So this is the final night of my last vacation of the year. Normally this vacation is rather festive and enjoyable as Shannon and I close out the year, wrap up our Christmas shopping and celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year everything came to a screeching halt when our oldest cat Grixie got sick and died. This process took about 3 days and pretty much ruined the mood of the vacation.
2018 was all in all not a very pleasant year. The only real highlight was going home for Thanksgiving and reconnecting with an old friend. If it had not been for that trip, this whole year would have been a total wash. I am hoping the next couple of weeks go well and I can end this year and begin next year on a high note.
I recently bought myself a Tarot deck. A friend has reintroduced me to it. While I am not a particularly big believer in divination or predicting the future (after all, I believe in karma, kismet just pisses me off), I do think how we interpret the symbolism inherent in the cards can give us insight into our own psyche and perhaps light the path a bit.
This was my first layout. My intent here was the top card is my current state, the place where I am now. The bottom three cards are past, present and future. What I need is help with the path forward, i have been floundering for the last couple of years, dealing with depression and anxiety. Some recent emotional turmoil has really pushed me to get off my ass and do something instead of just wallowing in my own depression.
So the Fool at the top makes me very uncomfortable, but I have to admit it is a fair assessment of my current state. The King of Swords is where I have been, my previous assessment of myself; a soldier, a man who solves problems, often with brute force, but just as often with wisdom and Intelligence. The Nine of Pentacles is my present, I think this represents my wife, the person who tends my garden, keeps my house and loves me. I think this is an important reminder of what I have, because I think recently I have taken her for granted and been neglectful of our relationship.
The final card, the Five of Cups, represent my being mournful of the past. The spilt cups represent the years past, the standing cups represent the years to come, I am of that age where I have more years behind than I have ahead. More importantly though, in the background is a bridge and a castle. Maybe its just that 40 years of playing D&D has ingrained in me that wherever there is a castle, there a dragon close by, but when I look at that, I see adventure down the path.
Puberty was not kind to me, I was often seen stomping around the house with a scowl on my face. For you women out there who cannot imagine what it is like to be a boy going through puberty, I can only say, it is basically walking around with an erection for four years and no one willing to help you with it.
No Shave November is an annual event at work where the married men whose wives do not like facial hair, band together in solidarity and grow beards. I thought I would chronicle the progress. I think all in all I managed a pretty decent growth before I shaved today. For the record, it took 4 double sided blades to take it all off.
October 31st, freshly shaved.
November 14th, 2 weeks in.
November 28th, 4 weeks in and my birthday.
This my last day of vacation, I traveled home to Billings and spent some quality time with my family. I got to meet the newest member of my extended family, Haley, my Great Niece. Seeing the look on her mothers face as I was telling Haley that I would be the one showing her how to be weird, teaching her to swear and on her 16th birthday I would give her beer, cigarettes and condoms, was priceless. The whole trip was fun and after I got home, I immediately wanted to go back.
National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where amateur writers all over the world get together metaphorically and write novels. It is not a competition, but rather more like a support group. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This is a tough challenge, assuming one does not write every single day, that is 2,000 words per day or roughly 8 pages per day. I have successfully participated in this several times, but I have only succeeded twice and the outcomes have not been what could be called actual novels, but rather streams of conscience. My biggest problem is when I get stuck or bored, I tend to write sex scenes, just so I keep going. This makes the book rather more steamy than I usually intend, the upside is, I now know how porn books get written.
The key to success though is to consider this writing the first draft. Get the key characters down, build a plot and lay down the infrastructure for each act. Don’t worry about writing a perfect or concise book, just get the basics down. Do not go back and edit your work, this can be done later as part of writing the second draft. I usually do not even go back and re-read anything I have written unless I am referring to an earlier scene and I want to make sure I am remembering what I wrote correctly. Don’t limit yourself to 2,000 words a day, 1 hour a day of writing or whatever, if things are flowing, just keep writing. Those days that you write three or four thousand words will make up for those days you could not get 500 words out or could not find the time to write at all. Once it is all done, go ahead and re-read it if you must, but don’t try to edit it. Just put it down for a week or a month, let the experience settle and congratulate yourself on completing the challenge.
Now go back and decide if you have something interesting that you can edit, expand on and turn into a real book. At this point start the second draft, I usually start by cutting out the stuff that is not really relevant, like the 15,000 words of sex scenes that do not contribute to the plot. Be vicious when cutting things, just because a scene reads well and you really love it, cut it out if it does not move the plot forward or flesh out a character in some important way, you can always use the scene in a another story. Then I try to fill in the holes, I almost always find problems with the plot, characters who do not act consistently throughout the story and things I forgot to explain, this is also a good time to expand the story if you feel it is necessary. I would hold off on rewriting any scenes at this point, that is probably best left to the third draft. This process will probably get you back up to 50,000 words and it is time to put it down for a week or two again.
Now, if you are not thoroughly tired of this shit, it is time for the 3rd draft. It is time to start rewriting all or most of the chapters with an eye towards consistency. It is now also time to clean up all your terrible grammar and spellchecker mistakes. At this point you may also consider moving things around, I have found many scenes that make more sense or have a better dramatic affect if placed later or earlier in the story. This is basically your last chance to make the book readable before sending it off for someone else to read. The temptation here is to make it more exciting, and that is fine, just be aware that you you have now been through this book 3 or 4 times and you are just bored with it, so think carefully about anything you add to the book at this point. If you suddenly find your book is at 100,000 words, you are probably suffering from this problem.
Now it time to send it off to an editor. If you are just doing this for fun, a friend is fine, just don’t expect to get a lot of good feedback. If you are thinking about publishing, hire an editor, yes, pay someone to read your book, give you an honest critique and layout a path for the next draft. Yes I said “Next Draft”, you are not done yet. Chances are good, you are not going to like what your editor has to say, tough shit, listen to them anyway. If you disagree with what they have to say, have a discussion about it, but if you find yourself pushing back and refusing to make suggested changes, it is probably time to quit and move on to the next project.Remember, your editor is there to help you smooth things out and improve your writing, so listen to what they have to say and make the changes they suggest unless there is a really compelling reason not too and the editor should agree with you after the discussion. If you can’t come to an agreement on a change, swallow your pride and go with what the editor says.
With the completion of the 4th draft that both you and your editor are happy with, it is time to shop your novel around to publishers or take a stab at self publishing. If you go with a publisher, if they accept your book for publication, they will assign you an editor and you will probably be writing a few more drafts before they finally publish. If you are going to self publish, it is probably not a bad idea to do another draft with your editor, just make sure everything is where it needs to be. That is about it, if this is your first book, the process more than likely took a year or more, if you have done this a few times and have a good editor, this process will take a lot less time.
I renewed my domain name and DNS redirection service today, it was a whopping $75 for a year. I actually considered letting it go because I really do not update the site with any regularity. I have had this happen to me in the past, but I always seem to renew it in the end. I think I will add some other things to the site, maybe SSFTP capability, so I can move files around easier, I may also rebuild the Caldoom D&D wiki that has been absent from this site for a couple of years now. I guess it all depends on how energetic I get in the next couple of months.
Admittedly, this was a slow read for me, mostly because of how dense it is with information about the world and its inhabitants. The story was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, but unfortunately much of it is very relevant today, we have a trade war with China brewing and we have a mad king of our own who wants to build a wall between us and our neighbors.
One of the things Le Guin does best is world building and she does not disappoint here. As I was reading about this cold world locked in an ice age, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in Montana and shivering.
The dual gendered people of this world was an interesting idea that the author put to good use to build interesting characters and highlight the differences between the two races without making them TOO different. I also think this might have been an nuanced way of talking about homosexuality without offending the readers of the time it was written and published. I admit though I may be mistaken, perhaps someone smarter than me can chime in on this subject.
Of course the most interesting character in the book I thought was Estraven, not just for his fall from grace story, but because at the beginning of the book, he almost seems like a throw away character, someone who was present in the first few pages simply to set the stage and I was pleasantly surprised when later in the book he become central to the story.
Overall, good read, although now I have to go back and read the other books in this series, as I did not realize this was #6 in a series when I started it.
Sometimes when I am surfing the internet, I come a crossed a picture that makes me stop and think for awhile. This is one such picture, when I saw it, I thought it was a picture of a 60’s hippie chic, after all, she is obviously naked under those coveralls. As I thought about it though, I came to the conclusion that perhaps she was a country girl, with her dirty feet and unkempt hair. Of course my mind did not stop there, she is obviously posed and seems comfortable in front of a camera, it is also possible she is a model.
I finally broke down and did a reverse image search and found this woman is Bessie Love, a silent screen era actress, the picture was taken in 1923. She was in fact all of the things I considered, she was born a Texas country girl, who was by all accounts a woman a head of her time and an academy award nominated actress. This picture is endearing because of its earthy innocents and time transcending beauty.