Tuesday, December 29, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #40: No More Resolutions

Back in January, I resolved to try to average at least one New Year's Resolution for every week of this year. I fell short of my goal. However, I did get three quarters of the way there. I figure that's reasonably respectable and something I can extract some pride from. Now that my Year of Many Resolutions is coming to a close, I am going to make one final resolution that should carry me through 02010:

I resolve to make no New Year's Resolutions in the coming year.

I've enjoyed making all these resolutions. It's been good to have real goals to try to meet. And I've been pleasantly surprised at just how successful I've managed to be. But I've had enough for now. From now on, instead of making straightforward resolutions, I'm just going to try doing those things that make sense. I'll try to behave well, to do as little harm as possible, to improve where I see that it would be good to do so. That's generally been my approach to life all along, and I'm pretty comfortable with it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #39: Backwards Progress is Progress

Our lovely town (Newport, NH) has one of the largest town commons in the state. So the promotional material says. It does not specify whether that's one of the five largest, one of the ten largest, or one of the fifty largest. Anyway, I guess the implication is that it's pretty big and that should be a point of civic pride.

What's more interesting to me is what the town does with this asset. Specifically, the northern end, and specifically during winter: Every year, after some snow has fallen, they bring in a plow and push back the snow so that there is a cleared area surrounded by a low containing wall of snow. Then they turn a hose on and flood the cleared area with water. The water then freezes to become a public outdoor ice skating rink. At the northwestern corner of the rink, they bring in a wooden shed with lots of ice skates. These skates are available for the public to "rent", free of charge.

This is our fifth winter living in Newport. While I had always intended to take advantage of this wonderful amenity, I hadn't ever gotten around to doing so until today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Latest Evidence (It's All in My Head)

I present here argument number 5,279 (approx.) in favor of having a solipsistic worldview. What follows is, of course, a completely true story. I promise, plus I can't make this stuff up (unless I am making everything up).

A few nights ago, I decided to watch Love Actually on DVD. A fine motion picture. I highly recommend it, in case you haven't seen it. Anyway, I've watched it a bunch of times and I don't get tired of it.

However, I do get tired, and so I did not make it all the way through this viewing on Thursday night. I fell asleep.

On Friday night, I resumed my viewing when I went to bed. Again, I fell asleep.

Yesterday, I watched a bit more while I was hanging laundry in the early afternoon. Again, I didn't get all the way through to the end of the movie, as I stopped watching when the laundry was all hung.

At some point a little later in the afternoon, Beth was watching the teevee and a commercial for Aciphex came on. Without really paying attention to what the drug is designed to treat, Beth asked me whether I wanted some Aciphex. [This was asked solely for the comedic value, as somehow this drug company decided that it made sense to give a drug a name that sounds like "ass effects".]

I, of course, declined, but this did provide me with a golden opportunity to tell Beth that I had been thinking about the following idea recently: Shouldn't there be some sort of food that you could eat that would color your burps and farts? That would be worthy of the "ass effects" name! You could have green ass effects and pink ass effects and swirly ass effects.

So this was yesterday.

Last night, I went to bed and finished watching Love Actually. When it was over, I was still not quite sleepy. So, I decided to watch the Deleted Scenes section of the DVD. Despite having watched the movie a bunch of times, I had never before watched any of the deleted scenes on the disc.

Lo and behold, what do I discover in the deleted scenes?

You guessed it: There's a kid who gets in trouble at school because he wrote an essay about what he wants for Christmas, and what he wants is for farts to become visible! There's this whole funny sequence of showing how great it would be if people's farts were visible, including Queen Elizabeth II's farts.

Again, I repeat, I had never seen these deleted scenes before. I can also assure you that I had never heard these scenes described. I had never read about them. And there is absolutely nothing in the final cut of the movie that would suggest in any way that this scene was ever shot. In the final version of the movie, the kid was close to a nonentity. Emma Thompson's character made a brief reference to "my horrid son, Bernard". He might've had a line or two otherwise, but really he amounted to no more than an extra.

If this story suggests anything at all about the nature of the universe, here it is: It's all in my head.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #38: Learn Something

After making my last New Year's Resolution, I decided to get to work on formatting for the printed version of my novella. I figured the most reliable way to ensure that it ends up looking like I want it to is to make a PDF to upload to Lulu. I figured I might as well try doing it in InDesign. A good idea, in theory. In practice, I was unable to get anywhere in my first half hour (or thereabouts) of trying. It turns out that my desktop publishing skills have really deteriorated in the last couple of years. Either that or InDesign (which, truth be told, is an application that I never really did use very much) is much less intuitive than I expected.

I'm fine with defining and applying styles. I'm not really quite as impressed with how Adobe has set up their styles as I would like to be, but it's a tolerable system and overall I think the software is terrific. But I can't figure out what should be the most basic and completely intuitive part of the process: making new pages appear automatically (with the proper formatting) when the text overflows the last page of the document.

This is horribly frustrating!

Which brings me to my thirty-eighth New Year's Resolution of the year:

I resolve to learn how to operate comfortably and competently in the InDesign environment.

Just typing that makes me feel like a bit of an imbecile. Oh well! I suppose that's good for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #37: Swallow the Self-Publishing Pill

I spent some time today doing a bit of research on various tools for self-publishing. The reason: My thirty-seventh New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to get around to formatting and self-publishing my 02005 novella, in hopes that it might find an audience.

I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 02005. I was not a "winner" because instead of ending up with a 50,000 word "short novel", I only managed to write a 40,000 word novella.

I suppose it's fair to say that I didn't really fully embrace the "reckless abandon" aspect of the activity. Instead of throwing in a random plot line to continue my story (and thus increase my word count) beyond what felt like a reasonable stopping point, I stopped typing. The result was a cohesive piece of fiction that I am proud to have written. Had I gone the other route, I might've gotten a certain satisfaction from "winning" NaNoWriMo, but I am sure that it would not have really compared to the satisfaction I got from "being true to my vision". I am sure of this because I am familiar with my own nature.

Being familiar with my own nature, I am also quite sure that I'm terribly unlikely ever to seek out a literary agent or to go to the trouble (and through the inevitable frustration) of submitting my manuscript to publisher after publisher in hopes that one of them might like my story enough to want to publish it.

Nonetheless, I do think that it's a decent (if not great) piece of fiction. I think that it's the sort of thing that can likely find an appreciative audience if given an opportunity. (My sister liked it plenty, anyway.)

When I wrote the thing, just over four years ago, self publishing was about the last thing I would have expected to ever consider doing with it. "Self publishing" was, in my mind, exactly the same as "vanity publishing" and it carried an immense stigma. If I were to try to explain this stigma, it would probably come across as arrogant and mean spirited. Perhaps it's best to avoid that.

Anyway, over the course of these four years, my mind has changed (I think in response to a change in the publishing universe) and now I am at the point of being mentally prepared to do it without any reservations.

I expect I'll probably go with Lulu for making hard copies available (partly because they'll give me a free copy and partly because they throw in a free ISBN and a listing on Amazon). As for e-book distribution, I'm thinking I'll likely go through Feedbooks. If you have self-published or if you have looked into it yourself, I'd be happy to entertain suggestions for alternatives, particularly if you can make compelling arguments in favor of some other outlet or in opposition to these.