Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Computer Blues: Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Mercury retrograde, why must you test me?  Well, technically we're only in the shadow of the retrograde, but already I'm feeling it. I'm going through fits with my computers (both of them) right now.

I bought my red HP laptop in 2015. It came with Windows 8.1, but right after I bought it, it forced me to upgrade to Windows 10. The day I upgraded to Windows 10, it wiped out my onboard webcam. I noticed but didn't worry about it too much because I'd been using my old usb webcam, which is plug and play and simple to use.

Anyway, last week, I missed the memo where the Windows 10 Anniversary update was pending. Over the weekend, I went to shut down my comp and I got a message that said it was installing updates. That's a normal thing, so I left it updating and went on to bed. It took three days to complete the installation. Part of that was to do with the lousy Louisiana weather, part was to do with the lousy net connection, another part was the download itself. Right after it had finished downloading, I kept going to the HP Support Assistant on my computer to find out if the update was necessary or if I could scrap it, but it wouldn't show me what had downloaded, much less allow me to do anything with it. It simply installed.

Now whenever I shut down my comp and bring it back up again, I get a black screen. I have to hit the power button to turn it off. If I turn it back on again quickly, it'll bring up the lock screen. I did a google search on this and it's an ongoing issue that began when the first Windows 10 upgrade was released. Seriously, Microsoft, get your act together!

I've been moving the werekind book I'm working on back and forth through my cloud storage, working on the red computer when its running right, then funneling it through the cloud to my macbook. Macbook has this weird Word glitch where the scrollbars don't show up on the documents, which is a major headache. Next pay period, I'm going to download Scrivener for Mac to see if that will make writing on the Macbook easier.

But that's not the only issue I'm currently facing. I checked my red Windows computer and it shows I have all the latest device drivers, so there's nothing more I can do at this point until Microsoft releases a patch or more updates. So, I don't have an onboard camera (for over a year now) and now I'm getting the black screen...which also doesn't have an update or patch to fix. I don't want to keep abusing the power button to boot up, though, because I'm hearing that people are ending up with fried motherboards.

A few cold links to what I'm talking about:
http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2901839/windows-broke-motherboard.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/35636-windows-10-killed-my-dell-xps-2710-a.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/9290-pc-stuck-black-screen-after-reset.html
http://www.tenforums.com/general-support/10457-fix-windows-10-booting-black-screen-14.html

And for the Mac scrollbars issue:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/310095

I tried turning off the fast startup, but that didn't fix the problem for me. It's starting to look like I'm going to have to take my red laptop to Dr. Bulldog, our repair guy.

Hubby keeps talking about how he needs a new laptop. I tell you, that's a horrible, terrible, bad bad bad idea right now. This Windows 10 issue has been a disaster, and that's not even going into the mess I went through to disable the new Microsoft owned preview version of Skype that was determined to force itself on me. I don't want Hubz buying a new Windows based laptop when Win 10 is killing off motherboards with this shoddy OS. Somehow I'm going to have to convince him to wait until this mess with Windows 10 gets ironed out...or convince him to get a Macbook. Seriously, all these tech issues are enough to give anyone the computer blues. ♥

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Good Signs, Good Times

School starts this coming week, so yesterday, Hubby and I took Bub and Mini over to Academy Sports to buy new shoes. That in an of itself was mostly uneventful.

We live on the north side of the lake, so on the way to "the city" we have to cross to the south end. Right before we reached the bridge that's not really much of a bridge, Hubz said, "Hey, look what's going on out there." I was so happy to see that the place Miller's Landing is loosely based on is being rebuilt. For those who don't know, Miller's Landing is the Silver County werewolf pack's running grounds in the Werekind Series.

A few years back, the place burned to the ground. I'm not sure if it was accidental or what, but it was sad to see the place in such a state. The owners bulldozed it after it burned and put up a chain gate so no one could drive over there. Probably for safety reasons. For the longest time it looked like they were just going to leave it like that. We've sorely missed the place. Seeing it making a comeback really made my day. I'm glad the owners have decided to rebuild. •  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Going Postal: USPS Service Louisiana Style

For years, I've been telling my friends who sometimes send me little trinkets in the mail to wrap the boxes very, very well. Our paper mail and packages both have a habit of arriving opened. Anything that sounds shakeable or looks like a mailed check is particularly vulnerable. This time, the package contained my new, refurbed Macbook that I ordered last week. In the past, I've posted pictures of packages that have arrived to me opened, but this one takes the cake. Look at the condition this box was in upon arrival. The driver dropped it off at my door and was gone in a flash. I didn't even have time to put on my flip flops, before he was gone. I honestly can't say I'm surprised.
To me, this is completely unacceptable condition. I've filed a formal complaint with USPS and listed my local post office as the culprit, and I've offered pictures as well as my tracking number as evidence. I even did a screen grab of the tracking info. The computer shipped from Florida, and was listed as in transit, no descriptions...until it arrived at our local post office. There, it was initially listed as "arrived at unit" with no description. Seven minutes later it's listed as "arrived at unit VISIBLY DAMAGED". Those are the exact words. Another six minutes later, it was re-listed yet again as "arrived at unit." No damage listed. Suspicious, no? I screen grabbed all that info and am saving it as evidence. I will absolutely 100% agree to be interviewed and give over any pertinent info when USPS gets back in touch with me.

The power cord shown in the picture was unwrapped and practically falling out of the box. The wad of bubble wrap it had been contained in was floating loose inside the box. Draw your own conclusions regarding that one. To say I'm pissed off about that is a gross understatment.  


At any rate, the computer seems to be in good working order. Thankfully it got here before the heavy rains started this afternoon. I immediately took it out of the box, or rather, the box fell apart at the side seam when I took the tape off it...because it was wet. Even the inside of the box was damp. I was extremely worried about the condition computer at that point, but when I took it out of the box, it was wrapped in a huge wad of large-sized bubble wrap. The unit didn't feel damp, and thankfully there was no breaking or chipping of the casing, or damage to the screen. It fired right up when I plugged it in and turned it on, and I had no trouble connecting to the net, etc. etc. So far, so good. Even so, I'm going to use it for a few days to make sure nothing goes wrong with it before I say for sure I'm keeping it. The sellers have an unconditional return policy, and while I really hope I don't have to return it, that's at least some insurance in case the comp appears to have problems. That's all I need is to be stuck with an expensive disaster. •

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The War of Art...And Writerly Motivation

I've probably talked about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield here on the blog before. It's about writer's resistance and breaking creative blocks. Along with this book, I read Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit (also by Pressfield), which I liked a little more. That said, I'm not sure if it's because it's actually better, or just because I read it first, so I'll leave it at that. What matters is that, at the end of the day, The War of Art is a damn good book.

I'm writing about it today, because of all the motivational writing type books that I've read over the years, this one has probably been the most helpful "kick to the pants" I've received as far as books go.

It's setup like a series of short, to the point essays, which makes it easy to read. Some of the sections are a couple of pages long, while others are as short as a paragraph. The generous mix makes for fast reading, with no padding or filler. It's one of those books you and sit and read half of it in one sitting, then pick it up a day later and polish it off. Compulsive reading. Good stuff.

Other books that are similar that I've liked are Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) and Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert). Both have their strong points, so I can easily recommend those two. However if you're having trouble simply getting words on the page, I highly recommend The War of Art and Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, by Steven Pressfield. •

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cora's Summer (and Writing) Adventures

Used courtesy of inky2010 and openclipart.org
I'm not ready for the summer to be over. I've had such a good writing stretch these past couple of months, which has been a nice change of pace for me. I'm now working my way through revisions. That in and of itself is a reason to celebrate. More about that in a minute.

Mini heads back to school on the 25th, which is just a few days before my birthday, then Oldest's birthday is the day after mine. We're planning a joint birthday gathering at my mom and dad's house to celebrate, and in the meantime, I'm waiting for my new/refurbed laptop to arrive. It's kinda sorta a birthday gift to myself, but not really. I bought it strictly for bookish purposes. It's a Macbook, and I need it to run a specific program I've been wanting, which isn't available for Windows PC. I'm eager to test drive the new laptop, and that new program.

So about writing and celebrations, I'm currently revising a new Werekind story, and getting it ready to release on Smashwords. It won't be much longer now. I'm aiming for a birthday release date, but at the latest it will be in early September. I finished Gemma's story first, so that's the first one I'll be releasing. After that one's up, I'll be focusing on completing Seth's story and getting that one out.

Seth's story has been an absolute bear to write. Never in my life have I had such trouble writing about someone. I've been through three different draft versions of it so far, and only recently have I managed to finesse that his character, and that storyline, into something I feel suits the characters and the existing story. I'm happy with the direction it's taken, and just as a teaser, Laney and Cole make a cameo appearance in the new version. I'm ready to get the story written and let it go! My plan is to have all the remaining "loose ends" Werekind books released by spring of 2017.

At any rate, in the here and now, Gemma's story is nearing the finish line. I also recently completed the final two fairy stories for the Twilight's Edge Collection, but I've put that project on the backburner until November while I focus on wrapping up the werewolves. I drafted another story in July as part of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don't plan to do anything else with that one for the time being. Again, I need to see to the wolves - both their frontlist and backlist stories.

So there you have it, my summer in writing. Of course, writing isn't all that has happened over this summer....

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in ER with a sprained foot. While I was cooking one evening, JakeDog pounced the top of my foot by accident (he was trying to beat SassiePup to a treat), and the pain was so bad I ended up having to go to the hospital. A round of xrays and a few bandages later, I was sent home. However, I couldn't walk on that foot for a week due to the pain.

Then, about a week after I was able to ditch the crutches, our air conditioner blew up. Literally. We had no idea that was even possible, but alas... We've had some seizing up issues with the AC in recent years, but it seemed to be working fine. Then one evening while hubby and I were outside picking figs - kaboom! This cloud of black smoke shot out of the AC. We were in the front yard; the AC is around back. We could see the cloud of black smoke shoot out over the backyard. Scared us to bits. Minibeast screamed. We're lucky no one was hurt!

So there you have it, a few Cora Adventures in parting. With hubby's work schedule, we didn't get to do a lot of the typical summery things: the beach, vacation, travel, etc., but I have no regrets on that score. Overall, it's been a peaceful, and incredibly productive summer.

That's all for now. I'll post again when something new comes up...and when the new book releases. Until next time, happy wishes!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Pre-Writing Prep

Woohoo! Camp NaNoWriMo starts on Friday, July 1st. Am I crazy enough to try writing a book in a month?  Absolutely! I've signed up to a cabin, and I'm ready to start writing. For the past two weeks I've been working on my outline and scene notes for the month long event. I'm eager to see this new book written. I love these characters, I love this story, and I'm going into the event as prepared as possible.

At the end of May, shortly before Mini's birthday, I reread part of Karen Weisner's First Draft in 30 Days, as well as Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Strike's Back, to make sure I have all my writerly tools ready for a fast draft. 

I still have a short list of research topics to take care of before Friday, and I'm still tinkering with the scenes in the finale stage of my beat sheet, but for the most part I have everything I need in place to get this story off the ground. Wish me luck! 

By the way, it's free to join the madness. If you're interested in Camp NaNoWriMo, you can sign up here: http://campnanowrimo.org/   If you decide to join in, good luck and happy writing! 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Exceptional Writing Guides || Writing Fiction: A Guide To Narrative Craft

Cover for the 8th edition.
Mom's birthday was yesterday, so party month is officially over for us until August. The mid thru last week of May is called party month because Dad, Mom, and Mini's birthdays fall within this time frame. The birthday parties are also interspersed with other events such as the last day of school, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day, so there's always a lot going on for the family in May. By the time June 1st rolls around, we're all ready for a day to relax on the couch.

That day is today. We're all doing our own thing around the house, so I thought I'd pop in here and wrap up my series covering the books I've found to be exceptional writing guides.

The last book I'm going to be showcasing for this set is Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. It's a college text book that is still in use at universities and colleges across the US, and it has many editions. I've read this book twice. I originally read the 2nd edition, which is available for borrowing free of charge at openlibrary.org with an open library membership. For my home office, I purchased and read the 8th edition, which can be picked up from Amazon for about $15.00 used, plus shipping.

I like the 8th edition better than the 2nd because of the short story selections, and there is an expanded chapter covering dialogue, but both are very good books.

There are several reasons I like this book and consider it an exceptional guide to writing. Chapter 1 kicks off with a very practical subtitle: Whatever Works, The Writing Process. I can appreciate a writing textbook that understands there isn't a single process that works for all. Nevertheless the chapter launches into a practical discussion covering how to start writing (which is not always an easy task), how to keep going, and the writer's role.

Other topics I found very helpful in Writing Fiction:

  • Writing About Emotion
  • Active Writing
  • Prose Rhythm
  • Direct Methods of Character Presentation
  • Indirect Methods of Character Presentation
  • Place and Atmosphere
  • Harmony and Conflict Between Character and Place
  • Patterns of Power
  • Connection and Disconnection
  • and Re-Vision
Other nice touches - there are author advice quotes throughout the guide, and there is a section showing a novel marked up for revision. Of course, since this is a textbook, there are generous writing exercises throughout.



What sold me on this book. I was very impressed by the amount of pages devoted to charaterisation, two full chapters, apart from the section on POV. There is also a generous section related to setting and atmosphere. Both Patterns of Power, and Connection and Disconnection are unique to this textbook, helpful, and I can't think of any other books where these concepts are thoroughly discussed.

Writing Fiction is one of the more indepth nuts and bolts writing guides I've found, and that's why it's on my list for exceptional books. The one thing that might put some people off is that this book reads like a textbook...because obviously, as I've already stated, that's exactly what it is. For reader/writers who can get past that, there is a lot of good coverage of topics that are typically glossed over in genre-specific writing guides, as well as unique writing topics you won't find in writing guides elsewhere.

That's it for now. If you'd like to check out my other book recommendation in this two part set, scroll down my blog to the post titled A Creative Writing Course in Book Form, or simply click here.

Until next time, happy wishes! ☺