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Wednesdays with Mindy: The Day Our Technology Died

Last week, around 11:00pm Wednesday evening as I was scrambling to finish my Photoshop homework (which involved editing pics and building a Dreamweaver site)…I restarted my lagging, cranky laptop to let it take a brief rest before I completed the final leg of homework. 

Broken LaptopAnd it died.

It refused to boot back up, alternating between error message black screens, wouldn’t operate in safe mode. Eventually, after running all sorts of tests and fail-safes, it blue screened and never, ever recovered.

All my data on the laptop was lost. All of my schoolwork from last term. The last four family videos I’ve put together. All the scanned photos from my parents 30th wedding anniversary slide show. Several years worth of writing, including all my TV scripts and two complete movie scripts.

It was especially upsetting, because I had recently purchased $450 worth of Adobe Creative Design software. Thank the sweet and fluffy lords they allowed two downloads. I drove out to Fry’s in Wilsonville on Thursday night to pick up a brand new HP Pavilion  laptop for around $770 (with a $50 mail-in rebate, dropping the price tag to $720).

Came back home and began downloading all the needed software to the machine, which is quite a bit better than what I lost (FINALLY, a machine I can successfully PC game with!). The specs can be found here, for anyone interested. The sound is incredible. You can use a finger-print scan to store all your passwords and automatically log into your machine. Basically, tons of cool nerdy things that made my heart flutter and soothed the stinging pain of losing everything.

AND THEN

My new computer died on Friday morning. Poor Dan, who was fighting a stomach flu both Thursday and Friday couldn’t conceive of what was happening. He also had to share some further ugly information…our external hard drive (what I call the dump drive) had also died. Well, a partition had failed, leaving the information contained on it hidden behind some wall we have to struggle to get over. Effectively, and for my sanity, I have to assume it is all gone, because any hope it can be repaired is setting me up for a nervous breakdown.

Yes, within a matter of 48 hours our external drive, my Dell and a second, brand new computer had inexplicably quit on us. All of our computing life went up in smoke. Our computer houses caught on fire, blazed up and nothing is left.

SO…

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NanNoWriMo: Editing The Book

I’ve spent the last month pouring over a paper copy of the book and am now editing furiously in Google Docs. This isn’t my first time editing more than a hundred pages, but it’s proving to be a time-consuming venture. In the process, I’m learning all sorts of fun and not-so-fun things about my writing skills and editing abilities. 

Nanowrimo symbolLast weekend Dan finished reading/editing his copy and we sat down to bull-doze through a couple writing exercises which have helped me steer the book in newer, better directions.

The first was doing a character study of four main characters using 34 basic pieces of information (relationships, political beliefs, flaws, strengths, etc) and fleshing out details I hadn’t otherwise considered. This was especially helpful with one character whose motivations had remained a mystery even to me and therefore muddled up the plot. Honing in on his background brought the character to life and he is going to fill in story elements which have been missing. Woot to that.

Secondly, we collectively answered the following questions about what these four characters wanted:

  1. What does the character want?
  2. What are their motives for wanting this?
  3. Where in the story is this made clear to the reader?
  4. How do we learn what the character wants? Dialogue? Action? Interior Thinking?
  5. What or who stands in the way of them achieving it?
  6. What does the desire set in motion?

It surfaced that my central character’s wants weren’t clear and she was being pushed around by the plot, reacting instead of acting. Changes needed to be made. I’ve been able to re-frame the entire last half of the book, which will only require manipulating a few scenes and adding another to work. Fingers crossed on that one.

Entering all the paper edits into the digital copy may seem tedious, but it’s liberating and exciting to be at this stage. I’m experiencing a resurgence of energy and motivation towards completing this work, now that I’m not attached at the hip to a binder and pen. Once I have the edits entered and the outlined changes made, my parents will received copies to edit. After they’ve given their feedback, we will release the book in digital format on the Kindle. It might be another month or so before that happens, given my school-load, internship and job hunt will also be priorities.

Other writing issues have popped up in the editing process – the curse of repeated words and phrases. Does this happen to any other writers? I’ve started a list of words and with the help of the find feature, am able to locate them in the text and edit them right then and there. The biggest offenders? “That” and “Hands.” My proclivity towards speaking with my hands is apparently showing up in all my characters. 😛

This blog entry helped me identify Ten Writing Mistakes Authors Don’t See, among them using repeated words and empty adverbs. I’m giving myself some slack on many of these things, given 50,000 words were vomited forth in one month with little to no pre-thought. I had an idea (from a dream), a loosely outlined plot, character names and some semblance of location.

It seems a little backwards to write the story first and then do the research later, but I think that’s just how I work. I like to see the entire forest and then I’ll start picking which trees need to be eliminated. Or bolstered.

I’ve also scouted out some editing software called AutoCrit. Is anyone familiar with this? Yays or nays? I’ve been able to accomplish the same goals with time, attention and the editing tools in my word processing program, but I’m certain I’ve missed something and having a computer program to spot these glaring details might be worthwhile. Especially if I’m going the self-publishing route and won’t have a real flesh and blood person to do this work for me.

One horrible side-effect of editing: I am now mentally editing my text books. InDesign is the worst offender. The word “that” appears at least once every other sentence. Sometimes two or three times. I cringe inwardly when I locate it.

An added bonus: The writing in my blog entries will hopefully improve. 🙂

**For those who are interested, here’s a brief synopsis**

In a Dystopian future ruled by fear of a deadly virus, a young woman is orphaned when her parents die in a terrorist bombing. She is horribly disfigured and taken in as a ward by the global corporation, Prothero. They use her to test new medical technology by implanting her with an artificial heart, ear and eye. As a discarded experiment, she participates in mandatory national service while plotting a way to extract herself from Prothero’s clutches and rescue a friend from her past.

Blogging Resolutions for 2012

This is the first year I’ve managed to maintain the blog through the holidays. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy. But I feel pretty pleased with the results of sticking it out.

The consistent focus on writing + winter break with no job or school to consume my thoughts led me to mull over the future of the blog. It’s been a rocky four years. Yep – Tiny Heroes will be four years old in March 2012. Kinda crazy. I’ve had slow success and then popularity and then failure and then slow success again with this venture.

I’ve had some time to consider what posts on Tiny Heroes were popular, appropriate, on theme…and what the holy hell the theme of this blog is.

The blog theme of Tiny Heroes is whatever the DH and I are passionate about. And that will change as our interests change. But largely it’s nerd stuff – comic books, genre entertainment, tech, and geek events. 

Coupon info and hiking pictures and other mullings don’t really belong here. That’s why I’ve moved them to Melinda Not Mindy.

Tiny Heroes deserves a new layout. It’s had the same tired look for the last four years – and has become increasingly clogged with all sorts of social networking trivia. It was high time we cleaned it up.

Here are the 2012 blogging resolutions:

1. All blog posts on theme.

2. 600 word maximum posts.

3. Posts three times a week.

4. Weekly comic book/book/movie review

5. Monthly guest post

These aren’t promises. More like…guidelines. These goals are what I’d like to achieve in the coming year. Hope you’ll stick around for awhile. Think you might like it. 🙂

Five Favorite Nerd Moments of 2011

It’s the last week of 2011, and therefore a time to look back at the year and make lists. And who doesn’t love a Top 5 Countdown? This particular list is going to focus on those amazing nerdy moments which transpired in my 2011 world.

NERD MOMENT #5: 

Game of Thrones

Although technically my introduction to this series took place in 2010 at around 6am in a Portland airport, I didn’t really fall in love until the television series came out. And then again when my spouse got hooked into it. And then again when I discovered the bromance of sorts between Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister. And while I’m currently stuck at the mid-point in Book 3, I know I’ll get through all the rest of the material probably before the next book comes out.

Yes – the series is problematic in terms of race and gender. The violence against women in the book and the ridiculous sexploits on the show are a bit off-putting. But I’m hopelessly in love with A Song of Ice and Fire. Hopeless.

Read Game of Thrones related content here. And here.

Game of Thrones Costumes

NERD MOMENT #4: 

Captain America

The movie and the costume it took me a year to put together. I was very skeptical about the film and remember having arguments with several people because of all the CGI and how much it tried to cram into two hours (don’t they all?) but by the time I finished the costume and re-watched the film, I was pretty much in love. It’s sappy and romantic and hits just the right tone.

Read Captain America related content here. And here.

Captain America Costume

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Nanowrimo 2011: The Winner’s Circle

In the wee hours of the morning – around 2am to be exact – on 11/30/2011, I typed the very last sentences of my 50,000 words. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it’s not the end of the story. Or my story with this story.

Nanowrimo 2011 logoFinal Word Count as of This Morning: 50,167

Page Count: 95 (single spaced, Google Doc with 12 point font)

Even with the holidays this last week I managed to stay on track and pound out several 2,000 word days. I also spent some scheduled time with Dan going over scenes and talking about plot, character motivation and what elements of the science fiction/post apocalypse world weren’t working.

It’s actually shaping up into something that I can be proud of. I was very certain in the beginning it was derivative and overly emotional. But it feels like the start of something great. Just like a first draft should. I’m fleshing out my characters and understanding who they are. What started out as caricatures are gaining pasts and backgrounds and choices and intrigues. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of that process.

WHAT COMES NEXT:

I’m going to spend the next week hunkering down with my homework and internship, because those two elements of my life have been largely neglected and shuffled around in the month of November. I might even crank out a blog entry that isn’t related to Nanowrimo or Couponing! 🙂 Won’t that be a special treat

In the next month I will finish a novel and edit it. Hopefully, if all goes well, by January 1st I will have a final draft published to the Kindle Store. The DH thinks I should charge a dollar per copy. I’m willing to hand out $1 to the first five people that purchase it, because they will no doubt be friends and family. It seems silly to charge you.

Because I started off my first post with the first three paragraphs of the story, it seems appropriate that I should end it with the last three paragraphs I’ll have written in Nanowrimo 2011. 

It’s a long shot that my contact will be expecting me here today, or that I will even find her. We have a meet up spot, but it’s the wrong time and day. Wrong place. Everything is all wrong. But there’s no time to wait. We will be gone by Sunday. So will Gustavo.

As I approach, I can hear the soft churning of the cherry pickers roving the aisles of trees in the orchards. A sweet scent fills my nostrils. I take a moment to glance up at the blue sky overhead and stop peddling. A fluffy white cloud shifts and rolls above me. Bees buzz around a clump of fallen, rotting fruit. Rory Santiago’s question from last night springs up in the back of my mind, “Is he worth dying for?”

It’s hard to say. I’m not sure how much I’ve really lived. Perhaps it’s the last effects of the drugs leeching out of my system, but I stop under the shade of one of the trees and pull out my impromptu picnic. The veggie rations try and remind me of the ill-fated waterfall trip with Brian, but my brain pushes the thought away. A lazy fly lands on my scarred arm as I chew and I don’t even shoo it off. I close my eyes and lean back against the bark of the tree and think, “OK. I’m not ready to die.”

Now I just have to come up with a title. 

OTHER NANOWRIMO 2011 RELATED POSTS:

– Nanowrimo 2011: Week Two NOW w/ Writer’s Block Tips!

– Nanowrimo 2011: Week One

– Preparing for National Novel Writing Month 2011

Nanowrimo 2011: Week Three

This post is coming a little later in the day because I spent the morning desperately plugging away at the keyboard and getting caught up, just so I would have some measurable progress to report here. That, and the muse has found me for the moment. Probably because I’m trying to avoid piles of homework and cleaning off the back deck for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Probably. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when you’re trying to do something else.

Here is my paltry gain for the week (much of in the last 24 hours): 40,113 words

Page count: 77 pages (in a Google Doc, 12 point font and regular spacing)

But seriously – the last week was horrendous in terms of distractions. My favorite video game series of all time: Assassin’s Creed released another entry. I babysat my nephew for about 10 hours. I participated in a Twilight marathon with my mother. The Breaking Dawn flick came out. Started my internship. Watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 with my BFF. Saturday was a memorial service for my Great Aunt in Tacoma, then dinner with relatives and a movie following.

Sunday I had enough time to catch my breath, do holiday related shopping, skip a babyshower and complete three classes worth of assignments. Monday was deep cleaning the house for Thanksgiving and Dreamweaver homework. Yesterday I plugged away at nearly 3,000 words and went to the gym.

Seriously folks – how is it possible for writer’s to write?

I mean really. I’m asking my writer friends out here. Unless I’ve created something for a class, and back when I was like 10-15 I had all the time in the world then I would produce results. Now, between school and an internship (which will one day give way to WORK), occasionally babysitting, hitting up the gym, cleaning, couponing, shopping, running errands…how do you do it?

And when do you do it? There have been several times over the last three weeks when I was knee-deep and buried in the story, but someone showed up at the door with good social intentions and I had to dump all my motivation and inspiration to attend to…life.

Or maybe it’s just my unique position at the moment – with very little framework to my days and lots of work to do that must be tackled merely on my own motivation. By the end of the day, I am looking at this story like…oh, you again huh? What do you want?

INTERESTING PLOT DEVELOPMENTS

I killed off one my characters. One that I didn’t like – he sort of popped up out of nowhere. And once he was imbedded in the story, it made sense. But I didn’t like him. So he’s dead now, for plot-service purposes. Also because I wanted him dead.

Do you ever do that? Just kill off a character because you don’t like them? I’m usually very fond of even the bad guys I create and work hard not to kill anyone. It appears I’ve turned a corner in my writing however.

FINAL WORDS

I’m moving into the final stretch. I like where things are going. I think I’ll be able to reach at least the 50,000 word goal and maybe even my 60,000 personal goal. Perhaps all the activity of the last week was a good thing, because I was able to gestate on where the plot is going, and go back to rework some things. Now that the bad is temporarily fixed, my mind can move forward into wrapping up everything in a nice, neat little bow and squeezing out a decent ending.

Check back here next week for the results!

OTHER NANOWRIMO 2011 RELATED POSTS:

Nanowrimo 2011: Week Two NOW w/ Writer’s Block Tips!

Nanowrimo 2011: Week One

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month 2011

Nanowrimo 2011: Week Two NOW w/ Writer’s Block Tips!

This week featured even more road-blocks than before, with the weekend and yesterday clocking in the most hours putting actual words down on paper. I pretty much poked and prodded at the story Wed-Friday and finally sat down Saturday morning and plugged away a substantial amount of wordage. 

Current Word Total: 28,481

On 12 size font with no line spacing: 55 pages in Google Docs (49 pages in Microsoft Word 2007)

That’s not counting anything I’ve done today because I haven’t done anything.

Even if I’m not clocking in 2,000 words everyday, I’m still making an attempt most days, or playing catch-up during those particular time periods where the muse moves me. Not sure if I’m cut out for writing EVERY DAY. Writer’s block is sometimes best worked around by giving yourself a few days to simmer on a particular scene or narrative decision.

On that note…

6 helpful roadblock tip I’ve worked up:

1. Abandon the scene.Whatever isn’t working, isn’t going to get unstuck by me fiddling with the keys without some good ideas or concepts. So I just leave it with a note (or not) and move on to the next bit. Once I start fleshing out a new scene or two, sometimes the inspiration for that other one will come back. I’ve had a scene on pause for a few days now. Granted, this one is due for a re-write, so I already have the tone decided on. Now it’s just the logistics. But whatevs.

2. Just write. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s actually been immensely helpful. Even if I don’t FEEL like writing. Even if what I’m writing is total garbage “the moon was big and white.” It’s still better than no words at all. It still keeps me in the world and story.

3. Make a playlist. I spent some time at the beginning of last week putting together music I’d like to write this particular story to and found some inspiration in the titles of tracks I picked out. Plus, once you actually get started writing, the tempo and rhythm of the song can help dictate the scene. I guess that can be good AND bad at the same time.

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Nanowrimo 2011: Week One

Promised I would report out on the Nanowrimo writing experience, so here we go. Things started out pretty effortlessly, as they often do. I had plenty of motivation and inspiration and not one bit of writer’s block, so I managed to tackle 2,000+ words a day through Sunday.

Then Monday and Tuesday kicked me off my game. Monday I became terribly distracted by a great Youtube, an internship intervew, the gym, grocery shopping and Dreamweaver homework. Yesterday was the internet, lunch with family, house cleaning and hosting MIL and BIL for dinner. Then afterwards HAD to liveblog X-Men First Class on Tumblr and Twitter. You know how it goes.

My current word total: 13,972

I find most of the writing happening during the morning hours and putting down the 2,000+ words usually takes 60-90 minutes, depending on how inspiring the passage I’m working on is.

It’s a really, really rough draft at the moment. It sort of feels like I’m writing scenes that will then have to be moved and manipulated to fit into the structure of a story. I managed to burn through about 8 pages of what has now become a prologue before I realized that it wasn’t a substantial part of the story.

It’s also from a first person perspective, and I find myself including lots of lazy/bad writing habits I’ve picked up from blogging. All those fun words and turns of phrases that make a blog sound like someone is actually speaking to you don’t carry forward in novel form so well. I’m trying really hard not to cringe or feel mournful embarrassment when I look over the pages everyday. I’ve just calmly made notes like “THIS SUCKS” and moved on.

Dan the DH has been quite helpful in being a sound board for ideas and helping me brainstorm the dystopian future and it’s technology. A lot of that isn’t fleshed out – but again, I’m trying to write and the more I get stuck on details and spin my wheels on what certain devices are called or what exactly field exercises look like, the more difficult the process becomes and I can see roadblocks slamming down all around me.

Since you’ve all waited patiently through my ramblings, here’s a special treat for you. A small snippet from the rough draft of the Nanowrimo project. 

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Tuesdays with Mindy: Bank Transfer Day

As far as I’m concerned – the only thing positive to come out of the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been the reversal of a $5 Bank Fee by some of the major corporate banks across the country. If it takes all this movement and energy to reverse one $5 fee, our country is in worse shape than I thought.

It did motivate me to switch banks. Yep – we participated in Bank Transfer Day and moved our money along with 650,000 other people across the country. Here’s an article to prove it! We got quoted in an article that made it into the Credit Union times. We’re all fancy and shit! It pays to know journalists. 😉

Moving our money was one of the few requests I noticed on signs and over the interwaves that actually made sense to me. Seemed doable. Was something that I actually had some time and energy for.

Our process started over two weeks ago. On our anniversary. We are working to get our car refinanced through On Point and had been in communication with them anyway, so it didn’t seem like too crazy an impulse to sit down with a banker on a warmish, sunny Sunday (our 6th wedding anniversary) and open up three accounts.

Then we spent the next week cancelling and re-routing our direct deposits and autopays. Made that much simpler by splitting the tasks down the middle. Dan took half and I took half.

Then, one day – we scooped all of our money out of one account and dumped it in another. Just like that. Closed down at least three accounts, still have one open with a few hundred in it until all those debits clear.

Moving your Money in Four Relatively Easy Steps:

1. Open up a credit union account (CUs ARE open on Saturday)

2. Reroute direct deposits and auto bill pays

3. Withdraw funds, close account

4. Deposit money in credit union

Sure – it took almost three weeks to accomplish the goal, but with the steps spread out over time, it wasn’t anymore difficult than tackling any other project.

The rewards are less tangible than the immediate impact I think many people were expecting to feel. Some of it was symbolic. Some of it was an honest interest in boosting the local economy.

For me – moving banks was a difficult and emotional decision. I’ve been with Washington Mutual since I was 16 years old and had my first job at McDonalds. My sister has worked there longer than she’s been married and manages a local branch. My brother and I both held decent, stable jobs there at one point in our lives. I remember rocking a Rodeo Grandma T-Shirt to school back when they were the voice of WaMu.

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Captain America Costume For the Ladies: Phase Two

Remember the feminized version of the Captain America costume I mentioned all those months ago? It has been stalled out for sometime as I pondered and pondered what sort of jacket to purchase and couldn’t make a decision. BUT, there has been progress. The fall weather and proximity to Halloween allowed for several purchases to be made in the last few months which have added greatly to the costume.

First – the bomber jacket.

Second – the helmet.

And here’s what it looks like with all the accessories.

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