eternal ?

[image description: spiral galaxy by ESA/Hubble, CC BY 4.0,
We learn from the light and we learn from the dark;
 In the light the answers seem clear and stark
 While the dark's an eternal question mark
 Ever receding from the feeble spark

 Of human knowledge, to infinity--
 Beyond which we will never see--
 For how can such finite souls as we
 Ever hope to fathom eternity?

 Yet we learn from the questions the darkness raises
 As we navigate life's endless mazes
 Brighter and brighter our fire blazes
 Though at times its growing brilliance dazes.

 For answers breed more questions, and
 So both become countless as grains of sand
 As if scattered by some hidden hand
 Across this strange enchanted land

 Unfolding like a nocturnal flower
 In the space of a timeless midnight hour
 With its billions of burning eyes that scour
 The night for the source of all its power

 Where billions more burning eyes shine stark,
 Momentarily adrift in the heavens' arc,
 Each one itself a fading spark
 In the trackless reaches of the dark.
© 2014 by Strider Lee

NaNoWriMo – Day 24

[image description: a square nanowrimo badge that says “nanowrimo 2020 writer”]

On the 21st I really put in the hours so I could catch up, writing almost non-stop from the time I got up to the time I went to sleep. I participated in a few sprints as well, and by the end of the night I had written over 2,700 words! Nearly half of that had been written the night before, however, but since I’d been up writing past midnight when I updated my word count on the NaNoWriMo website, they belonged to the following day.

Speaking of which, no matter my input since my first update, whatever algorithm on that site gauges the times of day I write most during, and my mood as I write, seems to have settled on “mid-day flamingo” and “felt pretty good” and is determined to die on that hill. Seriously, the one and only time I updated my word count between 5pm and 6pm was on November 5th, and now that I’ve been reporting the times I actually wrote during, there’s no excuse whatsoever for this unforgivable slight. I’m a night owl, not a stupid mid-day flamingo, whatever that even is. And as for the emoticon, lately I’ve been choosing the sad face more often than not because of these bouts of writer’s block I’ve been having, so who knows what that’s about.

[image description: nanowrimo infographics displaying a pink flamingo wearing sunglasses next to a smiley face emoticon. the former says, “when i write: what’s up mid-day flamingo? you write most between 5:00PM and 6:00PM!” and the latter says “how i feel: nice! looks like you felt pretty good working on this goal!”]

Anyway, the next day and yesterday I hardly wrote anything at all, as if resting on my laurels (I wasn’t, I just didn’t feel like writing and I had an unusually busy past couple of days). So now I’m way behind again, with a whopping 5,008 words needed today just in order to catch up. And there’s only six days left! But by my calculations I can still make it without writing that many words today (which if I’m honest with myself is probably not going to happen) as long as I write at least 2,584 words a day between now and November 30th. So that’s what I’m going to do. If I write more, great. If I don’t quite make my daily goal one day, I’ll make it up the next. Hopefully.

So how are the rest of you NaNo lunatics doing? Are you on par or falling behind? Confident as we approach the finish line or beginning to panic? Let us know in the comments!

The freedom to get it wrong — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Watching the fish in the pond the other day, I noticed that although they all swim, as you would expect from fish, they all swim differently. The huge sturgeon glide through the water with no appearance of effort at all. The one poorly fish with suspected dropsy expends huge amounts of effort to get around…yet […]

The freedom to get it wrong — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Masks of Stone

The things I love, I love alone.
Your gaze is blank, your wandering mind
Blinks behind its mask of stone;
What I have found you cannot find.

What I have lost was never yours
What I have sought you let alone
Where you see windows, I see doors;
My windows are your walls of stone.

The things I love, I love alone.
You sleep through my enchanted hours
And hate my own high walls of stone
That shelter me in shady bowers.

We gaze upon a separate star
Which shines for each of us alone;
To fathom how apart we are
Just gaze upon my mask of stone.

© 2020 by Strider Lee

NaNoWriMo: Day 18

[image description: official nanowrimo banner artistically depicting neon letters in all caps against a brick wall which say: “nanowrimo 2020” in mustard yellow letters outlined in a paler yellow glow, followed by “writer” in candy red letters outlined in the same yellow glow, with a row of four windows below the neon sign through which are shown different creators at work in their various work environments]

Well, I wanted to blog something on the 15th because it’s the halfway mark. I thought about giving it the humorously nerdy title “Beware the Ides of NaNoWriMo!” but apparently the Romans considered the Ides of November to be the 13th, unlike March in which it was the 15th. Not that it matters now. I ended up not blogging that day anyway. Once again I wish I could say it was because I was working so very hard on my novel, but the truth is I didn’t much feel like writing at all. Still, so far this month I’ve always managed to write a few words daily at least, sometimes even a few hundred. But unfortunately, a few hundred words a day is not nearly enough.

Yesterday, I’m happy to say, was a different story. I’d woken up in the middle of the night with heartburn and couldn’t get back to sleep, and as I lay there tossing and turning I kept having all these ideas for my novel. So finally I got up and on the computer, just to jot down the ideas so I wouldn’t forget them by the time I woke up the next morning. Then I went back to sleep (sitting up and drinking some water seemed to alleviate the heartburn) and had some pretty weird dreams that would later help me expand said ideas.

So when I got up yesterday afternoon, feeling refreshed, the dreams still vivid in my mind, I went straight to work… well, after I brewed some coffee that is. A lot of what I wound up doing at first was worldbuilding, so it didn’t affect my word count much, but it did end up inspiring me to write a couple new paragraphs, work on a few unfinished chapters, and also have a somewhat clearer idea of the final structure of the novel. As I suspected, it will be the first volume of a series.

These were my stats as of yesterday evening:

[image description: screencap of nanowrimo infographic showing participant’s meager progress as of november 17th, 2020]

Total word count: 21,939 out of an end target of 50,000 needed to win NaNoWriMo. 1,242 out of 2,093 words needed today. I also finally figured out how to activate the other boxes on my stats page, such as “where I write”, “my writing speed”, and “how I feel”. All it took was me using the stopwatch/timer thingy at the top of the NaNoWriMo homepage by clicking the clock icon (next to the plus sign or “add” icon you use to update your word count). Never mind that the “when I write” box (not shown) still has me pegged as a “mid-day flamingo” (I’m a night owl and always will be), these trackers are pretty cool, and I suppose they’re sort of useful as well.

[image description: nanowrimo infographic revealing that the participant has mostly written at home, on average writes 1,290 words per day, at this rate will be done on december 9, 2020, has an average writing speed of 17 words per minute, and felt pretty good working on this goal]

Even after posting my latest word count to my Twitter, I continued to work on this project. Again, it was mostly worldbuilding (and also making a much-needed list of all the new characters and places I’d peppered my nascent fantasy world with recently so as to be able to keep track of who’s who and what’s what). But as I mentioned in that tweet, the more I worked on it, the more this work-in-progress began to inspire me, which resulted in more writing.

So, my current total word count as of this writing is 22,681, and while that means I’m still behind, it looks like I’m beginning to close the gap, and more importantly, now I feel like I can.

So how’s your writing going? Let me know in the comments! And as always, good luck and happy writing!

Another Power Outage

[image description: “Closeup view of candle at night” by Petar Milošević (own work)] CC BY-SA 4.0

Last night there was a storm with high winds, so I was prepared for the power to go out again. Not prepared in the sense of having bought a backup generator, because let’s face it, given how the pandemic is going, that’s not about to happen any time soon. But I had a cooler ready, filled with ice packs, so I could transfer food from the refrigerator if necessary, as well as plenty of candles, a couple of oil lamps, a fully charged smartphone, a few flashlights, and a deck of playing cards. I also had a paperback book handy in case I felt like reading.

I was doomscrolling on Twitter when it happened, at around 10:00 PM. At first it was technically just a brownout. The lights went out but almost immediately came back on, as did my digital clock (albeit now blinking 12:00 AM), and while the computer shut down and stayed that way, I heard my monitor click back on, followed by the whirring noise of my air filter’s fan starting up again. But then the lights flickered for a final time, briefly, and everything went black and silent. I looked outside my window to verify that the neighbours’ houses were out as well. Then I lit the candles and prepared for what was likely to be a long night of alternative entertainment.

I say “alternative entertainment” with tongue firmly in cheek, by the way. After all, I spent my entire childhood, teen years, and much of my young adult life without computers, hand-held or otherwise, being the primary source of all my entertainment. But whenever the power goes out now it always makes me realise how dependent I’ve become on this technology in recent years. I now use a digital device of some kind to do a great many things for which, not too long ago, the analog versions would have sufficed.

Writing? I had pens and composition books or spiral notebooks (and eventually moleskins once those made a comeback). Reading? I had (and still have) a few hundred hardcover and paperback books, both fiction and non-fiction, at least a quarter of which I have not yet read. Video games? I had board games and also tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons. And of course, playing cards. Nowadays I use those to play various versions of Solitaire.

That’s what I was doing when my sister knocked on the door to my bedroom. When I answered the door she asked me if I wanted to listen to music with her. I looked at her like she had nine heads, a facial expression no doubt lost in the dim amber glow of the candlelight.

“How?” I asked innocently. Then she held it up; an artefact from ancient times: her CD Walkman.

“No need to charge this,” she said. “It runs on AA batteries.”

I smiled. “Yes, I remember.”

Between the two of us my sister and I had amassed quite the collection of compact discs over the years, which were now stacked on shelves in their jewel boxes gathering dust, but had once been the primary source of our casual music listening. After all, radio stations, with the notable exception of Z-Rock, just didn’t play the stuff we were interested in hearing; at least not before satellite radio, which just goes to show how long ago we’re talking about here.

Nowadays we mostly listen to music on YouTube or Pandora, but we know from experience how quickly that can drain a smartphone battery, and we needed our phones in case of emergency. Again, there was no telling how long the power outage would last. So, with the aid of a mini-speaker we would normally have jacked into a smartphone, we delved into the classics of our CD library via the Walkman, and enjoyed some wine and conversation by candlelight.

When the power came back on a hour or so later–much sooner than we’d anticipated–I wasn’t exactly sorry to have the spell broken, but I was in no real hurry to get back to my computer, either. Sometimes it’s good to unplug for a while, and this was yet another reminder of that. Except we don’t really need the occasional random power outage to unplug, do we? This is something we can do for ourselves, as part of our routine (or a regular break from it, whenever needed).

I think that starting tomorrow, I will unplug for at least an hour each day. Given how much time I waste on my computer not writing, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. And I can always break out the old pen and paper if I suddenly get the inspiration to write.

NaNoWriMo: Falling Behind

[image description: screencap of progress graphics from the nanowrimo website, which say: my average word count: on average you write 1,322 words per day! when i’ll finish: at this rate you’ll be done on december 8, 2020!]

Some days, writing doesn’t come easy. Well, that’s not really true, is it? After all, here I am writing this. So I guess it’s a certain type of writing that doesn’t come easy on some days. For instance, I’ve never been good with deadlines. Anything that has to be finished by a certain time or date is worse than work, it’s work that you have to keep up with, maintain a certain pace, or risk falling behind and then cramming at the last minute, which is the worst. I’m not afraid of work–even hard work. But I think work should be fun, and for me having a limited amount of time to do something isn’t fun. It’s the opposite of fun. It’s stressful, and I prefer my life stress-free.

[image description: screencap of an infographic from the nanowrimo website depicting the participant’s overall progress, which shows them as having fallen further from their daily goal than in any of the days before.]

I feel Douglas Addams when he says, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” So why am I participating in NaNoWriMo then, you may well ask? Because I’m a masochist who enjoys the self-torture? No, not exactly. A deadline you choose to adhere to along with a bunch of other people who have their own stakes and absolutely none in what you’re doing other than to follow your progress and compare it to theirs whilst simultaneously cheering you on and being cheered on by you in what basically amounts to a friendly cooperative competition for the sheer fun and (hopefully) increased productivity of it all is very different from say, being asked to write around 1500 words per day by your employer.

Besides, it’s just the sort of incentive a lazy writer like me needs. Barring any major events that could really derail me (one year it was my mother dying, another it was losing my job and then my apartment), I’m unlikely to fail for the very reason that I have it in the back of my mind that NaNoWriMo is only one month out of twelve, and only comes once a year, and there’s really nothing else like it. Camp NaNoWriMo is fun because it’s a little more relaxed, but is it going to have the same effect of spurring me on? I guess that remains to be seen, as I certainly intend to participate in at least one of the two events taking place in spring and summer. But something tells me I need more discipline, not less.

[image description: two dolls in fetishy clothing. one is a seated dominatrix raising her hand to spank the other one, a male sub dutifully bending over to receive the punishment.]

No, not that kind of discipline! Not that I’d mind…

Ahem. And with that, it’s time for me to get back to my writing–the writing that counts right now, that is, deadline and all.

NaNoWriMo: Day 10

Yesterday wasn’t such a good day in terms of National Novel Writing Month, or even just my writing in general. Earlier in the day I had to wait down by my driveway for my no-contact deliveries for over an hour, and then when they finally came I had to haul all those groceries up the steep hill my house is perched upon, little by little because all of a sudden now that I’m on the cusp of fifty I have a bad back. I was tempted to use the wheelbarrow as I have in the past, but lately it seems even more work to push that uphill through long grass than to just haul the stuff up in the reusable canvas shopping bags it all came in, even if that means making multiple trips.

Anyway, once everything was in the house, I had to make haste getting all the perishable foods into either the freezer or refrigerator, depending on how soon I expected to use them, because it was unseasonably warm for a November day. In the course of this I discovered that a few of the items were unusable (a pint of ice cream had become soup and was leaking out of the package, a frozen cake got destroyed, a few tomatoes had mold on them, and around half a dozen eggs out of a carton of eighteen were broken). Also, all three bags of potatoes I ordered (and according to my receipt, paid for) were missing. And frankly, that’s what stung the most.

[image description: meme featuring a shot of sean astin, the actor who played sam in peter jackson’s the lord of the rings, pointing a gun at someone offscreen. the meme’s caption reads: give me all your taters. now.]

So naturally I spent the next couple of hours on the phone with customer service. In the end I got a refund, but was still down a pint of ice cream, a cake, some tomatoes, six eggs, and the potatoes. Of course by then I was exhausted, but I managed to make myself something to eat. By the time I finished eating, however, I was in no mood to write. So I vegged out in front of the TV for a bit. I did eventually get to writing, but at day’s end I’d only managed to eke out a mere 397 words before I finally crashed.

Today was a different story, however. I woke up much later than usual, just before noon, drank some coffee, read the news, ate breakfast, and then… didn’t much feel like writing. But then I remembered how much I’d been able to get written during those NaNoWriMo word sprints on Discord I told you about in my last blog entry, so I headed over to the fantasy writing group’s Discord to see if anyone was game. That server is fairly new so it isn’t all that active yet, but there was one other person lurking about and we ended up doing a couple of 15-minute sprints together, timed by a bot fittingly named “Sprinto” (of course, either of us could have used this bot to do a timed sprint all by ourselves had the other not been around, but it’s more fun with at least one other person).

[image description: screencap of a Discord server chat channel in which a bot named Sprinto has been used to initiate a timed writing sprint.]

Shortly after joining the sprint by typing “_join” followed by a space and a number representing my total word count at the time, in this case 13,532, and being joined by the other participant with 20,747 words, the bot informed us that the race was on, and we should start writing. And we were off! My fingers danced across the keyboard as I wrote whatever came to mind.

[image description: screencap of a Discord server chat channel in which a bot named Sprinto has been used to initiate a timed writing sprint.]

Now, admittedly the point of these things is to write as many words as possible in the allotted time, like a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing, and I get that. You’re not supposed to stop and think, or backspace to correct typos, or edit as you go. You’re just supposed to write non-stop, until the timer is up and the bot tells you to stop. But I simply cannot do that. So once again I only ground out my usual three hundred or so words at the woefully sluggish rate of 26 words per minute. But I had the beginning of a chapter, and it was inspiring. So we did a second sprint, and I added another three hundred or so words to that. Then I broke for second breakfast.

The great thing is, when I went back to my writing again I was still inspired by the scene I had come up with during the sprint. So I continued to write it, completing the chapter and bringing my total NaNoWriMo word count up to a respectable 15,349. Now I’m looking forward to more sprints in the future, and I’ve signed up for a couple of upcoming virtual write-ins, including one taking place not on Discord (which I’m more familiar with due to being a gamer), but rather ChatNaNo, which I have to say has a wonderfully old school look and feel.

What about you, have you participated in any group NaNo projects such as sprints or virtual write-ins? If so, what has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments!

Retro Review: ‘They Live’ — Funk’s House of Geekery

Director: John Carpenter Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster Plot: A drifter arrives in LA and falls in with the homeless community, where he becomes aware of a sinister conspiracy controlling the masses. Review: This might come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I hadn’t seen They Live until today. I […]

Retro Review: ‘They Live’ — Funk’s House of Geekery