RSS

Category Archives: Writing

I got distracted trying to find a distraction-free writing tool

Sure the battery life is great and the keyboard has arrow keys. But will it blend?

Writing a haiku? Fine, it might work. But a novel?

So it’s the middle of November and many of you are no doubt participating in Nanowrimo.

I am not.

I should be writing. I should be wrapping up the short story that is almost, unbelievably close to done.

I should be wrapping up the third Marlowe and the Spacewoman novel, the first draft of which is two thirds done.

But I’m not.

Instead, I got lost down the rabbit hole of process.

Not the thought process of writing, but the mechanical process of writing.

As is clear by the sizeable passage of time since I’ve generated any prose, I am prone to distractions. So as I sat down for one writing session, I thought, “Hey, I should Bing* search ‘distraction free writing’ to see what options I have.”

Because obviously I should spend the precious free moments I have for writing doing anything but writing.

Why distraction-free writing? Because I wanted yet another excuse for why I don’t write I wanted something that would force me to write without opening another tab in my browser to look up something inconsequential to getting the story done, such as which font I need to download in order to properly spell “procrastinate” in some weird language like Old or Middle Latin.

(Those are totally languages, so don’t leave any angry comments below!)

And boy, did that search give me some cool results.

First I encountered a lot of apps / programs that, really, are just bare-bones text editors. But not only could I just use Notepad instead for that, but my laptop is 10+ years old and takes forever to boot. So long that I switched from Winblows to Linux, which also, it turns out, takes forever to boot.

Just slightly less forever than Winblows 7 with 10+ years of programs installed on it.

So I realized that apps were out. No, I needed a distraction-free hardware solution that didn’t take until the next ice age to boot.

The Alphasmart gets lots of play during Nanowrimo, but it has a teeny tiny LCD display that is just too small for me.

Enter the Freewrite, which claims you will double your hourly word count.

And exit the Freewrite, when I see that it costs $549, only does one thing (allowing you to type documents), and has no arrow keys because going back to edit is for losers.

But wait, in a shocking surprise substitution, enter the Freewrite Traveler, which also claims you will double your hourly word count.

And exit the Freewrite Traveler, when I see it costs $369 (on sale, normally $599!), has all the same issues as the Freewrite, and, oh yeah, isn’t out yet.

I was starting to lose faith and therefore was forced to redouble my searching efforts.

Which is how I stumbled across the Pomera DM30, a compact, instant-on device with a folding keyboard and E-Ink display.

That can be had now for (as low as) $208, uses a Japanese keyboard layout, has be be imported from Japan, and is also distraction-free since it can’t do anything else.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I sometimes am forced to use a Japanese layout keyboard at the day job, and let me tell you, nothing is more distracting than trying to hit the space bar or figure out where the friggin’ ‘:’ and ‘;’ keys actually are, inaccurate labeling on the keys notwithstanding.

WTF, Japan? WTF?

But these devices (the Freewriti, as the plural for Freewrite is written in Old Latin, and the Pomera) were instant on, and that really appealed to me. There was no way I’d pay $250+ for (yet another) computer/word processor, so I was reluctantly leaning towards the Pomera, even though I knew the keyboard would drive me crazy and the $208 price still felt a bit steep.

That’s when I discovered HPCs.

HPCs are, for those of you who are young or who are old but not nerds, Handheld PCs. Small computers either running proprietary OSes (such as the Psion 7 running Symbian) or Windows CE.Some are tiny and literally fit in the palm of your hand (such as the HP 100LX which runs DOS), and others are slightly larger with nearly full-size keyboards (such as the NEC MobilePro 900C or Psion Netbook Pro).

They also haven’t been made in at least 15 years.

But I found a new old stock (so still in the box, woo-hoo!) Psion Netbook Pro on eBay for ~$130 and, after weeks of searching and researching and viewing YouTube videos of it (and the Pomera and the FreeWriters and the HP 100 and 200 LXes and the older Psion 7 that goes for $450+ on eBay), I ordered it.

It came with Windows CE (duh), Wordpad and a bunch of outdated Microsoft Office viewers.

And nothing else.

Which I found a little…lacking.

So I spent another week or so doing more research, discovered someone selling a CD with a bunch of licensed programs for Win CE, including a more full-featured word processor than Wordpad that could save documents as Microsoft .doc files.

So for another $48 (including shipping), I ordered that.

And waited 18 days for it to show up. The first 13 of which were spent in the originating post office. For some reason.

Some incredibly frustrating, but unknown to me reason.

Side note: the USPS package tracking sucks. That is the scientific term to describe it – I’m too polite to use the informal term that immediately comes to mind.

Now did I use my shiny new (old stock) distraction-free writing computer during all this?

Hell, no! It only has Wordpad! Yeech! I’m no masochist!

(Well, OK, maybe I am, but not when it comes to my writing.)

So if you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the whole distraction-free writing world, I have one word of advice for you:

Don’t.

* I didn’t use Bing. No one does. I used a different, functional search engine. That doesn’t spy on me.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rabbit holes, unlike their makers, are not cute…or to be trifled with

I have friends who are always going on about getting lost down a rabbit hole on the internet.

This post is for them, assuming you stumble across it in your online queries.

Be careful about rabbit holes. They are dangerous.

Just as an example of the type of peril you may face, take my recent foray into the topic of “rabbit holes” on Wikipedia.

Reading about the warren of twisty little passages, all alike, soon reminded me about Watership Down.

Watership Down is a book (and a subsequent animated movie) about rabbits. Well, it’s about people and society and government, but dressed up in cute fuzzy cotton tail bodies. I saw the movie first, probably around the age of eight or nine.

My parents, with a desperate gleam in their eyes, said, “We need a break from you, even for just an hour and a half. There’s a movie about rabbits on the telly. That’ll be fun, yes?” Which seemed like a good idea all round until the fate of the first warren is revealed.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t. The stuff of nightmares. For young children and, shortly thereafter, the parents who have to deal with those children.

I read the book a few years later, 7th or 8th grade. And loved it. Amazing book. So good I tore through it at a considerably faster pace than the teacher expected us to. Which meant I was so far past the point she would quiz us on every Friday (to prove we’d been reading it) that I failed each and every test.

This of course leads me to the movie Se7en.

Like the book Watership Down, it’s a great movie, amazing. Fincher is one of my favorite directors. Right up there with Wes Anderson.

Like the movie Watership Down, I will never watch it again. Grueling. Soul-crushing. The non-rabbit stuff of nightmares.

Fincher also directed Alien 3, which was maligned at the time by the Alien fans, but which I think is actually the best movie of the bunch. Yes, it had problems: budget overruns, studio interference, and (surprising in a Fincher movie) really bad CGI. But the story is the kind of dark-humored, grisly horror that doesn’t involve a stomach-churning ending with a box that I can get behind.

Speaking of unexpected deliveries, Amazon shipped us an Amazon Fire TV stick with a tablet we bought. We didn’t order it, didn’t really want it, but assumed it was some sort of promotion. Fast forward a couple of years. We decide to use it. Except after considerable effort to set it up, we discover we can’t log in.

Contact Amazon tech support.

What’s the serial number on the box it came in?” Um, don’t have the box any more.

What’s the order number from when you bought it?” Um, we didn’t. You sent it to us for free, with a tablet. Here’s that order #.

Amazon never has, and never will ship Amazon Fire TV sticks for free.” And then, the implication that we’re thieves so thick we can detect it in the chat text, “What is the serial number or order number?

The conversation ended with “You might as well just throw it away.

But aren’t our landfills full enough already? Especially with e-waste? How is that being a responsible steward of the economy, Amazon? China’s not taking that crap any more, so it’s just gonna start piling up and at some point, if we aren’t careful, it’s gonna crush a rabbit warren and wipe out a whole community of cute little bunnies.

So you see what I mean? Rabbit holes aren’t just dangerous…they are downright deadly!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 2 September 2019 in Angst, Life, Reading, Technopocalypse, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With humidity like this, who needs a steam cleaner?

It was a hot summer night. The sort of hot that left you feeling warm all over.

Really, really warm.

The sort of warm that led to misdemeanors. And maybe, if you were lucky, a high crime or two.

My kind of night.

Unlike me, a fair number of the good citizens of this city were loitering in the shadows and the sickly yellow pools cast by the sodium streetlights, listlessly nursing the futile hope that the evening air would provide some relief from the ungodly warm.

As I passed one particularly rundown tenement, I was met with the hard stare of an old man slouched on the stoop, his suspicion baked in by the oppressive weather. Knuckles white and unyielding, he held a struggling, foam-covered cat in one hand and a straight razor, paused mid-air as I passed, in the other.

Just before he passed out of my peripheral vision, he resumed shaving the cat, I could only assume to help her beat the heat too. Didn’t look to me like either was too successful in that endeavor. But if one was less successful and less happy with the result than the other, this hissing told me it was definitely the cat.

I’d been tailing a mark in the green light district, where the road signs never slept and the cars never stopped. It made crossing the street a real exercise in life insurance actuarial tables.

And not the good tables.

My mark was a married man, but his wife had a hunch he didn’t act married. Hired me to get the scoop, dig up the beans, look under the rocks for the ugly, ugly truth.

You’d be surprised how much ugly truth can hide under a rock.

Even a small one.

As a general rule, I hated this sort of work, but as an even more important general rule, I liked having the dough to pay my bills. Office rental doesn’t come cheap, and neither does life insurance in my line of work.

Plus the slap and tickle on the side cases generally worked out better for my clients than the shoot and stab murders I sometimes found myself (and my clients) embroiled in.

What’s a little infidelity when you get to wake up the next day still alive?

Of course, more than once, my efforts on these more unseemly cases led to murder after the fact. After I reported the bad news to the aggrieved spouse.

Sometime right after.

There was probably irony to be found in this, but for the life of me I couldn’t see it.

The jilted spouse turning to murder then getting arrested before paying my bill might have contributed to that myopia.

And if life in my line of work had taught me one thing, it was that some wrongs even eye doctors can’t fix.

– – –

I’m bored and my imagination tends to wander when I should be trying to sleep. Tonight, unlike most nights, I didn’t ignore the impulse and then realize the next morning just how stupid the idea was. No, instead I jumped on the Missus’ computer and started typing away.

My apologies.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 23 June 2019 in Mystery, Noir, Story, Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

Only slightly less well known? NEVER go in against a rabid dog in a lightning storm!

This writing prompt series is an irregular effort to force myself to write when I otherwise feel abandoned by a Muse of any sort, let alone the unfortunate specimen assigned specifically to me. If you don’t remember the origin of this series, you can catch up here with Part I, here with Part II, here with Part III, here with Part IV, here with Part V, and here with Part VI. But fair warning: reading those entries, while providing a modest sense of continuity, will very likely not help you make any sense of it beyond a vague feeling there may be a recurring character involved in some sort of questionable religious past. Or present???

The rules are simple: using the writing prompt book Write the Story, include the ten provided words (underlined in this text) in a story using the given title. Any failure to do this, no matter how fleeting, will result in a sharp rap on the knuckles with a ruler wielded by an angry, eagle-eyed nun.

The ruler, by the way, is metric only. As it should be.

Business as UNusual

As a full-time trapeze artist, I found it difficult to relate to people other than my fellow trapeze artists. The idea of working in an office, or spending time in a studio interviewing a politician or celebrity (or celebrity politician!), or being able to ignore the dangers inherent in space travel in order to go for a moonwalk were completely alien to me. I could no more embrace a new career than I could another man’s housewife.

And then I met the new nurse. She’d signed on with our carnival company after some sort of unpleasantness involving a cult. That was the scuttlebutt, anyway, though no one seemed to have any concrete details on the matter. Our chance encounter was triggered by, of all things, a possibly rabid dog, a frenzied dash of terror across an empty field during a rain storm, and a lightning strike.

Not of me, thankfully. As the hairs on my neck rose and the air began to crackle, my early days of open air trapeze training kicked in and I flung myself to the ground, pursuing foamy-mouthed stray be damned. The lightning struck the dog, and I heard the most heart-wrenching wail in its aftermath, louder to my unpracticed ear than the furious accompanying thunder. Whether it was the dog or me who made that sound, I cannot say. But when I looked up and around, the dog was gone, leaving me alone in the weedy field with the puckered wound of a dog bite on my thigh.

I stumbled into the old health clinic, long abandoned and therefore cheaply rented by our company to service, once again but temporarily, as a medical facility. She was on duty that night, her smile as bright and dazzling as the engagement ring, resting against a wedding band, on her left hand. I reported my injury as well as my suspicions about the hound’s health, and she gently led me down to a curtained off cot in the basement.

The examination was perfunctory and evidently found all to be acceptable. We both waited, breaths gasping, for her to conclude the series of injections to protect me from rabies, and then I found myself able to conceive many things I’d previously thought impossible, including the aforementioned embrace of an ostensibly unavailable woman.

She was just what the doctor would have ordered for a lonely trapeze artist. Or so I though at first…

I think the nurse will be going on hiatus for the foreseeable future. Actually, I know she will since the next three writing prompt exercises are already done and are all stand-alone stories. Feel free to let me know if you wish to see more of this crafty nurse, though, and I can work her into a future prompt.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 29 December 2018 in Writing, writing prompts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your Significant Other Will Dump You If You Order The Veal And These Other Items

If you don’t remember the origin of this series (or, more likely, you’ve just stumbled upon this posting in your quest for pictures of naive boy scouts and have no idea what I’m on about), you can catch up here with Part I, here with Part II, here with Part III, here with Part IV, and here with Part V. Just don’t expect reading those entries to help any of this make sense and you’ll be fine. The rules are simple: using the writing prompt book Write the Story, include the ten provided words (underlined in this text) in a story using the given title. Failure to do so results in finding yourself on stage, in front of an audience of your parents and peers, wearing nothing but a speedo and a cape that inexplicably has the word “PHOTOGRAPHER” emblazoned across it.

A Lunch Date Gone Wrong

Is it hot in here, or is it just me? Things were going so well, the relationship seemed back on track. And then…the carnival came back to town.

She started showing up late for dates, or putting them off. Without explanation.

I admit it. I got jealous. I began to assume the worst: she was going to leave me for that cult. When we started dating again, I made a promise to myself. OK, two promises:

I would get all the facts instead of jumping to conclusions.

I would never again roller skate nude under the full moon.

Without using mosquito repellent. You can only draw blood from scratching bug bites too hard so many times before you swear that oath.

So here we are, our brunch date now a lunch date due to her inexplicable tardiness, having a ‘discussion’ over a mango salad about her career, her needs, her hopes and desires. And how they don’t include assuming the traditional housewife role, or monogamy, or, worst of all, punctuality.

My sweet tea couldn’t taste more bitter. I struggle to hold back, to refrain from pitting my rapid-fire questions against her inconsistent logic. She was never late before the carnival returned. She never came over to my place smelling like pipe tobacco and my ex-wife’s favorite perfume before the carnival came to town. We never talked about marriage in the days preceding the cultists’ return.

So why now?

But her apparent calm and detachment only served to fuel my fears that she had tired of me and was returning to her old ways. Leaving me alone, divorced with no path back to my ex, doomed to online dating and online / offline rejection.

So of course I exploded, all of my fears and insecurities a festering eruption that poisoned the conversation, the meal, the entire ambiance of the restaurant. And as she stormed off, her sweet tea just as bitter now as mine but dripping from my face and hair, I had to wonder if this had been her intention all along.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 20 November 2018 in Angst, Life, Writing, writing prompts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hiding Behind the Hydrangea, A Few Words Popped Into My Head. These Are Not (All Of) Those Words.

If you don’t remember the origin of this series (or, more likely, you’ve just stumbled upon this posting in your quest for pictures of naive boy scouts and have no idea what I’m on about), you can catch up here with Part I, here with Part II, here with Part III, and here with Part IV. Just don’t expect reading those entries to help any of this make sense and you’ll be fine. The rules are simple: using the writing prompt book Write the Story, include the ten provided words (underlined in this text) in a story using the given title. Failure to do so results in a disappointed and judgemental “Tut-tut!” from your mother.

An Unexpected Union

The key to finding the nurse was her ex-boyfriend. Not me, but the former boyfriend who came after me. Yes, after the tug-of-war between my wife and my carnival companion ended with me still married, my medical indiscretion moved on. I admit I kept tabs on her, even before my wife threw in the towel, sued for divorce, and took me for pretty much everything, including my prized hydrangea. So I know my lost love had played the field after me, casually dating, at different times, two brothers who owned a now defunct potato farm, a dentist, and then, more seriously, him.

The political cartoonist.

The major influence in her life since me.

The most recent ex.

I’d been more than keeping tabs on her at this point. I’d been following her, watching her, trying to find a way to win her back. The day they met was a terrible blow to me. They’d bumped into each other in line at a common, everyday sandwich shop. They chatted as they waited, then ended up ordering the same sandwich: ham and cheese on rye, Russian. He invited her to sit at his table, and soon they were brushing hands and laughing. Instant connection. I watched her scribble her phone number on the back of her receipt and hand it to him.

“Call me,” she said as she walked past me. I was in disguise as a broken homeless man, so she didn’t recognize me.

I had to recite the alphabet backwards three times before I was calm enough to get up and follow him to his place of work. I spent the next six months tracking him, learning his patterns and his secrets, preparing.

They broke up the night I’d planned to dispose of him. Money had been spent, wheels were in motion, but I called it off anyway. I felt sorry for him. He’d prepared an intimate dinner for two in the gazebo in his backyard. An exquisite meal. And over the salad, he proposed. And crying, she said no and left. Hiding behind a thriving hydrangea (that looked suspiciously familiar), neither noticed me.

I lost her after that. Gone from her usual haunts and from her clinic job; she was nowhere to be found. But he, the current ex, was obsessed. Desperate to find her, he looked high and low. He let himself go, lost his job, his house, his reputation. But none of that mattered compared to his quest.

Frankly, I found it more than a little disturbing.

Given our goals intersected, I let him do the work and just followed. And tonight, after months of searching, he finally found her.

And has drawn a knife! No!

I stopped him. I saved my beloved. Passed off my presence as a coincidence leading to a fateful but unexpected reunion. No, union. For she has taken me back! I am loved again!

So successful was this turn of events that I have won her complete and total trust in addition to her undying love. And so tonight, before sharing her bed, I will be sworn in to the Brotherhood of the Carnival. To be with my true love and her true family forever.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on 12 November 2018 in Writing, writing prompts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: