – I started with this worksheet template at Jody Hedlund’s blog, which Rinelle posted a link to over at Stringing Words, and picked the items that seemed to interest me about my characters at this point.

One thing I noticed was that nearly every item seemed to send me off on a google search to do further research. Height, weight, and body type? Over to “BMI calculators.” I quickly learned that to pick character scents, I wanted the Wikipedia article on the Fragrance Wheel. There’s a great list of eye color synonyms over at the Obsidian Bookshelf. And so on and so forth.

I think that this is cool, and it probably says something about my thinking and my creative style that I like to choose from lists instead of coming up with these details entirely by myself. And this kind of research can turn up unexpected facts that send my storyline down new paths. I’d gotten the idea by myself that Mandy was from an Italian-American immigrant family, but orphaned in her teens, so moved to Ontario to be taken in by her closest relatives, an aunt and uncle. Looking at the Wikipedia page on causes of death I was surprised to see that HIV and AIDS accounts for as many deaths as lung cancer and car accidents put together. (If the statistics were for North America and not global that might not be true.) So I decided to have Mandy’s mother die of AIDS when she was 16. Her father died when she was younger, getting into a car crash shortly after moving out of their home. It all smacks a little of trailer trash tragedy, but I think that works for the character so far.

What’s the most unusual Google search you can remember doing for writing research?

UPDATE: Since so many people seemed to find value in the few links I shared, I decided that I’d continue reviewing my history and share some more!


My kinda-new gaming desktop!

December 29, 2011

I’ve had my windows XP tower desktop computer for nearly seven years now, but with the addition of an extra stick of RAM, it kinda meets the minimum requirements for a half-decent gaming system. Accordingly, I have signed up with Steam, and made my first purchase – the ‘Left 4 Dead’ and ‘Left 4 Dead 2’ bundle, both on sale today!

Left 4 Dead 2 is still downloading. (I started with that one instead of the original.) But I’m looking forward to playing. So what other games should I look into?

System Specs:
2 GB ram
Windows XP home
Pentium 4 CPU, 3 GHz, Dual-threaded.
441 gig on 2 SATA hard drives, currently 29 gig free
NVIDIA GeForce PCX 5300 (That’s the graphics card, right?)


Thank you for four hundred!

December 28, 2011

Well, this is my four-hundredth post, and I’d like to thank all of my readers for giving me the support and encouragement to make it this far.

And, so, what better time to send shoutouts to the most valuable people who have helped make the Kelworth Files what it is today. In alphabetical order:

Arlee Bird:  Arlee is one of the shining lights of the blogosphere, of course, patron of the A to Z challenge and a regularly seen avatar in the platform-building campaigns and challenges. I always look forward to seeing a comment from Arlee, be it about books, business cards, or public transit – and I’m looking forward to the 2012 A to Z! Thanks so much, Arlee.

Avatar139: Big shout-outs to the first guy to volunteer to be a guest post author for the Kelworth Files, of course. He’s also expressed some interesting thoughts in comments on my post, talking about his muse and his feminine side, LARPing, and writing for the money.

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Outlining a short story

December 26, 2011

There’s a new short story contest up at the Straight Dope board, and I decided that this time, I was going to put some more thought into outlining it, not just start writing the first idea I thought of when I got the prompt.

That wasn’t particularly easy. I had a notion what I wanted to do when I started, mostly because of the picture, which had a clock and a bell hanging from a chain, (which immediately made me think of time travel or time manipulation,) but when I tried to apply what I’d learned in Kansas and from other workshops and classes over the past year, I kept ending up on storylines that were missing conflict, or a good antagonist, or something else important like that.

And time was somewhat running out – the contest rules specify that you have sixty hours from when you collect the prompt – I sent in my email yesterday morning before leaving for Christmas with the family, (hoping that I’d be able to mull over ideas in the back of my mind,) and so I need to have my finished story in by tomorrow night.

This evening, though, after I printed off some handouts from Julie Czerneda’s site, things suddenly started to fall into place. I ended up writing nearly 1800 words in an hour and a bit, some of which will have to get cut to finish the outline in under 2000 words, but it’s a great start, and I think that I’ll keep the entire first draft without cuts to refer to later. I’d been mulling over the idea of enclosed spaces where time runs slower or faster than normal, and then got an idea about one possible application of ‘fast time bottles’ that really got things moving.

Here’s the outline that I’ve been working off. Note that ‘sequel’ is a technical term that I learned from James Gunn in the Kansas workshop – it’s not a seperate work of fiction, but a kind of scene that’s less active and conflict-driven than the usual kind, but serves to bridge between proper scenes.

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Merry Christmas presents!

December 25, 2011

Well, I’m back from spending Christmas day with the family – lunch at my Mom’s Condo, and then presents under the tree, wrapping paper fight, and turkey dinner over at my sister’s house in Kitchener.

Of course, the great joy of Christmas is in the giving, but I’m not that comfortable sharing the list of what I gave to my family and friends here on the blog. Somehow, babbling on about all the loot I got doesn’t seem quite as awkward!

  1. Gift cards – two for ‘The Source’ electronics chain, and one for Sears.
  2. New AAA rechargeable batteries.
  3. Socks.
  4. A quilted blanket with a pentomino pattern on it!
  5. Cookies and other goodies from my nieces and nephew.

So, did you get any cool gifts?


Fan Fiction Crossovers

December 24, 2011

One of my goals for 2011 was to finish all three of the fanfiction crossovers that were Works In Progress on January 1st. It’s looking like I might actually accomplish that goal! I’ve got one that’s still incomplete, but the plot is clearly winding up, (and leaving open the possibility of a sequel.)

To me, writing a crossover can be the ultimate fanfic high – not just playing with somebody else’s characters and telling your own story with them, but trying to find a way to make two different fandoms work together for more than twice the fun, and finding the common ground between them.

The first crossover I finished this year was ‘A Roswellian Alien in Metropolis’, and it was already nearly finished in December – 3 chapters out of four. This was a sequel to a Roswell/Smallville crossover that I wrote because of a challenge. The first story in the series, ‘Arrow through my soul’, involved Maria DeLuca going to Metropolis for a record deal and falling in love with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow.

By the time I finished that one, I’d already thought that there could be a sequel involving Michael going to Metropolis as well, and then I got the idea of Chloe trying to train Michael to become part of the Justice League. That gave me my opening scene, but it was actually when Chloe sent Lana Lang to keep tabs on Michael that the story really hit high gear. Somehow Michael and Lana have chemistry on the page. Who knew?

And that’s part of the fun of crossovers, of course, seeing how the different characters will relate to each other. Roswell and Smallville have very similar canons and mythologies, of course – both teen soaps originally from the WB network, featuring extraterrestrial teenagers hiding their abilities. It wasn’t hard to picture the two sets of characters, some in New Mexico and the others in Kansas, unaware of what was going on in the next state over.

Both of these stories have followed the pattern of a protagonist character from Roswell (in first person narration,) entering the world of Smallville and meeting many of that show’s characters, and facing a challenge from a Smallville antagonist. I’m still considering a third story in the series, which would play with that convention a little, and have Clark come to Roswell and meet with Max, Liz, Michael and some of the others.

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In the bleak midwinter

December 22, 2011

I guess we’ve passed the winter solstice sometime in the last 48 hours or so, the shortest days of the year up here in Ontario. I’ve been busy enough with work and Christmas preparations and a few other things that I haven’t paid that much attention, but the long nights are getting me down a little. It isn’t too cold yet, but that’ll probably be coming after New Year’s.

Happy Mid-winter’s day, and have a good Festivus tomorrow!


The mysteries of Kindle debug mode

December 21, 2011

I’ve had my second-generation Kindle for coming on two years now, and even though it’s been a frustrating device sometimes, (especially since Canadian Kindle owners get the short end of the stick in numerous ways compared to Americans,) I’m glad I got it overall. A few days ago I converted a few chapters that a fellow Toronto area writer sent me many months ago into Kindle format, vowing that I’d get her my feedback before the year was out. I started reading on the bus yesterday, and figured out how to make annotations as I read.

Hello, frustration, I was wondering when I’d meet you again! There was an oddly unpredictable lag when clicking the ‘Save Note’ option – anywhere from a few seconds to at least two minutes before I could turn the page – or even read from the bottom of the page, where the annotation is entered.

At first I was wondering whether this was because of the way I’d used the old Mobipocket Desktop program to convert the word file into a format that Kindle could read – it wasn’t even quite the usual .mobi format. But trying annotations in a few other books resulted in the same lag, and I found a discussion thread on an e-reader forum talking about a very similar lag on Kindle 3. Apparently, it has something to do with the ‘clippings’ file that Kindle saves annotations in, and the background indexing process.

There was a solution posted – a debug script that you could type into the search box on the Kindle home screen, which would disable indexing until the Kindle was restarted. While indexing was off, apparently annotations could be entered quickly, which seemed to be a reasonable tradeoff for not updating the search indexes – and you can restart the Kindle, let it index overnight, and then disable the indexes again.

The script given was for Kindle 3, but I decided to give it a try and see how it worked, because I couldn’t find a similar method for disabling indexes on Kindle 2.

;debugOn

No real sign yet of whether it was working or not, as expected.

~help

The Kindle churned and thought about this for several seconds before bringing me back to the home screen, instead of showing me a list of debug commands. No joy. Hmm…

This time, I searched for ‘debug mode Kindle 2’ – and found something useful! It was a page with general information on debug in Kindle 2 versus 3, with the tip that in Kindle 3, you use the ~ tilde where Kindle 2 has the ` backquote.

Aha!

`help

This provided the list of debug commands. So I continued with:

`disableIndexing
;debugOff

And tested entering a new annotation – less than a second’s lag time. I haven’t tested it under real reading conditions yet, but I’m hopeful.


The December call to relax.

December 20, 2011

I’m starting to feel like I’m in dire need of taking a bit more time to relax.

I dove head-first into new projects as soon as Nanowrimo was over this year – the Holly Lisle revision course, outlining ‘Magic Manuscript’, reading and critiquing stories, driving lessons, and so on. That’s all good stuff. But I may want to dial back my December to-do list just a little bit so that I can chill out.

What about you, have you been relaxing lately?


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