Holly Lisle update – the conflict ‘versus’.

January 20, 2012

Well, I haven’t been updating about it in a while because it feels like such a hard slog, but I’m making some progress with the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course. I’m on lesson five now, and – well, parts of it are fun, and all of it’s been informative.

Lesson one was the first big inventory of the novel, marking out lots of different things in pen on the hardcopy and filling out worksheets of what works and what doesn’t.

Lesson two had us learning about promises, and counting details to see how important we were promising certain characters and items were.

Lesson three involved a lot of filling out index cards for each scene, and trying to identify protagonists and antagonists, settings, conflict, and twists.

I haven’t said anything about lesson four, and it didn’t take me too long to get through it. That lesson was about plots, subplots, and the broken sequences that aren’t really plots in your first draft.

Lesson five is focusing on conflict, and it’s starting with the core conflict of the entire book. I wanted to share what I’ve got so far with you guys. I’m not sure if the last part – my ‘versus’ sentence, is a bit too long and unwieldy… of course, I’m not sure if any of you know the HTRYN course, but I’m curious about what you may think as outsiders.

What matters about my story.

It’s about two young parents who come to realize that they’re not going to be able to get their daughter ready for her all life by themselves. They need their community to support them, and the community is apathetic, more interested in the present than the future. They have to find a way to inspire the entire ship with their vision, while Ginny is messing with them because she wants to keep on being the pampered princess.

It’s Tom and Melanie versus the selfish parts of their community.

It’s the two parents-to-be, passionate to teach and prepare their child but unprepared themselves, versus the people in the ship’s community who insist on things always being done the way they always have been, who aren’t going to sacrifice their privileges for the sake of the mission, the future, or the children.


Programming break – vidlist for Palm

January 19, 2012

So, I’ve made some headway on my programming to-do list, and thought I’d share some more details about it – I’ll try not to get too deeply into the techy stuff, since this isn’t a programming blog, and describe a bit of what it’s like to write a program for an old-school Palm handheld.

So, at my windows computer, I start the NS Basic for Palm developer program. I’ve found this to be a great line of products, giving me a lot of freedom to make programs that do what I want them to, for many kinds of machines, without having to get deeper than I like into the guts of what’s going on inside the machine. Though the programming languages for the different NS Basic products are different, they’re all pretty close to the Visual Basic and VBscript that I use in my day job.

Inside NS Basic, the first job is using the graphical form designer to figure out the interface layout – where the entry fields, labels, buttons, list boxes, popup list triggers, and other things go on the palmpilot screen. With vidlist, I was originally thinking of having a really tall listbox on the left that only went a little over halfway across the screen, but quickly figured out that with the kinds of things I was going to need to store in it, it would be better to have the list wider than it is tall. (You can page through palm lists using the little arrow icons, but can’t page or scroll them side to side.)

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Striking out against SOPA and PIPA

January 18, 2012

If you came to this blog between 12:30 and 8pm EST today, you probably found that it was blacked out as part of the Stop SOPA blackout protest. The main protest had started by 8am, but I was late finding out and later in deciding to join.

SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA – the Protection of Intellectual Property Act, are both proposed laws currently considered by the US congress. Either or both would give the US government, and entertainment industry copyright holders such as the companies comprising RIAA and MPAA, broad powers to enforce a kind of ‘digital shunning’ of any web domains, especially those with foreign registrars who can’t be directly attacked by US action. If a site is been accused of hosting pirated material under SOPA provisions, the powers that be can force any website, search engine, or ad service with a .com, .net, or other US-registered domain to delete all links to the accused site – whether or not those links have anything to do with the pirated material.

And notice that I said accused – there’d be no need for the record labels or movie studios to, say, prove their case. Their word, almost literally, would be the law of the land as far as removing links goes.

Now, I’m not too worried on a practical basis when it comes to this blog – yes, it’s on the .com domain and would be subject to SOPA and PIPA court orders, but as I’m the primary author I can check my links carefully, and the links that my followers leave when they comment aren’t too hard to stay on top of. But the difficulty of keeping track of every posted link becomes a bit trickier when it comes to a small internet community like Stringing Words. And then, there’s some of the larger forums that I’m a member of – like the Straight Dope Message board – or National Novel Writing Month.

I can’t really argue with the point that copywrite holders need a stronger legal weapon to fight piracy with. But this is not your weapon. SOPA or PIPA would be the fuse to a bomb that could leave the internet as we know it, in ruins – and it would’t be the pirates in the blast zone.

Don’t let the MPAA and RIAA force us to delete first and ask questions later. Don’t let them force us to do the dirty work and fight their war on piracy this way. Contact your congresscritter, senator, or other government representative.

And long live the free internet.

Laser printer toner.

January 16, 2012

I got my laser printer a little over a year ago – there were electronics gift cards that came my way on Christmas day, and so I went to the boxing day sales and carried home a little Brother printer. It’s been a great unit, and I’ve put it to good use – printing out several copies of every short story or excerpt that I take to Hamilton Writers or the now-defunct ‘New Writing Workshop‘, and every story that I put into my Kansas binders.

Just before I left for San Francisco this November, the printer’s ‘toner warning’ light started blinking. I over-reacted a little and didn’t even turn the printer on again until I’d found a seller on Ebay who would ship me a toner drum without charging a full arm for it, and then once I’d brought the new drum home – the printer seemed to be fine with the old toner drum.

This has continued on for a few months – the toner light would start blinking intermittently, and then clear up, as if it can’t make up its mind. “Toner? Yeah, I could do with some new toner.” “Toner? Nah, I’m fine, I don’t need more toner.”

Tomorrow is the first Hamilton Writers meeting of the new year, and I had some idea of forcing the issue, of continuing to print out copies of “Project Fast Track” until the printer knuckled under and asked for toner. Turned out I didn’t really need to try very hard. The toner light came on steady after the third copy, which means that it’s not a warranty, but a ‘toner end of life’ error condition. Somewhat whimsically, I turned it off for about an hour, came back – and got another one and a half copies, (twelve pages,) before ‘toner end of life’ hit again.

That time, turning it off and waiting didn’t clear the problem, so I finally opened up the front of the printer, took out the drum assembly, bagged up the old toner drum, inserted the new one, and cleaned off the ‘primary corona wire’, whatever that is, by sliding a stiff green switch back and forth several times. The manual says that I should wipe out the insides of the printer when I change the toner, but it’s too late for me to bother tonight, so I need to remember to do that soon.

It’s a good little printer, and I’m sure it gave me thousands of pages from that first starter drum. Here’s to the next five thousand pages printed!

Six Sentence Sunday: Project Fast Track

January 15, 2012

Hi, and welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday. This week, I’m going to stop cherry-picking sixes from ‘Won’t somebody think of the children’, and start with a short story that I wrote for a contest around Christmas – Project Fast Track. Here’s the opening:

“Hello, and welcome to TimeBubble, Mister York – I’m Darlene Pritchard, Customer Service.” She gestured to the padded armchairs in front of her desk.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Darlene, and you can call me Michael. This is Jasmine,” Michael said. He and the teenaged girl sat down. “Can you show us the bubble machine first?”

“Sure.” Darlene considered her unusually well-informed customers as she prepared the bubble generator controls, and rattled off a few facts about the history of the company.

My drive to get a G2 licence – update

January 14, 2012

So, I took another G2 road test on Monday, and did much better than last time, and somewhat better than the road test I had in November, but I still didn’t pass. Hopefully one more try will do the trick – if I keep devoting time to driving practice, drilling on some of the maneuvers that trip me up, and build some of what I learned from this last try into behind-the-wheel habits.

One of the big problems, which I feel a bit foolish about, was that I’ve gotten sloppy about staying in my lane when turning at an intersection, to the point that I didn’t even think of it as something that I should be making an effort at during a road test. I think that some part of my brain even figured ‘if you just turn into the lane that you’re going to want to be in, then he can’t dock you points for muffing the lane change.’ Probably true as far as it goes, but not much good if you get docked for screwing up the turn! Sigh…

Aside from that, it was mostly stuff that I knew were my weak points before – the ‘roadside stop as if you’re on a slope’ always seems to come back to haunt me, but I’ll get it next time, I really think I will. I scored better for looking around myself and using my mirrors, and did a little better on the parallel park – didn’t tap the barrel behind the parking spot, though I got half a point off for getting too close to it and not looking behind me when I was in reverse.

I want to remember to call the driving teacher from A1 academy this week, so that I can get some feedback from somebody a bit more experienced than my brother before the next test. And I still haven’t booked an appointment for February yet. My brother is picking me up tomorrow for another practice session. I drove home from work on Thursday with him, and that went fairly well.

I just gotta keep at it.

Taking a little programming break

January 13, 2012

Between trying to keep up with the Holly Lisle lessons, my JanNoWriMo writing, reading for critiquing, working the slushpile, and my other daily targets for the calendar, I’m starting to feel a little bit creatively exhausted. And I’ve got a good idea for something else that I can do this weekend to give myself a bit of a break and recharge my batteries.

It may sound a bit weird that I love to write my own programs in my spare time, even though programming is what I do for most of my day job. But being able to pick my own objectives and work with different software environments and device types makes a lot of the difference.

Here’s my list of programming goals that I want to start working on this weekend:


  • Manual for MultiCounter
  • (Any changes that seem necessary in order to write a sensible manual)
  • Manual for AlphaFiles
  • (Any changes that seem necessary in order to write a sensible manual)

Song rater:

JanNoWriMo Day 12 update.

January 12, 2012

I’ve set myself a modest goal for new writing in January – 30 pages or ten thousand words of sample chapters for ‘The Scroll’, (formerly Magic Manuscript, and I’m glad that I got a better title!) I’m also hoping to get a short story or two written before the end of the month, but The Scroll is my official JanNoWriMo project.

So far, it’s going well. My word count is at 4429, and my page count getting on for 11, so I’m more or less where I want to be. And my characters are filling in fairly well, particularly Will, the main character, and Mandy, his girlfriend – also a few people who Will works with at the Royal Ontario Museum. I’m starting to realize that I need to introduce Emelia, the third main character, pretty soon – Emelia is established as a friend of Mandy, but there’s a lot more to her than that.

And Will is starting to get excited about learning what the scroll can teach him! (As am I.) I may need to crack down on the word count a little more after I’ve cleared out a few other projects.

How’s your January word count doing?

The Kindle as a critiquer’s tool.

January 11, 2012

I got a Kindle in the spring of 2010, around the time that they first started shipping to Canada. It’s a second generation e-ink model, with the mobile networking, (no wi-fi.) I’ve never been a voracious reader on the Kindle, but I’m glad I got it.

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been trying to do more reading of other writer’s work for critique on the Kindle, and it’s working out reasonably well. The e-ink technology does take a second or so to flash to a new page, so you have to get used to that, but it’s a fairly convenient form factor to hold while sitting on the bus, with a larger reading area than my iphone or a PDA, but not as heavy or bulky as a netbook computer. And the e-ink really is easier on the eyes than an LCD display.

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Big OLL Interview with Director Grant Faulkner

January 9, 2012

Well, it’s taken a little longer than I hoped, but the time has finally come to share a very special interview. I hope you all enjoy the chance to get to know Grant Faulkner, the new Executive Director of the Office of Letters and Light. Grant is taking over for Chris Baty today, leading the organization that runs National Novel Writing Month and Script Frenzy, and I’d love to wish him a great first day!

What did you want to be when you grew up? Were you dreaming of becoming an accountant, a lawyer, a fireman?

Other than a brief dalliance with wanting to be Batman at the age of 3, I always wanted to be a writer. I think it’s somehow genetic. I remember staring at the pens and paper in my local bookstore with fetishistic delight as a boy and wanting to buy them all. I asked for a diary with a lock on it for Christmas when I was 5, and I’ve since purchased all sorts of different pens and journals and notepads.

My father is a lawyer in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where I grew up, and he always saved an office for me in case I decided to become a lawyer. I loved going to that office as a child and penning what I thought would be wildly successful novels. I was fortunate that my parents didn’t push any profession on me and have been wonderfully supportive of me as a writer despite the choice of such a precarious profession.

How did you end up on the Office of Letters and Light board? Were you asked by Chris Baty?

I’ve always looked for ways to marry my personal life as a writer to my professional life, which can be a challenging thing to do. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to work as a journalist, an editor, and a writing teacher, and then I landed at the National Writing Project, a non-profit dedicated to improving the teaching of writing in the nation’s schools.

Chris has always been so inspirational to me on so many levels, so I reached out to him to see if he could help me further my career and deepen my knowledge of nonprofit management by recommending nonprofit arts organizations who might consider me as a board member. He ended up asking me to consider the Office of Letters and Light, which was a dream organization for me on every level—wonderful programs and a fantastically intelligent and fun-loving board and staff. I simply can’t believe how lucky I am to work with such amazing people.

How many times have you participated in Nanowrimo or Script Frenzy? How well did you do?

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