Things That Bother Me When Reading A Book

Worldbuilding sheet: Magic systems – v2 by pwassonne on DeviantArt

 

I read quite a lot, usually about two novels a week, plus short fiction, news, and tech documentation. Unless my stress and anxiety is too high, I always have a book at hand.

When I’m reading, I like to lose myself in the story. For me, reading is an escape to another world, a chance to get away from all of the things about the real world that are bothering me, causing anxiety, frustration, panic, etc. When I pick up a book (I’m a science fiction and fantasy reader, primarily) I’m primarily looking to get away from my world.

Given that and the fact that I’m a writer and editor, there are a number of things that I actively ignore. Spelling, grammar, and typographical errors, which are not always the author’s fault (they are often introduced during printing). Word choices that make no sense to me (sometimes it is lingo or dialect I don’t understand). The choice to data dump at the beginning of a book, rather than spread it out (authorial choice–sometimes it works, sometimes not).

In any case, these are the things I actively ignore. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is lazy world building, or maybe it’s bad jacket or back cover copy. For me, as a reader, I pick up a fantasy novel and the contract I make with that novel is, “I suspend all my real world beliefs and submit to the belief structures set down in this fantasy world.” It makes it easier to be transported to that world, to get to know the characters, to be part of the world.

So what happens when the author of said fantasy novel takes a real world religion or country, changes one letter of its name, and recasts it as something “new”?

What happens is I immediately put the book down and pick up a different one.
Inevitably, there’s one of two possible things going on: the author isn’t spending enough time world building (“I’m more interested in the characters!”), which to me is a crime, because the world is one of the most important characters in a fantasy novel. Or the jacket/back cover copy is written poorly.

I’ve read books where both cases happened. In one case, I started reading a book, thinking it was pure fantasy, and discovered that the languages the main character was being taught were Latin and English. I put the book down, though I did eventually go back and read it. It turned out, the jacket copy was bad. It had been described as pure fantasy, and was really post-apocalypse fantasy.

In other cases, I’ve never gone back. These end up being lazy world building, and I just can’t bring myself to watch one of the largest, most present characters in the book be glossed over so entirely.

Sometimes (though rarely) I can forgive lazy world building, if there are other story elements that make up for it. Is the story so focused on one location that the rest of the world doesn’t matter?

In the end, we all have our preferences. What are yours?

 

The Problem With Digital ID Cards

I’ve seen the commercials for them around the ‘Net and on television. For example:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3bzhtoeWcf0

If you’ve read much about privacy issues, either in fiction or what’s going on in the world (might I suggest Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother?), you might be as suspicious of these as I am.

Why?

Where I’m from (Maine), typically if you get stopped or get in an accident, you’re required to give the law enforcement officer (L.E.O.) your driver’s identification, insurance card, and vehicle registration. Therefore, if your insurance card is digital on your mobile device, you’d need to give the L.E.O. your mobile device (presumably unlocked, unless Apple’s Passport or similar on Andriod works with your device passcode-locked).

Then the L.E.O. takes all of this away from you, back to their car to run checks through their computer.

Suppose your device is passcode-unlocked when you give the L.E.O. your device. What’s to stop them from taking a peek at your pictures for something incriminating? Or at your social media apps? E-mail?

Humans are curious by nature, and given the xenophobia and religious phobias, it wouldn’t surprise me–though it does anger me that this would happen–that an Other (i.e. someone who is not like you, either in race or sexual orientation) would be subjected to such an invasion of privacy.

So, be careful with your devices. Yes, digitizing things are more convenient because most everyone knows where there phone is, but can barely remember where that piece of paper containing their car insurance is right now. At the same time, don’t forget that you are responsible for your own privacy.

Privacy is not always convenient, but it is our right, as given to us in the Bill of Rights.

Defend it.

Jobs, Careers, and Hobbies

In this sense, I CAN afford to be a writer because I CAN’T afford to be anything else. I know it’s an uphill battle, and I won’t make a living on writing alone, but it’s what I want to do. I live and breath it. I spend every second that I’m not writing wishing I was. In this sense, I can’t afford to not write.

I read this over on Erin Bowman’s site the other day and it got me thinking in a new direction about something I’ve spent a lot of mental energy on of late.

In recent years, part and parcel of my depression/PTSD has been not having enough time for me. Not having enough time to write, not having enough time to do the things I want to do. Always needing to focus on my job, whatever it happened to be at the time.

Writing–that thing that has always been me since I was seven years old–has always been a hobby. I’ll do it when I have time. I spend a lot of time wishing I was doing it when I’m doing other things. A portion of my depressive episodes that I’ve had over the years were started or spiraled deeper because I wasn’t writing when I really wanted to be.

Which brings me around to Erin’s post. It got me thinking that I need to redefine writing for myself. If writing has this kind of effect on me, then I need to make it the priority. Writing should be my primary job, my career. The job should be the hobby, the thing I need to support my career.

How has this change in thinking worked so far?

Well, today I’ve done the following:

  1. Hung out with my three year old and played.
  2. Household chores (laundry/dishes).
  3. Outlined six chapters of a story.

Now, numbers 1 and 2 are usual things I do these days. Number 3, though? That’s new. Usually, I find something else to do (i.e. day job / work / worry / panic / stare at the wall) rather than this.

I’m happy with this new direction. It’s feasible to keep it up, even when my medical leave from my day job ends.

A New Year, A New Start

I’ve been seeing a lot of year-in-review posts and, since I’ve been thinking about restarting this blog, I figured I’d do one of my own (not that I’ve kept very good track of anything…).

2014 was a very stressful year for me. My PTSD and depression brought me to an all-time low, which greatly effected my work. I started the year in a leadership position at work and gradually worked my way out of that, back to a standard code monkey, and now, to medical leave.

It isn’t easy trying to reconcile a version of yourself that got buried twenty years ago with the different self that you are today. It’s a long, hard road (one I’m still on and will be for the foreseeable future), but I’m thankful that I have finally got a solid support system built up around me.

Between the PTSD and depression, I’ve been working with my doctors and therapists to find a good medication to help. PTSD isn’t necessarily treatable with medication (cognitive-behavioral therapy is best), but the deep dives into depression that I’ve had are. The hard part of this is that it takes thee to five weeks per medication before it’s effective. So, when I need to change meds (which I’ve done half a dozen times now) I have to deal with the initial I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time side effects. And if it isn’t effective, that feels like five weeks down the tubes.

2014 was like many other years for me, in that I didn’t focus much on myself or the things I am passionate about. During November and December, while on medical leave, I finally started writing again (not with any regularity, but it’s something!). In 2015, I hope to get the habit down of writing at least once per day, if not more often, and eventually have a set word count per day towards specific projects.

One small step at a time.10890560_422470817901739_1592996253_n

Aside from a gout inflammation during the holidays, I had a good time this year. Thanksgiving was just us and Caroline’s parents. Christmas featured an appearance by Uncle J. The girls were both very happy, which goes a long way towards repairing my view of this time of year.

(Oh, and I got a quadcopter!)

 

Stress Relief

I’m working my way through some tough depression, stress, and anxiety. Right now, I have a lot of triggers: my career choice (thanks to my father), some OCD-type things, and a number of PTSD-related issues.

Usually, I get so wound up after getting triggered that I can’t do anything. I sit staring at a wall, not doing a thing. And that’s all I’m capable of.

To try to get past that, I’m focusing small, working on one thing at a time. The first thing I’m trying is to work on my career issues. The root of the issue is huge, but can be summed up as: my father wanted me in a technical career, which is where I am. While I enjoy what I do now, I had always planned on being a writer (novelist, journalist, etc.) and an editor.

One thing I’ve realized recently is that I’ve spent too long listening to that voice of my father saying, “Writing isn’t good enough.” And waiting for someone else to come along and tell me that it is good enough. Others have told me that writing is good, that I’m a good writer, but none of it has made a difference.

So I need to change myself. I can’t rely on others to do it for me.

Today, I spent some time getting my computers situated. Rather than going with a “simple” set up of having everything on one computer, I’ve now separated things out: I have one computer that is dedicated to my WordPress development work, and another that is devoted to writing and editing. My personal computer doesn’t have any of the data or apps I’d need for work, so it eliminates the usual temptation I have when I sit down to write to, instead, do something for work.

Now I can truly take a computer, with the tools I need, and sit down to write. I’ve dropped my social networking profiles, which has saved me a lot of time already. With this additional change, I feel good. I feel like I’ll get more writing done.

Hell, I’ve already written an almost 400-word blog post, which I normally don’t do.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would’ve been my mother’s 55th birthday. She was born on September 30th, 1959. She passed away on February 23rd, 1994, from cancer.

I miss her every day.

Mom, I hope when you look down from on high, you approve of what you see. I love you, I miss you, and I hope I make you proud.

Managing the Things I Need To Do

I’ve always been bad at managing the things I need to do. I’m a procrastinator; always was in school and still am, to a lesser degree (getting married and having kids have made me grow out of it a little). One of the things I find, though, is that being depressed and going through counseling for all my childhood traumas is enhancing the procrastinator in me. I find it difficult to keep track of things; I have memory issues (sometimes severe ones) and I get blocked easily if I’m having a bad day.

This post isn’t to talk about all of that, though.

I’m trying a new technique.

I’ve tried all of the to-do apps on the market. They all have some great features, some bad. And that’s the issue that I have with them all: they are feature-rich. For me, I don’t need a feature-rich app. I just want something simple that I can write things down, sync it between my devices, and check things off as I get them done.

For me, I’m trying this: I’m using Apple’s Reminders app (it’s simple and it syncs) and a standard 8″ x 11″ yellow legal pad. The Reminders app contains the headlines of what I need to do. The yellow pad contains the broken down lists of each step that needs to be completed per headline.

The other things I’m trying is to pick three, and only three, things that I absolutely must accomplish for a day. On my legal pad, I write down today’s date (and tomorrow’s, and the next day’s, if I have enough stuff to plan those days), then I put down the three things that I want to get done. That doesn’t mean I can’t do other things; just that those three things are what I want to get done to call my day a success.

I’ll see how it goes. Definitely a low-tech, less-features way of doing it.

Taking the Bull by the Horns Might Get You Gored

But sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

I’ve been on the fence about writing for awhile now. Lots of backstory (read: I have issues, some of the same as any writer (Dad says writing “isn’t a career” and was generally unsupportive), some that go a bit  deeper into the psyche).

In any case, I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection and work with a therapist over the last several years. Finally, I’m at a point where I can handle all the voices in my head well enough to tell them to take a hike.

I’m lining up some writing projects for myself:

  • A couple of articles for WordPress developers (likely applicable to generalists too). One on project management, one on an undecided topic.
  • A couple of book reviews (one on the first two books of Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series, another on an ARC of Jon Sprunk’s new book).
  • A short story that’s been burbling in my head off and on for four years. Writing and sending it as my application to Viable Paradise.
  • General writing goal of doing some writing every day.

My Only Resolution

The popular thing to do at this time of year is New Year’s Resolution lists. I’ve done them before and never really found them effective. However, 2014 is a little different for me.

Twenty years ago, I lost my mother to cancer. I was eleven years old.

I’ve always told myself that I don’t remember much about her. That I’d forgotten.

Well, that isn’t quite true. I blocked a lot of my childhood away for a lot of different reasons.

So, on to resolutions and my one and only this year:

I’m making a resolution to write more about my mom, here on my blog, and share the memories I have of her. My one and only goal is to help more memories surface in my brain and to create a record that my daughters may some day read.