The Derelict Ship Returns!

I haven’t written here much recently.

Recently

Hah!

It’s been nearly eight months.

But, then, there’s a lot going on.

The fall, winter, and spring months are always hardest for me, managing fibromyalgia pain. My joints and muscles are on fire what seems like 90% of the time.

I’m also either titrating up on bipolar medications, or titrating down. We haven’t yet found a solid solution for me to stabilize the bipolar symptoms. The one I’m on worked for a bit, but it started leaving me cognitively deficient… I couldn’t stay awake, my memory was getting worse, and a bunch of other things.

As of today, I’m titrating down on a med. Which means my irritability levels from bipolar are sky-high, and thanks to the cold, spring-ish rain, my muscles and bones feel like hell-fire.

Despite all of this, I’ve been trying to get a regular writing routine down. I’m doing better than I have in years. I’m sitting down regularly at my desk in the home office, and I’ve jotted notes in my notebook. I have a character almost fully developed that just won’t leave me alone. There’s a story to tell there, and I think it’s getting told.

We’ll see how it goes. Keeping my brain ticking is the important part right now.

Backup iCloud Docs Without Expensive Software

Did you know you had all the software you need to perform backups already installed on your Mac?

There’s Time Machine, which does well, but beyond that, usually most articles point you to expensive apps to do selective backups. What if I have this one folder I want backed up?

Given that OS X is based on a Unix backbone, there are all kinds of under-the-hood tools to use.

Here’s one I’ve started using to back up my iCloud Drive files. Follow these steps in order to start using it yourself.

  1. Create a folder in your Home directory called “iCloud”
  2. Open TextEdit from your Applications folder. Paste the following, exactly as shown, into a new document:
  3. Save the file as “icloud-backup.sh” in your Home directory. Be sure to use “.sh” as the file extension, not “.txt”
  4. Open Terminal from your Applications -> Utilities folder. Type the following: chmod +x icloud-backup.sh
  5. Now type
    crontab -e
  6. In the new window, use the arrows on your keyboard to scroll down to the bottom of the file. Paste the following, exactly as shown:
    0 0 * * * ./icloud-backup.sh
  7. On your keyboard, press CTRL and O (the letter O), then the enter/return key. Then press CTRL and X. Exit Terminal.

Your computer should now sync your iCloud Drive to your computer’s Home directory every hour. Only changed files will be synced.

Writing Project, Title Unknown

I’ve started a new writing project. I’ve got three different names for it currently and I’m not sure which one suits it best. Here are some stats on it:

  • Title: Unknown
  • Word Count: 0 fiction / 1700 outline
  • Total Words: 1700
  • Deadline: March 30, 2016
  • Genre: Fantasy

I’m going to try writing daily and posting about my progress at least weekly.

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.

A Change of Pace

To go along with the new month and the changing season and leaves, I’m changing my focus at Automattic for the fourth time. I started out in the social tools arena, then moved on to Jetpack, from Jetpack to support engineer support, and now I’ll be going back to focus on the WordPress project itself! 🙂

It’s been over three years since I’ve had time, beyond minor patches, to focus any great amount of time on the project. When I first started with WordPress, I dove into the Multi Site project (pre-3.0), then worked on building out a customized Multi Site environment for the university I worked for.

Now, I’ll be working closely with a new team at Automattic and the WordPress community to develop feature plugins, fix bugs, and whatever else needs to get done in the WordPress 4.1 and 4.1.1 release cycle. I’m pretty excited to work with the community like this again.

Things That Bother Me When I Read A Book

So, I read a lot. Usually at least one or two books a week, unless I’m particularly busy at work, or stressed out with life.

Given that, there are a number of things that bother me when I try to start a new book. I’m going to spread these things out over multiple posts. So today, here’s my first thing: the line at which an author goes “to hell with the details of my world.”

To rewind a bit, I chiefly read science fiction and fantasy novels. Mostly fantasy, these days, unless I know the SF author well. In fantasy novels, I particularly enjoy an author who does really, really, really good world-building.

It seems as if there is currently a trend towards laziness in world-building, though. I picked up one book a night or two ago and read about five pages. I’m usually impressed with this author’s world-building. This time, I was impressed with the attention to detail, until we got to the religion.

The religion was Christianity with the names just barely changed. I was into the flow of the novel, the rhythm of the world — and then I was jolted straight out of it.

I immediately put the book aside and found a different one to read.

Not because I have a problem with religion, or Christianity (far from it, actually), but because this book is a fantasy novel, a Not Of This World story. I had suspended my beliefs to submit myself to the belief structure of the author’s world. The author had not led me to believe this was a post-apocalyptic fantasy (i.e. our Earth several thousand years in the future).

There are always little things that pester at me when I read a book. Spelling or grammar issues. Word choices that I don’t agree with. These are disturbances that I can usually ignore, if they aren’t too many or great, and generally follow the flow of the story. But something like this breaks the flow for me because so much attention and detail has gone into the rest of the world that it doesn’t make sense for the religion to be a semi-skewed photocopy of a real-world religion. Why not spend the time and create a brand new religion to go with the brand new world?

This has been happening more and more often, in my experience as a reader, and it’s a curious trend. I’d understand it if it were science fiction, as SF is a projection of what our world will become.

I’d also understand it if the story were cast as alternate history fantasy or such. Maybe this is a trend I’m missing?

In any case, that’s today’s thought from me to you on the things I read.

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.

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

The magazine I volunteer for, Strange Horizons, is running an annual fund drive right now. Details:

This year’s fund drive is underway! We’re aiming to raise $11,000 to fund the next year of Strange Horizons. You can read more and donate here, see the list of donor prizes here and read bonus content as it is published here. We just published Maureen Kincaid Speller’s review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho. Help us get to $3,000 to read our next piece of bonus content: “Teffeu: From a Library at Taarona”, a new story by Rose Lemberg, with podcast reading by Anaea Lay!

Please, go donate now and spread the word! You can see our progress below, or on the Strange Horizons site.

Maintaining an Active Blog

What’s the trick behind maintaining an active blog?

Writing.

I have a hard time with this for a number of reasons. Rather than going into that, here’s my plan for getting this blog off the ground and giving it fresh content daily.

  1. Book reviews – I’m volunteering with Strange Horizons as a web master and US contact manager. I get to see a number of the upcoming releases, and potentially read/review some of them. I also read a lot on my own (eight to ten books a month, usually). Rather than just reading and shelving the books, I’m going to start writing my thoughts of them down here to share.
  2. WordPress goodies – I’m a WordPress developer by trade and have a lot of nuggets packed away in my head. I’m an autodidact, so I have a lot to share with how I got from being a run-of-the-mill English major to a software developer at a leading start-up company, Automattic.
  3. Personal writing – I’m college-trained as a writer and editor, and have rarely used the skills, despite it being a large part of my self-identity. I’m going to start going through my writing archives, pulling and re-writing pieces, and posting them here. I’d also like to get involved more with editing, so if anyone reading this has opportunities (doesn’t have to be paid), please contact me via the Contact link.

Three steps. The last key ingredient for this to work is to write every day. No matter what it is or how long it is, I must publish something here every day.