Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a Love / Hate Thing

Writing is definitely a strange, wonderful, frightening and ridiculous love / hate relationship. Only my fellow writers truly understand what I'm talking about, and I only understand it myself sporadically. That is to say, I only sit down and think about it when I'm feeling strangely moody.

Or moodily strange.

Here's my point. I have a new story in development. I have the title, the major plot and players, and I've been reading up on some facts I'll need to know in order to write a believable and hopefully marketable novel.

I stumbled for a few days searching for just the right names for my characters, but I'm pretty happy with the ones I came up with. It took me two days to find just the right title, even though agents tend to change those. And I've finally figured out the exact location this story will take place in and around.

The only thing holding me back is that opening sentence.

That starter paragraph.

Those first few words.

I have a full 5 days of leave next week, since I've got so much amassed that needs to be used before the end of the year, so my plan is to begin working on this new novel first thing next week.

And therein lies the Writer's Dilemma; Starting.

Oh sure, we get ideas up the wazzu, and get really excited about new characters, new situations, world building and plot constructing. We go positively Ga-Ga at the prospect of creating an entirely new mystery/thriller/Science Fiction epic to weave a complicated-yet-entertaining story that will -- hopefully -- leave our readers enthralled from page 1 to The End.

We love that part. We really do.

In fact, the most favorite part about writing is Getting Ready. We plan, we plot, we sometimes even diagram. We jot down notes, we daydream subplots, and the mere idea of sitting down at the keyboard for several hours of uninterrupted time makes us grin from ear to ear like silly little school girls.

But, invariably, there's a tiny, very quiet yet extremely eloquent voice hidden way down inside, where only we can hear. That voice whispers things like: "Hang on, you still have to do some fact checking." "Wait a second, are you sure you like that character name?" "You'd better put this off another day until you can work out the details of the killer's motive." "Just give it another day, some more thought, another consideration, maybe a few more days of research."

I like to think of it as standing on the edge of a dock, in the middle of a lake, in your bathing suit. It's a lovely sunny day, the water is pure and blue and inviting -- but it's also quite cold and you know there's gonna be that shock to your system if you just jump in. The cold might be too much to bear -- what if you have a heart attack? What if you gasp and suck in water? Wouldn't it be better to stick a toe in, then maybe ease one leg down, maybe even splash some water cautiously up your body, to your arms?

Surely it's gonna be a lot easier if you just sit here and look at the water, talk to all the other people already swimming around, and admire the beauty of the water, the lake, the lovely sunny day. Maybe you don't really feel like swimming today. Maybe you'll cramp up and drown, even.

But eventually, it just gets too hot to stay on the dock, and that water is too beautiful to ignore, and you're physically craving jumping down into the cold blue and becoming one with the purity of the lake. You begin to ache for the weightlessness of floating, the beauty of its coolness.

So you jump.

It's cold, and it's shocking, and for several minutes you're sure you're going to die and never swim again. You curse the thoughts that pushed you off that warm dock, and flail your arms and legs wildly in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

Then, before you know it, you're not cold anymore. Either you've gone numb, or your body has adjusted to the temperature, but it doesn't matter because you're swimming now.

And it feels good.

It feels great, even. You're swimming and wondering what took you so long to jump off that dock.

Writing is no different. The idea comes, you flesh it out and get excited about it, but soon realize the anticipation is such a great feeling, you're terrified the actual writing of it will pale in comparison. Finally, after a huge mental struggle during which you consider writing, quitting, and just treading water like a dead leaf, you sit down and force that first sentence out.

Then you push, and you sweat, and through great effort you turn that sentence into a paragraph.

Then a page.

Then another.

Then, before you realize it, you've adjusted to the temperature, doing the breast stroke with a smile on your face, and wondering why you waited so long to jump off that dock.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Speaking of Fleas

(warning: The preceding is one consumer's opinion, nothing more. Don't even think about suing me.)

Several weeks ago, I bought a new Dell laptop. It's just like the one I bought a year ago, except a newer model of course and a few more bells and whistles. I admit, I'm a PC user, not Mac, and I prefer Dell over the other brands for many reasons -- but I'm not saying any others aren't just as good.

But the one thing that really bugs me about PC's is the garbage.

It's impossible to order a computer, with JUST Windows version whatever, and some office programs. See, that would be ideal for many of us. Just get yourself a bare bones PC (without the hassle of creating it yourself from scratch) and then add programs as you go.

No, they want to add things for you. Things you don't want, don't need, and will spend three hours trying to locate and delete when you first open up that box.

I'm used to it, really. When I got my desktop several years ago, it took an hour to clean off the crap they think you'll love to have, but once it was free of AOL trials and Automatic redirects, it was all fine and dandy.

The first laptop took me two hours to delete trials and free wares and redirects galore. I had to delete more offers than I could shake a stick at, and change all the automatic settings that wanted to take my PC on the Internet without my knowledge so it could download things I didn't want and share my information with people I don't know.

But after two hours, I got it up, secured and working fine. I surf with condoms and firewalls and all manner of protection, so I don't like my PC trying to do things on its own.

Now, with this newest laptop, also from Dell, it took me 3 hours, and some additional help from several technologically-inclined friends on my writer's group. This puppy had so much crap loaded on, even the hard drive was confused. I was so livid, I've decided this is the last time I buy a computer. If ever I need a new one, I'm going to go ahead and just build my own, like Frankenstein's monster. At least then I'd know what was inside.

I was shocked, and disgusted by the sheer number of programs Dell had installed to direct my little computer to specific sites, to share information with them and download little things I wouldn't want. There were Google-sponsored links and toolbar spies, and all manner of annoyances.

In fact, I got a phone call from Dell (from India) trying to sell me an extended warranty -- they hadn't "seen me get online yet" and wondered if I required help ! HA. I'd been online for weeks, but only after removing all the crapware that would have told them where I was and what I was doing.

It's criminal, I tell ya.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ticks and Leeches

The Internet, as most people realize, is a microcosm of reality. It's a slice of humanity, and inhumanity, congealed into one place -- a place that doesn't actually exist -- but a place, nevertheless.

And as such, it's filled with the fleas, ticks and leeches of humanity.

People who see everything as a chance to lie, cheat, steal, invade, disturb, and provoke their fellow human beings in any way possible, using methods such as phishing, spam, viruses, spyware, malware, comment spam and everything else under the sun.

It's not even sad, it's just pathetic.

These are the same people who see tragedies like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as an opportunity to scam good people out of millions. I'm not putting Internet annoyances on a par with that, but you get the parallel. This planet is filled to capacity with scum sucking slime.

I bring this up because of a recent spat of comment spam that has been making the rounds through web pages of myself and my writing friends. And no, it's not the first time. Neither will it be the last time. It just reminds me how many a-holes there are in the world, and how used to them we've all become.

You know who they remind me of? Those people who run around the Internet leaving ridiculous spam on blogs, sending meaningless emails to web page owners, and flitting in and out of forums with no purpose other than to cause trouble?

They remind me of those losers in High School. Remember them? The jerks who talked too loud, thought annoying you was the smartest way to gain attention, and had nasty personal hygiene. The ones who grew up to be known as Trailer Trash, who probably never managed to go to college, never left their home town, and probably still live in the basement of Mommy's house.

Now, instead of tossing spitwads around the class, or making ridiculous jokes about boobies, they can flit around with anonymity and leave unwanted comments on blogs, in emails, and leave droppings in respectable forums.

Oh, I'm sure they get a good laugh. I'm sure they sit around in their sad little basements in front of their sad little computers, after a day of working their sad little jobs, spending their sad little lives still telling boob-jokes because they have yet to see a real one, still picking their noses and typing out their little spams.

And the rest of us; still saddled with the good manners our parents taught, will sigh, shake our heads sadly, perhaps roll our eyes as we hit the delete button, place someone on ignore, run our virus scans and our spyware searches, and remove comment spam --

And rejoice, for we are not them.

Now that we've had our public service announcement, let's scroll down and look at the pretty men again!