Saturday, February 16, 2019

WWW and it’s snow joke

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.

Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier (Kurt) from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car. Kurt spotted a row of punishment stalls across the square, and Shayla realizes the crowd will expect her to inflict some pain on the prisoners there.

=====

Shayla sorted through her money and selected a small silver coin. This would be a heavy jolt. Prisoners occasionally died from neural stimulation, despite the safety limits built in, but her briefing notes had been very clear regarding Brynwyn's harsh views on duty and discipline. She had to stay in character.

"Leave my mommy alone!"

Shayla looked down, surprised, at the tiny bundle of fury pummeling her with minute and ineffective fists.

One of the duty guards pulled the child away. He raised his fist to cuff the young boy, but Shayla held up a cautioning finger. The guard bowed his head. "As you wish, Magister Summis."


=====

When we moved to Canada, everyone talked about the long winters. “Not so,” we said. “We’re settling in Victoria, BC where people move to to escape the winters.”

Thing is, Victoria isn’t geared up to deal with snow like the rest of Canada. Most winters we’ve been here we’ve had snow, but it’s always been one dump, one day of traffic chaos. Then the roads are cleared and things settle down. It all looks pretty for a couple of weeks then it melts.

Last three years or so we’ve seen a change in the pattern, to snowfall spread out over multiple days causing fresh problems every day. This past week is a case in point.

Friday I happened to be working from home, catching up after my trip to Ottawa that I mentioned in my last post. During the day, about 5cm fell which I cleared from the driveway before Ali got home. Sunday night the storm hit. About 30cm which closed the highway that night. We dug ourselves out in the morning and I managed to get into work by mid-morning. It takes the three of us somewhere between 2 and 3 hours to shift that amount of snow from our long driveway.





Very scary drive home Monday in near-whiteout conditions. Lots of cars abandoned by the side of the road. Ali and Matthew were home (schools closed) and cleared the drive for me. Tuesday morning - another 30cm overnight and another 2-hour workout to dig ourselves out again. Wednesday was fine, but slippery slushy stuff started falling Thursday. Not much, but enough to be dangerous - probably more so than a proper snowfall. Our drive opens out near the bottom of a hill, and even crawling down at less than walking pace I couldn’t make the turn into the drive. The car just slid sideways. Managed to correct and carry on down to the bottom, then came back up and reversed into the drive. Yes, scary. Another brief workout Friday morning before getting to work.

Looks like we’ve got a reprieve for the coming week, with the possibility of more to come next weekend. We’ll see.

Of course, I’m still thankful to be living in relatively mild Victoria. Much of the country has had it a lot worse, so I can’t really complain. Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying warm and dry and safe!



Saturday, February 9, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors February 10

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.

Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier (Kurt) from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car. Kurt spotted a row of punishment stalls across the square, and Shayla realizes the crowd will expect her to inflict some pain on the prisoners there.

=====

Shayla started at the far end of the line, scrutinizing each prisoner and reading the placards in front of them. Some met her gaze, some looked away, expressions a mixture of pleading, defiance, resignation.

Theft from a market stall... Insulting the personage of the Emperor... All petty crimes. One in particular caught her eye though. Stealing from the Temple collection box. Brynwyn would not approve of that. She looked at the young woman standing, naked and manacled, before her. She ignored Shayla, murmuring instead to two young children clinging to her.


=====

After months of consistent progress ahead of schedule, my writing took a big hit this week. I was out of town for in-person workshops for a major project I’m working on.

Working face-to-face gives you a level of understanding you simply can’t get from teleconferencing. The technology is great for routine discussions, but it blocks the subtle cues of posture and eye contact that can ring warning bells that people may be using the same words but they’re reading different meaning into them.

With collaboration from provinces across Canada, getting people together like this is costly in travel, but those kinds of misunderstandings can prove fatal to a complex multi-million-dollar project.

It’s also costly in personal terms. Traveling from Victoria to Ottawa is an all-day process. Then the workshops themselves. Then returning home, leaving late afternoon Ottawa time and getting home after midnight local time. Tag on an evening beforehand of sorting out and packing clothes, papers and laptop, and a day afterwards of catching up and recovery from sheer exhaustion. Net result, an entire week gone by and not a word written.

Have to do better this weekend!

 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors February 3

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.




Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier (Kurt) from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car. Kurt spotted a row of punishment stalls across the square, and Shayla realizes the crowd will expect her to inflict some pain on the prisoners there.

=====

She tried to ignore the stench of urine and excrement while she thought. How would Brynwyn behave here? She was sure that Kurt would be taking note of her actions. He may appear to be genial and bumbling, but she had felt him observing her. Who might he be reporting to back at the Palace? If nothing else, people there would be curious about her. She was an unknown from the Provinces taking up a senior public appointment. Whatever she did here, whatever she said, every word, every gesture, would find its way to attentive ears in time.


=====

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Measure wisely

When I posted about progress and motivation last week, a comment there reminded me of the darker side of targets and measurements. The comment was about feelings of backsliding when the writer took a pause from writing in order to go back and work some changes into the manuscript.

My feeling about that is: if the changes are improving the story, then it’s still progress, not backsliding at all.

The trouble is that it can feel like you’re taking steps backwards if you only focus on one way of measuring progress. And that can be dispiriting.

I think it’s important to be careful how you choose to measure progress, and to pick measurements that make sense. And those measurements will change depending on what you are doing.

For example, while I’m working on a first draft (like I am right now) then word count is a useful measure of progress. It is certainly one that I use, and which I (usually) find motivational as I discussed last time.

Even there, though, you could easily choose other measures of progress. If you are a detailed plotter, for example, then you probably have all your chapters mapped out, so you could measure progress by how many chapters you’ve finished drafting. I don’t work like that, so that measure makes no sense for me, which goes back to the “pick measures that make sense” part.

But when I get into edits and revisions, word count is not a good guide. Instead, I start tracking how much of the manuscript I’ve worked through in the current revision round. Different task, different measure.


When setting myself targets, I prefer to think first about what I am trying to achieve - what is the goal, or the benefit I’m striving for? Then I ask myself, how will I know when I’ve achieved it?

That may be enough for a fairly short task, for example: by this time next week I will have completed X. But if the goal is going to take weeks or months, that’s when measurements of progress come in handy to keep me on track. Then I ask one more question: how can I tell how well I’m doing? This last question should give you clues as to what to measure if you want to track progress over time.

Yes, targets and measurements are powerful tools. Used well they can provide great motivation, but a poor choice can crush you.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors January 27

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.



Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier (Kurt) from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car. Kurt spotted a row of punishment stalls across the square, and was busily dropping a coin into each slot until he ran out of coins. Shayla threw him a handful of small change.

=====

He looked surprised, then delighted. "Eternal thanks, Magister Summis," he spluttered.

"Tribute to the Emperor, vengeance to the Almighty," Shayla intoned, showing that she felt it to be nothing more than her duty to help him.

By now, the onlookers had closed in behind Shayla. Talk stilled, as if in anticipation of sport beyond run-of-the-mill torture. She felt eyes burning into the back of her head as she approached the line of prisoners. She felt alone. Exposed. It was not like an assassin to be the center of attention like this.



=====


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Progress and motivation

Just a quick celebration.

I finished last night’s writing session a little way past the 90k mark.

That is a big deal, because I’ve now reached a respectable novel length and am on course to top out somewhere near 100k. Some scenes still to write, some still to figure out, but the pieces seem to be falling into place.

Overall, this first draft (like the previous one) has gone remarkably well. I think I’ve taken a more methodical and practical approach to the task than in the early days - basically treating it like a job with targets to meet and a goal in sight.

I have mixed views on targets and motivation. People talk about “write every day” and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing successfully for the past few months. But it’s not enough on its own. On its own, “write every day” is too vague to be useful, but I team it up a whole raft of tools and strategies to keep the writing fed.

I’ve blogged before about keeping writer’s block at bay, and the more I think about it the more I stand by those basic principles. They seem to be working for me.

So far so good, but here’s the “mixed views” part. That last sentence is phrased very deliberately. I could have said “They seem to work for me” but that implies an enduring and unchanging promise of success. So I reworded it to “be working”, continuous present, with the implied “for now”. In other words, while it works, it works, but if the techniques stop working then it’s important to change tack and do something different.

One of my motivational tools is a graph of my writing progress. Word count. Nerdy, huh? But when I’m generally on a roll, I find this helps me add at least a few words even when I don’t feel like it. It helps me through the tough times.

The evil side to word count graphs crops up when things are not going well. Not just the “I’m stuck” or “I’m tired” kind of not going well, but the “I am really sick of this story but I set myself a target!

I’ve been there before, and believe me, it’s not healthy. Yes, sometimes it can force you to grit your teeth and get you through the quagmire, but the trick is to know when it’s crossed the line from honest motivation to tyranny.

I won’t be held hostage to any given technique or target. If it ain’t delivering, then adjust it or ditch it. And that’s where I think a lot of people trip up. They find, or learn about, or are advised to try, some miracle motivational technique and then become enslaved by it. Either it doesn’t work from the outset, and they beat themselves up because it’s vouchsafed by *Insert Big Name Author Here* and so the problem must be them. They’re not doing it properly. Rather than acknowledging that it simply isn’t right for them right now. Or it works, for a while, but then it takes over and rules their life even long past its usefulness.

So, it’s good now and again to remind those rules, those tools, those pieces of advice just who’s boss around here!

But, let’s finish off with a pretty picture. Here’s my graph as at yesterday. The blue line is a gentle target I set myself back in July. The red line is my actual count climbing up way ahead of target. My motivation now has been not to see if I can meet my target, but seeing how far out the water I can blow it!



Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors January 20

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.




Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier (Kurt) from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car. Kurt has spotted a row of punishment stalls across the square.

=====

Kurt grinned and strode across the plaza, rummaging in his pockets.

Shayla followed at a more sedate pace, swallowing back acid. She knew what would be expected of her.

The sparse crowd, mostly pilgrims on their way to the temple, parted before her.

When she caught up with him, Kurt was moving down the line slipping a small coin into each slot in turn. Moans and screams followed him.

He stopped near the end, turning out his pockets with a frown.

"Run out of small change?" Shayla asked.

He nodded, the corners of his mouth downturned.

She tossed him a few coins.


=====

Quick update on The Long Dark

Writing has been going very well recently, and after last night’s session I started to get that giddy excitement of feeling like I’m on the home stretch.

To put it into perspective, I’ve been plugging away at this since the end of July, and I think I’ve got a few weeks to go - maybe end of February? But I’m fleshing out scenes of the final confrontations and, although there are details still to figure out, I’ve got the main plot turns mapped out to bring me to the finish line.

The situation is not much different from any other night in the last week or two, but emotionally, for the first time last night, I felt like I’d crested the hill and can actually see the finish line approaching.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors January 13

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.




Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car and Shayla spots air cruisers taking pilgrims up to the mountaintop temple despite air travel restrictions. The previous snippet ended with the soldier (Kurt) saying, "I hear the temple has dispensation from the local security commander."

=====

"The temple has much influence in these parts." Which is why I chose this path into the Palace. Shayla fought to keep her expression neutral to hide a surge of contempt. Bad idea to let religion compromise security.

They walked on in silence for a few moments. Kurt looked across the plaza at the punishment stalls. The hungry glint in his eyes turned her stomach. He caught her eye, hesitant, seemingly on the verge of asking something. She anticipated the question and nodded in the direction of the stalls. "Go ahead."



=====

Reminder: There’s still a little time left to buy any of my e-books for $0.99 before prices revert to normal.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The little surprises in life

My son is usually predictable when it comes to food.

At least these days he’s broadened his horizons, but up until last year any time we asked what he’d like on the menu for the coming week he was guaranteed to say ‘pizza’. OK, pizza is still by far his favorite, but nowadays he’s more likely to put forward other suggestions such as omelets or quesadillas. But he’s still pretty predictable.

Anyhooo ... this evening Ali is out coaching basketball until late, so the evening meal is just us two boys. So I put a choice to Matthew, would you prefer:
(a) Spag bol - which is what we had planned for this evening,
or (b) leftover cottage pie - which we had last night,
or (c) a fry-up ... bacon, egg, hash browns, beans ...

I was certain he’d leap at that last option, and to be honest I was looking forward to a quick fry-up, just for two.

But he floored me by immediately saying “not that last one ...” and then pondering the other options.

Now, I know he likes pasta, but I didn’t imagine cottage pie was even a contender. The astonishing thing is he has never been known to refuse bacon, which (in this household) merits a food group unto itself!

So, pasta it is :)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Weekend Writing Warriors January 6

http://www.wewriwa.com/

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image.





Continuing a chapter from Ghosts of Innocence, Shayla has stolen the identity of a new high-ranking Imperial appointee, Brynwyn bin Covin. She’s been met by a soldier from the Imperial Palace Guard, who’s escorting her to the Palace. They have just stepped outside while Shayla’s baggage is loaded into the car.

=====

"This is the first time I've worn these robes." Why am I explaining myself to this man? But Kurt was nodding, and she realized she'd unwittingly hit the right note.

"'If you should seek to serve me, first you must leave your pride at the door,'" he quoted. "Many in your station would have made it known before now."

"Duty with humility," she whispered. She looked across the square to where a fleet of cruisers busied themselves ferrying people to and from the mountain top. "Corporal, I thought you said all air travel had been restricted."

He followed her gaze, and sniffed. "I hear the temple has dispensation from the local security commander."


=====


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hello 2019

One of the things about growing older is that those around us are also growing older, and this has brought some adjustments to our lives this past year. Our Christmas was even quieter than usual, with Megan out of town visiting her boyfriend’s family this year. We’ve grown used to taking the day easy, preparing food at a leisurely pace, eating and drinking when ready, calling home to our families back in Britain. None of that really changed, but it felt strange doing it with three of us instead of four.

At least we were able to keep up what has become a family tradition in recent years, of visiting a Chinese restaurant downtown last night, and having friends around for lunch today. The famous Toblerone cheesecake (recipe over on my other blog here) made an appearance. First time I’ve made it in a while.

Looking forward, I’m not one for New Year resolutions. I prefer to set goals whenever in the year it makes sense, not just because of the day on the calendar. Current goal is to finish the first draft of The Long Dark by March, and get it through initial revisions and then a thorough round of critiques before the end of the year. Progressing well on that first goal, having just passed 75k words yesterday.

Whatever your goals and aspirations are, I wish you well for 2019.

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