Out of Geekdom

Nothing about writing today, because I didn’t work on anything writing related last night.  It was a time to relax and recharge, and I’ll get into things a little tonight after I return from getting my nails done and grabbing something to eat.  No, I needed a nap and the need to sit and watch some TV last night, all the while thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while.

It has to do with geekdom.  If you’ve followed the blog for a while you’ve seen some of my posts about my various steps into things geeky.  I’ve been into a lot of different things over the years, and I suppose I could say that I’ve tempered that love with a sense of reality, turning my love of various fandoms into a thing that I nurtured and cherished.

However . . . this year I’ve stepped into a “geeky gift exchange” that was limited to a small number of people, and since joining I’ve been going nuts.  No, really:  I’ve been really beating myself up the last couple of weeks over being in this group.  I should point out that I get like this with any gift exchange, because I’m fairly particular about giving gifts.  It’s not the value that I want someone to remember, but rather, I want them to have something that comes from my heart and speaks to them.

And then I begin reading what people in the group already own, what they’ve collected–and I began feeling bad.  Not for them, but rather, for me.

To paraphrase Karen Blixen, I had a collection in geeky things in my library in my home.  It wasn’t big, but it was growing, and it covered a lot of different things.

My first love had always been book–science fiction to be exact.  I was a space travel junkie, but there were a few other stories that I loved just as well, and in the 1960s and 70s I spent hours reading and trying to find stories relating to my favorite authors.  I collected Omni and Twilight Zone magazines, both sadly gone these days, and both of which offered fantastic stories and information while they were out.  I had nearly every issues of the first and all the issues produced during the Twilight Zone‘s short, two year run.  Twilight Zone was famous for first-run printings of Harlan Ellison’s Grail and Paladin of the Last Hour, among his best writing and my favorite stories, as well as Steven King’s The Jaunt and his now-famous review of The Evil Dead where Steven pretty much lost his shit and gushed out his love for the picture.

Then it was Doctor Who, which I started watching in PBS in Chicago about 1980.  Yes, twenty-five years before all the fans who today talk about how they’ve seen ALL THE EPISODES of the show, starting with Rose in 2005.  Uh, huh, sure you have.  I was fortunate to be able to watch the show on one of only two networks in North America that ran it at that time.  (The other network was a station in Toronto, Canada.)  After a while I began taping the show so I could go back and watch episodes when the mood struck, and when our local station finally managed to get access to the then full catalog of existing episodes (just under a hundred are missing, having been destroyed during various BBC vault purges), I was kept busy buying VHS tapes in bulk.

Then I asked for a scarf.

The Forth Doctor was my first Doctor, and he was known for, among other things, his long scarves.  My first wife, pregnant with our son, felt like she needed something to do, so she found a pattern for the multi-colored, eighteen foot scarf, and made it for me.  It was big and heavy, but it was also glorious.  I would actually wear it out and to work, and I didn’t mind the stares shot my way by people who wondered what in the hell I had wrapped around my body.

I few years later I wore that scarf to a huge convention where I met several of the actors, watched the first North American viewing of the Doctor Who episodes The War Games and The Caves of Androzani, and eventually had my picture taken standing alongside a full-sized Dalek that two guys had made in their auto body shop in high school.

This is not that Dalek:  back in my day Daleks didn't sport v-neck armor.

This is not that Dalek: back in my day Daleks didn’t sport v-neck armor.

I went to several DW cons over the next few years, cosplayed a few more times (we just called it “dressing up in costume” because we didn’t know what I was going to get labeled in the future), and met more actors.  At one con I managed to spend nearly forty minutes chatting with Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, and we just talked about things–not always about the show, but stuff about what it was like to act, what it was like to be in other shows, what it was like to live in England and have to hop a flight to Chicago where he’d find himself talking to people like me.  We did get to talking about his not being allowed to have a Regeneration Episode, and he had a . . . few . . . choice . . . words on that matter.  Still and all, Colin was an extremely nice guy and a lot of fun.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I'd like for my own.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I’d like for my own.

There were several other things I got into over the year.  Role Playing Games, of which I have dozens, and some of the games I ran during the 1990s were, in a way, legendary.  I collected Battletech miniatures, some of which are impossible to find.  I’d have people paint them and put them on display around the home.  During the period I was between my first and second marriages I began collecting anime:  some movies, some OVAs, a few wall scrolls, more than a couple of figurines that could only be bought in Japan–which, thanks to the Internet, was doable.  I also began collecting animation cells from various productions.  Of these I don’t have many:  maybe a dozen.  The majority are from the original Sailor Moon and Urusei Yatsura, with a couple coming from Song of Escaflowne and Silent Mobius.

All old school stuff, but as they are the original, hand-painted cells, they were and are worth a big of cash.  I know a couple ran about $200 in late 1990s money, and I believe the head shot I have of Lum set me back about $300.  The one I really wanted, the one I got into a bidding war with two other collectors, was for a full-body portrait of Sailor Saturn and her Silence Glaive, which was about as rare a cell as they came.  I stopped when my $850 bid was passed, and I later learned from the seller that the winning bid was $1,100.  Yeah, the things we did twenty years ago when we had money.

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like.  Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like. Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

So what happened to all this stuff?  Well . . .

You see, while I was happy in my geekdom, and wanted to continue adding to the collection, others close to me–otherwise known as First and Second Wives–had other ideas.  My first wife grew bored with my geekness–as she did with just about everything else pertaining to me–and began getting pissy with my collections and my interest.  When I got to where everything I did turned into a big argument, I stopped the pursuit of all things geek, though I didn’t actually curtail my gaming on the weekends.  It was during the time just after I moved out that I lost my Omni and Twilight Zone magazine collections:  my ex told me she sold them at a garage sale, but I’m more of a mind that she tossed them in the bin.  I later lost my Doctor Who VHS collection to my stepson, who my second wife allowed to make off with my boxes of tapes.  I was also “convinced” by my second wife to give him my scarf, because there wasn’t any need to keep it, right?

Some of the other things that happened during my current marriage has been the boxing of my figurines and the removal of my wall posters.  Some of them went to my daughter, but most of them have gone into garage storage.  I was told having them around the house looked–well, not good, right?  My Battletech miniatures are boxed up as well, since I was informed that it wouldn’t be a good thing to put them on display.  I never managed to frame my animation cells, either, and right now they’re sitting in my closet back in Indiana, still in their shipping sleeves.  I’m heading Back to Indiana in a week, and I promise to get a few photos of these and put them up for you to see.  One day my daughter will get them if she really wants them; if not, I’ll probably give them away to someone who’d love a pissed-off looking Sailor Mars about to fireball someone’s ass.

I really have no one to blame for my current geeky apathy other than myself.  Yes, I received little to no support in my pursuits, and in so many instances I felt as if I was working in a vacuum with my fandom, because the only one who felt an interest in these things was me.  Just like with my gaming–which I eventually stopped because I was told by someone that they didn’t understand why I gamed, and kept wanting me to scale back my weekend endeavors in that area–I agreed to curtail these activities, and ultimately I lost interest in the act of surrounding myself with things that reminded me of those interests I loved.

These days I keep my geekness to the area of intellectual endeavor, because I can always look something up and memorize facts and use that knowledge to kinda keep me warm a cozy.  It’s not always comforting, however:  it’s like the difference between having a sweater that keeps the chill away, and curling up under a comforter with someone you love who’s going to whisper in your ear, “I’d blow up a star to be able to speak to you one last time.”  No, not nearly the same.

Which is why I see what others I know have and love, and brings on the tears because it reminds me of what I once had–

And what, over the decades, I’ve lost because I didn’t want to upset people who didn’t support me.

Hey, it’s never too late to turn that around, is it?

Shadow Collections

There comes into every writing life where you need to take a break and work on something that isn’t your story.  The break I was working on last night was my nails, and . . . they didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  Boo, hiss, the hell with it.  I stripped them down and brought up the story.

You know, sometimes your instincts are always the best for figuring out what you need to do at any given time.  Sometimes you should just write, even when you don’t feel like it.  Maybe you’ll end up making something crazy and wonderful, or wonderfully crazy, and before you know it, you’re the next big thing.  Or still struggling.  Who know?

Since it was a little late to be writing, I played with the story.  Not in the way you may think:  no, this was writer’s playing–

One of the things I’ve always wanted to try in Scrivener is to set up collections.  To understand Scrivener Collections, you need to understand the Binder.  It’s that thing on the left side of the program when you have it displayed.  Here:

Hey, over here!

Hey, over here!

If you need a better way of imagining the Binder, go to your local store, buy a three-ring binder, return home, find your story, put it in your binder.  There you go:  Scrivener Binder in physical form.  You have all your parts and chapters laid out so you know where everything is located, and you can lay things out in whatever order you like.  Each folder represents whatever you want it to represent:  headings, page markers, whatever it is you put into a binder to keep things neat and orderly.

Then what is a Collection?  Let’s say you have sections of your story that you want to return to from time-to-time, but you don’t want to go looking through your binder for that part.  Maybe it’s some historical information you dug up a while back and you need to review now and then.  Maybe it’s a new scene you’re working on and you don’t know where it should go inside your story.  Maybe it’s an old novel you wrote prior to the mess you’re working on now, and you want to be able to pull it up and check something without it being right there in your face.

If so, you set up a colored tab for that section–in Scrivener that becomes your collection.

Color tabs, just like I said.

Color tabs, just like I said.

And when you want to look at that section of your story, click on the tab and start looking.

You can even get fancy and look at it two different ways if you're of a mind--or even without one, like me.

You can even get fancy and look at it two different ways if you’re of a mind–or even without one, like me.

Working on your story here in the collection is just like working on it inside the main binder, because you’re still in the binder, only you don’t see the rest of it because you’ve pulled this part off by its lonesome.  If you need some additonal research, you can add that to the collection as well–

Or maybe you can give it a home of its own; it might like that.

Or maybe you can give it a home of its own; it might like that.

Collections aren’t forever:  you can keep them as long as you like, then remove them when you’re finished.  It won’t remove the original information–or the changes you made to it–since you were really working in the binder, only . . . not.  Software is funny that way.

There was something else I did as well:  I added a chapter.  What?  Are you insane, Cassie?  Well, yeah, a little, but that’s beside the point.  I’d come up with another set of scenes a few weeks back, and I wanted to incorporate them into the story.  The scene comes at the end of Part Eight, which I call Holidays There and Back, and this happens a few weeks after a somewhat traumatic point in the lives of Annie and Kerry.  Chapter Twenty-Five, Continuations, is meant to show that life not only goes on in this strange world, but sometimes you start learning unusual things and pass that knowledge on to people close to you.

Shadows?  Like the ones trying to take over the galaxy?  Guess again.

Shadows? Like the ones trying to take over the galaxy? Wrong story.

Three interesting scenes, with the last being a tender, maybe a somewhat creepy moment, but more tender in the long run, because it ends with dancing before a fireplace.  And maybe a couple of shadow ribbons.

Yeah, those are gonna be nasty.

Waiting For the Good Things

The month of WirMovember is finally behind us, and it seemed that if, for some, it could have lasted a few more days.  Last night I saw friend after friend post up on Facebook that, yes, they’d reached their fifty thousand words, and they’d won!  Yah!  How much did they reach their fifty thousand words by?  50,023.  50,102.  50,048 . . .

You get the idea.  They made it across the line, and I gotta give them props for it, because nailing fifty thousand words in a month isn’t always the easiest of things.

Which brings up a couple of conversations that occurred last night.  One was with The Muse—yes, she was around last night, mostly wondering what I was going to do next, as by “next” she meant, “You aren’t going to spend all your time trying to model space stations in 3D rendering programs all the time, are you?  I thought you were a writer.”  Of course she’s correct, I am a writer, and I can prove it—

We were discussion the frustration that comes from being creative:  how people around you don’t understand what you do, how you work in a vacuum, and how you have to spend so much time waiting for something to happen.  For example, how do you get people to buy your self-published works?  Or how long do you wait for someone to get back to you, letting you know that they’ve bought your story, and in another few months you’ll see your words appearing in print?

It’s not a lot of fun to be in any of these situations, not really knowing what to do next, and what’s going to happen if it doesn’t come.  You keep pressing on, in either case, but sometimes the very act of pressing on is a killer, because you feel a bit more isolated each time something doesn’t happen.

There’s very little you can do about it, too, because writing is pretty much a solitary sport.  Yes, you can hang out in cafes and clubs and write away—I’ve done that, and I actually enjoy it—but you’re still on your own.  You don’t have cheerleaders standing behind you yelling, “Go, Cassidy, Go, Cassidy, get that next two hundred words . . . Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, Go!”  Not gonna happen, at least not in real life.

But herein lies the rub:  if you don’t write, and keep at it, you not only get rusty, you get worse.  And this brings up the second, very short, conversation I had last night . . .

It was really a pop up IM while I was on Facebook, and it was from a friend, a fellow NaNoer, who said she’s been torn apart by another woman simply because my friend had forwarded the opinion that you have to write every day if you want to become a better writer.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she was insinuating that writing was a skill as much as it was a talent—which, if you know anything about any creative endeavor, that’s absolutely true.

I saw a quote pop up last night from Clive Barker, a few words of wisdom that he was offering from one writer to a whole lot of others.  It’s short, it’s sweet, and there is a whole philosophy in them:

 

Writers write. That may be an obvious thing to say but [it’s true]. There’s no such thing as a potential writer, there’s only somebody who is doing the thing. It’s like saying you’re a potential boat builder. No, you’re a boat builder when you’re building a boat.

 

Stephen King pretty much offered the same advice.  If you want to get better, you gotta write.  Think of that creative portion of your brain as a muscle, and then think about what happens if you work it on a regular basis:  it develops, right?  The reverse is also true:  you sit on your ass and do nothing with that muscle, it atrophies, it becomes weak and useless.

Where do you get your writing work out?  Places like . . . here.

This is the real paradox.  You have to keep writing to get better.  After a while you’ll build up a body of work—but what do you do to get it out there for people to see?  There are no easy routes to any of this, for if you write every day, you’ll end up with a lot of stories—stories that want to be published.

All you have to do after that is convince someone to publish you.

I write every day.  If I’m not working on a story, I do posts for my blog.  I’m very good about this, because I feel the five hundred or more words I write every day allow me to work on my craft.  I need to come up with new posts, new ideas, new titles every morning.  This is the process I use that allowed me to grow, to become a better writer.

To work out at the gym, so to speak.

This doesn’t mean I’m slacking with the stories.  When speaking with the Muse, I told her what I’ve done in the last thirteen months, from the start of NaNoWriMo 2011, to the end of NaNo 2012.  When I started working out the numbers, it was a bit surprising to me, even though I’m the one who wrote all of the following.

It worked out like this:

 

Her Demonic Majesty; novel, 86,000 words.
Echoes; novella, 21,000 words.
Couples Dance; novella/novel, 52,000 words.
Transporting; novel, 45,000 words added to complete story.
Diners at the Memory’s End; novel, 54,000 words.
Replacements; novelette, 12,000 words.
Samhain in Transition; novelette, 9,600 words.
Kolor Ijo; novel, 69,000 words.

 

With the exception of the first novel everything else was written during 2012.  Adding up those numbers, I’ve written about 349,000 words.  If I throw in Kuntilanak (novella, 25,000 words) and Captivate and Control (novelette, 10,000 words), then I kick that total to 384,000 words.

When I kick in the blog content . . . I always strive to do five hundred words a day.  Sometimes I go over (like with this post), so the word count average is bumped, but for the sake of not getting too crazy, I’ll say I average 550 words a day.

So thirteen months would be 395 posts, but there have been some double posts, so lets say I’ve completed 400.  The math is pretty simple:  I’ve published about 220,000 words for this blog since last November.  Probably a little more, but I’m not going to take the considerable time necessary to look at every post to get an exact total.  That’s just crazy.

What is my final count?  568,000 words for the last thirteen months.  What does that look like in real life?  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was about 257,000 words.  Stack a couple of them together, and when compared to what I’ve written, those are still short about fifty thousand words.

Then if I add in my other stories, you could throw a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on top of those two Order of the Phoenix novels, and that would represent just about everything I’ve written in the last year and a half.

Has all that writing made me better?  Yes, it has.  I’ve become better at researching, I know how to use my skills much better, I know how to watch out for things that can hurt my writing, and I’ve sharpened my editing skills.

You have to write every day to get better, to develop your skills, to understand your craft.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you need to get that in there.  And keep at it until you finish what you’re working on—

I mean, no one ever sailed off on just the keel of a boat.  And no one who ever called themselves a writer sent out unfinished stories.

Get to work on that boat; you have some travelin’ to do.