Tag: writing

I have a new blog

I have a new blog

So my friends Zibb and Mal, and I have started a new blog where we’re talk science fiction and fantasy and mastering Ahri from league of legends, in all corners of the media world from books to movies to games. You can find us over at Conceptual Neighborhood and while we’re still ramping up, there’s some good stuff there. (PS: thanks for the name suggestion.)

I will probably still post here occasionally about things I’m thinking of that don’t necessarily fit the baliwick of Conceptual Neighborhood.

I heart Reddit Secret Santa

I heart Reddit Secret Santa

I walked outside with bare feet and only a short-sleeved shirt on, no jacket. The temperature was about 44 degrees outside, which isn’t much for the East Coast contingent, but is starting to border on cold for Californians. By the end of the trip, I had regretted forgetting one of those items, and no, it wasn’t my shoes.

It was a beautiful night, though. It’s rained recently, it’s chilly, and there was a rather stiff north wind blowing today, and between the three, it’s always clearest night to look up. Tonight, as I stepped out, I could see Orion climbing up the sky from his perch in the east. Yes, it’s winter, when one of my favorite constellations disappears and the other one appears. (The other one is Scorpius, which I have some attachment to because it’s my birth sign, and it’s, just like Orion, very easy to spot in the summer sky.)

The box!  There's something awesome in here for me!
The box! There’s something awesome in here for me!

I walk across the street to the mailbox, wondering if a package has arrived. And sure enough, with the mail, there’s a key to the parcel mailbox in the mail. Sure enough, inside is a box for me, and the return address is labeled Secret Santa. I’m shivering by now, but I extract my package and finish pulling the mail out of the box, and head back across the street. In the west, the moon grins a Cheshire cat smile, almost as if it’s as happy as I am.

I distributed the mail to the various members of the household, set my box down and poked through the letters. Nothing interesting — well, that’s not quite true. One of the state job announcements I could most definitely do and it sounds fun — being part of the intrusion detection team at the California Franchise Tax Board, the folks who collect California’s state income tax. But I’m getting off subject. Finally, I pull out the box and prepare to open it.

Let me pause to explain. Believe it or not, Reddit has a Secret Santa tradition. You sign up for it — all that’s needed is an active Reddit account. On a certain day, signups close, and then they metaphorically shake the hat using fancy algorithms (that may or may not have been invented by Al Gore) and they match folks up in one long chain. That is, I give a gift to somebody who has a completely different person to give a gift to, who then has another person, and so on and so forth. Your gifter is not your giftee. [1]

So…this box was from my secret santa. Cool! What’s in it? Let’s open it up!

When no knife is handy, resort to mailbox key!
When no knife is handy,
resort to mailbox key!

I have three different pocketknives/multitools with a blade on them. I have no idea where any of the three of them are, so I hack at the tape with the mailbox key. This took a bit. My Secret Santa put good tape on that sucker. But I hack at it valiantly and finally managed to get the box open. Here’s the moment of truth. What did Santa bring this year?

So, in the box were three very wonderful things. One of them is a classic Mario amiibo. If any of you know me, you know I love these things, and when I get my room cleaned up, I’m going to hang a beautiful shelf my papa made for me to hold them. I did actually have this one before, but it’s cool, because I had been toying with getting a second one to make a custom with Luigi’s classic NES colors. So now I have one to do that with!

Cool things for me!
Cool things for me!

The next thing is a deck of cards, but they’re not your ordinary playing cards. No! These are Writer Emergency Cards! So when you’re writing a story, there’s Idea Cards, which are illustrated and contain an idea, and Detail Cards, which give you helpful suggestions and specific tips. I haven’t pulled these out of their package yet, but it’s awesome!

And the last is a notebook. I love notebooks, and this one is pretty cool. It’s large (I love large notebooks) and it’s got faint lines on the page so you have the lines to center your writing, but it doesn’t get picked up in scans. I am certain I’ll get use out of this.

So this was a good Secret Santa haul.

And last, there was this wonderful note buried in the box.

lovely note from my secret santa
lovely note from my secret santa

I love reddit Secret Santa, and mine in particular.

[1] At this point my brain wandered off on a tangent involving a secret santa group I was in freshman year. I’ll explain later.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

As much as I didn’t want to leave the fun that was Corflu, alas, all good things must come to an end. I wandered out a bit after ten last night, and got home a bit before 1. Time: about two and a half hours of driving, all told. I was less sleepy than I thought I’d be, which is somewhat of a miracle.

I’m still trying to process the weekend. Maybe with a full night’s sleep, I’ll be able to attempt to write some of it down.

Short of it, though, is I had an amazing time, and I’m going to do my best to see you all next year in realspace. In the meantime, I’ve got a first issue of Rhyme to put out. (For those of you not at Corflu, I introduced Rhyme, but deliberately numbered it ½ so that it wouldn’t be the first issue — I’ll get the electronic copy to Bill later in the week, I suspect.)

Meanwhile, I think some sleep is needed. My cat has already found the pile of fanzines, declared them cromulent, and sacked out on them. Mebbe she’s a fan, too.

Small and Far Away

Small and Far Away

I need to sit down and write stuff. All sorts of stuff. Maybe, this weekend, if I get my homework done, such things will be able to happen.

But the point of this post is to point to this: Small and Far Away, a one-shot fanzine created by members of the virtual fanzine lounge at the last Corflu. There’s a link to the PDF on that page. You should read it!

Yours truly, beyond having an article in the issue, is the one who did the layout work.

The next step is getting the first issue of Rhyme & Paradox out. I’ll be calling in favors shortly…

Rhyme & Paradox

Rhyme & Paradox

Yeah, that’s going to be the title of the fanzine I’m putting out. And I’m looking for contributions. I have the first year pretty much planned out as to topics. (I’m going to go approximately quarterly, so that means four topics.)

The first topic is ‘Beginnings’; I’ll need things by New Year’s for assembly and layout in early January. I’ll take anything folks want to throw at me, but my most pressing need would be a cover. I’ll probably end up having to whip something up using photographs since I don’t know how to ask for help (read: too nervous to ask), but I wanted to lay that out there as a thought.

The second right now seems to want to be called ‘Dreaming of Rockets’; my thought on that is Hugos, not the space race. I’m sure it’ll come up soon. That, I’m going to say, let’s shoot for a deadline of the Ides of March. This is a little more fluid, talk to me in January about it. I just wanted to throw the idea out there.

My email is katster AT retstak DOT org, or you can poke me via all the usual places (including the comments of this blog entry.)

most awesome birthday weekend ever

most awesome birthday weekend ever

So yeah, this weekend went really well. If I had to ring in the start of another lap around the sun, this is about the way I want to do it. Bear with me, for long kat is long.

It started at work Friday, where there was cake. We do this for birthdays at work recently, but one of my co-workers made sure there was cake for me. It was supremely good cake, too.

Saturday started out a bit meh, as I had to go do schoolwork in the morning, but once I was done with that, I headed out to Folsom, stopping along the way to treat myself to In-and-Out for a hamburger as my celebratory birthday weekend. Yum.

Then, at Folsom, we had a party. It was supposedly for those not going to SF the following night to have fun, but they decided to let me come and celebrate my birthday. One of our Wrimos even baked me a cake. This was sweet.

And then to top it off, Saturday was also the 112th Big Game, which I was fairly certain Stanford was going to win. But my Bears somehow came out of nowhere, had the score close at halftime, and then proceeded to first pull away, and then let Stanford back into it before sealing the deal with an interception. It was Cal Cardiac Football at its finest, and so I got a nice surprise gift — an Axe. It was pretty funny because I was so not writing at the party, but listening to my game, and towards the end, the feed started cutting in and out, which made it hard to follow. The feed cut out just as Toby Gerhart tried to win the game for Stanford, and didn’t come back up until I heard the word “INTERCEPTION!” in my headphones and was trying to figure out what had just happened and whether that meant my Bears had won the game.

And then there was Sunday. Oh god, what can I say about Sunday? Besides the fact that San Francisco is probably my most favorite city on the planet and I love any chance I get to visit, the Night of Writing Dangerously was way more fun than I was expecting. It started simply:

It’s about 5:40 in the evening. The scene, a round table in a ballroom high above California Street in San Francisco. Seated there are seven people from Sacramento: myself, Richard, his wife Jennifer, Jenny, Candace, Temperance, and Stephanie. There’s some idle chitchatting about where people are and stuff like that. In front of the room, the bell is introduced — you come ring the bell when you’ve become a winner at NaNoWriMo (that is, hit the 50k mark). And that’s when the following happened:

Temperance: “So, Kat, you going to hit 50k tonight?”
me: “You’re kidding, right? I’m nowhere close.”
Temperance: “You’re in the forties, no?”
me: “Well, yeah, a bit over 43k.”
Temperance: “There you go. You can hit 50k tonight.”
me: “I’m not so sure about this idea.”
Temperance: “Look, how many words do you have?”
me: “About forty-three five.”
Temperance: “That’s about 6500 words. We’ll not count this hour. But six — we’ll not count seven — eight, nine, ten. That’s four hours. You only have to write about 1500 words an hour.”
Rest of table: “Yeah, c’mon, Kat, you can do it.”
me: “Okay, fine, you all. I’ll try.”
me (thought): This is going to be impossible and I’m going to fail and feel rotten at the end of it. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Table: *cheering*

So I spend most of the evening sitting and writing frantically, although there were several breaks to take advantage of the candy pile and the hosted bar (too bad I don’t drink, but there was plenty of ginger ale and soda) and eat something resembling dinner. Oh yeah, and there were the most crazy donuts I’ve ever had with toppings like Cocoa Puffs and Nilla Wafers and Oreo cookies and Butterfingers and …the list goes on and on. Also, I went and took my author photo.

But most of the time I was writing. It was a write-a-thon after all. And after frantically typing all evening, writing a grand total of 6,481 words — a personal NaNo daily best — this happened.

Later that evening, about 10:15 PM:
Jason (peering over my shoulder): “So did you make it?”
me: “Give me a second, I just put it in the wordcounter.”
NaNo website: *loading*
Everybody: *waits*
NaNo website: katster has 50,182 words.
me: “Wait, what, I made it? I made it!”
Table (and Jason): “Go ring that bell!”
me: “Give me a second to recover and bask in my glory.”
*moment*
me: “Alright, now I’m going to go find Sarah [the coordinator of this glorious event] and let her know that I made it before I ring the bell so she doesn’t have to come frantically running.” [Backstory: People had been ringing the bell all evening, leaving poor Sarah frantically running to the stage. I felt bad, so I wanted to make sure she didn’t have to run.]
*By sheer random coincidence, Sarah walks by at just that moment*
me: “Hey Sarah! Just to warn you, I hit 50k!”

…and so I nicely followed Sarah to the podium where I grasped that bell and rung it just about as hard as anybody had that evening.

And the rest of the night I wore a crown on top of my Cal hat and a manic grin. Kinda like this:

me, after it’s all said and done. Photo by my friend Richard

All in all, the best birthday weekend ever. Thanks to everybody who helped me make it to the Night of Writing Dangerously — cards should go out next week.

And no, I don’t know how I’m going to top this next year.

Halfway Point

Halfway Point

I finished my 11k challenge for the weekend, and now have somewhere just north of 35,000 words. I’m shooting to hit 50 next Sunday night, but I’m not entirely sure 15k in 7 days is entirely realistic. So we’ll leave that alone other than to open the betting pool for when I’m going to hit 50,000 words.

In the challenge to write a blog post every day, I’m on track (other than moving the one I posted to LJ over to the blog because my server was down for maintenance). The problem is that my life is boring and I’m stuck for things to write about.

So hey, if you’re reading this, say hey and give me some ideas for what you want to hear me say. I need help here.

But the news is, despite a bit of a rough start, the month’s on task. Now to just see if I can get some focus on my GIS project.

A Retaken Mint Plot

A Retaken Mint Plot

Yeah, that’s *my* mint farm! (Or it might just be an anagram for my first and last names.)

Anyway, I need eight more donations of ten dollars each to get to The Night of Writing Dangerously, thanks to a few awesome friends. Can you help by donating?

Also, since a picture’s worth a thousand words, here’s my wordcount per day for this year’s NaNoWriMo excitement:

My wordcount!

The blue line is my wordcount per day, the red line is the rolling average. Yeah, it’s very choppy. But I’m writing! I just passed 22k! I keep trucking!

I hate spammers and other flotsam

I hate spammers and other flotsam

I deliberately set the blog to email me when new comments are made. There’s three reasons for this madness:

  1. That’s the way LJ comments are handled, and I’ve liked being able to see them
  2. It allows me a quick response if there’s a comment that needs to be handled in a particular fashion
  3. It allows me to see when I’m getting whacked with a load of spam

In regards to point #3, it did that job well, as looking at my mailspool showed me that last night’s post had been hit by several spammers overnight. I don’t know why Akismet failed so badly, but it leaves me in a bit of a dilemma. I want to leave trackbacks on so that I can see when blogs are linking me, but most of the spam that gets through the defenses is trackback spam. And I really wasn’t overly happy clearing out that mess today.

Anyway, it’s just a point. Spammers are lower than scum and will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

***
If you haven’t guessed, it’s not only NaNoWriMo month, but because I am absolutely totally and completely out of my gourd, I’m also doing Blog Posting Month. So that means one a day of these things every day in November. Of course, I could cheat and give you my cumulative word count every day, but that hardly seems fair.

So I’ll guess I’ll turn this over to those of you that actually read this thing on a regular basis. What would you like me to address? I could use some ideas for days when I can’t come up with my own. Feel free to drop them in comments.

***

As I mentioned before, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, like I do every year. And the last couple years, they’ve been doing a fundraising event called the Night of Writing Dangerously over in the Bay Area. This year’s event is the night after my birthday (yep, November kid) and I’d kind of like to go this year. Especially since the other November event in the Bay Area I’d like to attend is at the Breadbox Stanford this year, and tickets will be impossible because Stanford’s capacity has shrunk majorly.

The problem with going to the Night of Writing Dangerously is that I need to come up with $200 as a donation. Now, I’m all for giving money to the folks at NaNo HQ, because they do some marvelous work at encouraging people to write (particularly kids – I love their Young Writers Program). Also, they make my life easier when it comes to organizing the region. But, $200 is out of my range this year.

So this is where I turn to y’all. If any of you wants to (note that you do not have to, these are hard times for everybody and I’m doing this as a longshot), I’d love for you to donate some money to NaNo so that I can go.

So if you want to help, you can donate here. If you do, I appreciate it. If you can’t, well, I understand. These are hard times.

It would be nice to go, though.

Anyway, word count is at 5703; am going to try to get to 6000 before I got to bed tonight. Other than that, nothing exciting is going on.

I hate Mondays.

I hate Mondays.

Mondays are hard days. Not only are they the start of the work week, but they seem to serve as a reminder of just what kind of failure I am. I mean, I get up, I go to work, and I work. But I know deep inside that I’m only working three days and not five, and that it’ll be another month of struggling to pay my bills, another month of living in my parents house, another month that I’m stuck with what appears to be no way out.

And then after work, I slog my way through the commute traffic to school. Let me get one thing straight. I hate my Monday night class. The only time I was happy tonight in that class was when I thought I might have a chance to slag the instructor in an evaluation. (Turns out, it was an eval for a different prof. When asked if we were doing it, he said something along the lines of ‘I’ve got tenure; I don’t have to do it.’) I’m seriously thinking of taking a withdraw in that class because (a) I don’t think I’m going to pass and (b) I really don’t want to take that class over. The teacher is disorganized and sometimes you’re lucky if you can find a hint to solving some of the labs in the notes. Today’s boiling point moment was when he decided that today we were going to have a quiz — on stuff he was introducing today. Somehow we talked him off that idea, but still. (And yes, for those who have been following my journal, this is my SQL class.)

But this adds into my feelings of inadequacy because I’m mainly taking classes as a way to keep from paying my student loans, because God knows I don’t have the money to cover that bill too. I’d really rather have a full time job where I’m paying down the loans and thus gain the ability to take a semester off. I could have really used it this year — my stress levels have been through the roof this fall. (And now it’s November and I must be completely frakking insane.)

Anyway, yeah, there’s this complete feeling of inadequacy that’s been eating at me and Mondays are just the night when it comes most to the forefront. I just keep slipping deeper and deeper into the hole, and I don’t know how to get out. This is not a happy feeling to deal with.

I mean, objectively, I know I’m not a failure. Emotionally, though, it’s hard to see beyond what appears to be crumbling ruins. There’s a bit of ‘I was supposed to be someone!’ in my head that plays into nights like this; Mondays just bring it a bit closer to the surface.

***

In happier news, the NaNo wordcount stands at 5564, and I wrote this paragraph, which I’m sorta proud of. It comes in the middle of a reporter’s puff-piece on my book’s major villain:

After some pleasantries, we sat down to business. The Congressman was pleasant but undeniably brusque about some parts of his life, such as the much-publicized divorce from his wife of thirty years during his first term in Congress. The mention of her brings an immediate frown to his face. “Rosalie and I had a difference of opinion,” he said. “That and the strains of my freshman year in the House led to an amicable split. There is no story here.” When pressed about comments his wife made about him ‘not being the man I married’, Breen just shrugs and says, “Well, isn’t that what most women say when they want a divorce? He’s not the man I married? What does that mean, anyway?”

fried

fried

So it’s November. November means it’s NaNoWriMo month, which means that I’m running around like a crazy person. Then I stupidly said, “Ah why not, I’ll update my blog every day this month. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do.” Since I’m sure there’s folks out there that want to keep me honest, guess I’d better get the month started.

Anyway, it was a good day. The kickoff was nicely attended, and I got a good chunk of writing done. I added another six hundred words at the write-in we did for TV. I haven’t watched the clip yet, so I don’t know how much of me made it in, but my highly awesome co-ML, , got interviewed and didn’t do so bad. (Ah, here’s the clip. I’m in the background a lot.)

But the combination of staying up way late for write-in, and then getting up way early for the morning write-in, alongside the timechange, is just making my brain go *splat*. And since that means I’m not coherent, that means it should be bedtime.

But I have nearly four thousand words, and I saw a nice sunset. It was a good day.

do not stick in ear

do not stick in ear

So I’m at work, and I’m reading up on how to write a functional specification, which seems to be my next task. Now, I’ve never written one of these before, so the Google is my friend.

I stumbled across Joe Spolsky’s blog in my search for how to write one of these, and in reading the sample functional spec he provides, I found:

(Your results may vary. We are not responsible for delays in transmission or on your computer which could cause the actual time to be a bit later than the time displayed. This service is provided as-is and is merely for entertainment purposes, not for accurate time-keeping. Do not stick WhatTimeIsIt.com in your ear or use it to clean your ear.)

I spent several minutes in my cube just giggling madly at the thought of using a web interface to clean your ear. Of course, this is work, and there’s nobody to share with, so I am sharing with the Internets.

EDIT: Later, in the same document:

The exact wording of this email is still being debated hotly by the board of directors and will be provided sometime before shipping. [ Developers: for now I suggest using a nasty word. That will light a fire under Chucks’ seat. ]

So funny, and yet, so true.

papernet is expensive!

papernet is expensive!

Yeesh, my new hobby is shaping up to be somewhat expensive. I wandered around Office Depot trying to get a bead on pricing, and yeesh. Mailing labels are about $10 for 250, manilla envelopes are about $10 for a hundred, and that’s not even counting the costs of printing and postage.

I begin to see why does all his fanac electronically. ;)

Anyway, I’m going to see if I can figure out cheaper ways of achieving the same goal. But for the moment, I may have to hold on my August deadline because I really don’t have the money to absorb startup costs at the moment.

***

In semi-related news, my Westercon vote must have made it to Tempe for the Westercon as I appear to have an attending membership for the 2011 Westercon in San Jose. Woohoo. I haven’t seen the check clear yet, but I’m going to assume that will happen Any Day Now.

And I mailed off my Worldcon and NASFiC ballots yesterday, so…

It’s been a good few days.

flotsam, jetsam, and detritus from my mind

flotsam, jetsam, and detritus from my mind

In no particular order:

  • I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a while. You see, while my parents and sister go out of town on a camping trip, I’m staying behind. This means that I can dig out my room which, although not quite matching the destruction wrought by my namesake hurricane, explains why my mom gave me the sobriquet back in the 1980s. So yeah, my big goal this weekend is to dig it out and hopefully keep it from descending into entropy again.
  • The other thing I want to get done this weekend is to write is my much delayed Baycon report, so that I can stick it in At Ungodly Hours, my contribution to one of the APAs I belong to. After it goes out there, I’ll probably post it to the blog as well, so you all can read it. I know you’re all looking forward to it.
  • Speaking of which, I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be any mention of who received this year’s Baycon gopher awards. While I didn’t expect one for me, since I do gophering because I really like helping out and the rewards are somewhat immaterial, I’d really like to know which of my fellow gophers was crazy enough to earn such things. So I’m sad that I haven’t heard since it’s usually announced by now, or so I thought.
  • Also, bringing up my APAzine means that I want to mention that I’ve got a soft deadline for assembling the pieces of the first issue of Rhyme and Paradox. That date is July 15th. The issue will be somewhat art-short (which is okay), but I figure I need to get started somewhere. I don’t expect to reach levels of fanac, but I think it’s important that I get going on this, or I’m never going to do it.
  • That said, I have been absolutely lousy about getting back to those of you who expressed some interest in what I’m doing. So here’s the short of it. My ‘zine is called, as noted above, Rhyme and Paradox, and it’s a zine written for the subculture I belong to, which is science fiction fandom. You can see many examples of these ‘zines at efanzines, a wonderful resource ran by Bill Burns, who deserves all the mad props that he gets. In specific, R&P is going to be on the border between a genzine and a perzine (general fanzine and personal fanzine, for those who aren’t up on the terminology), and it’s going to be a hybrid, which means it will exist both electronically and in print — the latter because there are folks in the community who either don’t use the Internet (I know, heresy, but…) or prefer paper. It’s definitely not-for-profit — I fully expect that it’ll be a hobby and thus an endeavor that will, in financial terms, always be in the red, although I will gleefully accept money thrown my way for helping with postal/printing costs. Um, yeah, I think that’s about it for the moment. Feel free to ask questions below and I’ll try to be better at answering them. And for those of you who say “I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter”, you had better mean it.
  • Also, while I say that it’s a cross between a genzine and a perzine, I’m totally open to anybody who wants to write or draw for it. That’s part of the fun of doing this. Also, here’s the best part — it doesn’t necesarily have to be about science fiction as long as it’s interesting. There’s some folks in the community who are die-hard pro wrestling fans, for example. Doesn’t have much to do with science fiction (although it seems to fit rather well into fantasy, I think), but it’s in sfzines. So the field is pretty much wide open. My due date for R&P1 is, as I said, July 15th, and I think R&P2 is going to be early/mid October. (Yeah, I’m looking at quarterly production schedules for the moment.)
  • Other than that, things seem to be going fine in regards to the day job, although there are times I wish I had more time in the day. I also wish I had more time to write, but that’s never going to go away, so…
  • Also, unrelated, I wish I were going to Montreal for Worldcon or SJ for WFC, but you know, I’m a grownup now and have car payments, which means that, well, fun but expensive trips are out of the question for somebody who is only part-time at their job.

Anyway, if there’s anything else you want to know, I open the floor for questions.

state of the katster

state of the katster

The state of the katster is a rapidly falling apart California.

Oh, wait, I screwed that up again, didn’t I? Well, here it is. I’m…I guess the best word for what I am is okay. It’s not awesome, but it’s not depressingly miserable either. I attribute the fact that it’s not the latter to the fact that I’ve actually, you know, been bothering to take my meds. But it’s not all light and sunshine either, which is a reminder that being happy is tougher than it looks.

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