New Computer & Oath Updates

I noted in my last post that Old Hilda, my 8-year-old Windows Vista desktop PC, was not long for this world. The DVD drive had failed at the time of that post, and the hard drive was making terrible groaning sounds. Over the next few days, USB ports began to fail, one by one, and some other death-agony nonsense prevailed.

However, I was able to get all my data off safely, and had backups to rely on just in case. After making sure nothing important or unique would get lost, I put in an order for a new computer and sat, anxiously crossing my fingers, waiting for it to arrive.

Yesterday, a MacBook Air arrived from Apple, via UPS, and I had everything transferred, set up, and ready to go within a couple of hours. My offsite backups both worked for recovery and transferred their attention to the new machine flawlessly, all of my writing and other important projects made the leap without a hitch, and both my external hard drive (for on-site obsessive backups in electrons) and my printer (for on-site obsessive backups on paper) are fully compatible.

So far, I’m nothing but pleased. The battery life seems to be a bit less than the advertised 11-12 hours (it’s coming out more around 8 hours), but this is, I think, less a problem on Apple’s part and more a consequence of the fact that I have my anti-virus and backup services churning in the background, and that I have a browser window open for music streaming while I work most of the time. And in any case, 8 hours is better than any laptop battery life I’ve ever had in the past, so I’m really not inclined to complain.

In terms of software, all I’ve had to rebuy at this point is Scrivener (because I like it a bunch) and Freedom (because sometimes the Internet is a beautiful siren, and I need to plug my ears and tie myself to the mast), whose licenses didn’t carry over from my Windows PC. Thus far, I haven’t needed Word, but we’ll see if client work happens to require it. For myself, a combo of Scrivener and Pages is working out very nicely. About the only thing that has me flummoxed is why or how it is that Pages won’t read .rtf files—but I’m sure the answer to that is all of a Google-search away.

It’s kind of a big shift, reacquainting myself to both doing all my work from a laptop and warming back up to the Mac operating system. The OS itself is nicely intuitive, and I haven’t really missed much of Windows, to be honest. But it is still a bit of a trip to find myself back on a Mac.

The last time I worked day-to-day on a Macintosh was probably 1996, when my family’s Mac Performa 560 (my dad bought the Money Magazine Edition, for whatever reason) was consistently failing to keep up with the needs of the household. To remedy this, Dad got us a Windows 95 machine, which was great—except for the fact that transferring my ginormous crapstack of ClarisWorks 2.0 files was time-consuming at best. Some of them are still lurking in my backups in .cwk format as a result. (I will eventually figure out a means to properly future-proof them.)

But from that point on, I did everything in .rtf, .wps, or .doc (and later .docx), and when I went off to college in 1999, I took an IBM ThinkPad with me that ran on Windows 98. It, as well as a couple of other, newer laptops, kept me typing between ’99 and the very start of ’07, which is when I got Old Hilda. The machine I was using summarily shat its pants, taking everything on the hard drive with it (thank Crom for backups), and I was left at the start of the semester—this is when I was back in school, beating my head against the English department for a second BA—without a computer.

So off to Best Buy I went, and though I wanted a laptop, I knew I could get more computing power, and thus more longevity, out of a desktop, so that’s what I got. And up till yesterday, that was my primary computer. Now its work is done, its hard drive is wiped, and it’s waiting to be parted out or recycled. And here I am, after almost twenty years, back on a Mac.

It’s curious, and not a little symbolic for me, that I ended up back here. If we’re being practical about it (and why not?), it’s mostly because I despise Windows 8, I’m tired of playing 24/7 malware sheriff, and because Macs look like they come from the future. They also have a better end-of-service resale value than Windows machines (the approximate value of which appears to be “I will give you five dollars if you’ll just come haul this thing off”).

But if we feel like being fuzzy and narrative about it (and why not?), part of me feels like I have circled back around to the place where my writing started, way back with The Lost Novel, and that this is a nice way to start in on the last stages of the current novel.

And that’s what you’re really here to read about, isn’t it? So let’s talk Oath of Blood.

At this point, I’m down to the fixing and the fussing. Nothing story-wise is set to substantially change. For better, for worse, or for late-in-career regrets, things are what they are. The business I’m about at the moment is making sure all possible inconsistencies have been dealt with, the text is as well-written as I can make it on my own, and that I have put typos and other such errors to flight.

That said, it still feels like this is the hardest part of things (I know I’ve said that about every stage, but humor me here). Largely, this is because I finally have to let go of the damned story.

So with that end mind, my deadline for finishing this phase and getting things out to last-wave beta readers (that’s the step right before the editor) is the 2nd of April. Okay, it’s actually the first of April, but to avoid its being mistaken for a cruel/terrible prank, I’m saying the second.

On average, I’m looking to tackle a chapter every two days. Today I did the lion’s share of work on the prologue, and I expect to bag that sometime in the afternoon tomorrow. Each of the 24 numbered chapters will follow in sequence. Some may take a touch longer; others may wrap up a bit faster. But regardless, I’m working seven days a week on this till it’s done. If it gets done early, you’ll read about it here. Otherwise, look for periodic thoughts and updates throughout, and look for a Big Giant Update Post on the second of April.

I may be a zillion years late on this novel by my original timeline, but by Crom, it will get done, and the next one will be much faster (and better) for all the hell I’ve put myself through on this one.

On Twenty Years of Scribbling

Today’s the 4th of February. It’s not an exciting day, really, unless maybe it’s your birthday or a holiday where you live. It’s after the Super Bowl and before Valentine’s Day. It is a day to largely be forgotten.

But for me, the 4th of February is a big deal. You see, I have A Thing when it comes to important dates. In my life there have often been bad dates to remember, but there have also been good ones.

The 4th of February could have been either for me. I suppose in some ways its true nature remains to be seen. But thus far it has been good. Here’s why.

On the 4th of February in 1995, I had reached a sort of critical mass. I’d been full to bursting with a story idea that had taken form, slowly, over the fall semester of 1994. I was in the 8th grade, then, and I immersed myself in fictional worlds as a sort of escape from the ineffable realities of being a shy, dumpy, nerdy kid.

I relied on fiction to bolster my resolve when I didn’t have much left to give, or when outside pressure to perform academically loomed like a wave that threatened to drag me out into the night-dark sea. This was the time, it should be noted, when I first began to dance with my depression, though I didn’t realize it until years later.

Fiction was an escape from all that. And it stood to reason that after a time pickled in books, games, comics, and movies, my brain would start to piece together its own stories. All through the fall of ’94, this is what it did. By the start of ’95, I was, it seemed, under a compulsion to write it down.

And so it was that at about 4:30 in the afternoon, on the 4th of February, 1995, I sat down, opened up a file, and started writing. The story that would result is what I call, these days, The Lost Novel. It’s the manuscript that was devoured by my first data loss–a blood sacrifice to the gods of backup in exchange for the hard knowledge that All Storage Media Will Fail.

I’ve said my share previously on my regret that it was lost, and on what I learned from the loss. And I’ve also remarked on how unspeakably horrid what surviving fragments of it I possess really are. Truly, nobody is any less enlightened or entertained for the absence of The Lost Novel.

But there was a good in it, too, and not one to be overlooked. While it’s true that my first real stab at writing was made with the literary equivalent of a plastic spoon and performed with the finesse of a butcher with a chainsaw, it was a beginning.

Twenty years ago, this crazy idea that I could write my own stories had its start. Twenty years. There are few things that have held my interest for that long, and fewer still at which I have had any modicum of success.

I’d hoped to be able to mark this occasion by saying, “So go buy my book, which is not shitty, and which is finished. Here is the link.” But that time is not precisely upon us just yet. Refining and polishing on Oath of Blood is finally getting into full swing after a couple of weeks of severe computer-hell problems (I had to reinstall Windows again on the desktop this weekend, and my DVD drive failed utterly…and the hard drive is making terrible groaning sounds off and on now).

A replacement computer will be on its way soon, and there may be a burp as I transfer my files to that item once it arrives, but overall, I’m plugging dutifully away at Oath, doing my level best to ensure you’ll have a good time when you read it. And of course, I’m backing my shit up with a fanatical zeal that would make Torquemada jealous.

To be fair, I suppose I can’t think of a better way to mark the twentieth anniversary of my first fitful scribbles than to pass the time making more of them—and actively applying the hard lessons they taught me. So—here’s to the last twenty years, and the terrible idea that started them. And here’s to the next twenty, which will actually be full of books for you to read.