Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 24, 2016

What I did on my holidays – Summer 2015-16

I’ve been having one of those summer holidays that I will probably look back on in the future and think “That went well”.

Well, no I won’t, because I have a terrible memory for dates and what-happened-when. But in theory I could look back on it with something approaching a sense of accomplishment. I’m pretty happy with some of these highlights:

House renovations – We’ve now owned our fixer-upper house for over ten years. We’re still fixing it up, and in the forthcoming years\ we will be replacing all the flooring and at least one of the bathrooms. By comparison, painting a few patches of the vast unrenovated expanse of our external walls is a trivial enterprise. But it still feels good to have just about finished painting all of the parts of the house which are visible from the street. At least the place appears to casual passers-by to be occupied , and not at all like a drug den impounded by the cops and forgotten in an administrative bungle.

Bass guitar – My Xmas gift to myself was to buy a copy of the PC game Rocksmith 2014, which is a guitar tutorial program dressed up as a game. You jack a real electric guitar (or in my case my buddy Simon’s old bass guitar) into the computer to learn basic techniques, whole songs and tricky passages. So far I am reasonably accomplished at playing Def Leppard’s genuinely awful “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (no link provided). I’m working hard to beat that by mastering some song that would constitute an accomplishment to be proud of, like “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

After about five weeks of fairly solid practice, I can report that I am (a) getting better but by no means good and (b) developing tough callouses on the fingers where before I had numbness and/or pain. Rock and roll stardom awaits! (as soon as I beat the tutorial on doing slide notes up and down the neck of the guitar. Those are hard). Anyway, Rocksmith gets my recommendation as well. Short of paying for lessons, it really does seem to be a very effective way to learn how to play guitar.

Songwriting – Continuing on the musical theme, I wrote some song lyrics for the first time in ages these holidays. It’s something I do on and off, just for something different. My lyrics tend to languish undeveloped unless I can convince Evan (my songwriting buddy and about the only personal I know with any real music skills) to work out an arrangement for them. This year I plan to take advantage of my slowly-growing mastery of bass and ukulele to teach myself basic song-writing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inflict a YouTube channel on anyone – I still have both a terrible voice and prohibitive performance anxiety – but I’m a step closer to my goal of being able to write a whole song, not just the words.

Flash fiction – I wrote something! And finished it! I’m working on the Conflux 12 organising committee again this year. As part of the promotion for the con, the Chair will be sending out publicity in the not-too-distant future. I’ve written a story with my take on this year’s theme “Red Fire Monkey”, which will appear as part of the publicity report. For posterity’s sake, I will note that the story is a rare instance of me writing straight science fiction.

Holidays in the Hunter – Our family holiday this year included a bunch of families, staying at the delightful Lovedale Cottages in the Hunter Valley. Fifteen of us, including five kids and a three-month-old baby, snuggled up together in warm, cosy cottages as the Hunter was hammered with five days of torrential downpours that threatened to leave us trapped by rising flood waters. Fortunately the pool was indoors and heated, and in reality most of the really heavy rain was well away from us. Still, it was a bit of a wet holiday. I can recommend the Lovedale Cottages though – they have a tennis court, the aforementioned indoor pool, a golf course (!) and are very comfortably appointed in a distinctly rustic style. Especially great for big group holidays.

Granola! – Every time we travel, we inevitably end up eating breakfast at cafes once in a while. And when we do, I will automatically order one of two things (aside from coffee, which obviously goes without saying). Either I will get the eggs benedict, – because you can always judge the quality of a cafe by their attention to detail in hollandaise sauce and also because I love eggs benedict – or, if I feel as though I have been eating nothing but garbage over the course of the holiday I will pretend to be virtuous by ordering a granola with yoghurt and possibly some fruit or berries. It’s embarrassing really, but I excuse myself because neither is a meal I would make at home.

Which got me thinking, why not? And so I did the minimum possible research to discover that, in fact, granola is dreadfully simple to make. So I now have a personalised granola recipe, cobbled together from fifteen or so granola recipes I found on the internet. (This article in the Guardian about finding the perfect granola was the primary source – the beaten egg white trick seems to be the killer ingredient, although it does make my granola non-vegan, so your mileage may vary).Incidentally, my search for ingredients has taken me into a number of “natural foods” stores. If you see me in one, don’t worry: I don’t need a paleo intervention. I just need to be directed to the barley.

Anyway, the point being granola is delicious. Don’t skimp on the almonds and hazlenuts.

January 16, 2016

Near-future projects

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 7:32 pm

I don’t do New Years’ resolutions (except to get a cheap ironic laugh by breaking them in the same breath) and I’ve decided to hold off on setting myself some firm writing goals for 2016. I was so far off meeting them last year that it doesn’t really make sense to make long term project plans at this point.

Broadly, I’ll be editing the novel and writing as many short stories as I can, launching my new website, and learning a few new skills.

The short stories will take priority. After spending most of last year focused on the one big project, being A Flash of Black Wings (draft one), I am almost desperate to work on anything else for a while. Specifically I’d like to do something with the dozen or so “great” ideas that did their best to derail me whenever I got stuck on the novel. The only way to shut them up, however temporarily, was to chuck them in a notebook filed under “Laterz” and ignore them while I got on with the novel. But the moment the draft was done, they came sniffing around again. They smell weakness.

I’m not sure when I will go back to start work on editing the novel. Not until after I’ve returned from travelling for work in mid-February, at least. It needs a big block of time and unfamiliar brain-space. But I expect the next draft to take at least a few months of dedicated work, just to get it into the right shape that I’m willing to even show it to another human being. At the moment it has a very wobbly structure and the characters are formless voids floating in the vicinity of an incoherent plot. Some remedial work is necessary.

The new website is almost ready, except for a couple of technical bits and pieces that I need to figure out. One of the big items will be working out how to migrate the archives of this blog across to the new site. That will free this site’s host to close it up if he wants to stop paying for it. When I’ve solved all the technical bits I will of course post the new details.

The new site will be my “professional” site, inasmuch as it will be useful to have an author presence that I can separate from my personal life and my occasional moaning about word count. I intend to keep this blog going as a personal journal and place to post reviews, probably as a “hidden” page on the main site. If I can work out how to do it that way. I’ll let you know.

So this is my declaration of goals. In January, of which I have squandered almost half, I will:

  • finish the two stories I have in incomplete states: the one about the magic robots, and the one about the dogged magistrate and the murderous innkeepers. If there’s time, I will rewrite the one about the sinister newlyweds. That was a fun one, even if it didn’t quite work.
  • Launch the new website (with a complete lack of fanfare, but probably a little bit of content).
  • Resume a long-dormant and utterly undemanded review project.

This has all been very boring accountability stuff for myself. So I will also blog a what-I-did-on-my-holidays post, with pictures and stuff.

 

January 1, 2016

2015 – What have we learned?

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:34 am

Goodbye 2015. You were weird.

I started and finished a novel draft inside the year. Despite that accomplishment, I’m not feeling confident that I’ve leveled up as a novelist. I think I must have been expecting to gain some critical insight from the experience of producing this manuscript. I imagined myself figuring out how to write a novel, or at least getting a better understanding of how I write a novel.

Whatever I was expecting, I don’t think I got it. Or perhaps I just don’t have it yet. The editing phase is still to come. I think more than ever before, I’ll be leaning on the editorial process to help me figure out what I was writing about. I’m not especially looking forward to that part, so I can only assume it will be educational and character-building. It will certainly involve wholesale rewriting of between half and two-thirds of the novel.

I didn’t manage to write any new short stories, so I can’t say I learned much there either. I did read quite a few of them, which will be helpful, but it’s the doing that counts. My project for the next month or two will be to get all the ideas out that I’ve been stewing on while writing the novel.

I built a website – it’s coming soon, I swear – so I’m refreshing my atrophied web management muscles (less so the design muscles, but I never had those in the first place). I’m playing music again, which might actually lead up to composing songs. Who knows? That’s just for fun at this stage. I’ve resumed exercising. I’m feeling healthy, if not quite fit again.

And I’m about to go away on holidays, where I’ll be spending a week lounging about and chatting with some very good friends, playing with the kids and swimming and possibly indulging in a spot of tennis. While I’m there I’ll contemplate setting some goals for the year.

Not quite yet, though. First I’m going to drink this G&T and listen to “Disintegration” by The Cure.

Happy 2016, folks.

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