Juvenilia

I still have pretty much all of my juvenilia here in Spare Oom. Poems I wrote in fifth grade for an extracurricular project, the origins of the Infamous War Novel (my first completed project) and its several versions, the numerous maps I’d draw in the margins of school notes and on book covers, the various story ideas that lasted a few pages and the novel ideas that lasted just a little longer, the several unused Murph comic drawings, the silly exquisite corpse stories between me and my high school friends. I’m only missing a few things, really…some of my early art, a few stories I may have thrown away in embarrassment, things like that.

I don’t read it all that much, but I do think about it now and again. I do so because it reminds me of where and how I started. My dad was a local news reporter and I grew up with a lot of adults assuming I’d do the same considering I too wanted to write, but even then I knew that style wasn’t for me. I loved the idea of making up stories. I tended to have a vivid imagination and weird dreams and I wanted to use them. I must have come up with a few dozen decent ideas — again, most of them lasting only a few pages — before I sat down and started writing the IWN. [And even that one took multiple tries over a few years before I clicked with the first complete version. That was just the one that stuck with me the longest.]

This is partly why I’m okay with having several trunked story ideas over the years. Some of them I truly enjoyed working on, others not so much. Some were written as an emotional outlet, something that needed purging. Some written with the best of intentions but ultimately with little personal connection. Some written in desperation because I needed to do something to balance out personal real-life issues.

I consider my juvenilia reaching into my early 20s. Everything just before I started The Phoenix Effect was written with the idea that I would learn this craft one way or another, on my own terms. It was certainly frustrating to see a number of my college classmates zip by me with relative ease and see print, but I had to remind myself that I wasn’t writing the same thing. I had my own reasons to do this. The Phoenix Effect (and to some extent the unfinished novel before it, True Faith) was different. It was the dividing line between sunny-eyed ‘I wanna be a writer!’ dreaming and ‘I am a writer’ determination.

I’ve used a few ideas from this trunked work elsewhere. Meet the Lidwells! has a few ideas nicked from my abandoned coming-of-age idea Two Thousand, for instance. That novel also uses a few song lyrics I’d written years ago. The universe of Diwa & Kaffi originated from a horror story I’d come up with in high school that I retooled into something completely different. This sort of thing is normal for most writers, actually. There’s no rule against borrowing some of your favorite unpublished scenes elsewhere! But for the most part, I’ve kept them stored away in notebooks and folders in a few bookshelves here. They’re well sorted (I did a major sorting project a few years back) and well-kept so I have no worries about them ever being lost, damaged or misplaced.

Will I ever use any of it in the future, though? Who knows. Probably not, but I’m okay with that too. Maybe I’ll post bits of them in the future, or maybe I won’t. Some writers have donated them to their local library. I doubt I’ll ever get that popular to warrant that, but it’s certainly fun to dream that.

It doesn’t matter that they may or may not be worth to anyone else, but they’re worth something to me, and that’s what matters.

A new(ish) monitor arrives!

Okay, so it’s a few years old, but it was A’s at that point before her new job provided her with a new one. And as you can see, it’s partially blocking the whiteboard schedule and the clipboard. I’m probably going to take the latter down as I rarely use it, and move the whiteboard up a few inches and rearrange all those ‘I Power KEXP’ stickers I’ve accumulated. Most everything on the desk can easily be shifted around to make this work.

So what’s different here? I mentioned at my Dreamwidth account that I’m now facing the desk directly instead of at an angle, and after adjusting the armrests of my chair (again, formerly A’s before she bought a new one) I’m now enjoying much better posture. Especially now that the mouse and pad are off to the right, so I’m no longer crinching up my shoulder to use them. I’m not slouching or leaning in this chair, nor am I craning my neck at weird angles when I’m working with documents and suchlike. [I’ve also noticed that the sound quality in the music I listen to is different as well, now that I’m facing the speakers directly instead of mostly in my right ear. I’m posting separately about that over at Walk in Silence.]

I’m using the new monitor for internet browsing and my writing and the old one for my music player and other media software. Sure, the older monitor is bigger and you’d think that would be useful for writing, but after so many years I think it’s a little too big. Useful for watching movies and music videos, but probably not for extended periods of editing. The smaller monitor helps me focus on the work at hand instead of getting lost in all that workspace.

They’re simple adjustments, sure, but I’m already noticing how big of a difference they’ve made, and that’s always a good thing.

More on cats and Spare Oom

A bit of Ghibli foolishness

Yes, I admit it. I might be a little preoccupied about the possibility of adopting a cat. Which, by the way, we just got the go-ahead from our landlord today which makes me ridiculously happy. I haven’t had a cat since our tuxedo cat Booker back in the 90s. I’ve been making do with spying on the neighborhood kitties in their windows or if I happen to be visiting a friend who has a few. A and I have been distracting ourselves by looking up things on Wirecutter and elsewhere about what the best cat bed, cat tree, food, litter, and so on would be. We’ve already started moving things around so the potential kitty won’t eat/knock over our plants or kick our Funkos under the couch. Yeah, we’re going full out here.

Meanwhile, Spare Oom is about to inherit a second monitor, which is something quite new here. I’ve always been a single-monitor person here, mainly because of the lack of room, but since A now has an extra one (her new job sent her one recently) she’s bequeathing her old one to me. Which is all fine and dandy, but as you can see in the banner picture on this here blog, I’m not entirely sure how I’ll set it up, considering that I have other things in its space. Do I get another riser? (They’re super cheap and I can get one up the street at Office Max.) Where do I move the whiteboard schedule? So many questions!

But of course for both issues, most of the changes will take place when the time comes. I actually enjoy the challenge, to be honest. It’s like when I got a new desk and had to move a few things around to make everything fit. Either way, it’s something new and exciting to look forward to!

Cats

This isn’t set in stone just yet as it depends on a few things…but there is a possibility that we might be looking into adopting a cat.

I know, right? For anyone who knows me, I love cats. I grew up with them, love playing with them, picking them up, just having them hang out with me. If you have one at your home I will definitely be sidetracked by giving them scritches. I’ve even put a cat in my latest WIP. On Sundays one of our local pet stores works with a local adoption agency (adorably called Fuzzy Butt Rescue) and this past weekend we found ourselves…maybe thinking that we could finally make this work.

The last time I had one for a pet was at least a few decades ago, so it’s been a while. We mostly avoided it because of our traveling and work schedules or not being home, but things have changed over the years and one or both of us would be here for a significant amount of time to watch over one (or two).

This of course also led to an extended conversation over brunch on Sunday regarding what we’d have to change in our current lifestyle to make this work. What plants we’d have to move to higher places or donate to our horticultural neighbor. What toys and tchotchkes we’d have to store away. What yarn stashes we’d have to put elsewhere or at least put in enclosed places. What I’d have to move around or put away in Spare Oom. And the conversation I’d have with our landlord to get permission. [That in particular I think we’d be able to handle with reasonable ease, as they love us, we’re responsible, and we even own a carpet cleaner if there’s an…event. Plus, a few of our neighbors have dogs so it’s only fair.]

I do love the idea of an office cat, really. Having a goofball fuzzbutt hanging out with me in Spare Oom while I write is a fine idea to me. And thankfully we’re both cat people and having them sleep with us on the bed is just groovy.

Like I said…it’s not set in stone yet, but it’s certainly something I want to set into motion.

Wintertime

Back in the early 00s, I made it a point to head down to my basement writing nook to get my words done, whatever the weather. I would do this even in the dead of winter, bundled up in layers and a small space heater pointed directly under the desk at my feet. Nothing could stop me from getting my daily thousand words done!

Okay, maybe there were a few days when it was just too cold to stay down there. Those were the days when I’d use the family computer upstairs tucked away in the kitchen pantry. It was a bit uncomfortable as the only chair there was a stool and I slouch terribly when I sit, and I wasn’t always as productive, but at least I was warmer.

Nowadays I’m here in Spare Oom, and it’s one of the coolest rooms in the house at any time of year. The one window faces north so it never gets direct sun, and if there’s any breeze coming off the bay, it hits me first. This is fine during the summer, but in the winter my fingers can get a bit numb. Right now it’s 49 F, I’ve got the floor radiator on, and I’m wearing my house sneakers and the sweater A knitted for me. I’m about to head into the kitchen to make a other pot of coffee in hopes that it’ll help me warm up.

Sure, I’m lucky, considering we don’t get snow, nor does it drop below 40 degrees. No unplowed roads and crappy visibility. (Imagine if it did snow here…this city would be the king of cars-sliding-sideways-down-hilly-streets-and-crashing-into-each-other videos.) I definitely don’t miss any of that at all. We just get a biting chill that we feel in our bones because of the winds coming straight from the Pacific Ocean. One unexpected plus to wearing a pandemic mask outside is that it doubles as a muffler during days like this!

Still, it’s nice to be in a warm room, bashing away at the PC as I try to make those daily words.

On keeping the rest of the office clean

I know it sounds silly, but I’ve been waiting for today for at least a month now. Why is that? Well, it’s because I was finally able to get an appointment to donate six rather heavy boxes of books that have been piled up here in Spare Oom since before the pandemic started.

Now, normally I wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, as in the past I’d have just found time on the weekend to drive the donations over to the drop-off site in Fort Mason. However, the pandemic put the kibosh on that — not only did they stop donations there, they closed down the shop/café. I now have to drive over to Potrero Hill — doable, in a kind of haphazard way that takes a bit of time — to the main donation center. And in order to do that, I’d had to sign up for an appointment…and they were full up at least a month or so ahead when I tried in early October.

Still, I’m happy that I’m able to drop these things off and open up some floor space again. I mean, they weren’t taking up a large amount of space, just the area in front of the closet doors and next to the loveseat. And I’m sure that within the next six months, we’ll have yet another treasure trove of books to donate.

It took ages for me to get rid of the Goodwill donation pile (same reason, all the donation spots were closed due to the pandemic) but thankfully I took care of that last week. The only thing there right now is some boxes and shopping bags that I’m holding onto temporarily for holiday mailing purposes. It’s no longer completely blocking the bottom of one of the book shelves.

Well, you know me…I like keeping things relatively tidy. Not spotless, mind you, just clean enough that I know where everything is, and I don’t have to waste time excavating to find it. (Yes, I am a KonMari fan.) I think part of this comes from having far too much stuff during my Belfry days and getting withering glances from family when I had to pull twelve things out to get at something behind it. And it’s also from my somewhat obsessive way of keeping my music library in order.

This system works for the most part…every other month or so I’ll adjust the systems as need be, or if I feel the urge to shake things up a bit, but right now I’m good with how Spare Oom works. Maximum floor space, ease of accessibility, and a clear seat for relaxing. Keeps a writer happy!

Writing in Spare Oom

The current look of Spare Oom hasn’t really changed all that much over the years, other than an upgrade in PCs, desk, and so on. I got rid of the Former Day Job laptop and phone, and the current PC (a Lenovo ideacentre 720) has been moved from the floor (where it was attracted a hell of a lot more dust) to the far right side of the desk. Most of the wall decoration remains the same, with the addition of multiple “I power KEXP” stickers scotch-taped in various places. A few toys like Chopper, a burger-shaped eraser, and a Yuri Plisetsky miniature. You’ll most likely find a mug of coffee and a snack nearby as well. And always, always some music playing.

The monitor, as you can see, stays over on the left side at an angle, a leftover from my Former Day Job remote days. It’s a comfortable setup because I get to put the wireless keyboard on my lap while I type away. (It’s similar to the setup during the Belfry days in that respect, and why I don’t suffer nearly as much from carpal tunnel as I normally would.) The angle also faces the door so I’m not ignoring A when she comes in to visit.

The rest of the room is…currently a bit of a mess. We have multiple months’ worth of read books piled up against the loveseat, awaiting donation. There’s also a few boxes and bags worth of donatable stuff waiting for Goodwill to reopen (or alternately, for me to get off my butt and get over to the one donation place that’s open down in the Mission). Eventually I’ll have a clearer floor again…

I try not to spend too much time in here. I’ll do all my work and writing here during the day, and join A in the evening for dinner and a bit of tv streaming. We’ll both visit each other at various times throughout the day as well, just to get up and stretch. At the end of the work day, we’ll both go out for a mile or so stroll around the neighborhood.

I also try not to think of this as a ‘man cave’ because it really isn’t. It’s more like a combination office / storage room / library / studio, and while a lot of things in here are mine, there are a lot of A’s things in here as well, including her yarn and jarring stashes. I think the only sports-related thing in here is a dust-covered Niners ball cap that I got for Christmas who knows when.

Sure, I sometimes get distracted here in Spare Oom. If I turn 180 degrees from where I’m sitting right this moment, I’ll be looking out the room’s one window at the rooftops of the neighborhood, the western hill of the Presidio, and the very smoke-and-fog laden southern tower of Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a great view on a clear day (and one of the big selling points when we first moved in). Sometimes I’ll pick up one of my guitars and practice for a while, playing along with music or just noodling around on a riff or two. And yes, there are a few word search magazines underneath the monitor there — don’t laugh, those are a perfect way for me to unwind when my brain is getting frazzled!

But other than that, I do get a lot more done than I sometimes expect. Once I get into the groove of a project, sometimes I don’t notice that it’s an hour and a half later and the KEXP DJs have switched and it’s nearly time for lunch. I’m not writing dual novels at the moment, though I am working on multiple things. The quick things — the blog entries, the personal journal writing, the daily 750Words entry, and so on — I can finish up quickly, leaving the rest of the time for me to focus on novel writing.

Theadia is being written directly on MS Word, something I haven’t done in quite some time. It felt right to return to a classic process this time out rather than trying to prove something to myself with longhand or using 750. I’m not overplanning it this time, other than a vague outline and some story notes. (And yes, I’ve already made a mixtape soundtrack for it.) No big plans other than just wanting to rediscover the joy of writing.

It’s not a flashy life, but it’s a life I enjoy, and that’s all that really matters!

Cleaning Up Spare Oom and Revisiting the Mendaihu Universe

Continuing the Great KonMari Tidy-Up of Spare Oom…

As of Thursday, one major chapter in my ongoing Spare Oom Cleanup Project has finally come to a close with the final sorting and filing of my writing! Everything’s in binders (or in some case, boxes) now and and in its own specific place.

Early, finished and trunked projects are over on the bottom shelf of the (Formerly) Forgotten Bookshelf, with journals and poetry notebooks on the top shelf with easy access from Fancy New Chair. All my artwork, maps and Murph doodles are finally in one place. Numerous dead pens have been given a proper sendoff along with disintegrating manila folders and Crap I Really Don’t Need to Save.

And of course I saved the best for last, and it took me a few days to go through it: The Mendaihu Universe Library! Heh. This is every scrap of paper, every story idea I scribbled down during a day job, every character reference, every outtake (longhand and typed), every chapter printout with revision notes, and One Clean Full Printout of every related project, from its humble 1993 beginnings all the way to the 2015 prep for self-publication. And let me tell you, there’s a lot less of it than there used to be! Many clean printouts have been sent to the shredder over the years, and I’ve finally managed to get them down to one single box full of them.

I really enjoyed going through all those folders and documents and getting them into chronological order. For a project that lasted 22 years (!!), it was quite interesting to see how it evolved from one version to the next. It started off as a science fictional re-imagining of my Infamous War Novel (which in 1993 was already nine years old!) but quickly took on a life of its own with all kinds of detours, rewrites and re-imaginings along the way.

I even managed to get some clarity on how it evolved from 1997-8 with The Phoenix Effect to 2001 with the start of A Division of Souls. I knew I’d tried submitting TPE, attempted to rewrite it, and also write a sequel to it, but I couldn’t quite remember the path all that clearly. Come to find out, a lot of it lines up with my day jobs shifting — leaving HMV in September 2000, starting second shift at Yankee Candle, and moving to first shift in April 2001. That last date pretty much coincides with the time I’d decided to nuke TPE and start from scratch with ADoS.

But the best part is that I was able to recalibrate my thoughts on the Mendaihu Universe and future plans for a Book Four. There will be a Book Four, no doubt about it…I’ve been planning to write one for ages, I just had to finish off all the other projects first.

And now I finally have the time and the inspiration for it!

Granted, I still need to finish off the final revision for Diwa and Kaffi and get that one submitted; that of course comes first. But this also means I can start playing around with story ideas, character development, and more. (And yes, there will be more Songs from the Eden Cycle mix tapes. Volume 5 was created last October, with more on the way.)

Yeah, I should know better than to announce my next project, as inevitably it crashes and burns, I ragequit it a few times, and put it on the back burner for a few more years. I’m not promising anything…so let’s just say that I’m willing to push this one pretty hard to keep it active this time out.

Repurposing Forgotten Bookshelves

What I’m trying to avoid here in Spare Oom. Image source: Black Clover

I have what I’ve recently been calling The Forgotten Bookshelf here in Spare Oom; it’s hiding in a narrow spot between the far wall and the edge of my new chair. It’s not nearly as obscured as it used to be, so I can access a lot easier.

It was the first section of Spare Oom I chose to clean up in my latest KonMari bout of tidying up, because it had become an area where I stored a large amount of crap, and nearly all of it was contributing to my ‘out of sight, out of mind’ habits. I managed to get rid of about sixty percent of what was there and file the rest elsewhere. After much dusting and vacuuming, it’s now the home of my poetry and journal notebooks, as well as binders of older completed and/or trunked projects, most of which were hiding elsewhere in the room.

This could have easily become yet another Forgotten Bookshelf, if not for two things: my new chair, which I look forward to using multiple times a day for various things; and the fact that my current active journal and poetry notebook are over there as well. And since I make it a point during my morning break to write a journal entry, it’s reminding me every day that there are things over in this corner that I can use.

The other thing that’s working in my favor is that I’m planning out the way I’m sorting and filing ahead of time. I could easily pull out everything in this room and sort it into piles and then go through each one, but that would only add to the clutter. Instead I’m taking one or two piles of documents at a time and sorting through them. Once I’m done with one, then I’ll work on the next one. While I’m working on one section, I’ll make a few mental notes of which section I’ll attack next, once I have the time and the space.

This actually works quite well for a writer like myself, because every now and again I have an urge to look up an old outtake or lyric or what have you, and now it takes me just a few minutes to find it. As an added and unexpected bonus, it also cuts down on the chances of me falling down multiple ‘oh, I forgot about this!’ rabbit hole distractions!

In a way, I’m finally putting Everything In Its Right Place, which is what I’ve been meaning to do all along.

The Magic of Tidying Up Spare Oom

KonMari would be proud.

It’s not as if Spare Oom is a disorganized mess, far from it. I pride myself for trying to keep as much floor space open as I can in here. But there are little nooks and crannies here and there that have accumulated years of forgotten collectibles, documents past usefulness, and all sorts of other things collecting dust.

I made some headway last week by thinning out a massive amount of those old documents (including the 2003 online receipt for my first all-new, not-a-hand-me-down PC through Dell!!) and readying them for shredding. [Note: our local restaurant supply store up the way, Kamei, came in very handy for buying shopping bags in bulk to use for shredding disposal.]

Last night I also ordered a new chair to replace the very old love seat here. We’re getting it from Home Reserve, the same place where we ordered our living room couch. They’re sort of similar to Ikea in that your furniture is delivered in pieces and you put it together yourself, but instead of fiddling with screws and allen wrenches and whatnot, it’s all put together like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. The end result is surprisingly durable, nice to look at, and very comfortable. Plus storage areas under the seat cushions! Always a win.

Anyway! This is part of the Spare Oom Tidy-Up, sort of influenced by KonMari, so I can better utilize the space back here. My writing shelves are so disorganized they’re partly the inspiration for Samuel’s messy office in Diwa & Kaffi. I’d like to be more on top of the documents I no longer need. I’d even like to clean up the rear closet so there’s more room back there for long-term storage.

Why the cleaning? Because frankly, I’m kind of sick of finding corners with a year’s worth of dust, or having to move twenty different things and spend an hour routing through papers and boxes to find something for reference that I might be working on. And a VERY big reason: I have an extremely bad habit of being an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of person, putting things aside “for later” and never getting to them. And also, why the hell not? You know how it is…we all have that resolution to stay on top of these sorts of things but never follow through.

Now if I can manage to get the old love seat out of the room with minimal struggle…