Victory, Official

Well, the team at Nano are handing out winner’s certificates now, so it’s official: I’ve won Nano, with an official word count of 55,492 words. I’m still writing more of the story, but am switching to work on STRANDED tonight. I didn’t get much done over Thanksgiving, but I did get this chunk written either Wednesday night or this afternoon (don’t remember):

I shoves the monster back, between 5 and 6, dinosaur legs scrabbling, towards the loading dock shared with 7 and 8, hurling it backwards through the pedestrian rail which snaps with a tong as Mister Gargoyle falls on his fanny into a Dumpster of yesterday’s garbage.

I’m about to leap down on it and rub his face in it, yes I am, when one of those clawed extra-thick raptor legs flies out and connects with my tiger chin. I yelp, shake it off, but when I’m back to snarlin, the monster’s runnin, holdin’ its shoulder, limpin’ off into the night.

I stands on the loading dock and lets out my best bloodcurdlin’ roar. I mean, I knows he’s a gargoyle, but I hopes it gives him blood just so it can curdle. But the tiger doesn’t want to give chase, and neither does I. The two of us are of one mind: we gotta go save All Hours Todd.

I’ve captured almost all of my notes on the story, so it’s hopefully safe to shift gears. Though I have to admit it’s hard to shake the momentum.

But I have deadlines … in this case, Tuesday of next week, to get a draft of STRANDED to beta readers in time to get a final to my editors by January 31, 2012.

Onward!

-the Centaur

Chuggin’ Chuggin’ Chuggin’

Well, Instant Upload is weirdly busted so you get my smilin’ mug instead of coffee. HEX CODE is now at 55,000 words:

I’m taking it a little easier now than I was before I hit 50,000 words … taking more time to read and catch up on email, even taking time to review notes on STRANDED.

But I do want to dump the rest of my floating ideas for HEX CODE into the document while they’re fresh, so I don’t lose them. From tonight:

I saw this thing earlier, out of the corner of my eye. It easily kept up with me, lopin’ along, twice as fast now that I think about the angles, using its superior speed to keep good cover between it and my line of sight. My only hope is to sit tight and hope it leaves.

Then the dragging noise I thought was a trashcan crackles right up behind me.

I’m on quadruple frozen now, concentrating on not even moving my tail—harder than you might think if you’re not a cat and don’t got one. I gotta breathe now, but I’m taking it in slow-like, through the mouth, in and out, so that my gut hurts from clenching.

Onward!

-the Centaur

Viiiiictory for the Paper Tiger

Once again I’ve completed National Novel Writing Month. This year, I finished 8 days early. Or, put another way, THIS is what happens if you turn off the Internet during Nano:

I’ve had a number of interruptions in Nano in the past and this year was no exception. I know I can finish 38,000 words in 10 days and I was initially trying to push to finish at twice the rate, or perhaps finish two books. Well, that didn’t happen because of the Galaxy Nexus launch and you can see that in my progress here:

That chasm was the Galaxy Nexus launch (and a few other things tossed in there). But I made it through that, and ultimately succeeded today, sitting in a Starbucks at Santana Row here in San Jose (actually pictured is Michael’s Gelato in Palo Alto because the pic from Santana Row hasn’t uploaded).

Normally I survive Nano by taking the whole of Thanksgiving week off for a nine day writing intensive. But this time, I’ve finished early. I still have more to write on HEX CODE, of course, but I now have the luxury of leaning back and thinking through a few twists to the plot, with 50,000 words under my belt making the story solid. So … I can actually take this vacation … as a vacation.

So without further ado I present a snippet of the story that was written today … raw Nano, unfiltered except for a little reformatting and removing some author’s notes.

When I found out that Ben was human, or more accurately that elf meant human with special sauce, blabbermouth old me just had to go tell Mom. Then blabbermouth old me had to make up a story of how I found out, which involved a clever lie about school.

Not so clever. That just called Mom’s attention to the fact that she now had two underage wards in need of schooling. Getting me into the Clairmont Academy was a pain in the ass, but now they all love us, so getting Ben in was as simple as selecting a school uniform.

And boy, does he look hot in it. Hot hot hot. The points to his ears and the green in his skin and the red in the sweater, it’s like Christmas, and that poofy green helmet makes him look like a school uniform tree—when girls aren’t comin up to tousle it.

They’re all lookin’ at him. I was sure he had a glamour, but now I’m thinkin it made him look scary. Now he just looks like a boy, a hot boy with funky green hair the girls can’t resist. A passing one does it again and darts off, and I feels for him! He winces, but he clearly likes it.

“So, Cinnamon,” Surrey says, setting her tray down, “will you—oh, hello.”

“Hello,” Ben says, and there would be a dotted line in the air between their elfin eyes. Surrey’s too frozen to sit down, so Ben stands up, takes her hand, and kisses it with a flourish. “Greetings from the halls of Appalachia, oh princess of Scandinavia.”

“Oh, siddown,” I says, and Ben sits down with a plop. He glares at me, but I ignores him. “Ben, this is Surrey Eddington, one of my best friends. Surrey Eddington, this is Benjamin Damon.” My smile grows mean. “He’s my house elf.”

“I swear, Cinnamon Frost,” Ben growls, “by the gleaming halls of elfland—”

“By the power of Greyskull,” Megan says, sitting down next to the still-smitten Surrey. “Oh, hey, what are you?” she says, and Ben near jumps out of his seat—then plops back down again as Megan scratches her head and says, “Wait … I’m doing it again, aren’t I?”

Next up I plan on … chilling out, having a nice dinner, and joining my writing group for the evening to review my outstanding projects. First up is probably finishing the edit of STRANDED for my beta readers … and then finishing Dakota Frost 3, LIQUID FIRE.

Or perhaps I’ll just chill out and clean up my library for Thanksgiving, and thank God I have it. Good luck in Nano, all!

-the Centaur

Why You Need to Turn off the Internet in Nano

HEX CODE has an epigraph, a quote by Cicero. I’m not sure whether it will stay in the final book, but it sums up the theme of the book for me perfectly:

Nature urges Man to wish that human society existed and to wish to enter it.
—Marcus Tullius Cicero, first historically verified werewolf.

The quote is my own tweak of a couple of different translations of this quote by Cicero – and of course Cicero wasn’t really a werewolf.

But I wanted to look up something about him, some damn thing about his tomb or whatever (not knowing at the time he’d been assassinated by the state and probably has no tomb) and made the stupid mistake of checking on Wikipedia.

The sorry result, 30 minutes later, is what you see above. I’m turning off the Internet now, and I hope if you’re doing Nano you do too. Because I think XKCD put the problem with Wikipedia best:

Wikipedia is a wonderful thing … but browsing it isn’t writing. Get back to work, nanoers!

Onward!

-the Centaur

Back on Track

So, now that the Galaxy Nexus site with its snazzy 3D viewer has launched, now that I’m on my long lonely but highly productive 9-day Thanksgiving vacation, now … I’m back on track.

I hit 40,068 words in HEX CODE today, 38,524 added this month in Nano. So I’ve got 11,476 words left to go for HEX CODE. Since it’s early in the day and I have two more writing sessions to go, I hope to actually finish that this weekend, or at least by Monday.

Then, unless I’m going gangbusters on HEX CODE, I plan to go back to STRANDED to send to my beta readers, and after that try to finish LIQUID FIRE. Doubt all of that will happen in November, but I want to go from juggling 4 novels in my head to having 4 novels with beta readers!

Oh, I almost forgot … a snippet of HEX CODE:

The three will-o-the-wisps comes together, their colors merging as they swirls around each other into one big ball. The sphere brightens, shimmers, intensifies within its formless shield of mist—the light coming together with a ring and a dark spot, which whirls to face me.

O.M.G. The three will-o-the-wisps have formed together into a giant eye.

“Remember!” the Huntswoman cries. “You can hurt it with your sword, but not enough. It has a shield. You can defend yourself with your shield, but not enough. It has teeth. But it has one more thing, and that is the key. Find that, and you will find your victory.”

“Oh, great,” I says, hefting my dumb little wooden plank blade. “Thanks. Even Yoda sent Luke after dreams before Vader.”

Actually make that 40,092 words … I wrote some more when I went to grab the excerpt. Enjoy.

-the Centaur

It’s ALIIIIIVE….

I avoid talking about work on my blog as a matter of principle – even to the point of never directly referring to The Search Engine That Starts With A G by name, unless I’m talking about a product – but in this case I think I have to make an exception.

The Galaxy Nexus phone from Samsung and Google has launched, and the marketing site contains a 3D model of the phone developed by my team (pictured above).

Guys, great job. I’m proud to have worked on it with you.


I have a lot more I want to say about it, but at this point (2am) after an 14 hour day ironing out all the wrinkles in this launch I look about how I feel. Time to GO HOME and tackle this again tomorrow, make sure no fires are going … and then, celebrate!

Oh, and please enjoy the phone and all its Androidy goodness!

-the Centaur

P.S. My opinions are my own and are not that of my employer, even if I do think my employer is awesome. And I don’t speak for my employer, though I did run this by them first to make sure they were cool with it. Some restrictions may apply to your limitations. Do not taunt happy fun ball.

Life Intervenes

So I was going gangbusters on Nanowrimo … until life intervened.

I work at the Search Engine That Starts With A G. It’s a fun but tough job that nonetheless leaves me with a great work life balance. I have time to work, time to write, and time to spend with my wife and cats (friends tend to get short shrift though :-P).

But we have a software release coming up, and as usual for software development schedules (but unusual for The G) everything was under-resourced, the project was late, and no time was left for integration. This was a last minute project, a great opportunity for my team that came up at the last minute, so this is a bit understandable. But it’s still been a bear.

I was still writing though. Half my team’s out sick, on trips, whatever, and I’m still writing. I’m doing the lion’s share of the integration, the rest of the team doing the lion’s share of the coding, and I’m still writing. Then we get down to the wire … and still have showstopper bugs.

At this point this week we were supposed to finish, attend a research symposium, and then join our research colleagues on an offsite. My boss was reluctant to bail on this, but I told him I was planning to skip the symposium and the offsite, to work on Saturday if I have to … because there just wasn’t enough time for me to finish my work otherwise. Not even if I temporarily dropped Nano.

Nano got dropped anyway. My bosses agreed with me, we mostly bailed on the symposium and almost all of us bailed on the offsite. For the time of this last push, my Nano tracking sheet lists zero, though I’m sure I got a couple of hundred words in that day (just didn’t track them). We worked long into Friday night … and nailed all our P0 bugs.

But actually I didn’t get any words done that day – I’d forgotten to charge my laptop. I do a lot of writing at breakfast, but without the laptop I had to break out my notebook and plan the story. It’s become much more elaborate recently, and this gave me a chance to think.

We came back and tackled the project again today Saturday, nailing all our P1 bugs and some of the P2s. I packed up my computer for the office move and prepared to leave, when my boss had a brainflash about fixing the first of our customer requests. He asked me for pointers on how to fix it … but I knew how, my laptop was already open in my lap, and I could do it before I could explain it.

So I did. My boss pushed the code to the site … and lo and behold we’d nailed the first of the customer’s requests, transitioning from bugfixes to pre-launch polishing in a 40-minute last-minute push that was faster than everything that came before it. Boo-yah.

So when I went to dinner tonight, I gave myself permission to have a great meal, go get some great coffee, to chill out, and not to Nano. I’m ahead, and can get back to it tomorrow, which is completely free thanks to our hard work and my previous time getting ahead at Nano.

But I’d forgotten to charge my laptop Friday. I’d written notes; I’d ruminated on them all night. Not even meaning to. And so, when I sat down for coffee … the words, they just started spilling out. And I easily made today’s word count. Double boo-yah. Here’s a sample:

“Sinny and Tully, sittin’ in a tree,” Mom says.

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” I finishes. I turns red as a beet, looking over at Tully and Ben. Tully’s just leaning against the rail, watching Ben fume as he scrubs the floor on his hands and knees. “But while we’re there in the orchard, this fae comes by, offers us some fruit—”

“I swear,” Mom says, “I will slap you through this phone if you ate that fruit.”

I holds the phone an arms length away again. I don’t know all of Mom’s powers. For a moment I’m scared she can do it.

Never eat the fruit of elfland … unless you’re a smart little spellpunk who specializes in tricky logic problems.

So, back to HEX CODE, and here’s hoping life continues to stop intervening. Onward!

-the Centaur

20,039 Added Words (4,344 of Them Today)

This post should be titled “wheew”.

I’ve now just reached the point where I’ve caught up with my crazy goal of writing at twice the normal rate. I’ve written just a notch over the required 3,333 words a day, churning out 20,000+ words in HEX CODE (and that’s NOT counting the 1500 word seed I started with).

I had hoped to be this caught up last night, but I erred and went to one of my favorite coffee houses and found it closed an hour earlier than I thought, cutting in to my writing time. I could swear these hours are new, but maybe I’m just hallucinating.

And when I got home I had to play with the cats, such as the cute little monster above, a feral, stray or perhaps just terribly surly cat that just might be our orange cat’s father (or mother – I didn’t get close enough to enquire). Regrettably, since we already have too many cats, they mark, and feral cats have been trying to get into our home, I had to shoo Mister Orange Cat away, gently touching him with my flashlight, which freaked him out as he didn’t know what it was – no matter how much he whapped at it, it didn’t react. He actually looked OFFENDED as he scrabbled away atop the fence. I’m sad to have to do that, but his possible son below is more than enough trouble – we can’t take in any more cats.

The point being, I was exhausted, but by the time I did all my cat triage, I just fricking collapsed into blissful unconsciousness. Today, however, I had no plans. While I overslept for church, as I irritatingly often do, I still got up reasonably early thanks to Daylight Saving’s Time. So I had an extra hour to get out, get to a Panera … and get caught up.

I got my day’s writing done pretty quickly, got a notch more ahead, and then went home, fed the cats, cleaned the pee left when the rains discouraged one of them from going outside 😛 and resumed writing with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the background. A friend called, I hopped in the car while talking with him, and by the time we were done I was standing outside Chipotle with only 250 words to go.

Short story, by taking the laptop out first and turning the internet off, I made it to 20039 words.

Now I’m freezing my ass off in a surprisingly chilly Barnes and Noble, sipping on a Frappucino (yeah, I know, cold drinks on a cold day, shut up, there’s a reason my Top Gun name is Iceman) and taking a short break. Soon I’m going to dive back to it and try to finish another thousand words or so to give me a comfortable buffer. If all goes well, if I can keep up a bit less than the pace I’ve done so far, I should be able to coast through the second half of November.

Maybe, just maybe, if I get done early enough … I can go see The Thing again.

Onward!
-the Centaur

Ahead of where I need to be, behind where I want to be

Well, I’m ahead of schedule for Nanowrimo … or am I? I’ve been determined and lucky enough to complete at least 1667 words every day, so I’m ahead of where I have to be. But I’m trying to be crazy this year. At first I thought I would do TWO books, but now I’m thinking I want to do ONE book at twice the rate.

Why do this to myself? Well, one reason would be to finish early. I could start a second book if I wanted to, or finish the first book, or, God forbid, actually use the week of vacation I’ve taken Thanksgiving week as a fricking vacation rather than a writing marathon.

Or maybe it’s because it takes Nanowrimo out of a safe place. Unlike 24 Hour Comics Day, I’ve succeeded every time I’d tried at Nanowrimo. Trying to write twice as fast takes me out of that comfort zone. If I fail, well, I’ll still almost certainly succeed at the Nano challenge. If I succeed, well … then maybe I can write 100,000 words in a month.

And the most important thing about writing is writing. The more you write, the better you get. (The second most important thing is getting prompt, high quality feedback; the third most important thing is taking the feedback seriously and acting on it. But I digress).

I’ve finished today’s quota of 1,667 words. But yesterday I slacked, also only writing about 1,667 words. To keep up the accelerated pace, I need to catch up, to write almost 3000 more words today. But it’s only 3:52 in the afternoon, and I have the whole day ahead of me.

So here’s seeing what I can do … and I don’t think I can lose, either way.

-teh Centaur

9027 Added Words

Still not making any progress on STRANDED, but HEX CODE is flying along – I’m getting about 3,000 words a day! The Writing Allies group tonight made many great suggestions and I’ve gotten whole scenes out of it, but the coffeehouse is about to close so time to be done for the day and go home and noogie a cat. Doing my best to keep it up … excelsior!

-the Centaur

UPDATE: Make that 10,004 added words. I’m writing at double the normal rate, in the hope I can finish early and have some time off at the end to work on STRANDED … or, heck, maybe even take some of the vacation days I set aside at the end of the month as VACATION! Whoda thunk it? Onward!

UPDATE UPDATE: Make that 10,350 added words. Had a brainflash while brushing my teeth. Now I really am going to bed – it’s 2:18 AM. Excelziiszoorzzzzzzz…