Amputee challenge

The time I put my arm in a sling for research

I challenged myself, as part of research for my writing, to wear a sling for 24 hours. The idea is to remind myself not to use my hand – and even worse, it’s my dominant hand.

The fact that I had to unplug my computer for a heavy storm might have had a big part to play in my taking it off (it’s difficult to reach into that particular space, with the growing pile of stuff in the way and the sheer awkwardness of getting in there regardless).

And the hardest thing is not cheating. I remember when I had a broken arm for reals, it was hell doing everything. And I couldn’t cheat, not even a little.

You have to do everything one-handed. EVERYTHING. Getting dressed. Toilet. Shower. Eating. Computer use. Paying for things (but paypass is good in that regard, as it mostly eliminates the need for coins and notes and change and all that associated noise). You become somehow less of a human being for the inability to do the daily things with the ease you could.

I found I couldn’t use a knife and fork, meaning I had to cut potatoes with the knife and then switch to the fork to eat them. And don’t get me started on eating chicken wings one-handed! (I am right handed, but I use a knife and fork like a left-handed person because that makes sense to me)

I had to change my mouse to right-click mode, which wasn’t a simple tick box (there were tick boxes, but the fact that it wasn’t a simple ‘click to set mouse buttons to left handed’ box meant a bit of awkwardness. I’ve used it left-handed before, sure, but doing so for extended time kinda sucked.

I ripped the sling off to go out. Partly because there’d just been a storm and partly because I was already sick of using my left hand for everything. The neck cramp might have contributed.

Getting the safety pin out of the bandage was also a bitch, consuming much more time than with two hands, as I expected. (It’s a safety pin. With my off-hand.)

I considered whether I should leave it on to go to the pub. But I doubted they’d give me free drinks on the basis that it would be a nightmare getting my wallet out and handling the cash in one hand. Maybe I should have tried anyway. Except the farce would be up as soon as they saw me use my right hand for literally anything.

I’ve typed one-handed before, but let me tell you, it’s painstaking. Either you hunt-and-peck, or one hand does the job of two, touch typing on one side of the keyboard then switching for a tiny bit then going back, back and forth, and it’s not smooth or easy.

Going to the toilet was an ordeal. The less said about that, the better.

Brushing my teeth is tricky. Typing is strange, but not impossible. It just takes time. And shortcuts. Hand-writing is out of the question.

Everything is a process, one you have to do one labourious step at a time. One where you don’t have another hand to steady, ready, stabilise, or hold the other thing while you do the important thing with the main hand.

And if you’re alone, premade meals become your friend.

I don’t really remember what it was like with a broken arm, the one time it happened. Not the way I did tasks. But I’m seeing how it affects me not having the use of one of my hands in the here and now. And it’s my right hand, the dominant one, for added challenge. But I do remember the pain that took easily two weeks to go away. And that was just a hairline fracture in my wrist. I imagine a full-blown shattering or the like would be a much worse ordeal. And actually losing the limb… well.

More on this tomorrow.

How many words make a novel?

This is a contentious one to answer, because every publisher is different, as is every genre and indeed every person (the writers themselves).

Here then is my universal definition of fiction lengths. New York Times take note! (or not, I’m only some internet blogger with one short story published)

Flash Fiction: 1000 or less. The places that specialise in flash fiction are very strict about it. Which is good, because it forces writers to be succinct, which is in the mission statement of flash fiction itself.

Short story: 1000 – 6000. I’m pretty sure this is a universal measure. Longer than 6000 and people have a bit of trouble reading it in one setting, unless it’s really engaging. That’s fairly agreed-upon.

Novella or Novellete: 6000 – 50000. Novels are at a bare minimum 50000, according to Nanowrimo. Let’s give it some credit.

Novel: 50000 to 100000. Here’s where it gets contentious. Some people say novels are 50000 (Nanowrimo, for instance) while some say 60000 minimum, while some people can easily write 100000 and that’s still a novel. So, as a bare minimum for novel, and thus an absolute maximum for a novella, I’d say 50000 is a good bench mark. Nanowrimo has been around since 1999. It’s been here a while, enough to gather some clout.

Mega-novel: 100000 or more. I don’t know what you’d call it, but I like Mega-novel. 100000 words is pretty epic. In fact I think epics are about that many words (albeit of poetry) so “epic novel” also has a nice ring to it.

So that’s my guideline. I expect you all to bow to my wisdom and adopt my teachings. :p

All The Money

If someone tells you don’t write fantasy, it won’t sell, well there’s a few things you can point out to that person.

First, their information is from pre-1977. Point that out to them. Highlight it in big neon letters. Because 1977 was the year Terry Brooks topped the New York Times Bestseller List with a fantasy novel. This ushered in a new era of fantasy novels selling pretty well.

The second thing is to show them research that states how much the top ten fantasy writers earn. Wikipedia is a good place to start but like everyone who’s ever heard of it (ie everyone but grandma) knows, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

J K Rowling has earned a billion dollars. What she did was write a good children’s book for children and found a publisher who tried the radical notion of giving it to a child to read. (They asked for more) While it’s true she didn’t start out so well, initially, well, you know she now has approximately All The Money.

George R R Martin has half that, and when Winds of Winter is released, he’ll have approximately All The Money too.

Stephen King has several books, many of which turn into successful movies, and he mixes it up between proper, supernatural horror and non-supernatural suspense thrillers. You don’t need figures to know he’s doing well. But his net work is approx. $400 million. How is that not profitable?

And don’t even get me started on Patrick Rothfuss, we’ll be here all night.

Finally, point out that Young Adult fiction is in high demand, and will probably be so for as long as there’s a YA market. It’s hot, but there’s no telling how hot it’ll stay or for how long.

DON’T write something because it’s Hot Right Now. It’ll be cold by the time you publish it. Write what you’re passionate about, and market it, and get it professionally edited, and pay good money for good cover design, and you’ll have a good chance of a return on investment. Authors should have other revenue incomes, sure. It’s a fickle business and there’s no guarantees. But those who succeed repeatedly are the ones with professional attitudes and who’ve done the hard work and their homework too.

And you can always write crime fiction.

Except you shouldn’t do that just to get rich, as it’ll be an obvious cop-out if you know you’re not interested and no-one will buy it. Write crime fiction because you like crime fiction. Write memoirs because you like memoirs. Write speculative fiction because you enjoy speculative fiction. Write what you’re passionate about, and it’ll show. That will win you serious points. There’s few guaranteed strategies, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll maximise your chances.

Probably.

And when the haters hate on you, just keep going. You’ll be able to laugh at them from your mountain of gold. Theoretically.

Doomsday Prepping (please don’t shoot me)

Doomsday Preppers. You may be inclined to make fun of their “silly notions” that the world will end, but maybe they have the right idea.

That makes me sound like one of them. I’m not. I’m just a writer who is fascinated by apocalypse literature, films and the like. It’s my autistic focus-passion. That, and fantasy.

Now, I don’t believe preparing for the end of the world is such a great idea. But I do believe that having a few extra boxes and cans of food in case of emergencies, that idea’s not so bad.

Emergencies happen, often with little or no warning, and people rush out and buy up on essential food big time, leaving none for anyone else. They panic-buy.

Preppers think those people are silly and manage to put some food in storage. That part isn’t stupid. It’s just being prepared for various circumstances. It’s a just-in-case measure.

Except, from what I’ve read, they bring the apocalypse – be it Revelations or zombie or other – into it.

Here’s the thing. 1: in the Bible, it states that only God knows the hour upon which he’ll unleash Armageddon. Him and Him alone. Not us. So our efforts to be prepared for Revelations are laughable. And 2: if you’re a devout Christian, you’ll be… well, it gets a might fuzzier there. Probably go to Heaven, and if you died before then, you’d be resurrected in the new Heaven or the new Earth or something. Like I said, fuzzy.

As for the zombie apocalypse, well, popular culture loves that shit and this generation I’m a part of is amazingly keen for one, by the sounds of it.

Are Doomsday Preppers Americans with tonnes of guns? I haven’t met any, myself, but a couple follow my blog, because of my writing of apocalypse fiction. (I felt legit when that happened). I don’t want gun-toting American DP’s coming after me, enraged and loaded for bear, so if I’ve offended any with this post, I’m sincerely sorry. Please don’t shoot me.

I visited a couple Doomsday sites that followed me, and there’s wisdom there, but also I saw what looked like conspiracy theory news sources. I don’t put much faith in those, though I also don’t trust the media because anyone with a brain knows they skew things to their own biases and show things that can be taken out of context to make certain persons look bad (all of them, I’d say).

So in summation, I think stockpiling a few cans of food isn’t a bad idea – heck, even the Bible says to store up for winter/lean times on multiple occasions – but I don’t believe that we can ever truly be prepared for the apocalypse. Unless it’s zombie; we’ve got that shit covered.

And we’ll look so cool and badass doing it. That’s a bonus.

Finished a story

I think I’ve finished one of the short stories, Catalyst, which is the one where Jess becomes a psychic sniper. I’m kinda keen to show it to my group. I’ve sent it to one person, might send it to two more, but ultimately it’ll be the submission for November’s Vision.

Next is Silicon Dolls, about the three female characters being hired to take on a monster or two by a rich benefactor.

Then I don’t know what. Finish Children of Fire, I guess. I should be starting NaNoWriMo at that point, and if I do that it’ll be so much easier to get the magical 50,000 words done – as 30,000 have already been written. (Don’t tell Mel)

So yeah. That’s the update. It didn’t take as long to finish Catalyst as I thought it would, even if the last part was Discovery (I’m not great at that). I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out.

Ideas I’m working on

I should be planning for NaNoWriMo – I’ve got 3 options that I’m interested in pursuing this year: a superhero novel, another apocalypse novel (part 1 of a possible trilogy) and finishing Children of Fire, which I’ll probably end up doing because it needs to be done – and I’m keen to do any of them.

Instead, I can see myself working on short stories, either of two, both set in COF’s world and starring Jess, everyone’s favourite psychic sniper.

People want to know how that happened – how she became a psychic sniper. So I’ll give them that. (Hint: it involves bugs.)

But I might give them another story, about her, Sarah and Rachel joining a team of ass-kicking ladies in power armour slaying various Neo-Brisbanian monsters. Just as soon as I figure out what the story is, that is. I have no idea. “Four ass-kicking women fighting monsters” is about as far as the idea’s progressed. I’ll have to plot it. And that right there is the thorn.

Of course I *could* just do discovery writing. I’m unpracticed at it, but my plotting stage material is often discovery-process-made anyway, so it’s not without precedent (ie the plot I figure out via discovery, not the actual prose; I have a few methods for plotting, but none have really stuck with me as Holy Methods of Plotting, except maybe Kathy Yardley’s).

Vision can only have one of these for the November meeting. I think it’ll be Catalyst, the psychic sniper one.

Speaking of ideas, I have two for blogs: one is action movies + wine. It’d be reviews of wines and action movies from the perspective of someone who isn’t a movie critic (or wine critic) but one who has seen a LOT of movies and knows a thing or two about how they’re written and acted and made, and who would have to figure out how to grade wine. I’m not an expert on the latter, even less than the former, but the “everyday person” angle would be a draw. Not sure how big a draw, but I imagine people might find it interesting, as nobody associates wine with action movies.

The other, I can’t actually remember right now but will no doubt occur to me the second my head hits the pillow (and after I’ve turned the computer off, obviously).

Final Fantasy 15

Oh man, from what I hear about this game, it’s sounding pretty cool. I won’t know till I play it, and I probably can’t play it until I’m rich (anyone wanna buy me a PS4? I’ll love you 5evar!) but I will be keenly anticipating reviews from critics who aren’t Yahtzee, because Yahtzee hates everything on principle and it’s hard to tell what he *actually* thinks of something, because he’s so (hilariously) negative. Something resembling an actual *review* is what will decide it for me.

The main conceit of 15 is that it’s based on the real world. Not quite the “IS the real world” that I thought it might be, from the first video I saw, but that’s okay. Close enough. In fact, the images I’ve seen are chillingly realistic and modern. This is an interesting concept for a Final Fantasy game. Usually it’s a medieval landscape; this one seems to have a mix of swords and guns, a la FF7 and FF8 and also FF12 (I don’t know about 11, or 13, never played it, but “it gets good about 20 in” doesn’t really cut it for me) and there’s cars and you can drive around and the combat is very Kindgom Hearts where you swing a sword around with a button press and it’s very realistic, for a final fantasy game. The characters are very realistic, the world is realistic and modern, the characters are from a sort of mafia and they live in a country with the sole remaining Crystal – a staple of basically every FF ever. (I don’t remember much of the little I’ve played of FF1, and 2 and 3 I haven’t gotten my hands on, but 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12 are all about dem crystals).

I’m cautiously optimistic, because the last few haven’t appealed to me or didn’t really grab me, and I go through phases with 10, where I either like it – not love it – or outright hate it (Tidus being annoying as fuck). What I’ve seen and read about, coincides with Square Enix apparently saying that their latest fantasy rpg did well and people cared about it, so they’ll be caring about their rpg’s more. I don’t know if that translates to caring about 15, but I seriously hope it does. The last one that it felt like they cared about was 9. NINE! (not a bad game, but not one of the best – that award goes to 6, 7 and 8 in the popular zeitgeist of the western world). So. Cautiously optimistic. Fingers crossed that “caring about it” means “good”. Because there hasn’t been a good one in over a decade. Some okay ones, but not good ones.

Also, it has cars, guns and mechs. Which my favourite – 8 – also has. Coincidence? I hope not.