Sunday, December 22, 2013

In which there are far too many orcs...

I went to see the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug today. Why? Why do I do this to myself? When the first movie (of a trilogy!?) was one of the most boring movies I've ever sat through at the movie theatre. Well, the reviews I saw claimed that this movie was an improvement over part one. And so it was. But was it an improvement over the 1977 cartoon? That 77 minute rush-through-the-story-as-best-we-can-with-cheesy-songs? I mean, it's 2013. This is an epic Big Movie with a Big Budget and Modern Effects and Stars and New Zealand and other Cool Stuff. Surely this could be awesome...

...

No.

No no no no no.

WTF is wrong with these people!?

Is it that they have no sense of restraint?

Is it now a contractual obligation that they have an extended amusement-park-ride-battle-through-vast-underground-complexes in every single movie? Did the union of orc actors make demands for a certain percentage of screen time? (Plus, the orcs didn't even sing in this movie. Bah, humbug! The orcs always had the best musical numbers in the cartoon versions.) Did they really have to drain every last ounce of charm and whimsy out of what was originally a children's book? One of the things I was looking forward to in this movie was Beorn. A pity they turned him into an overlong CGI fest.

"A little bit goes a long way." I wish they understood that better. The CGI effects look worse the longer they're shoved up in our faces. Something that should be awesome and exciting just gets... dull, from over-exposure. This is also true of the action sequences.

The underground scenes seem even more overlit than ever. The bit with Bilbo sneaking (and why was he so noisy in this movie? I thought hobbits were supposed to be soft-footed little critters) would have been much creepier and scarier if it had actually been dark. Darkness is DARK! This wasn't.

What's the deal with the wizards-vs-Dol Goldur plotline? That pretty much went nowhere this movie. I don't object to them including it (in a... 9 hour saga!?) to fill out the trilogy (since they insist on it being a trilogy), but it just didn't do anything here. Pointless.

It's a pity we've lost the hobbit's eye perspective. The movie is still called "The Hobbit", isn't it? Not "The Kickass Ninja Elves" or "Orcs!" or "The Wizards' Holiday" or "Social Unrest and Revolution in Laketown".

Really, there were things I liked about this movie:

Thorin sending Bilbo in to get the Arkenstone, in order for Thorin to be able to use it to prove his legitimacy as ruler of the dwarves, and then using that to raise an army to defeat Smaug, made sense. More sense than what seemed to happen in the book. (Did they expect Bilbo to extract the hoard one handful at a time? What were they going to do about the dragon?) And the dwarves in the movie did come up with ideas to kill the dragon. Sure, it didn't work, but they did try. I just wish they had not gone so overboard with the underground chase sequences. They should all have been dead a dozen times over. It was more cartoonish than the cartoon! It had the perverse effect of making it all seem LESS threatening to the characters. They might as well have been bouncing around in a pinball machine.

They made a credible attempt with the various languages! Nice touch. (But their accents were all over the place when speaking English. What is the deal with that? They had that problem in the cartoons, too.)

Laketown looked cool. I liked Bard. I don't think the orc attack on Laketown was necessary, but otherwise I liked that bit of the movie.

Not too many horrible changes to the central characters. (Better than the first movie in that respect.) You could quibble about Thorin and Bilbo at Erebor, but eh. Or maybe I'm just numb. The worst moment was when all the dwarves just gave up and started going home, as far as I could tell. Also, they added that whole Kili elf-loving thing. Shades of Gimli. Whatever! I keep seeing the actor as the vampire from Being Human, so it all just made me laugh. Kili never had any characterization in the book, anyhow. (All I remember is him being one of the "young dwarves".)

So yeah. Just when I think I'm over the whole Tolkien-fanatic thing, some movie comes out and I can't help going off to see it... even if it's just to complain about it. Ha ha ha!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Winter Solstice!

...at least to those in the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, otherwise known as Sol 3, etc.

Happy Summer Solstice to those in the southern hemisphere...

Or, as I see from the technical definition, happy "day in which the solstice occurs."

These days people know it's the solstice because they looked at a calendar (or it said so on some computer somewhere). Perhaps we're missing something now that we no longer figure out the solstice through painstaking observations of sunrise, sunset, angle of the sun, shadows, etc. etc. No more big stone monuments to mark alignments, etc. etc. Bah humbug!

But to celebrate, my younger daughter decided we should open our Christmas (Midwinter?) presents today. Well, ok, their winter break has already started, so this way they have more time to play with their new toys. She's lying there behind me singing "Jingle Bells" impatiently...

In retaliation, I'm starting up my Christmas playlist on my computer. ("It's too rock!" she says. "I thought it was supposed to be more classical. I want my presents now!") In a fit of nostalgia, I downloaded a couple hours worth of holiday music yesterday. Many many years ago, I used to have so many disks of Christmas carols and play them non-stop for the whole week of Christmas.

I blame the school music teacher! At the concert last week, in introducing each of the pieces, she mentioned Mannheim Steamroller and asked if anyone had heard of them. Well, of course I had, but back in the day I never owned any of their albums. Probably at the time I thought "bah, bastardized pop versions of the songs... way too synthy." But the school orchestra playing the Mannheim Steamroller arrangement of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies (from the Nutcracker) ("Faeries") was so cute. Since they got to borrow some percussionists from the band, they managed a much fuller sound than usual. (The school orchestras are normally sadly feeble, lacking winds and percussion.) So... now I have half an hour of Mannheim Steamroller tracks. Ok, I still think it's "bastardized pop versions with too much synth", but hey, they're cool bastardized pop versions... and I did find a few acoustic renditions (which, yes, I thought sounded better).

I also downloaded Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride". I remember that was one of my favorites from the good old youth orchestra days. That and the Cantique de Noel/O Holy Night (the phrase "Fall on your knees!" stuck in my head.) Plus a bunch of songs that Amazon.com is offering for free. Free stuff!

Speaking of "free stuff", off to open the presents!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Halfway through December!

...so it's good NaNoWriMo is in November rather than December. I don't even know what I've been doing. Christmas shopping, I suppose. (Or Winter Solstice shopping, as technically I'm not a Christian, but whatever.) I'm one of those sad nerds who buys everyone books or gift cards to bookstores (well, ok, there's only one major chain left now, which is kinda depressing) as gifts. My relatives give me clothes or jewelry or whatever and I'm always like "what the **** did you waste money on that for!?" I suppose when I give them books, they're all "WTF? A ******* book!? Does she really expect me to read that?" Well, books, book cards, and toys. The little mini-cousins are fun to shop for. I just hope they share my taste in toys. (It's not as if I get anything really weird. I try to get things different from what the cousins and aunties got me for my kids, in hopes that I don't give them something they already own.)

At least my son managed to get on the bus to school today. It's been a trying month. The whole "special needs" thing becomes that much more "special" when he's going through a growth spurt and is suddenly larger than me. The physical coercion option gets dicier at this point. I don't even know if we are making rational calculations or not. In some ways, it's rational to act as if you're not rationally motivated, as that can get the other party to make concessions, but in other ways, it just ends up with a lot of misery all around. It's enough to make me ponder home schooling, but ha ha. No. I would just fail at that. Besides, the kids need to go to school to interact with normal people...

This week is music week for the kids. Instrumental juries, school concerts, blah blah blah. Hopefully I won't end up on refreshment-table guard duty this time. The middle school kids and their younger siblings roam the lobby area like a pack of starving hyenas. The really bored ones try to walk off with entire boxes of cookies tucked away under their arms. The jazz band kids plead for early access, claiming that since they play last, the food is always gone by the time they get out. Ha. I guess at that age, they're hungry all the time, even if they did just eat supper right before the concert. (Admittedly, it is long. There's a separate band and orchestra for each grade, and everyone has to play.)

The next week after that is winter break. Hmm. Possibly I'll get something done. Or not. But we're not going anywhere, so if I'm sitting around at home I should try to be productive...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NaNo2013 Post-mortem

*pokes the novel with a stick* *flop* Yeah, it's dead.

So this is the first year I've done NaNoWriMo and not hit 50000 words. Still, 25000 isn't that bad a number. It was a combination of factors that added up to me not writing.

  • Doctor Who! Between the missing episode rumors, the 50th anniversary excitement, and me going to the Doctor Who convention in Chicago at the end of November (plus visiting family for Thanksgiving), half my mental space was NOT on my novel at all. Ha. Well, the convention was fun! I went with my daughters and my daughter's friend who is a Who fan. Got to see and hear real live Doctor Who actors! And more Who fans in one place than I've ever seen (in person) before. And I also got to wait... and wait... and wait... and wait... in lines to get our picture taken with three Doctors. It was as bad as the Department of Motor Vehicles! Wait in one line, then move to the other one, get a pass, then wait in another line to get another pass, then wait in the waiting room, then wait in the line in the waiting room, then wait in the line outside the other room... Bah. By the time I was in front of the camera, I was completely dazed. Ok, so I'm not a people person. I hate having my picture taken. I don't do cosplay. The MST3King of "The Five Doctors" made my (younger) daughter cry. Fan conventions are clearly not my thing! But it was cool to go, once in my life!
  • "I'd rather be coding." So, usually, NaNo is a two-month endeavor for me. I spend October planning out what I'm going to write in November. Character, setting, plot, important scenes, etc. etc. This month I waited until the brink of November before seriously contemplating what to write. And even in the first week of November, I was thinking about things to put in my game instead of things to put in my novel. D'oh.
  • Outline. Yeah. Ok. I do need a plan. I'm terrible at making it up as I go along. This is not to say I don't make things up as I go along, but I need to have an outline first. I don't mean a complete formal outline. I usually just have a bunch of notes reminding myself of how the story goes (including an ending!) and a rough list of the important scenes. Sure, I add scenes and modify the outline as I go along, but there is always somewhere to go (in my mind, at least). This year, I didn't know. So I ended up with some short short stories to go inside the novel (1/3 of which were left dangling when I couldn't think of a plot for them), because I can think up a plot for a short story more quickly than for a whole novel so I could do them on the fly.
  • Wow, so light and easy! I'm much less burnt out after 25000 words than 50000.
  • I still need to finish the simple game project first, though. I mean, it's easier for me to make a playable game than a readable novel. (Not a polished game, just a playable one. Whereas the novel is readable for a bit, then suddenly explodes, leaving a horrible gory mess. Or disintegrates into a nasty puddle of incoherent goo. Or something.)

I still want to finish this novel, though. Maybe next year. I'll have to work out an outline first. I did have fun writing last month, even if it wasn't enough for the NaNo goal. And I still have to figure out just what the hell was going on with my plot! I want to know. Really. What was I thinking!? It must have made sense at the time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The racism is part of the charm!

Ok, so I spent much of my free time today reading more H. P. Lovecraft stories again instead of writing. But it's "research", since I'm doing a Lovecraft pastiche this year. Yeeeeaaah... research... suuuuure.

And now I think part of the appeal of it is that you can get into this racist, horrified mindset. I mean, Lovecraft goes way beyond being "of his time" in the racism department. When you read the stories, you can sympathize and feel his horror at racial mixing, the fear of racial "degeneracy", the horror of foreigners, the fear that you yourself might turn out to be "tainted". It's interesting that eventually he seems to start to come to terms with it. The narrator of the "Shadow over Innsmouth" initially sees the Other as ugly and evil. By the end, he accepts it in himself and even empathizes with his poor cousin (locked away in an insane asylum). Unlike his uncle, he doesn't go and kill himself (although he does consider it.) He plans to go swim off to join his hybrid kin under the sea. (*cue happy song and dance number*). While this acceptance is itself part of the "horror" of the story, hey, it's progress. Of a sort.

The "cosmic horror" aspect isn't as objectionable to the modern day reader. But it's just as alien, in a way. As an atheist, I agree humans are not the end-all and be-all of existence. I don't think the universe cares. (I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary.) However, the thought does not fill me with terror or drive me towards insanity! I mean, it would be cool to time travel by swapping minds with some alien race! (Though not so cool to have my own species wiped out in a mass migration of alien minds.) Oooo.... giant sea monsters... Yeah. But by reading the stories, one can understand how horrifying it can be. (Of course it's frightening to be squished like a bug, but it's not intrinsically horrifying! It's only horrifying in context.) And in the Lovecraft stories, that element of wonder does exist and is appreciated. The dream quests. The strange alien cities. The ancient ruins. Mind-boggling, imaginative stuff.

Well, maybe that's just me. Part of the appeal of the Narnia series to me was letting me understand the Christian point of view and getting the importance of faith (which would otherwise be mysterious to me). And I liked Jane Austen novels for showing me an alien society.

NaNo NaNo NaNo. Well. One thing about NaNo is that it reminds me how easy it is to write 25000 words a month. Why don't I do that every month? Then I wouldn't have to bother with NaNo. Why? ARRRGH!

Lovecraft pastiche of the day:

The first word of the day is always the hardest.

That the word is in a human language and of a wholesome cast, is a battle I must fight every day. Today I shall have the victory.

Thus, a definite article in my mother tongue. I bind myself to the letters that one may follow another to form a word safe to read or write.

The second follows the first. It suggests a subject, a verb, and indeed a phrase or even a full sentence.

Only by such oblique measures can I bring myself to speak... no, even now I cannot bring myself to /speak/. But the written word is farther removed from those thoughts that writhe with such reptilian vigor in the recesses of the mind.

It is no longer a mind I claim as my own. It has become tainted with the /other/.

No. No more words will I expend on it, lest my own words be used to conjure it into the daylight world bequeathed by the grace of God to Mankind.

But write I must. The compulsion baffles my doctors, but is humored by the custodians of this quaint bedlam where I have been consigned by my parents ever since my return from Sabokan County. I am brought pen and ink and as much paper as I require to damn myself.

/Yrkth Ugh.../

No. My hand is my own. It is not illness of the mundane sort that afflicts me, no fever of the brain, no madness or consumption. They do not understand, who have never breathed the ghost-laden air of Sabokan County. They have never looked upon the face of the Breaker of Worlds.

I wish to God I had such innocence.

It was shortly after the war that I was sent there. I was a clerk then. It was my task to enscribe the treaty as it was agreed between our government and...

And...

Ah, it is not any name I would willingly scribe. Those /powers/ that rule Sabokan County have names that are heard by entities tis better not to alert. More than heard. /Listened for/. Aye, there is one thing they can share with us, and that is an abominable /curiosity/.

Thus it was that I came to /their/ attention.

At the time I understood nothing. During the war, the folk of Sabokan County had allied themselves with our president and aided materially in our victory. Without them the blood toll would have risen even higher. Thus, even after his death, it seemed natural to me that we should honor our agreements and make this treaty with them. It was to end over a hundred years of violence and savagery that Sabokan County was finally embraced in the Union, under terms honorable and just to both sides.

A noble aim, was it not?

As I say, I understood nothing. The terms of the treaty I wrote down as I heard them, without understanding the meaning behind the words.

In ancient times, barbarous tribes made their peace by fostering their sons and marrying their daughters to their one-time enemies. Now... now things are not done so simply. But that exchange of flesh and blood is not so archaic as one might imagine.

I was not brought to Sabokan County as a mere employee, but as an offering.

And I was given. For it is the desire of certain of those /powers/ to walk among mortals unnoticed. They wish to /travel/. The human world beyond Sabokan County has been locked from them by the work of those adepts who in secret association have guarded the human race from those /outside/.

I shall not speak of those rites which bound that alien being into my body. It is enough that this creature shares my mind, shares every particle of my being. I do not know what madmen, inspired by what hideous demons, devised such rituals. They are unfit for human eyes to witness, a blasphemy for human ears to hear.

/H'shia sunektlar yug inindiyath./

No. I will cut off my own right hand before I set such abominations down on paper.

/It/ is here, but it will see no more of the world than these four walls. It will corrupt no one, for I will never speak another word. This record I will burn as I have all the others.

I feel my body failing day by day. Such vile co-habitation is a constant degradation. Not for much longer will I endure this hell. Another week? Another month? See the tremor in my hand that no effort of will can suppress. Note the sickly hue of my skin.

Damn the treaty. Damn the peace. If I am a traitor for fleeing that unclean ritual too early, you are traitors to all Mankind for giving me over to...

/H'shia sunektlak yug urghulach!/

[Papers found on XXX's desk at the time of his death at the St. Mary's Sanitarium in YYY]

Addendum: (2012)

A sad story. The poor fellow was just trying to call out for help, but the host was too paranoid. Too scared to listen. He preferred to be stuck in the loony bin until the day he died (which happened a lot sooner than it needed to, down to pure human stubbornness.)

I wonder if it would happen that way today? I mean, there's laws about informed consent, yadda yadda yadda. But it sounds like they did give that clerk some papers to read and tried to explain things to him. He just didn't understand. Didn't understand what he was getting into, that is. Or what was getting into him.

Some people can't take it. Psychologically, that is. It's one of the deep instinctual fears and taboos, like snakes, bugs, and sex with your sibling. People don't like it. It feels wrong. But those instincts don't stop people from snake-charming, tarantula-keeping, or incest. So yeah. Just one of those things.

I suppose the Guest got home eventually. I couldn't find any record of its name or affiliation, though one can guess from the fragments here. Probably a yughul. Their techniques have improved since the nineteenth century, luckily.

I've met a few modern-day yughuls here and about. There was one at the gas station just off route 206 in Sabokan County. Nice fellow. Married to a human woman. Not sure how well that works, but hey, who am I to judge? I used to stop there regularly, on my way to the Unthinkable Library. The library moved in 2010, so I don't go that way much anymore.

People don't write this crap down like that anymore, either. Nowadays it's all facebook and selfies and youtube and twitter. Yughuls love twitter. Done wonders for their communication difficulties. Whatever you want to say, however dumb or weird, has been said somewhere in the twitterverse.

Annoys the Chronarchy no end.

They keep a lid on it best they can, but it's like whatsisface telling the tide not to come in. Yeah. I was an intern for the Chronarchy the summer before I was hired by the Hex. Whole different environment.

Really strict with the mind control.

Glad I only stayed the one summer.

The Hex gives me a longer leash. I can keep my hands clean, as long as I keep my nose out of the nasty shit. I can't help getting a whiff now and then, but...

Hey, they're keeping the homeland safe for humanity, right?

They gotta do what they gotta do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Desperation sets in...

At 20K. Reaching into the big bag o' cliches, this is when I haul out the supernatural sexual assaults... and fail at Seduction By Darkity Dark Dark Seducers. D'oh! I chicken out at the last minute using the...

"It was all a setup! A trap! The Hex knew all along..."

Only to be countered by the...

"There's more than one way to skin a cat!"

by Ms. Supernatural Evil Indian Bisexual (Uniting racists, homophobes, and misogynists everywhere) Person. Which leaves Jules (idiot main character) a shivering wreck. I think she'll spend the night in a box fort, hearkening back to the comforts of childhood. (Too bad these are EEEEEVVVVVIL boxes, but hey, that's the way it goes).

I'm never going to write one of those hot bestselling supernatural romance novels, am I? *headdesks*.

This is also where I realize that my main character has no friends or hobbies. I'm not too sure about her motivation, either. Gah! At a point in the story where it would be natural for her to reach out to her friends... she doesn't have any!? Oops. Gotta explain that. Or distract herself with her hobbies? Err. No hobbies, either? All I know is she's not that much of an outdoor person, and that only because her mother was bugging her about exercise. And she's about to meet the Demonic Temptation... and I have no idea what to tempt her with because I just randomly threw a character onto the page to start NaNo and didn't figure out any of the details?

Damn it. This is why I need to think things through. (Here I am, thinking things through. It's easier if I pretend someone is out there smiling and nodding, humoring me.) So, what to wish for... "Go away and leave me alone!" And then she is? So I guess then she'd change her mind and wish for some friends instead. Hmmm.

And how is that wish going to lead to her being patient zero in a zombie apocalypse? "Hello, won't you be my friend?" *CHOMP* "Grrr, arrgh..."

Yeah. Whatever. Get writing. No bets on how many words I get done before the Doctor Who anniversary special airs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I guess it's not a total loss

Even though it doesn't seem likely at this point that I will write 5500 words a day for the next six days. (Which is basically what I'd have to do to reach 50000 words this year.)

On the up side, I did manage to amuse myself with some of the stuff I've written for the novel this year. Not really horror as such, just some weird shit and random tangents. Not much of a plot, but there it is. I now have some kind of dead demon involved. He says he's an "oneiric cartographer" and calls himself "Abraham Lincoln". Hmm. Having quite the chat with Jules (my main POV character). He can explain the plot to me. Maybe. At least until the next infodump comes along.

Oh god. 5500 words. The first 1000 a day is easy. It's the next 1000, and the next, and the next... Ugh. I used to stay up at night to write, but now the kids go to bed really late and I don't have the stamina to stay awake. I write faster when I chain myself to the keyboard and force myself to do X words before I sleep, but it requires a certain desperation (only works if I really want to finish).

The disembodied voice dropped to a whisper. "Kem-phaos! Blinding Light."

Jules blinked. She noted again the darkness of the room and the drawn shades. "No danger of that in here, I guess?"

"Exactamundo," said the voice. "So I came here, to negotiate a deal between the Hex and the serpent."

Jules stared at the body on the table. "Did the Hex... kill you?"

"They were suspicious," said the voice. "People had already died. The Hex sent their agents on the trail of the infection. And they vanished. So when I turned up in the Sabokan office, the paranoid bastards stuck a sharp chord in my skull and gave me the full slice and dice."

Jules shuddered. "I don't do... wet work..."

"I know," said the voice. "They hired you for your mind. They think you can assimilate the model into your head and /rationalize/ the weather here, take it away from Liz Wagen."

"Really."

"Yep, that's what the Hex think. But the hiring pool was diddled with before the Hex got their eyes on it. The niska Kauket choose you for something else altogether."

"The what what did what?"

"Yep. There's a word for people like you... it's on the tip of my tongue. If I still had one. Lemme think..."

"What?"

"Oh yes. 'Bait'. That's the word."

"Bait." Jules shivered, suddenly chilled to the core. "Bait for what?"

"I named it once. Not gonna do it again. Things have ears, you know."

"Walls?" Jules suggested. "And the NSA."

"It's no joke," snapped the voice of "Lincoln".

"No," said Jules, after a moment. "So... they dangle me out there on the end of a hook, and..?"

"It's 'sayonara, Jules Edgerton, nice knowing you'. But it won't even work," said the voice, now edged with frustration. "The thing is too strong. As long as everyone is squabbling like a bunch of spoiled children, the big fish will just get bigger and bigger. It's the waste I can't stand. So many lost already, a list I never wanted to be on."

"No," agreed Jules. "I can see that. So what are you saying? I should hand in my resignation and go look for a new job? How annoying." Jules sighed at the thought. "My mother will kill me. After a million 'I told you so's."

"Nah, I'm not saying that at all."

"No?" Jules brightened.

"If you resign now, it'll be a mindwipe at breakfast and a quiet death at dinner. Tying up loose ends, you understand. And another poor schmuck will be recruited in your place. No. There's no resigning."

"Oh."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another day, another thousand words...

...wait wait wait, wasn't it supposed to be two thousand words every day?

Um.

Yeah. D'oh!

But I got to the end of the mini-story I had within the novel, doesn't that count for something? I mean, it had a beginning, middle, and end. Sort of. And it even had the whole horror thing going! I introduced a new cult (apparently Captain Jean Fortier was a Deacon of the Chronarchy, despite being a "God-fearing man")! Yeah? Yeah?

Gah, my eyes are killing me. Maybe I'll have to do the next 35000 words with my eyes shut. Maybe that will actually be an improvement. Let's see how well I can touch-type. *opens eyes to check* Hmm. That wasn't too bad. But my hands may slip and then I'll end i[ tu[omg ;ole tjos. Bah.

Or maybe I should just write the rest of the novel using only cliches. (What was my motto? "All cliche, all the time"? Something like that.)

Questionable narrative trick of the day: I was doing that first-person "interview transcription" thing for my mini-story. Only then I came to the part where the narrator swore an oath to the Deacon not to tell anyone ever about what they did. And he keeps his oath. Argh! So I went to all the trouble of thinking up the details of what happened, and now I can't tell anyone about it! *slaps self for being silly* All I could do was hint darkly and drop in a little "foreshadowing" (since the person was telling someone else about it years later) and hope for the best. And because of the form of the narrative, I couldn't directly say what had happened to the narrator, either. Oh well. It's not like I was subtle with the "hints". I don't do subtle.

The bad part about ending a section is that it's harder to jump back into the next section I need to work on. I think I left off in the middle of a phone call. I need to make Jules seem really close to her mother. That way it will be more fun when I do evil things to her mother. Ha ha ha. It seems this novel will have at its core a guilt trip horror for Jules, since it will be ALL HER FAULT. How I'm going to get there... yeah. This is where having an outline before I started would have come in handy. I HAVE NO F***ING CLUE. See the caps? SEE THEM? That's how clueless I am.

Day 17. 15000 words. I'm so doomed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blah, I give up

This is hopeless. All yesterday, every time I could have opened my NaNo file, instead I clicked on this.

[SQUEE] OMG! OMG! OMFG! It's Paul McGann!!!!!!!!! Karn! Time War! AAAAAAGHHHH! He's brilliant. 7 minutes of pure epic. Now that's more like it, Moffat! [/SQUEE]

Yeah. I had a goofy smile on my face all day. Ok, so it's totally catering to the old Who fans, but so what? So what if it's more fetishizing of the Doctor? Who cares if it's pure fanwank if it's good fanwank? Between this and the release of the lost episodes and more to come, what a fantastic 50th anniversary it is for Doctor Who! "Night of the Doctor" was the best (new) bit of televised Doctor Who I've seen since... I don't even know. It really makes me wish for a Paul McGann series or mini-series. I always liked his audios (the TV movie...not so much), but this takes it to a whole new level.

Yeah. So this stupid TV show is making me happier than my NaNo novel ever could. Ha. I don't know. There's no way for me to do NaNo (all 50000+ words of it) unless I want to, and this year I don't want to that much. Nothing to prove, since I've done it many times before, and the story is a bit meh.

So I tried reading some of the H.P. Lovecraft stories that got me started in this genre (well, by way of "Call of Cthulhu" for the idea that it would be fun as a RPG) in the first place... and it's so depressingly racist. A huge part of the "horror" in it is a fear of "other" races. From reading some of the short stories, it feels like if he ever found out he had a black great-grandmother, he'd want to kill himself or something. God forbid that "swarthy foreigners" should move onto his street! And all those villainous "mulattoes", "hybrids", "mongrels", "half-castes", "Indians", "Portuguese", etc. Geez. And... white men might not be the most powerful beings, around whom the universe revolves. Oh noes! The horror!

So I was taking the piss with my "Sabokan County" with its villainous Indians and the ancient artifacts held by runaway slaves, etc. but it's going to be me who ends up sounding racist. Bah. I need to balance these things:

The "Yesan"? Aye, I know of them.

Mongrels and hybrids. A blight upon this state. Why does the governor refuse to have them driven out? A show of force and they will fall. The cowards have no stomach for a true battle. They are weak-willed, decadent runaways and savages.

But you asked me who they are. Very well. According to the tales of the Indians of the lowlands, they are foreigners from over the mountains. They do not speak the local patois, but rather a devilish, uncouth tongue. In recent decades they have mixed their blood with African slaves run away from our plantations.

More than once our militias have pursued them into the hill country, but each time they eluded us with their foul tricks. The dogs lose their scent in the icy streams there. The trappers who habit the woods say that the water is tainted by the vents of hell that are found in the dark, narrow crevasses that split the bare rocks of those hills. The other Indians refuse to set foot in Saboakan country, deeming it a place of monsters and evil spirits. For our guide we had only a French halfbreed who, once fortified by drink and promises of coin, was willing to show us the hidden roads and passages.

Aye, I took part in one such expedition. It was in the fall of the year 1791. We were one score and seven, god-fearing men all, though the halfbreed was a Popish idolator after the faith of his father. He had such a collection of wooden saints and beads, and fetishes of feathers and human hair as his mother had blessed for him. I hold no truck with such blasphemous superstition, but our guide held them vital to our enterprise.

Many a time would he close his eyes, bowing his head and muttering strange prayers over his fetishes and saints. They dangled from the rosaries he held clutched in his hands. These times grew more excessive the nearer we drew to Saboakan lands, until only the threat of the lash moved him to continue on.

It was maddening that the runaways should make better time on their feet than we did while mounted on horseback. Still, their spoor was marked by blood, as the halfbreed found, so they were not traveling unscathed. Surely they could not walk for much longer. They had not much provision: the owner keeps a tight guard on the kitchen. But these field slaves are hardy beasts, and can endure where a civilized man would have fallen.

with bits from other points of view. But the whole thing is just going to sound like a racist stereotype now, all around and against everyone. D'oh!

(Even if I don't reach 50K, I'm still going to write as much of it as I can. Even what I have so far is more than I'd have written without NaNoWriMo.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

It's aliiiiive...

No, not my novel. That's as moribund as ever.

I mean my mini-laptop (i.e. the netbook). I finally got around to fixing it. Whew. They don't even make those anymore, which makes me sad. I don't want a tablet, damn it. A tablet propped up on a desk with a keyboard plugged in (and a mouse!?) is just silly. A regular laptop is too big for my tastes. And the high-end super-light super-thin laptops are too fancy and expensive for me, when all I want is something low-powered (I do NOT want to play games or watch movies on it!) to type on. The whole point is to keep it basic and with few distractions!

Yeah, so how's that working out?

Um. Right. Wasn't there some NaNo marathon going on today? Did I get lots of writing done?

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!

No no no no no. And all the chocolate in the world isn't going to get me to write it any faster. (Actually, I want a gummibär. I used to be so addicted to them when I was in 6th grade. Recently I was reminiscing about it to my kids, which prompted me to buy a package, which just got me hooked all over again! D'oh!)

I only managed to get to 10000 words by typing in whatever random filler I could think of that was at all relevant to my story. Gah. This is the "found text" portion of my novel.

[from the notes of Marcus Zolti]

It is our perversity that dooms us. No matter how grotesque the infection, there will be those who deliberately seek it out, whether out of desire for personal gain or out of resentment or hatred of their fellows. Our estimates place that number at 0.03 of the population in peacetime. Under stress conditions such as war or natural catastrophe, that proportion may rise to as high as 0.1. (See the study by X and Y in 19xx, and that of Z in 19yy).

Once a critical point has tipped, we have no recourse but the most drastic measure, to cauterize the wound and discard that which is rotten beyond hope of cure. This dreadful fate has swallowed too many of our nations over the centuries, but by its nature means that history is left in ignorance.

In the case of Savaiki, an island of limited population and bounded by a natural barrier (the sea), an attempt was made to isolate all potential /collaborators/ in advance. The failure of this attempt is a sobering lesson for us all. All blood, toil, tears, and sweat were rendered useless when the resistance effort was spearheaded by none other than the primary candidate for /collaboration/ himself.

What the heck? It looks like a zombie apocalypse snuck itself into my novel. Either that or Marcus is talking about the Cybermen. Or some Unpronounceable Nasty from the Outer Darkness.

It's still more coherent than the next section, where I got really really tired of trying to think of things to write and did the whole madman-hiding-in-his-house routine. Ah well. Only 40000 words to go. Not sure if I'll finish this year. Only if I manage decent word counts this week. I may have to start holding things hostage against myself. Bah.

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's week 2!?

Yikes.

I'm waaaayyyy behind. I didn't feel like writing for a couple of days, so I didn't. Inspiration has nothing to do with it. I never ever feel "inspired" to go off and write fiction. (As opposed to blog posts, forum posts, world building notes, story ideas, code, online roleplaying games, etc. etc.) Well, hardly ever. And never for more than 100 words at a time. And the last time that happened was probably the first week of NaNo last year. Other than that, it's just "I do want this written, and it's not writing itself, so I'd better sit down and type." So. It wasn't lack of inspiration. It was more that I felt I had made some strategic errors in how I had set up my story (it's supposed to be Lovecraftian horror-ish something or other, or so I claim) and I have no clue how to fix it now without starting over completely (which I don't want to do.)

I should have thought more about the plot before starting! This is why I've never been much of a "pantser" writer. I admire people who can pull it off, but I suck at it. It's not that I stick to my outlines, but the outlines do help me with seeing the overall structure of the plot (such as it is). This year I have no outline at all. So at the moment, I find elements missing in my story (too many people killed off before the point at which my main character enters it!).

In order to reach 50000 words and any kind of conclusion... guess I'll have to improvise!

Today, so far, it's been 1500 words of... nothing happening. Argh. Last year, my novel flew along at a break-neck pace (to the point where people I tried showing it to had trouble following it). This year, it's the opposite. But still, one gleans tidbits here and there about the characters from actually writing it all out. Sunanda is a vegetarian! The Director is a weird hairless person who has apparently been in quarantine in the old farmhouse for over two years! Bell and Webster always eat... lunch... together. The sysadmin doesn't say much! Jules likes the biometric security system (it makes her feel like she belongs!)

So yeah. Lots of random trivia. Not much happening.

I also spent most of my "writing time" today surfing the net looking for something completely pointless to help with a game I'm not even supposed to be playing during November. Bad Taisch! No cookie! (At 8500 words as of this post).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stupid netbook...

Do you think I have the time or the inclination to go flash your stupid corrupted BIOS?

Grrr.

So yeah. I went off to the library today, set up my computer, and met the infamous Black Screen of Death. No start, no nothing. And there go 200 words I wrote yesterday that I forgot to backup. Naturally, I didn't have the flash drive with me that had the BIOS on it, nor could I remember the exact procedure to use it even if I did have it.

Grrr.

So today is a "work at the desktop" day. I promised myself I could go and whine about it after I reached 1000 more words. Which I did, so here I am. Whine, whine, whine. And cheese. Cheese on crackers. Mmmm, crackers... (Actually, I want to go buy a new flash drive. People keep taking mine. Kids these days! When I was in high school, the idea of carrying 8 GB (let alone whatever the latest high capacity storage is these days) in my pocket was utterly inconceivable.)

Ok, I'm going to walk around a bit before returning to the NaNo thing. Eat... food... yah... food... good... The gummy bear song is playing again, which means I've reached the end of my playlist. Cause I'm a jelly bear! Oh yeah! I'm a doobie doobie yum yum (!? I don't even know). (It's so creepy. Why do these bears want to be eaten? It's like that critter in the Hitchhiker's Guide series.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Start earlier, write faster

Well, that's all there is to it, really, isn't there?

I did the lock-myself-in-the-library thing today. Did about 1800 words in 3 hours. At that rate, it'll be hard to finish NaNo in time. I'm sure I've been closer to 900-1000 words per hour in the past, but that involves more typing and less backspacing. Argh! Maybe if I get more desperate I can force myself to just keep going, instead of sitting there staring at the screen, typing a sentence, then erasing it and rewriting. (I used to do that in text games, too, but other players expect a relatively quick turnaround, so that made me write faster.)

I'll try to get a bit more done today (not likely to get caught up, but not falling further behind is a plus), then go to the library again tomorrow.

Random element of the day: hexagonal cats. What the heck are hexagonal cats!? I have no idea. Are they related to spherical cows?

Random quote of the day from one of my kids: "Show me your blog. Because I desire to see it. Aren't you not supposed to make blogs?" (Me: "Done yet? If you say anything else I am going to type it.") "No. Nah no." "What about the thing I said about cats?"

5000 now.

That's 1/10th. Whee.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"My 300th word was 'hotel'..."

It's day 3. My nine-year old daughter just ran into the room and announced her 300th word. Well, at least someone's enthusiastic about this endeavor! Bounce, bounce, bounce... Now she wants to start her own blog.

Whereas I just about scraped my way to 3100 words now and wonder why I'm doing this. Urk. Because I feel like it? Because it's a way to get some story ideas out of my head and onto paper (or into a computer)? I do want to know what happens in this story. But why do I have to write it!? AARRRGH!

Actually, not much is happening. I have no plot. That's why after 3000 words, the main character has just parked her car outside her new house. Whoop de do! I think I know what to write next. I just have to do it.

Yeah, that's the problem with me writing. "I just have to do it" translates into hours of procrastination. The "fall-asleep-and-dream-your-novel-into-existence" thing unfortunately doesn't work. I know because I've tried it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 2: In which I grit my teeth and...

...restrain the urge to punch all those people who already have 10000, 20000, 50000, or 100000 words already!

I have... 800.

Instead of writing, I spent my time yesterday reading the logs from the game for which this year's NaNo is supposedly a sequel, in hopes of getting some plot ideas and reminders of the recurring characters. Those logs easily totaled more than 50,000 words over 14-15 sessions! Somehow it all flows much more easily when there are three of us working together. And I actually enjoyed reading it. Some great moments, at least for us, if not for external readers. I had forgotten how strangely some of my NPCs spoke (though I was painfully reminded of how badly I do some of these accents/dialects.)

I was amused when I came across one player's (OOC) comment at one point: "I can see why people in HP Lovecraft wanted to kill themselves." Mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Sadly, I lost the plot when the two player characters diverged too much. One "drank the kool-aid" and got sucked into the weirdness apparently happy with the transformation, while the other got cornered by creepy agents from the Other DHS and was fighting all the Wrongness tooth and nail, including the other player's evil new "mother".

If it's just me writing the novel, I can keep a tighter rein on things. Right? Right? Ha ha ha ha ha!

The problem then is that I have to put in three times as much effort. Which is why this NaNo is going sooooo sloooooowwwwwwly.

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's begun...

...and my character is still stuck at the Metro station.

So I'm not too sure about the story having begun, only NaNo.

But I've done 500 words and the main character has a name, so I'm here (and there, and everywhere) procrastinating. And asking myself "why? why? WHY!???"

Why is there a Harry Potter reference in my NaNo? I don't even like Harry Potter.

Why do I have flashbacks? They suck. And just when I'd freed myself from the "mysterious prologue" disease this year. Damn damn damn.

Why can't I work on my game instead? Or my webpage. I feel that I should have a webpage. I made my game link to my webpage, only there's no point when I don't have one! (Beyond a blank placeholder thing.) Well, I'll start a separate blog for that, to keep that stream of babble from infecting my NaNo blog any further.

Why am I procrastinating, when I know it's just setting me up for hours of pain later tonight when I try to catch up on my word count?

Why do I think I can do 5000 words a day when it's this much of a struggle just to hit 500?

...

"Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah yeah. YEAH!" I put those loops in my NaNo soundtrack song for a reason, didn't I? Why don't I listen to myself?!

Right. I have to get my character out of the Metro station by the end of today. I really will. Yeah.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This Friday? It starts in 3 days!?

Noooooo..... and I still have no plan. All the pages in my notebook are filled with irrelevant scribbles. With an occasional My Little Pony sketch from my younger daughter.

Ok, I do have a plan. My plan is to lock myself in the public library every day until I hit my word count goal. Words are just words, right? There's lots of them in the dictionary. All I have to do is to pick some and put them in sentences.

AAAAGGGGH!!!

No, don't worry. It's time to meet your new landlady.

"Don't worry. Everything will be fine."

Landlady? Land lady? The term strikes you oddly now that you think about it. Her name is Liz Wagen, and she seems to own half the real estate around here. She runs one of those quaint combination "country store"/antique shops you drove past on your way here. Do those really make that much money? You look at her as you sign your deposit check and the first month's rent. Then you glance away quickly.

Her eyes are fixed on you with something like pity and contempt.

"Ok, then," you mutter as you shove the checks to her, jerking your hand back lest you accidentally brush against her.

She smiles. "Welcome to Sabokan County."

Are you reassured yet? There must be a plot somewhere, even if we don't know what it is, yet.

Three days.

Then it's only 50,000 words to go.

We can do this.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Time for a musical interlude...

OMG! OMG! One week until NaNo starts. Plot? Characters? Huh? But at least I've coded my new idiotic embedded Flash music playing thinga-majig. Woo hoo. Or something. I've just spent the last half hour clicking around on the little bar making the song skip back and forth and admiring my rectangles. It's scary how many web pages I had to read to make something this trivial work.

Relevant to my NaNo? Of course it is. This is one of the songs of the Remnant. The Remnant have sold themselves thought by thought, choice by choice, to the King of Future Memory. They no longer have a future, nor any voice of their own. Thus their words are all stolen from others. They have no original songs of their own. All they have is a patchwork of borrowed sounds. [edit: oops, I was messing with the code and now it's my mini music box. Let's just say they're all random Remnant songs. Yeeeah...]

So what did the Remnant buy?

Protection, and survival. As always. Having foreseen a future in which they willing give themselves to the Breaker of Worlds, the Remnant cut away their own potential selves. Now they wander the Drift like ghosts, like echoes, like the lingering smell of a bad footprint. Sometimes they latch onto a living person and become Ughuls. They operate under the cover of their ubiquitous chain of gas stations and snack vendors.

But do they lurk in boxes? Do they? Do they ship themselves to people in packages? Hide in barcodes and proof of purchases? I have no idea.

In fact, I have no idea how I'm going to do this NaNo at all. It's going to be more useless babble than ever. I need to finish it early, as I'm heading out of town (AFK!) for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another day, another IDE...

My Flash/ActionScript books finally arrived, so now it's time to check out the shiny new (to me) toys. I like to have dead tree copies of computer books, even if they're guaranteed to be out of date by the time I see them. It's much easier for me to read and understand stuff when I can spread physical books out on the bed or desk, flip between them easily, flip between different sections easily, and compare examples. (I love my Kindle, but it just sucks for technical material: slow, and the screen is too small.) Then once I get a handle on things, I can search the web for more up-to-date and specific details (and cut and paste!).

So yeah. Flash. Flash Develop. Woo-hoo. Gah. At least it's a little easier on newbies than Eclipse, where it took me forever to find the simplest things (how do you display line numbers!? Why did it erase my files!? Argh!) And it's free. Awesome! So, a few days to learn a bit of ActionScript, then time to focus.

Flash: much easier to deploy than Java! Everyone watches youtube videos, so they all have some Flash plugin installed and enabled. Far less of this "WARNING! DANGER! Are you sure you want to let this program run on your computer? Are you really really sure?" security messaging, which always puts me off when I look at websites. And Flash doesn't seem to have too many security holes. I hope. Also, you can just stick everything in a single swf file. I can post it on my own website for testing. Convenient! (To be fair, you can stick everything into a jar file for Java, but it looks like in some update coming soon, a jar file (and web applets) from a random-private-individual will no longer be executable by other people. I'd have to buy a certificate from Oracle. That's one thing if I'm making money from doing this, but as a hobbyist? Bleah. Aren't people spreading malware for profit likelier to invest in a certificate, since they think they'll make money from it?)

Java: better for bigger games. There's a limit to how much people are willing to download in their browsers, and a limit to how long they'll wait for your game to load before clicking the "x" and doing something else instead. And a limit to the amount and robustness of the game's saved data. I mean, for a traditional desktop game, you can just write things to a file somewhere. Simple and easy to understand. Flash shared local objects? Hmmm... it doesn't even use normal browser cookies. It's more like some stealth area of your computer that Adobe commandeered when you agreed to install the Flash Player.

So which is it to be?

I'm going to go with Flash for now. I'm NOT going to be making huge games. Action Script 3 looks pretty similar to Java, so I don't think I'll be screaming too much at my computer. While Java is great for writing things to run for my personal use, deployment to others is a nightmare.

So think I can learn ActionScript 3 in three days? Ha ha ha. But this Friday is one week before NaNo begins. One week! ONE WEEK!!! ACK! I needs my characters and plots! I need a plan! Where is my plan? My plan? Plan? Plan, show yourself!

var myNovel = new NaNo(2013);
if (myNovel.plotExists()) {
   taisch.doHappyDance();
}
else {
   taisch.setPanicMode(true);
}

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nice wheel you got there. Mind if I borrow it?

So, just when I get comfortable with the basics of Java and feel that I can translate an idea from my head to the computer without TOO much hassle, it's time to shift gears before I start trying to write my own game engine. These things can just creep up on you. "Hmm, ok, to implement this game idea, it would be convenient if I had some classes like this and some components for stuff I'll be needing to do all the time and a map editor and a way to handle rotation and..." STOP! Yeah. I could do that, but since it would be my first attempt, it would be messy and ugly and full of holes. Now that I can see the kinds of things I'd need to do and a glimmering of how I would do them, I can just go find other people who have already done all that (over many iterations) and download their code, which they have kindly made freely available to other people. (Naturally, some are not free, but I'm a newbie amateur, so it's not worth it to shell out big $$$.)

All right, what to use?

The problem with searching on the internet is that often people's answers to questions and tutorial posts and so on and so forth don't have their dates attached. So often I find myself reading about problems and solutions from years ago. This is how I ended up downloading a zillion packages and trying them out. At least I got some more practice using third-party libraries. (Mostly it's setting the paths that fouls me up. Then there's the eyestrain involved in trying to decipher the often sparse documentation and squinting at source code and examples.)

Forums are better. You can check them out to see if they are still active, see what biases they have, follow their suggested links, read FAQs, and post questions. Nice people out there may even answer you (even if you're clueless).

So yeah. Libgdx it is. Not that I'm planning to do anything 3D or with fancy graphics or action games or whatever, but even when working through the learning-Java games, I could see problems ahead if I scaled up. Libgdx looks like it's solved most of those problems even before I've noticed them, ha ha ha.

Now to actually do it. Urgh. It took me awhile to install, since the recommended IDE is Eclipse, and I've been using NetBeans. ARGH! Stupid Oracle. I blame them. As a newbie, the obvious thing to do was to download from Oracle's site, and they were pushing NetBeans. So I went for it. (They were also pushing JavaFX... yeah... I'm slightly sceptical about that. I have some Java book that mentions the Java Media Framework, and that's pretty much dead now. Is JavaFX going to go the same way?) But NetBeans was nifty. Easy enough to use. Comfy.

Now I gotta switch to bloody Eclipse!? Grrr. Well, I could use libgdx with netbeans, but I'd have to switch to Eclipse for doing Android apps, which I was going to try anyway. Dammit. Took me ages to download it and install the correct plugins and stuff. (The first time I tried to import the sample libgdx project, I got a screenful of error messages. I had accidentally downloaded the wrong version of one of the plugins and hadn't downloaded ALL the other packages needed.) So yeah. That's a day or two familiarizing myself with Eclipse, then looking at libgdx tutorials.

Feels like I'm starting all over again. Maybe I'll get something done today. Or maybe I'll work on notes for my NaNo project. The coding headache is seeping into the novel now. I think the protagonist, when she moves into her new house, will find boxes of old documentation in the basement. A random jumbled mess in various styles, telling of previous experiences, outdated info, and random nonsense. Remember those old books/stories which have a lot of journal entries? (I'm doing Lovecraftian this year.) Like that. They end just as the writer goes off into Lala land to meet the elder gods. Or whatever...

Or I'll incorporate the storyline for this game I'm planning into my NaNo. (The Color Rancher game idea.) Part of the game is an adventure-style section played through the game shop. Along with regular items, you get notes, requests, etc. etc. You get to an ending by choosing which of the notes/requests/etc. you follow up on. The NaNo will track the other side of this (the NPCs sending the notes. I'm sure one of the notes will be "Hello, world.")

Yeah. Ok. "Hello, world". Here we go again...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Your anti-virus hates me

Ugh. So maybe Java wasn't the way to go. (Although I do enjoy it as a programming language.) And if I do want to publish a game, I don't want to publish it from my own website. The anti-virus messages will deter most people from downloading my stuff! Self-publishing a novel doesn't have that problem. E-books aren't seen as dangerous to people's e-readers. At least not with current technology.

It's like this: I decided to start with my simplest game concept and see it through all the way to "completion" (getting it out there to people). The basic code wasn't too bad. (Sort of like a short, geeky version of NaNoWriMo... just get it typed in). I got a decently working game, all the parts working, just lacking polish in the art and music. Ok, maybe it won't work on Macs. (I don't have a Mac, nor have I ever used one, hence it's harder for me to test my program on one.) I suspect issues with the save files. So much for the vaunted cross-platform bit of the Java PR! Never mind that, I tell myself, I hate Apple anyway. So. Everything seems fine on my computer. Next I needed to get people (aka my kids) to test it.

Right. Time to make a simple minded install script: I just need it to copy the program into the right directory and make some shortcuts, along with an uninstall program to reverse this. After a bit of googling (and squinting at online tutorials), I go with NSIS, which is free and flexible. Again, it works fine on my computer. Except for the uninstall: I can't figure out how to delete the (now empty) folder from the Start Menu. It said it deleted it. And it's not in my appdata anymore. Why is it still showing up? Grrrr.

Moving on... My daughter attempts to download my setup file from my website. BZZT! Alert! Alert! A zillion warning messages start popping up from her antivirus (my site is unknown! it could be a nest of viruses!). She bravely downloads the file anyway. Then she tries to execute it. MORE warnings, even more hysterical in tone, try to stop her from such a dangerous step. Oh dear. At this point, the delay makes her spam-click on the setup file. Which makes her computer lag even more. So she clicks some more. After five minutes of clearing warning messages off the screen, we finally manage to run the setup program. Look! There's a little icon of my program on her desktop! Isn't it cuuuute? Click on it!

...

Oops. Nothing happened.

...

"Maybe you don't have Java installed?"

...

"Let me install..."

"Mommy, go away!"

...

Right. So my install script should check to see if the user has Java installed...and if it's not, it should prompt them to install it. Should I make my setup program automatically install Java for them? It's not good to secretly install things on people's computers! Well, fine, I'll notify them so they can cancel setup if they want.

Time to try again... with my son's computer. Now Java is popping up warnings about untrusted publishers. My son looks nervous. He complains. ("It's dangerous! It's a virus! Run it in the sandbox! Sandbox!")

He has Java installed. Everything works fine. I uninstall and look for another victim... err, "tester".

It installs correctly on my older daughter's computer. But when we try to run the game, we get an error message! She has an OLD version of Java, and my game won't work. (And I do know which bit of it is causing problems, but...) Damn. People will have out-of-date installations of Java. And some of them will have it that way ON PURPOSE (for compatibility with some program they use, or whatever).

So... what to do, what to do? Do I bundle the Java (JRE) along with my game program, so it can run on its own private copy of Java? That's nearly 30 MB! All to go with my dinky little game. And imagine if every Java program did that. Talk about bloat! Ugh. But I can't force everyone to install/update their JRE willy-nilly. Apparently Java is not as universal on people's computers as they would like to have you think. I guess I will need to compile the Java program and turn it into a Windows exe that can run on its own. So what if it's against the "spirit of Java"?! I just want something that will work.

Ok, so not really worth it for my dinky starter game.

It was made to be a Flash game. That's obvious. One of those casual free affairs that people play in their browsers. Way more people have the right plug-ins installed to play a browser game than would be willing to download, install, update Java. Even if I did write it as a Java web-applet thingy, people don't like having to give permission to strange programs to run. It might crash their browser. It might be infected with pr0n or adware or worse. Ha. No. Flash it is. Time to learn ActionScript.

So... phase 2 of my "Indie Game Development Month/Year/Whatever" (IGDMYW?): convert my game to Flash. Yeah... ugh... learning curve time again. I'm not giving up on Java (I think it'll be better for the longer, more complicated games) but I'm taking a detour.

I don't get "writer's block" nearly as often when coding as when trying to write a novel. So let's see if I can have this done before NaNo starts! Otherwise the procrastination possibilities in November are dreadful.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's true! They're back...

...by which I mean missing episodes of 1960s era Doctor Who, of course. And according to the rumormongers (some of them with real sources, as far as I can tell), there's more to come. Wow.

So that's "Enemy of the World" pre-ordered, then. I'll watch it after I finish NaNo this year. That's my incentive! More Patrick Troughton!

Initially I thought I'd rush out and buy them for download, but it seems they're only on iTunes, and I don't want to install iTunes on my PC. So. What's a few months? I didn't see "Tomb of the Cybermen" until about ten years after it was recovered. Just knowing all these old episodes have been found gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

So. Gotta do the NaNo, then. I'm leaning towards the "Cardboard Age" story today. Bits and pieces of it continue to fall into my head. It's sort of a horror/dark fantasy where the protagonist falls out of the normal world and into the Drift. Influences: H. P. Lovecraft, Jonathan Carroll, Jonathan Boakes, Christopher Priest, Diana Wynne Jones, Lewis Carroll. I'm also going to have the story-within-a-story type of thing going on. I'm thinking innocent children's tales about the adventures of a gang of ugly undersea creatures (a grumpy anglerfish, a pufferfish, a goblin shark, an eel, etc.) How do they connect? Ha ha ha, that would be telling. (In other words, I have no clue. Yet. I think those characters are actually the original Color terrorist/freedom fighters.)

Anyway, it's only October 11. Early days yet. I still have a couple of weeks to assemble my soundtrack. So far, my mutant creations are only about 1-2 minutes long. I like to have a playlist that takes about 50 minutes to loop through. (So I can write for 50 minutes and then take a break.) Man, this is gonna be painful. How many more innocent folk tunes are going to suffer at my hands? And I'll need to make some "horror" tracks to get me in the mood. I have one so far. Used a klezmer tune, "de-bounced" it and added a bunch of synth effects, mwah ha ha ha ha!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Computers...magic...

Computers are magic.

For about the same amount of money I could have spent buying two novels (new, hardback), I downloaded Sony's ACID Music Studio 9.0. It's amazing how much this stuff can do nowadays. My younger daughter and I are completely addicted. It's stupid, but now I, too, can have my overly dramatic A melodic minor scale and arpeggio looping over and over again until I go crazy!

Don't you like A minor?

If this doesn't make you want to jab pencils in your ears I don't know what will...

Yep. I'm going to make my OWN soundtrack for NaNo this year. All kinds of horrible jingles and jangles set over catchy dance beats and random loops from the "Continental Drift" collection. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha!

Why? Why why why?

Ok, this is what comes of being both impulsive and obsessive. I actually probably like coding better than I like writing. So after watching all my kids play MineCraft, I realized that Java had become a viable coding language for games. So my goal is now publishing computer games rather than novels. Ha ha ha ha. No, really. So my desk and bed are now surrounded by heaps of Java books. It's ridiculous. Back in the day, my C book (the K&R, of course) was a slender paperback (less than 300 pages. Pure elegance.) Now everything is a bloated godawful mess. Some of them are filled with typos. Highly irritating when it's in the sample code. But I bought multiple books in the hopes that reading about the same thing in different versions would make it make more sense. I must say that the "for Dummies" one was not. It was too technical for someone not already familiar with computer jargon, but annoyingly verbose and newbie-oriented where it didn't need to be.

Anyway, so after the "rock paper scissors" (I can haz clicky buttons! And pop-up windowses!) and "move item around to catch a target" (I can haz keyboard controls! And crude animation! And wallses! And high score lists!) I made my first "real" game. (In the sense of something someone might actually want to play), so I had to find my own music and images from somewhere, rather than stealing copyrighted material...

Damn it! I'm supposed to be coding, not playing with the music program. Yeah. Well. In theory I'm delegating the music and art portions of my project to my kids. (No, seriously, my older daughter is into digital art, has her own real drawing pad and a few years of practice already.)

So yeah. Right now my next computer game idea is competing for headspace with the NaNo ideas (and the hope of more old Doctor Who episodes to watch). FIGHT!

Friday, October 4, 2013

NaNo continues to call...

...and I can't help picking up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Write a novel!"

"Um. That never works. Why don't I tell you about what I had for dinner this week? Turkey burgers (with cheese!) and stealth onions (the Boy did Not Approve). Pasta (butterfly) with (beef) marinara sauce. With unstealthy eggplants (I had one left over.) ("Ewww! Eggplant!"). Broccolini..."

"Novel! Write!"

"Ok, ok, fine. Whatever."

So yeah. I do have a few ideas rolling around in my head. Not sure which to go for yet.

  • There was that game I was running back then with a couple of friends. It died before anyone figured out quite what was going on. There was Sabokan county. There were the agents from the Hexagon (just like the Pentagon. Except it has six sides!) There was the weird stuff afflicting the antique dealers. Now I want to make it as a traditional point-and-click adventure game. But I probably won't. So I'll just write the novelization instead. With a new set of characters. So. Option one is "In the Drift: the Cardboard Age". In which we learn the power of Colors.
  • Then there's the untold story of Grandmother Goose (obviously the predecessor of Mother Goose, the head of the Goose Sisters, the martially inclined sect of shapeshifting nuns.) And also her adoptive daughter, the Broken Jar. Wacky hijinks ensue. This is in theory the same universe as the one I used for the Shambhala story I did in 2011 and 2012. I just need a plot. And stuffs.
  • Prequel to last year's story. That whole business with the lost colony ("The Threshold of Night"). Yeah? What was that all about? How did the TechnoPax Virus turn people into gods? And fairy tale creatures? And did they ever figure out a way to coexist with normal humans? Did Ash and Nik's intervention make things better or did they make things worse? Maybe I know and maybe I don't.
So that's three. Of course, it's not the idea that counts but the execution(sounds fatal). Let's see what happens come November.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October? You've got to be kidding...

So where did 2013 go? Eh? Eh? I don't even know. Eaten by the (Doctor Who missing episode) Omni-rumour, no doubt.

So it's October. Am I even doing NaNo this year? I have a few story ideas, but gah. I'm so blocked.

So, to get me started this year, I will just type random things in this useless blog. Hey, I'll babble about what I had for dinner. I'm sure everyone cares deeply about that. Yes.

Yesterday
Sausages, soybeans, potatoes, mushrooms => stir-fry (in oil with chopped up jalapeno and onion). Baby bok choy => stir fry. The sausages were from Trader Joe's. Not our favorite "sun-dried tomato" flavor, but it was ok. I love baby bok choy. Note I got that from the Chinese grocery store, NOT the TJ's, which only sells bok choy in tiny, expensive 1-serving portions. Come to think of it, this is also true for their packages of frozen shelled soybeans. I should have used the bigger package from the Chinese store.
Day before yesterday
(Curry) chicken lentil soup. I used organic free-range chicken legs for this, because I'm lazy (it's easier to split up evenly) but it probably tastes better with a whole chicken. (I always use the organic free-range chicken for this, as it tastes much better and doesn't have a bad smell!) Didn't use any bean curd in the soup this time. Nor leeks. Did have carrots, a potato, a jalapeno pepper (chopped up), ginger (in small chunks), and a bit of barley (I had half a package lying around.) Used up the last of the jar of curry powder. (I could have sworn I had a new jar lying around... but that turned out to be a delusion on my part.)
Before that
Trout fillets. Rinse the trout, cut each fillet along the spine to make two and mush it around in the marinade. Marinade: olive oil, lemon juice (fresh lemon!), soy sauce, scallions (chopped finely), ginger (thinly shredded). Smear the fish with cayenne pepper. Ha ha! I love cayenne pepper. Heat frying pan, put in fish, pour in marinade, add a bit of water as needed. Cook on low-medium for awhile (about 8-9 minutes), flip over, cook other side. Vegetable: stir-fried leafy things (probably baby Chinese broccoli). Corn bread. Appetizer: shrimp. Ok, I wasn't confident about the shrimp. I botched the shrimp from the frozen packets last time I tried it. My younger daughter saw the BIG shrimp when we were at the store and made me buy them. They were already cleaned, so I just rinsed them and cooked them with the shells on (for improved flavor). Rubbed them with a bit of salt, then dropped them in the frying pan to cook in a bit of oil (along with some shredded ginger). More cayenne pepper! Ok, so cooked on medium-high for a few minutes, flipping them over to get both sides. When done (pink), served hot! With cocktail sauce. Delicious!
Before that
My memory fails me. Um. Did we bring home pizza? Possibly. Ok. The day before that, then. Was it the stir-fried pork with bamboo shoots and bean curd (which no one likes except me)? (Served with steamed rice, usually.) Or was it the rice noodle thing? (That's ground pork, this time with Chinese eggplant, mung bean sprouts, tomato, onions, hot pepper, etc., with the hair-thin rice vermicelli added in for the last 6 minutes along with heaps of water. Even after soaking it, the rice noodles suck up a lot of liquid when you cook them.)
Before before...
Never mind!
So there. I can be verbose about nothing if I want. What's 50,000 words? Bah!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gah, it's 2013

And most of a month into it, too.

This year I resolved to get feedback on my novel from two new recruits (poor fools! one of them I've known for years, another I met during NaNo 2012) and make an attempt to revise the story into submission. Or something like that.

It's actually very helpful, and I even agree with much of what they say (ironically, it's often the same type of comment I make when reading other people's writing!), but damn, fixing the problems is another matter entirely. I find I'm fine with deleting things, but adding stuff? Fleshing out characters or writing in a new scene? ARRRGH! I know I should. It would improve the pacing. It would improve the characterization. But still, ARRRGH!

Does this mean I finished my first draft?

*pause for hysterical laughter*

No, but if I commit to sending another couple of chapters each week, I'll run out of my existing draft and be forced to continue. In addition, having reread the earlier sections, I'll have a better idea of where I should go with the story. In theory.

*pause to hug theory warmly*

Yes, well, I did think about the plots and characters and stuffs. (And buy a bunch more books... it's an addiction.)

*stares in a daze out the window... mmm.... snow....*

February? It's not February yet, is it? No no no...