As I said yesterday, I just read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and I’m blown away by how open she is about everything. As 2014 comes to a close I know it seems this writer hasn’t written much and in the spirit of Amanda’s begin open with her fans I wanted to try to explain why you haven’t seen much writerly output from me, and how I hope to change that in 2015.
FAIR WARNING: I may drift into TMI territory at times. If I do feel free to skip to the next paragraph. I’ll try to keep the oversharing to a minimum.
First let me say that I actually did do some writing this year. I started doing a much-needed rewrite of He’s With the Band (HWTB), partly to flesh out the characters more and partly to expand the middle scenes a bit. I also started writing a new scene, longhand, back in the spring, but I still have quite a few pages of the scene that are still waiting to be typed up. I thought of typing it on my phone but it turns out typing on my Android phone is excruciatingly slow as my normal fairly quick typing speed drops to the basement as my thumbs hit the wrong keys and the word completion tool picks the wrong tanj word to put into whatever I’m try I to type. Even typing this article is painfully slow.
What am I typing on now? As I’ve told my family and friends on the Big Face, I had a flip phone through the federal Lifeline program but the phone fell and got dropped so many times it eventually stopped taking a charge. In the end, I would have the phone turned on and when I plugged it in to charge the phone insisted there was no battery in it. A few weeks ago a friend got sick of fighting the keyboard on the phone I’m using now and got a better phone. Knowing I didn’t have a working phone at all, he set his old phone to use WiFi calling only and handed it to me to use. It turns out the WiFi network I’m usually on at my local library has WiFi calling blocked but at least I can use the web browser on it when I’m near a WiFi and any other apps installed to do things online when I’m within range of a WiFi signal. It also lets me take some pictures to give people an idea of the kinds of pictures I’d take if I try another Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to get equipment to make a photo book about Franklin Park.
Why don’t I just get the equipment I need to make the photo book myself? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get even a part time gig since shortly after 9/11. Part of that is because I have a bad back and a pair of bad knees, which can make even a desk job tough to do, but also because I couldn’t even get a temp gig for a while. I ended up becoming a 40-something (now a 54-year-old) with too many gaps in his job history for anyone to want to take a chance on, and when things picked up it had been long enough since I had worked it made finding work that much easier. There’s just too much competition for the jobs I may be able to do and I don’t have the energy to do what is basically a waste of time and energy to try to get jobs I don’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of getting.
This has left me in a homeless shelter (the place I refer to as the Ranch, as in the old saying, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”) for longer than I care to admit. I can’t even take advantage of programs to get the long-term homeless into housing because I don’t have the income to do things like do laundry and buy cleaning supplies. Thank Tux for SNAP benefits or I wouldn’t be able to get food other than the less than appetizing food served at the shelter. Some days the food there is so bad they can’t even give away the end of it. Luckily I can get my prescriptions filled but for the rest of the necessities of life I’ve discovered just how much you can do with no money, and how much you really need in life.
I am able to get things done online, like checking my email, checking on how my writing’s dong and respond to any messages that come in, and do other computer-based tasks because my local library has laptops available at all of their branches (except the central library in Copley Square) that you can check out for a couple hours at a time. If your two hours are running out you can renew the loan as long as nobody’s needing it so I can manage to get a number of things done every day.
In case you missed it or forgot, last year I had a laptop that ran SolydK Linux, but it crashed pretty often, sometimes just as I was about to start typing. In September of last year (2013) it started having problems booting. One of the last times it booted up it complained that it didn’t see some of the files I use for my desktop configuration (settings files, audio files, widget files, etc.) and when I fired up the file manager I saw that many of my files on the hard drive were no longer there, including the files for the mystery I had been writing at the time. (I was about to do a backup to a flash drive when the laptop stopped seeing the files, and I had forgotten to do frequent backups. When people preach regular backups it’s to prevent my very situation from happening. I really should have known better. D’oh!) Rather than doing anything else I immediately shut down the laptop and grabbed an emergency boot DVD to try to recover my missing files, but when I tried to boot from the disk my laptop decided it had had enough and wasn’t going to boot any more at all. I couldn’t even boot from a LiveDVD or a flash drive. I pulled the hard drive and got rid of the laptop since there was no way I’d be able to get it repaired and I simply don’t have the space to store a dead laptop.
I tried to mount the hard drive from that laptop on other laptops to try to fix it, but I was unable to find a laptop that could do the heavy duty tech work on it. The laptops at the library will let me run my own programs, but the work I had to do to get the drive usable again requires administrative privileges, which I don’t have. I also ran into the same problems on two different friends’ laptops so until I can get access to a laptop running Linux to do the recovery work that drive sits in my locker at the shelter, biding its time until it can be repaired.
I have a second hard drive from an older laptop that has some of my older files on it, but the cabling I had last summer wouldn’t connect the drive to my laptop so I was unable to get recent files on it. The good news is that I have some old files on the drive (like a very old story that I’m not ready to go back to working on yet), and I have the room to put new work on it. I was also able to get the latest version of HWTB from Smashwords (my ebook distributor) so I am able to make edits in HWTB, but I’m unable to get access to the mystery I had been working on.
One of the things I’m able to do with the hard drive on the library’s laptop is to be able to run portable versions of some of the programs I use. A portable application is an application that runs from either an external hard drive or a flash drive and lets you store all your settings on the drive instead of having to install the app every time you want to use it. This is a big help because I am able to run portable editions of Google’s Chrome web browser, the VLC media player and the Notepad++ text editor, all three running with my own settings (rather than the default settings the library’s laptop uses for Chrome and VLC) and all of which I use every day. I also have portable editions of the Gimp graphic editing program, the ebook reader Calibre, and a few other apps. Just having a portable edition of Chrome saves me at least an hour every day getting my settings from Google’s servers and installed on my local machine, although I do have to wait every time I shut it down for my updated settings to be written to my portable hard drive. That can still take some time, but it’s time well spent every day as long as I remember to start shutting Chrome down early enough.
That’s pretty much the state of this writer. I’m going to post an excerpt from the new scene for HWTB before I log off today to give my readers something new to read, and I have a few story ideas that I may try to work on. I don’t want to work too much on new things until I get the HWTB rewrite done though. I’m afraid that if I have two stories in the process of being written (excluding the mystery that I can’t get at for now) I won’t do either of them as well as I could but hopefully in 2015 I can get more time to work on the rewrite and try to have it done by the time summer rolls around.
Thanks for reading my ebooks. The mere fact that people want to read what I write can really surprise me and I hope I never make you sorry you took the time to write something I wrote. I hope you all have a fantastic start to 2015, with lots of good books, ebooks, and other written projects to help you get through both the good times and the bad times of 2015.