New Infographic! How to Troubleshoot and Revise a Scene

I was looking for something else on my hard drive when I stumbled across this infographic that I had written a few years ago, and which turned up missinRandRSceneg. I remember looking for it and not being able to find it anywhere. I gave up, assuming that I had closed Word without saving.

But it turns out, I had dumped it in the root My Documents directory. Where I never put anything. Or so I thought. Turns out there’s all kinds of miscellaneous stuff in there, which I now should go through. Maybe I’ll find another hidden treasure.

It’s based on this post:

How to Troubleshoot and Rewrite a Scene …

It now has top billing at my Infographics page.

Making Some Changes

I had to adjust to a new reality recently. In fact, I’m still going through it.

Losing over 40 pounds has not been without its side-effects. You never hear about the drawbacks of weight loss, only the benefits. Well–not to discourage anyone who is trying to lose weight–my particular drawback has been a new sensitivity in my hips and tailbone.

Do I want to gain the weight back? Absolutely not. So far, the benefits still outweigh the costs. I am now down to half a blood pressure pill a day, and the Florida heat hardly bothers me at all anymore. I fit into the world better, making it more comfortable. But I realized that I needed to do something about this chronic pain if I want to get back to my old writing schedule. And I started in the past few weeks.

The first change is I moved my recliner into a different room, and moved an old reclining couch back in our family room. The reclining couch does not recline back as far as my old rocking recliner, so all my weight does not end up concentrated in one place at the base of my spine. I also realized that some strategic positioning of cushions has been making the problem worse, not better.

The second change is to move my writing area back to an actual desk, instead of any recliner. So I bought a nice office chair and started working at an old writing desk I had. However, my laptop is too large to fit into the area designed for the smaller laptops of yesteryear (ok, so the desk isn’t that old), and the drawer prevents me from pulling my new office chair all the way up. I looked around for a nice corner desk, but they were all too elaborate and expensive, and looked too difficult to move. (I know because I’ve had such desks in the past.) I will be visiting a used office furnishing store this week to see if I can find an old Steelcase corner unit, but in the meantime, I have pushed two 4-foot tables into an L shape. It is comfortable enough that I have been able to work here off-and-on for most of the day. My next book finally feels like it is taking shape.

The last change I am making is exercises to pump up my — er — derriere. There’s no fat at the base of my butt anymore (although there’s still plenty higher up), but I know there’s muscle back there, so if I can bulk it up a bit, maybe it won’t hurt to sit anymore. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past ten years, is to not let your muscles atrophy. It actually causes pain. My shoulders usually don’t bother me anymore, and if they do, a nice round of the same exercises that my therapist taught me is as good as a pain pill. The same kind of thinking keeps my feet from hurting. An old friend who was born with no kneecaps told me that if she had not kept exercising over the years, she’d be in a wheelchair by now. So where there’s pain, I tend to add exercise. I’ll report later if it helps–I just started yesterday.

I guess these are good problems to have, rather than the problems my obesity were causing and threatening to cause to my health. Still, a problem is a problem, and it’s encouraging to take some steps to solve it. The last step I intend to take is to mention the issue at my annual physical, which I need to schedule. Hopefully the doctor will be able to recommend some things I haven’t thought of.

Slacking off!

Wow, I’ve been slacking off here quite a bit. I won’t bore you with excuses; instead, I’ll let you know a little of what I’ve been up to.

Reading

I mentioned a while back that I was knocked flat by some very powerful antibiotics. I believe I am fully recovered from that, but am now plagued some other annoying stuff while my system keeps getting back into whack. While doing that, I’ve done some reading, including the first book of The Legacy of Gird: Surrender None, by Elizabeth Moon. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if the ending was a bit anticlimactic. Gird was almost as likable as Paks was, but Surrender None failed to bring me to tears or to establish quite as deep a connection. But that’s not much of a critique because Paks was one of my favorite all-time characters. That bar is a bit high to reach.

I am now struggling through the second book in the set, Liar’s Oath. To me, the characters in this book just aren’t as engaging as Gird was, and I just can’t care much about Luap. I fail to muster much curiosity as to the true identity of Autumn Rose. I am not sure I’ll get through this one. I wonder why Moon felt–and apparently, continues to feel in her current series–that she had to write about other characters than Paksenarrion. The current series actually lost my suspension of disbelief because so much havoc is going on and Paks is nowhere to be found.

I also tried a reread of The Once and Future King by T. H. White, also one of my all-time favorites. However, I’m wondering if the hardback I purchased used is some sort of unabridged version, because really is plodding along. The version I read years ago was much better-paced. I have skipped over vast tracts of story, especially where pointless dialog just goes on for page after page. Eventually I gave it up to pick up The Legacy of Gird, which had languished on my bookshelf for quite a while.

While I read these books, my daughter is chewing through some Mark Twain. She read (and laughed) her way through Tom Sawyer, and then had to read a book for school that she didn’t enjoy nearly as much, and she picked The Prince and the Pauper to read next. In order to establish good reading habits, I have been reading beside her every night for a half hour before she crashes.

Writing

I am now shopping two books (both books in the Forthcoming section of this site), and while I do that, I’ve been planning the second book in each series. I am further along in the time travel series, but I have an entire five-book arc planned in the fantasy, and those books will be much easier to write.

I worked out some plot complications yesterday afternoon while taking a walk, so I do believe I’ll work on that now.

A Study of the Foils of Darth Vader

I finally saw the new Star Wars movie. To me, it was a mixed bag. The heroes were very likable, but the villain was flawed, and not in a good way. Overall, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars. But this is not a Star Wars review.

I was trying to pinpoint why the villain didn’t work for me. To do so, I compared him to his own hero, Darth Vader. I was explaining to my husband about how Vader was made more sympathetic through the skillful use of foils, when I wondered if that new Star Wars villain is, in fact, a foil for that other evil dude. But then I realized that that didn’t work–we didn’t see nearly enough of that other guy for him to require a foil.

What do I mean by a foil? Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.

I have no way of knowing if this is what Lucas intended, but I could identify two Vader foils. In A New Hope, it is Grand Moff Tarkin.

Grand_Moff_Tarkin

This is the general-like character, who is first introduced in a meeting of Imperial officers when he orders Vader to stop his choke hold on another character. Vader obeys with an “As you wish,” and immediate obedience. It makes an impression. We already know Vader’s a badass–and this is the guy that Vader obeys.

The movie hints at a bit of friendship between them. In a later scene, he says to Vader, “The Jedi are extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.” He seems sincere when he calls Vader “my friend”.

How does he contract with Vader? One way is to examine the reactions of characters who know him.

  • Leia, when first seeing Vader: “Darth Vader. Only you could be so bold.”
  • Leia, when first seeing Tarkin: “Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

Vader is merely “bold”, while Tarkin provokes a somewhat unhinged response.

Finally, we have Vader’s preferred method of coercion vs. Tarkin’s. Vader uses a torture robot brandishing a needle and a high-pitched whine. Tarkin blows up an entire planet.

So yeah–Vader is bad, but Tarkin is much more ruthless. At the end of A New Hope, he’s blown away, so we need another foil. A bigger, badder foil.

Enter, the Emperor.

Emperor_RotJ

With the Emperor, we have two movies to establish him, and contrast him to Vader. As the movies reveal the Emperor, they are also revealing Vader. We first see Vader without his mask–albeit from behind–and we know that there’s a terrible reason he wears it. But there is a man under there. He is no cyborg. The Emperor barely looks human even though he has skin. Something has twisted him.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, there is evidence of discord between Vader and the Emperor when Vader proposes that he and Luke rule the galaxy as father and son.

It continues in Return of the Jedi, where we see and hear much more of the Emperor. Here’s a good scene that shows the contrast:

Moff Jerjerrod: The Emperor’s coming here?

Darth Vader: That is correct, Commander. And, he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.

Moff Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts.

Darth Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.

It makes you wonder, because Vader has hardly been forgiving so far. We especially see Vader’s struggles in the scenes with Luke, especially this one:

Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.

Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.

Luke: Then my father is truly dead.

The words, “It is too late for me” is laden with regret. After the scene, Vader is left alone in the corridor, and there is a moment of silence.

~*~

So what do you think? Do you agree that these two characters served as foils for Vader? Can you think of any foils for the other major characters?

Knocked Flat by Antibiotics

Hopefully, I’m back.

Where have I been? It’s kind of an epic. A lot of people, when they get sick, hang out online. When I get sick, I go low-tech. I read lots of books. The only time I fire up the computer is to lose myself in a computer game. So that’s where I’ve been.

I wasn’t “sick” sick. No fever, runny nose, or chills. I had an infected sebaceous cyst. It had been growing larger and larger for a number of years, and it started feeling funny just after Easter, so I went to see my PA about getting it removed. She gave me a referral to a dermatologist to get it drained. But I never had a chance to get it drained, because it started swelling and turning red. Heh. I guess that’s why it felt funny.

I left her a message, but the doctor called me back instead. This was on a Tuesday. He put me on an antibiotic with a steroid, and warned me that I may need to get it lanced. Ouch. That just sounded so painful. I took the antibiotics, but by Friday, it was clear that it was only getting worse. I went in and as we walked in the door, he said, “Miss Patricia (my real name), are we going to have to do surgery?”

I said, I think so. I showed it to him, and it had already started to rupture.

With the help of an assistant, he cut two small incisions into the cyst, and then proceeded to squeeze the hell out of it. The damned thing was about ten years old, and it took significant effort to squeeze all that crap out. It hurt way worse than the incisions. He handed me a script for a truly wicked antibiotic called clindamycin, told me to draw a circle around the red area, and to change to this new antibiotic if the redness spread outside the circle.

My sweet husband went to fill that prescription at 10:00 that night.

The clindamycin kicked that infection right in the ass. The wound would heal at a miraculous rate, and then would break open to drain, only to heal over again. This went on for a week. It finally healed for the last time, but remains an ugly purple scar.

A week and a day after I took that last pill, the fun began. I won’t in all the gory details, but ever since I took those antibiotics, I have had every type of infection you can have, except for parasites. This includes a case of shingles that turned out to be mercifully mild. I now have a toothache, and I think the timing is suspicious. I can’t find any kind of lesion or broken skin around that tooth, but it looks like I’ll have to let the dentist see for himself. You can bet I’ll be telling him about the clindamycin.

So what have I been reading? I finished Karen Azinger’s Silk & Steel Saga, which is a seven book series. I reviewed the first three books here. I read the second book in Blake Charlton’s series (here’s a review of the first book).  I read a debut called The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore. He doesn’t have a website, which I find baffling, but he has a Wikipedia page.

What computer games have I been playing? I discovered that my old PC copy of Skyrim plays quite nicely on my PC, so I started a new game. I never seem to finish these games, so this time, I did something different–I jumped right into the main quest. I finished the Civil War, and now I’m about two-thirds of the way through the main quest. My character is a paladin/spellsword who specializes in one-handed, block, heavy armor, restoration, speechcraft, smithing, and enchanting. She has been single-minded in her focus, and has pursued very few quests outside of her main residences. It’s so much funner this way.

What have you been up to?

Quick Update

Hi, everyone. I see it has been a while since I last posted. All is well; I guess you can call it an extended hiatus. I also really want to get off wordpress.com and back onto a self-hosted wordpress implementation. I think my enthusiasm will return once I have full control over my site again. I just need to be able to combat spammers, so I am being quite picky about web hosting.

Other than that, it has been the same old stuff for me. I have a stack of books that I’d like to review, and another stack to read. I have also been writing and revising and polishing–also as usual. And–I must admit–I have been playing entirely too much Skyrim. (I discovered that my new computer plays Skyrim quite well, to the detriment of my more productive endeavors. So it’s really like playing it for the first time.)

So I’m off to review web hosts! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Time Trip – Card Catalogs and Microfiche Viewers

Everyone who uses the Internet knows that research is a cinch. No matter what the obscure topic, you can find info on it within, say, a half hour. The Internet is the collective knowledge of entire cultures.

Back in the day, you might have actually broken a sweat while doing research.Those encyclopedias were heavy.

Wikipedia’s Weighty Ancestors

Just a few decades ago, every responsible parent seriously considered purchasing a set of encyclopedias at about the time their little scholars hit the later years of elementary school. It was a heavy investment. My 14.99 annual subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica’s app is cheap by comparison.

UBN_Collier's_EncyclopediaThe reason for this investment was because the encyclopedia was where all research started. And that was all they were intended to be. Most topics only had a paragraph or two. Some had a page, maybe two or three. A few were as thick as a chapter in a book.

My own Dad purchased his encyclopedia set while he was in graduate school. It was somewhat dated by the time we were researching science projects. The moon landings were still speculative, and the Gemini missions were still in flight. I recall that its depiction of the neanderthal was based on the now-discredited Piltdown Man. They were still quite useful. I loved to browse through them, and I used it to learn basic sign language. I taught it to a friend, which we used as a secret language until it got us into trouble with our fifth grade teacher.

Dad subscribed to the annual yearbooks through the early 70s. Each yearbook consisted of another thick tome to add to the end of the set, with the year printed on the spine in large gold letters. They made for fascinating reading about what happened that year, similar to Wikipedia’s entries on individual years. (If you didn’t know about that, here’s 1922.)

Card Catalogs

card-catalogelementary-7-638Your next step in your research odyssey was to get your butt to the library.

The card catalog–depending on the size of the library–was also a vast index to a large number of obscure topics. Learning how to use them was required by the 4th grade or so, and by the 7th grade, you generally knew the Dewey Decimal System well enough to navigate the stacks with some degree of competence. You’d find your topic in the catalog, write down the location numbers, and locate your books on the shelf–clustered together by topic. Then you’d lug the books to a table and got to work.

At the end of each book, you’d find a bibliography which would lead you, like hyperlinks, to the author’s own sources. Following these retro hyperlinks meant tracking down libraries with the book you needed, driving there, and checking them out. You could also use the inter-library loan system, wherein a library van would circulate among area libraries, delivering books that had been requested by patrons at each one. This method, however, involved patience.

Years ago, my pet historical topic was the first Crusade. I read every book on the subject that I could get my hands on, from both sides of the conflict. One source that was often referenced was The Alexiad by Anna Comnena. It was a rare that any of these sources were women. She was the daughter of the emperor of the Byzantine empire, and wrote about the crusaders when they passed through Constantinople. I tried to track down a translated copy without success for several years before I finally found it in my college library. It was a lot of work just to read a few chapters. Nowadays, you can Google “the alexiad” and have a copy on your hard drive in about 30 seconds.

Microfiche Viewers

For microfiche, I give you this video:

Microfiche also comes by the spool, and those are really fun. You can speed by images so fast that they almost blur together, and then stop when you see something interesting. It’s like driving through newspapers. Don’t race through the pages for a long time, however. The librarian is sure to come along–like a traffic cop–and ask you to slow down.

Advantages over Today’s Tech

I like to include this section because when you upgrade, there’s almost always a trade-off. Sometimes, it takes a while to find because for research, the Internet is hard to beat.

Card Catalogs pointed you to books that you would never otherwise know existed (as does Google books), and encyclopedias were great for browsing through at random (yes, I know, Wikipedia has a random page option). But most of all, microfiche viewers–the spool-fed ones–are hard to beat. Browsing through images on the Internet is laborious due to the very nature of the Internet. I bet libraries have better options, but it has been a while since I’ve had to research anything that I have not been able to find on the Internet.

~*~

I came up with the idea for these Time Trips while writing my time travel novel, HIGHWAY TO YESTERDAY. For all the Time Trip posts I’ve written so far, click here.