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Knowing the right time [writing]

There are certain things in life, certain events, where you just have to make the hard decision. Knowing when to abandon friends to invading zombie masses. Knowing when the deal the aliens are trying to make for your planet’s water is a bad deal. And now to add that to that list – knowing when it’s the right time to step away from a novel.

This is not an easy decision point. At least with the zombies, I know who among my friends will slow them down a little. But as readers of this blog know, I’ve been struggling pretty hard for the last month or so with the epic fantasy novel I’m working on. And by struggling, I mean flailing around a lot, arms and legs kicking out in spasms, and no substantive progress being made.

It’s time to take a break.

It pains me to admit that, because I loathe stopping projects once started. The interruption usually leads to me not finishing. But the fact is, I am floundering horribly on the current bit, and spinning my wheels on it isn’t getting me anywhere. I had hoped our road trip would breathe new life into me, but when I got back to the Bay area and sat down at the keyboard, I was still dead and lifeless when it came to the novel.

With NanoWriMo looming just around the corner, I think I’m going to shelve The Goddess Unbound for now.  I’m writing up all of my thoughts for the novel, all the murky hunches and notions I had brewing so that I can pick it back up later. I will probably spend a good week on that (there’s a lot in my head still). Once I’m satisfied, I’ll start working on my ideas for this year’s NanoWriMo novel, a YA book. I’ve picked up some old favorites from when I was a kid to try to recapture that feeling, but I already have a solid plot developing in my head.

Finally using my Kindle fully

I’ve been a Kindle owner since I bought a used first gen Kindle in 2008. Since then, I’ve owned a DX (sold), a Paperwhite (still use), and the $50 base Fire they came out with a year or so ago (also still use). In those 8 years of solid use, I’ve bought/acquired/loaded hundreds of books, mobi files, and other errata. I’ve synched across devices, created my own files, marked passages, and done all of the things that one does with a book.

Well, almost. Except for synchronizing, up to now I’ve used a Kindle like I would a book. It finally took a second attempt at reading “Gardens of the Moon“, the first book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, to utilize my Kindle fully. I’m finally using X-Ray, and it is amazing.

One of the biggest issues many people, myself included, have when tackling the Malazan books is the sheer volume of names and places to remember. Other readers have been known to keep notebooks to keep track of everything, and if that’s not your thing there are entire wikis devoted to this task.

With X-ray, I don’t need most of that. On any given page, it will display on request who the characters in the page are, what their place in the story is, and remind me of any of the salient place names. This isn’t a replacement for paying attention to the complex tapestry of the story, but it does help. This isn’t my first attempt at reading the series, and to be honest I never got much further than this volume. But this time, I can enjoy the story being told instead of trying to keep a mental catalog of who’s who.

The irony, of course, being that I love hard copy books more. But in a world bound by space and shelf constraints, a Kindle book is a godsend.

The Family Roadtrip 2016: The GeekGirl Con Report

Last weekend, the family and I drove from the Bay area up to Seattle for Geek Girl Con.  Last year, my wife and our eldest daughter went and had a blast, so it only made sense that we would go back as a family this year. Thursday, we loaded up the Forester and headed for Seattle. One thing I learned along the way is that I have a fear of driving in the mountains for too long (four hours, in particular). My brain begins to contrive ways for me to mess up and send us hurtling over the edge. The sight of snowy volcanoes in the distance did nothing to encourage or hinder that frame of mind.

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I’m not sure what any of us newbies expected, but GeekGirl Con exceeded my expectations. I ended up spending a lot of time downstairs at the gaming tables, trying out new games (where we also won copies of  Spirits of the Rice Paddy, Act Too!, and Small Star Empires). The vendor area was amazeballs (seriously, it’s a good thing I knew we had a budget. And responsibilities.), filled with just about anything you could think of for a geeky con, with a distinct tendency towards handmade crafts and art.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Here were people with a similar interest set, many dressed up, just milling around and being nice to each other. It was such a refreshing atmosphere that the only reminder that you had been walking around was when your feet started reminding you of their aches.

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And that’s not even scratching the surface of the fun we had (as the pictures hint). We also got to sit in on a panel and listen to the voice of Lapis Lazuli, Jennifer Paz, from Steven Universe. The panel was great, like the rest of the con (btw, SU fans – the Thanksgiving episode is going to be longer and packed full of surprises!).

From Seattle we drove to Portland and stayed a day or so. I would easily chose Portland as my next home – it somehow managed to mix both the small town vibe old town Fredericksburg with all of the conveniences of a big city. We loved it. To boot, it was actually Autumn in Oregon, something we hadn’t really seen since moving to California. The trees were brilliant shades of red and orange, the air crisp, and we were happy campers.

I just have to give a shout out to my wife on this one. As always, she planned everything in advance, researching and plotting out everything so that we could just enjoy the vacation and now that our next stop already knew we were coming and had a warm place and bed waiting for us. How she does it I don’t know, but she is amazing. I also learned to appreciate how hard it is to find places to eat with the youngest’s food allergies. Finding safe places to eat on the road was a bigger challenge than I anticipated, but having great kids and an awesome wife made it all work out.

And now we’re back, slowly working our way back to the normal life of going to work next week. yay.

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