Posts Tagged ‘Lists’

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Folk Cures

May 28, 2011

It has been raining for days. I’ve actually lost count of how many days it’s been since I’ve seen the sun. Obviously, rain can be depressing. Humans crave sunlight. The cold and wet make the outside unappealing. But for me, the worst part is the sinus headaches.

My nasal cavities are a functional barometer. I can tell when rain is coming. I can certainly tell when it is raining. Unfortunately, the price for this superpower is a dull, persistent ache at my temples and under my eyes that makes me want to claw my face off.

Low Pressure: Why I’ll never climb Mt. Everest
 

Fortunately, a lifetime dealing with headaches has left me with an arsenal of fixes. Some are probably slightly less effective than rubbing myself with a chicken gizzard in the light of the full moon, but I’ll quite happily take the placebo effect as well.

Arvik’s Home Headache Remedies

Drugs. Not exactly a home remedy, but I tend to want pain relief more than anything else. I basically have my own pharmacy that I carry with me, and let me say… it does come in handy.

Sleep. Sometimes the best (and only) way to escape for a few hours and have a chance of feeling better after. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up thinking drugsdrugsdrugsdrugs. Those mornings usually don’t bode well.

Protein and/or Sugar. Low blood sugar can trigger and exacerbate headaches. Protein is awesome because it takes longer to digest- the body can go to work on it like a dog gnawing on a bone.

Cool cloths. Actually, I don’t have a cloth. I have a beanbag thing you stick in the fridge and then place over your eyes. I like it, though I always forget to put it back

Things I Wish Were Headache Cures

Unicorn Horn. Just press the horn (either still attached to the unicorn or not) to your head, and voila! Instant pain relief.

Time Machine. I would assume that people will find a lasting cure for headaches in the future. You could go forward in time, steal a few samples, and return. Alternatively, you could just go to a time when you don’t have a headache.

Witch’s Spell. Witches are notoriously pricey, but if it’s a skilled spell-caster, it may be worth it. Long gone are the days of bubbling broths of eye of newt and breath of fish. Modern witches are all about compacting their potions into efficient little capsules. No fuss, no muss, and no smell.

Magic Spring. Bathing in or drinking magic waters is likely to be less expensive than paying for a spell. They’re just harder to find. However, it should be noted that drinking from a magic spring ought to be doubly effective, since many headaches are caused/worsened by dehydration.

Madame Pomfrey. She can heal anything!

The Doctor. Ditto (actually, one of the main reasons I really like my doctor is because he reminds me of Voyager’s doctor).

 

The Doctor. Dealing with human brains and their pains has got to be easier than dealing with time streams, right?

Pillow stuffed with feathers from the wings of a sphinx. Sphinxes are clever. Not only would I imagine that this pillow would be good for your headache, it may enable some subliminal learning.

Alas, until these latter cures are most feasible… I’m off to grab my cool-pack and take a pill.

-Arvik

 

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The Planning of Novels and Expeditions

May 24, 2011

I think I’m nearly ready. June 1st is my current “deadline” to finish prewriting and start the actual writing of my current work-in-progress (which I’m sure will eventually acquire a code name of some sort). It feels strangely like I’m finalizing the details of an Everest attempt.

As long-time readers know, the novel-writing process as a journey is a metaphor of which I’m quite fond. I think it does help to make things seem a bit more concrete- it’s easier to accomplish tangible tasks (or so I find). And honestly, it’s fun to think of the writing as an epic quest in itself.

Whether you’re setting out for far-off lands literally or figuratively, a plan is a good thing. Scuba divers have a saying, “Plan the dive and dive the plan.” Here’s mine:

Know your route

Usually, you know your start and end points. It’s the stuff in the middle that gets hazy. Have a map. I tend to have a list of plot points to serve as “landmarks.” Do I always know how to get from landmark to landmark? No. And sometimes that lets me discover really cool detours and diversions along the way.

Is it enough to tell me when I’m lost? Mostly. And it’s certainly useful for keeping track of how far you’ve come and how far you have to go.

Pack Accordingly

I always envy light packers. Lugging an overstuffed suitcase up and down staircases is not fun. However, it’s hard to go too light- freezing because you forgot your sweater is no picnic either.

Same goes for prewriting and worldbuilding. You can’t go too light, or you won’t have the details on hand when you need them. But if you “overpack,” you may never actually start. Perpetually adding “just one more thing” to your story bible may be as useful as tossing in a parka for your trip to Hawaii.

Know your travel buddies

It’s a good thing to know whether you can get along with your travel companions before you start out. While the open road always holds surprises, you can mostly tell ahead of time whether a particular person is one you wouldn’t mind sharing a tent with. Likewise, you should have a pretty good grasp of your characters. Of course they can turn around and surprise you partway through- that’s part of the fun. And, just like running into fellow travellers at hostels, you’ll pick up new people along the way. 

I like to know the main characters fairly well before I start out… and know that they’re people I’ll be able to live with every day for months on end. 

Onwards!

-Arvik

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A Day in the Ideal Life…

May 14, 2011

Lately, I’ve been musing about life. More specifically, the day-to-day shape of my life, and how the future might play itself out. In job interviews, and guidance/career counsellors’ offices, people sometimes ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve always found that question hard to answer. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in five years. Obviously, writing is Plan A.

But it’s notoriously difficult to get published. Harder still to make a living from writing. And my Plan B? At this point, it’s looking like academia.

Which means I could be spending my life in a pizza-box shack.

Naturally, this caused me some anxiety. However, always one to look on the bright side of life (insert obligatory whistles here, here, and here), I decided to plan out a day in my ideal life.

6:30: Wake up. Admire the sun rising over the ocean, because I’ll be living in a house beside the sea (fingers crossed).

7:00-8:00: Swim/run/bike/whatever.

8:00-9:00: Leisurely breakfast while reading the newspaper and doing the crossword.

9:00-10:00: Surfing the net and taking care of emails, etc.

10:00-11:00: Read

11:00-12:00: Read more, if I’m engrossed. Otherwise, video games.

12:00-12:30: Lunch

12:30-1:30: Casual stroll

1:30-4:30: WRITE (presumably with breaks)

4:30: Rest/run errands

5:00: Make dinner

5:30-6:30: Dinner and cleaning up dinner

6:30-7:30: Read. Or watch Dr. Who. Or Andromeda. Or Star Trek.

7:30-10:30: WRITE

11:00: Go to bed.

Of course, as I reread this, I realize this chart leaves out the spontaneous-social-fun things. Like time with friends and loved ones. Those are important too, and certainly part of an ideal life.

But I think the major stuff is all there. Lots of reading, lots of writing, a good dose of outside time (I’ve decided I’m secretly part dog- I need to be let out every day, or I start chewing the furniture), and a good dose of gaming.

What’s in your ideal life?

-Arvik

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What are you learning?

April 30, 2011

Sometimes writing is hard.

“How hard can it be?” people ask. “You’re sitting there typing! How is that hard?”

I try to ignore those people. Singing in my head usually helps. Singing out loud helps more, but then I get weird looks.

We all know why writing is hard, but an excerpt from the list  includes:

  • Rejection
  • Self-doubt
  • Writer’s block
  • Making the committment to finish what you’ve started
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Missing out on other things
  • Guilt
  • Frightening, disturbing, and icky characters/plot threads
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Hermitage

And so forth. Luckily, the list of why writing is awesome is so long, I don’t think I can fit it here (not today anyway, but that’s an idea for the future).

Getting sidetracked. When I’m struggling, which happens fairly regularly, I find it helpful to ask, “What am I learning from this?”

Someone’s interrupting my writing time? I’m learning patience and tact.

Harsh criticism? I’m learning to take it and thicken my skin.

Feeling like I’m secretly a talentless fraud and I’m doomed to live in a pizza box shack? I’m learning persistance. Also, probably that I should think about dinner.

It works for other things too. When I look back at other writing I’ve done over the years, I can see that a lot of it is… well, let’s say, “not very good.” However, what my fledgling efforts do have going for them is that I can track what I’ve learned. It’s like tracing evolutionary trees:

With enough perspective, you can see the changes over time. Knowing how far you’ve come and realizing how much you’ve learned is hugely motivating, because it hits you: whatever rough patch you’re facing is one more step along the way. And if you can learn something from it, you’ll be back on the road that much sooner.

What are you learning?

-Arvik

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An Intergalactic Dictionary

April 27, 2011

Beta Reader (noun):

1. A trusted associate who reads and offers comments on an edited first draft.

2. The person from whom you will alternately dread and crave hearing a response.

Chosen One (noun):

1. A character who is unaware of their hidden greatness, but who will somehow, inexplicably and very often despite their own incompetence, save his/her world.

2. Harry Potter (who is not a typical “chosen one” incidentally, as his importance derives from the fact that Voldemort chose him as the wizard more likely to be a threat)

Coffee (noun):

1. A mild stimulant deriving from the coffee bean.

2. Many writers’ (and adults’) drug of choice.

Con (noun):

1. A gathering of fans, usually of science fiction and/or fantasy, to discuss and celebrate the chosen object/field of their devotion.

2. The means and the ends of fandom.

Edit (verb):

1. The process of revising a first draft.

2. The process of attacking your ms with a red pen and “murdering your darlings.”

Fanboy/girl (noun):

A person who follows and enjoys a story, series, universe, or person, but to a greater degree than a typical “fan.”

Fantasy (noun):

1. Speculative fiction in which magic and/or the supernatural play a central role in the story.

2. The literature of what couldn’t be, but is.

Geekgasm (noun):

An experience of overwhelming joy induced by contact with an object, idea, person, or event which stimulates the geek centre of the brain.

Geekgasm (verb):

To experience a geekgasm. Often identified by a silly, beaming grin, a high-pitched squeal, and a happy dance.

Genre (noun):

1. A means by which books are classified.

2. An attribute of a book which often receives far more attention and/or judgement than it deserves.

Internet (noun):

1. The medium across which computers exchange information.

2. Your best friend and worst enemy.

List (noun):

1. An efficient means of organizing information.

2. Evidently, a form of energy. To be without “list” is to be passive and unresponsive.

Josephine grunted listlessly.

Mary-Sue (noun):

The protagonist of badly-written fanfiction, sometimes a thinly veiled portrayal of the author. The character is universally loved and has no physical or personality flaws save perfection and being intensely irritating.

Nightmare (noun):

1. A frightening dream.

2. A spirit-horse which forces you to ride it to various evil realms and gatherings.

3. A potential source of inspiration.

Notebook (noun):

1. A small book with blank, lined pages.

2. An object which, in large numbers, can hypnotize writers.

Pirate (noun):

1. Seafaring murderers and thieves who are often romanticized as being the jolly epitomes of awesome.

2. Someone who illegally downloads music and/or films.

Podcast (noun):

An audio programme, similar to a radio show, distributed over the internet and most frequently listened to on iPods.

Podcast Novel (noun):

A unique medium of novel, in which the story is read aloud on a podcast. It may include voice actors, music, and sound effects along with the actual narrative.

Science Fiction (noun):

1. Speculative fiction in which nonexistent, but plausible, technology and/or physical laws play a central role in the story.

2. The literature of what could be, but isn’t.

Speculative Fiction (noun):

1. Fiction wherein some element intrinsically different from the writer’s own empirical experience of natural laws is essential to the story.

2. A legitimate genre of literature.

3. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and their various subgenres.

Steampunk (noun):

1. A creative re-imagining of the Victorian Era, particularly the London milieu, with an emphasis on speculative steam-based technology.

2. What happens when Goth kids discover the colour brown (attr. I Should Be Writing).

Time paradox (noun):

1. A paradox resulting from following the circular logic of time travel.

2. A plot device.

3. A terrible thing to think about if you have insomnia and are lying awake at 2 a.m.

Tribe (noun):

The greater community of writers.

Vampire (noun):

An undead human who survives by drinking blood. Contrary to some misguided beliefs, they do not sparkle.

Writer (noun):

Someone who writes.

Writing (verb):

1. The act of transcribing or setting words down in print/type.

2. The act of creating a story with fully-realized plot, characters, and theme.

Worldbuilding (noun):

1. The process of creating an imaginary, functioning world and its various components, including religions, geography, history, cultures, and economy.

2. Something really, really fun, and really, really important… that can become a really, really good way to procrastinate if one isn’t careful.

Zombie (noun):

1. An undead creature who survives by eating brains.

2. Something which ought not to be present and/or functioning, but is.

When Joe’s computer sent spam without Joe’s knowledge, Joe realized it had become a zombie computer.

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A Serious Post

April 25, 2011

Yesterday’s post was full of fun and frolic, which is generally how we roll here at Intergalactic Writers Inc. However, as long-time readers will know, there is sometimes a need to lower the mask of comedy, to do away with the smokescreens of jokes and wisecracks. There is sometimes a need to be serious.

This is one of those times.

I learned today that a young man with whom I went to elementary school took his own life. What’s worse, I learned that this was not a recent event; indeed, it was just over a year ago.

There is very little more chilling than reading the name of someone who has died… and realizing you knew them.

I had not seen this boy for years. I cannot honestly say that we were friends in elementary school. We behaved as little boys and girls do in elementary school- he threw balls of paper at me, and I avoided sitting too close to him. Then he moved to another city, and I never saw or spoke to him again.

Nevertheless.

I knew him. He is in my class photos, and I am in his. I can still see him, hunched over a math test, reading a book, looking away innocently as I brushed another paper wad off my desk. We were never friends, but neither was there genuine hostility between us. And he is gone, has in fact been gone for quite some time.

Looking at those class photos, you would never guess.

My deepest condolences are to his family. I cannot imagine what they have gone through. But I do, perhaps, have some inkling of what their child felt. And that is perhaps the root of this sick knot lodged in the pit of my stomach: the deep empathy from having known him, and having faced similar demons.

So I would like to take this opportunity to say: there is help. If you are suffering now, or if you know someone who is suffering, the darkness does not have to be faced alone. There is no shame in the fight, nor is there shame in asking for help. The mind is an organ, like the liver, like the heart, like the lungs. People with heart disease have no stigma attached to taking blood pressure medication or switching to a low-sodium diet. There should be no stigma attached to mental illness.

But there is. And this has to stop, because it is ultimately the silence that kills. The silence of the sufferer, and the silence of those who look back in retrospect and say, “I guess I did notice…”  

There are always, always, always options. Even in the blackest night of the soul, there is hope. So long as you live, there is hope. Please, if you know someone who is hurting, don’t stand by, even if help seems to be the last thing they want or need. Please, if you are hurting, know that people care for you, and that there is always help available. Asking for help does not make you weak. Asking for help is, in fact, one of the greatest acts of courage you can do.

Speak up. Speak out. Don’t stop speaking.

-Arvik

Kids Help Phone: http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/teens/home/splash.aspx

Hope Line: http://www.hopeline.com/

Teens’ Hope Line: http://www.teenhopeline.com

Directory of American Crisis Hotlines: http://www.psychotherapist.net/crisis-hotlines.htm

Directory of Canadian Crisis Hotlines: http://www.ementalhealth.ca/canada/en/_Telephone_Crisis_Lines_a1_b21.html

Directory of British Crisis Hotlines: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/support/mental_health_emotional_usefulcontacts_index.shtml

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I was told there would be no math

April 14, 2011

And yet I’ve been mulling the following equations:

2 exams tomorrow + 1 night to study = Chance I’ll live.

Simple enough.

Now throw in a variable. Namely, Libera, which formed much of the “soundtrack” for my writing, is hitting Canada for the first time.

2 exams tomorrow + 1 night to study + 1 night only to see a concert = ?

2 exams + 1 night to study + 1 night only to see a concert – Sleep = Tired but happy Arvik

Ideally, our little mathematical proof should result in “Tired but happy and successful Arvik.” However, I’m not sure I can make that proof work without a little fudging.

Which leads to this:

Exam > Concert

or

Exam < Concert

or

Exam = Concert?

Luckily, we can rewrite the terms thus:

Exam = Material I know well in courses in which I have high marks

Concert = Once-in-a-lifetime-chance I never thought I’d have

Therefore: (Material I know well in courses in which I have high marks) < (Once-in-a-lifetime-chance I never thought I’d have)

The math works out. After all, they say cramming the night before is bad, right?

-Arvik